§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Viscount Caldecote rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Overseas Aid [1st Report, 1989–90, HL Paper 16]
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it is a privilege to introduce this report on overseas aid which has been prepared by your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology. The contribution of science and technology to development is crucial. As
the Royal Society commented, excellence in this field,
is a cornerstone of sustainable development".
§ I emphasise the word "sustainable" which runs through the whole of this report. I should like to thank all those who gave evidence to the committee, both oral and written, and all those who received the committee overseas and at the Overseas Development Natural Resources Institute at Chatham. They gave us a very warm welcome and made extremely efficient arrangements for our visit.
§ In passing, I should like to say how impressed we were with the ODNRI at Chatham and with the work that it is doing in support of the ODA. I pay tribute to the members of the committee who worked extremely hard, contributing so much from their very wide experience. I am also most grateful for the dedicated work of our specialist adviser and our clerk who sifted through an enormous amount of written evidence and who drafted the report for us.
§ It was a very wide subject and it was impossible to visit all the countries involved. Some of us visited Nigeria, Ghana and India. We fully appreciate the danger of drawing general conclusions from these few visits. We asked the representatives of many recipient countries for their comments on the aid provided and it was encouraging to find that there was virtually no critical comment at all from those sources.
In order to limit the scope of the inquiry, the committee concentrated principally on bilateral aid. We noted the statement of aims of overseas aid given by Her Majesty's Government in reply to a report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in 1987 which stated:
the aim is to promote sustainable economic and social progress and alleviate poverty in developing countries. This is entirely compatible with also serving our political, industrial and commercial interests".
§ In conducting its investigations into the scientific and technological aspects of overseas aid, the committee worked on the basis that in technical co-operation, as defined in paragraph 2.1, the interests of developing countries should always have priority in those few cases where any conflict arises between the interests of the recipient country and those of the United Kingdom. That does not imply that a reasonable proportion of programme aid— that is, direct financial support for essential imports— should not be tied to the purchase of United Kingdom products. But that raises issues far outside the scope of our investigation.
§ The essential contribution of science and technology to overseas aid was widely recognised. The committee saw as its principal task investigating as to whether this knowledge was properly and efficiently applied in our overseas aid programme, costing some £ 1.25 billion per annum. As indicated in the report, the committee concluded that the money is on the whole well spent and that those responsible for implementing the policy of the ODA are most dedicated in their work and carry it out in a competent and responsible way.
§ The evidence which we received both during our overseas visits and from other sources fully confirms 426 that view. The committee welcomed the very constructive part played by the British Council, which acts in many cases as an agent for the ODA, though, as indicated in paragraph 8.23, we believe that it would be wise to define more clearly the relationship between these two organisations. We saw them working very effectively together. But we felt that satisfactory working relationships relied very much on close and satisfactory personal relationships. Some formalisation of the relationships would be advantageous.
§ Despite the overall favourable view which your committee formed, we believe that there are a number of ways in which the effectiveness of the overseas aid programme can be further improved. The true measure of its success must be the extent to which it contributes to the building of local capability leading to a sustainable and constructive partnership between the less developed and the industrialised countries. To this end the contribution which science and technology can make to building a soundly based, scientific and technological infrastructure and improving local know-how and expertise is crucial. That will not only enable urgent local problems such as crop disease to be identified and solved but will also progressively lessen the need for overseas aid and help the recipient countries to be self-supporting.
§ On the whole, big capital projects such as road building, telecommunications and power stations are not the subject of bilateral aid but are carried out on a multilateral basis with supporting funds from such organisations as the World Bank. But the proper application of science and technology can make an enormous contribution to improving educational and research facilities within the recipient countries, so adding to the effectiveness of all types of aid.
§ During our visits to Ghana and Nigeria we saw many examples of this kind of aid to educational and research institutions. But clearly much remains to be done. Many institutions had little or no modern equipment. We were concerned to note that in too many cases the balance between the resources devoted to the training of scientific and technical manpower and the provision of adequate facilities was not optimised. For instance, we saw several examples of high-quality laboratory equipment that could not be used because it had not been adequately maintained due to the lack either of spare parts or of trained people to carry out the maintenance work, or both.
§ The fact is that well-trained people will not be attracted, and, even if they are, they cannot do good work if they are not provided with facilities of a reasonable standard. Nor can modem equipment be efficiently utilised unless there are trained people to operate and maintain it. So we concluded that considerably more attention needs to be given by the ODA to achieving a better balance between those requirements.
§ We were also concerned to note the serious lack of up-to-date technical publications in many establishments which we visited. Many of the technical publications were several years old and 427 therefore of little value. We recommend that further urgent attention should be given to this problem, particularly by the British Council acting as the agent for the ODA.
§ The committee also saw examples of the use of inappropriate technology which was very often too sophisticated for local needs. For instance, in Ghana we saw a small water supply scheme which was the subject of overseas aid. The mechanism for opening the valves from the small reservoir was operated by a complex system of pneumatic equipment. There were back-up handwheels which were used when the equipment did not work. Indeed, that pneumatic equipment had never worked and it was quite unnecessary. That is an example of wasted resources from using inappropriate technology.
§ The solution to the problem is not as easy as it may appear, since if relatively simple equipment is provided the recipients may feel that they are being palmed off with something cheap and nasty whereas they should have the best that is available. Therefore, there is an educational problem to be undertaken so as to make the best use of available resources.
§ One of the reasons that makes overseas aid necessary for lesser developed countries is the lack of foreign currency to purchase their needs. Therefore, it is vital to do everything possible to enable the countries to meet more of their own needs. In this, the application of the appropriate technology in manufacture is of supreme importance. The committee was impressed by the work being done by the Intermediate Technology Development Group. We welcome most warmly the continuing support from the ODA for the work of this well-organised charity.
§ Even greater attention should be given by the ODA to expanding work of this kind which can do so much to help the sustainable development of the economy of the recipient countries. The committee noted that many of those working in the overseas aid field served in the former Colonial Service and therefore had wide experience of the problems and local customs in lesser developed countries. That source of recruitment is now drying up. It is essential to make sure that it is replaced by bringing on younger people and giving them the appropriate training.
§ Stronger links should also be forged with the younger generation in recipient countries and there is a need for more funds to be made available for scholarships of all kinds. If full value is to be obtained through such scholarships from those who are trained in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, it is essential to maintain contact with them on a long-term basis both in their own interests of continuing education and traning and also in the interests of the United Kingdom in providing better opportunities for British industry to meet the needs of developing countries.
§ In general the committee concluded that more can be done by the ODA in producing clearly formulated policies and priorities and better communications with other donor organisations. There also appears to be a somewhat inadequate use of other sources of 428 expertise. We therefore recommend, in paragraph 6.11, that a panel of advisers should be set up. During our investigation we received evidence from many non-governmental organisations, mostly charities, and in our overseas visits we met representatives of some of them. We are delighted by the flexibility with which they can work in direct and sympathetic contact with those needing help. We were able to see at first hand one or two examples of the excellent work being done and were most impressed by its effectiveness and the dedication of those involved. We welcome most warmly the ODA's recognition of the value of these NGOs and the constructive financial support which it provides to them and which is so greatly appreciated.
§ Overall this was a most interesting investigation, somewhat different from the normal type of work carried out by your Lordships' Committee on Science and Technology. The conclusions and recommendations are clearly summarised in Part 9 of the report and so I shall not weary the House by repeating them. But I should like briefly to draw attention to a few significant ones which I did not cover earlier. In paragraph 9.7 we stress the value of collaborative effort, including joint research. In paragraph 9.18 we recommend that more explicit consideration should be given to the relative costs and benefits of training in-country or in the United Kingdom. In paragraph 9.27 we recommend that aid-related research and development should be continued if there is a clear need, even in the absence of a commercial market or sponsor, which may come later on when the work is further developed.
§ In paragraph 9.28 we draw attention to the importance of local institution building contributing to the supply of well-trained manpower in agriculture in Africa. In paragraph 9.44 we warn that excessive delegation of activities to external organisations, on a commercial basis, could create difficulties for the ODA in obtaining impartial advice unless an adequate core of expert advisers is maintained within the ODA.
§ Finally, it is a real pleasure to be able to give a warm welcome to the work of the ODA and to conclude that the money allocated to it is, overall, effectively used and controlled, accepting of course that our investigation was inevitably limited in scope. But it is a good principle to build on success and the committee was concerned to note that the United Kingdom's contribution to overseas aid is about 0.3 per cent. of the gross national product whereas the recommended OECD target is 0.7 per cent. That is achieved and indeed exceeded by several countries in the OECD, some of which are much smaller than ourselves. In paragraph 9.4 we recommend that the Government should make a firm commitment to move steadily towards this target as quickly as possible. This would be of real benefit not only to our own interests but to those of recipient countries whose needs are as great as ever. I conclude by noting that progress towards this higher contribution would be greatly facilitated by an increased output from our own manufacturing industry. I beg to move.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I must first ask the noble Lord the Minister and the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Ewart-Biggs, to forgive me if I have to slip away before the end of the debate. I hope to be able to stay to the end but I have to get away to catch a train.
I welcome the report and I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, and the committee for the thoroughness with which they have tackled a wide and diverse subject. The report refers to the all-pervasiveness of science and technology. How very true that is and how very true is the statement made in the report that it is sometimes very difficult to quantify the importance and the advantages of science and technology.
I shall start by making one or two brief references to aspects of the report. First, it refers to the work of the British Council, to which the noble Viscount has already referred. Having just returned from a visit to Latin America and having seen some of the work of the British Council on the ground, I should like to underline the importance which the report attaches to the work of this body. Its work in English language teaching is invaluable. But like all organisations the British Council is suffering from cuts in its budget. If it is to make its full contribution to the work of overseas development it is important that more funds are made available to it.
Secondly, the report refers to the importance of in-country training. It mentions primary health care as a case in point. This cannot be over-emphasised. The extent of the training need in the developing countries is so vast that it would be impossible to provide that outside the countries concerned. In any case it is important that the training should be made part of the country's infrastructure so that it can deal with the particular problems of that country.
Thirdly, the report refers to the danger of the ODA becoming too commercialised and expecting a return on projects. Again, I agree with the underlying principle behind this. The needs of the country must be paramount where aid is being given. On the other hand, from my limited observations in Latin America— I stress that they are limited observations— it seems to me that this is a largely neglected area and that there is tremendous scope for British investment and trade. Investment and trade could not be developed without the guiding hand of the Foreign Office and the expertise of the ODA.
