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Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West) : I am grateful for an opportunity to speak in this important debate. I apologise for not being here for the opening speeches, but the rail strike meant that I had to go more slowly by car to Exeter to speak to Exeter university agriculture students. Although I enjoyed that, I was sorry to miss the opening speeches in a debate of such profound value and importance.
In this Chamber and beyond, it is widely recognised that the policies of Her Majesty's Government on overseas aid and development are influential. Not only do they assist the poorest of the poor, finding jobs for people in many countries overseas and creating sustainable development, but they are honest, give value for money and respect the people whom they attempt to serve.
I speak from personal experience. Hon. Members often do not have the benefit of personal experience but speak from other people's experience. I was keen to contribute to the debate because I have had the benefit of learning about the Government's aid and trade policies from the grass roots --the developing countries' perspective--for some time. I was the director of fund raising for the Save the Children Fund, Britain's oldest and largest children's charity for developing nations.
I now have the honour to be on the United Kingdom board of UNICEF, so I have a little experience--not much, as I have not been there long--of United Nations agencies' work through UNICEF. I also work hard as a partner of UNESCO in my work as chairman of the AMAR appeal, a charitable organisation registered in the United Kingdom, which works in the Persian Gulf. We now also work in eastern Europe--Bosnia, Romania and Poland--and we hope also to work in central Asia. Thus, I have had personal experience of the aid policies that we are debating tonight. I also declare a personal family interest : my husband, Sir Michael Caine, is deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Development Corporation.
The Opposition motion says that the poorest are not aided by the British Government. In fact, while our policies and agencies cannot hope to touch all of the many millions of the poorest of the poor, I can honestly say that they reach out and meet the needs of a large number of them. In the aftermath of the Gulf war, when the degradation of the marsh Arabs in Mesopotamia and the plight of the Iraqi Shi-ites hit no headlines anywhere, while the Kurdish tragedy was spilling over on our screens, to whom should I turn first but to the Minister for Overseas Development ? She found time to give me invaluable assistance. Her Department works hard and carefully. From that day to this, assisted by the Overseas Development Agency--I pay tribute to Ron White who currently runs the Iraq desk--and the European Community Humanitarian Office of the European Union, we have been able to feed some 2.5 million needy people. By "needy" I mean starving people who have no water, who may have cholera, anaemia or bilharzia. Some of them are dying and we cannot save their lives but it has been heartening to discover the great understanding in the Overseas Development Agency for that important work. We now have a team of 60 medical staff and 160 teachers on the ground in southern Iran. I hasten to add that by no means is that work fully funded by the ODA. How wonderfully easy my life as chairman would be if it were. We make extensive public appeals.
Column 295The late Neil Marten was the Minister responsible for overseas development when the non-governmental organisation pound-for-pound policy was created. Some hon. Members here tonight, and many hon. Members not in the Chamber, will recall how he set about that task. He invented that policy and countless millions of the poorest of the poor have benefited from it. He made it possible for British non- governmental organisations, large and small, to start excellent projects-- for which it is not always possible to gain the necessary support from the general public--and have pound-for-pound matching grant aid. A pound given in a church collection is matched by a pound given by the Government ; a pound raised by shaking tins on street corners or at Victoria station is matched by a pound taken out of the pocket of UK taxpayers.
I know the difficulty of justifying such far-sighted aid and development policies when people in inner cities or rural areas such as my constituency have a difficult time financially, particularly during a recession. For example, the margins of farming in Dartmoor are so slender that they are sometimes invisible. Yet overall, the benign policies and views of the Government and the United Kingdom public continue to make our overseas aid programme one of the largest and most important in the world today.
The Commonwealth Development Corporation was set up in 1947. My father-in- law, Sir Sidney Caine, was instrumental in the Treasury in bringing that into being. I am proud of the fact that Her Majesty's Government foster the concept of creating sustainable development, and that we have done so since the immediate post-war period by mens of the CDC.
I have witnessed many possibilities for sustainable development in which the Commonwealth Development Corporation, through loans, has invested British taxpayers' money. Indeed, I think that it has only to wash its face ; it does not aim to make a profit and it must not make a loss. Any small surplus is ploughed back in again. By careful handling of the funds and the policies, it has created many hundreds of thousands of jobs in the developing world. The organisation now works in about 47 different countries.
