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Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, DfID supports President Museveni’s Government’s commitment to reducing poverty. We have continued to support that Government through budget aid, because we think that that is a good vehicle. Nevertheless, we cut budget aid by

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£15 million in 2005-06 and have maintained it at that level, because we were concerned about some of the Government’s problems. Nevertheless, we see working with President Museveni as the way forward to bring civil society together to solve Uganda’s problems.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, what further measures do the Government plan to take to encourage the LRA to sign this peace deal? Will this affect at all their current support for the International Criminal Court’s indictments for war crimes against Joseph Kony and his henchmen?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the Government support the International Criminal Court and its charter. The process in northern Uganda has been helpful in bringing the LRA’s leadership to the table. It has brought about the period of quiet—or of less violence, at least—which is allowing development to take place. We continue to seek ways whereby court warrants may lead to a situation in which a full signing of the peace agreements may be possible and a way out of some of the legal dilemmas may be found.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, is the Minister aware that at least 25,000 children were abducted by the LRA during that 20-year war? They were taken to military training camps, tortured, brutalised, forced to kill one another and then to fight against the Ugandan army. I have interviewed many of those young people, who have suffered in ways beyond description. Their overriding passion is for education but they cannot afford the fees for Ugandan schools. UNICEF is providing some primary education but many of those young people have access to no schooling whatever. Can Her Majesty’s Government do anything to help to provide education for these young people who have suffered so much and who desperately need that education to put the past behind them and to build a future?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, we recognise the terrible toll on young people that war and violence in Uganda have taken. We have worked with the Ugandan Government to improve conditions so that young people and the rest of the population come back to their original areas. That is working. Those programmes include educational programmes, but of course they also include general health programmes.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, what are the Government doing to limit the impact of rising food prices on vulnerable communities, such as the Ugandan refugee camps, which are wholly or partly dependent on food aid?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, recent research conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that, because Uganda’s food security is based on many staples that are not actively traded, its food prices have remained relatively stable despite the shock. Therefore, while it is one problem that is being faced there, it is not as severe as in many other parts of Africa.

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Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, what are the Government doing to co-ordinate with the voluntary organisations, so many of which are working in Uganda?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the Government are working with their officers in Uganda, co-operating with the Ugandan Government to bring the maximum effect locally. I do not have details of precisely what is happening on the ground, but general DfID policy is to work with voluntary organisations in-country. That is happening in Uganda.

Sudan: Darfur

11.29 am

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, discussions on Sudan at the African Union summit focused on implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement in the light of the fighting in Abyei in May, and of course we discussed Darfur and Chad-Sudan relations. Evidently strong, effective UN missions must be part of the response to the conflicts in Sudan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. While 95 per cent of Abyei was burnt to the ground and 60,000 people were displaced, precisely what role was the international peacekeeping force playing? What inquiry is being conducted by the Security Council into the failure to protect and deter, and to consider a current mandate for the peacekeeping force? What are the implications for Darfur, where exactly one year after resolution 1769 was passed we are still not up to half the level of the proposed peacekeeping force? What is the noble Lord’s assessment of the long-term implications for the comprehensive peace agreement of the events which have occurred in Abyei?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on keeping Sudan in front of us. In Abyei, evidently the peacekeepers were unable to prevent the devastating fighting between the two communities. There are limits of mandate, but also limits of equipment which prevented peacekeepers effectively intervening. We have sought to improve the mandate. We also note that they have done a better job of co-ordinating the delivery of humanitarian assistance since the Security Council asked the UN Secretary-General to investigate what happened.

As to the noble Lord’s second point, he is correct that deployment in Darfur is still way below the level we expected by this time.

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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, as the Minister has been at the centre of things, can he explain why the UN negotiators have chucked in their hand and resigned, and when a new mediator will be appointed? Why has the African Union force still less than half the troops in place—10,000 not 26,000? Why do they not have the right equipment? Why, which is particularly frustrating, are Britain, France and the United States being blamed for this fiasco? What can we do to put things on a better path as the atrocities and the killings continue, in some places worse than ever before?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the UN has for a long time been seeking a new chief mediator to work more full time on the Darfur problem than the two current mediators, who have remained engaged to this point. Mr Bassolé, until now the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, is felt to be well placed to lead the mediation effort.

A lot of the violence in Darfur has been stimulated by cross-border attacks by Chad and Sudan on each other’s territory, usually through the surrogates of rebel movements. We are seeking to find ways to diminish, if not solve, that conflict. The noble Lord is right: there continues to be a very high level of displaced people, violence and insufficient UNAMID forces deployed. We continue to press to correct that.

