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In 1999, the United Nations Population Division report The World at 6 Billion estimated that world population would cross the 6 billion threshold on 12th October 1999. It is then projected to cross the 7 billion mark in 2013, the 8 billion mark in 2028 and the 9 billion mark in 2054. World population should nearly stabilise at just above 10 billion after 2200.
Last year, the Government spent £162,610,000 on health and population programmes. Last year, DfID gave £15 million to the UN Population Fund. DfID also supports a number of UK NGOs to deliver reproductive health programmes. In 1999-2000, the largest NGO recipients were the International Planned Parenthood Federation, with £5.85 million, and Marie Stopes International, with £4.95 million.
We want women in developing countries to have the best possible access to birth control and family planning. We also believe that all people should be free to decide the size of their own family. However, we will not support any policies or agencies that practise coercive abortion. I beg to move.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I signed Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who apologises to the House, as she is on parliamentary business in Indonesia at the moment, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is absent on parliamentary business elsewhere.
It might be convenient to speak to Amendment No. 26A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, at the same time. I strongly support the intentions behind it. The amendment would go a long way to deal with some of the questions raised in Amendments Nos. 23 and 24.
This is a timely and topical debate, not least because of the decision in the past few days to award the Olympic Games to China, where coercive population control is regularly practised. Some Members of your Lordships' House may have read an article in today's Daily Telegraph by Sion Simon, who is the Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington. He said:
The reason for drawing a parallel with that decision is that over the past 20 years successive governments have argued that we should do business with China in the whole area of reproductive rights and that, sooner or later, we shall be effective in preventing the coercive population policies pursued there. I do not mention this issue simply because of a distaste for abuses of human rights in China; I have taken a long and sustained interest in this matter since the Chinese Government introduced the policy in 1980.
Indeed, looking back to my time in another place, together with the Member of Parliament for Congleton, Mrs Ann Winterton, in 1995 I initiated a debate there following the broadcast of a programme entitled "The Dying Rooms" by Channel 4. Brian Woods, the director of the programme, wrote about his harrowing visit to a number of orphanages in China at that time. He said:
That programme followed another broadcast by BBC2 called "Women of the Yellow Earth". Both programmes highlighted how forced abortion, forced sterilisation and the forcible fitting of IUCDs for women had been commonplace in China since the one-child policy was introduced in 1980. The simple test that I suggested in the debate in another place in 1995
At that time, I took those arguments to the then Minister responsible for overseas development, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey. I had two meetings with her. I saw the present Secretary of State, Clare Short, for whom I have considerable respect, not long after she came to office. To use a phrase that probably explains that we both held trenchant views on either side of the argument, we held a very frank discussion.
The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and Clare Short have argued consistently in the same context as the arguments put forward for the Olympic Games being held in Beijing--that is, if we were inside we might be able to affect the population policies being pursued by the Chinese Population Association. Successive governments have also argued that we do not fund the Chinese Population Association directly. However, no one has disputed that the funds that we do provide to the United Nations Population Fund--the UNFPA--and to the International Planned Parenthood Federation--IPPF--go into the CPA and, thence, into the one-child policy. Ministers have always accepted that, and I shall allude to it again during the course of my remarks.
During the past 15 years or so both in another place and here I have regularly tabled Questions to Ministers on these subjects. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, replied to a Question which I tabled in March this year when I raised with her the matter of a report which appeared in the Sunday Times. I shall return to that report in a moment. In reply, she said:
Therefore, the argument remains the same: if we stay within, somehow we shall be able to influence events. The purpose of this amendment is to say that surely the point has now been reached where we can see that that policy has not succeeded and that, therefore, the moment has now come to change the policy.
Those are not lurid reports dreamed up by journalists. Amnesty International's citing of that case highlighted the growing resistance in China to such brutal methods. Perhaps later in the week--I have tabled an Unstarred Question on these matters for Wednesday--I shall have the opportunity to return in further detail to what Amnesty said.
There has been a change of mood in relation to these issues. Considerable change has occurred in the United States, for example, following hearings in Congress held on 10th June 1998 to which I shall refer again in a moment. The very first act of the incoming Bush Administration was to stop the funding of such programmes.
Change has also taken place here. When Mr Gary Streeter was appointed as the spokesman on overseas aid for the Opposition, I went to see him and we had an extremely useful discussion. He promised me that he would take the issue most seriously. As a consequence, I was delighted to read in the Conservative Party manifesto at the general election an undertaking that these policies would be reassessed. Therefore, I was even more pleased when the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, moved this amendment today and provided us with the opportunity to discuss--not in an adversarial, partisan way--the issue further as the summer proceeds between now and Report stage on 16th October.
Instinctively, I would wish to divide the House on the matter, but not today. I want people to have the chance to consider the issue and to see whether we can make a common purpose and recognise that all the evidence that is emerging shows that the previous policy of hoping for the best is simply not working.
