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Mrs. Ann Winterton: I had rather understood my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) to say that part of the success demonstrated by the figures that the Minister is quoting was attributable to events in China. My hon. Friend was not proud of those events--the one-child policy, forced sterilisation, forced abortion until birth and the killing of girl babies. What part have those events played in the figures that the Minister is quoting?

Mr. Foulkes: The hon. Lady is on one of her hobby-horses. As it has been raised, I should perhaps deal now with the important issue of China.

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We are concerned about reports of reproductive abuses in China. We regularly raise the issue of human rights in our dialogue with Peking, both bilaterally and with our European Union partners. We all want there to be changes in policy and practice in China, and we fully support constructive engagement by responsible international organisations.

When I was in China, some years ago, I saw in practice the type of independent evaluation requested by the hon. Member for South-West Devon. I also read the results of that evaluation, which does not reach the same conclusions as the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton). I am sure that the hon. Member for Croydon, South will be the first to agree that change is required not only in China, but in many other places, too.

I should like very briefly to deal with a few other points made in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie has asked whether the United Kingdom is contributing its fair share towards fulfilling the Cairo commitments. United Kingdom assistance for population and reproductive health accounts for 3.5 per cent. of our total aid spend. Moreover, that figure does not include the money that we are giving to the World bank and to the European Commission. We are, therefore, making a very substantial commitment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie and other hon. Members also asked about what the European Community is doing to address the issue. We have encouraged the EC to do more, and have now seconded a United Kingdom national expert to the Commission to work on the matter. Although we have seen changes, we shall press for more action by the EC.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie also asked what we are doing to deal with the human immune deficiency virus and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. We are making a huge, and increasing, contribution to dealing with that problem. Three weeks ago, in South Africa, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced our commitment to programme £100 million on HIV-AIDS work over the next three years. The bulk of that will be targeted on sub-Saharan Africa. It is a huge, and increasing, contribution.

I do not have time to deal with all the issues that have been raised in the debate, although I shall write to hon. Members if I have been unable to reply to specific points. However, I should deal with the abortion issue, which has been raised by several hon. Members.

The Cairo consensus on abortion is clear and--as far as the Government are concerned--non-negotiable: abortion must not be promoted as a method of family planning, and we must work to avoid the need for it. Family planning plays an essential role in achieving that goal. However, we must recognise the reality of abortion. There are many reasons why a woman may seek to terminate a pregnancy. If freely chosen, a woman should be able to do so without risk of life-threatening consequences to her health. I hope that all hon. Members will realise that unsafe abortion is a serious public health risk in developing countries.

I should now like to try to deal with the main question asked by hon. Members--what will the Government do to follow up the Cairo conference? As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, next month, in The Hague, there will be an intergovernmental forum,

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as a precursor to the General Assembly meeting in New York. Moreover, the Secretary of State herself will lead the United Kingdom delegation at the United Nations General Assembly special session, to underline our commitment to the international conference on population and development-plus-five process.

Cairo brought together 180 countries in unprecedented agreement about the type of action needed to make a real difference to reproductive heath and the rights of all people. Hon. Members who were there, or who read about it in the media, will remember how narrowly that consensus was achieved. Therefore, Cairo-plus-five must, first, move the debate forward, not reopen it.

Secondly, the ICPD must reinvigorate international political will. Thirdly, the review must consolidate progress. It must identify the strategies that worked best in advancing the Cairo goals, understand them better and ensure that they are disseminated and put into practice more widely.

Fourthly, we must focus attention on priorities in which intensified support is needed. We believe that more concerted and coherent global action is needed--on HIV-AIDS, on maternal health, on meeting the needs of young people and on contraceptive supplies.

In development, we talk about food security. As HIV prevalence is as high as one in four people in parts of urban Africa, reproductive health commodities, such as male and female condoms, are also basic needs. The international community, therefore, must work harder to ensure contraceptive security. To do that, we have to achieve agreement on a set of effective milestones in better monitoring ICPD implementation.

The Cairo strategy, and all the international development goals, stand or fall on Governments' ability to judge the progress that they are making. We have to support developing countries' capacity in statistical analysis and data gathering. In 1994, the ICPD did not foresee the need for a new benchmark on the global progression of HIV. As I said, we believe that such a benchmark is now urgently needed to spur more intensive efforts in preventing the spread of HIV.

Fifthly, we must position reproductive health as a central priority for international action, and further clarify the role of relevant multilateral actors, particularly the international UN architecture.

Finally, we must distil key "take home" messages to direct coherent and concerted international action in the coming years. They should--like Cairo itself--resonate and stick in the mind of policy makers. As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome rightly said, we shall achieve our objectives through partnership.

The Government look forward to working on the issue with the House in the coming six months and beyond. Subsequent debates in the House on the issue will inform the action and encourage the work undertaken by the Government on behalf of the House.

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Points of Order

11 am

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to make a brief, but nevertheless important, point of order concerning the rights of this House, the rights of Members and the danger that precedent may be broken today. I understand that there is to be a statement today on House of Lords reform. Having checked precedent, I discovered that--going back to the time of Asquith and, more recently, in Harold Wilson's time as Prime Minister--major statements on House of Lords reforms and the Second Reading of Bills were given by the Prime Minister.

It is unusual for me to quote Harold Wilson, but in 1969, he said:

What can you and your colleagues do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ensure that all Members of the House have the same rights as our predecessors had in 1969, in other reform measures this century, in Asquith's time and in measures presented by Gladstone in the last century? If all those Prime Ministers thought it appropriate and right to report to this House on their proposals for major constitutional change--and were following precedent by so doing--surely the current Prime Minister should not treat this House with contempt, but should come here in person.

If reform of the House of Lords is, in the view of the Prime Minister, an important people's priority, surely he should tell this House and, through this House, the people of this country what he proposes, not leave it to one of his Ministers.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When the House went into recess before Christmas, British troops were in combat in Iraq. It is also the precedent, on a matter of such gravity, that the Prime Minister of the day reports to the House from the Dispatch Box. I have waited patiently for the Prime Minister to come to the Dispatch Box to report to the House. Following that--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair. It is not a matter on which I can rule; it is entirely a matter for the Government.

In respect of the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), I have no knowledge of whether a statement is to be made today, but the question of who makes such statements is entirely a matter for the Government. His point of order, which is taking up private Members' time, should be made if and when that statement is made to the House.

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