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South Korea's development model, however, has been pursued with scant regard for democracy, and the same applies to Taiwan and Singapore.
Mr. Holland : If the Minister had read The Daily Telegraph yesterday he would have learnt that one of the new low-priced automobiles imported to this country, the Proton--constructed with Japanese technology and basically a Japanese car--is coming from Malaysia, which pays lower wage rates. One of the reasons why a company such as Matsushita does so well on the world market is that, as a Japanese firm, it has been investing in Malaysia, where the cost of labour is a tenth of that in Japan. Although Matsushita may not be a household name in this country, Technics, Panasonic and Quasar are. They are brand names of Matsushita, which is a world electronics
Column 687giant. There are special reasons why those countries have been able to do well, many of which involve foreign direct investment and a special relationship with the United States.
Several hon. Members, especially Conservative Members, have mentioned population control. It is important to be aware, as hon. Members on both sides of the House appear to be, that families in developing countries are so large not simply because women have not heard of birth control or are unaware of its advantages, but because unless they have sons to support them in their older age they may become destitute. That relates to another point that I want to explore : the role of social programmes, and whether developing countries can ever have a basic form of social security.
It is no accident that, with higher levels of income, so that people can put resources aside for their own retirement income, birth rates drop. It is also no accident that the more developed the society and its social security system, the lower the birth rate. We should be especially concerned to support such programmes, funded on a long-term basis, in developing countries whose Governments are concerned to provide an elementary subsistence for those in retirement.
Social, housing, health, education and urban renewal programmes are undermined by the imperatives of debt repayment. Net transfers of resources from South to North reduce trade income and jobs in the world as a whole. The first two Brandt reports concentrate on mutuality and on the fact that we live in an interlinked world. Economic and environmental factors are also interlinked in terms of the global economy and the environment. It is in part because it is under pressure to repay its debts that Brazil is destroying the tropical rain forest and contributing to the global greenhouse effect. Brazil is faced with other internal pressures. During the 1960s and 1970s Brazil achieved phenomenal rates of investment. The modernisation of her industrial structure--as in South Korea--was through extensive public sector intervention. However, Brazil has suffered the consequences of imbalanced growth.
There has been hyper-growth in the major urban areas, especially around Sao Paulo. The increased efficiency and productivity of agriculture, which Argentina has been unable to parallel, has led to a reduction in the number of people working in agriculture during the post-war period. That has led to people moving away from the land and into the towns. That movement has been used as a staging post--a classic feature of migration of this kind-- because those people later moved to the cities.
The Brazilian Government offered land in the north-east to try to offset the drift of the population towards Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. They tried consciously to develop what was then an under-populated region that had considerable natural resources. The climatic and environmental factors were not seriously considered. Many tropical trees have relatively shallow roots that extend, none the less, over a wide area. The nutritional content of the soil that sustains the Amazonian rain forest
Column 688is relatively limited. When the land has been cleared it is possible to get only two or three years' produce out of it before more land has to be cleared.
What are we to say to the Brazilian Government and to other Governments who are in a similar position? The destruction of the Amazon rain forest, and the consequent greenhouse effect, affects us all. We, who have polluted the world for decades, cannot say to them that it is time that they stopped destroying the rain forests. We cannot expect the South alone to pay to prevent pollution or the greenhouse effect. The North has been the world's main polluter for decades. It would be unjust to demand full repayment by the new democracies in Latin America. The debts incurred in Latin America have often been caused by dictatorships. They have used aid to finance arms purchases. In Brazil, speculative developments in the north-east can be attributed to the armed forces.
Both North and South need to work together to control pollution and to use resources in such a way that the environment can be sustained. However, that has major implications. Economists used to say that air and water are free, but the Government are putting a price on water. It is a depressing breakfast-time experience to see in the newspapers a typist sitting up to her waist in the wet and to turn over the page and see that we shall have to pay for the water that produces her clothes. When I see how much water it takes to produce a car, I am even more encouraged to support policies for public urban transport instead of private transport. A price is being put on water which is to be marketed by the Government. Therefore, why should the British Government object to the Brazilians charging the rest of the world for maintaining its oxygen and the stability of its climate? If that principle is not accepted, nonetheless it is important that we try to relieve the pressure on Brazil in terms of debt repayment in such a way that shows that we are serious about making some contribution to offset the short-term costs which Brazil might face through bringing pressures to bear on those very powerful vested interests which are reducing the tropical rain forests.
