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Column 670world's area. Each year, India's population grows by about 16 million, which is equivalent to the entire population of Australia. Millions may not mean much to most of us, but thousands are more comprehensible. Each day, 1,500 people move into the city of Bombay. That means 10,500 per week or 536,000 per annum. Those figures take no account of indigenous population growth. People move there because of high birth rates and lack of jobs in the rural areas. Unfortunately, Bombay is not unique. Every major city of Asia, Africa and Latin America is suffering the same experience. The consequence is squalor beyond belief. In Bombay, there is virtually no traffic island that has not become a hutted slum--and to use the word "hut" is to exaggerate the conditions that exist. Instead of standards and conditions improving, they are deteriorating.
What is to be done? At the strategic level--and I return to a point I made to the hon Member for Linlithgow--it is necessary in the world interest to reduce population growth and ultimately to stabilise the world's population. At grass roots level, there is even more urgency if a better life is to be created. There must be more aid for population programmes, so that the world's finite capacity for people is not overtaken and so that economic growth may have a chance of getting ahead of population growth. I refer not to aid for family planning alone, because the need is much more sophisticated. I was reminded of that when I paid a visit to India and Nepal in January, in the company of five hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). We were generously sponsored by the International Planned Parenthood Federation. I hope the federation thinks that it got its money's worth, because we all learned a great deal from that experience. We have already shared that experience with others and shall continue to do so.
I do not want to quote too many statistics, but they are a way of drawing attention to the scale of the problem. In 1961, Nepal had a population of 9 million people. It is now 17 million, and will be 21 million by the year 2000. The population growth rate is between 2.7 per cent. and 2.8 per cent. Nepal used to export rice to India, Burma and Bangladesh, but now it must import rice. Land hunger is intense and destructive. Arable land amounts to only 14 per cent. of Nepal's land area, so steep hillsides are deforested and tiny terrace fields constructed in their place. When the rains come, top soil is washed from treeless slopes by floods that inundate Bangladesh, as they did in the last monsoon.
We were told that it had been calculated that while, in the widest interest, 42 per cent. of Nepal should be afforested, today the figure was down to 29 per cent. If there are not to be economic, social and environmental disasters in what must now be one of the most magnificently beautiful countries in the world, drastic action is needed. Fortunately the King of Nepal, the Government, Parliament and the NGOs agree on that. They have ambitious targets to reduce population growth from today's 2.7 or 2.8 per cent. to 1.2 per cent. by the year 2000. If they manage to reach that target it will be an incredible achievement.
India's population will grow by 500 million in the next 30 years. There may be the food to feed them, for there is a degree of optimism about the country's ability to produce the required extra amount, but what that figure will mean for the environment, national and international,
Column 671is a horrific thought. There is the same desire to slow population growth among many people in India, especially the voluntary organisations, but, sad to relate, there is a clear lack of political will and leadership. We were told that that was because it was election year. The memory of Sanjay Gandhi and alleged compulsory sterilisation makes politicians sensitive, although at present all parties agree about the problem.
Meanwhile, in this election year, the momentum for population control programmes comes from the excellent Family Planning Association of India. That association and its equally excellent fellow association in Nepal are undertaking, with and without Government help, a variety of projects that can go under the heading of community development and whose ultimate objective is to limit the size of families. They include skills training, literacy, child and maternal health care, parasite control and help for small farmers. The basic aim is to make people confident that they have the ability to change for the better their lives and the living habits that they inherited from their forebears, above all by removing the need for a huge family--many of whom in any case died before adolescence in past times, as too many still do. That is why it is so important to improve child health.
Mr. Steen : My hon. Friend has mentioned the problem of the size of India's population, 70 per cent. of whom are illiterate. Does he agree that the Family Planning Association's most important task is to educate people- -especially women--in India and Nepal, and to help them to understand how to control the size of their population? Does he not think that the Government could help enormously, not only by funding national and international bodies but by ensuring that the money that they give to India and Nepal is earmarked for such community development work?
There is a vast problem to be tackled in India, Nepal and many other countries, and, like my hon. Friend, I should like the Government to do much more in the sphere of population-related aid. I do not for a moment wish to imply that the Government have been idle in that regard ; far from it. In November or thereabouts, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister demonstrated her understanding of the population threat when speaking at the Margaret Pyke centre, and in a letter written in January reminded me that support for
population-related work within the aid programme had more than doubled, to £16 million, since 1981. My hon. Friend the Minister also mentioned that earlier today, and a good deal of the credit for that increase must go to him. None the less, much more needs to be done. I was glad to hear that last year a health and population adviser had been appointed to the ODA development mission in Malawi. Does that set a precedent for such appointments in other ODA missions? To what extent does the ODA ask developing countries how they can best be assisted to overcome population problems? Of course I know that the ODA has its own excellent project in Orissa in East India.
