International Development Bill [Lords]

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Dr. Tonge: For information, would the hon. Gentleman tell us about the United States-based organisation that did the investigation? I should be interested to see its evidence.

9.45 am

Mr. Leigh: I certainly can provide the evidence. I understand that the hon. Lady is saying that it is parti pris or, perhaps, that it holds a particular view about abortion. I do not have the evidence with me but, if I can find it before the debate adjourns, I shall bring it for the hon. Lady. The organisation's contention should be listened to, at least. I realise that we should not listen to the views of only one organisation; thus, I shall discuss in more detail other evidence of what is happening on the ground. It is complicated—I do not want to take too much of the Committee's time—but these are precisely the facts that we must consider in this important debate.

In 2000–01, the Department for International Development gave £50 million to UNFPA and £5.5 million to IPPF. Those two organisations gave money to two agencies in China: the State Family Planning Commission and the China Family Planning Association. The CFPA is a full member of IPPF. It is run by Government officials and has the declared aim of implementing Government population policies. The Chinese Government remain firmly committed to the need for coercion in family planning. On 13 October 1999, Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji—I apologise if my pronunciation of Chinese names is not up to scratch, but I do not suppose that anyone in the Room will draw me up on it—said:

    ``China will continue to enforce its effective''

—I emphasise that—

    ``family planning policy in the new century in order to create a favourable environment for further development.''

In its White Paper on population released on 19 December 2000, the People's Republic of China avowed to continue the one-child policy for another 50 years. Oh that British policy making could be so determined that we would be able to base our policies on the next 50 years. I am sure that the Minister thinks that this Government will ensure their will for the next 50 years—perhaps not.

International human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture have consistently highlighted the appalling human rights programme. On-the-ground evidence demonstrates that UNFPA and IPPF are complicit in it.

We now consider a crucial aspect of the debate: the agreement that UNFPA signed with Beijing, under which it would operate in 32 counties throughout China. In each of those counties, the central local authorities agreed that there would be no coercion or birth quotas and that abortion would not be promoted as a method of family planning. Naturally, our Government place great faith in that agreement. According to an answer given by Baroness Amos in the other place:

    ``UK assistance for all family planning is provided in line with the principles of free and informed choice upheld at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994.''—[Official Report, House of Lords, 16 July 2001; Vol. 626, c. 1341.]

Indeed, the Government consider that UNFPA is a positive force for change in the counties in China in which it operates. The Secretary of State said:

    ``UNFPA's programme in China is designed to demonstrate that people can be provided with modern services and make their own choices about family size without coercion . . . the work of UNFPA and the IPPF has led to real advances.''—[Official Report, 7 November 2001; Vol. 374, c. 285.]

I do not blame the Secretary of State in any way. I know that she tries to do her best in a difficult situation, but it is my contention that her faith in the UNFPA is misplaced. The evidence from China directly contradicts the Government's assertions.

We are trying to build up the evidence from reliable sources, and are not just relying on evidence from one set of people who may have a particular view. On 17 October 2001, the US Congress Committee on International Relations held a hearing into

    ``Coercive Population Control in China: New Evidence of Forced Abortion and Forced Sterilisation.''

After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence that was collected in September 2001—so it is up to date—the Committee Chairman concluded that

    ``after three years, the new arrangement is not working''.

Whatever one might think of the United States Congress, it is a serious body that is well resourced and bipartisan. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) is smiling, but US Congress Committees deserve to be heard. Forced abortion, forced sterilisation, the rigid enforcement of quotas and the widespread use of fines and imprisonment to punish those ``in breach'' of Government programmes are still commonplace.

Reinforcing that conclusion, the US State Department—a serious body with reasonably good access to information—reported that UNFPA involvement in China had met with ``mixed success''. It may have had some success, but it is only mixed. Some counties have made ``relatively little'' progress, whereas others have not begun to eliminate strict birth quotas. The Secretary of State said:

    ``Birth quotas have been dropped in all of the counties where UNFPA is working.''— [Official Report, 7 November 2001; Vol. 374, c. 285.]