When Congressman Chris Smith spoke to the congressional hearing, he cited the example of the Nuremberg trials. He said then that forced abortion was rightly denounced as a crime against humanity by the Nuremberg tribunal. He said that the United Nations should be organising an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the Chinese population control programme. Indeed, he added, it continues to fund and congratulate them.
In evidence to that Select Committee, an extraordinary account was given by Gao Xiao Duan, who was herself a birth control official in China. She had managed to flee from China and gave evidence directly to Congress. She said:
Harry Wu, the human rights activist who was imprisoned in China for many years, also gave evidence. There is not time this evening to go into great detail, but I am sure that Members of the Committee would wish to hear one or two of his statements. He said:
The evidence continues to amass. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture made available to me documents from the research directorate of the immigration and refugee board in Ottawa, Canada. In its evidence, it said:
I realise that time is short and I do not intend to detain the Committee for much longer. However, this is a rare opportunity to debate a crucially important question. This country provides vast sums that go towards the policy. The UK Government gave the equivalent of £15 million to UNFPA in 1999 and the equivalent of £5.8 million to IPPS in 1999. In addition, they donated an estimated £39.5 million directly to China through concessionary financing arrangements.
There is much evidence showing the way in which the money has been abused. I could cite Dr John Aird's book, Slaughter of the Innocents, or the evidence of Amnesty International or the medical foundation. A couple of years ago the BBC World Service reported that riots had broken out near the southern city of Gaozhou,
I have referred to the gender gap and the condition of orphanages. According to the latest available figures, which were compiled in 1994, about 1.7 million children are abandoned each year. The vast majority of those who are eventually admitted to orphanages are female, although some are disabled or in poor health.
China is the only country in the world in which it is illegal to have a brother or a sister. It is extraordinary that millions of pounds--British taxpayers' funds--have been poured into those policies over the years. In this context we also need to consider the distorting effect on the population in that country and the abusive approach used in countries such as Tibet, in which the Tibetan population has been deliberately reduced by coercive population means. We should also consider the abuse of women through forced sterilisation, forced abortions and the forced fitting of IUCDs. Those matters and the massive destruction of life should cause us seriously to reconsider whether we should make our resources available to support such an approach. I therefore with great pleasure support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells referred to the substantial efforts that the Church of England has made, is making, and will continue to make in the provision of international aid as an NGO. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, also referred to the important role of the private sector.
I return to a subject that I raised on Second Reading and I declare an interest, as I did previously, as the chairman of a Christian charity that is active in Africa. My comments relate to the work of the smaller NGOs anywhere in the world and those that have been, and still are, assisted by Her Majesty's Government in the distribution of aid.
My concern is not primarily about the principle that Her Majesty's Government provide aid directly to central governments, especially those in western and central Africa. Under that approach aid is allowed to trickle down through local government and regional officials, with or without the assistance of NGOs, which have now changed from being a conduit of aid to being a contractor. NGOs now work for the governments of those countries in the construction of schools and hospitals and by digging wells. That change may or may not be significant in terms of the amount of money that the Government are now channelling directly through central governments rather than through NGOs, which can be owned locally or internationally. However, some significant implications are involved.
My concern is about the fact that that long-term policy, which may have the admirable aim of seeking to create sustainable aid that is administered by national governments to alleviate poverty, is raising certain conflicts in terms of short-term realities.
There are three immediate consequences of the change in providing aid directly to qualified governments as opposed to, in modest part, through NGOs. First, those organisations now have to put up the costs of bidding for work to be carried out for local governments in the alleviation of poverty and that costs money. They need working capital because they are only paid at the end of a project rather than being able to spend the available money throughout the life of the construction of the hospital, school or well. Thirdly, and finally, those charities--often Christian charities--suddenly find that they need commercial management expertise in calculating the best bid and in calculating and controlling costs.
Adverse consequences arise on the ground in a number of countries with this change, and they are occurring at local and regional level rather than at governmental level. My amendment refers to two. The first is inefficiency in the distribution of aid. Inevitably bureaucracy is created, overhead costs rise and there has been a hiatus in a number of countries in the disbursement of British aid through local and regional officials. I am sure the Minister read the Financial
The second complication is corruption. It occurs because local officials responsible for the disbursement of aid provided by Her Majesty's Government to central government are inevitably taking advantage of the fact that they can charge a fee for the disbursement of that aid. Indeed, in some countries the staff who were involved in the distribution of aid have now turned themselves into contractors and are bidding for work on the construction of certain projects.
I shall be grateful for the Minister's comments. A warning is needed, no more than that, in certain countries that unless inefficiencies and corruption cease, then the Secretary of State should reserve the right to go back to the ancien regime where in some cases aid was disbursed directly through NGOs. I conclude by citing a sentence from the Catholic Institute for International Relations--a letter I received this morning as did many other noble Lords. The letter quite correctly sums up the role of NGOs and development assistance when it says,
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