Column 672Demand on the resources of British charities such as Population Concern and Marie Stopes International and on other NGOs, both British and from other countries, far outstrips supply. They need more support to meet requests from NGOs in developing countries for project funding. Indian politicians themselves emphasise how much more cost -effective and less bureaucratic than the Government NGOs are. I should also like to know whether the Government are holding any talks with the new American Administration about the need for a restoration of USAID funding for IPPF and the United Nations fund for population activities, so regrettably withdrawn in 1984. Will the British Government please do their best to persuade the United States of the importance of such funding?
I imagine that the ODA is responsible for drafting the sections on overseas aid in the public expenditure White Paper. This year's White Paper, Cmnd. 602, states, under the heading "Aims and Objectives", "The purpose of the overseas aid programme is to promote sustainable economic and social development and to alleviate poverty in developing countries, particularly the poorest."
That purpose will not be achieved unless population growth is controlled, yet the rest of the section makes no mention of population. Rightly or wrongly, I detect a certain prissy sensitivity about mentioning population control. I trust that the Government will be a little more robust in future, as it lies at the root of sustainable economic and social development.
Finally, let me express a pious hope. We heard from the Chancellor on Tuesday that we now have a Budget surplus of £14.5 billion. For fear of adding to inflation that money cannot be used for capital investment or other constructive purposes--much to my regret--and so it is to be used for the, in my view, rather pointless exercise of reducing an already low and continually decreasing level of national debt.
Is this not the moment above all to provide more money for overseas aid? It would be an excellent way of getting rid of money without creating more inflation--even better, I suggest, than repaying debt, which means that someone has more money to spend domestically and thus, ultimately, perhaps to add to inflation.
Behind every world problem--economic, social, environmental, the Brazilian rain forest or Nepal forests--there is an excess of population growth. It is the most fundamental issue that we have to face in the sphere of overseas aid--and much more widely than that. I trust that the Government will continue to pay increasing attention to it.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : On 23 February I and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) hosted a development forum in my constituency, called the Islington aid development forum. Its slogan was "Think globally, act locally." A number of people came along from local organisations that had been lobbying for increased overseas aid and for help with the environmental problems of the world and the community. It is significant and interesting that those people were passionately concerned about poverty all over the world and about the environment and that they were equally passionately concerned that something should be done politically.
Column 673The people who came together in that forum were not necessarily wealthy people. They do not live in a particularly wealthy area. However, they feel that there is something morally wrong in a world where two thirds of the population are fairly poor, where a large number of people are very poor, and where a very large number of people live in the most appalling poverty. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) for ensuring that we can address that problem today. It is an indictment of the House that we so seldom debate matters that affect the whole world. It is to the credit of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that he was prepared to stay up half the night to raise the crucial matter of the environmental problems that are associated with the Brazilian rain forest.
The House cannot continue to ignore the fact that large numbers of people in the world do not enjoy a decent standard of living. Many people in this country do not enjoy a decent standard of living but, globally, the lot of many people is a life expectancy of less than 50 years, of infant mortality rates that would be a disgrace to Victorian England, never mind now, and of an incidence of preventable disease that is a shame and a scandal. All that could be changed if there were a real international will for change.
It is not just a question of moral outrage, which is right and fair enough, that has to be addressed. It is also a question of the survival of the planet as a whole. We cannot continue to promote the redistribution of the wealth from the poorest to the richest countries of the world and to destroy the world's atmosphere and use up its natural resources at the present rate. If we do, there will not necessarily be a cataclysmic end to the world, although that is possible. There is more likely to be a growth of
environmentally-related illnesses, major climatic changes and serious consequential problems.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow was right to refer to the Amazon rain forest. He spoke about it very well and showed a proper understanding and concern for the problem. I first visited the Amazon rain forest 20 years ago. I had been working in Jamaica as a voluntary service overseas volunteer. From Jamaica I was able to travel throughout the West Indies and the whole of South America. I have had a great interest in the region and the continent ever since. At that time, 20 years ago, we drove on buses and trucks through the rain forests of Guyana, Surinam, French Guyana and Brazil. Even then, the chain saws and the diggers were tearing the forests apart. I went on a logging expedition in Guyana. At that time, the wood that they were after was Demerara green heart, a very valuable timber. The timber was so valuable that a scouting party was sent out to locate the Demerara green heart, to mark the tree and to clear a small area round it. Then a bulldozer went in and destroyed everything in its path in order to get at that one tree, cut off the major part of the trunk and take it awy. They left a clearing that was a potential desert. As the clearing went on and on, large areas of the rain forest were destroyed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow referred to the fact that the soil construction is weak. It cannot sustain growth when the forest cover has gone. The initial wealth of the soil comes from ash where there has been burning of the scrub. That creates temporarily very fertile land. However, the fertility of the land is leached out within a very short period and a desert develops. That has been happening at an ever increasing rate for 20 or 30 years.
Column 674The Minister said, quite correctly, that we cannot interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and tell them what to do. The problem, however, is that environmental matters and the world climate cannot be dealt with on a national basis. It is no good complaining about pollution from another country if we, too, are polluters. We must accept that it is perfectly reasonable for people in Scandinavia to complain about the acid rain from this country that is damaging their forests. Likewise, it is right and proper that we should protest strongly about the destruction of the Amazon rain forest because of the effect that it is having.
