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House of Lords

Tuesday, 6th May 2003.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.

New Partnership for Africa's Development

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the progress made by the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, NePAD has made good progress since its inception. It has established a broad base of support from African governments. We and others are committed in our support for NePAD, in particular through the G8 Africa Action Plan. NePAD needs time to make further progress and it needs the active support of the international community.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords agree with the Government in their support of NePAD. However, on 31st March in Pretoria, did not the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, say that because of the situation in Zimbabwe,


    "foreign investors . . . think NePAD is a lost cause"?

If the current visit by three African presidents to Zimbabwe is not successful in resolving the problems of that country, would it not be right to put Zimbabwe on to the agenda of the meeting of G8 leaders to be held in France in a month's time? Is it not astonishing that, at last year's meeting of the G8 in Canada, Zimbabwe was hardly mentioned, if at all? Should not the G8 leaders now be considering how they can persuade the leaders of other African nations to ensure, in their own interests, that human rights, good governance and the rule of law are observed in all African countries, as they are required to do by a number of treaties? Would not that be a great help to NePAD?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, it is clear that the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, feels strongly about the situation in Zimbabwe, as do all noble Lords. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and my noble friend Lady Amos in this House, have made clear on many occasions the Government's firm views on the dire situation in that country. We support the new sanctions now in place against Zimbabwe, which add to the Commonwealth sanctions already established. However, in regard to the noble Lord's questions about NePAD and its deficiencies, as he sees them, along with the threat posed to the partnership as a result of the circumstances quoted by the noble Lord, I would say that NePAD is a new way, an innovative way, of redeveloping Africa. It is much bigger than any one country. We must support the fact that the most

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important element of NePAD is that it is African countries themselves which have signed up to it. It is an African-led innovation and therefore we have to support it. So this is not a question of one thing or another; it is a question of supporting NePAD and also ensuring that we support any moves to help the people of Zimbabwe.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, as my noble friend remarked, it is early days for NePAD, but it is still the most hopeful development to have come out of Africa since the release of Nelson Mandela. Is it not the case that, however it is expressed, the principle of mutual accountability—I think that is the new buzzword leading up to the Evian summit—means that, both in the context of north/south and between African governments themselves, we shall see the development of peer group review which will be able to address precisely the kind of situation referred to by the noble Lord opposite?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I very much agree with my noble friend. Through his robust leadership of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Africa, he will know that the NePAD initiative has been brought into being by African leaders themselves. The goals and vision of the partnership are much more important than any one controversy. I would say to noble Lords that, in Africa, controversies and supreme difficulties have to be faced on any day of the week, but we have to look at NePAD's overarching goals, which seek to meet those difficulties not only now, but also in the future. As my noble friend knows, those overarching goals are to promote accelerated growth, to eradicate widespread severe poverty and to halt the marginalisation of Africa in the global process.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, further to the questions put by my noble friend Lord Blaker, does the noble Baroness agree that NePAD's failure is not surprising, given that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, chaired by Libya, recently failed to pass a motion condemning Zimbabwe's human rights record? What are the Government doing to make the international response to the disaster in Zimbabwe more effective?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I disagree completely with the noble Lord in one respect; the NePAD process has not failed. It has been going for under two years. As I said in my earlier remarks, NePAD marks a new way of thinking about Africa's problems. It signals a commitment made by African leaders themselves to ensure that they do not look at aid as just a distributive mechanism and that they do not look at just short-term solutions to conflict, but that they consider what is happening in each country as regards good governance, transparency in dealing with international companies and so forth. All those issues bring hope to NePAD and, for that reason, we should all support it. It is precisely because of problems like those posed by Zimbabwe that we should continue to support NePAD.

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Lord Avebury: My Lords, while I agree with the noble Baroness that NePAD is much larger than any individual controversy in Africa, does she acknowledge that her noble friend not only made the remarks attributed to her by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, but went on to say that the developed nations might lose their collective vigour for plans to revive Africa if the issue of Zimbabwe is not addressed? Can the Minister say whether the visit of the three presidents to Harare was part of the African peer review mechanism agreed in March? Where will it lead if Mugabe does not take the hint and step down? Will there be further moves by the African peer review mechanism to sort things out in Zimbabwe?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the Government welcome the troika's visit to Zimbabwe this weekend and we look forward to hearing the outcome of those private discussions. We welcome the involvement of the African leaders and we hope that there will soon be unconditional inter-party dialogue in Zimbabwe.

Asthma

2.44 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What initiatives they are planning to help people with asthma.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we are currently developing a national service framework for children. Although it will not look at specific conditions, it has been agreed that asthma should be used as one of the exemplars that will accompany the main report. Delivering effective services for children will lead to better services for adults.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. She will know that today is World Asthma Day and that the National Asthma Campaign has launched its charter—entitled A Charter for Fresh Air— today. First, does my noble friend endorse that campaign? Secondly, can she give the 5 million or so asthma sufferers in this country some hope that the Government will make all workplaces—including those in the hospitality industry—smoke free in the way in which Ireland, New Zealand and Norway are currently doing and most parts of North America have already done? Has my noble friend seen the latest evidence from the TUC which shows that if a ban on smoking in licensed premises were introduced the lives of 165 bar staff would be saved and, at the same time, the turnover in pubs would be increased as more people would be encouraged to eat and drink there because of the smoke-free environment?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am pleased to play a small part in World Asthma Day. The Government have been working extremely hard over the past 10 years to reduce the incidence of asthma. We welcome

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the charter, much of which matches what we are trying to do. We are always open to new ways of doing better with asthma and we listen to the National Asthma Campaign. As to smoke-free workplaces, we deplore the effect that secondary smoking has on people. That is one of the reasons why we are assessing the public places charter and considering an advisory code of practice to meet the needs of small and medium enterprises as well. We are doing a great deal to raise awareness of asthma and its links with smoking.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, is the Minister aware that her answers in regard to an approved code of practice are distressingly similar to those given six months ago, a year ago, 18 months ago? Is it not high time that the Government recognised that the rate of death from passive smoking is three times that from ordinary industrial injuries? Is it not high time that the Department of Health and the DTI got their act together and approved a code of practice?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we are aware of the need to ensure that the code of practice meets the needs of the workplace. But, in addition to an advisory code of practice, we are doing a great deal to raise the profile of the dangers of passive smoking. For example, the new warnings on cigarette packets inform people that passive smoking affects and harms children and so on. The tobacco alliances are now prioritising passive smoking in order to drive better practice at a local level. So we are certainly doing a great deal.


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