Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I believe that I can give a more qualified welcome to the Statement than the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, managed. The aims of the White Paper can be thoroughly supported by noble Lords on these Benches, although I wish to qualify that by flagging up some questions at this point. I shall raise points in more detail in the debate on Monday.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has pressed for the White Paper over the past couple of years. It shows the commitment of the Government to international development that they have brought the White Paper forward as a priority and with such speed. The fact that the Overseas Development Administration has been created a department--the new DfID--indicates their commitment.

I believe that everyone would support the halving of the number of those in extreme poverty by 2015. The White Paper links environment, population and sustainable development as primary issues that have to be considered.

I wish to raise a couple of issues on which the White Paper does not go far enough in my opinion. There is reference to the ending of the aid and trade provision, which lacks poverty elimination as its central focus. Can the Minister indicate whether aid and trade provision moneys, focused on good government, will also be stopped under those criteria?

I have had only a brief period in which to scan the White Paper. However, there appears no mention of tied aid. It is disappointing that tied aid is not to be abandoned. I realise that the Government are not in a position at present to take a unilateral step. However, the Prime Minister spoke of taking a leading role in Europe. Perhaps he can demonstrate that by our becoming the first European country to abandon tied aid.

Another issue raised is that of the CDC. I believe that it meets with universal approval that the CDC is to be given greater power. Indeed, one of the main complaints about the legislation enacted on the CDC was that there was a lack of funds. I hope that the Government will retain their position within the CDC as regards the golden share. Some might say that there will be little investment in an institution which has government participation. The Commonwealth Development Corporation is successful because, through its backing by the Government, it is able to invest in solid development projects in some of the weakest parts of the world. It is a great source of strength to the CDC that the Government have an influence in it.

5 Nov 1997 : Column 1391

Over the summer period, I was delighted to hear the Minister say that there would be a doubling of the department's resources for demining. The White Paper states that more money will be made available. Can the Minister give an indication of where the money will come from, and whether it will be available in the immediate future? As I understand it, little new money is coming into the DfID. With an increase of £5 million to £10 million spent on demining, that money will have to come from some other area.

Perhaps I may flag up the issue of UNESCO. I believe that next year our £11 million contribution to UNESCO will have to come out of the DfID's budget rather than from other sources. New money from the Government would help to alleviate those extra burdens.

One of the areas that we thoroughly support is the Government's commitment to reducing the debt burden of the Commonwealth countries. However, I believe that the language used about the international debt problems faced by the HIPC countries could have been stronger. I hope that the Minister can expand further, perhaps in the debate on Monday, on what strong, leading measures the Government will take.

I welcome the White Paper, and the Government's continued commitment to the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP. I hope that the Minister can give us a timetable for that target at some point.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their welcome of the Statement, albeit the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was not entirely sure what he welcomed. He said that the Statement was opaque. I believe that the Statement and the White Paper very clearly set out government policy on these issues. The White Paper focuses the aid programme and the whole development effort on meeting an internationally agreed target of halving world poverty by the year 2015. I have no hesitation, nor any difficulty, in paying tribute to the work done by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. Indeed, I have done so on a number of occasions in this House. But I think it is worth pointing out that when the Labour administration left office in 1979, the commitment to aid was 0.51 per cent. of GNP; and when we took over on 1st May this year it was 0.27 per cent. of GNP. We are about reversing that trend; and I have been very clear on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that it was clear what projects would be undertaken, but not those which would not be undertaken. The projects that will not be undertaken are those which are not aimed at the elimination of world poverty. I believe it is a clear statement, if I may say so, that it is the elimination of poverty which must lie at the heart of how the Government commit resources in this way in the future.

The noble Lord asked, too, about the Treasury commitment. The Treasury commitment is clearly set out. It was referred to by my right honourable friend when she spoke this morning on the radio. The commitment is that the cash limits will stay as they are for the next two years; and that in the financial year 1999 to 2000 they will start to rise, aiming at the target ultimately of 0.7 per cent of gross national product.

5 Nov 1997 : Column 1392

The noble Lord asked about the balancing of bilateral aid and aid through international organisations such as the European Union. Both sorts of aids will continue.

The NGOs have been consulted extensively over this paper, and will continue to be consulted. Indeed, there are specific commitments about the NGOs in relation to advice about a possible international development Act.

The noble Lord asked about the eradication of debt, and the Commonwealth countries which would benefit from those provisions. The debt provisions are consonant with the Government's wish that lower income Commonwealth countries should be committed to internationally agreed development targets, that they should be pursuing good government and encouraging transparency and, importantly, that they should be bearing down on corruption and applying economic policies which benefit the poor and encourage sustainable economic development. Formal offers have so far been extended to seven countries with aid debts totalling £18 million and discussions have started with others. The seven countries are Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Mauritius, St. Lucia, Tonga and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The noble Lord also asked about business involvement. Business has been widely consulted in drawing up the White Paper and will continue to be consulted. The importance of business and private sector involvement in taking forward the Government's policies is well understood by the Government. The noble Lord asked too about elements of the education of women and the way in which the White Paper will affect them. I hope that this Government have not been found wanting in their commitment to the education of women internationally. Indeed, we have discussed the question in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions. The importance of educating women, particularly in under-developed countries, about cleanliness, hygiene, clean water and, very importantly, about contraception, is well understood. That is an important part of any development programme.

The noble Lords, Lord Lucas, and Lord Redesdale, asked about the ATP programme. The White Paper sets out a raft of new initiatives for a new partnership between British business and the relevant government departments to help eliminate poverty. Ending the ATP scheme under which such notorious projects as the Pergau dam were financed does not preclude the use of mixed credits if that fits squarely within our strategy for helping a country to eliminate poverty. We shall press for an international agreement on reducing and ultimately eliminating tied aid in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, suggested. UK exporters are highly competitive. Multilateral untying can create far greater opportunities for British exporters and bring value for money for aid recipients. The proportion of British aid classified as tied fell to 15 per cent. in 1995, excluding technical co-operation from the statistics.

Questions have been asked about the financing of the demining. I wish to deal with the detailed financing questions which I am sure a number of noble Lords will wish to raise about the White Paper in the more extended debate which we are to have in your

5 Nov 1997 : Column 1393

Lordships' House on Monday. If there are further questions which I have not been able to answer from either the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, or the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I shall endeavour to do so in the debate on Monday.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, is the Minister aware--I am sure she is--that by far the most powerful engine of development in the world today is direct foreign investment, followed closely by access to the richer markets of the products of the developing countries? Is she further aware that, for example, last year direct foreign investment, including some of the poorer African countries like Uganda, amounted to well over 100 billion dollars? That dwarfs all official aid and assistance and indicates that that is where the real drive is coming from. Is it not therefore vital that aid and technical assistance, which continue to play a crucial role, should be accurately directed at encouraging conditions--political, social, economic and infrastructural--for the attraction of more private investment? That is the key. There did not seem to be much in the Statement about the central role of this giant engine of development which now dominates the scene. Perhaps we may have the assurance that there is a good deal more in the White Paper about what is now the key to the entire development process.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page