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Lord Elton: My Lords, that is a great relief. I thought it was understood. I am rather alarmed to discover that I have managed to put confusion in the noble Lord's mind on such a simple matter. The main matter is complex. I beg your Lordships, if you are in doubt, to ask questions. I do have a right to reply.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Elton for introducing these amendments so effectively, helpfully and comprehensively. In speaking to them, I shall not repeat the arguments made by my noble friend, nor those that I made at Report stage, which all demonstrate that these amendments are designed simply to prevent government funds and taxpayers' money from being used to finance coercive policies of forced abortion and sterilisation. My noble friend Lord Elton has given an indication of exactly what such policies mean in terms of human suffering.
In replying for the Government last week, the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, were less than convincing. For example, the noble Baroness claimed that the organisations receiving British money were "forces for positive change". But there is much evidence to challenge that interpretation. For example, the United States Congress International Relations Committee is conducting hearings into,
The divergence in approach between the United States and United Kingdom administrations is very notable. Whereas the United States conclusions are based upon testimony and evidence submitted to various committees of Congress over a number of years--and, indeed, very recently--neither House in this country, to my knowledge, has seen fit to investigate the extent of our Government's involvement in supporting persons or bodies engaged in coercive population control.
It is essential to highlight once again the issues that are at stake. My noble friend indicated them, but they bear repetition. Programmes of coercive population control, supported by HMG funding, are not only associated with forced abortions and sterilisations. They have other side-effects, including: the placing of thousands of children in the kinds of orphanages and institutions described by my noble friend leading to their premature death; infanticide of baby girls; a distorted demographic structure; and psychological ill-effects on over-protected single male children--well documented in research on what is termed "young emperor syndrome". These are the very serious results of the policy supported by the Government.
The second argument behind the Government's unwillingness to support the amendments appeared to arise from a concern that they would impede the Government's efforts to eradicate poverty. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said during the Report stage last Thursday:
Sadly, it is demonstrably clear that organisations funded by Her Majesty's Government remain complicit in promoting and practising coercive population control policies. The amendments seek to end such funding--and only such funding. They enshrine respect for human rights and provide the Chinese Government with an opportunity to improve their family planning programme to meet internationally agreed standards. They also provide our own Government with an opportunity to demonstrate their self-avowed commitment to an ethical foreign policy.
As the noble Lord reminded us, the amendment has its genesis in an amendment tabled at Committee stage by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. I supported the amendment then and am happy to do so again today. Perhaps I may associate myself with remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in connection with the health of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Many Members from other parts of the House will join with friends of the noble Baroness in wishing her a swift recovery to full health. We want to see her back in her place taking part in our debates very soon.
In Committee I suggested a simple test for the amendment. Would we permit such policies or practices to take place here, and, if not, what on earth were we doing funding them in other parts of the world? Following that debate and my Unstarred Question on the issue in July, I was grateful to the BBC for transmitting a report from Beijing highlighting the way in which the "one child policy", as it was described by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, targets little girls. I am grateful to the corporation for the moving footage that it showed of the brave Chinese woman who had rescued five new-born baby girls who had been dumped on the local garbage heap because their parents were in breach of the "one child" quota. Sadly, that same woman said that she had to leave behind many others.
The first concerned free choice. The noble Baroness said that the Government are totally opposed to any kind of coercion in matters relating to childbearing. I doubt whether anyone in this House would disagree. The second and third arguments suggested that, by working from within, we should somehow be changing policies with which we disagreed. The noble Baroness specifically said that the IPPF and UNFPA could act as forces for positive change. The fourth argument was that, because some good is being done, we could be relaxed about policies of which we disapprove, with particular regard to China. The final argument was that if we accepted the proposed amendments,
In the United States, the same arguments have been put. But our American allies have reached conclusions that are diametrically opposed to those of Her Majesty's Government. Their decision to end all funding of what they describe as brutal and inhumane policies of coercion is one that we have a chance to emulate today. It is my belief that we should redeploy the resources that are currently used for such policies into the humanitarian relief programmes that are so desperately needed in places such as Afghanistan. Although my remarks are made with regard to the continuing human rights abuses in China, the amendment applies more widely, wherever UK government funding is complicit in coercive population control.
As I said, the Government place great stock on bilateral human rights dialogue with China and on the role of the UNFPA and the IPPF as positive forces for change. During the debate on my Unstarred Question on 18th July, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, illustrated the problem. The noble Lord asked:
Looking more specifically at population control in China, up-to-date evidence suggests that the UNFPA and the IPPF, which together receive about £20 million in unrestricted government grants each year, are not only failing to prevent coercive population control but are implicated in the coercive practices of the Chinese state family planning organisations.
