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Opposition Day

Volume 80: debated on Tuesday 11 June 1985

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[14TH ALLOTTED DAY]

Developing Countries (Famine And Debt)

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. Before I call upon the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, I have to announce that no fewer than 15 Back Benchers have indicated that they would like to speak in the debate. I hope that will be borne in mind by both the Front and the Back Benches.

3.58 pm

I beg to move,

That this House deplores the Government's continuing and substantial cuts in overseas aid and its failure to provide an effective response to the crisis of drought and debt afflicting Sub-Saharan Africa; and calls on the Government to double the official United Kingdom aid programme, both advancing our assistance to developing countries towards the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product and generating employment opportunities in Britain, to take urgent and new measures to increase food, fuel and aid for agricultural development to famine areas, and to promote joint international action to re-schedule and, where possible, write-off the debts of the poorest countries.

There are three main parts to the motion: first, the aid programme in general; secondly, the call for new measures; and, thirdly, the demand for rescheduling and, where possible, writing off the debts of the least developed countries.

The House is aware that the Minister likes to give the appearance of being a well-meaning wet corralled in a hard Cabinet. However, a recent Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on famine in Africa shows that the Government have made no additional resources available for famine relief. The funds have been taken from other ODA development budgets, and in one case, which we raised earlier on the Floor of the House, food aid, which would now be highly welcomed in Bangladesh, was reallocated to Ethiopia instead of extra aid being provided.

One of the major recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was that extra funds should be added to the aid budget to cover Government contributions to major disasters such as we are witnessing today in Africa. It is scandalous that at a time when long-term development needs have never been so clearly urgent, Britain is contributing much less to those needs, because £100 million in the 1984–85 financial year was transferred from the development budget to emergency relief.

The Government argue that the ODA's contingency reserve is adequate. We recommend that from now the Government should calculate average annual contributions to emergencies — for example, over the 1980 to 1983 period—and should add into the aid budget for this year a sum equal to the difference between this figure and the planned emergency contributions to Africa. It is time that the Government started to account for emergencies and mobilised the net resources needed to meet them.

The House has also widely noted that the Conservatives have cut the total overall aid programme since they came to office in 1979. But it is not clear by just how much it has been cut. In practice, the total net aid budget has increased from £1.099 billion in 1984–130 billion in 1985–86, a 2.8 per cent. cash increase, but, taking inflation into account, representing a real decrease of about 3 per cent.

The aid contribution of the United Kingdom is now 0.33 of 1 per cent., which represents nearly a 20 per cent. cut in aid spending by the Conservatives since they came to office. As a proportion of GNP, therefore, the Government have not only allowed the programme to fall to under half of the UN target of 0.7, but Britain's record compares badly, for example, with a Government who are much criticised by Conservative Members, that of the French, with 0.76 per cent. of GNP; Germany, 0.49; Belgium, 0.59; the Netherlands, 0.91; Norway, with over 1 per cent; and with a dramatically rising share in the aid programme of Italy, under a Socialist Prime Minister, especially to Sudan and Ethiopia.

Not only are we behind in the overall aid stakes—not only have there been cuts in the overall aid programme — but it has been authoritatively reported that the British Government have been foremost in the Council of Ministers, in the Budget Council of the EEC, in recommending cuts in food aid spending for 1985– from the figure proposed by the Commission, of 65 million ecu to 26 million ecu. That is a difference of over £22 million in what the Commission wanted to spend next year and what the British Government recommended should be spent, even though those sums were scheduled simply to maintain the real value of food aid in the 1985–86 period.

It is double standards, therefore, for the Government to claim that they are seriously concerned to defend, far less to extend, the aid budget. In reality, they have not only been cutting it, but cutting it in the European Community.

The Government also say that they are concerned about the quality of aid. Clearly, aid quality is vital in projects such as in the Indian Orissa family welfare project and the fertiliser education project covering six eastern states. It is clear that good models of official aid can help the poorer 50 per cent. of the population.

However, this type of poverty-focused aid represents a small percentage of ODA funds. In particular, only about one third of United Kingdom bilateral aid to Africa goes directly or indirectly to agriculture and related sectors, and only a small proportion of that goes to peasant agriculture and especially towards helping to improve traditional crops such as sorghum and millet.

Perhaps the Government now share a relative distate for large scale prestige projects. But even, for example, expenditure of perhaps £10 million on an individual dam could provide extensive supplementary irrigation to about 300,000 acres, benefiting up to 100,000 families, without doing damage to the environment in the way in which big projects have done. I shall be interested to hear whether the Minister is prepared to make a statement today about that type of project.

Further, on the double standards of the Government, when in a recent television interview relating to the film "African Calvary" the Prime Minister was asked what the United Kingdom could do to help famine victims, she listed among her three priorities one which was designed to help to develop improved varieties of drought-resistant crops. In reality, the Government have taken steps which have resulted in funds being withdrawn from precisely that kind of project.

For example, Oxfam is now funding the arid land seed research project at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, after the Government discontinued funding for it. Oxfam's field director in Ethiopia has pointed out the sad anomaly that the excellent Addis-based international livestock centre for Africa, which works mostly in connection with the problems of poor farmers, now contributes more to the United Kingdom in the form of goods and services purchased here than it receives in EEC aid.

Then there is the issue of the replenishment of IFAD —the International Fund for Agricultural Development — which is one of the most effective organisations in helping to improve peasant farming and which is funded both by Governments of the Western world and OPEC. The OPEC countries have seen a substantial loss in their real revenues with the weakening of the world price of oil, and it is understandable that OPEC feels that it cannot continue to fund IFAD in the way in which it has in the past. The result of the cuts in IFAD's budget will be terrible. As opposed to an injection of $1 billion to last for three years, the agreed three-year replenishment is likely to be only $600 million.

If the hon. Gentleman intends simply to read out the Oxfam brief, I can perhaps help him by saying that most hon. Members, at any rate on the Conservative Benches, already have copies of it. We should, however, be interested to know how the Labour party would deal with the crisis of famine and debt if they were in government, rather than have the hon. Gentleman tell us what Oxfam proposes, because we know that.

The Labour party is committed on aid to achieving 0.7 of 1 per cent. of GNP within the lifetime of a Government. It is also committed to aiming towards 1 per cent. What we are urging on the Government—it is well publicised by Oxfam; I agree with the hon. Gentleman about that — is that precisely for those reasons the Government have no excuse either for continuing their cuts in the aid programme or for claiming that their hands are tied and that they are doing the best that they can.

The Minister—for example, in the case of food aid distribution in the Horn of Africa—has paid lip service to the difficulties caused by the civil war in Eritrea and Tigre, and he has made minor resources available through some of the agencies which may reach either Eritrea or Tigre from Port Sudan. But those resources are minuscule. Eritrea and Tigre need about 20,000 tonnes of food aid per month, whereas only 2,500 tonnes is reaching them. The Government's claim to recognise the problem is not matched by anything like a sufficient scale of food aid allocation for the voluntary agencies at Port Sudan.

Further, the exodus of refugees from Eritrea and Tigre underlines the current crisis in the Sudan. One of the relief centres, Wad Kowli, is now the third largest city in the Sudan. Senior Sudanese officials made it plain earlier this year that they were disappointed with the Minister's visit in January and with his failure to realise that transport and fuel would be needed by the end of April if there was to be any way effectively of distributing food aid to the areas where it is most needed, especially on the borders with Eritrea and Tigre and in west Sudan. It is clear that the Government have relied almost entirely in west Sudan on American agencies taking responsibility for food aid distribution. But now there is a major tragedy in that area.

On 22 March and 5 June the Minister referred to transportation. On 5 June, he claimed that "large numbers of trucks are already available in Sudan, which has a strong private enterprise trucking agency." — [Official Report, 5 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 306.]

In reality, because of its debt problem of between $8 billion and $9 billion, Sudan has not been able to buy the fuel needed to ensure that the private trucking sector is available for food aid distribution.

In December 1984, the Sudanese Government asked for tenders to renew railway rolling stock and equipment in west Sudan. British firms responded magnificently to that request, and some went out there within three or four days. On their return, they immediately submitted tenders— that was by mid-January—but it was only last week that the Minister was able to tell the House that approval for the £6 million project had finally been given by the EEC.

It is quite wrong for there to be such a delay in ensuring that the railway is in working order. Only one fifth of the food that is needed in west Sudan is getting through via the railway. The rains have come. They may not be sufficient to sustain a future crop, but they certainly will wash roads away. Road transport cannot possibly cover the whole of the Sudan. It can be used only on a limited basis in food distribution — for example, around Darfur. Because of the delay in approving the railway project, 1.5 million people in west Sudan are now at risk.

The Minister has repeatedly said to the House, "What can I do? My hands are tied. It takes time for the multilateral aid agencies to operate. Very difficult decisions must be made." In reality, if the EEC would not approve that project, why did the Minister not do what the Germans did? It appears that the German project for refurbishing the railway was not an integrated part of the EEC programme. There is no reason why the British firms which were ready to meet the orders for repair of the railway should not have been able to do so.

Fuel is a similar issue. On 22 March, I put it to the Minister that there was a desperate shortage of fuel in Sudan. Again, he told us that his hands were tied by the EEC. He said that the EEC was examining the issue and that he was foremost in the EEC in arguing the case. I said to him, "Britain is a shipping and oil-producing nation. Why do you not commission a tanker, fill it with fuel, send it to the Sudan and then send the bill to the EEC Commission?" Had that tanker gone to Sudan and had the fuel arrived in April, the food aid distribution problem would have been very different.

In contrast to what the Minister told the House last week, nearly half a million tonnes of food intended for famine victims is said to have piled up in ports in Ethiopia and Sudan because of the lack of transport. Some of that food has been spoilt. A United States official, Mr. Peter McPherson, who is the administrator for the agency for international development, has blamed Ethiopia and Sudan for the hold-up. He has said that neither of those Governments has given transport the priority that it deserves. In Ethiopia's case, the lamentable tragedy of the civil war and the Ethiopian Government's failure to ensure the safe passage of food aid or to allocate sufficient vehicles for food aid distribution are much to be deplored. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House deplore this. The Government in Sudan should not, however, be blamed. In January, that Government gave the message clearly to the international community and to the Minister. The Minister failed to react.

The cyclone in Bangladesh has directly affected almost 3 million people—more than 1 million seriously—and caused substantial damage to livestock, homes and crops. The Government of Bangladesh have appealed for $50 million to cover the immediate—not long-term—need for food, medicine, shelter, and so on. So far, the United Kingdom has pledged £750,000 from its aid budget. That is probably less than the VAT that the Government have managed to collect from the £8 million raised by the Band Aid project. It shows the lack of priority that the Government are giving to the problem.

Conditional aid and the political refusal to grant aid are also of concern. It is transparently obvious that the so-called technical reasons which the Minister claimed for not granting aid to Nicaragua through the Inter-American Development Bank or the World Bank are entirely without foundation. The Nicaraguans showed me the projects that they have submitted for aid. It is clear that the proposals have been admirably vetted and are technically excellent. There are no essentially technical reasons for blocking aid to Nicaragua; the reasons are political. They reflect the fact that the British Government are prepared to coat-tail the United States rather than concern themselves with a basic needs programme of the type that Nicaragua has already shown it can pioneer—in health, education and food production—and, with resources, deliver.

Mr. Geoff Dennis, a junior civil servant in the ODA, has been suspended without pay and may face charges following allegations that he was involved in the release to hon. Members of information which showed that the technical reasons for denying aid to Nicaragua were implausible. I am sure that I speak for both sides of the House in saying that few of us believe that civil servants should release material to hon. Members in any circumstances, but this case is directly comparable with the Ponting case, where a Minister misled the House. The jury expressed its views on that matter by dismissing the charges brought against Mr. Ponting by the Government under the Official Secrets Act.

We understand that, while Mr. Dennis has been suspended without pay, he is still technically employed by ODA and therefore cannot sign on for unemployment benefit. The Government have already penalised him by his loss of earnings. We suggest to the Government that no charges should be pressed and that Mr. Dennis's salary should be post-dated and paid from now until he is reinstated, or dismissed, by the ODA. We shall carefully watch the Government to ascertain how they choose to handle the matter.

The third part of the motion concerns debt. The scale of the financial crisis is recognised internationally as overwhelming. Mr. Tom Clausen, the head of the World Bank, warned that the future would bring "more Ethiopias" unless action is taken now. It appears, however, that that view is not shared by the Chancellor, who told an IMF meeting that world economic conditions are the best they have been in six years.

Yet between 1980-82 and 1985-87, annual average national capital flows to sub-Saharan Africa fell from $11 million to $5 million. That represents a drying up of private capital aid flows. Official international development funds from the West and the East are stagnant at S9 billion. Many of those loans will have to be repaid shortly. An extra $2 billion is needed to keep the official aid flows to sub-Saharan Africa at the 1980-82 level. That is why the World Bank, in its project for Africa, recommended a $2 billion target. It appears to be clear, unless the Minister says otherwise, that this target will in no way be met. In fact, it is probable that between only a quarter and a half of that sum will be allocated. Further, the sub-Saharan countries are suffering from crippling debt servicing. Their debt service bill alone in 1981 was $4.1 billion. That is projected to increase on average from 1985 to 1987 to $11.7 billion, in other words, there has been an almost threefold increase in debt servicing in sub-Saharan Africa.

The interest rates are extremely high. While 4.5 per cent. may well not be considered high for official interest rates, they are 12.5 per cent. for private loans. When the United States Administration are recommending more market forces within the African sub-continent, and when they are recommending that the forces of supply and demand should make a contribution to development, what is the development difference between interest rates of 4.5 per cent. and 12.5 per cent? It is not merely 8 per cent; it is the difference between viability and financial bankruptcy. That is what is now facing the sub-Saharan countries.

In the sub-Saharan countries, overall debt service is now rising to about 27 per cent. of total export earnings. That is twice the ratio of 1977. Therefore, even if there had been no drought, there would be a development crisis in Africa today. The measures that the international community is taking in relation to the crisis vary substantially. There is the obduracy of the United States and the unwillingness of our Government to pioneer and press for increases rather than cuts in EEC programmes, so the position is getting worse.

It is relevant to make a comparison with the cost of intervention storage and export subsidies of the food programme in the CAP. It now amounts to about $10 billion in a total EEC budget of $16 billion. Against that, the Government were pressing that the spending on the food aid programme for next year should be reduced by £22 million.