Brazil has done her part and has reduced her imports to repay debt from $24 billion in 1981 to $13 billion in 1986. In other words Brazil reduced her imports by half. It is time for the world to address the environmental issues and the readjustment of debt under the same heading.
The global debt of the developing countries is $1.2 trillion. Brazil's debt accounts for just under 10 per cent. of that, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, the costs of affecting the climate by reducing the Amazonian rain forest cannot be projected in a linear way just as, although the population crisis is serious, population can be projected in a linear way. If the flip effect affecting the northern hemisphere occurs in the way that my hon. Friend described, we know of no expenditure that could reverse it. The measures which may have to be taken to adapt northern hemisphere urban conglomerations to a change in the environment would cost trillions of dollars and still not succeed in returning the world's climate to the equilibrium which it has enjoyed for so long. In that context are the Government prepared to make a contribution to the reduction of the $10 or $20 billion of Brazilian debt? If the Minister were to reply that we cannot reduce debt in relation to one single issue, I would argue, and trust that he would argue with others
Column 689that we should link debt write-off to programmes which meet other objectives, especially the needs of particular social groups. The priority for development should be social programmes which should aim for social welfare, especially that which betters the situation of women and children. The problem with the IMF and World Bank programmes is that social needs are residuals which are met only if the country concerned manages to generate sufficient of an export surplus to enable it to afford social expenditure. We should be achieving a combination of grant and low-cost loan programmes concerning food and nutrition, sanitation and health, and housing and urban development linked to regional development. Many Conservative Members referred to what is happening in Bombay and other major Indian cities. That involves the need for regional development programmes to reduce the drift of population to the towns. In that context we should also be taking extensive measures to support the UNICEF proposals for adjustment with a human face, which are designed to link debt write-off to programmes that benefit children. We should be seeking to introduce a concept of trade-off. That is a term often used by economists in situations which are far less apocalyptic than the possibility of sudden world climate changes. Why should we not trade-off the preservation of the world's environment against writing off debt? Why should we not be trading off, also against the writing off of debt, the investment in the future of social groups at risk and the reduction of world population by increasing social living standards in the developing world? I want to say a word about the role of the IMF and the World Bank since some key meetings are about to take place on the question of structural adjustment policies. We used to know what the IMF and the World Bank were doing. Basically, the IMF was concerned with short-term balance of payments adjustments and the support of those adjustments rather than the imposition of devaluation and deflation on the countries concerned. That was the original objective held by Keynes and argued at Bretton Woods. It was accepted by White and others at the time. In other words, the main role of the IMF was to avoid deflation or devaluation by sustaining a country through a temporary balance of payments adjustment. Now, the main role of the IMF is different. It is imposing a uniform package of deflation, devaluation and deregulation on the economies concerned, together with ideological elements of privatisation and liberalisation which may have been appropriate to the type of economy for which the Bretton Woods system was devised, but which are not appropriate for developing countries themselves.
Further, we used to know the role of the World Bank. The fund was concerned with assisting short-term balance of payments adjustments, but the World Bank was supposed to be concerned with longer term development. That gave rise to a certain demonology for some time in which it was reckoned that the IMF was not the goody, but the World Bank was because it was struggling for the longer term development interests of the countries concerned.
That is no longer the case. From the early 1970s there were increased demands on the IMF to provide for longer periods of adjustment. That is perhaps understandable. Inversely, from the late 1970s the World Bank became increasingly involved with assisting members with overall
Column 690balance of payments difficulties in the short term. The fund responded with the extended fund facility in 1974 and in 1980 the World Bank formalised its changing role with the creation of the structural adjustment lending programme.
In other words, the different roles of the fund and the Bank became telescoped into one. That has had extremely negative effects in the borrowing undertaken by a range of developing countries because it has given rise to a new type of conditionality. The conditions--to cut public spending, deny oneself social and welfare programmes in order to reduce money supply, domestic demand and import demand--are deflationary and are counter-productive at a global level because they give rise to a beggar-my- neighbour syndrome of reduced imports and thus a reduction of global trade. In addition, the World Bank and the fund are working together in bargaining with individual developing countries. In other words, cross conditionality has emerged. The acceptance of the conditions of one financial agency is made the condition of support by others. Thus, a bilateral aid package, such as the aid given by the United Kingdom to some of the front-line states, may be made conditional on the acceptance of an IMF stabilisation package. In turn, the World Bank's structural lending programmes and its sectoral adjustment lending have increasingly become a precondition of other flows or
As recently as 18 months ago, an UNCTAD report highlighted that, for 30 of 35 structural adjustment loans approved until early 1987 by the World Bank, countries had or were waiting for imminent approval of an IMF standby or extended IMF arrangements. The IMF-World Bank seal of approval has increasingly become a precondition for a further package of private-sector lending. The Government's lending record to front-line states shows that they would lend on the bilateral programme only if the IMF approved. The World Bank would not lend unless the IMF approved. Private-sector lending is not made available unless there is a seal of approval.