The destruction of the Amazon rain forest means that large areas of that forest are becoming deserts. It is leading to the loss, day by day, of whole species of plant and animal life. It is also leading to the death of the people who live in the rain forest. The prospectors, the loggers, the mining companies and all the others who go into the rain forest are carrying out a pogrom against the Indians. The number of deaths that have resulted from that pogrom is frightening. We, too, are responsible for what is going on in the Amazon rain forest. These things are not happening in Brazil necessarily because either the Brazilian people or the Brazilian Government want it to happen. That is true, too, in Sarawak and in west Africa. The people in Sarawak and in west Africa do not want it to happen. We must examine the economic situation that has driven the world into destroying its natural resources at this rate, including the destruction of the world's rain forests.
Two years ago, during the Christmas Adjournment debate, I raised the subject of the Amazon rain forest. I complained in that debate--and I still complain--about the way that the British Government--through the World Bank, the IMF and the EEC--have subsidised the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. They have given money towards the development of the Grande Carajas iron ore mining project. They have also given aid for other mining projects that have promoted the destruction of the rain forest. The Government are responsible for financing some of that destruction.
Brazil is a large and wealthy country, with a fairly small population for its size. It is also a deeply indebted country. Every time that the question of the Brazilian debt is raised the solution that is offered by the world's financial powers--the IMF, the World Bank and the private banking system--is that Brazil must buy its way out of its debt ; therefore is must promote exports and the sale of whatever natural resources it has. We are, therefore, bankrolling environmental disasters. The Sierra club has produced a booklet called "Bankrolling Disasters." The booklet deals with the international development banks and the global environment. Page by page and issue by issue, it lists places where the use of World Bank finance to sort out debt problems has led to the most appalling environmental destruction. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, the destruction of the Amazon rain forest has cataclysmic effects for the rest of the planet. We have to examine our responsibility for that through the debt system.
I hope that the wise words of the people who live in the Amazon rain forest to the directors of the World Bank and the IMF will be listened to. Those people understand that we cannot continue destroying the forest without
Column 675developing major problems. They live in that forest, they understand it and they give sound advice. We should listen to them and accept their advice.
The understanding of the problem is widespread and there have been some changes in attitude. The World Bank now accepts that it has a role in preserving the environment and cannot continue funding such disasters.
We have to ask what we can do? Other climatic changes are occurring. Global warming is caused partly by the destruction of the rain forest but is also a result of industrialisation. We should also take into account the destruction of the ozone layer and other related factors.
Like many hon. Members, I receive a great deal of free post, most of it unwelcome and much of it heavy commercial lobbying. But I recently received an American business magazine dealing with the greenhouse effect. I am quite interested in that so I hurriedly opened it and turned to the relevant page to discover how it proposes to deal with the greenhouse effect. The article contained a series of lurid maps showing the level to which the sea would rise, which countries and which parts of the United States would be flooded and what the climatic changes would be. It had some rather clever graphics showing oranges growing in the Arctic. But it did not conclude that we could not continue burning rain forests at such a rate. It advised that if one were investing in real estate in the United States, one should not invest in anything less than 50ft above sea level because eventually it will be flooded. It saw the problem simply as a commercial matter that had to be faced. I hope that we take a far more serious attitude.
Today we are debating world interdependence. Hon. Members have pointed out the environmental problems that are developing. We are debating what Britain and the British Government should be doing about them. The aid Budget is very important as it has to be relevant to environmental needs, environmental causes and the poverty that exists in many poorer countries. Although the Minister gave a pretty robust performance in defending the level of the aid budget it is nowhere near 0.7 per cent. of GNP--the figure recommended by the United Nations. There is no reason why it could not be much higher. The British Government have set a surplus of £14 billion next year on Government spending and have decided not to increase the aid budget and other elements of social spending. Clearly the British Government could spend much more money on overseas aid, if they wanted to do that. There is also the matter of the quality and monitoring of that aid and the projects funded from it. The Minister described many laudable projects that we support and that are extremely beneficial to people in the countries concerned. However, there is no point in the British Government promoting their overseas aid policies as effective and helpful if they are doing nothing to promote world economic policies that benefit the poorest people in the poorest countries of the world.
I have some figures which show the level of official development finance to less developed countries. In 1987 the figure was $59.3 billion. However, the figures showing the burden of debt service payment faced by those countries was $70.9 billion in principle repayments and $54.0 billion in interest repayments, totalling $124.9 billion. In other words, the aid from the developed countries to the poorest countries in the world has been
Column 676more than repaid twofold. It has been repaid through the servicing of debt, interest payments and the repatriation of profit by multinational corporations.