In reality, who are the real debtors? The biggest debtor in the world at the moment is the United States. The biggest creditor in the world at the moment—although it may shortly be Japan—is the United Kingdom. We are lending all right—the Government do not have a bias against lending—but we are lending to the rich and to the most developed countries. We are not lending on a sufficient scale to the lesser or least developed countries.

There are other issues that the House has addressed on other occasions concerning the deteriorating terms of trade of Third world countries, the practice of IMF conditionality, and other matters, but in reality the three main parts of the motion are crucial.

Have the Government any target whatever for increasing official development assistance over the lifetime of this Parliament? Will they undertake substantial new measures to remedy drought in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the minuscule measures which are a fraction of the debt needs and development needs of those countries? What action will the Government take internationally either to reschedule or to write off the debts of the poorest countries? I am not talking here about the conversion of loan into grant, because we appreciate that the Overseas Development Administration has a record for doing that with the least developed countries. It is the overall financial debt that is crippling those countries.

The Government have acted too late. They have failed to respond to warnings. They are, with other EEC Governments, directly culpable for the fact that a railway in the Sudan is not now functioning, and that another 1.5 million people are now suffering in addition to the 10 million migrants and the 100 million other people affected by the drought. The Government must learn the lessons of the famine and act urgently along the lines recommended in the motion. It is for that reason that I commend it to the House.

4.24 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to adti instead thereof:

'welcomes the effectiveness of the Government's action in tackling the famine in Africa; endorses its policies to promote long term development in Africa; supports the present approach of the Government and the international financial institutions to the severe debt problems of the day; and recognises that Britain's aid policy confers real benefits not only on the developing countries but also on British industry and employment.'.
The Opposition motion focuses on a number of topics, but especially on sub-Saharan Africa, and that is as it should be. It is there, after all, that the famine has been so devastating. It is there that the long-term development problems seem most formidable. It is also there that we have special responsibilities.

We cannot do everything across the world; we have to concentrate to some extent. Quite rightly, we do a great deal in the Indian subcontinent. We are active in other areas of Asia, such as Indonesia. We have important programmes in the Caribbean and the south Pacific. We have to sustain and develop our own dependencies. There are other useful things that we do across the world, not least in English language training and technical co-operation in many countries. But Africa presents the greatest challenge to us. We are heavily involved there and we are contributing heavily.

As we all know, the famine has highlighted in the most terrible way a profound and long-term problem. I shall look first at the immediate crisis and then at the long-term crisis.

Many people have said—rather glibly—that nothing was done until the television cameras aimed on Ethiopia and then the Sudan. That, of course, is false. As it happens, Ethiopia was the biggest recipient of aid under the Lome 2 convention and the biggest African recipient of food aid from Britain over the three years before last autumn.

Sudan has not, in the past, been so big a recipient of food aid. Although we provided 45,000 tonnes of wheat in 1983 and 1984 to help the UN refugee programme there, the Sudanese themselves have not normally needed or asked for food aid. But Sudan has one of the biggest British bilateral development programmes, and we have been involved there for many years. Sudan was also, like Ethiopia, one of the largest recipients of European Community aid under Lome 2. So it is far from the case that we or other donors have been doing nothing. Nevertheless, the famine has come with a dreadful impact, and no one can possibly be complacent about what happened or say that enough had been done by the world as a whole.

The motion alleges that we have not provided an effective response to the drought crisis.

I should like to put a question to the Minister before he leaves the problems of the Sudan. I am not quarrelling with him, but in the statement last week he was a bit dismissive of my question about trucks. Yesterday, Mr. Prattley and other senior officials of the United Nations said that trucks and fleets of lorries were needed, above all else. The Minister knows my interest in relation to trucks at Bathgate and I do not press that too strongly. It has been widely said in my constituency, "We have all these trucks lying around. Why cannot some of them go to the Sudan?" What is the answer to that question?

I have not left the problems of the Sudan, and I am about to say something about trucks. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stay and listen to what I have to say. I am sure that he will.

I want to tell the House what we have been doing in Ethiopia and the Sudan, two countries to which we have specifically directed our relief efforts. Of course, I recognise that other countries are badly affected, but our help to them is mainly carried out through the European Community and other multilateral organisations.

In Ethiopia, since October 1984 we have provided over £40 million—£28 million bilaterally and more than £12 million through our share of Community actions. We have provided a wide range of assistance, including food aid. As I said yesterday, I am ready to offer more when we are satisfied about proper arrangements for its transport and distribution. We have provided transport itself, including lorries, Land Rovers, semi-trailers and mobile workshops and spare parts. We have provided medical equipment, tents and blankets, seeds and tools.

The RAF and Army detachments have done a marvellous job since last November. They have flown 10 hours a day every day since then, including over 300 airdrop missions. To date, they have successfully delivered over 4,500 tonnes of grain and other supplies. I must also mention that we have provided two men for the world food programme team monitoring the distribution of food supplies. They have been working in Eritrea and Wollo.

The overall position is now broadly as follows. The recent widespread rains have favoured the secondary belg crop to be harvested shortly and land preparation for the main crop, which is scheduled for planting in the next few weeks. However, those rains have also impeded the distribution of supplies in some remote areas. The main rains, which we hope will come during the next three months, will make road transport more difficult.

Of the 1.1 million tonnes of food aid pledged, some 60 per cent., that is 680,000 tonnes, has been shipped. About 185,000 tonnes are now in the three ports and 135,000 tonnes are in store or being distributed. The main problem now in Ethiopia is the shortage of transport, which is seriously hampering distribution. The Ethiopian authorities have recently provided 350 lorries to increase the daily offtake at Port Assab to 3,000 tonnes, but they need to do more. Yesterday I announced the further assistance that we shall be providing — £750,000 for land transport, the extension of the airlift to the end of September, and 10,000 tonnes of grain to be used when it is needed and can be used effectively.

Finally, although the position is desperate in many respects, one redeeming feature has been the effective co-ordination between the donors — typified perhaps by West and East co-operating on the airdrops — and the Ethiopian authorities. Great credit for that goes to Mr. Kurt Jansson, the United Nations' co-ordinator, who is doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances.

The Minister will be as aware as anyone that air transport is expensive. We are not saying that the Hercules aircraft should not be there. Indeed, we would even say that at this stage there should be more of them. Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to why the railway is not working, and why there was a six-month delay in approving the project, which means that the bulk of the food aid cannot get through?

The hon. Gentleman is confusing Ethiopia and the Sudan. I have just been talking about Ethiopia, where the Royal Air Force has been operating. I now come to the Sudan.

Our efforts in the Sudan have also been considerable. We have provided a total of £17 million for famine relief since last October. That is all additional to our normal substantial development aid programme in Sudan. Our contribution includes the cost of 62,000 tonnes of food aid, all of which has now been delivered to Port Sudan. When I was there earlier this year, I formed the strong view that we must get our food aid there before the rainy season. I said that on my return, and we have succeeded in that objective.

We have also provided more than £5 million to the voluntary agencies, including assistance to Save the Children Fund for overland distribution and an airlift to western Sudan. I welcome the appointment of Mr. Winston Prattley as the United Nations' Secretary General's representative to do a similar job in the Sudan to that done by Mr. Jansson in Ethiopia.

Food is now arriving in significant quantities in Port Sudan. More than 700,000 tonnes have been delivered, and pledges now cover the estimated requirement of 1.4 million tonnes to October. Distribution is a critical problem, especially, as the hon. Gentleman fairly said, in Darfur in the west. It is right that attention is focused there at present. The monthly cereal requirement there is more than 30,000 tonnes. The airlifting of medicines and supplementary foods will be invaluable, but airlifts cannot cope with these tonnages of cereals.

Overland trucking is difficult in desert conditions. It has been averaging 100 tonnes a day. Efforts are being made to mobilise more lorries, but the key is the railway. Its performance has been weak, and has averaged 200 to 300 tonnes a day. Our expert advice is that that could be at least doubled through a system of so-called block trains devoted exlusively to transporting food and relief supplies. We have provided technical help for that from British Rail, and I have pressed the Community into funding the emergency rehabilitation of locomotives. It is hoped that the system will begin operation between Kosti on the Nile and Nyala within the next week, although it is primarily in the hands of the Sudanese authorities. However, we shall continue to do everything that we can to support efforts to improve this vital rail link.

The problems will not be over when the grain reaches Nyala. Rains will undoubtedly make distribution even more difficult. However, we have already provided considerable support for the Save the Children Fund logistics effort in Darfur.

Today I can announce further assistance. We are providing a grant of £1.2 million to Save the Children Fund to purchase 60 Leyland trucks and to hire an additional 50 lorries in Sudan. The trucks will be used to move food supplies from Kosti and Omdurman to Nyala in western Sudan. Leyland Trucks has offered to loan Save the Children Fund free of charge an engineer to service the new trucks for a period of 12 months.

I am also providing a grant of £150,000 to the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development to buy 12 four-wheel-drive vehicles and spares, which will be used by the Church organisation, Sudan Aid, to distribute food to more than 100,000 families in western Sudan and the greater Khartoum area.

I have also approved a further grant of £1 million to the 1985 Africa appeal of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a donation of £250,000 to the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation appeal to enable cereals to be distributed to villages affected by drought in Niger.

We also continue to respond generously to refugee appeals. I have now agreed to provide £3 million in response to three 1985 appeals from the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. We shall contribute £1.5 million to the Africa emergency appeal, £1 million for Sudan and £500,000 for Somalia. Our contributions to the Africa emergency and Sudan appeals will help with UNHCR programmes for the 700,000 refugees in Sudan both for short-term needs and longer-term settlement schemes.

Our £500,000 for the Somalia programme will help with the UNHCR provision of food, medical and water supplies, transport and education. Since 1 April we have committed £5.85 million in response to various refugee appeals for Africa.

The money comes from our aid budget. I shall come back to that subject in a moment.

Throughout, I have taken the view that it is not merely gestures that are wanted, but effective action specifically targeted at priority needs. That is why so much of our effort has gone on transport and distribution, and why both in Addis Ababa and Khartoum our embassies have worked so actively and effectively to that end. There is absolutely no doubt of the value of our contribution in the countries concerned, and I am proud of what is being done in the name of Britain in these desperate circumstances.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) asked about our attitude to European Community food aid. On 7 May I wrote to him about that and explained that in the April Budget Council we had supported a Presidency which increased by 25 million ecu, or £14.5 million, the level of food aid appropriations over those in previous draft budgets. On 22 May my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury accepted further increases worth a total of £52.8 million above the original figure.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman appreciates that it is wrong to equate the level of EC food and the size of the famine relief effort. The two largest recipients of food aid are India and Egypt, and this year some food aid has gone to Malta. Most food aid is sold by recipient Governments, which is perfectly legitimate in terms of their agreement with the Community. Only a comparatively small but growing proportion of the budget is spent on sending food to famine victims.

During the past months my whole object in the EC has been to get the Community to focus its food aid primarily on those areas where the need is greatest. We have had considerable achievements in that respect. The House knows very well that indiscriminate food aid does not do any good, but is a way of using up surpluses. The effect can often be detrimental to the proper indigenous agriculture in the countries concerned.

In relation to the 25 million ecu, will the Minister confirm or deny that the Commission's proposal was for 65 million ecu? The difference in today's prices is £22 million. Did the Commission propose the higher figure or not?

There were proposals for higher figures, but I repeat that our objective, which has been successful, is to get food aid in the Community focused much more on areas of actual need. The hon. Member for Vauxhall knows that at the Dublin summit the Prime Minister took the lead in ensuring that the Community would retarget its food aid on areas where famine relief was most desperately needed. We were successful in that and we have been successful in continuing the campaign to get food aid properly targeted. The hon. Gentleman is talking about an indiscriminate increase in food aid, which he knows would not be helpful developmentally in many instances.

The hon. Gentleman referred to fuel supplies in the Sudan. After I went there earlier in the year I, too, was concerned. However, it appears that the situation appears to have eased. The United States and Saudi Arabia have guaranteed the financing of fuel imports for four months from April. The world food programme and the United Nations high commissioner for refugees have set up their own fuel and storage arrangements. Britain contributed $272,000 for the distribution of our most recent consignment of food aid, which arrived at Port Sudan on 17 May. I do not deny that there have been apprehensions about the supply of fuel, especially diesel, but, as I found, the situation has not been as desperate as was feared.

Questions have been raised about the source of the resources that we have put into famine relief. There has been some added money on top of the aid programme. The Ministry of Defence has provided the greater part of the cost of the Hercules operation in Ethiopia. That will amount to an extra £10.5 million by the end of September. As we know, the public have responded with great generosity. If people feel that more should be spent, this is an area where they can do exactly what they feel, through our admirable voluntary agencies. For our part, we have consistently worked closely with the agencies, often placing our aid through them.

What about the Government's own response? I fully accept that we have had to operate within the limits of our overall aid budget. We are committed as a Government to the firm control of public expenditure. Nevertheless, we have provided very substantial resources towards dealing with famine in both short-term relief and long-term development.

In the last financial year, which ran to the end of March 1985, we spent, directly and indirectly, about £95 million on famine-related operations in Africa. To achieve this we drew on the contingency reserve, because that is what the reserve is for. We drew also on our bilateral food aid. We contributed through the European Community and we utilised some funds which became free as a result of slippages elsewhere in our programme. No country or multilateral programme suffered enforced reduction to achieve this. By flexible management we have succeeded in concentrating on the greatest needs. As for this financial year, I have announced that we expect to spend £60 million bilaterally and multilaterally as a minimum planning figure. If we have to find more, we shall.

These are very considerable amounts, but it is not only the quantity of our response that is significant. The quality and effectiveness of the response is similarly significant, as is our lead in stepping up and accelerating the Community's response at Dublin, in the Foreign Affairs and Development Council and in Coreper in Brussels.

My intervention is directed to the way in which development aid is funded. The contingency reserve and the other sources to which my right hon. Friend has referred are all very well in most years for short-term emergencies, but the scale of what is happening in Africa and the likelihood that the problems will continue for some years are factors which present a new dimension and require that something should be added to the figures which would otherwise be available in the next few years. Will the Minister ask his colleagues to take that on board in the context of the next public expenditure review?

