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There are several levels to this: economic, political and diplomatic. At the end of 2005, China was Africa’s third largest trading partner after the US and France. Its trade volume has increased tenfold in seven years. About a third of China’s oil now comes from Africa. Not surprisingly, given that nations act out of self-interest, China has focused particularly on resource-rich nations. Its involvement is not necessarily bringing benefits to the wider economies of these African countries. Does that sound familiar? We should think of the railway lines in Africa—not serving the continent but there to bring resources to the coast for transport to Europe. It is very worrying if the same thing is happening again.

Of absolutely key importance is the fact that cheap Chinese manufactures are flooding African markets, pushing out African producers. We heard about the effect of that in Botswana from my noble friend Lord Jones. But we are still dumping cheap products from the EU in developing countries and we have to take action there.

China has opposed American special treatment for Africa. According to WTO rules, China would have to agree a waiver for these preferences to continue, which are of vital importance to many African countries. Then there are the human rights and governance issues that we have heard about, where China’s record is hardly the best. Trying to lever good governance in Africa in the way that we have begun to do is simply not on its agenda. World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, complains that China ignores human rights and environmental standards when lending to Africa. Chinese firms have ignored international initiatives to make the mining industries cleaner. There is also the concern that with the level of natural resource extraction not only will Africa be exploited, as it always has been, but that it will be left with a great deal of environmental damage.

Chinese arms transfers to conflict zones, support for repressive regimes, and its blocking of UN resolutions on Darfur are all extremely worrying. The international community needs to encourage China to support efforts to promote stability and reduce the risk of conflict in Africa, for its own long-term interest as well as those of the African peoples whom it may be damaging.

On the political and diplomatic front, we are familiar with US aid being tied to support for US foreign policy or use of US companies and with the Americans calling in those countries to support them in the UN; for example, on Iraq. China is learning to play the same game. China stresses that it has never colonised any part of the African continent and states that it has supported a number of African independence movements against their western colonial masters. China’s “engagement agenda” in Africa consists of a long list of foreign policy interests, including that African states adhere to the “one China” policy—that is, to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan—and to improve co-operation, in particular in the United Nations. Thus China calls in African support for the positions that it takes in the UN. It is unpredictable where that will take us all.

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Most importantly, all of China’s interest in African countries is accompanied by guarantees that national sovereignty will not be questioned. This “no strings” approach enables Chinese companies to operate easily in countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, with terrible effects. The sale of arms to those countries is deeply alarming. Clearly, the relationship between Africa and China is unequal, just as was Africa’s relationship with Europe and the US, and still is. Clearly, Africa may be trading its present for its future.

As the IPPR report, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, referred, concluded:

We will have to be extra vigilant that our engagement with Africa follows the laudable lines that we wish on the Chinese. What we see developing there now is deeply concerning, and the West will need to do its best to convey to African nations the limits of the benefits that they think they are gathering. We will need to impress on the Chinese the need for stability, good governance and development in the long term interests of all. I therefore look forward to hearing what proposals the noble Baroness has to address these problems.

8.16 pm

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I, too, add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, on securing this interesting and important debate on what he called the new scramble for Africa. As your Lordships have highlighted, it could not be more timely, considering the Chinese President’s—Mr Hu Jintao’s—current eight-nation tour of Africa; a continent which he already knows well from two previous visits.

We all recognise that trade and investment are crucial for Africa and African economies, and there can be no doubt that commodity-hungry China is winning friends, but the question is to what extent is—or, indeed, should—China be influencing people? China’s drive to buy African oil and other commodities has resulted in a big increase in two-way trade, worth $42 billion in 2005. As those of us who were awake early enough heard on the BBC this morning, China now imports more oil from Angola—38 million tonnes—than it does from Saudi Arabia, and its share of sub-Saharan trade is expected to double by 2010. In return, the People’s Republic has pledged to double its aid to the continent and to provide $5 billion in loans and credits over the next three years. Mr Hu Jintao has unveiled $1.2 billion of immediate trade and investment deals, money which, China’s Ministry of Commerce reiterated last week, comes free from any political conditions.

At the Beijing summit at the end of last year, the Chinese President told the assembled African Heads of State and Ministers:

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The list of “friends” to whom many of your Lordships have referred would not look out of place in a rogues’ gallery. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on East Asia points out:

Indeed it is all too easy to argue that investing in chromium production and continuing to sell products such as the technology that enables the monitoring of electrical communications, despite expressed and growing concerns, is support of the Mugabe regime and all that it does, albeit by proxy.

Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s President, is another “friend”. As the debate has highlighted, China not only buys around 80 per cent of Sudan’s oil exports, making the favoured few very rich, but has effectively been shielding Sudan from being held to account in the UN Security Council, to the distress of all aid agencies. As your Lordships are fully aware, Sudan is responsible for one of the largest—and escalating—atrocities of recent times. I need not remind the House that conflict in Darfur has to date left an estimated 300,000 people dead and 2 million displaced. Can one really argue that trade and investment is free from political conditions if a country uses its veto?

