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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's comments. I hope that he took from what I said that the UK Government have been concerned about the rate of progress on the debt issue and recognise that a number of the NGOs, for example, Jubilee 2000 and Oxfam, with which my noble friend has a distinguished association, were disappointed by what happened. I believe that that is reflected in the tone of the Statement. As I said earlier, we should acknowledge what has been achieved; namely, that a great deal of debt which might not have been cancelled has been as a result of the G8 process. I am sure that my noble friend would acknowledge that some of the other progress made at Okinawa, particularly as regards the commitment to untie aid by the end of next year--it is estimated that the tying of aid reduces its effectiveness by up to 25 per cent--is a great support for development of a productive kind in the developing world. Other matters such as the
My noble friend referred to Russia and Chechnya. I reassure him that the UK Government's concerns about Chechnya were expressed to President Putin. I am sure that all members of the group who met in Okinawa expressed those concerns. However, I reinforce what the Prime Minister has said on several occasions; namely, that engagement with President Putin and with Russia is the best way to achieve influence with that new government.
Lord Bridges: My Lords, the Government's Statement referred to the proposal for the introduction of a scheme for certification of diamonds in international trade by which each stone would be accompanied by a certificate of origin. If this is the case, I have serious doubts about its practicality. I hope that the Government will consider this matter again for the following reasons. It is only too easy to see that the certificate could be detached from a diamond and itself become an object of value. It is impossible by examining a diamond to determine from where it comes as they all resemble each other with certain rare exceptions; the one that is familiar to me being yellow diamonds which come from Brazil, artificially manufactured diamonds for industrial use which come from the United States, and blue diamonds which are so expensive that one ought not even to think of buying them. Would it not be better to think of an alternative arrangement of a central market-place in which each diamond producing country would be responsible for the authenticity of the diamonds it presented and they would have to appear on a list approved by the Security Council of the United Nations?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Lord suggests an interesting and useful way to tackle this dilemma. I am sure that the noble Lord and the whole House recognise that problems arise in such countries as Sierra Leone where the illegal diamond trade--if one may express it in that way--is obviously financing and fuelling a vicious internal conflict and internal war. Therefore, some degree of regulation needs to be sought, even if it cannot be achieved perfectly, as the noble Lord suggests.
I hope that I may correct the noble Lord on a small point which I was confused about. I understand that the proposed scheme does not relate to individual diamonds but to blocks of diamonds--if one may use that term--in the sense of the resources of particular products from individual markets. That is being taken forward by a working group known as the Kimberley Group, which has brought together a number of those involved in the industry and in the production of diamonds in several countries, notably from South Africa--as noble Lords will gather from the group's title--but also from other countries.
This process has been ongoing for some time. I do not know whether the group has considered the noble Lord's proposal for a practical solution to the problem, but it is considering many different issues. The Okinawa conference agreed that there should be an expert conference to review the outcome of the Kimberley Group's findings and perhaps to take on board some other good ideas, such as the one we have just heard. That will be co-chaired by the UK and Russia as countries with a particular historic and current economic interest in that field.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, in her positive account of the achievements of Okinawa, my noble friend the Leader of the House referred only briefly to market access which is of key importance to developing countries if they are to lever themselves out of poverty. Can she say a little more about what happened there and whether the Government achieved their aim?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, my noble friend rightly mentions market access as being of immense importance to the developing world. The UK Government have led calls for strengthened commitment to that for the least developed countries. The G8 committed to go further with much greater urgency in this area. The UK would have preferred there to be a specific deadline agreed of 2005. This has been agreed by the EU as its target date for duty free access for nearly all goods. However, the general expectation that this was an important issue on which more and greater action needed to be taken was recognised at Okinawa.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I see no reason to suppose that any change of this country's position on the euro would have any impact on its G8 status any more than it has done in the case of other countries.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, the Statement referred to major communicable diseases; I welcome the British additional contribution on this front. Does the Statement mean that additional funds will be available to the World Health Organisation? Does the Leader of the House consider that using this organisation, in partnership with developing countries, is the best way of tackling the problem?
Very briefly on organised crime, will the noble Baroness, as Minister for Women, take a special interest in the trafficking of women for prostitution? Can she try to ensure that police forces in various countries do not try simply to contain this, but really make an effort to stop it?
One cannot overestimate the need within the developing countries--particularly in sub-Saharan Africa--for a basic improvement in primary healthcare before any sophisticated changes in terms of new pharmaceuticals and new drugs can usefully be exported, and before any new technologies for dealing with these infectious diseases can be taken on board.
Education is also very important in this area. Health promotion and health education are particularly important in relation to, for example, the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS. Substantial budgets and resources to support the role of health promotion and education are probably almost as important as the enormous expenditures needed for the treatment and care of those already infected.
As to crime, I am grateful to the noble Lord for rightly raising the issue of the growing problem of trafficking in women. It is an issue which, wearing my other hat as Minister for Women, I have taken up with the European Parliament and the European Commission. It is one of the issues which, extraordinarily enough, leads in this country, although obviously not in the developing world, to a circular arrangement in which other infectious diseases are imported precisely through this route. So, as well as for reasons of social justice and the appalling crime involved in the trafficking in women, there are self-protective reasons which lead this country to take an active interest in the problem.
Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does the Leader of the House agree that the indebtedness of some of these countries has been caused by misappropriation of funds in the past, which have been spent on arms and on the personal expenditure of many of the leaders? Can she assure the House that in future no British taxpayers' money in aid--or, indeed, in forgiveness of debt--will be allowed to increase the profligate expenditure of these people?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, poverty reduction is the main aim of this country's bilateral aid programme, as it is of most of the multilateral programmes to which we subscribe. The noble Lord is right, there are countries in which the issue of the way in which their internal governance is arranged--this covers most of the points raised by the noble Lord--is at least as important as some of the other matters I referred to in my original
The noble Lord asked me to make a commitment. It would be foolish of me to do that from the Dispatch Box. On the other hand, as I said, poverty reduction is the main aim of the Government. We have said in relation to the HIPC initiative that some 12 countries have failed to come up to their eligibility status because at present they do not have agreed programmes under the IMF poverty reduction programme. Some of the disturbing factors of their internal governance, to which the noble Lord referred, are instrumental in that.
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