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Viscount Goschen: My Lords, first, the inspections to which I alluded are the exception. They take place when specific doubts are raised about the safety standards of a particular airline or country's administration. Secondly, I recognise that in the charter airline sector some charters--so-called fifth freedom charters--are undertaken by aircraft to a third country. But that is a relatively small proportion of the charters undertaken--some 5 per cent. or under. We recognise that UK charter carriers should be given a fair competition basis on which to operate. That is why I announced approximately one month ago some tightening of the measures relating to charter aircraft. To address the specific issued raised by the noble Lord, we have introduced a measure which will mean that particular charter carriers can only undertake a certain number of charters, thus preventing them from being based over here. That number is 10.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister say whether there is any research on the relative safety of former Soviet aircraft and western aircraft respectively? If no such research has been undertaken, do the Government believe that it would be a useful idea to commission such research, in view of the anecdotal evidence that some of those Russian aircraft are less than safe?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the first point to make is that Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union are signatories to the Chicago Convention. They are members of the International Civil Aviation

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Organisation. The principle of the regulation of these international industries is that we mutually recognise each other's certification. We have undertaken checks from time to time on aircraft from countries of the former Soviet Union. I understand that the American federal administration has also participated in a programme. We believe that this is best done internationally on the basis of ICAO work. We are co-operating with its programme and indeed have contributed the use of some CAA experts towards that.

Lord Desai: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's promise that he will give information to my noble friend on the Front Bench. However, is it not proper that such information about safety should be available to everybody, especially those passengers who have some kind of citizen's charter in this area?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the information requested by the noble Lord is largely technical. I can give some examples. There was the aircraft from Venezuela which was inspected and checked on 25th June. Nine items only were noted and no detention was warranted. An aircraft from Zimbabwe was checked on 30th April and there were no safety problems. I could read out details of the nine inspections, but it might try the patience of the House.

Lord Whaddon: My Lords, are the Government able to satisfy themselves that the pilots of the aircrafts are competent and physically fit, as distinct from the machines?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, that goes back to what I said earlier: that we are part of an international civil aviation industry regulated on an international basis but specifically by the member states. It is not possible for any one country to be the world's policeman. It is not possible for our Civil Aviation Authority to check every foreign pilot in the world, nor for other countries to check every English pilot. The system must work on mutual recognition. Where problems arise or where there has been an accident and that reveals difficulties, we must take action on that basis.

Lord Finsberg: My Lords, will my noble friend look again at the Answer he gave to our noble friend Lord Gainford? As one who travels at lot in east and central Europe, at one stage various government departments advised us not to fly with certain airlines. Can my noble friend say whether such advice is still extant and, if so, which airlines?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, advice is given on the basis of a number of factors. For instance, in some areas of the world we may give advice because we believe that there are security threats. We are talking of aviation services to and from the United Kingdom run by specific airlines. I stress the importance that we place on aviation safety. If we have doubts about a specific airline operating to and from this country, we will inspect it. If difficulties are found that cannot be overcome, we will not allow that airline to operate to this country.

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ODA: Reproductive Health Initiatives

2.51 p.m.

Viscount Craigavon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new initiatives the Overseas Development Administration has taken in the field of reproductive health following the recommendations of recent international conferences.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, in Cairo I said I hoped to commit more than £100 million to reproductive health work in 1994 and 1995. We actually committed £184 million. Our spend has increased from £24 million in 1990 to £62 million in 1995--some 3 per cent. of the aid programme. New developments include our Seedcorn Fund to support innovative work. ODA and the Medical Research Council are co-funding the development of new methods of contraception.

Viscount Craigavon: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer. Will she accept that her response indicated welcome examples of the considerable achievements of her department and herself in recent years, reflected in the enormous increased resources allocated? However, does she agree that there is still a large expressed need in the area of reproductive health in the developing countries--something of the order of 200 million people? Will she continue therefore to set an example to other donor countries by giving high priority to this subject in her department?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount. It is vital that not only we, but also other donor countries, help the development of the growing world by assisting families to decide on the size and spacing of their children. The world population is currently 5.6 billion. It is growing by 1 billion people every decade and could double or triple in the next century. That is why we are committed to giving access to families so that they may choose what size of family they want and its spacing. And that is why we have more than doubled our programme in the past five years.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I acknowledge the splendid work which the Government, with the help of my noble friend, have done to help the world in that way. As my noble friend recently agreed that overpopulation is a principal cause of poverty, will she agree also that it leads to relentless urbanisation and too much damage to the environment? Will the Government therefore continue with their policy as relentlessly as they can?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. He is right that urbanisation does not bring relief to families that are growing faster than the economies of the countries to which they belong. The difficulty for those families is often that they have no access to good family planning advice and no access to sound reproductive health assistance.

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We want to give them that access so that they can choose. In the British programme there will never be any coercion and support for abortion.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge: My Lords, I wish to raise two points: first, that the term "reproductive health" includes access to abortion on demand; and, secondly, that the declaration of the United Nations Conference on Population and Development in Cairo last year stated that abortion should never be used as a method of family planning. That was confirmed at a recent conference in Istanbul. I would ask the Minister to assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will not support any initiative that involves abortion.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I repeat what I said to my noble friend. We have been opposed throughout to abortion as a method of family planning. My team and I argued for that to be included in the Cairo programme of action; we argued for it in the Beijing platform of action; and will not support any organisation that permits or condones abortion as a method of family planning.

Baroness Flather: My Lords, my noble friend said that population increase is the single most serious problem facing developing countries. Will she agree to help to remove opposition to family planning which still exists in some quarters in this country and throughout the world? That is essential to the developing countries. Will my noble friend do her utmost to remove that opposition and lay to rest the fears that are quite unjustified?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I will do my best. It is sensible to set out these matters in a factual and non-emotional way. We know from long experience in development that many families across the world are desperate for help in containing the number of children that they have. I have seen many thoroughly exhausted young women in their late 20s and early 30s who have already been through more than 10 pregnancies. That has so exhausted them that they are no longer able to look after their families. It is important to work in a practical, common-sense way to get rid of some of the emotion and some of the fears that arise in relation to this difficult and sensitive subject.


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