Last week’s Economist put the situation starkly, stating that,

It argues that the liberal Chinese stance has in this case been exploited as a “licence to kill”, an example of profit without honour.

On the one hand you could argue that the People’s Republic’s growing interest and involvement is good and something to be encouraged. It is helping to fuel the economic rise of African nations and building up the continent’s neglected infrastructure. However, in supporting its “friends”, China’s policies have not only helped to prop up some of the continent’s worst human rights abusers but weakened and undermined the leverage of the international community and the UK in trying to promote good governance and human rights.

The East-West Center think tank tries to argue that,

Perhaps Her Majesty’s Government could urge the Chinese to put some pressure on Sudan. Mr Hu has a rare opportunity to combine self-interest with statesmanship.

There is a fine balance to be struck. As China’s economic interests and dependencies spread, as no doubt they will, China will need to remember the importance of investing in peace as well as pipelines. Free markets, good governance and promotion of sound and stable human rights are the most direct route to a development that enables prosperity and a stable society.

8.22 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, this has been an excellent and timely short debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, for enabling

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us to discuss these important issues. I am grateful to him also for providing a historical perspective. Napoleon Bonaparte said:

China’s re-emergence as a great world power is having a profound global impact, not least in Africa. As this impact deepens, our interest in the kind of international actor that China is becoming grows ever greater.

As we have heard, China’s overall influence on Africa has been increasing dramatically. Its footprint is everywhere. We welcome the growing engagement and believe that China’s role in Africa is extremely important. However, we want to help to ensure that China’s impact becomes even more beneficial for sustainable development and poverty reduction in Africa. As the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, said, Africa needs development, not under-development. We want to help to ensure that engagement in supporting the new African agenda is led by Africans—the NePAD agenda of democracy, transparency, peace and market. We can do that only by constructive and strategic dialogue with China.

The most striking aspect of China in Africa is how quickly its role is evolving. Trade and investment are the driving forces of Chinese engagement. In 2006, China/Africa two-way trade reached $55.5 billion—up 40 per cent on the previous year. The balance of trade was $2.1 billion in favour of Africa. Two-way trade is projected to reach $100 billion by 2010. Since 2004, China’s investment in African infrastructure has been greater than that of the total for OECD countries. China’s emergence as a donor to Africa has widened the choices available to African countries. We welcome that development.

Political relationships are moving apace. In 2006, China published its first White Paper on Africa; President Hu and Prime Minister Wen both visited Africa; and in November there was the China/Africa summit in Beijing. A number of key Chinese commitments were announced at the summit. They included the doubling of aid by 2009, providing concessional credits of $5 billion, establishing a $5 billion fund to support Chinese investment in Africa, cancelling debt due in 2005 for low-income countries, and tariff reductions. I can certainly assure the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York that we will carefully monitor the debt situation.

In respect of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda, I shall feed the views of the most reverend Primate to my noble friend Lord Triesman. So far as I am aware, the agenda has not yet been set. However, I am confident that China/Africa will be a subject of discussion in this as in many other multilateral fora.

The overall theme of the Beijing summit was “Amazing Africa: a continent of opportunity”. China very much accentuated the positives. That was very different from the tone of the Gleneagles summit, where we emphasised the approaches that the international community and Africa need to take to achieve poverty reduction. However, we do not believe that those emphases are

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contradictory. Africa is, and should increasingly be, a continent of opportunities for Africans and foreign partners. But long-term economic opportunities depend on peace and security, sound economic and political governance and a focus on sustainable development and poverty reduction. I rather liked the analogy of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings: we want peace as well as pipelines.

China’s economic engagement has many positive features. It has boosted growth rates, improved trade balances, increased government revenues and provided cheap goods for African consumers. But with opportunities come important challenges. Chinese exports compete with African products in African and overseas markets. There have been concerns about Chinese loans neutralising debt-relief efforts by the UK and other OECD countries. There are also issues of environmental impact, transparency and the appropriateness of some Chinese infrastructure projects. China’s approach is built on her stated policy of non-interference in internal affairs, and that must worry many of us.

Then there is Darfur and Zimbabwe—subjects that were raised by many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. As my noble friend Lord Triesman said last week in your Lordships’ House, China is now a great world power and with that comes a responsibility which goes further than commercial interests. This week, President Hu held private talks with President Bashir about the critical situation in Darfur. I am confident that he delivered strong messages about the urgent need to resolve the crisis. I hope that the messages will be heard and heeded.

Clearly, there are some differences in our approaches towards Africa, but it is crucial that all African partners support Africa’s own commitments to sustainable development, including good governance and sound economic management. That is in the long-term interests of Africa and its partners, including China. Stable, well governed and prosperous countries make the best trade and investment partners. Zimbabwe, where Mugabe and his regime are destroying the economic base and destroying lives, where infant mortality is accelerating and where the average life expectancy is 37 years for men and 34 years for women, is perhaps the starkest example of where we hope that China can be more supportive of international efforts to encourage reform. As in Sudan, this is the right thing to do, but it is also in China’s self-interest to play by the international rules.