The result has been a closing of options for developing countries. Fund- Bank conditionality has become far too close to that of a multilateral godfather making the same offer to Governments of a structural adjustment deal that they cannot afford to refuse. Technical advice or conditions for the funding of programmes that governments have determined as part of their internal political process are valid and appropriate. Structural adjustment has increasingly become a policy diktat that denies not only alternative paths of development but, in many cases, the credibility of the democratic process.
I urge the Minister to consider that. He has been lavishly praised by Conservative Members, and we regret that we cannot join in that lavish praise. When we consider the overall achievement of the aid programme as a share of GNP, despite the Minister's strictures or claims against the Labour Government and their aid record, the fact remains that in 1979 the Labour Government left overseas development assistance at 0.52 per cent. of GNP, whereas it is now down to 0.28 per cent. Quality as well as quantity is important.
We know that the Minister is arguing the case for overseas aid. Rather than join him in a knockabout on a party basis, we give him credit for that. We know that he is arguing the corner for development, but the bottom line is, where is the result? If he cannot sufficiently persuade the
Column 691Government to increase the bilateral aid programme, that does not prevent him arguing the wider issues in the IMF or the World Bank. If he were to do so, he would find some friends abroad in the Governments of Italy, Spain, France, the coalition Government of Belgium, Norway, Sweden and elsewhere in Scandinavia. The fact that those friends might range from the centre to the Left rather than centre to the Right should not deter him from trying to make progress on such programmes.
If he can argue the case for debt write-off as a negotiated result of commitments made by developing countries to preserve the tropical rain forests, and if he can get negotiated results for the writing off of debt to sustain social expenditure programmes, Labour Members and a considerable share of the public will support him.
I want to elaborate my point about the social programmes and social expenditure in housing, health, education, social services, food and nutrition, sanitation, literacy and basic social services. The terms imposed by the IMF and the World Bank, contrary to the interests of the countries for which they were designed or the way in which they originally worked, amount to a negative kind of conditionality. It denies not only the possibility of social expenditure, but the possibility of autonomous development paths for many less developed countries. Of course, lending or debt write-off should be and could be carried out against certain conditions. It would be wrong to write a blank cheque to a developing country and to say, "Here's an X per cent. write-off of your debt burden whether or not you undertake programmes in food and nutrition, sanitation, literacy or social services." There would need to be conditions, but at least there could be positive conditionality and the chance could be open to countries to gain a release of debt or a loosening of the debt straitjacket if they were to undertake such programmes.
Furthermore, such programmes should not be viewed simply as an economic cost for the world's economy. For developing countries, there are productivity gains from achieving a healthy, educated and skilled labour force. That is also a key element in the productivity and efficiency gains which South Korea and Singapore have achieved. They have not achieved those results through low cost, low wage, unskilled economies, but by high cost investment in high skills and high education, and that is a crucial element in their success. Why should we deny that to other developing countries?
Developed countries would also gain from such an extension of debt release for social or environmental problems because increased spending in the south would generate increased exports from the north. It has been estimated by Gabriel Palme of Cambridge university, for example, that up to 250,000 jobs have been lost in the United Kingdom economy since 1981 precisely because of the reduction in imports by Latin America alone. Those are the ways in which the mutuality and inter-relatedness between the north and south of the global economy are costing not only the south but the north. The development deficits that could arise as a result of new social needs programmes, along the lines that I have argued, could be and should be sustained on an accountable basis by the IMF and the World Bank over the medium to long term and funded in part through new special drawing rights issues in the IMF. I am sensitive to
Column 692the fact that other hon. Members want to speak and I shall be glad to ensure that they can do so, but I want briefly to refer to SDRs in relation to the debt reform proposals put forward by Mr. Nicholas Brady.