When I was in Brussels recently, the senior ECHO official, Mr. Donato Chiarini, and his superior, the director, Mr. Gomez Reino, spoke most warmly about the non-governmental organisation world in the United Kingdom, commenting favourably on that system of charitable support for the poorest of the poor and for sustainable development, which flows out of the United Kingdom. That non-governmental organisation effort would be much less than half the relative success that it is if Her Majesty's Government did not perceive the importance of assisting throughout the world in so many difficult regions, in regions of conflict, in regions of poverty, and in regions of unbelievable human misery, such as the Mesopotamian marshlands.
I commend Her Majesty's Government for the fine work that they do in overseas aid and in sustainable development and I urge them to do more.
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Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : I wish to put on record my apologies to the House for missing half the debate. I was at the meeting of the Select Committee on Social Security and therefore obviously could not be in two places at once, although one does try. The debate must be put in the context of the horrors that confront the majority of the population of the world and the devastation that confronts a significant minority of the world's population. At any time, 20 per cent. of the world's population are desperately hungry ; half are on the brink of complete starvation. Twenty- five per cent. of the world's population lack safe water, 33 per cent. live in conditions that none of us would recognise as anything other than dreadful poverty, and every year there are 8 million wholly preventable child deaths throughout the world. The slum conditions that used to appertain in Victorian England--and Scotland and Wales, for that matter-- are being visited on the children of a
fast-developing world where there is an increasing level of disproportionate poverty.
Members of the House are pretty good at travelling. I hope that when they travel they manage to get outside the Sheraton hotel of whichever capital city they happen to have landed in, and go to look at the shanty towns that are growing around the capital cities of every third world country as a process of industrialisation and depopulation of rural areas takes place. I hope that they will look at the misery that those communities live in and have to suffer. In that context, one has to ask, what policies can be followed by any national Government, and what policies can be followed by multinational agencies, to try to redress those horrors ? If we did not care about them, we would not even be debating them.
Although in a short speech one can give only a few pointers, I think that the emphasis that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) to the problems of debt and debt write-off is important. Obviously, it is important to write off debts, which, frankly, have not been incurred in a spendthrift, dangerous or profligate way by those poor countries. They have been imposed on them by the rigidity of a commodity pricing system and a penurious banking system which drags money from the poorest to pay to the richest. A rapidly increasing transfer of wealth from the very poorest to the richest is taking place in the world. Wealth is not flowing in the direction in which it is needed.
Although I welcome any debt write-off--obviously, everyone would welcome any debt write-off--it is not good enough to write off a debt if at the same time one does not try to create the economic conditions that can prevent a recurrence of that debt. If, as I said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West, the commodity prices that are paid to poor farmers in those communities are not increased, the debt problem simply becomes worse. The poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, even after Trinidad terms, are being forced to spend a huge proportion of their export earnings simply on paying debt to the banking systems of the north. It is wrong and it is immoral, and many people fully understand that.
We have an aid budget in this country, insufficient and inadequate though it may be. The Government also promote a political philosophy, which is one of essentially trying to impose their curious view of the world and economic and political systems on the rest of the world.
Column 297They are increasingly trying to tie aid to political systems in the recipient countries. Increasingly, they are trying to tie aid to what they call economic restructuring and the development of a free market economy, in the clever mixture of words that Mrs. Thatcher was so good at using by saying that a free market economy equals a free society and a free democracy. It certainly does not. There are plenty of examples throughout the world of countries where there has been a totally free market economy and a fascist political system to ensure that it maintains itself as a free market economy. Throughout the Pinochet years in Chile there was very much a free market economy with a secret police to ensure that it stayed that way--and there was no excessive expenditure on the social needs of the people. There are pressures in the other direction because we, as millions of people do throughout the world, understand the unsustainability of the world's economic system. We cannot go on exploiting raw materials at the rate that we do, we cannot go on polluting the waters, we cannot go on overfishing the seas, and we cannot go on destroying natural forests, be they tropical rain forests, temperate forests, Arctic forests or sub-Arctic forests, without paying a penalty. The penalty is in climatic change ; the penalty is in environmental disaster.
It is not something that will happen ; it is happening here and now. The Rio summit, the Rio conference, was an important step forward in that, for once, all the countries of the world at least met to discuss the common agenda of the environmental problems of the world.
