Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, one of the essential points in the White Paper is that there should be more help to developing countries to create the conditions which will attract foreign direct investment. The noble Lord is quite right and I have no difficulty in agreeing with the point he made. I also reiterate to him that my right honourable friend said in the other place that we shall make an annual report on progress on all those issues. So the noble Lord and all your Lordships will be able to monitor progress on the important point which he raised.

Lord Acton: My Lords, can my noble friend say how much money the Government estimate will be realised from the sale of shares in the Commonwealth Development Corporation? Approximately when do they expect that those funds will be available for the development programme?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am afraid it is too early to be precise in any answer to my noble friend. The amounts involved could be significant for the Department for International Development--possibly in the region of a few hundred million pounds. The DfID is keen to mobilise new investment in CDC as soon as possible in order to carry out the Government's objectives, but there are many steps to be gone through, not least the need for legislation in an already busy parliamentary agenda. My right honourable friend expects to appoint advisers soon and to bring forward early legislation. It is intended to enable CDCs to access private capital during the life of the current Parliament.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I wish to ask one or two questions. First, between now and Monday's

5 Nov 1997 : Column 1394

debate, can the Minister clarify in greater detail the aid and trade provisions which are so important to bidding for overseas contracts on the part of major British contractors? It would be useful if the lines were clearly defined because it is an important matter for industry.

Secondly, the 0.7 per cent. aid programme is ambitious and I congratulate the Government on grasping the nettle. On that point, can the Minister give us some idea of the timescale for achieving the 0.7 per cent. which, at the moment, is twice the existing aid programme? As I am sure the Minister is aware, the total amount of money paid by countries in Africa on debt servicing is, I think, three times what they receive in aid. Is she aware that servicing debt in Africa is four times what is spent on health services in Africa?

In developing her aid programme, will the Minister concentrate on the fact that immense public opinion is growing in this country, under the auspices of Jubilee 2000, to take a new look at third world debt, with a view to relieving the burden which is making economic development extremely difficult?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have no difficulty in undertaking to give a fuller answer on the ATP question when we debate the matter on Monday. However, I reiterate to your Lordships that the Government will work with British business to strengthen support for investment in trade which promotes sustainable development. We shall make available to British business information about trade and investment opportunities in developing countries. We shall consult when preparing country and other development strategies, to take full account of the contribution that British business can make.

This Government believe that the ATP scheme lacks poverty elimination as its central focus. That is why we wish to do away with it. No more applications will be accepted and the scheme will be closed. We shall explore where mixed credits can be managed within agreed country programmes, with the primary aim of reducing poverty, not subsidising exports. This will avoid any repetition of the abuses to which I referred a little while ago.

The noble Lord asked how long it would take to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP devoted to those programmes. I am not able to answer that as I am not in a position to know, for example, how the CDC investment is likely to go. What I can tell your Lordships is that we hope that the investment will start to grow in the financial year 1999-2000, as agreed by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The noble Lord also raised a point about the debt burden in Africa. It is well taken and is understood by both my right honourable friends, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is why he launched the Mauritius Mandate in September this year. The United Kingdom is providing a bilateral lead by contributing, for example, £6.5 million towards reducing Uganda's debt

5 Nov 1997 : Column 1395

to the African Development Bank, so I believe that the United Kingdom Government are taking a very important initiative and I hope are setting a trend which will be followed by other governments in the developed world.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I offer my warm and sincere congratulations to my noble friend the Minister and, through her, to the Government, on the publication of this, the first White Paper on the subject for over 20 years. We have heard statements on this subject since the days of the Lester Pearson Commission, now over 30 years ago, and to most of us very little seems to have happened to improve the lot of those underdeveloped and poverty-stricken countries.

Is my noble friend aware and will she accept that, contrary to what the noble Lord said about inward investment, not all inward investment is good inward investment? Some of it leads to the most appalling exploitation of children in terms of child labour in these countries, and some of it is really undesirable. So we ought not to give the impression that all inward investment is good. We should examine inward investment with a fine toothcomb.

Will my noble friend accept that the bottom line is these appalling pictures that we still see on our television sets of children suffering from malnutrition and dying, crippled and in bad health? Will my noble friend further accept that if we feed and clothe these children, and give them good health and good conditions in which to grow up in their own country and develop that country, then we shall have made a great contribution to alleviating poverty in the underdeveloped world.

Finally, I ask my noble friend to join with me, at a time when there has been so much "bitching" about the Italian footballers and football, in a tribute to Franco Baresi. Franco Baresi, as many of your Lordships will know, is an Italian international football player who has had an outstanding career with his club Inter Milan and the Italian national football team. He retired at the end of last season and only last week there was an international football match in his honour, staged in the Olympic stadium in Rome. Unlike all those highly paid football stars in this country who are only too desperate to pocket the millions that are made tax free from these testimonial matches, Franco Baresi insisted that the total proceeds from that match be given to the United Nations Save the Children Fund. Is that not a cause for congratulations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords, I believe it is and there are sadly all too few examples of such selflessness that we see in the world. One of the important things to remember about this White Paper is that what the Government are suggesting is achievable. It is not something where there is no chance of the Government being able to sustain it. As the noble lord says, there are children in the world who are starving, who are without homes and the bare necessities of life, who need not be in that position.

5 Nov 1997 : Column 1396

Of course it is not just a question of aid; we know it is a question of investment, of trade and of environment. It is also a question of education, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said--of the education of mothers as well as of the children. The inward investment that we are looking at must be the kind of investment that not only achieves the short-term issues of dealing with the grinding poverty that so many people in the world so needlessly endure, but also of the long-term sustainability of future generations not having to endure such needless poverty.

Lord Judd: My Lords, will my noble friend accept that many of us are extremely grateful to her for having repeated the Statement in the House this afternoon, and for giving us such a useful introduction to the more detailed debate on Monday, when we can pursue the full implications of the White Paper? Will my noble friend also convey to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State the congratulations which I am sure many of us in all parts of the House want to offer that, so early in her term of office, she has come to Parliament with a strategy for this far-reaching and highly complex aspect of Government responsibility? As she has just indicated in answer to the last question, if the full purpose of the White Paper is to be fulfilled, with poverty eradication back as the central target--and that really is exciting--that is going to require the co-ordinated and determined collaboration of a number of departments of state in this country. There will be the Treasury, environment, defence, and of course health. In this context, can my noble friend assure us, if not today then when she speaks on Monday, that she will be able to say something to the House about the specific arrangements being put in place to enable the co-ordinated drive by Government to be achieved? Without those the White Paper will never fulfil its real purpose.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page