In country after country facing serious debt problems, what solution is offered by the world's financial institutions? A team of experts fly in on the handiest Pan Am flight, they put up at the biggest hotel they can find and they start to examine the books of the country concerned. After examining the books they say, "You are in far too much debt and you must get yourself out of it. The way to do that is to cut public spending, reduce Government public sector debt within your country and promote export industries and export crops." In other words, they recommend selling-off a large number of public sector assets.
If one wants to see where such action leads, one can look at some west African countries where state-owned industries have been sold off to foreign investors, leading to a loss of some political control and where there has been a development of monoculture crops for export, which has often done serious environmental damage. In some cases, poor countries are exporting high protein food crops while children in the country are malnourished. They are doing that because they have to pay back their debts and they are told that that must always be the priority. Therefore, we need to look at the treatment of the commodity prices of poor countries.
I have an example taken from South magazine, which is an excellent monthly magazine which I recommend to everybody. It details every month what commodities one can buy. It shows that the real prices of jute, tea, cotton and other crops have decreased over the past 15 years compared with the cost of oil or of importing wheat. Many countries are losing out as a result of increased prices and increased interest payments. The debt crisis is serious, and I hope that when he replies the Minister will tell us what plans he has to do something about it.
I want to mention the British Government's attitude to poorer countries in relation to 1992 and the EEC. There was a delegation here recently led by Mr. Julian Hunte from St. Lucia concerning the implications of the Single European Act for the survival of the Windward Islands. There is a problem because of the likelihood of the closure of markets for bananas and some of the smaller eastern Caribbean countries and the low price that the producers receive for them. It is necessary for the British Government to do something to protect the markets that those islands have traditionally enjoyed. If not, they will become seriously impoverished and further indebted. They will lose out because of Britain's obsession with moving deeper into the Common Market and accepting the Common Market's single economy rather than protecting those who have traditionally supplied goods to this country.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar) : I had an interesting exchangewith Mr. Julian Hunte and the Prime Minister of St. Lucia. Did they not make it clear that they were aware of our full support and determination to convince the other countries of the European Community that the Windward Islands would continue to have access for their bananas to the United Kingdom market?
Column 677convince the EEC of the need to protect the economies of the Windward Islands. I am glad to hear that the Minister intends to try to do that but he cannot give an absolute guarantee. My concern, and the concern of Mr. Hunte and many others within the Caribbean is that they will lose out because of pressure that will be applied by other EEC member states, perhaps against the wishes of the British Government. As I said, I am glad to have the Minister's assurance but a guarantee can be given only by the EEC.
I want to deal with the way in which the debt crisis affects so many poor countries. I have pointed out, as have others, the environmental consequences of the debt burden on those countries and the poverty that develops because of that debt burden, the usury rates of interest and the redistribution of wealth to the richest countries in the world. Yesterday, the Prime Minister in a written answer said :
"The United Kingdom and others will reduce interest rates to prevent debt from compounding. The United Kingdom has also written off £1 billion of old aid loans, of which nearly £300 million were for sub-Saharan Africa. We have also agreed to subsidise loans to the poorest countries of up to about £750 million through a special IMF facility, the enhanced structural adjustment facility, of £4.5 billion."--[ Official Report, 16 March 1989 ; Vol. 149, c. 275. ] That sounds all very well until one looks behind it to see what that enhanced structural adjustment facility will be. Say that to people in poor countries who are losing hospitals, schools and social facilities. Say that to people who are forced to move into slums and shanty towns in South America, Africa and the Indian sub-continent. Those countries need their debt burden removed and a trade arrangement and policy with the richer countries that recognises the need to eliminate poverty by giving their people self-respect through proper prices for the products that they produce, protection of the environment in their countries and the rest of the world and rather less of giving power to the IMF, the World Bank and multinational companies to make much money out of them.
I am glad that we have been able to have this debate, but the House should return to the subject more often because it is being ignored too much. We cannot continue to live in a world that is so bitterly divided between rich and poor and so dangerously on the edge of an ecological abyss without at least discussing it and ensuring that we do all that we can rather than ignoring the problem and hoping that it will go away.
Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask the House to bear with me while I seek your advice. It is obvious that the motion in my name will not be reached because of the excellent debate on overseas development. I had intended to highlight, through the motion and in my speech addressed to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, a series of violent and intimidating incidents involving Mike Lyons, who is a managing director of MYL Security. He is inflicting physical violence upon, and instilling fear in, an increasing number of my constituents and of those of my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott). Given that we shall be unable to deal with this matter today and given the seriousness of the situation in my constituency, will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, assure me that the usual channels will be used to ensure that the substance of the motion and my speech, which would have outlined a catalogue of terror, will be brought to the attention of the
Column 678Secretary of State so that he can deal with it.? It has been on his desk since 20 January, but I should like to ensure
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. I have the drift of the hon. Gentleman's point of order. Nothing is obvious in this place ; it may be possible to deal with the hon. Gentleman's motion, which is the second Order of the Day. He has put his points on the record. 12.42 pm
Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams) : Until the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) switched the debate to an environmental one, the discussion was largely about the macroeconomics of the Third world and developing countries. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for swinging the debate away from macroeconomics and discussing, most movingly, the problems of the Amazon rain forests and related difficulties.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow was followed by an excellent contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison), with whom I had the privilege of visiting India and Nepal to see at first hand the problems of the Third World.