There were some serious flaws in the declaration at the end of the Rio summit. President Bush ensured that there were some serious flaws in it, because he was not prepared to agree to the transfer of technology and intellectual property to poor countries. Essentially, it was an attempt to maintain that power in the wealthier countries of the north.
We have now had the GATT deal, which we debated last week. The GATT deal has been presented as a victory for everyone--"Everyone is a winner in GATT". It is rather like The Sun bingo competition, which no one ever apparently loses. I do not welcome the GATT deal. It has some appalling side effects. For example, it is estimated that sub-Saharan African countries will lose $3 billion as a result of the GATT trade deal. It was far from welcomed universally by the Ministers of the southern and poorer countries who were there. For example, Shamsul Islam, the Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, said : "the concerns of the least developed countries have not been adequately reflected in the Final Act".
He went on to ask for a comprehensive assessment of the results of the GATT round, and pointed out that the share of world trade by the least developed countries declined from 0.6 per cent. in 1980 to 0.3 per cent. in 1992. In that period, the ratio of their exports to gross domestic product decreased from 14.4 per cent. to 7 per cent. That is hardly a success story throughout the 1980s, and I suspect that the GATT treaty and the GATT deal that has come with it will not improve things for those countries ; it will increase the disparity between the richest and the poorest nations. Those issues must seriously be tackled.
We must then ask where the overseas aid budget of the British Government fits into that, as that is the one over which, one hopes, we have some control in the House. The experience of some of the expenditure on aid is appalling. There is a lack of examination of the side effects of major projects. The Mahawili dam in Sri Lanka was a marvellous
Column 298project ; it is a shame that the people who lived around it could not afford to buy the electricity that was produced from it. The Pergau dam was a scandalous waste of money. It was designed to benefit corrupt politicians in the country concerned and to benefit certain companies in this country. There is nothing wrong with exporting goods from here, but let us be honest about what aid projects are for.
We always have to ensure that any aid we send helps to promote sustainable development and to keep communities together, not to split them up. We must develop sustainable agriculture systems of the type that existed centuries before the European colonialists arrived in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We have no right to flood those countries for major dam projects, or to impose on them the excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Sustainable development is the only way forward.
Instead, the record of our aid budget has been appalling, and the fact that it is declining is also a disgrace. My hon. Friends have pointed out that many people support an increase in the aid budget because they understand that, in humanitarian terms, it is simply wrong that 8 million children a year should die of wholly preventable diseases and that a quarter of the world's population should go hungry every day. We have to do something about that, otherwise we shall reap the whirlwind in decades to come.
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe) : I always seem to follow the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) in these debates
Mr. Corbyn : The hon. Gentleman should agree with me then.
Mr. Lester : I do agree with some of what the hon. Gentleman says, but not with an awful lot of it.
We debated GATT only a week ago, for instance. Bangladesh is one of the many poorer countries that will experience export growth--over 14 per cent. in its case--as a result of GATT. It was strange, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman should pick on it as one of the countries that will not benefit. The developing world fully co-operated in the GATT round and was one of the driving forces behind it. All the estimates that I have seen suggest that the developing world stands to benefit by more than a third in terms of world growth. Certainly we know that there are problems in certain sub- Saharan and African countries, but steps have been taken to deal with them, and it would be wrong to discourage the rest of the world just because there are likely to be problems with some of the weaker links--provided we can deal with those weaker links.
I listened carefully to the speech by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). It was typically full of humanitarian concern, and he described visits that he has made and situations that he has witnessed. I assure him that not all of us stay in Sheraton hotels. I dare say I have stayed in more grubby places than has the hon. Member for Islington, North.
We are all capable of reciting a litany of the world's problems, but I thought that the hon. Member for Monklands, West was short on solutions and particularly short on committing the Labour party to spending more money. He carefully avoided any such commitments,
Column 299presumably because the shadow Chancellor takes the same view of these matters as the Chancellor does. The problem will certainly not be solved by a White Paper.
As for the Government motion, it is certainly accurate to say that we now provide more information about overseas aid and development than ever before. That is a direct result of the concerted campaign by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee for such information. Our report on China has already been mentioned. I am sure that most hon. Members who read our foreign affairs reports recognise their fairness and their independence.