I turn now to my main area of concern, which is population and development. I welcome in particular paragraphs 3.19 to 3.23 of the report which refer to population activities. I welcome especially paragraph 3.23, which says:Her Majesty's Government should seek increased action on the issue in international fora wherever possible. Support for multilateral and non-governmental initiatives should be increased".The paragraphs refer to the evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. Here I must declare an interest. Not 430 only am I a member of that group, but I also had the privilege of being part of the parliamentary delegation referred to in the evidence which visited India and Nepal last year. I was also a member of a very recent delegation to Ecuador and Mexico. In Ecuador the first part of the delegation's responsibility was to attend the Second Western Hemisphere Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development. That was followed by visits to projects in the two countries.
The report of your Lordships' Committee refers to the interaction between population growth and the environment; and indeed to economic development as a whole. Having seen this in two different parts of the globe, to me the need for more help in the field of science and technology and technical aid could not be more clear. I venture to say that the time for increased help is now ripe.
Despite the overwhelming problems that one sees on such visits, two optimistic themes emerged. One was the changed attitudes pervading, and the second was the fact that NGOs in particular— and I am glad that the noble Viscount and the report referred to the work carried out by these organisations— are beginning to get down to the grass roots of the problem.
The barometer for reading the changing atmosphere goes back to 1969 when I first visited East Africa. At that time the whole subject of family planning was absolutely taboo. The International Planned Parenthood Federation found itself having to work under cover because people were not allowed to set up local organisations. Women's moves towards emancipation were expressed through informal groups practising local handcrafts, thereby gaining a little financial assistance and independence through very inadequate baby and mother clinics.
In 1980 I attended the UN Mid-term Conference on the Decade of Women in Copenhagen. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, led the delegation. The conference was almost ruined by the combined efforts of the Third World, including a very vocal element from Latin America, and the East European countries, supported by the teachings of the Catholic Church, to resist what were termed as the attempts of Western imperialism to prevent the natural growth of population in the Third World.
In India last year the attitude changed. Although parliamentarians whom we met confessed that they were reluctant to take population and family planning issues on to the public platform, they nevertheless expressed support for action in this field and praised the work of voluntary organisations. In Quito in Ecuador two weeks ago, parliamentarians from country after country openly talked about the policies being pursued in their countries. Eleven of the countries represented are working to a population policy. That is an important concept. It is concerned not only with fertility and family planning; it is also concerned with the wider issues such as mortality and migration, which by the natural process of events take it into the areas of health, environment and economic development.
Regrettably, the problem now is far greater than when I first became acquainted with it in 1969. As 431 the Duke of Edinburgh said in his 1989 Dimbleby Lecture, starting from a population of 1 billion in the year 1800, in i960 the world population was estimated to have grown to 3 billion. By 1980 it was estimated at 4 billion, by 1987 it had grown to 5 billion and by the year 2000 it is expected to reach 6 billion. Forty per cent. of that population is under 15 years of age. Therefore, the momentum for population growth cannot be immediately stopped. However, it can be slowed down and it could be brought to replacement level. Provided adequate policies are pursued, it can be contained under the figure of 10 billion; but if adequate policies are not pursued, it will rise much beyond that figure.
The pressure on resources of this growth in the world population are incalculable. The toll in human misery and degradation is appalling. If we take women's health as an indicator, the chances of a woman dying from complications arising in pregnancy are: in Africa one in 21; in South America one in 73; in the Caribbean one in 140; in North America one in 6,366; and, in Europe the figure is one in 9,850. The statistics for child mortality are equally appalling. Yet, as I said, there is hope. The International Planned Parenthood Federation projects which the British delegation saw in Ecuador, in Mexico and in India last year give rise to that optimism. In India the projects were concerned with family planning and spacing, with family health, with women's literacy, with pest and parasite control and with small economic developments.
In Mexico the problems were somewhat different. In the whole of Latin America and in the Caribbean early sexual activity is a cultural feature. That creates enormous problems of teenage pregnancy, very often outside marriage, which is also a cultural feature. Here the emphasis has to be on sex education and healthy sex, together with the development of a community health network.
Mexfam, the IPPF agent in Mexico, provides technical and financial assistance, training, materials, educational information and contraceptive supplies to doctors to set up clinics in both rural and urban areas where no services exist. After two years the doctors are expected to have established themselves and become largely self-sufficient. In effect, they hold a franchise from Mexfam. Through this work Mexfam supports 150 such community doctors catering for 2,500 families. That is a very small number when we think of the total population of a country like Mexico, and the demand is insatiable. The need and the demand for contraceptive supplies is also much greater than the present usage.
The Select Committee report calls for greater resources to ODA. It also calls for greater help to the NGOs. In its evidence the population and development group asked that 2 per cent. of the aid which ODA gives to overseas countries should be devoted to population and development problems. That is the very minimum and much more is needed.
To meet the unmet demands as more and more women become aware of their ability to control their fertility, greater assistance is needed. I emphasise that it is needed by the NGOs which can cut through 432 the bureaucracy that sometimes attaches to governmental aid. There is also a need to support programmes, such as the WHO special programme on research into human reproduction which is essential if those unmet demands are to be satisfied, and satisfied in a way that is convenient and safe for the women involved.
There is no field in which the all-pervasiveness of science and technology is more apparent than in the field of population and development. I hope that the Select Committee's report and recommendations will be noted by the Government.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Thurlow
My Lords, it is my pleasure to open by paying a warm tribute to our chairman for the momentum which he enabled our sub-committee to maintain in its work despite the enormous scope of its studies. I should like to endorse his tribute to the quality and effectiveness of our clerk, Miss De Groose, and to the encyclopaedic knowledge of our specialist adviser, Mr. Barnett, who enabled us to keep abreast of knowledge.
I was pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, took as her main subject the crucial question of population in the context of overseas aid. Thirty years ago, when I first assumed some responsibility in the field of overseas aid, I puzzled over the apparent paradoxes of how one could justify the pouring of resources into attempts to assist developing countries when at that time it seemed that there was no possibility of population trends being arrested, with the effect that population would always outstrip increases in production. I used to be a doomster. I foresaw a scenario of inevitable decline in the world with aid as a minor mitigating factor only of relief. I am glad to say that I am no longer a doomster. I see an entirely different picture, a picture of a potential of sustainable development with the West priming the developing countries' pump.
We cannot take success for granted of course. It is a potential picture of hope. India, South East Asia and Africa can be countries with a modest improvement in their standard of living, and if that is to be realised, international aid will be an important, indeed perhaps a key, factor. The outcome will depend on population trends.
The Sub-Committee visited Nigeria. When I first served there some 25 years ago, the population was about 56 million. It is now over 100 million. It doubles every 15 years, and so in 30 years' time it is estimated that it will be 400 million. That growth is paralleled elsewhere in Africa with the prospect that the population of the continent, which was, in global terms, comparatively small, will rise to between 2 billion and 4 billion within 30 or 40 years.
The tradition of British development aid from its earliest years placed its main emphasis on technical co-operation, a term which embraced scientific skill and research. I am sure that that was right. It is tempting to put resources into striking projects of high publicity value and those can of course contribute massively to general economic progress. They can afford important markets for British exports. We rightly devote great efforts towards winning major development contracts, but as aid 433 resources are limited that must not be at the expense of our opportunities to help to build up skills. Whether the transfer of skill is by education here or by training in the recipient country, it is the single most valuable contribution that this country can make in the long term.
British aid should continue to be targeted mainly at the: transfer of skills at all levels. The Committee felt it necessary to issue a warning against short-termism. The committee had reservations about the current trend towards so-called projectisation; that is, identifying an objective and mounting a variety of attacks upon it with different kinds of skills. That is a useful means of ensuring an effective contribution in a specific field, but it would not be the best use of limited resources if that trend results in too little being available for the much more difficult but vital services directed at training and the transfer of skills. Those services are labour-intensive in administrative terms. They take a great deal of input of work in the ODA and the British Council, but that work is more than rewarded, and we should perhaps devote more administrative effort in the future than in the past towards creating a capability to meet specific training needs.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, said, one area of special importance is the grant of scholarships. The arithmetic that there are more overseas students now than before we jacked up overseas students' fees has limited significance. Those students come because they can afford to do so, not necessarily because they are the students who can best take advantage of the opportunity. Their parents can afford to send them. What we need most is to help to educate here the men and women who will be the leaders in their respective fields in their own countries in later years. We should increase the number of men and women educated in this country. It is much to be welcomed that last year Her Majesty's Government increased the funds for scholarships from India. I hope that there will be further increases in respect of India but also in other parts of the world. That is very much in our own long-term interest because anyone who has had anything to do with trade or other forms of relations abroad knows how very much easier it is to develop contacts fruitfully with people who know this country.
I wish now to turn to Africa. As the World Bank stated in a very impressive report published in November, Africa is a crisis continent. When we have heard the term "external aid" in the past few weeks, it has been mentioned principally in the context of Eastern Europe where a vast new requirement has suddenly emerged. That represents a new challenge to the resources of Western countries. I am sure your Lordships agree that it would be nothing less than a tragedy if meeting the needs of Eastern Europe resulted in a diversion of resources from the developing world.
Africa is indeed in crisis. Its crisis may be attributed largely to some of its own weaknesses and we do not shut our eyes to that. Many of the governments in Africa are still dedicated to half-baked, doctrinaire, Marxist, collectivist 434 policies. Many of the governments are corrupt, but there are important signs of change. One of the countries that we visited, Ghana, has been the pilot in a structural adjustment programme which involves increased payment trouble for the population for a number of years. Nevertheless, Ghana set itself to that programme and it is carrying it through. At last it is starting to improve its performance with, I am glad to say, our help and the help of the rest of the international community. That is an important lead. There is some ground for hope that other countries in the dark continent will follow.
The scenario is not one of despair because in recent years there have been signs of the possibility of a green revolution in Africa. That is not, of course, the same kind of green revolution as has made such a remarkable impact in Asia, but nevertheless research has been carried out that holds out the possibility for African countries to pursue at last methods that can result in production outstripping population. When we visited the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan we were shown some very impressive research which has proved that it is possible by particular methods of cultivation in so-called alleys between shrubs, to increase production enormously and also to solve problems of humidity and drought. Terracing and forestry pioneering in other parts of Africa are also showing how to solve ancient problems. These methods can be spread quickly only by a massive increase in agricultural advisory extension services. That presents difficulties as regards how donor countries can contribute, as there is not necessarily much external input of the foreign exchange that is needed. However, skills and training are also needed. That is probably the key to the solution of the food problem in Africa, if it is to be solved.
I now turn to the question of resources to which the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, and our report referred. The World Bank, in the review that I have mentioned, has concluded that there must be a substantial increase in net capital transfer in one form or another to the developing world if the serious slide towards catastrophe is to be avoided. Modest progress could be made. We are not talking just in terms of avoiding catastrophe. If the right policies are followed, there can be a modest improvement in living standards. That must be accompanied by strenuous and continued action on the part of the African governments themselves with their structural adjustments and a reversing of their policies which have discriminated against farmers. However, if donors generally can maintain the recent modest increases in the amount of resources moving towards Africa at a level of about 4 per cent. a year, the World Bank believes that the decline can be arrested, then levelled off and, finally, the bank believes there is a possibility of reducing aid to Africa. However, that may be a romantic dream.