I respect my right hon. Friend's views, and I am aware that he has the courage of his convictions because of his past actions. I hope that what I have said already and what I am about to say about long-term development will show that we are able under our present aid budget to mount an effective programme in the short term and the longer term.

I shall address myself to the longer term. Confronting the short-term disaster must not distract us from tackling the challenge of longer-term development. If we had to cut short our plans for this to provide relief, we should be sacrificing the future to the present. It is important to press on, especially with aid which will help our African friends to put their own house in order, and to reshape their development plans in the light of the lessons learnt during the present crisis. This means searching for ways to make our aid both speedier and more effective.

Within all our memories, the large and poor countries of south Asia faced similar difficulties in feeding their rapidly growing populations. There were terrible famines in India. Pakistan was a major food importer. Malnutrition was widespread in Bangladesh, especially after floods or cyclones. The plight of these countries was widely regarded as desperate and likely to remain so—fragile economies balanced on the knife edge of the Asian climate.

Less than a generation later the picture is transformed. All these countries now have the capacity to feed themselves. Food grain production is at record levels. Even in Bangladesh, and even in a year of floods and cyclones, the grain stored in earlier years is finding its way through the food distribution system to those in need. And India is emerging as a food aid donor in its own right: it has already given 10 times as much to Ethiopia in the past six months as the Russians have given.

These countries are still dependent on good weather, and they still need development assistance, but they show what can be achieved. They have had Government policies, which have encouraged food production. They have harnessed the technology of the green revolution. They have had support from the donor community in the early years and in the bad years. And they provide an encouragement to all of us who are concerned about today's desperate famine in Africa.

No. I must press on. Mr. Deputy Speaker has asked us to show restraint.

In 1984 we spent £234 million on direct bilateral development aid to sub-Saharan Africa. We have changed the emphasis of what we do to meet the changing needs. First, importance is given whenever possible to manpower aids of all kinds. All too often, poor management has led to poor maintenance, inefficient operation and the decay of expensive and important investments. In particular, we have to give help not only in the field but to administrations.

Secondly, we have gone over to supplying much more fast-spending programme aid. This is to keep existing assets going and to provide spares and other items which so many countries can no longer afford to buy for themselves. Last year, I agreed major allocations for nearly £39 million of this kind of aid for seven countries, chiefly to back up sectoral or macro-economic reform programmes. The bulk of this aid went directly or indirectly to support agriculture and other natural resources. In the same spirit, we have set aside £75 million over the next five years as untied grants for commitment alongside the World Bank's new African special facility.

The third element in our aid is to look much more closely at what can be done to revitalise peasant agriculture. Together with this, we have to work out ways of more directly reinforcing attempts to reduce population growth and to protect the environment, and especially bush and forest cover. These things cannot really be separated. To the farmer himself, or herself, they are all aspects of the struggle for existence. On the agricultural side, one major task is to rebuild national research systems in a way which actually seeks to answer the farmer's own problems, and to find ways of encouraging agro-forestry and the growth of woodlots which people can see as being of early and immediate advantage to them.

Indeed, the longer-term answer to famine and drought lies not in food aid and emergency relief aid but in lasting answers to the underlying problems. Research and development work, especially in the renewable natural resources sector, will therefore continue to have a high priority within the aid programme. I wish that I had time to describe all the different things that we are supporting in this sector, because the quality of the scientific work that we are backing both here and overseas is recognised as being of outstanding excellence.

These various facets of our aid reflect common perceptions among many donors and, I am glad to say, increasingly among African Governments. They also lead naturally to greater importance for the so-called policy dialogue, which is the fourth strand in our thinking. If we are to provide fast-spending, fast-consumed aid, or manpower aid, it can be most effective only within a policy framework discussed collectively with the donors. This will ensure proper, co-ordinated use. It is particularly encouraging that many African Governments are making real efforts to change their agricultural policies, and systems so as to give the enterprise of the farmer room to flourish. The best recent example is the astonishing performance of peasant fanners in Zimbabwe. Thanks to good incentives and good marketing, despite last year's drought, they produced two fifths of the country's marketed grain — and did so from generally less productive land.

All in all, a new strategic approach to development in Africa is emerging. It is an approach which will stress, on the one hand, good research and ecology and effective population policies, and, on the other, not only effective co-ordination and dialogue, but the need for proper incentives to farmers—including adequate food prices, realistic exchange rates, a determined drive to escape from deadening and incompetent parastatals and bureaucracies, effective control of public expenditure, and real scope for the private sector. In the development of this strategy, the World Bank has played a leading part—so, on the more short-term side, has the IMF. It is our general policy to work alongside them towards the same objectives.

Let me move now to the problem of debt. The motion asks us
"to promote joint international action to re-schedule and, where possible, write-off the debts of the poorest countries".
The problems of many countries are severe and long term, and the level of indebtedness and the debt service requirements will remain heavy. Recovery so far has been uneven and the need for further widespread efforts of adjustment remain. None the less, some progress has been made. For instance, the combined current account deficit of the indebted developing countries, excluding middle east oil exporters, in 1984 was only one third of the level in the peak year of 1981. In addition, there has been an overall improvement in growth rates, but this conceals wide discrepancies between countries.

Nevertheless, as the Bonn summit communique noted, the problems of indebtedness
"though far from solved, are being flexibly and effectively addressed".
The number of reschedulings has risen rapidly from less than four a year in 1970 to 1980 to some 31 in each of the last two years. Official debts and guaranteed export credits are rescheduled through the Paris club, where a standard approach has evolved. Central to this approach is consideration of the problem of each country case by case, rather than by the blanket method favoured by the Opposition. In this way, a programme of adjustment to tackle the fundamental economic problems, and to secure a return to sustainable long-term growth, can be worked out, supported by co-ordinated financing arrangements. For this reason a conditional IMF programme has been a precondition for Paris club rescheduling.

Terms have become easier, maturities and grace periods are generally longer and re-scheduling fees have declined. In addition, we remain willing to consider multi-year rescheduling arrangements where programmes of adjustment are being implemented successfully — as recently in Ecuador. ECGD is now allowed greater flexibility so that cover may be restored where appropriate at an earlier stage after the rescheduling of officially guaranteed debts. Of course, all debt rescheduling involves costs for the creditors. It has to be set against the Government's public expenditure plans or, for aid debts, against competing claims on limited aid resources.

We do not believe that wholesale writing-off of debts is the right answer. However, all the poorest countries are eligible to be considered for retrospective terms adjustment. We have a good record here. We have already cancelled the official aid debts of 12 African countries, amounting to some £211 million, most recently to Mozambique, Ethiopia and Ghana. In total, some £987 million has either been written off, or, in the case of India, local cost aid is provided up to the level of official aid repayments due each year. Largely as a result of this policy, 44 of the 50 poorest countries have no official aid debts to the United Kingdom.

We remain ready to consider applying the same measures to any other eligible countries which so request. Overwhelmingly, our aid to the poorest countries is given, not lent. It does nothing therefore to generate debts—a sharp contrast to Communist bloc practice.

Will the Minister say more about the Government's attitude to Bangladesh? I am sure he will be aware that there is considerable concern in many parts of the country — not least in Bradford and London, where there are large Bangladeshi communities—about the scale of our response to the disaster. Can the Minister say anything more about what contribution we shall give and what will be the main emphasis of our longer-term aid programme to Bangladesh?

That is a vast and important subject, and I understand the hon. Gentleman's interest. We have recently provided an immediate and substantial response, but, more important than that, Bangladesh is one of the two or three biggest aid recipients in the world. We continue to give Bangladesh large resources, and we focus them on dealing with such real problems as those exposed by the recent cyclone. Bangladesh appreciates our aid efforts.

I hope that in what I have said I have shown that Britain is making a very effective contribution to the problem of famine and agriculture, above all in Africa. We are bringing skill, determination and resources to bear, and these problems can be tackled. After all, in Asia we have seen in countries like India — and perhaps even Bangladesh—the threat of famine recede as production and skills develop. Aid plays an important part in this process.

I believe that our approach to debt is sound. We have to work constructively in the world that exists—not in some kind of drearnland El Dorado. At the same time, of course, we are concerned with British interests. We want to develop good relations and see stability increase and potential markets grow. We do not apologise for the fact that a high proportion of our bilateral aid is tied—that 73 per cent. of it returns to Britain in the form of goods and services. The aid trade provision enables us to respond flexibly to commercial opportunities and to counter the mixed credit practices of our competitors. Over the last few years some £350 million of aid trade provision has resulted in British firms winning contracts overseas valued at more than £1,400 million. Those who say that we are idle in this regard should take notice of those facts. We want to help our people too. Nor do I apologise for our stress on effectiveness and policy dialogue. Too much aid has been wasted in the past, and a 10 per cent. increase in effectiveness is as good as a 10 per cent. increase in resources.

Our commitment remains clear. We are not out to promote bad commercial ventures, any more than we are out to prop up bad bureaucracies. We want to see real development—in our own interests, certainly, but above all so that we can see an end to the terrible suffering which, with the aid of television, has so drawn the sympathy of ordinary people.

The motion is sheer Opposition rhetoric. I ask the House to reject it and to support our amendment.

4.58 pm

I have one small question for the Minister, on which I should appreciate an answer at the end of the debate. As he will know, yesterday I tabled a question to him about aid for Nicaragua. I tabled a previous question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on the same subject. I tabled the questions because I understand that the European Community is requesting that all EEC members double their aid to Nicaragua. What response will the British Government make to that? The issue may not arise until the next Development Council. Has the Commission made its proposals, and, if not, when is it likely to make them? What do we propose to do to respond, and how far does it look as though we shall turn in the direction of the EEC's more generous and more politically realistic policies towards Nicaragua than those of the United States? I should be most grateful for some information on that matter, as I have failed to elicit anything through my parliamentary questions.

I note what the Minister said. Most people, who have been extremely generous, understand well that there has been no extra money from the Government to meet the crisis in Africa. We should be foolish not to welcome what the Government have done. They have done a good deal, but the expenditure which the Minister mentioned came out of the 1984–85 programme and the Minister's contingency reserve. The concept of a contingency reserve is slightly new to me—for at least a couple of years, we did not have an underspend on the aid programme.

The contingency reserve is not a description of underspending, but simply a sum which is set aside to deal with emergencies and special needs as they crop up. I should be extremely surprised if the right hon. Lady did not have one when in office.

I am well aware of that. We somehow found ourselves able to provide whenever we were asked for additional help, without having to set aside money and thus depriving the bilateral aid programme.

Last week, the Minister was good enough to receive a deputation from the social and economic affairs committee of the United Nations Association led by my noble Friend, Lord Ennals, and me. He told us, as I am sure he would be ready to tell the House, that this year, with the crisis in mind, he has increased the contingency reserve from £45 million to £60 million. In a programme which is not increasing, that represents a cut of £15 million in bilateral or multilateral programmes.

It is scandalous that the aid programme is not increasing to take account of these needs and that money has not been taken from the Government's contingency reserve. When the pop concert with Bob Geldorf, which is hoping to raise £10 million, takes place, I hope that those who attend decide to write to the Prime Minister asking for £ 10 million to £100 million more on the aid programme to match what those individuals are putting in.

I am glad to hear about the special assistance being given for trucks and other vehicles in Ethiopia and Sudan. I recognise the political problems that are wrapped up in these matters. However, like the Minister, I know that Mali, Niger, Chad and Mozambique, for example, are suffering. The crisis affects a high proportion of Africa.

I should like to consider the inadequacy of the present capacity to respond. The Minister talked about the longer term. The civil servants who provided his brief are knowledgable about the best means of promoting agricultural development. Local peasant farmers need money, but none will be forthcoming from the present aid programme, at least not on the proper scale. Sources of water, roads, fuel costs and the planting of trees require direct development assistance and no amount of getting together with other donor countries and working out what is best is a substitute for them.

The Minister has set his heart on bilateral aid as far as possible. He does not want to join the World Bank multilateral programme, but would far rather provide British help which links in with it. Programmes are being worked out by the World Food Council and we have the United Nations development programme. There must be more development aid expenditure if we are to achieve anything for sub-Saharan Africa in the longer term.

Spending on up-country roads, tree planting and water points, whether for hydro-electricity or tube wells, does not fit the Government's criteria for commercial and political spin-offs. I doubt whether there will be much political spin-off from assisting in the longer-term development of sub-Saharan Africa. Those countries do not carry a tremendous amount of weight in the world arena. I doubt whether there will be more than a fractional commercial spin-off because such spending does not yield large orders for British firms. It involves a high element of local cost and does not involve enormous inputs of machinery.

Long-term development aid to avoid crisis is not compatible with the philosophy of the Government's aid programme. The Minister will have to face that and tell us where he stands. Which will win—the philosophy of the Cabinet Office or the philosophy of development assistance necessary to help the poor in sub-Saharan Africa? He cannot have it both ways. He will have to tell us, because we shall continue to probe him about which way he is going.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation warned the world for about four years about the crisis which was made apparent in the autumn, but nobody listened. The Government, the EEC and the donors of food aid did not listen, but those who knew had given a warning. They continue to give warnings and they are now telling us that matters are likely to get a good deal worse in the next few years. This is not a sporadic 1984-85 crisis which can soon be forgotten. It will go on because of what has happened to the ecology of sub-Saharan Africa.

There is no easy solution. I agree that the green revolution has resulted in massively increased food production in India and Bangladesh, but it can occur only when the new technologies in food production are applied to the right climatic conditions. The right climatic conditions do not exist in sub-Saharan Africa. There might be a considerable population movement from areas incapable of supporting people. Some communities might be saved by the right injection of assistance, but the prospects are not good.

Year by year, for the next five, six or 10 years, will we have the saga of money and food being found a little too late, taking a long time to get there, and incapable of being delivered because of the shortage of transport, trucks and so on? Are we not capable of devising a better approach to meeting what clearly will be a deep need in sub-Saharan Africa for some little time to come? That period will stretch over the next couple of years.

We have available to us the following. There are forecasts and intelligence reports, not just the global or African predictions of FAO, but a highly sophisticated method by which it is possible to forecast a few months ahead when a food crisis will hit a particular area because of what happens on the market, what people are selling and what they are doing with the food that they take to the market. All that is well known. Forecasting is possible. We can know three to six months in advance exactly in which area a food crisis will arise. Therefore, we have the intelligence.