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the many good initiatives for genuine peace in Darfur? Concordis International organised a conference last week in Cambridge for the Darfuran leaders. There is a British Muslim peace and reconciliation initiative in Darfur. How can these small initiatives be co-ordinated to help with the EU, UN, AU and our Prime Minister’s peace initiatives?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his role in trying to bring Muslim civil society groups together in Sudan. I add that other eminent British leaders, many with Sudanese and African connections, are similarly engaged. Mr Mo Ibrahim, the founder of the award for good governance in Africa, is also pressing to bring these different initiatives together, with the intention of giving civil society in Darfur a voice and the ability to deploy its demand for peace on rebel leaders who seem much more willing to allow this conflict to continue to advance their own political interests. We hope that the combined pressure of civil society will lead to a consolidated rebel position, which we can then bring to the Government of Sudan to ensure, under UN auspices, long-overdue effective peace negotiations.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the appointment of a UN chief mediator, Mr Bassolé, was certainly good news. I wish him every success in his efforts. Is it realistic for the head of UN peacekeeping to say that UNAMID will have 20,000 troops and police on the ground by the end of the year, considering that after six months it has managed to increase the total to only just over 9,000? During his stay in Africa, did the noble Lord manage to speak to President Déby to urge him to enter into peace negotiations with President al-Bashir,

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bearing in mind that the undeclared proxy war between the two countries is one of the main causes of instability and violence in the region? Did the Minister also persuade President Déby to acknowledge that the European Union force is there to protect civilians, not to engage in military action against the rebel National Democratic Alliance?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, on the latter point, we have been clear in all our public comments that the role of the European Union force is to protect IDPs and it cannot be drawn into the political conflict between Chad and Sudan. I did not, in a very busy set of meetings, have the opportunity to press President Déby directly, but others from Europe did. There is no doubt that we are working collectively to see if we can support a Libyan and Senegalese initiative to find a peace agreement that will hold between Sudan and Chad.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that since the conflict in Abyei, the town of Lietnhom in nearby Bahr-el-Ghazal, which I visited in January, has been attacked with heavy weapons and a further 45,000 people have been displaced? The attack is not even on our radar screens. What are UNMIS, the Assessment and Evaluation Commission and the international community doing to prepare for, anticipate and mitigate further outbreaks of conflict?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, in Sharm el-Sheikh I met Mr Deng Alor the prominent SPLM leader, who is also Foreign Minister of Sudan. We discussed the situation in Abyei in some depth. He did not raise with me the issue of the attacks on the other community that the noble Baroness mentioned, but we will certainly investigate them. We have been using the CPA, which is now chaired by a British citizen, Sir Derek Plumbly, a distinguished former Foreign Office diplomat, to try to ensure progress in addressing the roots of this conflict and to reach a deal on the border and on oil royalties. Both issues need to be resolved if this conflict is to be prevented from reigniting.


11.37 am

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it may be helpful to the House if I outline the plan for the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill, which I expect to be introduced in another place today. The other place should complete its consideration of the Bill late on Tuesday 8 July. Our Second Reading of the Bill has been scheduled for Thursday 10 July, immediately after Oral Questions. This will be followed by further consideration in Committee of the Pensions Bill. The Committee stage of the anonymity Bill will be held immediately after Oral Questions on Tuesday 15 July. The Public Bill Office has agreed to accept any amendments for the Committee stage as soon as the Bill has arrived from the Commons. I trust that this will be helpful. The Report and Third Reading will be taken formally immediately after the Committee stage.

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The House will then consider the Second Reading of the Planning Bill. As ever, I am grateful for the assistance of the usual channels and the House authorities in helping to agree these plans at a particularly busy time of the year.

Finance Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2008

Immigration (Supply of Information to the Secretary of State for Immigration Purposes) Order 2008

Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) (Amendment No. 2) Order 2008

Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (Designation of Participating Countries) (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) Order 2008

Immigration (Biometric Registration) (Civil Penalty Code of Practice) Order 2008

Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations 2008

11.39 am

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the six Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft orders and regulations be referred to a Grand Committee.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

World Food Prices

11.39 am

Lord Taverne rose to call attention to the effects of rises in world food prices; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I start by declaring an interest and emphasising an absence of a special interest. First, I am chair of the charity Sense About Science, which is dedicated to promoting an evidence-based approach to the public discussion of scientific issues. Secondly, in the light of some of the remarks I shall make later, I declare a lack of any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, personally or through Sense About Science, in any agribusiness.