My main point is that whereas for many years Asia and even Latin America have made significant progress, Africa has been a disaster area with apparently little hope. Now at last, for a combination of reasons, there are grounds for cautious hope. That should encourage us to maintain our contribution. The main effort must come from the countries 435 themselves and from their fanners but there is a need for increased effort as regards support and for an immense effort as regards education.
I conclude by stating that our own overseas aid is a comparatively small proportion of the total international picture. In the past we had rather inflated ideas of where we stood in terms of our contribution of resources. But it was impressed upon us when we visited India that our contribution is now a very modest proportion of international aid. Nevertheless, in terms of effectiveness it can still be enormously important. I would put it as high as to say that looking back over the past, British overseas aid can be regarded as 10 times as effective, pound for pound, in the field as the aid of other donors. Therefore, if we maintain this effectiveness and to some extent jack up our own resources, our contribution will remain of enormous importance in solving the problems of the third world.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord Butterworth
My Lords, I heard that the debate was to take place this afternoon only when I returned from Lesotho at the weekend. I have an inescapable engagement tonight and must therefore apologise if I am not able to stay until the end of the debate.
The core of our report consists of a series of recommendations aimed at raising the scientific and technical infrastructure of certain developing countries with which we have an aid relationship. Science and technical aid can only be successful if there are in the country concerned sufficient scientists and technologists who understand the nature of the science being introduced and know how to take advantage of it. Such an objective requires a long-term education and training relationship.
As the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, pointed out, that is in the best traditions of British aid. It requires a gradual transfer of skills and culture to create a sufficient compost— if I may put it that way— of scientists and technicians, and patient training and education at all levels. That is not spectacular but it requires greater expenditure of human effort rather than dramatic expenditure of large sums of money. It involves a partnership with the developing country, enabling that country itself to raise the standards of its own society.
To that end your Lordships' Committee, as my noble friend Lord Caldecote pointed out, commends the process of institution building. That requires many forms of education and training; but especially it requires links. It requires links between departments of universities and other institutions in this country and departments in the institutions which are being aided. As the staff in the linked departments come to know each other better over a period of time the link becomes more effective. The British staff come to know where help and advice is most needed, where training is most effective and which young members of staff could best be brought to this country for specialised experience not available to them in their own departments overseas.
436 Some evidence was submitted to us of a new method of organising aid being developed by the ODA under the title of "projectisation". More and more aid is being delivered in projects. A package of different contributions is assembled to tackle a discrete problem. For example, with a particular capital input there might be packaged a training element, a set of seminars and book presentations. That is fine for a major project where at the planning stage what is needed is known or can be worked out. However, the blanket application of projectisation to smaller aid projects, especially those of a continuous nature, could be unfortunate.
For example, take the case of an expert seconded to a particular ministry in a small country. After some time in the ministry he may conclude that what is needed is further training or that two or three people ought to be sent to Britain for specialised experience. Under the old system he would turn to the local British Council officer who would try to arrange what was needed quickly and immediately. Under the new system those additional inputs would have to be renegotiated through the byzantine projectisation procedure, accompanied by the preparation of project data sheets and an amended project framework. That is clearly unsuitable for smaller projects or aid of a continuous kind, of which the type we are concerned with this afternoon— the improvement of scientific and technical infrastructure— is an excellent example.
Many old-style programmes in which British Council officers played a significant part are being phased out because of projectisation. Your Lordships' Committee recommends that the book presentation scheme of the British Council should be extended, for it is often an economical and effective way of increasing scientific and technological know-how. At present the British Council can make book presentations to any organisation. However, I understand that after 1991 book presentations are to be confined to projects so that a presentation to an organisation not directly involved in a project will not be possible.
I repeat that projectisation may be excellent for major projects but for smaller and continuous aid objectives, such as the improvement of the scientific infrastructure, the project is unlikely to be the appropriate vehicle. Such aid must be deployed in a continuous and unspectacular fashion, frequently, in small amounts and over a long period. It involves encouraging relationships between institutions, involving many people in a series of connected but different enterprises, training at all levels, research projects and generally a continuous effort which needs to go much wider than science and technology itself.
Perhaps I may give one example. Much science is available only in the English language. Improvement in the use of English is therefore vital. Again, and more fundamentally, science and technology can only be successfully carried out upon a wide cultural base in the society. That means open studies, postal studies, continuation courses, lifelong education, training for leisure and training for pleasure. Science and technology can only thrive in a society which rests upon the broadest cultural base.
437 Of all developed countries Britain is uniquely placed to deliver that kind of aid. We alone of all developed countries have created that ominpresent and powerful instrument, the British Council. No other developed country has anything like it, its officers working on a personal basis in so many developing countries, with their peoples and their educational systems— schools, universities, colleges and other institutions. No other developed country has created such an effective system. Through it we can forge partnerships with developing countries to improve and secure their scientific and technical bases without which the important benefits of modern science can never be successfully transferred.
Perhaps I may make one final point. Our report is rather orthodox because it assumes that aid generally is a good thing and then proceeds to inquire into the effectiveness and efficiency of our scientific and technical aid. There is of course another view about aid pioneered by my noble friend Lord Bauer. That view has recently been powerfully endorsed by a chilling indictment of aid, especialy of multi-lateral aid through such agencies as the World Bank and the United Nations and its satellite organsiations. That assessment of aid is written by Graham Hancock in a book with the arresting title Lords of Poverty, published by my noble friend Lord Stockton.
According to Mr. Hancock, world aid business, which is now estimated to be running at about $60 billion a year, has developed so many fundamental defects that the whole system has become flawed. That System inevitably encourages larger and larger projects in organisations where promotion goes to those who can dispose of funds in ever increasing amounts, more highly priced technologies, more grandiose schemes and no consultation of the poor who will be affected and might well be damaged by those projects. The ODA should take care not to go too far along the road of projectisation lest it falls within the terrifying strictures of Graham Hancock's condemnation.
§ 5.32 p.m.
My Lords, as other speakers have said, this report is a welcome one. The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, and his colleagues are to be congratulated upon it and thanked for it. I regard it as a most important contribution to meeting one of the basic problems of overseas development. That problem is now to give the developing countries the benefit of modern science, but at the same time to ensure that that is done without imposing on them technologies which are suitable for the developed world but not for the under-developed world.
The Committee has warned us of that danger by saying, as it does on page 20, that the wrong technology can have disastrous effects. In a letter which it sent to the Committee, Oxfam gave a pertinent illustration of that difficulty. It said that it and other relief agencies had spent great sums on the purchase of vehicles which were used for the transport of supplies, but, when those vehicles arrived at their destination, they were worked on very difficult terrain for which they were not suited; 438 it was difficult to maintain them; they broke down; it was difficult to obtain spare parts; and, in consequence, a great deal of money was less effectively used than it should have been. Oxfam went on to suggest:ODA could play a much more dynamic role by offering Land Rover technical collaboration on a joint project to design a vehicle appropriate to the needs of poor countries".I suggest that that example and many others— the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, gave us an apt illustration of that problem when he spoke of the water supply system which he saw in Nigeria— provide a strong argument against undue tying of aid to British products and British services. I agree with Professor Hawkridge who is quoted in the report as saying that tying aid to the supply of domestically produced goods and services often leads to a choice of inappropriate technology.
The key words in that argument— I want to address myself to it— are "appropriate" and "inappropriate". In that connection, I was glad to see that the Committee had taken evidence, both oral and written, from the Intermediate Technology Development Group. I was glad to hear today from the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, that the Committee strongly commended the work of that organisation.
Perhaps I should here declare an interest, although most certainly not a financial interest, as I am one of the vice-presidents of that organisation. It did me that honour because, when I was Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Overseas Development, as it then was, I used to argue the case for intermediate technology and, after I left the Government, I worked with the ITDG as its development officer.
It was a great privilege to work with Dr. Fritz Schumacher, that brilliant economist who wrote a famous book called Small is Beautiful, to which he added the subtitle, "A study of economics as if people mattered". He applied that thesis and those words to his analysis of the needs of developing countries and of the means by which those needs could best be met. He taught us that the equipment which the peasant communities need— peasant communities represent the vast proportion of the economies of the third world— must be labour-intensive because there is an abundance of labour there and a great dearth of capital.
The equipment must use local skills and local materials and it must serve local markets. It must be simple to operate and to maintain, but— again, this point was made by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote— that does not mean that it must be primitive or second best. Science needs to be applied to the devising of appropriate techniques for developing countries just as much as in the more complex technology of the modern developed world. That point needs emphasising because some recipients are prone to suspect that intermediate technology implies inferior or second best. That is by no means true. It is appropriate but not second best.
I therefore very much appreciate the attitude of the Committee of the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, in considering intermediate technology. I hope that its 439 recommendations in those matters, which are at the top of page 49, will be followed by action on the part of the ODA. I recognise that the encouragement of local production of equipment to meet the needs of local markets might often conflict with the interests of British manufacturers and exporters. Reverting to the Oxfam illustration regarding vehicles, I am sure that the breakdown of vehicles in Africa leads to increased exports from our manufacturers. But surely if we take into account all the appropriate interests that is a very unsatisfactory way of proceeding. If there is a conflict between what is appropriate for development and what suits our exporters, again I commend the committee's view that the needs of the recipients must be paramount in the aid programme.
I should now like to say a few words about another aspect of the report and to call attention to the statement by Professor Bunting quoted on page 16. I believe that what he says is fundamentally crucial and correct. It tends to be overlooked in consideration of these problems. He says:Science and technology do not of themselves promote development. unless the development policy of government is sound and determined, and the actions it proposes are feasible and economically as well as socially sustainable, there will be no market for the products of science and technology".It is worth quoting also from Professor Bunting's letter:As in most aid programmes, the technical professionals in ODA's natural resources department are less sensitive than I would wish to developmental, economic and social questions … I know I am right, because I have based my outlook on damn near half a century of experience of failures as well as successes".I was delighted to read that because it shows that Professor Bunting is the same robust, self-confident and wise Professor Bunting whom I knew 25 years ago in my ODM days.
