Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I think that I can help the House at this point. In moving the Motion for Third Reading on behalf of my noble friend Lady Amos, I should tell the House that she is unable to attend the House today because she is presently in Zimbabwe, along with other Commonwealth representatives. I am sure that the House will approve of her visit to Zimbabwe, since noble Lords have always demonstrated their keen interest in matters associated with that country.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for explaining that he is to reply to our debates. In this case, I think that the word "she" should embrace the word "he".

In his response the Minister will be able to confirm, first, whether that sum was the correct amount and, secondly, what restrictions were placed on a proportion of it. I should like to know what proportion of the funds was unrestricted and what proportion was restricted. That answer will be important because the association's published accounts show clearly that last year it, in its turn, provided funds to a body called the China Family Planning Association, an organisation run by officials of the Chinese state. The association placed no constraints whatever on how the money should be used. In a moment I shall tell noble Lords how that money was used.

The Minister can also tell the House on what terms we paid our rather larger subscription, if I may call it that, of about £15 million to the other organisation, the United Nations Population Fund, which confusingly uses an acronym which derives from an earlier title, UNFPA. On what proportion of that money did the Government place restrictions, and with what result? The UN Population Fund also publishes annual accounts. Those accounts show that it, in turn, provided funding to the State Family Planning Commission of China, which is a part of the Chinese Government. How did the commission use that money?

Both the China Family Planning Association and the State Family Planning Commission of China are agents for the implementation--or rather, I should say the enforcement--of a stated policy of the Chinese Government, which is to stabilise the population of China at its present level. The achievement of that goal, allowing for existing natural mortality rates, would require an average birth rate of 2.1 live births per couple. However, enforcement is not equally successful everywhere and the result is that where officials do have control they opt for far more stringent targets to make up for those areas where they do not have control. In large areas of China, and I believe also in Tibet, officials enforce what we have come to call a one-child policy, and pursue it with a savage ferocity.

25 Oct 2001 : Column 1107

The UNFPA claims that it neither uses nor condones coercion. During the debate on Report last week, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, appeared to have accepted the association's protestations. She stated that:

    "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 ... a decrease in induced abortion rates".--[Official Report, 18/10/01; col. 730.]

I find it rather hideous to have to welcome a decrease in the rate of compulsorily induced abortion, but there it is. That comment was made for our comfort.

We are not the only legislature to be deeply concerned about what is going on in China. In the United States, in spite of the disruption caused by anthrax attacks, a Congressional hearing has been receiving evidence which squarely rebuts the UNFPA's claims not to be complicit in coercion, and its claim of reforming China's population control programme.

An investigation conducted last month in areas where UNFPA is currently active in China found that:

    "UNFPA's claims are false ... Within counties where the UNFPA is active ... contrary to UNFPA claims, the one-child policy, with its attendant targets and quotas, is still in place ... there is no real distinction between the one-child policy as carried out in the 32 counties where the UNFPA is active and the one-child policy found throughout China as a whole. The UNFPA, contrary to its own statements, is participating in the management and support of a program of forced abortion and forced sterilization in China".

That confirms earlier US State Department findings. I wonder whether the Minister, on behalf of the Government, still feels able to dispute them. Zhang Weiging, the Minister of China's State Family Planning Commission, was reported in the IPPF News on 3rd November last as saying that China intends to continue to control the growth of population.

It is clear, is it not, that, despite 20 years of UNFPA involvement in China, nothing has changed. May one ask why? It is an immensely well-funded organisation. Last year alone, our Government, acting on behalf of us, gave it £47 million of our money. The UNFPA spends millions annually in China. So it is certainly not for lack of experience or money that it has not eliminated coercion from the Chinese policy. Whatever its words, its deeds are in support of China's coercive one-child policy.

Amnesty International reported as recently as 1999 that,

    "women must sign personal birth limitation contracts...The contracts indicate that contraception is compulsory and that abortion is the only remedy in the case of unauthorised pregnancies".

