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Baroness Northover: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this important debate in such a wide-ranging and, as ever, well informed way. The humanitarian case for assisting the poorest countries is overwhelming but, as others have said, we should also recognise that we all benefit from the stability and security that prosperity fosters.

This indeed is a key year, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said. The UK will be chairing the G8 Summit and holding the EU presidency, and it looks as though in addition we will have a general election. The Prime Minister says that he intends to put international development at the top of the agenda, which would surely be extremely welcome.

The Government have increased their commitment to international development, which is also welcome. Under recent Conservative governments, expenditure slowly declined, and at first Labour continued that trend when it came into office. In 1980 the percentage of GNI spent on aid was 0.34 per cent, declining by the 1997 general election to 0.26 per cent. In 1998 under Labour, it fell again to its lowest level in a generation, 0.24 per cent. No wonder Labour MPs wondered where they were heading. But we now see it rising again, to 0.34 per cent in 2003, and projected to rise above 0.4 per cent in 2006–07. The Chancellor said last year that the Government wished to maintain the rates of growth so that, by 2013, the UK could reach the level of 0.7 per cent promised so long ago. The Irish Government committed during their EU presidency to reach 0.7 per cent, but reneged on that in November. Promises do not necessarily mean delivery, but we welcome the UK Government's present intentions.

There remains an enormous gap between the money needed to meet the MDGs and that pledged. Which if any of the MDGs does the Minister think might be achievable by 2015? What timetable does he envisage for meeting the others? Gordon Brown has pledged to help to close the gap with his international finance facility, but seems to have secured little support for it. How many countries have now pledged support for the IFF?

Have the Government got their general approach to the relief of poverty right? A central problem of this Parliament has been the war in Iraq, which has not only taken funds from the poorest countries but, above all, distracted government focus from real need elsewhere. As my noble friend Lord Roberts indicated, the decision to go into Iraq has overshadowed everything else that the Government have done internationally. It seems from the Foreign Secretary's remarks in relation to Iran that the UK may have learnt its lesson but, as the Minister will know, the war in Iraq is seen in many parts of the world as removing much of the UK's moral authority to speak out on world issues. Bridges have to be built and maybe, if we now see a great concentration on international development, they will be. We await the results and the follow-up from the Africa commission with enormous interest.
 
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What has been neglected as a result of the concentration on Iraq? Afghanistan, where there was indeed terrorism and about which there was international support for the overthrow of the Taliban, was certainly neglected. President Karzai appeals for international help to rebuild his country, and the world generally looks elsewhere and opium production soars. Money has been taken away from the Caribbean and south American countries, risking that those areas too become a route for drugs coming to the UK. It has been difficult too, in these circumstances, for the UK to contribute to a resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict, even though it ought to be a very high priority for helping to stabilise world order and the reduction of poverty in the area.

Since Christmas, however, the world seems to have focused on the tsunami rather than Iraq. As other noble Lords have said, we have seen the incredibly generous response to the tsunami appeal. It is surely a challenge to engage public opinion to help to tackle intractable and growing problems around the world in a similar way. On the tsunami, what if anything remains in DfID's emergency coffers? What contingency plans might there be should we face another disaster? What risk assessment has been made of possible further earthquakes along the tectonic plate now damaged by the earthquake off Indonesia?

Can the Minister tell us about reconstruction plans in areas affected by the tsunami? In the light of this debate in particular, how gender-sensitive has DfID been in providing aid? For example, are women as well as men being put on the title deeds of new houses? We hear that that is not being done. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, pointed out, women are the poorest people and are especially vulnerable in such situations. Should DfID not be alive to that? I hope that it has been. The noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy, Lady Massey, Lady D'Souza, Lady Flather and Lady Royall, all rightly pointed out how important it is to focus on women and girls. It is welcome to hear their passionate advocacy of that cause, which needs to run right through DfID's policies.

As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the right reverend Prelate said, we must also look from today's tsunami crisis to even more profound problems. The AIDS pandemic, to which others have referred, is surely the most major crisis facing the world today. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is tearing apart much of sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the developing world. The statistics are appalling: at least 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, as are over 3 million children under the age of 15; and 14 million children under the age of 15 have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. The total number of children orphaned is forecast to more than double by 2010. As we have heard, HIV/AIDS destroys families, communities and nations. Young people, especially girls, are most at risk from the disease. Girls are the first to be taken out of schooling to look after sick relatives.

Surely there should be no higher priority on the international agenda than tackling HIV/AIDS. AIDS plays its part in pulling people out of poverty, but
 
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clearly the noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Hylton, and others are right to say that economic growth, promoted through trade, is the key factor. Can the Minister say how closely DfID works with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and with the EU external trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson? Trade is pulling the Chinese and Indian economies out of poverty and we need the African nations to follow suit. Their chances are damaged for as long as the EU and the US operate protectionist policies.

I should like to ask the Minister three questions. Do the Government agree with the Make Poverty History campaign that the projected EU economic partnership agreements are likely to be disastrous for poor communities and that those agreements must be completely rethought? Does the noble Lord agree that water should be removed from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and if not, why not? Following the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, what will the Government recommend to the G8 countries regarding debt, to relieve that burden?