To sum up, the general thrust of this report I am glad to say is largely in line with what I have argued in respect of intermediate technology and with Professor Bunting's wish for proper social and economic development within which scientists and engineers can operate. I welcome the way in which the committee dealt with the problem of population growth, with which my noble friend Lady Lockwood dealt at some length. I welcome the committee's assertion that the needs of recipients should prevail over the United Kingdom's commercial interests in cases where conflict emerges. I welcome its emphasis on the need for institution-building as a major means by which the results of scientific and technological research can be disseminated throughout the third world. I also welcome the committee's understanding of the role of non-governmental organisations and of those NGOs' capacity for quick action and ready access to the grass roots of the economies that they have at heart. I welcome all those things and therefore, as I said at the beginning, I very much welcome this report.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, I should like to preface my remarks with my thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, the chairman of the committee on which I had the privilege to serve and to congratulate him on the 440 exemplary way in which he introduced this report. My thanks go also to our specialist adviser and our clerk, both of whom in their different ways were towers of strength to us in our deliberations here and in our expeditions overseas.
Let me say at the outset that I am a not uncritical but wholehearted enthusiastic supporter both of the Overseas Development Administration and the British Council. They both do admirable jobs. Although in the course of my remarks I may make some criticism of them, that does not in any way detract from my overall admiration and endorsement of what they do. The noble Viscount spoke of the inadequacy— that may not have been the word he used— of the actual resources that are available for overseas aid. Of course resources are inadequate. They could never be adequate. Overseas aid, properly administered, could swallow up far more than even the most enthusiastic supporters of overseas aid could envisage. But we should look very carefully at our record because it is not one of which we can be proud.
The present government quite rightly exhorts private individuals and businesses to give more in aid because they are doing well out of the economic recovery that we are told we are enjoying at the present time. But surely the fact that we have enjoyed and are having an economic recovery should mean that, at the same time as encouraging people in this country to give more in charity of one kind or another, we should be doing exactly the same thing in our aid (I shall not say charity) to those overseas who are less fortunate than ourselves. There are many millions of them. I shall not give the figures; they are all in the report. However, I refer noble Lords to Fig. 1 on page 11 which shows that, year after year in real terms, there has been not a steady but a continuing decline of our expenditure on overseas aid from 1979 until 1987. There was a welcome recovery in 1988. But even with that recovery our aid is still substantially lower than it was in 1979 and even lower than it was in 1981. That surely requires not only serious thought but heart searching on the part of those responsible for that state of affairs.
I should like to turn for a moment to the British Council which, as I said, does and has done magnificent work and whose relationship with ODA is by and large a very good one. It is worth mentioning that in the report it is pointed out that that good relationship very largely depends upon individual personal relationships. In fact if those personal relationships were to turn a little sour, it could result in a variety of administrative muddles and inefficiencies. It would be worthwhile the ODA and the British Council taking a serious look at their relationships in different countries so as to prevent such things happening. But for all that, I repeat once more that they do a very fine job and with more resources could do an even better one.
One aspect that stands out in my mind is the job that they do with regard to the education of the young, would-be graduates and postgraduates coming to this country. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, reminded us, those numbers have been falling. Yet the figures show a slight increase.
441 That is because the numbers have been reinforced by young people whose parents can afford to pay for them. These are not people who necessarily benefit most themselves, their countries or indeed us.
One very low level example comes to mind. Less than a year ago I was in Harare. Outside the British Council early in the morning, at eight o'clock, was a long queue of young people. I asked who they were. All were young people studying for their O-levels or A-levels in the basement library that the British Council had set aside for these purposes. The number of people it could accommodate was about 50. Once the place was full the doors were shut and those who had been unsuccessful were turned away. But they came back the next day, the next week and the next month. Such is the desire to receive education and obtain qualifications, such is the attitude towards the importance of the work of the British Council that these people get up in the very early hours, walk great distances and are prepared to stand for many hours in order to study.
A very small amount of extra money would enable the British Council to fulfil such requirements to the great benefit of the country, to the great benefit and joy of the individuals concerned, and to the eventual benefit of this country. These people may not necessarily attain influential government positions but they may be in a position to place orders. If they have been educated in this country, whether at lower levels or at higher graduate and postgraduate level, they will automatically turn to us. As it is, I am afraid that they will now turn increasingly to those countries where they received their education— the United States, Germany and France— and decreasingly to the United Kingdom.
Let me refer to some criticisms, again emphasising the fact that overall the job that the ODA does is first class. There is a danger that we are to some extent led astray by projectisation, as the noble Lord reminded us, and more particularly by the importance of projects. Big projects are exciting. Big projects bring kudos. Big projects bring headlines, But it is smaller projects which very often have the most influence on improving the lot of the really poor people of whatever country we are dealing with.
We must not forget— it is well brought out in the report— that the primary objective of aid is to improve the lot of the poorest inhabitants of the poorest countries. That must be done by concentrating on the individual people who will be affected by these new techniques, discoveries and improvements whether it concerns health, communications, water supply, or (of the greatest importance to my mind) the provision of food or other agricultural products.
I endorse entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said about the intermediate technology. ODA gives some assistance to those who are promoting it. I do not know whether it would do much better work if it were given extra money. But the concept of intermediate technology is one of vital importance. In order to bring about such technology we have to know a great deal more than most of us, including the aid givers, know about the conditions of the people about whom we are talking— how they live 442 and their living conditions. Until we understand that, we cannot come to any right and just assessment of what the priorities should be and how we should set about meeting them.
I give two examples of what I have in mind. In India I saw two medical projects of great interest. One was research into leprosy; another research into a disease about which perhaps some noble Lords may not have heard. It is called thalassaemia. Both are serious, unpleasant and occasionally fatal diseases. However, leprosy has to a large extent been conquered and thalassaemia hardly exists in India. It is a disease primarily of the Mediterranean and Caribbean area. There are many diseases, many factors, causing deaths among children, mothers and adults throughout the sub-continent which are responsible for far more suffering.
It is asked— and I am not satisfied with the answers— whether we have the means of assessing that one project which asks for money will do more good for the poorest people in the area than another. It is the decision making on priorities that I believe is not as strong as it should be in the present administration.
I should like to suggest the importance of the system of land ownership. Anyone who has studied the history of agricultural advance in the United Kingdom knows full well that we could not have made the advances that we did in the 17th, 18th and in particular the 19th century if it had not been for enclosures, the landlord-tenant system which grew up, and the creation of a form of rural society. We want the same advances made in Africa, Asia and in Latin America. But we know precious little about the systems of land ownership. We know precious little about how the money can be obtained or what money lenders or banking institutions there are. I am not referring to the World Bank or businesses in the cities. I am referring to the small peasant farming family wanting a little money to buy a plough, some fertiliser or some seed. How does that family obtain the money it needs? The farmer requires capital that he does not have: the money lender and the landowner will charge inordinate rates of interest. Who will share in the new increased productivity? Will the money lender take most? Will the landowner take most from his sharecropper or will the man who does the work reap the greatest reward? Before we can say that we will improve the productivity of the majority of people living in the poorest countries we must ask and obtain answers to those questions. I urge the ODA to give more thought to the agrarian structure of countries and the habits and customs of their people.
There are people educated in the extension services who play a vital role. Schoolteachers are essential because literacy is part of any progress. How are we to persuade schoolteachers, doctors and nurses to live in remote country districts far from the bright lights, the supply of piped water, electricity and any intellectual companionship? The only answer is to place more emphasis on improving the general standard of living in country districts so that young doctors, nurses and agricultural graduates are prepared to live there rather than sit in the air-conditioned offices of the capital and drive about in government motor cars.
443 Answers to those problems are essential if there is to be proper use of the results of research and development leading to advancement in the poorest parts of the world. Without the means of taking the results to the dirty boot farmer a great deal will be wasted.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I doubt whether anyone in this House disagrees with any paragraph in the report. Yet, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, essentially it is an orthodox report. He mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Bauer, with whom I took part in a television programme a few years ago. It took the format of a split screen and was on the proposition that overseas aid is dangerous. There was not much doubt that the audience believed that overseas aid is a good thing. Nevertheless, "a good thing" can be superficial, mealy-mouthed and merely accepted without a great deal of study.
In reading the report, I found a great deal of it to be commonplace, complacent and lacking in urgency. There is a particular lack of urgency when measured against the World Bank report, Crisis to Sustainable Development. That report shows what has happened to Africans during the past 10 years. It shows that they are now eating less, living shorter lives and more of their children are dying. Surely, it is to those critical issues that the committee should have turned its attention. Too often it accepts the status quo with a certain amount of superficial adjustment.
But the situation is desperate for millions of people. Only radical, fundamental and immediate changes can attempt to face the major challenges now presented to us by the people of African and other third world countries. I shall compare the report with, for example, the Aldington Report, which stirred people passionately both for and against aid. The report was not followed and its predictions have come true. However, if it had been followed there would have been fundamental changes in the way in which this country conducts its overseas trade.
The report makes no comments about the respective merits of an ODA or a Ministry of Overseas Development. My noble friend Lord Oram was a distinguished member of the Ministry and can say a great deal about the advantages of having a Ministry of Overseas Development with its Minister in the Cabinet. The Ministry was able to affect the activities of other departments. The report does not comment on the lively debate about the respective functions of the ODA as it now exists and the Departments of Trade and Industry and Education and Science. Several reports have proposed that part of the work now carried out by the ODA should be carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry because it involves trade rather than aid. There is nothing wrong with trade; we wish to encourage it. The Aldington Report attempts to encourage trade with third world countries. However, it is a trade issue and not an aid issue.
Government funds to support British companies in their attempts to obtain markets in third world 444 countries should come from the Department of Trade and Industry. If I had time I should relate an anecdote from Zimbabwe, where I tried to persuade the DTI to compete with the Dutch for the replacement of the whole civil aircraft industry there. I could not do so. However, the Dutch did it because they put their aid alongside their trade as part of their national policy. The anecdote is relevant and points out the general acceptance in the report that the situation will remain as it is, but with suggestions for improvement.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, rightly and forthrightly raised the subject of the amount of aid. The report gives the amount of aid as being 0.29 per cent. of GNP in 1987. Last year it was 0.32 per cent. That is a welcome but tiny rise and I pay tribute to Christopher Patten for what he did in that respect. But it is 0.32 per cent. compared with 0.53 per cent. in 1979. It is not enough to say that the GNP was different. Whenever we have challenged the Government during the past 10 years we have been consistently told that the percentage allocated to overseas aid has fallen because times are bad. When the economy becomes a miracle economy, how is it that overseas aid does not rise with the miracle? How is it that it has not risen at least to its 1979 level? If the miracle is genuine today it would be competing with those of the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians and the Canadians. It should be not merely attaining but surpassing the 0.7 per cent. target.
When we are talking about figures like 0.32 per cent. or 0.7 per cent. we are really talking about resources. What has happened to resources? In fact, on balance, resources have been coming from the third world to the developed world. That is so today. That is as a result partly of debt and partly of the necessary emphasis on exports from the third world in order to obtain foreign currency. There are more resources every year leaving the third world for the developed world than the whole amount of official and unofficial aid going to the third world. Are the Government happy with that? Unfortunately, that is not mentioned in this report, but I should like to know what is the Government's view on that. How do they equate the economic miracle with sucking resources from third world people at a time when 17.5 million children are dying of starvation every year in the third world?