The most effective way to address our concerns is to work closely with China so that all our efforts support our common aspirations for development in Africa. The Government have undertaken a range of activities to do that. In 2005, the Prime Minister invited a Chinese representative to sit on the Commission for Africa. China’s engagement in Africa regularly features in ministerial contacts with the Chinese. In 2006, DfID hosted a delegation from China that reviewed how the UK manages its overseas development assistance. We invited the Chinese to observe the Development Assistance Committee peer review of DfID last year.

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My noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, rightly spoke of the need to engage with China to better support stability, governance and growth in Africa. The UK and China have recently agreed to meet at a senior level every six months to discuss international development issues and Africa. We have extended an open invitation to the Chinese to learn from our experience of providing ODA, and the EU and China have agreed to a structural dialogue on Africa.

China knows that the international community has a legitimate interest in the development of Africa and that this has a wider resonance in China’s own aspirations to play a responsible role in the global economy. The German G8 presidency has a focus on Africa and development, and as part of the G8 outreach programme China will be fully engaged on the Africa agenda by all G8 members.

We have used the high-level dialogue that we have established so far to stress the importance of good governance and sound economic management; to encourage the Chinese, who are strong supporters of the MDGs, to support more directly the poverty reduction programmes developed by African Governments; to take a more multilateral approach; and to join with the international community in tackling poverty.

We are encouraging the Chinese to endorse the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and to join the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa. At a meeting of the consortium last month in Berlin, held under the auspices of the G8, China participated for the first time as an observer. We very much hope that it will join soon. That is a very good example of the way in which we believe China is moving. At a meeting of the consortium last July, held in Addis Ababa, China sent a third secretary who played no role, but now its engagement is increasing and it really is participating.

Many noble Lords have spoken of the vast Chinese investment in physical infrastructure. Just this morning, at a meeting in your Lordships’ House, the extraordinary Wangari Maathai spoke of the Chinese-financed and built roads in Kenya. The roads are welcome, but cheap labour from China is not. That was graphically described by the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, when he spoke about Zambia and Botswana.

Transport infrastructure is particularly important for land-locked countries and investment in roads and bridges will help to stimulate further growth between African countries. Although that is an area that is still undeveloped for many economies on the continent, we want to ensure that the kind of infrastructure being provided is the kind that Africa needs, not just the Chinese. We are encouraging both the Chinese and African sides to pay more attention to the monitoring and evaluation of the commitments that the Chinese have made to Africa. We have approached a number of Chinese embassies in Africa and invited them to join established donor co-ordination groups. We are encouraging other OECD countries to have similar discussions.

China is already having a huge impact in Africa, and it will be increasingly important for development in Africa. That view is shared by African leaders, who

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understandably have strongly welcomed Chinese trade, investment and aid. However, if we are to achieve our shared objective of making Africa a driving force in the world economy and thus helping millions out of poverty, it is in our mutual interest and to our mutual benefit that we work together locally and globally to that end. The Government will therefore continue to build relationships with China so that the opportunities created by China’s rise have the maximum impact on sustainable development and poverty reduction in Africa.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure for five minutes.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.33 to 8.38 pm.]

Legal Services Bill [HL]

House again in Committee.

Clause 110 [Overview of the scheme]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 109:

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 137 to 139. Amendments Nos. 114A and 129A in the group have been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty.

Amendments Nos. 109, 137 and 139, in sum, provide for the delegation of complaints handling to an approved regulator by direction of the Legal Services Board. When such a direction is given, the approved regulator would be empowered to award redress to the complainant, which is currently prohibited by Clause 154. The Legal Services Board would continue to have power to vary or withdraw a direction although, in deciding whether to give, vary or withdraw, it would be bound to act compatibly with the regulatory objectives of the Bill.

The intended system is described in Part 6, which sets out provisions for the establishment of a new independent complaints-handling body, the Office for Legal Complaints—the OLC. The OLC is not the first port of call. All legal service providers will be required to establish an in-house system for dealing with complaints. If that system responds to the complainant satisfactorily, matters will end there. If not, the second stage is activated, and that is the stage that involves the OLC. It will consider complaints that have not been satisfactorily dealt with by the in-house arrangement. Under Part 6, it is intended that the OLC will investigate consumer service complaints, but will refer complaints about misconduct to the approved regulator. However, as the Bill is presently drafted, the approved regulator will no longer have the power to award redress, even in respect of complaints about conduct. This structure is of particular concern to the Bar, which considers it inappropriate.

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The vast majority of complaints against lawyers concern solicitors. That is not really surprising since there are about 115,000 solicitors, but only 14,000 practising barristers, and solicitors are most intimately involved with clients; so one would expect the volume of complaints to be higher. However, the proportions are startling: something like 85 per cent of complaints are about the conduct of solicitors. The number of complaints against barristers is typically well under 1,000 a year, and the total cost to the Bar for dealing with them is little more than £500,000 a year. The Bar estimates that, in future, complaints will account for no more than about 3 per cent of the work of the OLC.

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