We have been told, outside the House, about the Brady proposals, that there is a recognition that, as opposed to the Baker plan, instead of developing countries being able to grow their way out of debt with more private finance, there will have to be debt reduction. We welcome that useful measure. But if we are to approach the issues of population control and the environment and to meet the social needs programmes, the development deficits that many of the less developed countries would have to run in the medium term would be sizeable. For that we need not a revamped Baker plan, but at least a Baker plan each year for five years. That would mean increasing SDRs by about $30 billion a year for five years. If $150 billion sounds a lot, I must remind the Minister that it would only restore the ratio of IMF lending to quotas which obtained at the time of Bretton Woods because IMF quotas, as a share of world trade, have diminished greatly since then.
Arguably, the role of the IMF and the World Bank should have been reformed 25 years ago, following the 1971 dollar devaluation, and it is imperative that their roles should be transformed now. Recent events suggest that that is possible. The United States Administration are taking a more realistic approach to debt relief, as evidenced by the Brady plan. Japan is taking more interest in putting more resources into the world economy. There is also the possibility of widening the membership of the Bretton Woods institutions, with an application by the Soviet Union to join. There is also increased coherence within the European Community. It is especially important that Governments in the Group of Seven should make it plain to the United States that support for the dollar and an easing of the adjustment costs of the twin trade and budget deficits must imply a wider sharing of responsibility for management of such institutions as the IMF and the World Bank, even if that falls short of a new Bretton Woods conference.
In fighting the corner for development, I urge the Minister not to let go of the fact that there is a £14.5 billion budget surplus. Removing that sum from the public sector borrowing requirement or adding it to a public sector debt repayment figure is equivalent to putting it in a tin under the bed. The Minister should encourage the Treasury team to get the money out from under the bed and invest it in development.
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) : This has been an interesting and symbolic week. On Monday I had the good fortune to present a debate on the arts, which had to do with the quality of life in this country. Now, on Friday, thanks to the good fortune of the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), we are discussing the quality of life for the world as a whole. In the middle of the week, the Budget highlighted the economic health of the nation, which might perhaps enable us to look for solutions to some of the problems referred to in both those debates. I join hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development on his work. I say that not merely because he deserves congratulation but because I
Column 693should like to add to the burden of political debt that he carries on his shoulders as he rises in the political firmament.
The hon. Member for Eccles and the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) referred to debt, which is central to this problem. The hon. Member for Vauxhall made some interesting suggestions about how we might deal with debt, particularly in Brazil. We should be careful not to tie ourselves down to dealing with debt in one country at the expense of others, although perhaps other countries do not have ecological problems as serious as those in Brazil. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in his desire to find solutions.
I shall not dwell on the debt problem, on structural and macro-economic problems or, indeed, on agriculture or education, important though they may be. Instead, I shall consider the more visible and tangible forms of aid and how we might encourage our nation to pay attention to the needs of the world. The world has shrunk in our lifetime. It used to end at the Channel, and southern Europe was a long way away. Now, the rest of the world is much closer. I grew up with David Attenborough's "Zoo Quest", which showed funny little lizards scurrying around far-away places such as Java and Sumatra. Now, in my children's time, the world is much closer. We have had televisual tragedy but we also have many more natural history programmes of great interest. The children of this country have been leading public opinion in bringing our attention to the needs of other countries. One thinks of the impact of the "Blue Peter" campaigns and the "Blue Peter" Cambodia appeals. That country is now called Kampuchea, but it was called Cambodia when "Blue Peter" launched its appeal. The change of name highlights some of the quandaries which face us and our Government when we look at aid. When one considers the regimes running the countries in which aid is needed, one thinks, "If only it were not that regime, we could achieve so much more." The regime in question may be oppressive, incompetent or dishonest, or it may hijack aid. There are often problems in the worst areas of need. When problems exist because of a country's own regime, the people suffering from need and hunger suffer doubly. The public are saying that, despite political problems, hon. Members must find ways of getting around the obstacles and achieving our policy of getting aid to those in need. They are saying that we must also be sensitive to ecological and environmental implications of some policies, particularly some development policies. Above all, they are saying that we must find solutions. Hon. Members sometimes consider parts of the world and say, "Yes, we should like to help them, but we will not touch that regime." When they consider Nicaragua, hon. Members on one side of the House might say that if it were Costa Rica, where we support and approve the Government, it would be much easier to persuade the House to look at the ravages caused by hurricanes and so on. Other hon. Members might say that South Africa is a no-go area for aid and we must not touch it. We must get around those attitudes and look to the needs of those countries.