On some of the detailed points made, those of us who have lived in third world countries find that many of the comments made are almost irrelevant. Let us take that case of agriculture. Anyone who has lived in any third world country knows that the great gap in development has been the neglect of agriculture. That is so all over the African continent.
Pages 28 and 29 of the report deal with agriculture. However, in its recommendations concerning agriculture paragraph 4.46 states:The Committee consider that the factor most likely to improve African agricultural productivity would be the creation of a supply of well-trained, well-supported manpower for the agricultural professions and related research".That does not touch the issue; namely, that African countries and governments have not been putting resources into and expanding agriculture. Some of 445 us have spent the last 25 years trying to persuade them to do so. They have not done that and are not doing that today. There are some exceptions; for example, Zimbabwe and Botswana. However, most of the third world countries are not doing that. I am not saying that we can tell them to do it but we can influence them in our aid policy. Nothing at all is said on that.
As regards the agricultural issue, intermediate technology has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Oram and by the noble Lord, Lord Waist on. However, let us go back to the days of Rene Dumont. He did have some effect and did teach that hoes should precede tractors. Read his book False Start in Africa and see the reports which he gave to Tanzania, Zambia and Sierra Leone as well as to the francophone countries which he knew so much better.
At page 42, paragraph 7.34, the report states:Evidence from the DTI suggests that the United Kingdom contractors do extremely well in winning contracts under multilateral aid".That is not what we found in the Aldington Report. We found that the support given by governments among our major competitors— the French, Germans, Italians and Japanese— was far greater than the support given by this Government. When it came to contracting, we were left way behind because the national policy of our major competitors, as I pointed out earlier, was to combine aid and trade.
Let us take the case of personnel. In this respect I have a very personal grouse with what is reported. Paragraph 5.20 states:The Committee greatly regret the declining availability in the United Kingdom of S&T personnel".It is only about two years ago that the University of East Anglia had a lobby here in which some of us took part. It asked us to organise a petition, and there was a petition in this House and a petition in the other place in order to save its undergraduate programme at the School of Development Studies. We did save that, but today there is only the finance to admit half the number of undergraduates which were there at that time.
Therefore, there is a lack of personnel. There is bound to be because there have been cuts in the finance available for supporting that personnel, which is doing first class and practical research work. If you come with me to the University of East Anglia you will see a map with pieces of ribbon going all over the world which show the contacts with institutions that that school has. That was almost killed by the cuts imposed by this Government.
One issue with which I think my noble friend Lord Oram would particularly sympathise is that nothing is said in the report about development education. There was a scheme on which some of us had worked for two years and we produced a report in July 1978. The report went to every government department concerned; it was costed and the budget was approved. When I spoke about that scheme in Geneva to all the non-governmental organisations I was told that it was the most imaginative and radical scheme on development education that had been 446 developed anywhere in the world. What happened to it? As soon as this Government came into power, they scrapped it. A number of members of that committee have stayed together and kept in contact. Where is the Government's development education programme today? There is not one. However, you cannot have a healthy and growing overseas aid programme without having the understanding and support of the public of this country. That was what the development education project aimed to do because it was devised by a committee under a Ministry.
Finally— and very briefly, but by no means of least importance; in fact I would say that it is most important— I turn to an issue which has been touched on. What vision did the committee have of the tremendous task of enabling developing peoples to raise their standard of living just to the point at which they can sustain life, without at the same time following our bad example of helping to destroy the environment of our planet?
That is an essential matter for science and technology. There is reference to the conservation of the environment, but that is the job of scientists and technologists. Some are already looking at this question. To mention my own university, they are looking at it in the school of environmental sciences along with the school of development studies in Norwich. The Government should provide the resources, the guidance and the encouragement to face this major task for the human race over the next quarter of a century.
I should mention that some parts of our aid programme are helping to pollute the planet. If one reads the booklet on aid and pollution in India it will be seen to what I am referring. There are many other examples. It is a major challenge to the future of the human race to find the means of technology by which developing peoples can raise their standards of living just to maintain life, using technology that does not involve the destruction of the environment; that does not involve burning down rain forests; that does not increase the size of the hole in the ozone layer and does not promote the greenhouse effect. That is a major challenge which, I am disappointed to see, has not been met in this report.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, I should like to concentrate on the small but nevertheless important part of this excellent report, which deals with population activities. Perhaps I may begin by quoting in full the admirable summary of the committee's opinion at paragraph 3.23. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, I too should like to commend the preceding paragraphs 3.19 to 3.22. Paragraph 3.23 states:The Committee strongly support ODA's commitment to population activities. All opportunities to undertake such activities, as part of the bilateral aid programme, should be seized. Her Majesty's Government should seek increased action on the issue in international fora wherever possible. Support for multilateral and non-governmental initiatives should be increased".I am grateful to the committee for responding to the evidence, which was only in written form and which is printed on pages 197 to 199 of the volume of
447 evidence given to the Select Committee and which was submitted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. To declare my interest, I should say that I am the vice-chairman of that group. I should also make clear that I was not on the Select Committee which produced the report before us.
On reading the report it is clear that some members of the Select Committee who went to India were able to appreciate population pressures at first hand; the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, mentioned Nigeria. I should like to mention in this debate the very recent experiences that I had with a few other parliamentarians, including, as she said, the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, on a visit to family planning associations in Ecuador and Mexico while attending a conference as observers of the Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development in Quito. This consisted of delegations of parliamentarians from almost all countries in North and South America. Having gone all that way it is worth reporting two unexpected angles of the final outcome of the conference.
Throughout there had been mention in various contexts of the real effect of the overhanging burden of debt on so many countries. In brief, when cut-backs had to be made in order to service these debts, particularly in these times of high interest rates, one of the first programmes to be cut back was the family planning and related health services; this just at a time when such services are beginning to be widely accepted and valued.
On the final day of the conference, when a document called The Quito Declaration was presented for the approval of the conference, there was a lively and heated debate from the delegates, who succeeded in insisting that a strong mention should be added reflecting the concern of those trying to provide family planning services— which everyone wanted to provide— against the background of the huge unresolved debt which affected most countries there. These were feelings being expressed by fellow parliamentarians, although in some cases these were Front Benchers rather than Back Benchers.
The other unexpected angle arose from Latin American perceptions concerning what was happening in Eastern Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, with his experience in the DTI, will probably be familiar with this, but the fear was expressed in various contexts that we in Europe would now devote most of our energies to helping to sort out our neighbours in Eastern Europe and in consequence both trade and aid to Latin America would be neglected.
To return to the report before us, it confirms in detail that there are no simple answers in this field of population development. It is apparent in both the written and oral evidence of the department that their research and evaluation, undertaken both directly and in collaboration, is almost necessarily frustratingly slow in this area. However, progress is being made and the committee encourages that work.
448 Just as certain types of detailed research work are particularly suited to the scale of the ODA, other usually larger efforts in population activities are generally best left to the specialities and expertise of the multilateral and non-governmental agencies. The report says in paragraph 3.23 that support for multilateral and non-governmental initiatives should be increased. I shall come to multilateral organisations later, but perhaps I may first mention one of the two British NGOs in this area— Population Concern— of which I should say that I am on the campaign committee.
Fund raising in this country is difficult and the 100 per cent. government funding of the projects accepted is much appreciated and, in my opinion, represents very worthwhile value for money. The fact that the main returns and benefits of money spent now are long-term is one of the reasons why fund raising in particular and support for family planning is so difficult to tap and why this area is particularly appropriate for governmental action and support.
With the experience of Population Concern, whose schemes are locally managed in the countries concerned, I know that further funding could be successfully utilised. One further main and unique activity of Population Concern is education on these issues in this country, particularly among the young and mainly in the wider context of environmental issues.
At a large conference organised by Population Concern for older school children at Harrogate last year, the Minister, Mrs. Chalker, made an excellent keynote speech on the subject of population growth. In her conclusion she said:There is no time to lose",andI do not believe we can afford to turn our backs on the problems raised by high population growth rates. To ignore population growth is to hasten environmental degradation".Perhaps I may say that we are extremely fortunate that Mrs. Chalker has more than lived up to the legacy left to her in this field by her predecessor, Mr. Chris Patten. Her evidence to the committee, not just on population, but in particular her crystal ball gazing, was very impressive.
Perhaps I may turn briefly to the multilateral organisations. The recommendation of the committee for increased support was echoed in the longer term thinking of the head of the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Nafis Sadik, at a press conference in London to launch their report called The State of the World Population 1989. This focused mainly on the role of women, but among the many recommendations in the report was the proposal that substantial increases in funding could be beneficially used in this area and that, as a goal, by the year 2000 donor governments could aim to increase international assistance for family planning programmes from the present 0–5 billion dollars to 2–5 billion dollars annually. That is a fivefold increase and an indication of the scale of resources needed successfully to confront this aspect of development problems facing us.
Perhaps I may briefly quote a few words from the speech of the Prime Minister at the United Nations 449 last November. She was speaking in a debate on the global environment. She said:More than anything, our environment is threatened by the sheer lumbers of people and the plants and animals which go with them. When I was born the world's population was some 2 billion people. My grandson will grow up in a world of more than 6 billion people. Put in its bluntest form: the main threat to our environment is more and more people, and their activities".That extract should be read in its full context, as it was very much longer. When the Prime Minister referred to activities I am sure she was referring as much to the northern hemisphere as to the southern hemisphere.
The other great multilateral population organisation— The International Planned Parenthood Federation; the IPPF— has suggested that at least 2 billion dollars annually will be required by the end of the 1990s to meet the challenges in this field. The Secretary General of the IPPF, Dr. Mahler, following a talk he gave in this building last year, contributed an article to the environment edition of our House magazine of 12th February 1990. In that article he explained the thoughts behind the figures that I have just mentioned. Dr. Mahler was addressing politicians, so he also told us that he believes political action is most important in this area but that nationally and internationally it is sorely lacking.
These large figures of billions of dollars are not demands but estimates and indications of the scale of the problems still to be faced. I believe that our Government have a good record in this field and I hope they will be strengthened by this report now before us to go even further in our contribution to and co-operation with the IPPF.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, last week I had experience of seeing at first hand the work of the Family Planning Association in Ecuador and Mexico, funded mainly by the IPPF. I was extremely impressed by the sensitive and multi-faceted approach that we found; by the continuous and strict evaluation of the programmes; and that in the midst of shortage of funds attempts were being made to create sustainable, self-supporting, long-term solutions which we hope will not need continuous funding.
