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There are encouraging signs. The European Union has agreed to set up the EU-LAC Foundation, whose aim is to strengthen EU-Latin American partnership and to encourage further knowledge and understanding between us. The new coalition Government have appointed the honourable Member for Taunton as Minister of State for Latin America, and I know that he is approaching his responsibility with all the relish and enthusiasm that the noble Viscount could wish for.

No doubt, Canning exaggerated a little in 1825 when he famously claimed:

"I have called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old".

That balance has yet to be redressed and I call on our Latin American friends to do just that, and on our Government and the European Union to support them in that endeavour.

12.35 pm

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, for instigating this debate. Unlike the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, I do not have their in-depth knowledge of Latin America. However, like both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, I have a great love for Latin America and its people.

I fell in love with Latin America when I attended Essex University in the 1970s as a mature student. I joined the school of comparative government, and because I knew very little about Latin America, I chose to compare the Government of the UK with those in Latin America to learn more about the region. Brazil was the major country that I studied, but I also covered Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Colombia. After my first lecture, I was hooked on the glories of this continent, and I remain so today. I am pleased to see the Minister on the coalition Front Bench to listen and respond to this debate. As the former chair of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Latin America Group, and now one of its vice-chairs, I sincerely hope that Latin America will move higher up the political agenda.

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Despite the efforts of a number of very good and knowledgeable Ministers in the previous Government who had responsibility for Latin America, including the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, in this House and Chris Bryant in the other place, it was not as high a priority as many of us would have wished. Of course I recognise that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took-and in the latter case, continue to take-a great deal of government time, energy and resources. However, I was disappointed at what I felt was a lack of recognition of the potential of this continent, and how investment and closer working relationships could benefit the UK and individual Latin American countries. I know that a number of their ambassadors based in the UK felt as I did. I am hopeful that the present Government will wish to build on the relationships which exist currently, with the aim of even closer working relationships in the future.

I have been lucky enough to visit Bolivia in 2009, and Cuba in 2009 and earlier this year. Both countries are progressing, despite the difficulties that they face. Bolivia is a fascinating country where the Evo Morales Government came to power in 2006 in a blaze of glory. For the first time, the indigenous peoples of Bolivia were included in the Government and they look forward to greater involvement in all walks of Bolivian life. As I have said previously in this Chamber, when our delegation met the Bolivian people last year we realised that their expectations may be higher than any Government could satisfy in a relatively short space of time. To some extent, this has proved to be accurate. Despite the fact that Bolivia's economy has managed to perform well during the global economic downturn-a point to which I shall return-there have been signs of unrest among the working people in Bolivia.

On May Day this year, the Central Obrera Boliviana-the COB-Bolivia's trade union confederation, called an indefinite strike and organised a march on the city of La Paz. This followed a dispute over salaries and new pension laws. The march began in Caracollo, 200 kilometres from La Paz. The Government were offering a public sector pay rise of 5 per cent-well over the current level of inflation-but the COB rejected this and also called for the retirement age to be reduced to 55. The large march consisted mainly of factory workers, miners and teachers. The powerful peasant union did not participate; instead, it supported the Government. An agreement was reached to lower the general retirement age to 58 and to 51 for miners, although their pensions are still under discussion. Does this seem a little familiar?

There has been tension in Bolivia between the La Paz regions and those in and close to Santa Cruz since the Morales Government took power. The governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas, is the main political opponent of President Morales. When we visited in 2009, the tension was almost tangible. However, there are signs that things may be improving. This month the two leaders have met, in both La Paz and Santa Cruz, and the President has promised to help to facilitate new loans to the department responsible for road building and development projects. It is hoped, therefore,

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that a warmer and more positive relationship will develop between these two vital regions for the Bolivian economy.

I mentioned the economy earlier, and this is proving a positive force in Morales's political and social reforms. He came to power promising a rise in living standards for the majority of the Bolivian people. Although Bolivia remains a poor and unequal country, the rates of relative and extreme poverty have, over recent years, shown improvement. Political and structural reforms appear to be working.

Bolivia recorded the highest rate of economic growth in the western hemisphere in 2009 in the midst of the global economic downturn. According to figures from the Bolivian National Institute of Statistics, economic growth in 2009 was 3.36 per cent. This compares favourably with other countries in the region that are much larger than or equally as large as Bolivia and are possibly more forward-going, such as Brazil and Mexico. That is an impressive achievement given many of the external conditions affecting the economy, mainly as a result of the financial crisis. These include falling remittances, limited foreign investment, the cancellation by the United States of trade preferences and export prices declining for part of the year.

