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Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Cox in bringing forward her amendment. Perhaps I may also say how much I regret the absence of my noble friend Lady Young. I know that she will read the Hansard report of the debate with considerable interest.

I have been approached by a number of NGOs to speak in support of the amendment. They have given horrific examples of some of the coercive population control practices, particularly in China, and their dramatic effect in Tibet, as my noble friend Lady Cox has already described.

It must be right for our Government to introduce conditions on how our money is spent, and not to continue to give millions in unrestricted grants to the United Nations Population Fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and others. That would be an excellent example of implementing an ethical foreign policy. I hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the amendment. I trust that the noble Baroness, or whoever responds to the amendment, can give us that assurance.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, it seems to me that two or three key words in this pair of amendments are, "any form of coercion". It was because of those words that I felt both willing and able to add my name to the amendments. I certainly would not deny to any family its right to plan the number of children that it has, their spacing, and so on. I am pretty sure that the great

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majority of your Lordships would not object to any government having a population policy. However, what is objectionable--and, indeed, unacceptable--is the use of coercion to implement such policies.

A good deal of evidence has been accumulated over the years in the case of China to show that crude reproductive targets have been set leading to such practices as surgery carried out in totally insanitary conditions. That is bad enough in itself, but when there is added to that such practices as forced abortion, compulsory sterilisation of women and the compulsory fitting of intrauterine devices, the situation is compounded and made quite unacceptable, particularly when it is accompanied by such incidents as infanticide, the drowning of children in paddyfields, and the torturing to death of a man who would not reveal the whereabouts of his wife (who was believed to be pregnant).

Of course, China is not the only country in which such occurrences are known to have taken place. Other countries where the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation have been involved include India, Peru, and perhaps others. It is for all those reasons, as well as those already mentioned by the two noble Baronesses who have spoken, that I urge the Government to accept at least the principle of the amendment, even if, perchance, its wording may not be absolutely perfect.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, these amendments would require the Secretary of State not to provide assistance to any organisations or individuals who were involved in promoting or practising coercive population policies. In view of the importance of the issue, I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate some of the points that I made in Committee about the Government's approach towards population policy.

All UK assistance for 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. The Government are totally opposed to coercion in matters related to childbearing. I said that in Committee and it is clear in all our publications. I am surprised that noble Lords imply that we agree with coercive practices in these matters.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, spoke about China. During the discussion in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned the policies of the Chinese Government. Let me reiterate: the Government disagree--we have made that absolutely clear--with China's one-child policy. Coercion should have no place in family planning. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, talked especially about the UNFPA's contribution to reproductive rights work in China. I repeat what I said in Committee:

    "We have evidence that the work of UNFPA in the 32 Chinese counties has led to a decrease in the induced abortion rate. That is the aim of the work within the context of the principles agreed in Cairo".--[Official Report, 16/07/01; cols. 1341-1342.]

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The Department for International Development supports the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation as forces for positive change in over 150 countries. We support their efforts to improve government policies and the supply of appropriate contraception. Last year, for example, in addition to our contribution to UNFPA and IPPF, we gave an additional £25 million to help avert a shortage of contraception in developing countries. Noble Lords will appreciate the importance of this, given the concerns expressed in the House about the rising prevalence of HIV and AIDS in many parts of the world.

I turn now to China. These organisations have programmes in China aimed at promoting better understanding of international standards in reproductive health, and are working to secure greater respect for reproductive rights. The UNFPA is engaged in high-level negotiations with the Government of China to secure a commitment that its programme could be conducted in adherence to the standards agreed at the 1994 conference. I believe we would all agree that that is a very important negotiation. The areas where UNFPA works have seen the abolition of birth quotas, evidence of a shift from administratively-oriented family planning services to client-oriented services, and, as I said before, a decrease in induced abortion rates.

The Government's policy is in line with the sense behind the proposed amendments. But embedding current policies and priorities in legislation could restrict our ability to make the most effective contribution possible to the elimination of poverty and to the welfare of people. In the light of my explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I am grateful to those who have supported this amendment. Both my noble friend Lady Hooper and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, joined with me in giving evidence and quoting examples that give rise to continuing and justified concern--facts that indicate forced and coercive policies with regard to the fundamental issues of abortion and sterilisation. I take note of what the Minister said about the Government's stated policy regarding such ethical issues. However, there seems to be a real divergence on the interpretation of the evidence.

The evidence quoted by noble Lords in this debate is both sound and substantiated. The amendments merely ask that the principle of restricting funding where there are coercive policies should be placed on the face of the Bill. I see no inconsistency between what the amendments propose, and the principles involved, and what the Minister said in her response. However, just in case I missed something in the Minister's reply that bears reconsideration, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment for the moment. Nevertheless, I may wish to return to the issue on Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

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Lord Brennan moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 3, line 24, at end insert--

"( ) In providing any financial or other assistance, special consideration shall be given to reducing the effects of poverty on children, and where appropriate--
(a) any assistance project shall identify the expected benefits to children; and
(b) any such assistance shall require the recipient to report on the implementation of the assistance as it affects children."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to enhance the effectiveness of the Bill. It should assist it because it seeks to reflect in the Bill government policy, as stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, last February in his major speech on the impact of global poverty on children. A question arose after the Committee stage, during which I put forward a similar amendment, as to whether it would in fact achieve that objective.

My noble friend the Minister very kindly arranged a meeting between myself and some of her officials from the Department for International Development. It was an interesting meeting. Just as their enthusiasm for the conceptual framework of the Bill increased, so my understanding of it decreased. When I told the officials that the convention on the rights of the child to which we were signatories states that children in difficult circumstances deserve special consideration, as the introductory words to my amendment suggest, they said, "That's as may be, but it can't go into this Bill". When I pointed out to them on the question of the subparagraphs that my noble friend the Minister said in Committee that the Government already identified whether or not a programme would assist children, and that, if it was intended to do so, the recipients should report back on the effectiveness of the assistance, the officials said, again, "That's as may be, but it can't go into this Bill". They then gave up; and I gave up.

I contemplated the state of affairs whereby logical drafting suggests that an International Development Bill serves the best interests of children by not referring to them. From that rich vintage of the parliamentary draftsmen, which we common folk find difficult to appreciate, I turn to practical reality; namely, what will this Bill do to help children? I express that concern not only on my own behalf but on behalf of the consortium of over 20 charities in which I play a part, including the UK sections of Save the Children and UNICEF. They want to know whether this Bill will help children. I have passed on to the Minister their concerns.

They have four essential concerns: first, that the burden of poverty falls disproportionately on children; secondly, that donee states must--I emphasise the word "must"--be made to use resources to fulfil their responsibilities as governments to help children and not just leave it to NGOs; thirdly, that there is no such thing as a child neutral economic or development policy; and, fourthly, that development aid must prioritise children in general and include marginalised children, the displaced and the vulnerable in particular. They congratulate, commend and look

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forward to the continuation of the efforts this Government make to help children through development aid, but they want to know whether the Bill will help the cause.

It may be that the Bill possesses such a state of legislative purity that my poor amendment cannot aspire to be included in it. No matter, it provides an excellent opportunity for my noble friend the Minister--which I am sure she will take--clearly to state the determination of this Government to use this Bill to help children. I beg to move.

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