I shall go beyond the subject of starvation and other issues that hit the headlines. The problems in Ethiopia, the Sudan and so on are rehearsed, known, understood, and all too real, but we need to look beyond them to hunger and deprivation world wide. We must produce a policy which captures the public imagination, as it is captured by
Column 694a red nose day, Sports Aid, Band Aid, and the many Oxfam-type events. If we can capture public imagination in regard to starvation, we should be able to do it with other issues as well. The hon. Member for Eccles will then get her Supply days and we shall have debates of this kind not just on Fridays but mid-week because there will be pressure from the public. Hon. Members will be here in force, populating the empty green Benches and discussing aid issues. I should like my hon. Friend the Minister to consider one course which could capture the public imagination because it would capture children's imagination. That is to follow UNICEF's report on children and examine children's health. It could be put into manageable terms. Medical advances are such that, within a comparatively short period, we could conquer many of the diseases which at present ravage the people, and particularly the children, of developing countries. The problem of iodine deficiency, for example, is manageable in terms of cost and understanding. In expectant mothers, it results in hundreds of thousands of children being born with brain damage and other physical damage. Yet for a small sum--tuppence-ha'penny--per head, we could issue iodine tablets and implement immunisation programmes, and tens of thousands of children would no longer suffer.
If we could promote oral rehydration therapy around the world, for scarcely more than the present cost we could prevent the deaths of 150 million people, mainly children, who die from diarrhoea and dehydration problems. That is more than the total number of civil and military deaths in the two world wars combined and the solution is there for us to take.
If we could introduce an immunisation policy and make a dramatic effort to take it to the rest of the world, we could overcome many killer diseases. The records show that the DPT--diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus--programme which, with the measles programme, is crucial, is an effective one, but at present we protect only half the world's children. Immunisation is provided for 98 per cent. of children in Singapore, 94 per cent. in Kuwait, 93 per cent. in countries such as Chile, but only 16 per cent. in Guatemala, 9 per cent. in Bangladesh and 5 per cent. in Niger.
A programme of health cure and care is understandable to the people and children of this country. We could transform the world's health and play a real part in overcoming health problems in other countries if we, as a nation, took up that challenge. My hon. Friend the Minister should state that we are going to solve the world's health problems along those lines, and invite the private sector, individuals, companies, agencies and Parliament to join us. That challenge is surely worth taking up? It is a task worthy of the House and of the nation. If we can achieve that aim, we shall not be merely individuals adopting a child but a nation adopting the world's children.
Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham) : I too wish to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) for selecting this subject for debate. World development and world aid are two of the most important challeges facing the world community in the next few years.
Column 695I was interested to hear that we do not receive enough days to discuss aid in this House. I cannot miss the opportunity to say that, perhaps, in the days when this used to be the imperial Parliament, international matters--particularly the problems of development in India and Africa--were debated more extensively. So perhaps we are moving backwards rather than forwards by having days on which to debate aid.
We should address two types of aid, particularly for the least developed countries. First, the type needed in emergencies, such as droughts, famines and wars, where the money to provide aid can be raised relatively easily. Pictures in newspapers of starving babies bring money flooding in, and the problem is one of distribution. Development aid is more important to this debate because it is a more difficult problem to address. How can countries be brought up to a level at which they can sustain and progress their own development through their own efforts? That is the key to the problem. I shall make some remarks, largely from my own experience, about the practical ways in which to provide aid and finance to the developing countries. One of the great problems when providing aid is political constraint. As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) has said, aid cannot be provided to a country if its political powers reject the aid. Another difficulty arises if the powers accept the aid but the population reject it and do not use it in the right way for development. I am thinking particularly of Moslem countries, of which I have most experience. Aid can be provided by western countries in such a way as to go against the cultural, social and religious sensibilities of the population, and the aid is thus rejected.
This raises the problem of the role of women in developing countries. We all know that women in Third world countries are all too often oppressed, and the progress of those countries depends largely on the progress of the women in them. But that progress is restrained by the social and religious atmosphere of those societies. It is difficult to change that from the outside. When providing aid we must encourage such change but accept that we cannot impose it. We must ensure that the aid is given in a way that is sensitive to the needs of these countries and not withheld because they do not accept our cultural, religious and social mores.
If a country is brought to a position in which it can sustain its own development, its major need is to export. The Lome agreements have done much to provide access to European markets for the manufactured goods of developing countries. More progress is needed, but it will be painful. The sort of products that can be exported from the developing countries tend to come from industries that are labour intensive. If we accept them in volume in our markets we must recognise what we are doing : we shall be condemning some of the south European countries in the EEC to changes in their industries that will entail large scale unemployment.