The evidence that has been provided to congressional Committees does not support her answer. It is a pity that we do not have a similar procedure in the House to sift through the evidence. I contend that the Government remain unclear about the number of counties in which UNFPA operates.

Lord Grocott said in the House of Lords on 25 October 2001 that UNFPA operated in 47 counties, but the Secretary of State in the House of Commons on 7 November 2001 spoke of a service being developed in 860 counties. There appears to be some confusion. It may be that more detailed proceedings are possible in the House of Commons but, whichever figure is correct, given that there are 2,500 counties in China, it is clear that even if some progress is being made in some counties, it is just a pinprick. The policy is continuing throughout those 2,500 counties.

We contend that UNFPA is complicit in that policy. Lord Grocott said that

    ``the work of UNFPA has had a clearly beneficial effect in China . . . we are convinced that it is essential to maintain the ability of bodies such as UNFPA to engage in policy dialogue with countries where reform is so much needed, as in China.''—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 October 2001; Vol. 627, c. 1119-1120.]

That is the Government's contention, but we believe that UNFPA simply does not know what is going on in any detail. It has been said that the point of UNFPA's involvement and our aid is that they should influence what is happening. However, UNFPA now claims, incredibly, to have no representatives in its programme counties, perhaps out of embarrassment in the light of evidence that is coming out of China. What is going on? Is UNFPA in there, keeping an eye on what is happening and stopping what we all condemn? If so, why does it have no representatives in its programme counties?

If the hon. Member for Richmond Park will forgive me, I shall refer again to Stephen Mosher of the Population Research Institute. He contends that the UNFPA feigns ignorance of the real state of affairs and is sending a delegation to find out. Mr. Mosher claims also that Rob Gustafson, a UNFPA representative, acknowledged that UNFPA was unable to locate its office in Sihui county, one of the counties that both it and our Government insist is free from all involuntary population control policies. Sihui county is one of 2,500, and given that the Government claim that, because they provide money, they have influence and knowledge, it would be interesting to find out what is going on there. I cannot believe this information, but I have been given it so I must pass it on: some reports suggest that UNFPA has only three workers in China, all of whom are now in Beijing. What is happening?

UNFPA was invited to attend the aforementioned congressional Committees in the United States. It declined the invitation, but has now approached the PRI and others for the names and addresses of the Chinese women who testified about coercive population control. I am glad of that, but, unsurprisingly, its approach was rejected as it would have violated the women's right to privacy and put them at grave risk from the Chinese Government, to whom UNFPA appears to have delegated all its authority. UNFPA was not at the congressional hearings and did not have any dealings with women who testified. I am not saying that there are bad people in UNFPA or that they want anything to do with coerced population control. For the sake of argument, I will accept that they do not want to get involved in the matter in any shape or form. The Government do not seem to know what is happening, and the contention that, by giving considerable aid, we can affect what happens on the ground is misplaced.

Jim Knight: Has the hon. Gentleman seen the report of the international review team, which is an independent team put together by UNFPA, following the presentation to Congress on 17 October? The team, which seems respectable and independent, was led by a former Netherlands ambassador to the United Nations and went out on a week's notice. UNFPA has listened to the concerns of the organisation mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. The team reported, and to a certain extent it seems to have been obstructed by that organisation. I have looked at that review, but has the hon. Gentleman? A considerable amount of satisfaction would be gained from it.

Mr. Leigh: One advantage of the Committee is that we can have genuine debate. The hon. Gentleman will be able to share that report with us so that we may sift through the evidence. I hope that I am a reasonable person. If I am wrong and it can be established that UNFPA is having an impact on the ground, I will accept that. However, the evidence is conflicting, and I doubt whether we should be providing aid to a body when, at best, its activities are controversial and the evidence of its influence for the good is conflicting. That raises serious questions about what is going on and what we should do.

10 am

There is enough evidence to suggest that there is at least a real possibility that bodies to which we, British taxpayers, give money are in some way complicit in, or have an influence on, a barbaric programme of coercive population control. However, we continue to fund them. My amendment is simply designed to stop that funding.

Let me say what the US Government have done.

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