We have the organisations. There is the office of the United Nations disaster relief co-ordinator. There is our own disaster unit here in Britain. I do not have such a terribly high regard for the EEC's capacity to integrate its various departments, so I do not know whether the European Commission has devised a similar disaster unit that brings together transport, money and food. I very much doubt it. If not, it could have such a unit.

I do not know how far it is possible to link forecasting and planning with the effective provision of what will be needed, near the points where it will be needed. I suppose that we all read the leader inThe Times yesterday. It is not often these days that I am able to quote with any approval a leader from The Times on anything to do with the Third world, but this leader was probably an agricultural correspondent leader rather than a Bauer-dominated aid leader. The Minister quoted some of the things that it said about the increase in world food production. It also stated:
"the debate nevertheless will take place in a world which is awash with food surpluses. Since 1964 world-wide production of wheat and food grains has doubled and kept ahead of population growth … While the Commons debates these matters … EEC agriculture ministers are also meeting.
" So is the world food conference.
"If the world is awash with grain, it is also awash with words about grain."
Again in The Times there is a report about the world food conference that is taking place now. It states:
"Algeria, now to be 'bombed' with a million tonnes of very cut price American surplus wheat, is only the first target of the US Department of Agriculture in its new $2 billion offensives against what it says are 'unfair trade practices' — notably the EEC's Common Agricultural Policy."
The EEC agriculture commissioner
"made it clear the EEC meant to defend itself."
In my view, there is something totally obscene about a world that has more than enough food supplies to feed everybody, in which such a dialogue is going on between two of the surplus producers, and in which there is no concrete co-ordinated effort to plan for the future.

I do not mind under which auspices it is, but a strengthened UNDRO linked up with FAO and the EEC might be the right thing—it does not really matter who. Why can there not be a massively strengthened international disaster organisation which not only has the capacity to co-ordinate, which is all that UNDRO does at the moment — it initiates and co-ordinates national responses—but has the money to organise and pay in advance for the surpluses that are likely to be needed, and has the storage and depots, which are not hundreds of miles away, so that months go by while things are being shipped to the countries that need them? The depots, storage and staff should be near the places that are likely to experience crisis.

I do not want to suggest the detail of the countries with which one negotiates a United Nations building for storage, staff, transport—trucks and vehicles of all sorts —medical supplies, tents and all the things which, at the moment, are being shipped or transported. The Minister is spending £10 million on flying such things over by Hercules. How much more sensible it would be if those things were near at hand to the Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali, Chad and Niger. That is more likely to be saving money than spending money.

I see no reason why that could not be done. It will need an initiative. It can be an initiative that links up with the voluntary agencies. They too can use the storage facilities and organise their vehicles and staff from such centres. However, an initiative will be needed, and I am very much afraid that it is the sort of initiative that can come only from the Minister. I am also very much afraid that the Minister's attitude is just a little too complacent to permit him to take such an initiative.

5.17 pm

I think that we would all agree with the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) about the obscenity of the glut of food in some parts of the world and the famine that is prevailing in large parts of Africa. However, I think that we can all recognise, although we often criticise the European common agricultural policy, that it is thanks to that policy that we have an abundant surplus and can make a great deal of grain available at present. Before that policy was introduced, we might have been hard put to do so.

The right hon. Lady recognised—I think that we all do—that Africa is dying—not just the people, but the land. The crisis ahead is serious. Some of the causes can be attributed to what, without blasphemy, one could call an act of God—the drought. However, there is another aspect, which is man-made, and I should like to concentrate on it.

The drought is a major cause, but it is not the only one. War is almost as important. Two horsemen of the Apocalypse are famine and war, followed closely by pestilence. When people are weakened by famine and the consequences of war, they can no longer fight back against the natural disasters that confront them. Therefore, the four horsemen are having it pretty good in the sub-Sahara.

We need to focus on the man-made aspects, because we can make a greater contribution there than we can make to solving the problem of drought. Perhaps we could do more. Let us take Ethiopia for a start. A civil war is being waged by the central Government against Eritrea and Tigre. When I was in the Sudan some months ago, I went to some of the refugee camps in the east, near Kassala. Part of the refugee population was escaping from the famine but an even larger part was escaping from the bombing and the excursions of the Ethiopian army. The people came bringing such wealth as they had — their livestock—half of which had perished on the way. Even if the weather had been better in Ethiopia, there could be no agricultural reconstruction in Eritrea and Tigre while the civil war went on.

There is not the same degree of famine in the Ogaden, but about 1 million Somalis have left that region to pour into Somalia because of the incursions of the Ethiopian Government. The southern Sudan is in insurrection against Khartoum. I shall not go into the rights or wrongs of that, but the dissident action is actively supported by the Ethiopian Government. According to the latest report that I have, famine is now occurring in what should be a naturally rich region of Sudan.

There is a problem there upon which we should focus a little. The chances of lifting Sudan out of its historical poverty were the discoveries of oil in the south and the development of the Jonglei canal. All that has been stopped by the civil war in the south. Until that civil war is ended, in whichever way, it seems that famine will continue there, and the chances of Sudan recovering and establishing itself and developing its economy will be greatly retarded.

In the Darfur region of the Sudan, which has been mentioned, there is a growing element of local famine. It is nourished additionally by the influx of refugees from Chad. I am no expert on the position in Chad, but I cannot believe that those refugees are migrating to the Sudan exclusively because of the drought. I cannot help thinking that the war in Chad is a major element in pushing them out.

There is the political factor of civil war or war encouraged in southern Sudan by Ethiopia or in Chad by Libya. The effects of war are plain enough. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development told us yesterday that shortage of transport is the main problem in Darfur. I believe that he said that the Ethiopians have 4,000 trucks and had made about 1,500 available so far. Of course the Ethiopians cannot make more available when they are fighting a war. Those of us who have been involved in military operations know how much transport that requires.

We are reaching a point where, given the extent of the aid that we provide, we should be insisting on a ceasefire in all those wars. It is not fair that our people, through taxation or voluntary donations, should be contributing to the relief of the famine which the Ethiopian Government — it may be other Governments as well — are exacerbating, not by neglect or inefficiency—we could accept that in an African country — but by their deliberate prosecution of military measures.

I shall be asked what leverage we have and what we can do about that. We plainly cannot cut off aid from people who are dying or from the starving, even for political reasons; but long-term aid is another matter. If I am right —my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong— we do not have any bilateral long-term aid arrangements with Ethiopia, but we contribute substantially to European aid to Ethiopia through the Lome convention. I believe that that is the biggest aid package that Ethiopia receives.

I understand that it is a principle of the European Community that political strings are not attached to the aid that we provide as a Community. It is time that we reconsidered that. This country is a major donor through the European Community and we have a strong voice within the European Community. It is high time that we insisted that there should be a change in the political attitude of Ethiopia to its regions and towards southern Sudan if further long-term aid is to be given. I am not talking about short-term aid to save the dying.

Normally, one does not want to interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign state, but this is not a normal situation. As it seems to depend upon Europe and the United States for the aid that it receives, we are in a strong position to talk to Ethiopia about future long-term aid.

If that approach does not succeed, we should seriously consider whether we should concentrate our aid in the future on those countries whose Governments are more or less co-operative, such as Sudan and Somalia.

I should like to say a word before concluding on the subject of foreign debt. It is a different subject and one which is much less emotive. It is dry as dust. We have learned to live with the problem, but it will not go away. It is a time bomb under the international financial system. The heavy debts incurred by Third world countries are dangerous for them. So long as they are in debt and cannot meet their obligations, they will find it difficult to obtain new loans on any investment from the industrialised West. Their development will therefore be hampered. The debts are also dangerous for the creditors.

The American banks have a curious regulation which I shall not seek to justify. They show their loans as an asset in their balance sheets. Everyone is aware that many of the Latin American debts are non-performing, but they are still shown as assets in the balance sheets of American banks. If there were a major default or a cartel of defaulting debtors, many of the banks might have to close their doors. I am not worried about the banks, but I am worried about the international repercussions.

In 1929, at the time of the Wall street crash, the dollar retained its value because it was tied to gold. The dollar is now tied to nothing. It has become the only source of wealth which is recognised by all the central banks. What is the answer to the problem? The International Monetary Fund, of course, has come up with the correct and logical answer — debtor countries must pursue policies of deflation, tighten their belts and so on. That is all right up to a point, but if they do that too far there could be dangerous political repercussions. Is there any other way? I shall take an analogy from Marshall aid. When Marshall aid was given, most of the recipient countries realised that they could never repay their obligations to the United States. They therefore set aside what were called counterpart funds. It was their local currency guarantee against inflation. The money was available for investment or for the purchase of local assets by western countries on terms to be agreed by the Government of the country involved. Could we do something of the kind again?

Could the debtor countries make available in their own currency — guaranteed, as I say, against inflation — a proportion of their debt which could be taken up by the United States, Great Britain, Japan or other interests to open banks or insurance agencies or to buy a stake in the country involved? If that is put, as I have put it, to Latin American debtor countries, they say that they cannot part with the national patrimony. They talk about "patrimonia nacional" with great emotion. They see a colonialist threat in parting with their assets. Yet the Chinese People's Republic — Communist China — seems prepared to do just that, despite its experience of foreign investment under imperial China. I would have thought that that was a less painful operation than the one which the IMF is otherwise bound to recommend. If it were carried out, it would give confidence to western investors generally to invest in those countries, and it would also give confidence to the banks to lend again.

I am glad to say that we are not as much involved as the United States, but we are sufficiently involved to make it worthwhile for our Government, in their discussions with the Americans, the IMF and the World Bank, to raise this question more seriously than it has been raised so far.

5.30 pm

As this is an extremely short debate, I shall be brief. However, it gives us an important opportunity to look at the Government's response to the present famine crisis. Although the Minister diagnosed the problems which the suffering parts of Africa are now facing and spoke of the long-term need for a new strategy, he gave very little evidence of how he saw the present British Government contributing to the solution of those problems.

The right hon. Gentleman was right to speak of the need to bring about the effective rescheduling of debt, but there was no recognition in what he said of the considerable difficulties that face us in bringing about that effective rescheduling. In particular, there was no recognition of the probability that the position will get worse rather than better if the United States, as seems likely, goes into recession over the next two years.

In fact, the Minister's attitude was somewhat complacent. It was defensive, and intellectually honest enough to diagnose the problem, but it was cribbed and confined by the Government's mistaken policy — for which the right hon. Gentleman has only a limited responsibility—for curbing public expenditure.

If the British Government, as part of the European Community, encourage their European partners to continue to proceed with this restrictive policy, we shall fail to tackle the problems of the less-developed world. Indeed, we can only expect that those problems will get worse, and it is not just a question of the level of overseas aid, even though that is important.

I wish to consider not merely the effectiveness of what the Government have done in the short term to come to the relief of those countries whose plight has so forcefully been brought to the attention of our citizens, whose generous private response has enabled the voluntary aid agencies to make a quite unusual contribution aimed at stemming the worst consequences of this immediate disaster.

It is important to emphasise that the crisis in Africa is not a short-term weather failure. The Minister spoke of a problem that had got worse, and the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) said that the problem had been recognised for four years by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In reality, food production in Africa has been declining for at least 10 years, and there has been a process of desertification and deforestation which has progressively undercut Africa's agricultural base.

It is to that question that the British public are increasingly directing their attention. They recognise that although the short-term assistance that we are able to give to improve the distribution of food that we ship in is necessary, it is not enough, and that we should address ourselves to the transformation of Africa's rural economy.

What has gone wrong in this great continent? First, we must recognise that farming methods have contributed to the problem, and in particular have undermined prospects for the small farmer. The Governments of many of the African countries affected have foolishly but understandably invested less in agricultural development than in urban development. Indeed, that urban development has all too often taken place on the back of the small peasant, who is responsible for the greater part of Africa's potential wealth.

A part of the blame must also be shared by external countries, in that our international aid programmes have not ensured that our long-term aid has gone to those who need it most—the rural poor. That is why I wish to stress the importance of a proposal that has been made by the independent commission on international humanitarian issues — that we should focus more directly on the provision of assistance to the rural poor through the provision of credit in amounts that will assist those who are unaffected by the larger programmes.

This has already been done with striking success in some countries on the initiative of some of their banking institutions. I particularly cite the example of the Grameen bank—the rural bank—in Bangladesh. Since 1976 that bank has provided a substantial amount of money—$6.2 million—to 58,300 people, almost half of whom are women. That is important in an African context, where the bulk of agricultural activity has traditionally been carried on by women.

Under the Grameen scheme the beneficiaries are the poorest of the poor. There is a cut-off point, so that a person who possesses more than 0.2 hectares is not eligible for assistance. Similar schemes exist in Nepal and Pakistan. The most striking feature of these schemes which should commend them to the Government is the repayment rates, which have been as high as 98 per cent. Only the building societies in this country can boast of such a level of success.

The scheme depends on the provision of credit to a small group of individuals, not members of the same family, who are seeking help in the form of sums from as little as £20 to £200. Collateral is not provided, but each member of the group undertakes to bring pressure to bear on the others to repay. The remarkable success of such schemes has led the independent commission to recommend that financial institutions should examine this example and the lessons which it may have, particularly for the continent of Africa.

Africa has a growing population and the problem of feeding that population with a declining productive capacity is stark and cannot be tackled with present forms of relief. Mr. Edgard Pisani has said that the help that we need to provide for Africa is not to build cathedrals in the desert, but to help with low-cost credit, and I urge the Government to take that course. That is a specific and important contribution which could be made by this country, with its financial expertise and its partnership with other European countries. Such action could bring about a remarkable change in agricultural practices, building up the capacity of the poorest of the poor to adapt to the needs of the situation. The Government shojuld do this in conjunction with, rather than in substitution for, the present aid programme, the restrictions of which have understandably been the main focus of today's debate.

I condemn the Government's action on the level of overseas aid. The Government have simply recycled an amount which is limited by their budgetary policy. It is unacceptable that we should rob some of the world's least well-off countries whose predicament has been less highlighted but is no less real. The Minister claims that his hands are tied, but he must recognise that the specific proposals that I have described for credit aid to small agricultural developments are consistent with the kind of policy which the Government ought to be able to espouse.