That brings me to the sloppy way in which the Opposition motion has been drafted, particularly as it relates to the Pergau dam affair. The Opposition seem to mutter it like an incantation--"Pergau dam, £300 million. Pergau dam, £300 million." The Select Committee is examining the matter objectively and we shall produce a report that will be both fair and accurate. The Opposition, too, should try to be fair and accurate ; they should recognise that the dam is not a white elephant. Nor is it true to say that it is not wanted by the country concerned. It will last for 100 years, generating electricity, and it was well engineered. The extent of the commitment is £70 million over 14 years. That represents 1.3 per cent. of the aid and trade provisions budget, which in turn is only 9 per cent. of the total budget for overseas development. Any attempt, therefore, to link it with the genuine bilateral aid programme amounts to disinformation. It behoves the Labour party to recall that it invented the ATP programme during its period of office, a long while ago, yet now the Opposition criticise it. Are they prepared to see British industry go naked into the market places of the world ? The contenders for the Labour leadership campaign on the issue of employment. Perhaps they should first check how much employment is provided by the companies involved in the Pergau dam affair. If they want to talk about employment in the United Kingdom, as well as improvements in the rest of the world, they should first clarify their position on the aid and trade provisions. They should certainly not confuse the latter with our major bilateral aid programme.
I can certainly confirm what the Minister said about the British Government's commitment on debt. Along with two Labour and two Conservative Members, I happen to be a member of the African caucus, which has been doing a great deal of work on Ugandan debt and the debts held by sub- Saharan Africa. The most enthusiastically supportive people whom we have met have been the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, both of whom are prepared to see the International Monetary Fund sell gold to achieve some movement in this area.
The point I want to get across to the Opposition is that we cannot do this on our own. We are part of a multilateral organisation. To be sure, the enhanced Trinidad terms, which we invented and pushed for, apply ; but unless we can persuade the Japanese to come on board, we can make no more progress. We would welcome help from the Opposition in these matters, instead of which they slate us while we continue to be positive and get on with the job. They should bring their influence to bear on the people who are impeding progress--in this case, the Japanese.
The all-party group on overseas development set up a working party on multilateral debt. It has finished its
Column 300research and is now drafting its report. In this area, too, it is not the British who are holding up progress. We are trying to persuade the Americans, the major contributors, to change their policies. Most of us recognise that the writing off of bad debt must be framed and understood in a new way--without writing off bad debt. Perhaps we could put it in cold storage and call it something else ; in any case, the way forward must involve the ending of repayments. It is no longer sensible of the Opposition to hammer away at us, claiming that it is all our fault. We are taking the lead in forcing through change, and we are not the ones preventing progress. I am entirely satisfied with the direction of our aid programme and the analysis given to it. I do not share the concern expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) about the proportion of the budget that goes to European Union multilateral organisations. If that aid is properly channelled and organised in the same way as we handle bilateral aid, it can have a cumulatively good effect. Of course, we all want the money to be wisely spent and carefully scrutinised, but there is nothing wrong with nations increasingly co-operating in this area.
We receive many European documents--if people are only prepared to read them--that analyse the European aid programme. The European Community humanitarian office has just released to us a document of this type. It has already accredited eight of our NGOs--eight out of a total of 80. That is fine. They are all worthy organisations : the British Red Cross Society, Care Britain, Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, Feed the Children, Helpage International, Oxfam, and Save the Children Fund. These NGOs will be the recipients of money that comes partly from Britain and partly from the other 11 member states, and together they will be able to carry out worthwhile humanitarian aims.
It is all very well to complain about an increasing proportion of the budget going elsewhere, but a lid has been put on the total budget. I, like the Opposition, want an increased aid programme ; meanwhile, it is no good moaning about the proportion going elsewhere as long as overall limits are put on the total amount. In those conditions, the proportion going elsewhere will obviously increase. We look forward to an early increase in our aid budget.
I want to comment principally this evening on the role of the United Nations, especially as it affects Rwanda. Of course we must also consider the United Nations in the context of Angola and Cambodia where the UN carried out operations. In Angola it conducted an election for a Government, but because the international community did not commit sufficient funds to the organisation and enough military power to disarm the combatants, the election was null and void and since then the situation has become worse. There have been more tragic and dreadful deaths in a country that has tremendous potential. With a proper Government it could develop that potential and its resources through links to South Africa. It is a tragedy that after the UN exercise the problem is worse.