Given the present coverage of these countries, restricted by resources, we could see for ourselves how further funds could beneficially be used. So much seemed to depend on local expertise and understanding that has been built up over the years; and for a change, instead of just talking about the need to help women, we saw for ourselves the beneficiaries of the health and clinic services that have been provided. I am optimistic about the progress being made in this field in Latin America and I believe that increased funding can be profitably utilised.
I conclude by quoting paragraph 9.14 in the summary of recommendations in this excellent report:Her Majesty's Government should take up all opportunities for population activities under the bilateral programme, and seek increased action in international fora. Support for multilateral and non-governmental initiatives in the area of population and family planning should be increased".
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I too have an uneasy feeling about this report but not for the reasons advanced by my noble friend Lord Hatch. It seems to me that he has misunderstood the role of the committee. If he refers to the beginning of the report he will see that the committee— of which I was not a very active member because I was unable to play the part I had hoped— looked into a limited area. It was not looking into the organisation of overseas aid generally. I draw attention to paragraph 1.9:The range of areas which the Committee have considered includes research and development, technology transfer, provision of expert advice and consultancy, materials and equipment, information, training, education".My goodness, that is a large enough area anyway, and the ability to confine it into a useful and effective report depended much on the chairman and the excellent professional help he had, not to mention the members of the committee.
The report goes on to say:The last [training and education] has been of special interest to the Committee for, as Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, said in inaugurating a meeting of the Society for International Development … 'It is through good education that science and technology are pressed into the service of the betterment of the individual and the nation' ".Some of the subjects that my noble friend Lord Hatch had hoped would be covered, such as the greenhouse effect and pollution, have been covered by other reports produced by the committee, again looking at the subject in terms of science and technology. This was a difficult report to produce and of course it has limitations, but it is a very good job considering the constraints that had to be met in order to produce a report at all.
One of the difficulties with our report— I speak as, at one time, chairman of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, and, along with the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, I was one of your Lordships' sponsors in developing this— was to get it into an intelligible form. One really needs to read all the evidence. There is any amount of wisdom in the evidence, in the cross-examination of witnesses, and so on. Therefore, I believe that a difficult job has been done very successfully.
The fact that I have anxieties does not arise from the nature of the report but from the difficulty of the subject. In this area there is so much of what might be called the popular view which is not certain. There is the book Small is Beautiful by that great man Schumacher. However, that is misleading because people then say that the science and technology they have must necessarily always be simple. I am glad to say that we now call it appropriate technology.
I give one example: the use of satellites. This is an area which the Select Committee examined. It put forward some strong recommendations together with some critical comments as far as concerns the Government. People may ask what possible use satellites are in developing countries; yet they are fundamental in developing the infrastructure and appropriate technology. It is shortsighted not to use them because they contribute to the land information system which is fundamental to the development of R&D and overseas development 451 generally. It is in the area of land information and geographic information services, and so on, where the new technologies are required. That does not mean that, on the ground, one needs advanced technology. I could give many examples of the use of, say, remote sensing for development areas, but I shall not take up the time of the House.
Some very interesting pamphlets have been published by Farnborough on the use of remote sensing in the developing parts of the world. I should like to see rather more spent in that area and at least some effort made to do as much, or nearly as much, as the French and the Germans. Again, from the report there is considerable criticism about the shortage of funds provided by the Government. It is in the remote sensing area where, again, the French and the Germans are giving a lead to the rest of the world and we are sitting back not playing the part which our own science and technology are capable of playing.
I turn briefly to one other aspect of the use of science and technology. I noticed a criticism in the New Scientist from the chief executive of the Intermediate Technology Development Group. He said:I thought the report excellent with one omission. It fails to recognise the importance of indigenous science and technology capacity. We work by looking at local organisations first and trying to build on".The noble Viscount who chaired the commitee answered that criticism very fully and made clear that it was a recommendation of the committee to build up local institutions.
I wish to give one or two examples of how that is best done. In the application of science and technology it is important not to think always of direct benefit. Science does not exist simply on the basis of its application: there is the pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge will create the opportunities for improved living conditions. One has only to consider the work done in pure science. I do not regard the Antarctic as a development area because I do not want to see that area developed at all. There was the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer which was achieved purely in the pursuit of science. That was of tremendous importance in revealing the problems that confront us.
I wish to give some examples of how that kind of scientific work can contribute to the development of science and technology in developing countries. In this connection I refer to the Royal Geographical Society. Next Monday a lecture is to be given by Sir Crispin Tickell, the former Permanent Secretary of the ODA. He has recently returned from the successful negotiations with the Argentine. His lecture will be on the subject of the environment.
The Royal Geographical Society has taken a very clear view as to what its duties are concerning its projects. They are basically scientific undertakings but they have relevant application to this subject. I refer to the Mulu expedition in which I have a particular interest. On many occasions in 55 years I climbed Mulu carrying a theodolite. I did not have a satellite in those days to tell me where I was.
452 In connection with the new expedition the Royal Geographical Society arranged that the scientific results should first be published in the Sarawak Museum Journal.
There was another expedition into the Karakoram which I was able to visit. I spent half an hour at Gilgit and I now regard myself as an expert! One can do a great deal in half an hour. One can just look at the incredible country. The first review conference was held in Islamabad. The monograph from the Kora research project in 1983 was published by the National Museum of Kenya. In addition there was the Wahiba sands project. A seminar was held in Muscat and the report was published in the Journal of Oman Studies. One of the most important projects in Brazil is having the results published in Portuguese in the Brazilian journal Acta Amazonica.
The fundamental need to work with local scientists has been stressed by others. In the Maracá project there were 30 British scientists and 50 Brazilian scientists. The same was true of the Kimberley project which I was also able to visit. There were twice as many Australian scientists as British scientists. The policy of the Royal Geographical Society is similar to that of the Royal Society which is doing the overseas work. The policy is that the reports should be published and that a popular form of those reports should also be published and made available to schools. Sensitivity in the use of information of this kind is essential. That is a point I should have wished to see more strongly pressed. However, it comes through in the text of the report. We need to be very careful and to realise that scientific knowledge is valuable in the long run. The pursuit of knowledge and of science does not always have to have an immediate application.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, at the risk of boring your Lordships, I intend to focus on the subject which has already been discussed by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and that is population. That being so, I must declare an interest. As a director of Marie Stopes International, I went to India last year to do some work in connection with the clinics that we run there. I shall be spending the Easter Recess in Kenya and Zimbabwe studying the development of our clinics and the work that is being carried out there by the organisations.
I want to deal with the population issue from a different perspective. It has been touched on only slightly by previous speakers. Before speaking about the population question as such, I wish to stress that this issue is part of a whole to which the problem of poverty in the developing countries is central. However much we may encourage modern practices of family planning birth control and any of the many other devices available for controlling the population, nothing is going to happen in these developing countries so long as poverty is of such a degree that the only people to whom the families can look for help in times of difficulty, and in the inevitable times of extreme difficulty such as old age, unemployment and sickness, are their own children.
453 There is no National Health Service, old age pension or sick pay. There is no support during life's emergencies. One has to rely on one's children. We are whistling in the wind if we think that we shall get people voluntarily to control their families before they obtain security in some other way. That is why the economic aspect of development and the ability to increase wealth in those countries is intimately tied up with population control. One cannot be achieved without the other.
Parts of the report deal with ways in which economic development can be assisted. There is also the question of the population problem which is also part of dealing with wealth creation. They are two parts of the whole. I agree with one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and that is the urgency of the issue. We have had the population figures quoted, and we have seen the statistics in the report.
The situation is not getting better. Indeed, regarding the world population and the problems arising from the excessive increases in that population, it is quickly getting worse. It is not a marginal matter. The central world problem is finding ways to control the population. I am not speaking about environmental issues, though they are intimately connected with the subject. The population issue is not one about which we can afford to do a little now, and then rather more later on when we can more easily afford it. The longer we leave the problem, the worse it will become.
Unless we give this subject a very high priority indeed and put other important and desirable issues lower down in the order of those that we must deal with, we shall find that later on we have considerable problems on our hands. They will be extremely difficult for us to deal with. I beg the Government to look again at what they feel able to do at the moment. In particular, I ask them to look again at the support they can give to the NGOs.
The report quite rightly stresses the ways in which NGOs are able to make a very considerable contribution. For a whole variety of reasons they are less bureaucratic and able to make and carry out decisions more quickly. That is not the situation in all cases. In most cases the NGOs can act more swiftly than can government. If the NGOs had more resources and support, they could work far more quickly on these very urgent problems. Can the Government not see that this is a matter in which our own self-interest as well at that of the developing countries is very much at stake?
I wish to refer in particular to one aspect of the way in which a fall in population can be brought about. It has already been referred to in the debate but only in passing. One factor that seems to correlate with voluntary restriction on family size is the education of women. The figures for illiteracy among women in developing countries are in every case higher than the figures for illiteracy among men. It is quite plain that there is an urgent need to improve opportunities for the education of women.
If women are illiterate they cannot read the instructions on labels to tell them what to do with birth control equipment. They have no means of supporting themselves because they have nothing 454 they can effectively sell in the world market and therefore they are entirely dependent for their livelihood, for their status and for their whole being on what they do inside the family. They are dependent in many cases on the determination of their menfolk to have more children.
In India— I do not know a great deal about other countries— there is considerable resistance among many men, partly for economic reasons but also for macho reasons, to restricting voluntarily the size of the family. Women who are illiterate and uneducated are unable to support themselves economically. They are very much at the mercy of the culture into which they are born and which their menfolk maintain. The education of women is vital. Educated women can make an economic contribution themselves. They are not so dependent on what their husbands are able to produce. They can earn money on their own which gives them an independent status which they would not otherwise have.
One way in which this can be done is by giving the opportunity for women to be educated and trained, first, in their own countries but also in this country. For those who will take leadership positions in the health services, in schools and in the technical field it is undoubtedly a great help that they should be able to study in this country. During the years I was working at the London School of Economics I saw large numbers of people from the developing countries. An important number of women were able to go back properly trained and equipped. This had a multiplier effect. It is a sad fact that the increase in fees for overseas students has made it more difficult for appropriate women to come here to be trained.
They must of course be the right women, women who have proved that they are capable of passing on this knowledge in their own countries. They should come not at the earlier stages of their education but when they have a good basis in their own country. They can then return and plough that knowledge and skill back into their own countries where it is badly needed.
Although these are urgent issues it is not good enough to say that the Government should do more. We all say that the Government should do more. I believe that the NGOs are there in many cases. They are established, they have their contacts and they have proved that they can be very effective. I wonder whether it would be possible to hold a small conference of key NGOs. I include schools, universities, women's organisations, churches, trade unions and employers' organisations. They might be able to put forward programmes for helping on the education front. Such work is going on already. Can not the Government do more to prime the pump for the NGOs. With extra resources a great many of them could make a considerable impact at the levels where they have contact— unions with unions, churches with churches, schools with schools, universities with universities. In this way one could speed up the development of education, which is absolutely vital if we are to get the population under control and if we are to bring about the increase in prosperity without which population will not be under control.