That follows a trend of sound macroeconomic management that has seen Bolivia's economy perform consistently well since the Morales Government came to power. In 2008, for example, Bolivia's GDP grew by 6.1 per cent. The country also managed to keep inflation low in 2009, at 0.26 per cent. This follows higher inflation rates in 2008, partly due to trends of rising global food prices and high oil prices.

One of the first major reforms carried out by the Morales Government on taking office was the nationalisation of the oil and gas industry. The Bolivian state took ownership of all oil and gas reserves, and foreign investors were asked to renegotiate their operating contracts. The new contracts increased taxes paid on income from sales of gas from 18 to 50 per cent, thus returning to the situation prior to privatisation. Indeed, our 2009 delegation visited BG Bolivia, as it is now called, and its relationship with the Bolivian Government seemed to be both constructive and working. This nationalisation continues. In May this year, an electricity generator owned by a British company, Rurelec, was nationalised. The Bolivian Government have given assurances that adequate compensation will be paid, and in a statement that he made on 2 June the Rurelec chairman, Jimmy West, expressed confidence that that would happen.

I turn now to the other country that I have recently visited-Cuba. One of the more important things about Cuba is that its constitution gives the Cuban people certain rights, including the right to work, to a house, to education, to health and to safety in their environment. I want to speak briefly about Cuba's healthcare system and share a little anecdote about it. Its health service is renowned throughout the world for its advanced medical capabilities. Cuba exports its doctors, in particular, to many other countries in Latin America and further afield, and is rightly proud of so doing. However, it is the healthcare of its own people that is quite outstanding. The health of its people, and

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especially its young people, is obvious to anyone who travels around Cuba. This is because, although the adult population faces the problems of food rationing-mainly because of the continuing American blockade, which the UK Government do not support-the young in Cuba get a regular supply of eggs, milk, cheese, meat and vegetables to ensure their fitness.

On my first visit to Cuba, I visited a healthcare centre in a tiny village in the centre of the island. Cuba provides a healthcare centre in each small grouping of houses. The doctor and his family lived in the upper apartment, and the nurse and her family in the lower one. On the whitewashed walls of the waiting room, there were graphics explaining how women should examine their breasts for the first signs of breast cancer. There were also a great many leaflets about other medical conditions. After talking to the medical staff, we were asked whether we would like to see the garden. Slightly puzzled but not wishing to appear rude to our hosts, we agreed. What the nurse wanted to show us were the herbs that they still use for some ailments, just as we used to do. So, from the specialist hospitals in Havana-for example, those dealing in eye or brain surgery-to the smallest medical house in the countryside, the Cubans have a wide degree of medical care, including their herb gardens. Perhaps somewhere along our way of providing medical care, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water.

We will be hearing a great deal about this diverse continent in the debate and, as always, I will learn a lot. I am well aware of the darker side of Latin America: the drugs and human trafficking; the political corruption, which has to be fought and sometimes fought again; and the potential for natural disasters such as floods and/or earthquakes, which is ever present. However, today I have chosen two more positive examples of Latin America and I hope that they have added to the debate.

12.47 pm

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, perhaps I may say how delighted I am to be the prelude to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and how much we look forward to his contributions to the House and admire the alacrity with which he has engaged with the business of the House today.

The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, is famous for his championing of Latin America, and today is an opportunity for us to share in his enthusiasm. It is excellent that within the first weeks of the coalition Government, we should have had a debate on the millennium development goal of universal private education and now, today, a debate on developments in Latin America-a continent where, in spite of its great economic progress and cultural achievements, 44 per cent of its population still live in poverty.

Although Brazil is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and an increasingly important player on the international stage, Latin America is a region of marked contrasts and extremes. Seventy-five per cent of the population of Latin America live in expanding urban areas. The urban poor live in vast cities with low incomes and poor access to clean water and sanitation.

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The rural poor live in remote areas with inadequate infrastructure and little law enforcement.

I was very heartened to read the coalition Government's paper, The Coalition: Our Programme for Government-Freedom, Fairness, Responsibility. In it, we read this commitment:

"We will support reform of global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in order to increase the involvement of developing nations".