5.42 pm

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred to the enormous public interest in this vital issue, and the House owes the Opposition a debt of gratitude for enabling us to discuss it today. I am especially grateful in view of my interest, which I should declare at this point, as chairman of an organisation which, among other things, endeavours to provide food aid for the victims of Soviet policy in Afghanistan; a policy which is purely directed at trying to subjugate that unhappy country by starving its population and destroying its crops and cattle. I therefore have almost daily contact at long distance, and sometimes at closer quarters, with those tragic events.

I am perhaps a little less grateful for the terms of the Opposition motion. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) has been notorious in the past for his somewhat dismissive attitude to the United States Government and to Americans in general, and some may feel that he almost delights in scoring easy runs off them, so I hope that he will not be insulted when I say that in some of his comments today he reminded me of the type of American who believes that difficulties can be solved merely by throwing megabucks at them.

Despite a few nods in the other direction, that seemed to be the approach of the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members today. I am the last to decry the importance of resources, but in the sphere in which I have experience I would rather see £50,000 well spent than £500,000 ill spent, however much the provision of a greater sum might increase the outrage and rhetoric in which the Opposition take such delight.

As those of us who have had the misfortune of seeing it know, famine can strike with enormous speed. Very often, those who study these matters can predict the threat of famine, but once it has occurred it is extremely difficult to put it right. The help that we provide, however great, very often proves inadequate, because of the nature of the beast, and it also tends to be extraordinarily expensive. How much better it would be—I am delighted to have heard this several times from both sides of the House today —if we could concentrate on the long term, on trying to prevent famine; an approach which is not only cheaper but more effective.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) observed with some justice that we cannot do anything about the weather. As a rather better historian than I am, he may care to reflect that the granary of the Roman empire was destroyed largely by the irruption of Semitic peoples bringing huge flocks of sheep and goats in their wake, thus destroying the vegetation which once enabled what is now a desert to feed the greatest empire of the ancient world. So perhaps the weather is not entirely an act of God, but has been brought about by mankind over the course of many centuries.

I am delighted that there seems to be a consensus in the House about the need to consider the long term, but if we are to do that we must pay particular attention to the quality of our aid and the influence that we can bring to bear on that quality by eliminating the human causes of some of the disasters that we see with such horror on television and which some of us have been unfortunate enough to see on the ground with even more effect, dare I say it, than on the little screens in our living rooms.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion said, the human factor is all too often very largely to blame. I have already referred to the extraordinary events of the past five years in Afghanistan. I do not know whether any Opposition Members have seen a Russian MI24 helicopter gunship. It is an enormous and frightening machine and it can be seen any day of the week in the valleys of Afghanistan. Let us imagine one of those machines wheeling over a valley in which large herds of cattle, sheep and goats are guarded by a young boy. Near the flocks are fields of corn. The gunship comes down over the valley, which is undefended by anti-aircraft weapons. Its first act is to shoot the boy. Its subsequent act is to shoot the sheep, the goats and the cattle. It goes round to make sure that none of them is moving. After that fairly long process, it devotes attention to setting fire to the crops.

It is hardly surprising that there were indicators of famine in Afghanistan. To a lesser degree, the same has occurred in parts of Africa. The nations of the West and public opinion in the Western world can expose what is happening and shame the perpetrators of those ghastly acts into desisting.

Many hon. Members could itemise other factors that are part of the human cause of famine. The list is long, but three items are especially worthy of consideration. During the past few weeks, The Economist has addressed itself, with admirable pithiness and understanding, to the way in which so many developing countries produce policies which encourage a drift to the towns. Many inhabitants of those countries already feel that they would like to follow that drift. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister consider the possibility of trying to encourage the recipients of British aid to reverse those policies so that we can encourage the growth of a rural rather than an urban economy?

The Minister knows that that is not always an easy task. Many dictators find it attractive to encourage an urban population rather than a rural one because it tends to be easier to control and easier to bribe. My right hon. Friend is already well seized of the problems in making sure that financial aid is directed where it can be of most use. In the past, far too much money has found its way into the Swiss, and perhaps even the British, bank accounts of Government officials who had no right to it in the first place.

I wonder whether the right hon. and hon. Members who have referred to the human factor this afternoon have got their priorities right. Above all, we should consider the small farmer as an individual, not as part of a collective or a traditional tribal society. Those of us who have seen the dust bowls of Africa, as I have done during the past 20 years, know that a tribal society can lead to too many crops and cattle, the destruction of the soil and the appalling erosion that follows. Equally, we know of the dangers of collective farming and the adhesion to ideologies which may be attractive in theory but which lead to under-production in practice.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity and privilege of taking part in the debate. I congratulate the Minister on what he said this afternoon, and I hope that he will ensure that the human factor, over which we have some control, is not far from his mind when he formulates the important policies to which he referred, and that he will not be swayed by fear or fashion from considering the realities of life.

5.54 pm

The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) mentioned Afghanistan twice in his speech. He may be interested to know that, before the Russian involvement in Afghanistan, that country was about the lowest recipient of aid in the Third world. We may learn some interesting lessons from that.

The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who has left the Chamber, mentioned the effect of war in Ethiopia, and I can only agree with him about the damaging effect of war and civil war in the Third world. I believe it is correct to say that more than 140 wars have taken place there since 1945. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me about the need for peace and development programmes under the authority of the United Nations as a solution, on a regional basis, to some of the problems that he raised.

I shall confine my remarks to a few general observations, having considered with great interest the recent Select Committee report on famine in Africa. I am sorry that it has not yet been mentioned in the debate. I begin by committing myself to the statement that the tragedy of human suffering and death which occurred in Africa should never have happened. It is a bitter reflection on the world community that it did happen. No one, least of all no one who followed the growing crisis in Africa during preceding years, should have been in any doubt that we were heading for a major disaster, and this Government, with others, must accept their share of responsibility for that. It is not as though we were not warned.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) said, the FAO-OAU publication in 1982 went by almost unnoticed. In April 1983, just before the general election, we debated famine, and again in the autumn of the same year. The matter received attention in countless conferences. I recall taking part in a very valuable conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Nairobi in October 1983. People were concerned then with malnutrition—the sapping of the will to live effects of malnutrition which have inhabited the Third world for so long. I said at that conference that the trouble was that starvation is news while malnutrition is not.

We must use this debate and the evidence that has been gleaned in the Select Committee's report to learn lessons. The Select Committee rightly pointed out that the cause of the famine was not just the drought. There were short-term causes, but I believe that there were deep-seated and long-term causes for what has occurred.

The fact is that the rains failed in Africa. They have done so since time immemorial. Pre-colonial societies knew that, and many of them knew the necessity of maintaining buffer stocks against the possibility of drought in the next season. The hon. Member for Dorset, South played down the importance of the wisdom of tribal societies, but I hope that he will take the fact into account. I hope that he will also realise that those tribal societies, because they had to do it for their very survival, recognised the prime importance of growing enough food to meet the needs of their people.

We are inclined to underestimate the explosive revolutionary impact of the European incursion into Africa which came with colonialism. African people, many of whom did not even have the use of the wheel a century or more ago, were understandably overwhelmed by the technology of the West. The people of the West have encouraged Africans to believe that they knew better and that the West possesed a technological solution to every social, environmental and political problem. The expert has often been treated, therefore, as though he were infallible. He feels, perhaps too easily, that he has nothing to learn and that therefore he has no need to listen, even if he understands the language of his potential informant in Africa. When his chosen project fails, he holds up his hands and exclaims, "Africa wins again."

In fact, Africa has lost heavily because our all too frequent failure to take into account the experience and wisdom of centuries has had the effect of devaluing it. If one wants to know why agriculture and husbandry are held in low regard in Africa—thought of as primitive, almost as degrading for the person who engages in it — I suggest that one should examine the impact of white people during the past 100 years as well as the industrial-based technology that they brought with them.

I said at the outset that the African tragedy ought never to have happened. The pain, misery and deaths which have afflicted hundreds of thousands of people and which will continue to do so were preventable if action had been taken in time. The cost has been colossal, not just in terms of loss of human life and suffering. Famines are disruptive. The resultant distress migrations mean the uprooting of families and whole communities who often travel miles on foot in search of distribution centres. The question arises: how will the people who survive be successfully resettled and enabled to become productive again?

As we have been reminded this afternoon, famine relief is hugely expensive. Famine almost invariably occurs in remote areas where there is an appalling lack of infrastructure development, so the cost of getting food into the mouths of those who need it and medical and other supplies to where they are required is prohibitive.

It is extraordinary that the cost of all this effort should be set against the aid budget. Millions of ordinary folk, both in this country and elsewhere, have dug deep in then-pockets and are still doing so, many of them making enormous sacrifices. But not so, apparently, the taxpayer. For one thing, as Oxfam points out in its brief, the proportion of total Government expenditure going to aid has fallen from 1.01 per cent. in 1979-80 to 0.87 per cent, which is the estimate for the current year. Even so, the taxpayer's contribution is unchanged by this massive human disaster.

Can the Minister say that, as a consequence, people who might have received technical assistance will not now be denied it, or that countries which might have received project or sectoral aid will not now get as much as they might otherwise have received? The fact is that under this Government so far the taxpayer has not been required to make any sacrifice. Our aid programme in percentage terms compares poorly with that of most other Western countries. If we cannot persuade the Government to raise the figure, the House must persuade them to restore the principle of aid to the poorest.

The majority of people expect our aid programme to concentrate upon that, not upon the matters which the Minister for Overseas Development mentioned at the end of his speech — commmercial self-interest and other similar objectives. That means a larger and more relevant contribution to the needs of the peasant farmer and the rural community, restoring the funding that has been taken away from the scientific units, which can make an enormous contribution, and making a larger contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development. These, and other changes of direction, are urgent. I hope that the Government will at last recognise the need for change.

The subject of this motion should be debated more frequently. It is a matter of great concern to every section of our community. I do not believe that the Government have reflected that concern in the resources that they devote to the aid programme.

6.5 pm

Recently I had the privilege of visiting the Sudan and Ethiopia with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), whose contribution, insight and participation were greatly appreciated by me and the all-party parliamentary group on overseas development under whose auspices we went to those countries.

I was glad to hear the comments of the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) on the report which appeared yesterday in The Times, upon which I, too, have reflected. I hope that she will agree with one or two of my reflections.

Britain stopped guaranteeing its farmers the highest possible prices about 30 years after the Napoleonic wars. At that time, everybody forecast gloom and doom. In practice, Victorian prosperity took over. Britain was not ruined. A similar challenge now faces the Western world. By fixing food prices artificially high in developed countries and artificially low in poor countries, food output swamps Japan's paddy fields, Europe's grain mountains and North America's rich prairies, at the expense of poorer countries, where babies grow faster than crops. These prophetic words of The Economist are no less true today than when they were written over a year ago.

The result is that 2 per cent. of the world's farmers —the 24 million in the rich countries, where fewer than one tenth of the people work on farms—are providing nearly a quarter of all the world's food and nearly three quarters of its food exports. The other 98 per cent, of farmers—the 1.2 billion in the poor countries, where up to two thirds of the people work on the land — grow three quarters of the world's food but still do not have enough to eat.

The average farmer in rich countries, including hobby farmers, produces $8,000 worth of food a year. The average full-time farmer in poor countries produces $650 worth of food a year. The rich land farmer is paid far more than the $8,000 worth that he produces, while the poor land farmer is often paid far less than the $650 worth that he digs out.

If politicians want to help, if politicians can help, there is not one hon. Member whose time could be better spent than in protracted argument for a comprehensive reform of the common agricultural policy, for a comprehensive reform of farm policies worldwide and for a move away from the policies which have been pushing up farm output in countries where obesity is the main medical problem, and pushing it down in countries where malnutrition is the main problem.

The story of World Bank lending to Ethiopia is interesting for many reasons. The bank's lending programme to Ethiopia was doubled after the 1974 revaluation, despite the political concerns of the United States and European Governments. This doubling was justified by the Government's programme of land reform, which had always been considered by the bank as essential both to growth and equity objectives in Ethiopia. Attempts at land reform before 1974 had failed. Post-revolutionary Ethiopia has managed what Stanley Please recognised as
"a fairly sound record of macro—and development—oriented economic management, particularly by sub-Saharan African standards."
But the domestic economy continues to weaken in Ethiopia.

Compensation arrangements for nationalised foreign investors were not adequately forthcoming. Foreign investors have become objects of suspicion by the radical Government in Addis Ababa, exemplified by scepticism towards the international values of financial and Western democratic behaviour, which now dents the confidence of Western donors. Meanwhile, calls for a policy dialogue are snubbed by new joint venture codes without guarantees for withdrawal or guarantees to repatriate profits.

The horrible inevitability of disaster, the hallmark of so much of Ethiopia's history, unleashed itself in the famine. Western donors now tread precariously in Addis Ababa, but once again food production must take the pole position. Peasant farmers produce 94 percent. of the food. The state farms and co-operatives produce 6 per cent. of the food, yet 80 per cent. of the output comes from state farms, 12 per cent. from the producer co-operatives and 8 per cent. from the peasant sector.

With millions of peasant farmers malnourished and starving, the cry from Western donors has been that it is wrong to go for big agricultural schemes, that Lomé 3 should concentrate on the peasant sector, that there should be a policy dialogue, that the agricultural marketing organisations should be reformed and that there should be collective conditionally of the donors, land tenure and a free market. But in reality the enthusiasm dies and can often be insensitively handled. Even the peasant agricultural development programme of the IDA is withdrawn. The Ethiopian Government refuse to accept a World Bank adviser to examine pricing policy.

Not surprisingly, and regrettably, Marxism has no love for policy dialogue, which even now evaporates and is transformed into policy monologue. It is an ideology where people serve policies, instead of the policies serving the people, where the starving villagers come to the refugee workers over the Sudanese border, not the refugee workers to the villagers; where Soviet planes decant thousands of Eritrean and Tigre refugees on to the tarmac of Addis Ababa airport, to be bussed on to resettlement camps in the south-west; where Ethiopian officials take off the dying and dead from the overcrowded, unpressurised holds; where the fire engines wash out the contaminated remains which trickle down the camber of the airfield towards the RAF Lyneham teams, glancing nervously as the water approaches their supplies, hopefully, this time, free from 001, the code word for the unmentionable, cholera.

It is a relentless, merciless world for the relief workers from all countries, who cannot switch over, as we television viewers can, to the other channel. They deserve our respect and admiration.