It is not enough merely to provide access to these markets. It is vital that we provide guaranteed prices, too. There is no point in providing access on a free market basis if we are trying to provide development aid. The producing country must be given a guaranteed return along with access. That does not amount to a protected market ; it is
Column 696a function of the aid budget, which subsidises the price at which we buy, although not perhaps the price at which we sell.
I want to say a word or two about debt, and I am conscious that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) wants to speak as well. When we restructure debt there has been talk of imposing conditions on countries that have borrowed money or want to borrow it in the future. I warn the House that the lesson to emerge from the debt crisis has been that conditions attached to debt are unenforceable. If ever we restructure debt on the assumption that a country will do something in return, we shall find as likely as not that that assumption is misplaced.
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham) : I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington) for curtailing his remarks in order to give me a couple of minutes in which to make two points. First, I hope that as much as possible of the aid that Britain provides will be given in the form of bilateral aid, not through international agencies. The average British householder is compulsorily taxed about £75 a year for overseas aid. Some people think that far too little : others think there should be no development aid at all. It is particularly difficult to please everyone on this issue, unlike other forms of provision by the Exchequer, such as road building, on which it is possible to get a broad consensus about roughly the amount that should be spent. Our development aid seems to fall in the middle of the two views held about it, so perhaps the amount being spent is not far wrong. Apart from the primary and basic aim of helping to assuage poverty in the Third world--that must be in the forefront of our minds throughout--I want Britain to obtain the maximum possible credit and goodwill abroad for what we are doing. I want the recipient countries to know that the aid is coming from Britain. I am not particularly interested in their knowing that it comes from the EEC, the Commonwealth, part of the United Nations or any other sort of international agency. All that should be played down and the aid from Britain should be directed bilaterally and increased correspondingly.
I also want to ask my hon. Friend the Minister about the balance in aid between Asia and Africa. For historical and psychological reasons, those predisposed to support the provision of aid have a greater interest in Africa, by and large, than in Asia although the poverty is just as great in some Asiatic countries such as Bangladesh. The reasons for that may be mixed. Perhaps Africa is physically nearer to us than Asia. Perhaps there is something about the African people which invokes a more paternalistic instinct among those who want to help the poorer people of the world. It may have something to do with the history of Christian missions, which found it easier to achieve conversions in Africa than in Asia where the Hindu, Buddhist and Moslem religions were perhaps more resistant.
Aid from the European Community in particular and from Britain through bilateral aid tends to focus more on Africa. I am not very impressed by the argument that India is the single biggest recipient of aid from Britain because the population of India is nearly twice that of Africa. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider my
Column 697comments. I have not given him proper notice that I intended to raise these issues, but I hope that he will write to me fully if he cannot deal with them today.
Mr. Chris Patten : With the leave of the House, I should like to reply briefly to some of the points which have been made today. I begin with an omnibus "Thank you" for the kind comments from some hon. Members. Adlai Stevenson once said that flattery is all right provided that one does not inhale. I do not think that anyone should underestimate the amount of flattery which most Ministers are prepared to endure in the national interest.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley), in a particularly interesting speech raised several points which I would particularly like to comment upon. I will not today refer to what he said about priorities, but I hope that I shall have an opportunity to comment on that on another occasion.
With regard to the GDP deflator, which I referred to earlier, I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling that the GDP deflator that I have used is the one contained in my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget report. That deflator is hot off the presses. For the next financial year, the deflator forecast is 5.5 per cent. The aid programme next year, including additional funds for Nigeria, will be 10.5 per cent. higher than the originally planned aid budget for this year.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling referred to Sudan and the human tragedy which has been enacted there over the past year. Disasters in the Horn of Africa are in a special category reflecting the numbers at risk, the distances, inaccessibility and above all the fact that whatever difficulties nature may have wrought, man has contrived to make the situation far worse. I saw just how much worse when I visited some of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camps just before Christmas at Itang and Fugnido on the Sudan-Ethiopia border.
The problems for Sudan do not, alas, come singly. Sudan must repair the damage caused by the devastating floods last year and put the economy on a sustainable basis. There is little point in trying to resolve those issues until the war in the south is settled equitably, to give confidence of a lasting peace and therefore the base for restoring economic and social life.
We were pleased to see a positive outcome to the United Nations conference in Khartoum last week. We played a full part in its proceedings and we welcome the plan of action, which must be implemented. We shall stress to all sides that what is needed now is not so much a month of tranquillity-- welcome although that small respite would be--but a lasting peace.