That work is long overdue.

Travelling in Latin America and central America, I have come across stories of the developing nations feeling disempowered by the international bodies. In Honduras, I listened to local people resisting the pressure from international bodies to divide up their forests under the slogan of land rights, saying that they would rather keep them in common ownership and live their traditional way of life owning the forest as a community. I have sailed up the Patuka river in a dug-out canoe; I have flown over the Mosquitia rain forest; and I have seen the courageous resistance of native people resisting both the illegal logging and the international pressure to change their way of life fundamentally. What is the Government's strategy to ensure that the voice of developing nations is heard in these international bodies, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? It would be wonderful if in 2010, as we mark the bicentenary of the independence movement, we could see real progress in that direction.

In the past 50, years central America has lost 80 per cent of the rain forest. Globally every minute we lose an area of rain forest the size of 15 football pitches. Whatever view noble Lords take of the changing climate, this is simply unsustainable. One of the most forest-ravaged regions of the world is Latin America. A few years ago I was in Brazil on a symposium with leading scientists and religious leaders looking at the future of the Amazon rain forest. Under the leadership of President Lula, much is being done to protect the biodiversity of the region and to ensure that the rain forest is preserved as a global utility. This cannot be done by Latin America alone; it requires international agreement. We came very near to it at Copenhagen but then fell short of securing such an agreement. Our eyes now turn to the UNFCCC in Cancun later this year but the voices of Latin America must be heard as loudly as the consuming nations.

I pay tribute to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for his rain forest initiative. He visited Latin America last year, and his insistence on bringing them to the table as equal partners in his initiative offers a model for international co-operation and agreement. Will the Government approach the Cancun conference with a full briefing from those involved in the Prince's rain forest initiative? I believe that that would be a major contribution to the development and well-being of Latin America. The forests are worth more alive than dead. If they die, so will Latin America, but if they live, that continent will flourish as will the whole world because the forests are indeed the lungs of the earth.

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12.53 pm

Lord Liddle: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool for his kind remarks and I am delighted to deliver my maiden speech in this debate, which I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has pushed so hard to have.

Before my introduction on Monday, I felt that I sort of knew the House of Lords quite well. Until his death two years ago, my father-in-law, George Thomson, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, had been a Member for many years. My brother-in-law, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, speaks for the Liberal Democrat Front Bench from time to time. When it comes to the debate on the composition of the House, if I am not exactly strongly in support of the hereditary principle we have at least tried to keep it in the family. For good measure, my history tutor at Oxford, my noble friend Lord Morgan, is also a new colleague, which I am delighted about.

Still, on Monday, I was rather like a nervous school boy-the 11 year-old on my first day at Carlisle grammar school with all the fears of the mysterious rituals and initiation rites that were to follow. My nervousness has been much allayed by the kindness and warmth with which I have been greeted-not just by my fellow Peers, but from the House staff whose courtesy and helpfulness in dealing with new Members is quite wonderful. I want to put on record my heartfelt thanks to them.

Some may be surprised that I have chosen to make my maiden speech in a debate on Latin America. I spent 10 years of my early life in local government as a councillor in Oxford and then Lambeth. I remain a firm believer in local democracy and am against overcentralisation. I am passionate about economic development of the regions. As a lad from Cumberland whose father was a railway clerk and grandfather a miner, it is matter of great pride to me to be the chair of our local economic partnership, Cumbria Vision, and I hope to join a strong Cumbrian contingent voicing the needs of Cumbria in this House.

From my work in No 10 and Brussels, I care deeply about the future of the European Union. I believe that all of Europe, Britain included, is the winner if we can work together to build a strong, integrated and dynamic single market, revitalise a social model to which many in the rest of the world aspire, and become an effective force for good in our new multipolar world.

That brings me to Latin America. I was brought up on Tip O'Neill's famous political adage, "All politics is local", but I now believe that all politics is also global. The task is to build a new politics of sustainable globalisation. Think how the banking crisis, immigration and terrorism shaped the debates at the recent general election. Think what the coalition Government have decided in the past week or so. I am not trying to make a party point but simply wish to offer a reflection. They have no alternative but to obey the dictates of financial markets to bring down the public deficit quickly. In other words, we have no sovereignty as a Government or a people to challenge the need for 25 per cent cuts in our main public services. That is what Latin America suffered at the hands of the IMF under the Washington consensus in the 1980s and 1990s. We all have to strive somehow for a better global way.