455 We are told that by the year 2025— that will be comfortably beyond my time although the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, may have to face it— the world population will be between 8.5 and 10 billion. The figure is so horrifying that we do not allow our minds to rest on it. It should be remembered that 94 per cent. of this development will occur in developing countries. We should do all we can now to restrict this development. It is a matter of the highest urgency. If we bring the NGOs together and provide some pump-priming money, within 10 years they will have achieved a great deal.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I congratulate the chairman and members of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on their report. As previous speakers have said, the committee took on a vast subject. The result has been a good and constructive report.
My noble friend Lord Hatch said that the report lacked urgency and that it did not measure up to the desperate needs of third world countries. He compared our record with those of our European neighbours. I have a certain sympathy with what he said. Nevertheless I believe that his criticisms were more about what the report did not contain than what it did contain.
The part of the report concerning population has been well covered by no fewer than three speakers. My only experience of this subject was gained when I was in Kenya with UNICEF a few months ago. UNICEF experienced a certain amount of success in persuading women to take on birth control. However, when I went on to Sudan I found the very reverse. This proves the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. Progress in this area depends very much on how prosperous a country is becoming.
The report said certain things which have been said before but which cannot be repeated too often. It stressed that aid should be first and foremost for the benefit of the recipients. The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, and my noble friend Lord Oram also made this point. It is enormously important to repeat that the needs of the recipients must be paramount in the aid programme.
My second point, which has often been made before, and made, I believe, from these Benches in particular, concerns the level of United Kingdom aid expenditure. The report stressed that the 0–29 per cent. of GNP as it was in 1987 was inadequate. Although it has risen slightly since then it still falls short of the United Nations target of 0–7 per cent. of GNP. This percentage has been exceeded by Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. It is right to remember that between 1975 and 1979 the average was 0–45 per cent. of GNP. In 1988 official development assistance was only 79 per cent. of its value in 1979.
Therefore I agree with the report's recommendation that expenditure on aid should move towards the UN target as quickly as is practicable. The noble Lords, Lord Thurlow and Lord Butterworth, made the point that the lack of quantity 456 of British aid has been made up by quality. But I agree with my noble friend Lord Hatch in that I should certainly like to see both factors.
I think that it was my noble friend Lord Shackleton who talked about there being another important category of research and development; namely, the indigenous knowledge and capacity for research and development which exists among the poorer communities. I believe that that is a very important point and one which should not be forgotten. In fact it could be said that while the report rightly places a great deal of emphasis on the building up of capabilities of local institutions, it rather perpetuates the view that science and technology mainly flow from the North to the South. Therefore, if we ignore or override the indigenous knowlege, we risk missing out on the potential to stimulate science and technology development at the level where it matters most.
The Intermediate Technology Development Group has been praised by all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. However, it is worth remembering that it was through a recommendation of the ODM 1977 working party on appropriate technology, which was set up by my noble friend Lady Hart, that funds were allocated to the ITDG in the first place. That was clearly a useful and very far-sighted move which has borne ample fruit so far as concerns this organisation, although it is a pity that the wider recommendations of the 1977 working party have never been pursued more vigorously. That fact was, perhaps, accepted by the Select Committee in that it went back to the ODA with a subsidiary question specifically asking about the progress made under that particular initiative in 1977.
The report comments on the relationship between the ODA and the British Council. The noble Viscount mentioned this as did the noble Lord, Lord Walston. The committee found that the two organisations co-operate effectively, despite complicated interaction whereby the council undertakes its own activities funded by "mixed money" from the Foreign Office and the ODA, as well as acting as managing agent on a contract basis. In view of this very complex relationship, I believe that the committee was very wise to recommend that the Foreign Office should define the areas of responsibility of the two organisations. I certainly share the admiration of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the British Council; indeed, that goes without saying.
The Committee also felt that to ensure that science and technology are used to the best possible effect throughout the aid programme the Minister for Overseas Development should appoint an advisory panel of independent experts, including leading scientists and engineers from outside ODA. That seems an excellent recommendation as, indeed, was another recommendation requesting that additional assistance with British university fees and charges be introduced for students from the poorest developing countries, perhaps by way of an enhanced scholarship scheme. I must admit that I share the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. He felt 457 that students coming from abroad might be the ones who can pay, rather than those who now deserve the opportunity to study.
I was also impressed by the committee's views about giving continued support to individuals after they had completed their course of study or training in this country in order to help them work as well as they can on their return to their home countries. It is easy to imagine that some former students might feel that it is really impossible to work in a difficult environment in a struggling country to which they returned without the contacts, information and support suggested by the committee.
The Select Committee took evidence from several NGOs and some noble Lords have mentioned this in their speeches. I was pleased to see that the committee agreed that such organisations were more successful at reaching the poor and identifying with them than were government agencies. It suggested that; he ODA should take note of that fact by increasing their funding. From my own experience in this field I believe that the great virtue of the ODA's finance for voluntary agencies is that such agencies can design the most appropriate technical interventions jointly with the communities they serve. Therefore, instead of costly top-down technologies which rarely translate successfully from the research stations to the poor farmer, a voluntary agency can respond to local conditions and constraints.
Indeed, in my work as President of SOS Sahel, which is an NGO that works in afforestation and environmental projects, I have seen how valuable such support can be. For example, in Sudan, SOS Sahel with ODA funds is implementing a successful community forestry programme where, for the first time, the sites for shelterbelts against desert encroachment are chosen, planted and managed by the threatened communities themselves. In Mali the ODA is financing an erosion control work which will enhance the agricultural production in an area of declining food security. In Ethiopia, as part of a bilateral aid programme, SOS Sahel will research ways of combating ubiquitous crop diseases directly with local peasant associations.
I believe that those are examples of work with some of the poorest communities in the poorest countries in the world. I think that the work of such NGOs, as the noble Baroness said, is something which the ODA must support. However, I should also say that it is most important to fund an agency which has identified projects which will truly help the local community. I say that because it can be very difficult to identify such projects.
Perhaps I may conclude by saying that the report's recommendations and conclusions should really make an important contribution to our aid policies. I hope that the Government will take note of what it says. I should like to end my speech by quoting a section from the conclusions of a lecture which Princess Anne, in her capacity as President of the Save the Children Fund, made to the Royal Society. It is very much in the spirit of the Select Committee's report She concluded her lecture by saying:A much greater understanding of what is genuine aid is having its effect the importance of long-term projects with community 458 involvement, backed up always by education and training; the use of human and physical resources with practical concern for the environment; the use of applicable technology and tools for self-reliance; and finally, continuing assessment, evaluation and a lot more co-operation. As long as we learn our lessons well, international aid will become more and more effective … The Western world has so much to offer and so many people who are highly motivated to help, but we must not forget how long it has taken us to reach these levels of knowledge and how our own societies have not all been able to come to terms with the changes. How can we expect the developing world to be able to absorb and use all that knowledge in not much more than a generation? Our aid is on the right lines, but we can make it work better. Certainly we must if our world is to have a better future".I believe that the contents of the report are very much in the spirit of those words. I very much hope that the Government will take note of its contents.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, I have a great deal of material to get through and therefore I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I deal with what I have to say at something of a gallop.
The Government have welcomed and encouraged the Select Committee's review of the UK's scientific and technical aid to developing countries. I should like to congratulate the committee on a comprehensive and balanced study of the issues involved. Your Lordships will understand that I am unable formally to anticipate the Government's official reply. This will be published early in April. Nevertheless, I have noted a number of recommendations in support of the work which we are doing. I take encouragement from that. The report calls on the Government to do more in some areas. We shall of course consider those recommendations in the context of our overall aid programme; but I point out that one cannot always have more of everything. The Government will have to look very carefully at the priorities that we have set on the various aspects of the aid programme and the costs (administrative and otherwise) which would be involved in devoting more effort to scientific and technical aid.
The development success stories of the past two decades can be attributed in large part to the capacity of certain countries to absorb modern technology by integrating it fully into their productive and service activities. They have profoundly changed the whole structure of their economy. In other cases, technological progress has made its most substantive impact in specific sectors. In agriculture and health, for example, major discoveries and their application in solving major problems have often been at the root of rapid advances. The green revolution, for example, and various health technologies have had deep developmental impacts in some countries.
Not all countries have been able effectively to apply such new technologies. Nor have technological solutions been found to all the problems. The impact of developments in science and technology has thus been uneven in different countries and parts of the world. Differences in scientific and technological capacity and the focus of international research efforts have profound consequences for a country's development path and performance. Moreover, some major recent advances are in highly 459 research-intensive areas where the impact is particularly diffuse; for example, new materials, telecommunications, space and remote sensing technologies. In those areas the advantages are available mainly to countries above a certain threshold in terms of human capital and institutional competence. On the other hand, some science and technology developments— for example, in biotechnology and information technology— are so fast and their propagation so easy that the issue, even for the least developed countries, is not whether to engage in those technologies but to what extent and for what purpose.
Faced with those challenges, what then should be the role of science and technology in the aid programme? The committee's report emphasises rightly that science and technology pervade most areas of aid. The report acknowledges that only some of what constitutes scientific and technical aid can be separately identified and quantified. In the Government's view it is important that science and technology are seen in the context of our basic development objective, which is to promote sustainable economic and social development and alleviate poverty in developing countries. The aid programme does not have a mission to spread a particular technology. Rather it must aim to deploy appropriate technology and science to help achieve carefully specified objectives furthering sustainable development.
We cannot use the aid programme to foster science for its own sake. Full account must be taken of environmental and local institutional considerations to ensure that the benefits are neither wasted nor give rise to undesirable side effects. A firm scientific and technological underpinning for aid projects and programmes is vital; but so is a clear awareness of the possible institutional, social and other constraints which are often the dominant ones. The Government believe that the appropriate and successful selection and design of aid projects requires collaboration between donors and recipients and frequently require an inter disciplinary approach. Only in that way can we be sure that the technologies adopted are appropriate to the economic circumstances and human resource base of the country concerned, and that local institutions responsible for project implementation have the managerial and technical skills to sustain their operation.
It is the needs and requirements of developing countries which drive the S&T input into the aid programme. But that does not mean that our work is essentially responsive. Britain is endowed with research expertise, in research institutes and other organisations, many of which have wide experience of developing countries. The Government draw to the full on the rich reservoir of talent in the planning and implementation of operational programmes and in the commissioning of R&D programmes geared to those requirements.
A feature of that work is its inter-disciplinary nature. The Government's R&D planning in the aid field increasingly recognises the requirement to involve a range of scientific disciplines. Those will 460 vary according to the type of research being conducted. The benefits of inter-disciplinary research are considerable. Research is no different from other components of the aid programme. What we do, must take into account the effect on the poorest peoples, relevant social factors and the environmental impact.