Our connections with Sudan are close at historic, cultural and personal levels. That is all the more reason for our concern at the tragedy which has unfolded. In 1988 we committed more than £14 million for relief work in Sudan. I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling that we are ready to do more. We are in close touch with the non-governmental organisations, which have been doing such a magnificent job in difficult circumstances, about how we can perhaps do more.
Column 698My hon. Friend referred also to Afghanistan. Since 1979 we have provided more than £60 million to help the victims of war and civil conflict in that country. Last year, we doubled to £10 million our annual humanitarian assistance to agencies such as the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, and British organisations such as Afghan Aid. Only last month I announced a further £500,000 for UNICEF and for the ICRC, particularly for their mother and child care programmes in Kabul and elsewhere. The international community is considering future relief operations for Afghanistan. I assure the House that we shall continue playing our full part in such humanitarian programmes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) made interesting remarks based on his profound experience of Namibia. I discussed some of his points with the leaders of SWAPO during my recent visit to Angola, and was able to assure them that the United Kingdom wishes to help them through technical co-operation, training and education in a free and independent Namibia. We have been giving Namibia some help, but have pledged a further £500,000 for the repatriation of refugees to that country in due course.
I would like to have time to follow up my hon. Friend's remarks concerning the revival of the United Nations. A number of the issues we discussed today will be dependent for a satisfactory solution on better co-ordination between, and effective delivery by, UN agencies. I am sure that my hon. Friend will play a significant role in our future discussions on that issue, because his knowledge of those matters is as great as anyone in the House.
I do not have much time either to follow up the extremely important points made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) concerning the environment, climate changes, and the global threats that confront us-- which will be much of the stuff of international affairs and negotiations for decades. The United Kingdom is heading the scientific assessment sub- group of the intergovernmental panel of climate change. We are also playing a major role in the work of the panel's other sub-groups. The panel will report to the world climate conference in the autumn of 1990, which will provide the international community with an opportunity to consider its findings.
Mr. Patten : I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's point and respond to it in due course. As he knows, we have the benefit of expert advice on climate change within the Overseas Development natural resources institute, partly because my former permanent secretary is an international expert on the subject and, as in so many other matters, I follow in his footsteps--as well as in those of my present permanent secretary.
My hon. Friends the Members for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) and for South Hams (Mr. Steen) referred in interesting terms to poverty and population. I welcome the support and interest from right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House in respect of our efforts to alleviate poverty, including our work on the health and family planning front. Direct poverty alleviation is an important element of any aid programme, and helping countries to make the transition to a lower population growth is a vital
Column 699part of assisting them achieve sustainable development. This year, we have provided more than £14 million to international bodies such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations fund for population activities. We have a number of bilateral aid projects in Africa and Asia concerned with health and family planning. I mention the Orissa project, and my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes spoke of placing a health and population adviser in our development division in southern Africa. We shall shortly place another adviser in our development division in east Africa. I wholly accept the importance that my hon. Friend attaches to that aspect, and I acknowledge also the importance of developing basic literacy projects and primary health care as a whole, if we are to accomplish our objectives in respect of population.
I should have liked to deal with what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), for Fulham (Mr. Carrington) and for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) in their interesting speeches ; I should also have liked to follow the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) through his arguments about debt and the environment, but I dare say that he and I will have future opportunities to lock horns on those issues.
I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) has responsibilities elsewhere which have made it impossible for him to stay for the winding-up speeches--the same is true of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). My hon. Friend knows that on a number of issues, not least debt, we have found ourselves following the trail that he has blazed. I assure him in his absence that we shall be considering his comments on debt and on the Brady proposals very carefully as we take part in discussions on those matters over the next few weeks, notably at the interim meetings of the IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development next month.
We have given proper priority today to the importance of the environment in its relationship with development aid. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) for giving us this opportunity. I hope that we shall have more extensive opportunities to discuss these matters in the future, and I do not doubt that--not least thanks to the political agility of the hon. Member for Linlithgow--we shall have them.
Miss Lestor : I thank all hon. Members on both sides of the House who stayed to take part in this Friday debate. I do not know whether I am mellowing--I doubt it--but I found that I agreed at least in part with almost everything that was said. I like to think that that is because the quality of those who stayed for the debate is so high, and because of the knowledge that they have displayed. Much of our disagreement has been on matters of emphasis and of quality, not on the desire to alleviate world poverty and hunger and to do something about the environment.