This has been a wide-ranging debate and the number of noble Lords involved once again shows the expertise in this House and their commitment here to this subject. We on these Benches agree with the Government that there is hardly a more important responsibility than lifting the poorest people out of poverty. Where we disagree is on how foreign policy and international development aims have been at odds with each other in delivering a safer, better world. We hope that this year we may see international development win out.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating this important debate. As was discussed in last week's debate on EU Committee reports, security and development are inextricably interlinked. We cannot separate conflict from development when one country in eight is embroiled in civil war. A century ago, most conflicts were between nations and 90 per cent of casualties were soldiers; today, almost all wars are civil, and 90 per cent of victims are civilians.

The majority of conflicts are in Africa, most notably in Sudan and the Great Lakes region. The conflict countries are those that find it most difficult to establish funding relationships with donors. Poverty fosters war and war impoverishes. A typical civil war leaves a country 15 per cent poorer, with around 30 per cent more people living in absolute poverty. A neighbouring country at war reduces economic growth by about 0.5 per cent each year.

A World Bank study shows that when income per person doubles, the risk of civil war halves and that for each percentage point that the growth rate rises, the risk of conflict falls by a point. The paradox is that peace and development will not be possible without international financial support, and such support will not be forthcoming until peace is achieved.
 
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Wars today are more horrific due to the killing power of modern weapons. With the publication of the Control Arms report on Monday and the start of the UN conference on marking and tracing there have been calls from NGOs for Her Majesty's Government to do all they can to implement a global system to track small arms and ammunition. It is easier to trace a suitcase or a genetically modified tomato than a lethal weapon. In a recent massacre in Burundi 150 people were killed. The spent cartridges showed that the ammunition was manufactured in China, Bulgaria and Serbia. But the lack of a tracing system means that it is impossible to prove how that ammunition reached there. Small arms play an enormous role, not only in human rights abuses abroad but also in armed crimes in this country. With 8 million new weapons manufactured every year, can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government have any plans to instigate a global small arms tracking system?

Stability, not conflict, is an essential precursor to development. Regardless of how the individual needs of each country are approached, nothing will be successfully achieved without the political will to do so, both in the donor and developing countries. Here, we welcome the drive shown by Her Majesty's Government to raise the profile in the G8 and the EU, with the caveat that, as Action Aid has stated:

Two thirds of developing countries are not on target to meet their millennium development goals—a shocking statistic. In 2003, to meet the MDG water targets, we needed to deliver clean water to 350,000 and sanitation to 450,000 people per day until December 2014. The cost of that is equal to 180 billion dollars per year on all water issues, while Her Majesty's Government were spending only 80 billion dollars. Water is a universally neglected issue. At the weekend 2,000 people were displaced and there were numerous deaths as Kenyan tribes clashed over water rights. In the light of that, what is Her Majesty's Government's response to criticism by NGOs of the EU call for water supply to be included in the General Agreement on Trade in Services?

Clean water and sanitation, along with basic education, are vital to the good health of a nation. According to the latest report from the Grow Up Free From Poverty Coalition, 80 million mothers and children will die unnecessarily over the next 12 years, unless the current health development model, diverting funds from primary healthcare to narrower projects focused on cost savings, is changed and more resources made available. My noble friend Lady Flather pointed out that women's health in developing countries is normally twice as bad as that of men. At the current pace, sub-Saharan Africa will not reduce child mortality by two thirds until 150 years beyond the 2015 deadline. That mortality is heavily linked with HIV/AIDS and secondary infections. Some 6,500 Africans die from AIDS each day. What steps are the Government taking to protect HIV-orphaned children from the hell of child sex tourism?
 
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It is clear that greater international political will is required if we are to make progress in the war on poverty. It is imperative that we ensure that the UK and other countries stick to fulfilling their pledges. Yesterday, a UN spokesman pointed out that only one-third of the aid money pledged worldwide for tsunami relief had been delivered.

We support as fast a move as possible to fulfil the UK's commitment to 0.7 per cent of GDP to the aid budget. What discussions are Her Majesty's Government having with those countries significantly behind with this goal, such as the US? But more money is useless unless it is efficiently spent and targeted where needed most—on programmes to help the world's poorest—not just to line the pockets of corrupt officials. It is essential that developing countries promote and adhere to practices of transparency and good governance and crack down on corruption.

One glaring example is Zimbabwe, which is at breaking point due to the disastrous policies of the Mugabe regime. What action are Her Majesty's Government taking to persuade other countries, NePAD and the Africa Commission to use their influence to help counter corruption and human rights violations in Zimbabwe?

While considerable progress has been made through negotiations towards freer trade in recent years, notably the Geneva agreement last July, we need to ensure that trade is fairer too. We must not make the mistake of supposing that developing economies can achieve in a day what has, in the majority of cases, taken richer countries centuries to achieve.

Therefore, we must give developing countries a helping hand by tearing down the trade barriers faster from our side than they do. Free trade should be fairer and fair trade should be freer. My noble friend Lord Eden gave the example of the problems with the Sri Lankan garment trade. He also mentioned his son and stepson's charity, Friends of the South. I have been told by friends in Sri Lanka what wonderful work that charity is doing.

We must also recognise that the technical capacity of richer nations gives us a great advantage over poorer nations in trade negotiations. That is why a Conservative government, as well as pushing for the fundamentals of free and fair trade, would take a lead in establishing and financing an advocacy fund to give developing countries access to the advice and expertise that they need to fight their corner at the negotiating table.

When 1.1 billion people in extreme poverty live in a permanent state of emergency and 850 million suffer through hunger, the world's governments and industry seem to be operating at too slow a pace. It is essential that we reassess our approach to aid development. It is by no means a simple question of more funds, although these are important. Stability, management of aid, cutting corruption and, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon said, trade and political will are also essential.
 
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6.43 p.m.


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