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It is hard to exaggerate the harmful impact of the rise in the prices of certain basic crops on many parts of the developing world. I shall focus on its effects in Africa because that is where they will be most devastating. Last year, wheat prices rose by 77 per cent and rice by 16 per cent, and since January this year rice prices have more than trebled. The effect on those who live on $2 a day is nothing less than catastrophic. But the rise in prices is a symptom of a wider problem: the demand for food and the supply are getting out of balance.

It is often said that there is no shortage of food in the world and that we do not need more efficient agriculture because it is only a problem of distribution. In fact, demand is rising rapidly, and over the next 40 to 50 years we shall need to double or treble the world's food production. Some 850 million people are now badly undernourished. By the middle of this century there will be about 3 billion more mouths to feed. We are also beginning to see the effect of a welcome rise in living standards in India and China. Consumption of meat in China rose nearly fourfold between 1980 and 2003 and it is still rising. Of course this has meant a huge rise in the demand for grain to feed the extra livestock. At the same time supply has been affected by several factors: the dash for biofuels, the rising cost of energy, and an increasing shortage of good farming land, particularly in Africa, which suffers from depletion of soil nutrients, soil erosion and desertification. Global warming is likely to make the shortage of land and the problems of farmers in Africa even worse. Unlike the rest of the world, food production per head in Africa has been declining in the past 20 years or more, and so has consumption. So the prospects are dire.

What can be done? The problem is not shortage of aid. Per head of population, Africa receives about three times as much aid as any other developing region. About 13 per cent of the entire GDP of the average sub-Saharan country consists of foreign aid. Obviously, at times of famine and emergency, there is need for immediate food aid, but in two vital areas help is either severely reduced or more or less non-existent. One area is family planning. I have raised the population issue in this House before. Just to illustrate the point: the drastic reduction in aid for family planning has meant that in Uganda, for instance, the population is expected to rise from 25 million to 120 million by the middle of this century. But that is not my subject today.

The second area, surprisingly and depressingly, is the virtual collapse in aid for the development of agriculture, particularly the vital help that science can bring to enable farmers to grow their own crops. In 1980, 25 per cent of America’s official development aid was for the development of agriculture. By 2003, it was 1 per cent. The record of European countries is not much better. The percentage of our bilateral aid that goes to agriculture has dropped from 11.4 per cent to 4.1 per cent. Germany’s is now 2.9 per cent; France’s is 2.2 per cent. As Mr Wolfowitz confessed when he was head of the World Bank,

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Support for the official organisation on which most R&D in agriculture in Africa now depends, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has also declined, leaving it severely short of funds. The recent forum in Rome may lead to some renewal of aid for developing countries, but most commentators found the results of the forum deeply disappointing. Why on earth has this happened? Helping people to grow their own food is far more important than making them dependent on food aid. As Dean Swift famously said,

I regret to say that one main cause of this decline is the influence exercised by many leading NGOs. The developed world has benefited hugely from modern agriculture. Cheaper and healthier food has been one reason why we live far healthier and much longer lives than our ancestors. Of course, modern industrial farming causes problems, the latest of which is perhaps obesity, but these are far outweighed by benefits that we take for granted.

Unfortunately, NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and advocates of organic farming have persuaded most African Governments that they must avoid the technologies from which we have benefited. There are exceptions: Oxfam International has denounced the decline in aid for agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa, and FARM-Africa is an excellent NGO with no prejudice against science and technology. However, most NGOs have sought to keep, and have succeeded in keeping, science out of African agriculture. The chief scientist of Greenpeace, for example, has argued that the de facto organic status of African smallholders—who cannot, of course, afford the use of fertilisers—gives them a wonderful opportunity to avoid the switch to chemicals, even though he acknowledges that this would increase production. He argues that it would lead to degradation of the soil in the longer term. In fact, there is no excess of nitrogen in the soil in Africa; it is being removed at an annual rate of 22-26 kilograms per hectare. Excessive fertiliser may be a problem for wealthy countries, but Africa desperately needs more. Yet NGOs urge Africa to stay organic.

I do not question the idealism of the organic movement. My main objection is that organic farming means less efficient use of land—the last thing the world needs today. Organic food costs more. Why? Not because organic farmers try to rook the public by charging higher prices, but because its yields are lower than those of conventional farming. As the distinguished Indian biotechnologist C.S. Prakash has said:

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