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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, is the very worthy statement that the noble Baroness has made about know-how and encouraging people to grow their own food--at least that is what I inferred from what she said--agreed by the other members of the European Community? What sort of influence do we have among the other member states to encourage them to adopt such a policy and be wholeheartedly behind it?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have been taking a leading role in this area since the publication of our White Paper on international development. After all, 30 per cent. of our international development budget goes towards EC aid. Our objective is to try to maximise the contribution of the EC's development programmes to the international poverty target to which we are committed, which is the halving of extreme world poverty by 2015. We are currently in negotiations with our European Union partners because those budgets are now being set. We want that target to be part of the EC's development aid strategy. We have also published our institutional strategy paper which sets out the terms on which we expect to work with our European partners and with the European Commission over the next number of years. I shall be glad to send the noble Baroness a copy of that paper.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, bearing in mind what my noble friend has said about the long-term aim of eradicating poverty, can she say what proportion of the international development budget is spent on food aid and how that has changed in recent months in the light of the Government's policy?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, in the period 1985 to 1995--no more recent figures are available--food aid as a percentage of overseas development assistance has dropped from 11 per cent. to 4 per cent. For the United Kingdom, it has fallen from 9 per cent. to 2 per cent. Globally, the figures have dropped partly as a result of a decline in overproduction but, in terms of the UK, part of the decline has been the result of our clear strategy to use food aid only in emergencies and to look at other areas like sustainable development, debt relief, building partnerships with local communities in the countries which we are targeting and our commitment to poverty eradication.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I hope to reassure the noble Lord that some of our aid budget is targeted towards food aid. But we are concerned that that is not the only mechanism that we use. In non-emergency situations we would not want to go down the route of using only food aid as a mechanism for development. In 1998-99 the UK has already provided £38 million for emergency food assistance to, among others, those affected by the war in the Sudan and to the victims of the devastating floods in Bangladesh and China. Multilateral organisations are also involved. As I have already said, we are keen to look at long-term sustainability.
It may assist your Lordships if I give an example of the kinds of projects we would fund on the back of emergency aid. In Kenya we are supporting an Oxfam managed programme which is looking at strengthening the livelihood systems and community coping mechanisms in an attempt to ensure that poor people in future will be less vulnerable to the impact of drought. So we are looking at immediate needs and long-term needs as well.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the European Union aid programmes, such as the TACIS and PHARE schemes, represent some of the most maladministered programmes of the European Commission and that these are notorious for fraud and corruption? What specific action are the Government taking to ensure that this is urgently remedied by the European Commission?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, towards the end of last year I answered a Question on fraud in European Union aid programmes and I set out very clearly the action we were taking in terms of working with the Commission and supporting some of the proposals which were being made by the European Parliament. In addition, as I have already said, we have developed an institutional strategy paper which sets out the terms on which we intend to work with the European Commission. We have analysed extensively in that paper the strengths and weaknesses that currently exist within the European Commission's aid programmes. Again, I would be happy to send the noble Lord a copy of that paper.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I have had to address the issue of world debt before and I know it is one that concerns many of your Lordships. It is an extremely complex situation. We are committed to working with the international financial institutions to find the best possible way to ensure that we can help to relieve the burden of debt but in a context where, bearing in mind corruption and other problems, these countries actually benefit from debt reduction. It is a complex situation.
Lord Carter: My Lords, after the first debate today, my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the publication of the report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. That will be followed by my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, who will, with the leave of the House, repeat two Statements; one on Kosovo and one on the Foreign Affairs Committee report on Sierra Leone.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to regulate the use of certain genetically modified organisms for agricultural purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Moved, That the Lord Methuen be added to the panel of Lords appointed to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees for this Session, and that the Lord Henley be appointed to the panel in the place of the Lord Strathclyde.--(The Chairman of Committees.)