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House of Lords

Monday, 20th February 1995.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

Overseas Aid

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the criteria by which they assess the contribution to overseas development of the United Nations, Bretton Woods and other multilateral institutions.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we work to ensure that contributions through multilateral agencies support the overall development objectives of the UK aid programme.

Lord Judd: My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that helpful reply, does he agree that it is essential to make the monitoring of the impact of World Bank and IMF policies on social development more effective? For example, does he agree that the introduction of user fees for health and education in countries implementing structural adjustment programmes too often have a disturbingly negative impact on the poor?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, one of the aspects of aid which we consider to be of paramount importance is to ensure that the aid recipients are operating political and administrative systems which ensure the effective generation of wealth in their countries. One of the consequences of that may be that in the short term problems arise relating to poverty. It is only by breaking the vicious circle that, in many instances, we can help them to help themselves and thus raise their standards of living.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, have I correctly interpreted the brief nature of my noble friend's reply as indicating that he agrees with me that the form in which the Question is couched is too wide for oral Questions and that it would be more deserving of a general debate?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for that comment. It is obviously a matter of major importance and certainly merits debate. Nonetheless, I shall endeavour to respond to noble Lords' Questions in a way which will satisfy them.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, can the Minister say whether our Government keep in touch with other contributing governments to ensure that all those who contribute can make reasonably certain that aid is used in the best possible way?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is in the interests of all donors of aid to ensure that the money given is not

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wasted. We endeavour to work with our European Union partners and other donors to ensure that the results are as satisfactory as possible.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that the evidence so far made available in the United Kingdom suggests that the overseas aid administered by the Minister for Overseas Development is usually far better directed than that directed by some of the institutions mentioned.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we in this country pride ourselves on the quality of our bilateral aid. At the same time, we try to ensure that our contributions to multilateral programmes are so targeted that they in turn contribute to effective multilateral projects. It is certainly the case that in a number of instances we were concerned about various aspects of multilateral aid. But we must get the matter in perspective. There is a role for both bilateral and multilateral aid and we want to see, from our perspective, that balance maintained.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, with regard to any proposals for development in Tibet, such as those recently laid before the European Union, will the Government have regard to the danger that those projects may be used as instruments of Chinese colonialism? Will the European Union, or anybody else being asked to fund development in Tibet, take advice from the Dalai Lama?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his question. I am afraid that I am not intimately acquainted with the proposals to which he refers. However, were such proposals to be used as instruments of political oppression, that would run entirely counter to the policy of good governance which we like to see attached to our aid proposals. However, I shall take his specific suggestion back to my noble friend the Minister of State.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, are the Government aware that their policies of trade and aid over the past 15 years have increased the disparities in income and wealth between countries and regions across the world? Bearing in mind that that has led to social instability and an increase in absolute poverty, will the Government now take steps to change that policy regarding trade and aid to ensure that income and wealth disparities are reduced rather than increased?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is undoubtedly the case that during the past 15 years there have been incidents of political instability around the globe. However, it is probably ascribing too great a political potency to our aid policies to suggest that the problems are due to our aid programme. The important point is that trade and aid go together. For example, when one looks at a number of the Far Eastern countries, one sees that those countries which at one time accepted significant amounts of aid are now extremely prosperous and their prosperity is based on trade with the rest of the world. That is why we believe it is important to have an open trading system.

Lord Judd: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in response to the point made by the noble and learned

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Lord, Lord Hailsham, we on this side would welcome a debate on the international financial institutions and their role in development? However, does not the Minister agree that it is totally unacceptable that the poor, who were in no way responsible for the irresponsibility of governments in the Third World, should carry the burden of paying off the debts incurred by irresponsible leadership? Does he further agree that whenever the World Bank or the IMF undertake structural adjustment programmes there should be a thorough review of exactly where the burden will fall so that the poor can be protected?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it clearly is the case that problems have arisen where corrupt or misguided regimes have received aid. Where there have been large amounts of outstanding debt, the proposals of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister which led to the Trinidad terms have led to an alleviation of the problem. However, the noble Lord is absolutely right that in identifying proposals which are intended to alleviate poverty it is important to see exactly what will be their impact because, as I said in my response to an earlier question, it frequently is the case that, regrettably, things have to get worse before the economies of the countries concerned then generate wealth and matters become better.

The Viscount of Oxfuird: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the form designed for aid and trade provision has a serious number of questions attached to it? If those questions can be answered honestly, the format of that aid and trade provision can be regarded as nothing other than honest?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, if it is a satisfactory proposal, then it is something of which we are in favour.


2.45 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Lord Henley's statement that Trident and its predecessor Polaris were and are "independent" nuclear deterrents (H.L. Deb. 11th January, col. 175) is compatible with the Nassau Agreement; with the Trident Purchase Agreement; and with the extension on 30th December 1994 for a further 10 years of the amendment to the 1958 agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States for Co-operation in the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defense Purposes (Cm. 2686).

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, the full operational independence of the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent is not affected by any of the arrangements cited by the noble Lord.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, for the first time the noble Lord has used the words "operational independence". On a previous occasion I pointed out that there is a general interdependence which these

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treaties confirm. Does he not agree with that? Has he seen the latest development along these lines, which was set out in a report in the Independent on Sunday whose front page was headed with the words:

    "US urges Britain to ditch Trident"?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am aware of the newspaper article to which the noble Lord refers. If he is suggesting by that article that the United States is putting pressure on us to reduce our deterrent, I can only say that we have received no representations whatever from the US to reduce the size of our Trident deterrent, which will remain as the minimum deterrent necessary for the defence of this country. With regard to the independence of the nuclear deterrent, as I have made quite clear on previous occasions and as we made quite clear at Nassau and on subsequent occasions, our forces are committed to NATO, but we have reserved the right to use it independently should national interests so require.

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