Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, in thanking the Minister for that Answer, perhaps I may say that many of us in the House have great sympathy with his aim of concentrating on areas of great poverty. But, given the great importance over the next few years of establishing democratic institutions in central and eastern Europe prior to countries entering the European Union, will he consider some increase of a temporary nature for this purpose only, as the Know How Fund has not been increased over the past couple of years?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the strategy for the Know How Fund has been to concentrate more on the areas of greater need and is not solely related to the countries seeking membership of the EU. In fact, the biggest programme is in the Russian Federation. There are other steps which the Government, bilaterally and
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Know How Fund is largely British staffed, that it enjoys a very high reputation for its projects in the countries concerned, and that its influence is way out of proportion to the modest funds it has available?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am very happy to endorse that view. To my knowledge, it is almost entirely British staffed and it is certainly appreciated by the representatives of the applicant countries whom I meet.
Lord Judd: My Lords, can my noble friend say what arrangements are in place to evaluate the sustained progress and performance after a particular phase in the Know How Fund has come to a conclusion? The objective is surely to ensure that the people of the countries themselves are taking things forward and that we are not increasing dependency.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the principal method of assessing progress and performance comes in the review process and the screening process for the applicant countries, both the first six moving towards formal negotiations and the other five. In that context the effects of the Know How Fund and other forms of assistance will be assessed.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the vital importance of the Know How Fund to the three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? Will he join me in congratulating the Strathclyde police authority, which has done so much to establish a democratic police force in Estonia, where there is enormous crime, often promoted from outside that nation's borders. Will the Minister assure us that the Know How Fund will not be decreased in respect either of assistance to the police force of Estonia or of language training through the British Council?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there will be continuing assistance on that front to Estonia. However, the general picture is as I stated, that there will be a slight reduction in the total amount of Know How Fund expenditure in the Baltic States.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Know How Fund is essentially to provide expertise. Some of these problems also require substantial amounts of money which would come under other programmes, mainly EU rather than British.
Lord Rea: My Lords, I agree with all the favourable comments made by noble Lords about the Know How Fund and its excellent work. But can the Minister tell us the current situation with regard to the balance of funds for that fund and the overall development fund for the poorest nations of the world?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, Know How Fund expenditure, excluding emergencies, is about £80 million of the total Department for International Development budget. It is therefore a relatively small expenditure because it concerns the transfer of expertise rather than the provision of whole projects. It does not divert from the general strategy of the department to concentrate on the areas of greatest poverty.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for mentioning Bulgaria. Given that it is the third poorest country in eastern and central Europe, will the Minister give the House assurances that high priority is accorded Bulgaria by the Know How Fund and that it will definitely be maintained?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that I can give that assurance. As I indicated in my original Answer, Bulgaria and Romania in particular need some concentrated activity. There have been very severe economic setbacks in Bulgaria as well as slower progress towards meeting the requirements for accession to the European Union.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, may I commend the Know How Fund for choosing partners in the countries in which it works and say in particular how very important is the work that it is doing in Russia in trying to establish democratic political parties in a still very chaotic political scene?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, as I said, the largest single activity is in Russia. That is partly because of tremendous problems in both democratic and economic development. It includes areas of social expenditure as well as the more traditional areas.
The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful reply. Does she agree that our beautiful coastline and beaches are very much national assets? Does she further agree that as a baseline the continuation of the coastal discharge of raw sewage and untreated waste water less than a mile off shore is not acceptable in today's environment? I would add that despite the vigilant monitoring of the quality of the bathing water by the Environment Agency, which gives great public assurance, we need more. Will the Minister consider her department taking a fresh look at the matter, along with the water companies and the Environment Agency, focusing on the need for future investment to hasten the modernisation of the treatment works in order to deal with waste water around our coasts?
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