Meanwhile, by complete contrast, the Sudan — geographically the area of the whole of Western Europe —consistently accepts refugees across its borders from war-stricken Ethiopia in the east, 250,000 refugees from Uganda in the south, 5,000 from neighbouring Zaire and hundreds of thousands recently from Chad into Darfur in the west.

To do that on a humanitarian basis, and to attempt to assist in settling them away from the borders, deserves the admiration of the Western world. Relief workers go where they are needed and the refugees have equal access to whatever social services are available. Moreover, Government policy favours settling refugees in organised settlements to maximise the provision of the available services.

This is all happening at a time when the Sudan is experiencing its second major drought in 15 years. I was glad that the right hon. Member for Clydesdale referred to forecasting and planning, because there is strong evidence that drought, apparently persistent and endemic to Africa, is linked to long-term changes in Africa's climate.

The process of desertification—caused by a number of factors — must be considered carefully. We must examine such factors as livestock over-grazing, over-cutting for fuel wood purposes and the uncontrolled expansion of human settlements. The latter in its own right may be one of the causes of climatic change, in that it reduces the soil's capacity to store water.

Five of the Sudan's eight administrative regions are affected by the drought, yet the Sudan continues to maintain its open-door policy to refugees. Regional Governments estimate that 4.5 million people are affected in the Sudan, having lost crops or livestock, or both, and as a consequence are unable to provide for themselves adequately without external support. Yet the Sudan continues to maintain its open-door policy.

Among the immediate manifestations of the drought have been food riots as convoys of lorries carry grain through hungry villages to border camps for foreign refugees. A fourfold to fivefold increase in the market price of the main food staple, dura and sorghum, and a sixfold to eightfold drop in the price for livestock in affected regional markets inflame domestic resentment,

In western Sudan, the news of drought in Darfur was known long before this week's radio broadcasts. The Darfur region was declared a disaster zone as long ago as July 1984. A national relief committee was established to combat the effects of drought in that region and in Kordofan. The committee has since evolved into a national high commission for drought and desertification, and it is chaired by the first vice-president. Entire villages in Darfur have been virtually deserted, while others have been left to women, children and the elderly as the men have set forth seeking pastures and employment.

In terms of scale, only the east of the country is worse. Only a month ago, Wad Kowli, a camp which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and I visited, was the main refugee camp in the Sudan. It was the final resting place for Ethiopian refugees, many of whom had walked hundreds of miles through war-stricken zones to reach the refugee workers, the unsung heroes who run the camp and minister to the children.

I welcome the news given by the Minister today of increased funding for the Save the Children Fund. Wad Kowli is the fastest growing African city — a city of humble, gentle and dignified people. Compared with having fewer than 20,000 people at Christmas, Wad Kowli sheltered 91,000 on 10 February.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and I were privileged to be the first Western politicians to meet the new Sudanese leader, who was remarkably frank in his approach to the problems that he faces. He made it clear that the solution to political problems to which reference has been made, with John Garang and the rebel forces in the south, were vital so as to open up the Jonglei canal and get oil flowing once again — action which can only benefit the economic crisis in relation to the $9 billion external debt.

The Sudanese leader said that the Sudan faced a 30 per cent. deficit of food aid and famine relief, and a 60 per cent. deficit of essential seeds for sowing. If these shortages are not made up, the famine crisis will worsen dramatically, in the way that has been visible in recent weeks. In addition, $11 million is needed to ensure water supplies, and new water boreholes are essential to the medium and long-term solution of the problems that we are discussing.

We must reject as nonsense and lamentable ignorance the calls that have been made recently for camp closures. When the rains come, the journey home with limited provisions and the likelihood of heavy mud, swollen rivers and war-stricken zones will prove well nigh impossible for many. Equally, we must fight against "aid fatigue"—the "Why bother, we have done our bit?" attitude in a Western world anaesthetised by television.

We must, as the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) rightly said—I have long supported this stance and will continue to do so—work towards the 0.7 per cent. United Nations target for aid. Above all, we must work for agricultural reform and conditionality between donors and recipients, based on trust and understanding and not imposed insensitively.

I am grateful, in the brief time available for the debate, to have had the opportunity to talk on this subject.

6.16 pm

The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) will forgive me if I do not discuss the points that he raised. I wish to be brief, in the knowledge, which I find encouraging, that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.

The Minister speaks for a Government who were launched, in the words of the Prime Minister, by a quotation from St. Francis of Assisi. In reflecting on the hon. Gentleman's speech today, we must recall that St. Francis sought to encourage people to understand as much as to be understood. I hope that the Minister will understand, despite the assurances that he offered the House, that we have grave misgivings about Government policy on this whole issue.

Grave reservations exist about the Government's commitment to try to seek a solution to the problem of world poverty. Few of us can be satisfied with the figures that are available. The Minister spoke of £95 million, which is an 18 per cent. cut in real terms in the aid programme since the Conservatives assumed office.

In view of the information that is available and the pictures that we see on our television screens, it is clear that the great anguish in Africa, Asia and the Third world represents a scene that we would be negligent to ignore. It is a picture to which the British people want us to respond. The case for increasing aid is, therefore, already made.

We are entitled to be worried about the quality of aid. Of the £200 million given to Africa, a mere £27 million went to agricultural development. If we are concerned about prestigious projects such as the £74 million spent in Khartoum on a massive building which could have waited for some years, it is clear that we must be concerned about priorities.

Apart from asking Third world countries to deal with the problems of the debt crisis to which the motion refers — to deal with increasing interest charges at a time when commodity prices are going down and to cope with international inflation, which applies as much to them as to us, remembering that it greatly concerns the world recession — we must remember that we have given a commitment to spend amounts on armaments which, I suggest, are unreasonable in the light of the problems that the countries of the Third world are facing. How can we defend an aid budget of £95 million when last year alone we exported £1.8 billion of armaments? The people ask for bread and we send them tanks; they demand water and we send them an arms race. Our priorities are indefensible.

I hope that the Minister understands the anguish of 500 million people—one eighth of humanity—who, every day, experience poverty, misery and deprivation. I hope that, despite the Minister's wish to defend this Government's record, he will accept that the House must give a considered response to the anguish of those people. I hope, too, that, when those people think of the problems that they face, they will forgive us for our collective indifference. I believe that history will find it difficult to do so.

6.20 pm

When the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) and I stood in refugee camps in Korem and Mekele, one thought more than any other that gripped my mind was that one should not become numb to the reality of what one sees and that the world should not, as famine disasters are seen ever more frequently on television screens, become deadened to reality.

I hope that the House, Britain and the international community will unite in a determination to eradicate hunger, at least by the year 2000. As the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) said, we live in a world where cohesion is threatened not by the missile gap but by the gap between the rich nations of the North and the poor nations of the South.

There is nothing inevitable about what I, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) and others have seen in Africa. Some 20 years ago, famine gripped parts of India. Today, to all intents and purposes, India is self-reliant in food. There is nothing inevitable about saying that we must live with hunger for ever. Nor do we have to accept that the nations of the developed world will always have to feed the nations of Africa. There is nothing inevitable about the feeling that Hercules aircraft will for ever have to fly around Ethiopia.

We should have a simple objective — to make the countries of sub-Saharan Africa food self-reliant, able to feed themselves and to buy on the open market food that they cannot produce themselves. Despite our best will and intentions, until the international community gives the same priority to tackling hunger as it gives to the arms talks in Geneva, we will be unlikely to make progress.

Our main concern is with focus. There is a danger in seeking to give as much aid as possible to Africa while the Soviet Union uses Africa to establish its influence, as, in part, does the United States. The international community must take the responsibility. We must ask ourselves how, as a community, we can best tackle this problem. It is not acceptable for part of the international community to seek to give food aid while another part seeks simply to give arms and to help prosecute a civil war and strife that is undoing much of the work promoted by the other part of the international community. Only when the United Nations has the determination to eliminate hunger will there be any hope of ensuring that sub-Saharan Africa is not still starving in the year 2000.

Britain is in a unique position to take a lead, because it does not seek to carve out spheres of influence in northern Africa. We do not seek, by the sale of arms, to promote our influence throughout the world. We have a unique position in the European Community and in our relationship with the United States.

I hope that hon. Members will stop seeking to divide the House by making cheap political points about whether our aid contribution is 0.35 per cent. or 0.7 per cent. of GNP. Of course resources are important, but it is more important for the House and Britain generally to be determined to eliminate hunger from the world as soon as possible. I hope that we shall achieve that aim within our lifetime. If we do not, the House and Britain will have failed.

6.25 pm

The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) expressed the sentiments of most hon. Members. It is right to emphasise the Minister's statement about the image of suffering that created a response by the British people. That response has gone much further than many of us hoped—£60 million or more has been given by the British public to alleviate famine in Africa.

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, in paragraph 127 of its report on famine in Africa, stated:
"The generosity of the British people has not been matched by the British Government."
We need to repeat that point and follow the Select Committee's recommendations. In paragraph 128 it stated:
"We consider that it is not acceptable that almost the entire costs of the UK response to the crisis should fall on the previously agreed ODA budget."
The Select Committee said that an additional provision should be made.

The Select Committee and many hon. Members have stressed the need to develop improved agriculture policies and programmes, to provide assistance for those programmes, and to prevent a recurrence of the present crisis. The Select Committee referred to assistance by the donor communities in various ways for the food producing sector, principally smallholder agricultural and horticul-tural production. The Minister referred to the successful pioneering scheme developed in Zimbabwe to increase agricultural production.

We need to examine our attitudes towards aid by noting the relationship between the present crisis and the longer-term crisis of agricultural production in Africa because of the obscene agricultural policies that are pursued by Northern and Western countries in the common agricultural policy. By relating the South's agricultural needs to the overdevelopment of the North—especially in the use of large areas of Southern countries to produce cash crops for export to Northern and Western countries — and by concentrating on the real needs of the Southern countries, we shall understand the structural changes that are required, not only in production techniques in Southern countries but in the international balance of trade in agriculture. Northern and Western countries must accept responsibility for the debt crisis and the man-made famine caused by our overconsumption and our commercial systems.

We need to look at only one indicator—indebted-ness. In 1973, the ratio of external debts to GDP in non-oil developing countries was 22.4:1; it is now 35:1. To pay off the debts that are often caused by the militarism of the East-West conflict, which also engulfs the South, the developing countries have to expand their cash crops and raw materials for export. That often results in the forcing of self-sufficient farmers off the land, destruction of the environment, and over-intensive development of agri-business methods—all of them Northern inspired.

We need to look again at the ways in which we in Britain, as a member of the European Community, can lend our support to fundamental changes in our own agricultural policy. We need to look at the proposals that have been made by the French for a new Bretton Woods. We need to look in particular at the ways in which domestic reflation within the Northern countries is a contribution to international change as well as to our own obnoxious levels of unemployment.

We need, in particular, to take seriously what the French organisation, Frères des Hommes, said a couple of years ago:
"A Normandy pig or cow, or a Parisian cat or dog, has a greater purchasing power than landless peasants in the Third World."
As long as we accept that kind of situation and fail to relate the famine and the plight of the Southern countries to our economic system—in particular, to the way in which capitalism has over-exploited Southern countries — we shall not in reality tackle the hunger that faces those Southern countries.

We must take particularly seriously proposals that would gradually reduce the buying of agricultural produce from Southern countries, reduce the development of international sales of that kind, and emphasise the development of food rather than cash crops in those countries.

Rather than introduce aid ourselves, we should as a European Community purchase the produce of those countries, but not for our own use. We should not take delivery of that produce. It should be sent to agreed depots in the producing countries. We should negotiate with the Governments of such countries a method of collection and distribution to ensure that the local people benefit not only from a guaranteed price but from the produce. It is that kind of radical approach to aid that we need if we are to eradicate famine.

6.32 pm

The debate has been all too short. It has drawn on the experience of many right hon. and hon. Members, some of whom have seen famine at first hand in the Sudan and Ethiopia. The themes have been, among others, our own human responsibility for much of the famine which now faces us, and the civil wars in the Sudan and Ethiopia, the population explosion, the deforestation and — a topic well developed by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas)—our own agricultural policies in the West, which exacerbate the attempts of the developing countries to have their own proper agricultural infrastructure and feed their own people.

The Minister gave a valuable diagnosis of the extent of our aid—the targeting, the speed of response, the need for co-ordinating and the need for a new strategic approach. I should be interested to hear his response to the valuable points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) about storage facilities and a rapid aid deployment force to meet those famine crises which are likely to face us with increasing regularity unless the world community as a whole comes together to meet its human responsibility in relation to those crises.

The Minister failed to put the Government's response in the context of a shrinking aid budget. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) said, in a rather lofty way, that money is not all, but money can help. The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) spoke of his commitment to the aid figure of 0.7 per cent. and the need to work towards it. He must realise now that we are moving away from that figure. Last year the United Kingdom's figure was 0.35 per cent. Indeed, it is now down to 0.33 per cent. When the Labour Government left office, the figure was in excess of 5 per cent., and rising.

The aid budget has been consistently cut by the Government since 1979. Comparing the 1985-86 figure with that for 1984-85, one sees that there is a clear cut of at least 3 per cent. in real terms. There has been a cut of no less than 18 per cent. since 1979. In spite of the brave words of the Minister about the importance of science research, the budget of the science unit has been cut, and cut again.

There is a falling percentage of central Government spending on aid, and comparatively our performance, in relation to that of the Development Assistance Committee countries, is very poor. The average development assistance of all non-US DAC countries is 0.45 per cent. of gross national product. Our own figure is now 0.33 per cent. In spite of our colonial traditions and the human relationships within the Commonwealth, which should certainly have put us on a par with France, with a figure in excess of 0.7 per cent., our figure is rather less than three-quarters of the non-US DAC average, and that percentage is falling. That is the reality.

The Minister, as he says, is seeking to obtain greater co-ordination and a more coherent aid strategy. That attempt takes place within a public expenditure programme which, since 1979, has allowed an increase in defence spending of 30 per cent., an increase in the law and order Vote of almost 40 per cent., and an 18 per cent. cut in the aid budget. However skilful the Minister is in redirecting, he is doing it from a much smaller base.

In spite of the brave words of the Government at the Bonn summit and elsewhere, cuts have been made. They are certainly out of tune with public opinion in Britain. The Oxfam public opinion survey at the end of last year showed that only 18 per cent. of those polled were in favour of a lower aid budget. The Government's attitude also has to be contrasted with the magnificent response of our people to the famine in Africa. That point was made eloquently in the Select Committee report on famine in Africa, which has not been touched on as much as it should have been during the debate.