The US committee heard last week that in January 1998 the UNFPA signed a four-year agreement with Beijing. Under it, the UNFPA would operate in 32 counties throughout China. In each of those counties the central local authorities agreed that there would be no coercion and no birth quotas and that abortion would not be promoted as a method of family planning. Indeed, when I spoke to the Secretary of State, Ms Clare Short, about this issue some three years ago, she pointed to that project and said that we must wait and see what happened there. She said that it might well denote a change in the attitude of the Chinese administration.
First-hand testimony of the persistence of coercive population control in areas in China where the UNFPA operates, and, indeed, the collusion of the UNFPA in such coercion, was provided to the committee on international relations by Josephine Guy, the director of governmental affairs of America 21. Her investigation in China began as recently as 27th September of this year. The evidence she uncovered cannot therefore be dismissed as out-of-date, rather it demonstrates the continuing horrors of coercive population control which we aid and abet
On 27th September, Guy's team interviewed women in a family planning clinic about a mile from the county office of the UNFPA. They interviewed a 19 year-old who told them that she was too young to be pregnant according to the unbending family planning policy. While she was receiving a non-voluntary abortion in an adjacent room, her friends pleaded that she be allowed to keep the baby. However, they were told that there was no choice as the law forbade that. At another location a woman testified to that same group--this evidence was also presented to the committee last week--that she became pregnant despite an earlier attempt by family planning officials forcibly to sterilise her. That attempt failed. She became pregnant again and was forcibly sterilised a second time. She told Guy's team that had she refused, family planning crews would have torn her house down. The House will recall that in Committee I provided evidence of that happening on a regular and systematic basis in many parts of China.
Josephine Guy was also told of the non-voluntary use of IUDs and mandatory examination so that family planning officials could ensure that women had not removed IUDs in violation of policy. Fines and imprisonment for contravening family planning policy are commonplace and, according to Harry Wu, the executive director of the Laogai Research Foundation, who also gave evidence to the committee, local officials acting upon government orders still strictly enforce quotas.
The UNFPA is highly implicated in the Chinese Government's coercive programme and yet continues to receive millions of pounds of UK taxpayers' money. Josephine Guy's team graphically illustrate the extent of collusion between the UNFPA and Chinese family planning officials. Following last month's investigations they concluded that,
Furthermore, these claims are not unsubstantiated. The US State Department has reported that three years of UNFPA's programme has met only with what is called "mixed" success, with some counties having made "relatively little" progress while others have not begun to eliminate strict birth control quotas.
The amendments before the House today would not stop funding for abortion or family planning services. Many noble Lords will be aware of my personal views on some of these questions and they will have their own views. I should make it abundantly clear that those are not the issue before the House today. The amendment would stop government funding only where there is evidence of coercion. In addition, the amendments are not anti-China but would assist China as it strives to meet its international obligations. If UNFPA funding was stopped, the Chinese would be given a clear signal that if it is to resume coercion must cease.
I fail to see how the amendments would prejudice the Government's fight to eliminate or to eradicate poverty. There are plenty of organisations in the world involved in the fight against poverty that are not complicit in coercion and there is no reason why funding for those should cease. It is simply scaremongering to suggest otherwise. It is complacent to say, "We do not approve of coercion but there is nothing we can realistically do about it", or, "We are in sympathy with your views but this is not the way to do it". If it is not the way to do it, the House is entitled to be told what is the way to do it.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I wish briefly to support these amendments. I do so in spite of the fact that for many years I regarded excessive population as one of the principal causes of poverty, as impeding human progress and sometimes even as being a cause of war. Indeed, in the 1970s I tabled a Motion in the other House, supported by Members of all parties and carried by more than half the Members of the other House, calling upon the Government to control the population of the United Kingdom.
So far as China is concerned, I have a grandson who up to last July had spent 10 months at Beijing University and thought that China was a wonderful place and the Chinese civilised and delightful people. He learned Mandarin Chinese. But their policy for controlling population seems to me not only inhuman and uncivilised, but also probably unnecessary. There are various ways in which people can be dissuaded from having excessive families. Some married couples fail to have any family at all, and that is tragic for them. It so happens, for reasons that I need not go into, that I was an only child and very happy, and my parents were very happy. But we really cannot persuade the people of the United Kingdom, our taxpayers, to support the coercive policy that is being carried out in such an inhuman way in China. Therefore I think that these amendments are important.
I wish to join with the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, in the tribute that he paid to my noble friend Lady Young. I join with him in expressing the hope that she will recover.
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