The Minister rather scoffed at the promise of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that we would double aid as a proportion of GNP. When we were last in office the figure reached 0.52 per cent., so I see no reason why we should not be able to achieve that aim when we are a Government in a few years time. I may say that we
Column 700achieved that result without the help of North sea oil revenues. The Minister mentioned disclosures in some of the diaries that are published from time to time, about the difficulties of the last Labour Government. I have no time to read such diaries when I want to find out about history, although I do occasionally go to the pictures--but perhaps we can pursue that another time.
I shall not have time to deal with all hon. Members' speeches, as I am sure that they will understand. Of course the quality of aid is important, but quality is not a substitute for quantity. The two should go together, as was pointed out by Conservative as well as Opposition Members. The tragedy of the past 10 years has been the lack of any development : in many parts of the Third world we have been marking time to stand still.
I said at the beginning that I did not think that the programme had been an unmitigated disaster. I should not dream of saying such a thing, and I join the Minister in pointing to the assistance that has gone to, for instance, Mozambique, Ghana and Kenya--three countries that I am beginning to know extremely well. At no time, either, did I say that we should treat all countries identically. In his reply the Minister said that we could not treat Mozambique and Korea in the same way. I mentioned Korea specifically in connection with a discussion that we had the other week about the International Development Association. I pointed out that Korea, which was now improving and industrialising itself, should be treated entirely differently in debt relief terms from other countries which were very much in need of assistance.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who sent me a note in which he apologised for having to leave the debate early, referred to the environmental disasters that are likely to engulf us. He reminded us of the situation in many parts of Asia and in many other countries that rank among the poorest in the world. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) said that he is not happy about the percentage of GNP that we, compared with other countries, spend on aid. I agree with him. I join him in congratulating the "Everyman" team on its recent presentation of events in Sudan. It was frightening and horrifying, but it will have alerted many people to the problems and the needs of many poor countries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) sent me a note saying that, because of his many responsibilities, he would have to leave early. I am glad that he was able to participate in the debate--as he always does in debates of this kind.
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) has much experience of these matters. He referred to the selfishness and the ignorance that many countries, including our own, have displayed over the years towards the destruction of the environment. He referred also to the special kind of research that alerted us to the hole in the ozone layer. I am particularly pleased that he referred to Namibia, because I did not have time to do so. As it moves towards independence, Namibia will need a great deal of help. The Minister referred to Namibia. It is a subject to which we shall return on another occasion.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will return with the usual persistence for which we all admire him to global conservation problems and to the consequences for the whole world if we do not tackle them. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) referred movingly to the fact that we
Column 701are talking about the survival of the planet, not about the survival of one country or another. I join my hon. Friend and many other hon. Members who have said that it is time that the House of Commons devoted more time to these matters and accorded to them the priority that they deserve.
The hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) referred to the quality of aid and to the importance of improving standards. Both he and the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) referred to the role of women. Women's access to education will determine population growth. The history of population control shows that that is the way forward. It is only when women recognise that they have some rights that population control will become part of the agenda.
We said during the last election campaign--and I am confident that it will feature in any future election campaign--that there should be a women's unit within the Overseas Development Administration. Women's problems and needs are special. Population control is only one of them. Women's views are left out of account in many development programmes. Cultural restrictions mean that they are unable to participate fully in some of the programmes and to benefit from them. That is why it is important that there should be a special unit within the ODA that specialises in matters that concern women. I welcome the fact that the Minister said that consideration is being given to that suggestion. Many voluntary organisations and those whom I meet during my travels round the world are conscious of that need and also of the need to concentrate on improving literacy among young people. That matter was raised by the hon. Member for South Hams and by several other hon. Members.
I often meet the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) at debates on a variety of subjects. I agree with him about many of the issues which he raised today, so I shall not spend time simply expressing agreement.
Mr. Carrington : Before the hon. Lady leaves the role of women in developing countries, I would appreciate it if she took on board the problems of women in the Islamic faith which affects their position socially. Women inside Islam have considerable freedoms and considerable rights as well as considerable subjection. We cannot impose on other cultures--
It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Column 702Private Members' Bills
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES (AMENDMENT) BILL Order for consideration read.
Committee deferred till Friday 14 April.
EMPLOYMENT AGE DISCRIMINATION BILL Order for Second Reading read.
BRITISH RACING COMMISSION BILL Order for Second Reading read.
Second Reading deferred till Friday 24 March.
COALMINING SUBSIDENCE (DAMAGE, ARBITRATION, PREVENTION AND PUBLIC AWARENESS) BILL Order for Second Reading read.