The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) continued the discussion about the environment, and I should like to continue in this vein. We have considered the problems of manufactured gases--chlorofluorocarbons--but only 14 per cent. of manufactured gases contribute to the greenhouse effect and the warming of the atmosphere, whereas 50 per cent. of carbon dioxide-- CO2--gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect and the warming-up process. Population and the growth of it is far more significant and produces three times more CO2 gases thereby than manufactured CFCs. While the world has been debating the greenhouse effect and the way we must eliminate CFCs from our atmosphere, it has singularly failed to consider the problem caused by the continued growth of population. As I have said, 50 per cent. of the greenhouse effect is a result of the burning of fuels by people on this planet.
I want to talk about the problem of population and how it affects the environment. Let us consider India, where 800 million people live now and where there will be 1.3 billion people by 2050, whereas only 400 million people existed there at partition in 1947. Seventy per cent. of Indians are illiterate--about 470 million people--and 50 per cent. of the population are under 25. The improved health care is lowering the mortality rate for young and old. About 30 per cent. of couples of child-bearing age practise some sort of birth control, but the remaining 100 million do not.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes touched on the problem of the campaign led by Sanjay Gandhi, which has resulted in people refusing to have their children inoculated because they fear that it is a sterility injection. There has been an equally rapid growth of population in Nepal, where literacy among women is only 12 per cent. and infant mortality is 128 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy is under 50 years and there are 6.1 live births per family.
The environmental implications of that enormous population growth and its effect on the greenhouse effect are greater than any amount of CFC gas. The environmental implications of unrestricted population growth are immense. The impact is not being grasp either
Column 679by the British Government or other Governments of the developed world. Although it is true that India has sufficient food to support its 800 million population, it does not have sufficient food for 1.3 billion. As my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes said, Nepal is already having to import rice.
Bombay is another problem. The population of Bombay is 10 million and growing at the rate of 1,500 a day. That is important, not only because people have to sleep on traffic islands or pavements, but because the people are clearing land all around Bombay to build shanty towns, roads and more factories. The major cities in India, and the world generally, are expanding as population floods from rural areas into the towns.
The satellite pictures, which other hon. Members have mentioned, not only confirm that the forests of the Amazon are being destroyed, but that the cities of India and Nepal are causing the loss of forests in the sub- continent. A further point, on which other hon. Members have not touched, is that India and Nepal are so cold for three to four months of the year that trees are cut down, not by "wicked capitalists" but by the people in Nepal and India who are cold. They warm themselves at wood fires and cook over them. The trees have disappeared largely because of that and that is the reason why we have such a great problem with carbon dioxide.
A further problem is that a series of poor monsoons was succeeded by a good one last year. As many trees in India and Nepal had been cut down, the water cascaded down not only in Bangladesh, but in Nepal, and blocked up the rivers which were supposed to be feeding into the new hydro-electric plants. Many spin-on effects result from those environmental problems.
further difficulty is that the poor villagers want water. They have to sink deep wells, perhaps 300-400 ft, and to pull up that water they need greater energy supplies. As more irrigation is required to feed the ever-increasing population, the water table continues to drop and wells have to be dug ever deeper, with the result that the power needed to bring up the water is even greater. There are increasing difficulties and environmental problems as the top slice of the population in the sub-continent want more air conditioning, fans and refrigerators which demand more and more power, while those at the bottom end of the scale want ordinary things to keep them alive ; they need more water for irrigation and more power to get the water out of the ground. There is a vicious circle in the Third world, the sub-continent.
The description "poor, powerless and pregnant"--a description of women that appears in all the Family Planning Association periodicals--rings very true in India. The key to the future of the Indian sub-continent lies with its women. In the past, the mortality rate for children under five was such, and the economic necessity for large families so pressing, that women would have more children to ensure a sufficient number of boys to provide security for their old age. There were also religious reasons : only boys are permitted to perform funeral rites for the 80 per cent. of the population of the sub-continent who are Hindus. Poverty militates against small families. Today in the Tamil Nadu province, firework and matchbox factories still employ about 45,000 children between the ages of five and 13 because of their deft
Column 680fingers. Although child labour is illegal in India, the Indian Government take no action, as they are aware of the impact that such action would have on the poorest families.
But changes are taking place. One university is insisting that every girl takes a compulsory paper on family planning. The Godrej corporation, which employs 20,000 people in Bombay alone offers a purpose-built home to those with fewer than three children. If employees have a large family, they cannot continue in their home. The Civil Service in India is experimenting with increment incentives for those with no more than two children. There is growing awareness of what needs to be done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes mentioned the community development work of the Family Planning Association--similar to the work done in this country by the task force and the young volunteer force, which I had the privilege to direct 20 years ago. Folk songs are being adapted to popularise the message, with the refrain "Keep it two, keep it two." A small group of family planning bodies is waging war against seemingly impossible odds to tackle a population growth which is out of control and which is destroying the environment as fast as any aerosol.