I have given many years of my life to Cambodia, and the situation there is precisely the same. There was tremendous UN participation in taking over a country in which genocide in my generation really came to the fore. The UN ran an election that everyone praised and 85 per cent. of the population turned out to elect the Government that they wanted. However, because we now seem to feel that
Column 301internationally we have done our bit, we have turned our backs on a country which continues to be undermined by the Khmer Rouge. The international community does not seem prepared to give that genuinely elected coalition Government the resources to carry out their function in defending the country's borders and dealing with people who do everything that they can to undermine the work to which we have all subscribed through the United Nations.
Mr. Matthew Banks : Does my hon. Friend think that the international co-operative efforts that he has described would be better handled by the United Nations, or does he agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley), who seemed to place greater emphasis on the European Union ?
Mr. Lester : I am interested in that matter and I shall answer my hon. Friend's question as I develop my speech.
The real concern about Rwanda is that there is no international will to deal with what I would describe as a machete-wielding militia. Let me read from the report about Rwanda that the Secretary-General sent to the Security Council :
"The delay in reaction by the international community to the genocide in Rwanda has demonstrated graphically its extreme inadequacy to respond urgently with prompt and decisive action to humanitarian crises entwined with armed conflict."
I shall not read the whole of the report. I responded to the hon. Member for Monklands, West when he said that the UNAMIR minimum presence was reduced. The report states :
"since its original mandate did not allow it to take action when the carnage started, the international community appears paralysed in reacting almost two months later even to the revised mandate established by the Security Council . . . Our readiness and capacity for action has been demonstrated to be inadequate at best, and deplorable at worst, owing to the absence of the collective political will."
That brings me to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks). I constantly hear it said, "Is the life of a British soldier worth involvement in Rwanda ?" Could we see British forces in Rwanda--or American forces in Bosnia, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Islington, North ? There is concern about seeing our national forces involved in a peace-making operation. The consensus seems to be that we need a peace agreement and then we will monitor it. But from much experience of looking at these events around the world, I submit that we need something between chapters 6 and 7 of the United Nations mandate. Those chapters are quite clear, but many situations in the world fall between the two and call for chapter 6.5 or 6.75.
We must address the problem of how to give the United Nations the means to carry out our collective will because if that collective will does not operate there can be no international law or an international community. There are two options and the Select Committee spent much time looking at the future of the United Nations and how it could be developed. We said that first and foremost there should be a genuine military assessment system at the disposal of the Secretary-General consisting of people who could make active plans of what was needed and where it should come from.
Secondly, we suggested that every country with well-trained forces--and such countries exist not just in western Europe but throughout the world-- should be able to second special units and have them ready and available if the United Nations wanted them quickly. Those of us
Column 302who followed events in Somalia knew that Ambassador Shanoun, who was trying to solve the problems there, said that if he had got the Pakistani forces within weeks instead of months the situation in Somalia would never have deteriorated to the extent that it did. It is a question of how to provide the military means for the United Nations to operate. A friend of mine, Congressman Jim Leach, looked at the United Nations in exactly the same way as the Select Committee. Congress came to the conclusion that the United Nations itself should have at its disposal trained soldiers who had committed themselves to international intervention. That is one of the ways forward and it was suggested in the original charter. The Government, the Opposition and all those who are genuinely concerned to see international order have to grasp the nettle and argue the case. Do we have specialist units trained and available, or should the United Nations itself have trained forces ?
Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe have all offered their troops to help to solve the problem in Rwanda ; but none of those countries has the means to get them there or to equip them to do the job. The French have said, "We are sick of this terrible tragedy of people being slaughtered by machete-wielding militia, and 2,000 good French troops could solve the problem." I suppose that they could, but then we encountered the problem of the Rwandan Patriotic Front saying, "We do not trust the French." Back we go, and in the meantime more children are slaughtered, more die and more innocent people are harmed.
As part of the overall concept of international order we need to grasp the problem of how to give the United Nations the means for its collective will to be enforced efficiently and properly. That is the principle.
Dr. Kim Howells : I am loth to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's speech because it is so thoughtful and visionary, but what is his view of the lack of a feasible power bloc in Africa ? Is one of the vacuums in Rwanda and Somalia due to the fact that there is not the presence that there is in Europe of, for example, NATO ?