The second body I mentioned, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, IPPF, has also been closely involved in the one-child policy for almost as long as the policy has existed. This has been through its member organisation, the Chinese Family Planning Association, China FPA. There is very little difference between IPPF and China FPA. IPPF is a federation of member organisations and China FPA has been an IPPF member for 18 years. Only a political

25 Oct 2001 : Column 1108

philosopher could make a distinction between China FPA and the Chinese Government as regards policy. It has been run by Chinese Government officials since its creation in 1980.

When China FPA was created, the official communique announcing its creation stated clearly:

    "The association will implement government population control policies".

In a 1993 report, China FPA admitted that it had,

    "participated and supervised that the awarding and punishing policies relating to family planning were properly executed".

IPPF itself has admitted that China FPA,

    "volunteers sometimes collect the occasional fine when a couple break the birth plan rules".

An astonishing understatement.

What does enforcement involve? I quote Dr John Aird, the former senior research specialist on China of the United States Bureau of the Census, who calculates that between 1971 and 1985 alone there were roughly 100 million coercive birth control "operations", including forced sterilisation and forced abortions. Neither the UNFPA nor China FPA, supported as they were by British money, is moderating this policy.

On the contrary, on 25th September last, the BBC reported an editorial in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official paper, which said:

    "We cannot just be content with current success, we must make population control a permanent policy".

In March this year, Amnesty International reported that in China even children are not safe from state violence and that family planning officials get away with torturing parents who flout the policy. Yesterday, I read of one case where a mother, who had committed the dreadful crime of becoming pregnant for a second time, sought to escape compulsory abortion by running away from home and not telling a single soul where she had gone. Unfortunately, the officials in charge of the policy did not believe that she had not told a single soul where she had gone and they arrested her husband and tortured him. He was eventually released. Being under a cloud of terror, he went to the authorities again to swear his ignorance of her whereabouts. He was re-arrested and tortured, and as a result he died.

On 25th February 2000, another branch of the United States Government, the Department of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, published a report on human rights practices in China which concluded, among other things:

    "According to the latest figures...the number of children abandoned each year is approximately 1.7 million".

It referred to a particular orphanage, with well-paid staff and a brand-new facility, where it was reported that,

    "the mortality for children under 2 approached 100%, even for those infants who entered in fair health".

These are horrifying facts.

Noble Lords who saw the television programme The Dying Room will know why I cannot bring before the House the true facts of how some of those orphanages are conducted. They are not fit for

25 Oct 2001 : Column 1109

repetition in this Chamber. It is for your Lordships to decide whether this kind of practice--that we, through our Government, have been supporting--should be countenanced, let alone paid for.

I understand that it is possible for a Minister to put his hand on his heart and say, "This is something we shall never do again", but the fact is that these organisations have been supported by governments of both colours over a number of years. Therefore this is not a party issue. The Government have, after all, set their hand to the task of defending human rights throughout the world. It is difficult to say whether they were led or followed in the matter by the Liberal Democrat Party when they espoused that policy. My own party undertook in its latest manifesto that, while supporting education and access to family planning practices, we would in no way countenance compulsion to do so. I intended to have the manifesto in my hand, but I am certain that that is an accurate paraphrase. I have it here. It is an accurate paraphrase.

I should say in conclusion that the initiative for this substantive amendment sprang from my noble friend Lady Young before she fell ill. Noble Lords will know from a letter which she sent to many Members of the House that she is warmly in support of the substantive amendment. I hope that your Lordships will also support the amendment. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before we proceed with the debate and in order to avoid confusion, the noble Lord said that he was moving Amendment No. 1 and speaking to Amendment No. 2. He then said that he would be moving Amendment No. 2. There is, of course, no need for that because the amendments are in a single group. The decision on Amendment No. 1, which is a paving amendment, will cover Amendment No. 2. So there is only one debate to be held.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page