Our Government could do more, but not by increasing their aid budget, of which something has been made this morning. The answer is not more money, but better targeting. The money must go to help people to control the size of their families. That must be our number one priority. Everything else that we do is secondary. I was slightly surprised that that was the sole thrust of this morning's debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes is chairman of the Game Conservancy Council. While we were in India, he talked to me about the red grouse population cycle. I do not know whether the House knows about the red grouse population cycle. If the population is left unchecked, every seven years a large number of its members will be killed off by starvation, disease or parasites, or
sociologically--the birds will commit suicide, rather like lemmings because they cannot stand each other any longer. Would the House have the people of the Third world do the same? Surely, it is time for the developed world to realise that population control is the key to the future of life on this planet.
Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford) : I apologise to the House, to the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) and to the Minister for Overseas Development. I shall have to leave after I have spoken because I have promised to be with my children this afternoon on an important occasion. I thank the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) for allowing me to make my speech and then to leave. I congratulate the hon. Member for Eccles on obtaining this debate. She and I are accustomed to debating these matters after midnight. It is a welcome change to be in the Chamber at this more felicitous time of the day.
I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) made an excellent speech, and I support his eloquent call for an increase in the overseas development budget. He ended his speech by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister, but I begin by doing so. Senior economic development academics who are not our political friends recently volunteered to me that they
Column 681consider that my hon. Friend the Minister is probably the most effective and articulate Minister for Overseas Development whom they have known. Protected by the opinion of others from the accusation of being a creep, I add my own admiration for and envy of the skilled, elegant and deeply intelligent way in which my hon. Friend carries out his duties and leads his Department. In the past 10 years, I have not seen the morale of the Department higher than it is at present, which means that its excellent work is carried on with a spirit of enthusiasm that serves our country and overseas countries extremely well.
My hon. Friend complains that his speeches are largely unreported, but those of us who read and listen to them cannot but admire the accurate analyses, the understanding of the issues, and the compassionate solutions proposed.
I start from the same statistic from which my hon. Friend and Sir Shridath Ramphal started in their recent speeches in Cambridge. It is also the starting point of the Bruntland report. I refer to the United Nations figure which suggests that the world's population will stabilise between 8 billion and 14 billion by the year 2020. In other terms, it will rise by between 60 per cent. and nearly 200 per cent. above today's level. That gives point to the matters raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) and for South Hams (Mr. Steen). Although, like them, I believe that the control of population is absolutely vital to bring about a higher standard of living for wretchedly poor people in overseas countries, it must be combined with a programme of economic and social development to enable poor people to plan their families so that they do not have to go on having children, many of whom die, but can look forward with confidence to their children growing to maturity, as we can in our country. That is the most potent means by which we can control population, so we must constantly examine the surrounding factors of economic and social development.
The global implication of the figures in environmental, political and social terms are enormous. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, they are possibly apocalyptic. It must banish from anyone's mind the idea that overseas development is not our concern in the House of Commons and in northern countries, because if we ignore it the consequences will soon become apparent in changes in our climate, rises in sea level, falling trade and the lowering of our standard of living. Failure to do anything about it could even lead to global warfare, as desperate people with nothing to lose confront countries and people more fortunate than themselves. Unfortunately, I do not have time to develop all those themes, so I shall confine my remarks to five headings. Other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, so I shall write to my hon. Friend the Minister to bring the other points to his attention.
Like the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), I shall concentrate on the debt issue, which overhangs the whole subject of aid. If we cannot solve the debt problem, we shall be unable to make it up even by a fraction, through the volume of aid that we give, although I hope that we shall continue to give that aid. My hon. Friend the Minister has made the point time and again--it was also made earlier today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley)--that the trading circumstances of Third-world countries are vitally important. They cannot trade if we do not resolve the debt problem.
Column 682Like the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), I do not apologise for concentrating on this aspect. The three principles for dealing with sub-Saharan African debt pioneered by my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, first, that loans should be converted to grants or written off if they could not be recovered, those being public debts ; secondly, the interest rates charge should be reduced to a sustainable level ; thirdly, loan maturities should be extended to reduce annual payments to manageable levels while investment in the domestic economy of the debtor country can continue.
Those simple and well known remedies were to be applied to countries willing to agree to economic programmes which, in the judgment of the World Bank and the IMF, were likely to enable their economies to grow and thus make it possible for those countries to service their restructured debts. The remedy is simple to pronounce, but it has proved difficult to gain acceptability for it in the United States, Japan and Germany, although not in this country, which has a proud record to maintain. In Japan, America and Germany, the Government and the private sector must accept that losses have been incurred. Mr. Baker's plan did not succeed because the concept of loss was not conceded. The new American Treasury Secretary, Mr. Brady, appears to accept that debt reduction must be accomplished, and I am glad to see that my friend Senator Bradley, in welcoming Mr. Brady's initiative, has been foremost in the United States in advocating that those losses must be faced. Clearly, the question of how this is to be accomplished in the United States by the private banks, without bringing into question their own financial stability, still has to be worked out. The United States authorities cannot continue much longer to ignore the fact that they have incurred losses on loans to South America, which must in United States law be reflected in the balance sheets of the banks.
