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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we are the fifth largest economy in the world and we have the fifth largest aid programme. I believe that our £2.2 billion programme, closely targeted and concentrating on the poorest in Africa and Asia, with the magnificent support of British NGOs, gives value for money far in excess of what some other nations may offer. I fully accept the figures that the noble Lord has given, but I believe that it makes much better sense to offer value for money within the budget we can afford than to throw money at problems as that never solves them.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, will the Minister assure us that she is well aware of the good value for money which is achieved through the money that the ODA gives through the NGOs which operate in other countries? I declare an interest as chairman of one of those fund-raising organisations. Those organisations employ the money effectively and directly in the field on their projects.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. It is not just a matter of obtaining value for money through our bilateral programme but also improving the value for money

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given through multilateral programmes to which we devote much of our budget. That is most important. Whether the NGOs are working directly for us, when we have an absolutely straight influence over them, or whether they are taking resources from the European Union, British NGOs usually give the best value for money in the world.

Lord Judd: My Lords, as my noble friend has indicated, does not the Minister accept that it is a shameful record that the Government, despite the Minister's best endeavours, have virtually halved the proportion of our wealth devoted to overseas aid and development programmes? Will the Minister assure the House that enough is enough and that she will make absolutely clear to her colleagues that she will be in no way party to any further reduction in the proportion of our wealth that is being given to these urgent social issues overseas?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the answer to the first question is no; but the answer to the noble Lord's second question is a little more complex. It is not the amount that one gives but the value of that amount in the recipient countries that is important. There are many things which we used to do which, thank goodness, we no longer do. That comment is made by the recipient countries rather than myself. The noble Lord knows that, while I cannot comment on the public expenditure round, our aid is still said by the OECD and others—however much the noble Lord may decry it—to offer the best value for money in the world. I intend to keep it that way.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, as the Minister knows, a number of Bishops and Church leaders have written to Government Ministers expressing concern about rumoured cuts in the aid budget. Does the Minister know that in her battles on behalf of overseas aid she has the full support of Church leaders and, I believe, the Christian constituency in this country, and that that constituency would be appalled if there were any fall in the real value of aid? A £300 million cut, for example—only .01 per cent. of public expenditure—would have a devastating effect on the poorest countries in the world whom we are at present supporting.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his comments and indeed to the Church and the non-governmental organisations for their support in our effort to make this still the most effective aid programme in the world. I just wish they would not all write to me!

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I do not doubt she does—

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not like to interrupt but we have spent 24 minutes on Questions so far and there is another Question to be discussed. It might be advisable if we were to move on.

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3.16 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of recent tragic events in the boxing ring, they will consider appointing a Royal Commission to examine and report on boxing.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): My Lords, Her Majesty's Government wish to express their deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of James Murray, who recently died so tragically. However, we have no plans to appoint a Royal Commission to examine boxing.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, while I appreciate the sentiments of the Minister, I recall one or two tragic incidents which have prompted this Question. Michael Watson is paralysed and in a wheelchair; Gerald McClellan is permanently paralysed; Bradley Stone died 18 months ago in the ring and James Murray died three weeks ago in the ring. How many cases of death and how many cases of brain damage have we to witness before the Government consider an independent inquiry into this matter?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, boxing is an established and lawful sport and the Government believe that the appropriate course is to ensure that safety is paramount and pre-eminently considered at all times. As the noble Lord may know, the British Boxing Board of Control announced a few minutes ago the provisional conclusions of its medical revision committee which the Boxing Board of Control proposes should be introduced as soon as possible to improve safety in the sport.

Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that violence has increasingly become part of the way of life of too many people in our country, and that boxing encourages that attitude? Would it not be better if we were to stop boxing just as duelling was stopped some years ago?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing that comparison to my attention but I do not think that it is exactly comparable. In any event, one of the tenets which I believe is accepted both by the proponents and the opponents of boxing is that it imposes a form of discipline. In a violent world that in its own way is an important safeguard.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister know how many people have been killed and seriously injured in the Isle of Man TT races and the Grand National? Why does no one ever call for those sports to be stopped?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is quite correct in that boxing is not the only sport which is considered dangerous and in which injuries occur. Indeed, in 1991 the Great Britain Sports Council conducted an analysis of sports accidents based on general household surveys and concluded that boxing was in the least risky of the categories that it identified.

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Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, this is not an appropriate place to discuss the nature of boxing or some of the other sports that have been mentioned, but will the Minister consider, if the Government will not set up a Royal Commission, setting up a Select Committee of your Lordships' House to look into this matter and report on it?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, that is an idea that we have not considered. We have no plans to consider it now. Such issues are also matters for your Lordships.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in comparison with other sports, boxing is the only sport in which an individual enters into a ring to inflict damage on his opponent? Would not those two individuals in the ring be arrested if they did the same thing outside the ring?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is the nature of the so-called sportsman's defence that, in a whole variety of circumstances, activities which might lead to criminal prosecutions outside a sporting occasion are defences in the event of some accident or injury occurring.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, is right to say that the position of boxing is anomalous. However, it is not unique in as much as the same applies to martial arts.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, does the Minister accept that there will be widespread sympathy for the approach of my noble friend because of the fact that one of the prime objectives of boxing is to render damage to the opponent? However, in the light of what has been mentioned in relation to other sports and the fact that, for instance, motor sports and mountaineering result in 10 times as many deaths as boxing, and rugby and horse riding many more, does he agree that he would have support in taking the view that any attempt to ban a sport which is entered into voluntarily and willingly by the participant needs very careful thought?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is right to set the matter in context.

Relations between Central and Local Government: Select Committee

3.21 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, on behalf of the Committee of Selection, That the Lord Sefton of Garston be appointed to the Select Committee in the place of the Lord Stoddart of Swindon, resigned.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

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