It is clear that the Government's response to the famine in Africa has been based solely on switching funds within a decreasing aid budget, and the Minister cannot resile from that starting point. Apart from the Hercules operation in Ethopia, the money to respond to the unprecedented food crisis in sub-Saharan Africa has come from the existing aid budget. Indeed, from the beginning of February this year, half of the Hercules cost has fallen on the ODA.

The Foreign Affairs Committee contrasted the generosity of the British people with the stony response of the Government and called for substantial new money in the face of the continuing crisis. It is not good enough to say, as the Minister traditionally does, that the money comes from the contingency reserve designed specifically for the purpose, because no contingency reserve within the ODA was_designed to meet the scale of human catastrophe that we have seen in sub-Saharan Africa in the past year.

A further fact about the shrinking aid budget is that the debts of the relevant countries have increased because of the background, which is the on-lending of Western banks —that was true of oil money in Latin America in the 1970s—the vast increase in interest rates, and the fall in commodity prices. That means that countries in sub-Saharan Africa have debts in excess of $80 billion. Their debt service is both crippling and leads to distortions within their agricultural economy, as they are encouraged to produce agriculture for servicing those debt requirements rather than to help the poorer farmers in the poorer areas. That has been a consistent theme of many hon. Members. Partly as a result of servicing those debts, there have been the distortions to which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and others referred.

The Government have honoured the debt cancellation commitments, but they were inherited from the Labour Government, and from the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale of directing aid to the poorest people in the poorest countries. We accept what the Minister said about rescheduling and writing off debts in some of those areas. However, we should like the Government to lean on the Americans and West Germans, and to follow the example of the retroactive terms adjustment of the old UNCTAD agreement.

Further relevant developments on debt have been the Government's acquiescence in September 1983 to the International Monetary Fund's change of practice on the compensatory financing facility, the food surplus policy of the European Community and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) said in relation to the EC, the fact that the Government took the lead in making cuts in EC food aid. Therefore, there have been cuts, the debt crisis has increased, the need has never been greater, and the general nature of the Government's response has been unfavourable.

Further famines in Africa can be prevented only if there is a decline in the African population or an increase in Africa's per capita food production. Too little of our aid has been directed to the agricultural sector. The Minister knows that the ODA figure for 1983 was only £27 million for project aid for agriculture, £15 million for technical assistance for the same sectors, and £23 million for rural roads, water and electricity, from a total budget of £224 million.

The Government's aid has been increasingly inflexible in terms of the reduction in support for local costs. The Minister will know that between 1980 and 1983 the Government's local costs contribution decreased by 25 per cent. in cash terms, and by more in real terms. I challenge the Minister to deny that figure. There has also been a reduction in programme aid and balance of payments support. Again I challenge the Minister to deny that, because it comes from his Department's figures. The reduction in programme aid since 1979 has been 55 per cent.

The Minister will be aware of the DAC checklist, which was formulated at the end of last year, for concerted action in sub-Saharan Africa. It was meant to be a guidance list for donors. I understand that progress on the checklist, which includes priority for agriculture, has been blocked by the reservations of certain donors. I should like the Minister to confirm that that is the case and that the British Government are not among those who are blocking its implementation.

Essentially, our response has been niggardly. We saw that from the World Bank specialist facility for sub-Saharan Africa, when no extra funds were committed. I hope that the Minister will say something about the Government's response to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which now seeks replenishment. As the main meeting of IFAD has ended in disarray, will the Government contribute to the proposed special fund for sub-Saharan Africa, which is seeking at least $300 million over four years? Will we make a voluntary contribution in that area, which is the subject matter of our debate?

Clearly, there is a crisis in Africa. Our response has essentially been that of a reactive Government. There have been no initiatives and no moves overall towards the United Nations target of 07 per cent. of gross national product. Indeed, our contribution has fallen to 0.3 per cent., and continues to fall. Our contribution to alleviating the famine in Africa, however better targeted, can be seen properly only in the context of a much reduced aid budget.

6.46 pm

The House will agree that we have had a good debate this afternoon. I congratulate the Opposition on choosing this subject, if not on the terms of their motion. It has been useful to have a chance to consider what is unquestionably the terrible crisis in Africa. All hon. Members have spoken in the shadow of that crisis.

Some hon. Members spoke with peculiarly close experience, as they have been out to see what is happening on the ground. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) described his experiences of visiting the crisis area. I echo one of his points—that while we rightly pay tribute to the work of our voluntary agencies and the people they send out, we should remember that in the camps of Sudan and Ethiopia there are Sudanese and Ethiopians who are working as dedicatedly, hard and skilfully as those from abroad. That is one of my clearest memories of my visit there.

There has been a good deal of agreement on many aspects of the debate, in particular on the enormous importance of doing all we can to help the small farmers in African countries and other parts of the world which face great difficulties. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), in his brief intervention, rightly pointed out that we have a simple objective—to make sub-Saharan Africa self-reliant in food, able to grow its own crops and to do the bulk of the work in that respect. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) also spoke about the importance of the small farmer. I share his view that the small fanners of Africa have been derided too much. A growing wisdom recognises that many of the things that small farmers have been doing over the years have been based on experience and a great deal of good sense. Anyone who goes to Africa and thinks that he can simply lecture the small farmer on what he should do without regard to that experience is making a great mistake. Sadly, in many African countries the wisdom of the small farmers has been undermined by absurd ideological policies. However. I believe that wisdom is reasserting itself, and that a greater sense of reality is coming to the countries which have been most committed to the more counter-productive forms of African Socialism, for example. That is of great importance.

The rural development and commercial philosophy argument has been advanced in the debate. The hon. Member for Greenwich alluded to it when he talked about the importance of aid going to the poorest rather than being given on commercial grounds. I suggest that one day he has a quiet word with his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who as an Opposition trade spokesman seems to have espoused the cause of commercial projects at all costs without making too much of the development value of those projects.

My position is clear. As I have said, it is right that we should look to British interests, and it is right that the bulk of our bilateral aid should be tied. On the other hand, it is essential that, when we use aid funds to support industrial projects, we have proper regard to the developmental significance of those projects. That is the Government's position.

A significant proportion of our aid to Africa is already related to agriculture. That aid is mainly for smallholder development. As the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) said, aid for agricultural development means financing the local costs of projects as well as providing goods from Britain. We have the capacity within our aid programme to provide local costs, where appropriate. That capacity has long existed and it still exists. There is no going back on that. In India, for example, there is a substantial local cost element in our programme. When dealing with imports, we operate on the basis of tied aid, but we provide substantial local costs through the ODA.

The right hon. Member for Clydesdale suggested that there might be a new organisation to bring together the United Nations, the World Bank and major donors, including the European Community, to deal not only with the sudden and desperate famine problems in Africa but with disaster operations generally. I think that the right hon. Lady will know that international machinery—

The Minister has not described exactly what I have suggested. He had better read Hansard tomorrow.

As I understand it, the right hon. lady addressed herself to the need, as she sees it, of a new mechanism for dealing with disasters.

Very well; I am sorry. However, the right hon. Lady will know that the international machinery has been enlarged and greatly improved since the famine in the early 1970s. The United Nations Disaster Relief Office was set up to act as a clearing house. The World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation provide regular and detailed information on food aid pledges and shipments and on port and inland transport conditions. We receive a six-page telex from the World Food Programme every week and many documents on food availability from the FAO every month. In dealing with the African crisis we have seen the appointment of Mr. Brad Morse by the United Nations Secretary-General to cope with the emergency operations.

In the Community there is a new ad hoc committee meeting regularly and co-ordinating our bilateral and Community responses. There is also a new emergency unit in the aid directorate of the Community, which was set up last December. All these developments are helping to produce a more effective response. I do not think that they are the totality of the answer, but the mechanisms have improved.

Experience has shown recently that it is possible to get hold of food, thanks to the famous mountains, the surpluses, and their equivalents. We have been able to acquire food quickly. The securing of food has not been one of our problems. I think that the right hon. Member for Clydesdale must recognise that the provision of permanent stocks in every conceivable risk area would be enormously expensive and difficult to maintain. There is ample evidence that the storage of food is far from being an easy matter. There must be some storage facilities and supplies where they are most needed, but more important is an effective mechanism for ensuring that we can get food relatively easily to where it is needed. That is something that we have developed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said that in dealing with these problems we must take account of the follies of man as well as of climates. He referred to Eritrea and Tigre and said that we should insist on ceasefires in all the wars that are taking place in Africa. My right hon. Friend is right, but we must remember that we cannot intervene in ways that we would like in countries that are independent. We have supported Mr. Jansson's efforts to arrange a safe passage in Ethiopia. I acknowledge that they have not met with success, but we have pressed hard the importance of treating the starving and the famine-ridden and attaching to that the greatest priority.

It has been suggested that the Community aid programme could be used rather more rigorously to achieve our policy objectives. The new Lome convention allows greater policy dialogue and gives a greater change to achieve policy changes, which is all to the good. The Community has made it clear that in the last resort it will suspend aid where there is gross abuse of human rights. However, we are operating on behalf of the people of independent countries. We cannot walk in, tell them what to do and resume the colonial burden.

The essence of what we are about is to give effective aid. It is important to remember that we are giving aid in Africa and in other areas where there are desperate problems, such as Afghanistan, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) referred. As my hon. Friend knows, we have provided substantial aid for Afghanistan. I have allocated a further £4 million to help the refugees in that area who are suffering so tragically.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) talked about the credit scheme operated by the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is an important job. The work is promising and we support the scheme through our membership of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. We are fully prepared to take part in the next replenishment of IFAD, and we regret the fact that the negotiations have been stalled. We hope that they will be resumed as soon as possible. We hope also that the Americans will find their way to coming in on terms which can be agreed among us all. When I go to Washington in the next day or so I shall be prepared to convey that message. It will be sensible to achieve the replenishment and then to consider what to do next about any further activities.

We have heard a good deal during the debate about targets and resources. We operate under public expenditure constraints, and we can hardly counsel sound finance to the developing countries if we do not practise it ourselves. However, we have a substantial programme that is running at roughly the overall average of OECD countries. More important than that, perhaps, is the scope and direction of our aid programme. It is too easy to think that aid is a matter of throwing in resources. Some of the parrot cries that we hear do no good to anybody. If there is one lesson on aid, it is that the policies of aid programmes must be right. Above all, that is true in Africa, where the problems are most severe.

It is fair to say that Africa has not lacked aid over the post-war years and that it does not lack it now. However, I firmly believe that there must be a workable strategy. That strategy is not to be found in Socialism. African Socialism is one of the burdens that has afflicted that continent. A workable strategy must be found in realistic policies that tackle the great needs of Africa. There must be co-ordination between donors and sensible economic policies. Incentives must be given to key producers, notably the farmers. There must be research into the best ways of growing food and rearing livestock, and the results of that research must be disseminated. There is a need for appropriate technology. There is a need to get to grips with enfeebling bureaucracy. There must be a recognition that development will not come without scope for private investment, the operation of markets and resistance to protectionism.

We are now seeing policies emerge—this is true of the major institutions such as the World Bank and our bilateral partners as well as ourselves — which are designed to cope effectively with the fundamental and long-term problems which so afflict Africa.

Therefore, I urge the House to reject the Opposition motion and to support the amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 277.

Division No. 235][7.00 pm
AYES
Abse, LeoDixon, Donald
Alton, DavidDobson, Frank
Anderson, DonaldDormand, Jack
Ashdown, PaddyDouglas, Dick
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDuffy, A. E P.
Ashton, JoeDunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Atkinson, N (Tottenham) Eastham, Ken
Bagier, Gordon A. TEdwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Ellis, Raymond
Barnett, GuyEvans, John (St. Helens N)
Barron, KevinEwing, Harry
Beckett, Mrs MargaretFaulds, Andrew
Berth, A. JFields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Benn, TonyFisher, Mark
Bennett, A (Dent'n & Red sh) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bermingham, GeraldForrester, John
Bidwell, SydneyFoster, Derek
Blair, AnthonyFoulkes, George
Boothroyd, Miss BettyFraser, J. (Norwood)
Boyes, RolandFreeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Bray, Dr JeremyFreud, Clement
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mlme E) Garrett, W. E.
Brown, Hugh D (Provan) George, Bruce
Brown, N (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Brown, R (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Golding, John
Brown, Ron (E burgh, Leith) Gould, Bryan
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Gourlay, Harry
Campbell-Savours, DaleHamilton, James (M'well N)
Canavan, DennisHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Carhle, Alexander `(Montg'y)Hancock, Mr. Michael
Cartwright, JohnHardy, Peter
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Harman, Ms Harriet
Clarke, ThomasHart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Clay, RobertHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHaynes, Frank
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Heffer, Eric S.
Coleman, DonaldHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Concannon, Rt Hon J D. Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Conlan, BernardHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Howells, Geraint
Corbett, RobinHoyle, Douglas
Corbyn, JeremyHughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Cowans, HarryHughes, Roy (Newport East)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Craigen, J. M. Janner, Hon Greville
Crowther, StanJohn, Brynmor
Cunningham, Dr JohnJohnston, Russell
Dalyell, TarnKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Kmnock, Rt Hon Neil
Deakins, EricKirkwood, Archy
Dewar, DonaldLambie, David

Leadbitter, TedRadice, Giles
Leighton, RonaldRedmond, M.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Richardson, Ms Jo
Litherland, RobertRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)

Lofthouse, GeoffreyRobertson, George
Loyden, EdwardRogers, Allan
McCartney, HughRooker, J. W.
McGuire, MichaelRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorRowlands, Ted
Maclennan, RobertSedgemore, Brian
McNamara, KevinSheerman, Barry
McTaggart, RobertSheldon, Rt Hon R.
McWilliam, JohnShore, Rt Hon Peter
Madden, MaxSilkin, Rt Hon J.
Marek, DrJohnSkinner, Dennis
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Snape, Peter
Mason, Rt Hon RoySpearing, Nigel
Maxton, JohnSteel, Rt Hon David
Maynard, Miss JoanStott, Roger
Meacher, MichaelThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Meadowcroft, MichaelThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Mikardo, IanThompson, J. (Wansbeok)
Millan, Rt Hon BruceThorne, Stan (Preston)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Torney, Tom
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Wainwright, R.
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Warden, Gareth(Gower)
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWeetch, Ken
O'Neill, MartinWelsh, Michael
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWhite, James
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWilson, Gordon
Park, GeorgeWinnick, David
Parry, RobertWoodall, Alec
Patchett, TerryWrigglesworth, Ian
Pavitt, LaurieYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Pendry, Tom
Penhaligon, DavidTellers for the Ayes:
Pike, PeterMr. Alan McKay and Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Prescott, John