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I first became interested in Latin America as a result of an initiative that Tony Blair and President Clinton took to set up an international network of progressive centre-left leaders in which key Latin American countries took a keen interest. The think tank, Policy Network, that I now chair and which was chaired previously by my noble friend Lord Radice, is about helping to build that progressive network. In 2003, we had a conference in London which Presidents Lagos of Chile, Kouchner of Argentina and Lula of Brazil came as honoured guests. In the past three years, I have twice been to events led by the Chileans and President Bachelet.

For progressives, Latin America has made impressive strides in the past decade. Democracy has replaced dictatorship, the ballot box and the military junta, and remarkable social progress has been achieved. While the Governments of progressive Latin America are not slaves to the market, they have come to terms with the market and shown how they can redistribute its rewards in progressive ways. When Pinochet left office in Chile, 40 per cent of Chileans lived below the poverty line. Now the figure is only 12 or 13 per cent. The number of young people going to university in the past 20 years has risen from 10 per cent to 40 per cent. When the right-wing candidate for president won the election this year, there was a peaceful transition marred only by the calamity of that awful earthquake.

In a way, the Latin American progressives are the perfect exemplars of my noble friend Lord Giddens's third way. In foreign policy, they do not wish to be the lackeys of the United States. They are never going to sign up to some modern version of the Monroe doctrine, and they may even be a bit wary of President Obama's more sympathetic multilateralism, as we see from Brazil's recent vote in the Security Council on sanctions against Iran. Domestically, however, they are searching for means of social progress that avoid the painful injustices and extremes of American free-market capitalism.

In my experience, that makes them very interested in the European model. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, that they have not made a lot of progress beyond the nation state, but I have found many Latin Americans who are interested in the possibilities of regional integration on the European pattern and are trying to learn from our experience. I believe that Europe has a real opportunity for influence there, but, as in so many areas, the European Union has yet to fulfil that potential. Part of that is about getting our act together in Europe and recognising that as nation states alone, we have limited power in the new world that is emerging. We have to get our act together. That is particularly true in diplomatic representation, given the huge economies which are having to be made in the British embassy network as a result of the present financial crisis.

When we speak the language of multipolarity, we as Europeans must recognise that that means a shift in the balance of power in the world. Let us take the IMF. If we are to tackle the global imbalances that still threaten financial stability, we desperately need to bring all the emerging big economies of the world on board within the IMF structure to make it truly representative of the world as it now is. The EU

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member states' insistence-this is not just a problem of Britain, it is a problem of all the big member states-on maintaining their gross over-representation on the IMF's councils stands in the way of that necessary power shift

Let us take free trade and Doha. The Latin Americans hesitate to lower their tariffs on Europe's high value-added exports while their food exports are denied access to European and American markets. Brazil is hugely competitive in agricultural products such as sugar and beef, but the US and EU are both reluctant to adjust to that, although the overall impact on our growth prospects and economies would be favourable.

Finally, let us take climate change. We simply cannot lecture the Latin Americans on their growing carbon emissions and destruction of forests while we in the industrialised world fail to tackle the problems of industrialisation that are our legacy and our responsibility. The EU must make itself the global leader in low-carbon transition. I believe that that would be a sustainable platform for recovery.

In conclusion, it is a great privilege to speak in this House for the first time. If I may express a personal regret, it is that my parents narrowly missed being alive to see it. I hope that for all my time in this place, I will continue to speak truly to the values of social democracy and internationalism that they imbued in me.

1.04 pm

Lord Giddens: My Lords, I join the queue of other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, on instigating this debate and on all the work that he does to improve the relationship between the UK and Latin America. I especially congratulate my noble friend Lord Liddle on his wonderful maiden speech, demonstrating such intellectual power and coverage. He does not hang around, as he has only been formally inducted into your Lordships' House for three days. Perhaps I may say, given his impetuous nature, "Why did you wait so long?".

I have known and worked with my noble friend for many years and I can vouch for his collegiality and for the power of his intellect. He has enormous in-depth knowledge of British politics and of the European Union-qualities on display in his maiden speech-having served in the European Trade Commission and having been for some years adviser on the European Union to the former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He has also written widely in those areas. He will be a marvellous addition to your Lordships' House, and I hope that your Lordships will join me in offering him a very warm welcome.

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