Mr. Lester : Of course, and the problem with Africa is simply that it does not have workable regional organisations in any context, whether in trade, aid or working together. Part of its poverty is simply due to the fact that, collectively, it hardly trades within itself. I think that throughout Africa 4 per cent. of countries trade one with another. The same applies to the military.
Of all continents, Africa has been the victim of the cold war, with different regimes profiting first from the Americans and then the Russians and then from anybody else who would give them money. They had got used to that, and now they have to start all over again and we need to help them. That is the most important point.
In today's world there are changing needs. In the past 20 years during which I have been in the House the way in which we look at aid and the way in which countries receive it have changed dramatically. There are now institutions such as the Foundation for Democracy and the know-how funds, which have worked particularly well. I should like to make a plug for the local government content, which I was pleased to note my right hon. Friend the Minister mentioned. In my experience, throughout the world many people who need the sort of services and support that the hon. Member for Islington, North
Column 303mentioned get them, not from national Governments, but from local organisations and local government. That dimension has just started to come forward.
The local government international bureau has just published a very good document on global partnership. I commend it to all hon. Members and urge them to get a copy to check whether their local authorities are involved in an international partnership. Thanks to a private Member's Bill for which I was responsible, such partnerships can now be thickened from knowing, talking and exchanging from schools to the actual transfer of technology and knowledge which is of real benefit to the people that they serve. It is done at minimal cost, as cost is not great in terms of know-how, technology and information. I hope that we shall all encourage our own local authorities to show an interest in the international concept of what they can achieve. I am also delighted to tell the House that, thanks to the generosity of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who provided some pump-priming money, we now have a Commonwealth local government forum which we designed as a momentum within the Commonwealth to promote throughout the Commonwealth, all speaking the same language, the concept of local government change. It will be based here in London, as is the Commonwealth Secretariat, and its role will be as a posting box to introduce those local authorities throughout the Commonwealth which need help to those who can give it--not specifically from Britain ; Canada, Australia, India and many other countries have available expertise.
I hope that we can concentrate on the big picture, which is international order and where we can give most practical help to people on the ground. I suspect that through local government and know-how we could make a better contribution than we have made so far.
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie) : It is a pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), which was characteristically thoughtful. It was a Minister's speech and included a speech on Rwanda that probably should have been made by the Minister.
Let us consider what has happened today. We have on the Order Paper a motion that mentions the inadequate response of the Government and the world community to Rwanda, and what has the Minister said ? He has simply said that we have given aid and logistical support to the military effort. I see from one of the answers I received today that it is 50 trucks. That is Britain's contribution to Rwanda.
Dr. Kim Howells : It is £500,000.
Mr. Worthington : My hon. Friend on the Front Bench says that it is £500,000. The Secretary-General of the United Nations described what has happened in Rwanda as a tragedy, as deplorable, as a collapse of the world will and as a total failure. He said that the United Nations had failed. If the United Nations has failed, we have failed. It is not Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali ; it is the Government and the House of Commons of Britain and of all the countries that contribute to the United Nations.
Column 304What kind of House and Government do not seek to make a statement when 500,000 people are slaughtered ? Here we are today, debating the tragedy in Opposition time, and the Government have made no attempt to make any statement to the House.
The Minister talked about leadership, about a world position. We are on the Security Council. What kind of leadership do we have when it will not even speak to our House of Commons about the tragedy in Rwanda ? What kind of leadership function is that ?
Let us take another example. Recently, there was an unparalleled special emergency meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to consider the genocide that has occurred in Rwanda. Even the Government use the word ; it is admitted as genocide. We considered it so special, such an emergency, that we did not even send a Minister. We sent a civil servant to an emergency meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. How many people have to die before it is worth sending a Minister to show our commitment ? What lessons have the Government learnt ? I respond to what the hon. Member for Broxtowe said. We cannot go on running famines and wars by committees which take weeks and months to meet. That is what happened in Somalia, Angola and Rwanda. It is a no-no. It is no way of dealing with the problem. It plays into the hands of the Milosevics and of the Government of Rwanda. Such people love to see us behaving in that way.
We also have to consider how the Security Council operates. At the moment, frankly, it looks as if the United Nations is praying for the war to end before the troops get there. The Rwanda Patriotic Front is doing a better job than the United Nations about ending the war and the bloodshed.