Mr. Carrington : My hon. Friend would be advised to recognise that the problem for the banking system is much smaller than it was. In the United States and in this country banks have already made adequate provisions for losses which they are likely to incur on such debt. The real problem with that debt--this is why it has not been written off--is that the countries involved will need to borrow in the future and if their debt were written off now their access to credit markets would be severely restrained for the next 20 years.
Mr. Wells : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I was about to make the latter point. He is right to say that the banks are in a stronger position than they were. There are some major banks in the United States which, if the Third world debt were written off quickly, would find credibility and confidence in them undermined, although that problem has receded. We should look to a new initiative now, while we do not face that imminent threat. That is why I have urged action on the matter in this debate and in other forums. During the painful discussions with the private banks, we should not lose sight of the fact that new wealth-creating investments must be made--the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington). If there is no new investment in those countries they will not overcome their debt difficulties. If the debt write-off means that the private banks and the
Column 683private sector will not invest, those countries will continue to become poorer, their populations will grow and environmental degradation will accelerate.
It is perfectly possible to achieve our goals by a combination of private and public sectors acting in consort to support each other through the IMF and the World Bank. My hon. Friend the Minister has said that he is turning his face against any idea of removing the burden of debt from the private banks and placing it on the taxpayer, and I support that, but he must bear in mind that to get out of the present situation public and private sectors must work in concert and through international institutions. This will involve a combination of Government guarantees to the private sector in return for innovation and imaginative reinvestment in those countries by the banks and by private companies ; and it will involve strengthening the international lending institutions.
On the part of developing countries, this must involve a restructuring of their economies which will release the energies of their peoples to work effectively in productive enterprise. That will generate wealth at home and exports abroad, to provide the necessary hard currency to purchase spare parts and other goods to enable their economies to begin to work again.
The developed world, for its part, must reduce barriers to Third-world production and be prepared to pay modestly increased prices for that production. That meets the point about commodities made by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). This will require Europe to stop producing subsidised products such as sugar and rape seed oil, which is to the detriment of Third-world countries. We must make a start, but the proposals to reduce the sugar price by 5 per cent. in the present agricultural round go in the opposite direction. I hope that my hon. Friend will make certain that his right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will ensure that those proposals are not agreed to by the Council of Ministers in Brussels.
Mr. Corbyn : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the EEC should adopt a more generous and liberal attitude to the import of semi-manufactured foodstuffs from producer countries? For example, a fruit-growing country which decides to can the fruit and to manufacture jam should be encouraged to do so. It will then receive a greater proportion of the total wealth created by the fruit than if it exports the raw fruit.
Mr. Wells : The hon. Gentleman enables me to mention one of the points that I was going to leave for a letter to my hon. Friend the Minister. The hon. Gentleman is right. The rules of origin under the Lome agreement must be modified to facilitate added value production and further manufacture in developing countries so that they can begin to earn their living--particularly in smaller and island states which have vulnerable and undiversified products to export. American agricultural over-production and subsidising must also be reduced, as must Japanese protection of its rice and vegetable production. Few people realise that the price of rice in Japan is kept at well over 50 per cent. above the world price. Japan has fierce tariff and other barriers against the importing of rice from the impoverished
Column 684rice-producing countries around it. We must advocate changing such provisions to the Japanese and other countries.
Turning to the international institutions Mr. Moe"en Quereshi, senior vice- president of the World Bank, made it clear at the all-party committee debt conference on growing out of debt that the World Bank was prepared to be given a more pro-active role in resolving debt provided that it was given the money and tools to carry that out. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling mentioned the conference on 6 December. This must include the institutions being willing to reschedule their debts, particularly in Africa, the smaller Caribbean states, central America and the Philippines. That in turn will depend on the executive board, on which my hon. Friend the Minister has a representative. We must ensure that the board permits this policy to grow in the World Bank, because those institutions are essential instruments for the resolution of the problem.
Much work remains to be done and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will ensure that these matters are discussed and resolved at the meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in three weeks' time. I wish to refer to many of the excellent contributions which have been made today about the environment. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was asked by an Amer-Indian chief from the Amazon basin what people living at the top of London tower blocks knew about his people's lives. The hon. Member for Islington, North certainly knows something about the subject, as he has shown today.
I had the good fortune to work in the tropical forests for many years-- taking out the green heart, to which the hon. Member for Islington, North referred. I also had the good fortune to be conducted by a group of Amer- Indians on two expeditions up the river Essequibo and beyond to the highest mountain in Guyana, Mount Roraima. Just as they would be out of place in a block of flats in London, so I was a child in the forest with them. The Indians understand how ecology works and how to live with it, but we do not. I also had the good fortune to walk with those Indians for three months from the south of Guyana in the Rupununi to Manaus. It was an absolute revelation of the sensitivity with which, generally speaking, those people treat their environment, the intrusions into which, as the hon. Member for Linlithgow emphasised, are so abhorrent and dangerous.
