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Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, in terms of value for money, major concern is now being expressed about the PPP for London Underground? Some £400 million has been spent on consultants. Will the Minister take this opportunity to dissociate himself from the London Underground official who was quoted earlier this week as saying that this extraordinary sum is a mere drop in the ocean?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we do not recognise the £400 million figure that has, I agree, been widely quoted. We suspect that any such calculation is likely to include the cost of London Underground staff and advisers who would have to be employed irrespective of which programme for the regeneration of London Underground is undertaken.

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, the Minister said that the criterion was value for money. Is not the implication of that statement that in all of these cases, public money is available as an alternative to funds raised through the private sector? Will he clarify—this point has become increasingly important in view of the straitened situation that will face the Government—how many projects would not have gone ahead unless they had been conducted under a private finance initiative?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are two responses to that. First, we must make it clear that PFIs are not being undertaken, as they were under the previous government, as an alternative to public

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investment. Public investment in all of these activities has increased under this Government; it is continuing to increase and is planned to increase. Those are not alternatives. Secondly, I do not know whether it is appropriate to say that public finance is "available", as the noble Lord, Lord King, suggested. However, we are not in any danger of breaching either European rules—because, as is known, our debt has decreased from 44 per cent of GDP to 30 per cent of GDP since we came into office—or our own rules, in relation to which we now take proper account of investment and amortise it over the life of the asset.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, will my noble friend consider organising a short seminar for the House so that we can understand the difference between PPPs and PFIs, which might in turn help to raise awareness throughout the House?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I have been accused of being incomprehensible—

Noble Lords: Never!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, by my noble friend Lord Barnett, no less. It is certainly true that a great deal of questioning on these matters is ill founded.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, if the £400 million figure is disputed by the Minister, will he tell us precisely what the figure should be?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there is no precise figure. This is an ongoing process. You can make up figures as you wish.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I said, "You can"; I did not say, "We can".

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I was pleased to hear that the Government have no interest in concealment. That is news to those on these Benches. I shall not ask the Minister to agree that the next Pre-Budget Report will show rapidly rising levels of public debt, because I know that even if he agreed with me, he would find a clever way of not doing so. I ask him to commit in that Pre-Budget Report to giving a comprehensive statement of the Government's liabilities, including those under PFI, whether or not they have persuaded the ONS to score them off the Government's balance sheet.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know whether the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, framed her question was a clever way of

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avoiding quite accusing me of concealment. I suspect that it was. I shall not anticipate the Pre-Budget Report in any way.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, if the Minister sets up—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, we are already in the 16th minute.


2.46 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to allegations of political manipulation of food aid in Zimbabwe.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, it is a fundamental principle of all humanitarian assistance and agencies working in Zimbabwe that humanitarian aid is targeted on the basis of need alone. We deplore the blatant use of food for political gain in the recent Insiza by-election and the obstruction of the work of some non-governmental organisations, which appears to be politically motivated. Aid has been suspended where there have been credible reports of abuse.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that there is no shortage of food aid to Zimbabwe? Tonnes of grain lie rotting at the Breitbridge border post and in Durban because of the monopoly of the grain marketing board. Is she further aware that that board is headed by Air Marshal Shiri, who was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Matabele 20 years ago and is now systematically starving people and then supplying food in order to manipulate the electorate and enable Mugabe to cling to power?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever. There is food aid that could be got to many starving people in Zimbabwe. A frightening statistic is that by the end of this year we believe that 7 million people—that is, half of the population of Zimbabwe—will be in need of food assistance. The monopoly of the grain marketing board means that DfID does not have control over distribution through the marketing board. Where we do have control—that is, through the World Food Programme and NGOs—we monitor the situation very carefully. Where abuse is evident, we stop the aid.

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is now overwhelming evidence in Zimbabwe of partisan distribution of food aid and that the ZANU-PF militia is using starvation as a political tool? Is she also aware of growing concerns in Matabeleland of another wave of genocide?

Baroness Crawley: Yes, my Lords, we are very much aware of the point raised by the noble Lord today and

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in our debate last Friday. He makes the point well and does so rightly. As he knows, ZANU-PF seized 3 tonnes of grain from the World Food Programme, as a result of which the WFP had to suspend distribution. We are aware of what is going on. Where we have control and are in touch, as donors, with NGOs and through our relationship with the World Food Programme, we do everything we can to ensure that the poor people of Zimbabwe are looked after.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, at times of such famine and such distress, it is usually the women and children who suffer disproportionately? Can my noble friend tell the House whether any specific actions have been taken in order to ease their burden?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. I believe that the whole House will agree that DfID's record in Zimbabwe has been very strong. A year ago, when it saw the humanitarian crisis that was developing, DfID put into place a £2 million supplementary feeding programme which meets the needs of some of the children, pregnant women and nursing mothers so that at least they have a meal a day.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, is the Minister aware of reports of Hutus from the Democratic Republic of Congo being trained in Zimbabwe in what one might call "advanced military techniques"? Secondly, given that the Minister has pointed out that DfID's major weapon is to refuse food aid where there is evidence of clear political manoeuvring in its distribution, is there any possibility that, by approaching NePAD or the other southern African countries—Mozambique, Angola, South Africa and so on—we can get an African group to beg the Government of Zimbabwe to allow the food to be properly distributed?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, because of her great experience in this area the noble Baroness will know that the agenda of the SADC/EU meeting, which my noble friend Lady Amos is attending at the moment, includes not only political issues in Zimbabwe but also the question of how we shall overcome the impending humanitarian crisis in the whole of southern Africa. That is very much part of the SADC/EU agenda.

Lord Judd: My Lords, My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many of us who were closely identified with the Zimbabwean struggle for liberation when it was based in Mozambique feel nothing but dismay at the way some people have shanghaied power for their own interests and are indulging in corruption and allowing themselves to be led by greed at the expense of the people as a whole? Does she accept that strong support exists for the Government in their determination to see that, whatever is done in response to the awful things that are happening in Zimbabwe, the ordinary, innocent people will not suffer? Does she also accept

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the need for maximum co-operation in the strategy between government and humanitarian, non-governmental organisations, which have a very special role to play?

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