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Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have continued to work with our EU partners. The noble Baroness will recall that the EU-Africa summit, which was due to be held earlier this year, did not go ahead precisely because the EU and the AU could not reach agreement about the possible attendance or non-attendance of Mugabe at that summit. We shall continue to do that work. The noble Baroness will also be aware that there are differences among European Union countries with respect to an ongoing strategy on Zimbabwe.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, perhaps I may take the noble Baroness back to the question posed by my noble friend Lord Howell. Is she satisfied that the South African Government are doing everything possible to apply pressure on Mugabe's regime to bring it to an immediate close?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, noble Lords will know that we have been in discussions over many months with the South African Government. They have assured us that they are engaged in discussions on these matters with the Government of Zimbabwe, and indeed with the MDC.
Baroness Amos: That is absolutely right, my Lords. I remind noble Lords of a point I have made in this House before. The international community provides food aid, but the Government of Zimbabwe itself provides food aid through the Grain Marketing Board. So many of the irregularities that may have been brought to your Lordships' attention relate not to international aid through either the World Food Programme or the Department for International Development but to the food aid being delivered by the Government of Zimbabwe. If noble Lords know of irregularities, I should be happy if they brought them to my attention.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for that reply and declare an interest as a board member of HelpAge International, an international development charity working for and on behalf of older people in many middle-income countries.
I welcome the Government's continued commitment to increase overall international development funding and support for multinational organisations such as HelpAge International. I hope that Iraq will soon rejoin the group of middle-income countries. However, I am disappointed that the extra spending on its reconstruction has meant that a further £50 million has been cut from funding for middle-income countries in the next two years. That may be especially harmful to programmes in Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I seek the Minister's reassurance that central to her department's international development agenda on poverty reduction is another change in circumstances that we face, which is the global revolution in ageing, which is impacting on all parts of the world, especially developing countries.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that the commitment of the Government and of the Department for International Development to the poorest countries in the world will continue. What is happening at present is an acceleration of the trend to which we are already committed. We have a target to move our spending from a current base of 78 per cent spent on the lowest income countries in the world to 90 per cent by 200506. Iraq counts as a middle-income country. We have considered how we spend the money that we allocate to middle-income countries and have had to reallocate within it. But our commitment to the poorest countries in the world continues.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, misunderstands the nature of DfID funding. The money we spend on humanitarian aid and emergencies around the world is separate from the money we spend on our bilateral and multilateral programmes. There has been no cut in our humanitarian or emergency assistance to any country as a result of our programmes in Iraq. What we have considered reallocatingnot during this year but from next yearis the money spent in middle-income countries, which we were already doing in any event so that we could meet our commitment to 90 per cent of our spending going to low-income countries.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the middle-income countries whose budgets have constantly been under threat under this Labour Government are still home to at least 140 million people living in poverty. The Secretary of State, Mr Benn, released a shocking Written Statement last week describing reduction of spending in middle-income countries of about £100 million. Only in October did he pledge £544 million for Iraq, with no mention of cutbacks.
Of course we support aid for reconstruction of Iraq, but not at the expense of countries such as Albania, Romania and Bulgaria, to mention but a few, or poor countries such as those in Latin America. Why do the Government continue to calculate by pure numbers of people per country, not by percentage? There will always be more people below the poverty line in China than Albania, for example. How do the Government expect aid programmes to continue if they are cut so suddenly?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness represents a party which presided over a dramatic fall in the amount going to overseas development. Since 1998, UK aid spending has increased by 74 per cent in real terms. So I do not understand her point about our overseeing cuts in expenditure on development. We have made a commitment to the poorest in the world that 90 per cent of our bilateral funding will go to them through our commitment to low-income countries.
Lord Joffe: My Lords, some middle-income countries, such as South Africa, are being ravaged by HIV/AIDS. Their needs are perhaps even greater than those of Iraq, especially bearing in mind that they are not in receipt of the massive reconstruction budget presently offered by the USA to Iraq. Will the Leader of the House outline the key criteria applied by DfID in reallocating funds from middle-income countries to Iraq and confirm that those criteria are consistent with those usually followed by DfID in allocating funds?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, that dealing with HIV/AIDS is central to our work in sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to be, regardless of whether it occurs in a middle-income country such as South Africa or
Baroness Amos: My Lords, as the House will know, tomorrow is Armistice Day. Although the House will not be sitting at 11.00 a.m., Members of the House, their staff and officials of the House will be attending to their duties. I think that the House will agree that it is appropriate that we should join the nation in observing the two-minute silence at that time, so that we might remember those who gave their lives for their country to help to preserve our democratic freedom. Instructions will also be issued to Heads of Department, so that those members of staff who wish to observe the two-minute silence are enabled to do so.