We can cut down and use forests sympathetically. We can use them for the economic benefit of the world if we conduct forestry exercises to regenerate the forest. Forests regenerate very quickly provided that they are not burnt off and that the canopy is not cut away. There are sympathetic methods which are known to my hon. Friend the Minister and his researchers. I hope that we can make that advice and experience available to allow the forests to be exploited economically for the benefit of everyone with particular sensitivity towards the Amer-Indians and their way of life.
We must also remember that we deplore the 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by deforestation. However, we must also learn lessons in this country and in the developing world. Some 80 per cent. of carbon dioxide emissions come from the developed world and from power stations, the burning of fossil fuels and from motor cars and diesel engines. We should accelerate the introduction of catalytic
Column 685converters into this country on all our motor cars before the date that has been set. That would be a major contribution towards the reduction of carbon dioxide.
We should also begin to replant the forests which were cut down in the 19th century due to increasing population. By cutting down the forests, we created more land for agriculture. That enabled towns to form, which eventually led to the industrial revolution which is the basis for our present privileged economic position. We must make an ecological contribution now by replanting our forests. We cannot expect the impoverished people of the world in their overpopulated countries to bear an unfair burden.
I wish to advocate certain ways in which the ODA can assist the development of private sectors in Third-world countries which must be the true source of growth. The ODA and the Commonwealth Development Corporation, are already embarking on many important projects to bring the private sector in this country together with private sectors in Third-world countries. That work must be expanded and the amount of money which we hope will increase the aid programme should go exceptionally to the CDC to increase its programmes particularly in India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, to which it has just been introduced. Those programmes could encourage the development of private sector involvement.
The hon. Member for Islington, North mentioned the problem of the banana regime in the Caribbean, but that problem also exists among all the other traditional suppliers to the European Community, which have enjoyed not only access to that market but a privileged price for their products, enabling them in turn to pay a reasonable price to the banana producer in the country concerned. That programme has been highly successful, giving St. Lucia in the Windward Islands the highest income in real terms that it has enjoyed since sugar was king on those islands. We must find means by which that beneficial trading system can continue.
I, too, met Mr. Julian Hunte, but also Mary Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica and Mr. John Compton, Prime Minister of St. Lucia. They visited the capitals of Europe, and intend returning in May, together with the Prime Minister of St. Vincent, to convince the Community's 12 other members that they should join the British Government to ensure that the present regime continues not only within the Lome convention, because it is essential that it be rolled over into Lome 4, but after 1992. The Government and the Opposition in the Windward Islands, Jamaica, Surinam, Belize and elsewhere are working in combination to bring that about. We must pay tribute to them for doing that. They can make the arguments with so much greater emotional impact than we can, and we should all support their efforts in whatever way we can.
I make no apology for making a constructive approach to the debt problem the centrepiece of my speech. No matter how much aid we give, if business cannot be developed and trade resumed--due to debt and the refusal of developed nations to invest--environmental, social and political problems will fester and multiply. They will affect our environment our climate and our standards of living. I call on my hon. Friend the Minister, in whom I have expressed so much confidence, to redouble his efforts to persuade his international counterparts to pursue the policies that I have sketched today and in which I believe.
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Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall) : I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) managed to give the House the opportunity to debate this subject, and add my thanks to those of other hon. Members who have spoken. I am glad also that the environment has been such a strong theme in the debate. I shall seek to touch on that subject as well as to deal with population control, the role of the market, and structural adjustment programmes pursued by the World Bank and the IMF.
In his opening remarks the Minister claimed vigour for market forces and referred to south-east Asia. The reality in south-east Asia, as stressed and hyped by the World Bank, is that four of its economies have done extremely well. However, two of those economies are minuscule, being island city states that were formerly United Kingdom colonies. The other two are Taiwan and South Korea, which have a special relationship with the United States. This has very much benefited their own development programmes. They also have benefited to a considerable degree by foreign direct investment by Japan.
The most successful of the four--South Korea--is not a classic example of the market economy. South Korea operates rigorous import licences. It has penalised importing firms when they have gone over their target on imports, and suspended their licences. It has also employed price control policies, with penal taxation of profits over the price control ceiling. It has undertaken detailed negotiations with individual foreign firms investing in its economy, to the point at which it renews several hundred contracts with such firms on the basis of the role that they play specifically in relation to South Korea's own development objectives.
This is very close to the planning agreement approach that I, along with others, proposed for the last Labour Government, which I regret was not implemented with the same rigour as in South Korea.
Mr. Carrington : The hon. Gentleman should also mention that for many years Korea has pursued a policy of enforced labour overseas for a large proportion of its work force, and has largely rebuilt the middle east as a result.