We do not even have human rights monitors there at present. The presence of journalists has probably done as much as the presence of the United Nations to stop deaths. Simply to be there and for those in Rwanda to know that the world is looking stops deaths. We must try to rescue something from this. I hope there will be another occasion when we can have a serious debate about the role of the United Nations Security Council. As the hon. Member for Broxtowe was saying, the United Nations should have a rapid reaction force of people from the nations of the world who have volunteered to join that force and owe it their allegiance.
That will be a difficult operation, but the current difficulty of deciding whether one would be willing to lose a British life in Rwanda would become a different question if those young people had made a commitment to join the United Nations special reaction force. It is the volunteering of a person to do a worthwhile job for the world. There are inadequacies with that, but the position could not be much worse than it is at the moment, and we must try to rescue something.
I want to talk about three things. I have already mentioned the first, the position in Rwanda, but Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali and others are now talking about preventive diplomacy or how we avoid such tragedies and intervene in a helpful way.
I want to talk about one particular country and flag up the fact that problems will occur there. I have just been there, and I think that we will be reading about tragedies there in the next year or two unless we act now. That country is Kenya. All the signs are that there will be a
Column 305Government-sponsored civil war there unless we take note of what is happening. I think that Kenya runs the risk of going badly wrong. One issue I wish we had talked about tonight--and which the Minister can still rectify--is controversial. The Government are quite right to allocate their aid budget to emphasise good governance. That is fundamentally right. There are exceptions to that, in that humanitarian aid has to go to the people in any circumstances, regardless of the goodness or badness of the Government, but if one is giving development aid, in order to justify it to one's constituents, one should make sure that that money is properly applied in a context that respects human rights. I suspect that it is a highly selective policy. In Indonesia, where there are big markets, I suspect that a blind eye is turned to human rights issues. Let us take Kenya as an example. A couple of years ago, the international community said that enough was enough, and stopped aid and co-operation. It worked to a certain extent, in that President Moi was forced into multi-party elections, which were given an okay verdict by the international observers. However, that verdict was like a verdict in a World Boxing Organisation title fight--very dubious. Many aspects of those elections were highly questionable. For example, in the Rift valley, there were 16 unopposed Kenya African National Union MPs, because no one else could place his nomination papers.
I fear the worst for Kenya because of the gargantuan scale of the corruption and the undermining of the democratic rights of the people. The corruption is on a huge scale. Is there any corruption anywhere to match the scale involved in the Goldenburg scandal ? Hundreds of millions of Kenyan shillings were paid to the Goldenburg firm as a reward for doing nothing at all except fill in bogus forms pretending to have exported gold when no gold had left the country. It is calculated that the scale of the scam amounted to 20 per cent. of the total value of the Kenyan economy. The corruption extends to the most senior levels of the Kenyan Government. What is so wicked is that, just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, so there is no such thing as a free scam. That scam provoked runaway inflation, and those who are suffering most are the millions of Kenyans who live on a pittance.
The Kenyan Government were forced to hold an election, but it was a highly dubious one. Many opposition Members in Kenya have spent lengthy periods in Moi's gaols, and they are constantly harassed. They are not allowed to hold meetings in their constituencies without Government approval, which is often not given. About seven opposition Members have defected recently, and there has been no pretence that they have done so for any reason other than that they have been bought by the Kenyan Government. Millions of shillings have been paid to them to join KANU and stand again, and they are then re- elected with the assistance of Government money.
Kenyan Ministers openly state that no services will be provided in areas that support opposition Members. The courts are not independent. The universities have been on strike for seven months, and any research in a university must have the approval of the President's office.
Of most concern are the ethnic clashes, of which the most serious are in the Rift valley, where 1,500 people are said to have died and 250,000 have been displaced. There
Column 306seems to be little doubt that Government- organised gangs raid, loot, kill and drive out Kikuyu so that the President's tribe, the Kalenjin, can be dominant and take over the land.
I went to Mtondia, near Mombasa, where 150 young fighters had turned up by coach, killed eight people, burned the village and displaced the villagers. They then threatened to return on 16 June. The fighters were recognised and could easily have been identified. It should have been an easy job for the police, but there was no interest in doing it. Responsible organisations like Africa Watch and Amnesty International have no doubt that the Government were behind the raid. Even The Economist intelligence unit says :
"the overwhelming evidence suggests that the incidents have been provoked by the ruling party at the provincial (and sometimes national) level to clear the affected areas of residents who do not belong to the Kalenjin group of tribes."