In areas of S&T infrastructure, the Government have done much to encourage links between specific British and overseas institutions. That includes training both in the UK and overseas. We are seeking to increase the extent to which local researchers and institutions can be associated with the scientific and technology research work supported by the Government. For example, link programmes in India based on research have resulted in the establishment of masters degree courses and short specialist courses, giving a greater degree of sustainability and wider dissemination of the research results. In future, more attention will be paid to involving local industry in applying research; to splitting research degrees, thus minimising training spent in UK; and to supporting specific programmes which strengthen links between bodies in the UK and institutions in selected tropical countries.
Many of the problems facing the developing countries are so complex and so widespread that research resources need to be deployed on an international scale. The Government make an important contribution to international research and development, in particular to the work of the international research centres of the CGIAR on food crops, animal production and disease, to the WHO'S tropical disease research programme, diarrhoeal disease control programme and the global programme on AIDS.
Among other projects supported is one managed by the Commonwealth Science Council entitled COMMANSAT which seeks to enhance North-South and South-North co-operation to strengthen local S&T capabilities. Britain also seeks actively to influence the European Community's science and technology for development programme managed and part-funded by the Commission's DGXII.
Perhaps I may now turn to some of the points which have been raised during the course of the debate. I turn first to the admirable speech made by my noble friend Lord Caldecote. Her asked about the aid figure, especially in relation to our GNP. We accept in principle the United Nations targets set for official development assistance as a percentage of GNP— 0–7 per cent., of which 015 per cent. should be allocated to the least developed. But like previous administrations, and many other donors, we have not set a timetable for reaching that figure. Progress will depend upon economic circumstances and other claims on our resources. The important point is that the aid programme is growing in real terms.
My noble friend referred to the problem of high quality equipment supplied to some countries which cannot be used because of a lack of spare parts or trained personnel to maintain it. All aid projects take maintenance into account during their appraisal.
461 Maintenance and training are regularly, but not automatically, provided. It all depends upon a case-by-case examination. I recognise the problem to which my noble friend referred. I can recall seeing machinery and equipment supplied on an aid basis lying unused in some third world countries because of the problems to which he referred.
My noble friend also suggested that we should pay greater attention to the ITDG. At least one other noble Lord referred to that organisation. The ODA has just agreed a £ 7.06 million grant to the ITDG over the next three years. We have a high regard for that organisation. It is a leading practitioner of intermediate technology. My noble friend also referred to the relationship between the ODA and the British Council. A major area of that relationship was reviewed in 1989. Changes are already being introduced which should lead to a clearer definition of their respective roles and responsibilities. The ODA has a high regard for the local knowledge and experience of council staff in the field. ODA staff regularly visit council offices on their overseas visits to draw upon that knowledge. I too take the opportunity to visit British Council offices overseas whenever I can.
I turn now to the problem of population control which has been referred to by a number of noble Lords and noble Baronesses. The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Lockwood, were some of the speakers who referred to that The Government strongly support the need to reduce population growth and increase population awareness. Population will continue to be a priority for the British aid programme. Assistance in this area takes many forms: support for multilateral organisations' bilateral programmes and projects; and assistance to United Kingdom institutions and research projects. Support for multilateral organisations such as the United Nations population fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the World Health Organisation's human reproduction programme will continue to be at the heart of our population assistance.
Increasing bilateral assistance will also be made available with particular emphasis on Africa and South Asia where initiatives can be identified and implemented. In 1988 over £ 16.7 million was spent on population related activities compared to £ 6.5 million in 1981. The percentage of all United Kingdom aid spent on population activities has remained constant at just over 1 per cent.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Lockwood and Lady Seear, and at least one other speaker referred to the importance of channelling help through non-governmental organisations. I very much agree with that sentiment. We are providing substantial and growing support through the joint funding scheme. We are currently supporting some 800 separate schemes, many with science and technology components. Further, we are helping to fund some 1,400 volunteers who come under the same category.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, expressed concern that aid to Eastern Europe might be used to squeeze 462 support for developing countries in Africa and possibly elsewhere. It is important that that should not happen. I agree with the sentiments expressed by both noble Lords. United Kingdom support for Eastern Europe is currently channelled essentially through the medium of the know-how fund. I shall not go into detail about that today as it is not particularly relevant. Nevertheless, it is important that we should maintain our regular aid programme in addition to whatever we may be able to provide, however important it may be, in Eastern Europe.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and one or two other noble Lords raised the question of overseas students. The number of overseas students studying here under our Government support schemes has increased from 18,000 at a cost of some £ 80 million to 24,000 at a cost of some £ 127 million over the past four years. The majority are pursuing studies in the scientific and technological fields. The noble Lord mentioned the risk that too many of these students may be coming to this country to study because they can afford to do so rather than for the benefit they obtain from their studies. I should say that the Foreign Office has invested substantial funds in this area recently. I have already indicated the increase in funding which has taken place over recent years. That increased funding was established to cope with the problem that the noble Lord referred to. I do not believe that the increase in numbers of overseas students can be attributed simply to students coming over who can afford to do so. On the contrary, I think it has been the result of the increased Foreign Office funding to which I have referred. I agree that it is important that as many as possible of these students should be selected by virtue of their needs rather than by their ability to pay for their courses.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and my noble friend Lord Butterworth— my noble friend explained that he was unable to stay— pointed to the danger of what they called excessive projectisation. That is a way of more clearly identifying the aims and objectives and indeed the timetable of a particular area of aid support. I must emphasise that that does not preclude longer term commitments or a comprehensive approach. But our aid should be carefully targeted, considered and calculated. That does not always mean providing funds for some of the less specific projects that come to our notice.
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, asked about natural resources advisers. He felt that they paid inadequate attention to social and economic criteria in the design and implementation of aid activities. The department certainly agrees on the need for adequate attention to be paid to social and economic criteria in the design and implementation of projects for promoting the sustainable development of renewable natural resources. That is achieved through an interdisciplinary approach of the kind to which I referred earlier, using advisory teams of natural resources experts with economists and sociologists. The point of the noble Lord is well made and it is well taken.
The noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord Walston, and one or two others complained in general terms about the size of the aid budget. I am not sure that 463 that arises directly from the report we are considering. However, I should say that the aid programme, at £ 1,500 million in the current financial year, is substantial. It is planned to grow to £ 1,750 million by 1992 to 1993. That is an increase of 4 per cent. in real terms. Moreover, it is heavily targeted on the poorer countries. That, I think, is important. In 1988 nearly 80 per cent. of our bilateral aid went to countries with a per capita annual income of 700 dollars or less.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the Minister knows that we have been over this ground before, but he still has not satisfied me. How can the Minister claim that the Government are aiming, even in principle, at a figure of 0.7 per cent. and at the same time claim that the aid budget is growing when it has fallen from 0.53 per cent. when this Government came into office to 0.32 per cent. now?
The Minister said that the aid budget depends on the economy. When the economy was in bad shape we were told that the Government could not afford increases in aid. However, over the past three years we have been told that we are experiencing an economic miracle. In that case why has the aid not been restored at least to the level it attained when this Government came into office?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the figure to which the noble Lord refers is a percentage of GNP. If the aid figure stays level or even grows, it does not necessarily grow as a percentage of GNP if GNP itself is substantially growing, as it is. The arithmetic is not as simple as the noble Lord may think. I do not claim to be be an arithmetical expert but I stand by the overall figures which I have given to the noble Lord. The aid programme stands at £ 1,500 million this year and is planned to grow to £ 1,750 million by 1992 to 1993. Those are substantial sums by any standard. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to recognise that.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, also complained about the lack of environmental consideration emerging from the report we are considering tonight. However, I am not sure the noble Lord does the report adequate justice. If he looks at paragraph 7.22 of the report and the paragraphs that immediately follow, he will see that the environment is referred to rather effectively.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also referred to the Royal Geographical Society's activity. The ODA is happy to have recently extended its funding support for the excellent Maracá project to which the noble Lord referred on managing and conserving the rainforests of Amazonia. That is another extremely worthwhile programme. We very much welcome the involvement of the Royal Geographical Society and we are glad to be able to provide some ODA assistance in that area.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to the problem of women coming to the United Kingdon on training courses. She said that comparatively few women came to such courses. I share the concern of the noble Baroness that so few women attend such courses, particularly from certain countries.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the noble Lord gave us figures about overseas students now coming to this country. Are they broken down by sex? As regards those figures, can the noble Lord tell the House roughly the percentage of men and women?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am afraid I do not have the breakdown for which the noble Baroness asks. However, I shall find out whether it is available. I certainly accept that from some countries in particular many fewer women attend our courses than we would wish. We are exploring ways of correcting that problem. However, in many cases the problem arises from the social, economic and traditional situation in the countries concerned. I am not sure that we should disrupt those traditions in a way that would altogether meet the concern of the noble Baroness. However, I share her concern. Where there are ways of overcoming it we shall seek to do so.
The Government share the view of the Select Committee on the importance of science and technology in the process of development. We note the detailed recommendations of the Select Committee and we shall comment on them individually in our formal reply. We are acutely aware of the need to work at the international level and in developing countries to develop strategies and programmes which will harness the best of science and technology for development.
Here I believe that our record is a good one. The fields in which the Government believe that science and technology have the greatest contribution to make to the aid programme are precisely those which are affected in the ODA's professional capacity. Those include its own in-house advisers, the Overseas Development Natural Resources Institute (ODNRI) and other specialised British institutions regularly supported by the ODA.
I can now give an answer to the noble Baroness about women students. I understand that only between 18 per cent. and 24 per cent. of overseas students who come to this country are women. I agree that that is too small a proportion.
I hope that your Lordships agree with me that this has been an interesting and worthwhile debate. The House will be most grateful to my noble friend and his committee for bringing forward the report.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Viscount Caldecote
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, which I agree with my noble friend has been a very interesting one. I am most grateful for the warm welcome which all speakers gave to the report. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, was an exception but, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, his strictures were almost entirely irrelevant to the subject of the report. I should particularly like to thank my noble friend Lord Trefgarne for the welcome that he gave to the report and his constructive and encouraging comments.
The theme that ran through many of the speeches this evening was a warning to beware of major headline-catching projects. It was said that in general 465 we should get better value from concentrating our aid on a widespread effort to build a sound, cultural, educational and institutional base with the development of appropriate technology to the benefit of the whole of the community in the recipient countries, not least the poorest of them. I believe that the ODA, ably supported by the British Council, is making a very cost-effective contribution and could do much more. Therefore, I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will increase the allocation of resources to overseas aid as quickly as possible.
§ Once again I thank noble Lords for the welcome that they have given to the report.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.