The news editor of the Daily Nation newspaper has been charged with subversion simply for saying that he had been told by local people that the fighters to whom I referred had arrived by helicopter at the home of a local Member of Parliament. When I objected to that, President Moi was very annoyed. Is commenting on something that has happened interfering in the affairs of an independent state ? President Moi will say that it is colonialism and imperialism. However, I think that there are clear British interests. On the question of Rwanda, the British Government have said, "It is not for us. It is Francophone Africa ; it is for the Belgians and the French." The Government cannot say that about Kenya, because that country is an important market, and there is a long tradition of British involvement.
Mr. Lester : Surely the hon. Gentleman shared his views with the British high commissioner in Kenya. I have been long involved with Kenya ; indeed, I am chairman of the British-Kenya group in the House. It has always been obvious that, whenever there is a problem in Kenya, the first people the Kenyans want to talk to and want assistance from are the British Government.
Mr. Worthington : I respect the hon. Gentleman's view. However, in recent times, the British Government have spoken far too softly, and have not used their influence in these matters. We shall see whether the United Nations and the British Government can exercise preventive diplomacy. There is no doubt in anyone's mind about the scale of corruption, about the appalling ethnic clashes or about the fact that those are inspired by the Kenyan Government. I want our Government to tell the Kenyan Government, "This is not on."
Next month, a meeting at the World bank will consider the relationship with Kenya. It is legitimate for this country, through its influence at the World bank and bilaterally, to say that the level of human rights abuse in Kenya is unacceptable to the world community. I hope that they do that before we go down a slippery slope.
The other issue I want to raise links with what has already been said-- which I fully support--about the international conference on population and development in Cairo in September. We must make a success of that conference.
It is a fundamental right of the women of this world to choose the size of their families. It is cheap technology. Nothing has altered the lives of women in this country more than access to family planning. It has transformed their lives. In sub-Saharan Africa the population doubles
Column 307every 25 years. The current populations of Britain and Egypt are about the same ; the difference is that ours will double in about 260 years, whereas Egypt's will double in about 30 years. If ours were to double that quickly, we might concentrate a little harder on the issue.
The country with the slowest rate of population doubling is Italy, where it takes 3,466 years. I do not think that anyone in Italy should tell the women of a country in which the population doubles every 25 years that they cannot enjoy the same facilities as the women of Italy. That is a crucial point. Nothing will do more to help development and to end poverty than arming the women in the poorer parts of the world with good reproductive health facilities and primary education. They want that.
In Sierra Leone, only 4 per cent. of the population have modern family planning services. There was no objection to those services from local Muslims or the Roman Catholic Church ; all that was stopping the women was lack of access to them.
I agree with the chairman of the all-party group on population and development, the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), that it is important that the conference in Cairo is successful. There is a coming together of the peoples of the world. The Muslims have altered their views on family planning. It is no longer a rich north world saying to a poor south, "You must not have children." Now, the poor south is saying, "We don't want to have as many children as we did previously. Will you help us with the necessary resources ?" I hope that the Cairo conference is a success.
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) : I am grateful to be allowed to participate in this debate because, due to a constituency engagement, I was not present for the opening speeches. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who devoted part of his speech to the plight of women in the developing world. His was only the third mention of our gender in the speeches that I have heard.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the feeling is increasing among many women throughout the developing world that their family sizes are too large. Who could blame them for thinking that, when infant mortality shows no signs of reducing significantly, many young children die of easily preventable diseases and there is virtually no clean water available to millions of people in this, our one world ? This serious and important issue concerns not just the survival or the development of the third world but the survival of our world in total. We can no longer allow the human poverty, degradation, disease and sheer suffering that we see virtually every night on our television screens. I share the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friends about the thoughtful nature of the speech of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), and I am sorry that he is not in his place to hear me say so.
We have heard of the contributions by governmental and non-governmental organisations and individuals in communities, and of the shameful contribution by our own Government in respect of overseas aid and development. If we, as part of the developed world, genuinely mean to eradicate poverty, make sure that people do not go to bed