NOES
Adley, RobertBrown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Aitken, JonathanBruinvels, Peter
Alexander, RichardBryan, Sir Paul
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBuchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBudgen, Nick
Amess, DavidBurt, Alistair
Ancram, MichaelButcher, John
Arnold, TomButler, Hon Adam
Aspinwall, JackCarttiss, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Cash, William
Atkins, Robert (South RibbleChalker, Mrs Lynda
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Churchill, W. S.
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Baldry, TonyClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Batiste, SpencerClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCockeram, Eric
Bellingham, HenryColvin, Michael
Bendall, VivianConway, Derek
Bennett, Rt Hon Sir FredericCoombs, Simon
Benyon, WilliamCope, John
Best, KeithvCormack, Patrick
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCorrie, John
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCouchman, James
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterCranborne, Viscount
Boscawen, Hon RobertCritchley, Julian
Bottomley, PeterCrouch, David
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Dicks, Terryv
Boyson, Dr RhodesDorrell, Stephen
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Brandon-Bravo, MartinDover, Den
Bright, GrahamDunn, Robert
Brinton, TimDurant, Tony
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonDykes, Hugh

Emery, Sir PeterLeigh, Edward insbor'gh)
Evennett, DavidLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Eyre, Sir ReginaldLester, Jim
Farr, Sir JohnLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Favell, AnthonyLightbown, David
Fenner, Mrs PeggyLloyd, Ian (Havant)
Fletcher, AlexanderLord, Michael
Fookes, Miss JanetLyell, Nicholas
Forman, NigelMcCrindle, Robert
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) McCurley, Mrs Anna
Forth, EricMaclean, David John
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Franks, CecilMadel, David
Fraser, Peter(Angus East) Major, John
Freeman, RogerMalins, Humfrey
Gale, RogerMalone, Gerald
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, TristanMarlow, Antony
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Glyn, Dr AlanMates, Michael
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMather, Carol
Gorst, JohnMaude, Hon Francis
Gower, Sir RaymondMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Grant, Sir AnthonyMayhew, Sir Patrick
Greenway, HarryMellor, David
Gregory, ConalMerchant, Piers
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Mills, lain (Meriden)
Grist, IanMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Ground, PatrickMiscampbell, Norman
Grylls, MichaeMitchell, David (NW Hants)
Gummer, John SelwynMoate, Roger
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Monro, Sir Hector
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hampson, Dr KeithMorris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hanley, JeremyMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Harvey, RobertMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Haselhurst, AlanMoynihan, Hon C.
Hayhoe, BarneyNeale, Gerrard
Hayward, RobertNeedham, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelNelson, Anthony
Hickmet, RichardNeubert, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholls, Patrick
Hill, JamesNorris, Steven
Hind, KennethOnslow, Cranley
Hirst, MichaelOppenheim, Phillip
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Holt, RichardOsborn, Sir John
Hordern, PeterPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Howard, MichaelParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Parris, Matthew
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Irving, CharlesPawsey, James
Jackson, RobertPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jessel, TobyPercival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Pollock, Alexander
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Porter, Barry
King, Rt Hon TomPortillo, Michael
Knight, Gregory Derby N) Powley, John
Knox, DavidPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Lang, Ianvrior, Rt Hon James
Lawler, GeoffreyProctor, K. Harvey
Lawrence, IvanRaison, Rt Hon Timothy

Rathbone, TimThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Renton, TimThompson, Donald lder V)
Rhodes James, RobertThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonThorne, Neil (llford S)
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasThornton, Malcolm
Ridsdale, Sir JulianThurnham, Peter
Rifkind, MalcolmTownend, John (Bndlington)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Townsend, Cyril D (B'heath)
Robinson, Mark(N'port W) Tracey, Richard
Rost, PeterTrippier, David
Rowe, AndrewTrotter, Neville
Rumbold, Mrs Angelavan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Ryder, RichardVaughan, Sir Gerard
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon NViggers, Peter
Sayeed, JonathanWaddington, David
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Waldegrave, Hon William
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb1) Walden, George
Shelton, William (Streatham) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldndge) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Shersby, MichaelWall, Sir Patrick
Sims, RogerWaller, Gary
Skeet, T. H. H. Walters, Dennis
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Ward, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wardle, C. (Bexhtll)
Soames, Hon NicholasWarren, Kenneth
Speed, KeithWatson, John
Speller, TonyWatts, John
Spencer, DerekWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Spicer, Michael(S Worcs) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Squire, RobinWheeler, John
Stanbrook, IvorWhitney, Raymond
Steen, AnthonyWiggin, Jerry
Stevens, Lewis(Nuneaton) Wilkinson, John
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Winterton, Nicholas
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Wolfson, Mark
Stokes, JohnWood, Timothy
Stradling Thomas, JYeo, Tim
Sumberg, David
Taylor, John (Sohhull) Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Mr. Tim Samsbury and Mr Peter Lloyd
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Terlezki, Stefan

Question accordingly negatived.,

Question, That the proposed words be there added,put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER, forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House welcomes the effectiveness of the Government's action in tackling the famine in Africa; endorses its policies to promote long term development in Africa; supports the present approach of the Government and the international financial institutions to the severe debt problems of the day; and recognises that Britain's aid policy confers real benefits not only on the developing countries but also on British industry and employment.

Young People

7.13 pm

I beg to move,

That this House, mindful of the fact that 1985 is the International Year of Youth, believes that Her Majesty's Government has failed to foster conditions for opportunity, choice and participation for young people and has contributed to the desperate plight of youth by failing to operate the policies necessary to assist young people in securing work, housing, income and social security; and believes that all young people, regardless of sex and social background, have a right to effective education and training in order to give them wide and continuing opportunities to secure fulfilling employment and the consequent economic and social rewards.

It is sad, but hardly surprising, that the organisers of the International Year of Youth should criticise the Government for their miserable support of the year. They have provided a measly £250,000 for the whole year's efforts. That figure should be compared with the Canadian Government's provision of £8 million and the Greater London council's provision of £160,000. That is exactly the type of helpful and progressive use of resources which has led the Government to pursue its abolition. We all know that having to watch an alternative in action upsets the Prime Minister even more than hearing about it.

The Government regard youth as an embarrassment and a liability. Faced with the crisis of youth unemployment, which is substantially of their own making, Ministers have rained blows and blame on young people. Youth should be an exciting and fulfilling time of life. Throughout the ages, poets have celebrated and revered youth.
"Youth's the season made for joys"
wrote John Gay. Byron also dwelt on the sweetness of youth:

"Oh, talk not to me of a name great in story;
The days of our youth are the days of our glory;
And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty;
Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty."
[Interruption.] It is not surprising that the Government Front Bench cannot understand why poetry should be quoted in a debate on young people.

Politicians also have known the value of youth. It was Disraeli who proclaimed that almost everything that is great has been done by youth and who described the youth of the nation as the trustees of its posterity. He might have added the word "prosperity" if he lived now. How unlike the poets and politicians,of an earlier age are the present Government. They have no vision of youth. What policy they have is merely a combination of saving money and political expediency, screened by a veneer of callous and insincere celebration of Victorian family values.

We all know that the most important step in becoming an adult and taking on the responsibilities of life is having a job. Being in work gives young people independence and a new status. It gives them the money to make their own choices and introduces them to new relationships with friends at work. It enables them to move away from independence on their families. For most young people, a job is their most important possession. However, too few young people have jobs or have been able to build the right foundations for work.

The old passes to an adult place in society no longer exist. Hon. Members, especially Opposition Members, understand that. The new ones such as the youth training scheme too often lead back to the dole queue. Unless society can create jobs for young people and help them to prepare for jobs through high quality education and training, it is denying opportunities to a whole generation. All right hon. and hon. Members have had such opportunities aplenty.

I shall return to jobs, and I do not apologise for that. Unless the Government are willing to sort out the problem of jobs, there will be no end to the miseries that youth endures. The bottom line is that, if the fundamental problems facing young people are to be put right, the economy must be put right. Our shrinking manufacturing sector cannot provide sufficient jobs for unemployed youth directly or in service occupations. If manufacturing continues to shrink, as John Harvey-Jones said, what on earth will they service? Our economy needs the skills and energies of youth to help make it successful.

It has been estimated that putting the under-25s back to work would produce a saving of between £5 billion and £7 billion a year in public expenditure. That is one public expenditure cut that we would favour. An even greater sum would be saved by the additional output of those employed young people. Treated as a liability, youth has become one. Youth is an asset, but the Government have been unwilling to capitalise on it.

I shall consider the desperate plight of young people under the four major headings of jobs, education and training, income and housing.

Will the hon. Gentleman explain precisely how he arrived at the figure of £5 billion to £7 billion?

The Minister will hear later of particular proposals. That figure was arrived at by an independent assessment made in the Labour party. I shall give him the figures from independent bodies if he cares to have them.

Let us talk about the plight of youth in terms of jobs —[Interruption.] I am not proud of those figures, This is a most desperate—[Interruption.] If Ministers looked at the findings of the Unemployment Unit, they woui.d find the figure of £5 billion to £7 billion, which was worked out by that unit. The Minister of State knows well of the existence of that unit. From 1979—[Interruption.] The Government Front Bench is trying to stop me giving the catalogue of the dreadful unemployment figures, but I shall continue.

Between 1979 and 1985 unemployment among all under 25-year-olds was up 167 per cent. For under 18-year-olds, it was up 77 per cent. For under 18-year-olds, including YTS trainees, it was up 168 per cent. For under 25-year-olds, the rate of unemployment was over double what it was for the rest of the population, at 22.7 per cent., compared with 10.3 per cent. for those over 25. In April 1985 1,203,000 people under 25 were out of a job. That is a dreadful catalogue of figures, especially if we add the fact that 359,000 of those people had been unemployed for 12 months or more, and 655,805 had been unemployed for six months or more. Although the totals for the past couple of years are holding relatively steady, the duration of unemployment is increasing markedly and worryingly.

School leavers' jobs and apprenticeships have also collapsed. Most tragic of all is the figure for young people who have not worked at all since leaving school. For example, 152,795 of those over 19 have never worked in their lives. That is a dreadful figure, and one that we shall pay for dearly in the years to come. Those young people despair of any hope or future.

The Government are fond of saying that appren-ticeships were out of date and produced out-of-date skills, and that they were time served rather than standard served. We have heard the catalogue of criticism about apprenticeships. However, the fact is that all over the world one can hear the praise for our apprenticeship system, which has provided skilled workers for industries in the United States and many other parts of the world. That system has been allowed to collapse. Even in 1978 we did not have enough apprenticeships. There were 86,000 male apprentices, and the figure reduced to 70,500 in 1980. However, by 1983 the figure was down to 22,000. What a record of skill training for a nation that has hopes of being a great industrial nation again.

Ministers are fond of reminding us that the YTS is a training measure, not an employment measure, so I shall deal with youth training separately. The only direct policies aimed at reducing youth unemployment are the wicked attempts to lower young people's wages, and to create jobs through the community programme. I confess that the community programme remains fairly popular, but the paltry wages—on average under £60 a week—are fast becoming a national scandal. In any event, the programme only scratches the surface of demand. I hope that the Minister will intervene if he disagrees with this. Even the increased 100,000 places on community schemes announced in the Budget will serve the needs of only less than 10 per cent. of eligible people under 25, who are out of work.

The Government's favourite claim is that it is not the Government's fault that there are no jobs. Their inadequate policies are not to blame. They are nothing to do with youth unemployment, according to Ministers and the Prime Minister. Young people are unemployed because it is their own fault. Unbeknown to them, they have been pricing themselves out of jobs for years. That is why there are no jobs. I would find that hilarious if it were not so tragic.

The Government have made much of "high" youth wages and have enlisted the YTS allowance alongside the —almost—late and wholly unlamented young workers scheme in support. However, the evidence is so thin as to be laughable. Research has been commissioned in a desperate attempt by the Government to find some evidence to back their prejudices on the matter. All the independent research that I have seen makes it clear that the Government's alleged relationship between high youth pay and the lack of jobs is nonsense. Of course, the Government find that proposition politically attractive.

The wages council proposals will further attack young people's ability to earn a decent living. There will be further moves in line with the idea that youth are to blame for their predicament, which is an amoral position for a Government to hold. Young people are the victims rather than the perpetrators, but they are blamed for the crisis. It is not youth, demographic trend or international competition that is to blame for youth unemployment— it is the Government's policies. In the debate, we hope to make it clear in the public imagination that the Government are responsible for the unemployment and despair of our young people.

The Government have failed to meet the challenge of education and training. Her Majesty's inspectorate has confirmed beyond doubt that our schools are crumbling from neglect. The leader in The Times Educational Supplement ofMay is entitled
"False economy and penny-pinching"
How appropriate that is to the present Government's policies and the present Secretary of State. The leader states:
"Working in decaying conditions amid peeling paint, under leaking roofs, unable to get defects repaired let alone improvements undertaken, is one of the most widespread complaints from teachers. As time goes by, working in a poor environment becomes more and more depressing and less and less conducive to high morale and the enthusiasm which lights up enthusiasm in others."
Something else is far more telling against the Government's lack of understanding of what is happening in education today. The Secretary of State for Education and Science and his fellow Ministers do not have the imagination to understand, even when the teaching unions are reluctantly taking industrial action in support of their living standards. The teachers are doing so because it is a crime that they cannot do their job on their present rates of pay and in present conditions. The nature of education changes when there is mass youth unemployment. The Government do not have the imagination to know what the role of a teacher is, who used to teach a class of young men and women who confidently expected to get a job when they left school. Until a few years ago, they all would have done that. Let the Government compare that with trying to teach young people who know that there is no job, no future, and no opportunities when they leave school at 16. That is the measure of the Government's lack of understanding of today's education system. Until our economy provides the possibility of a job, there will be no hope for education and training. The Government have completely failed to meet that challenge.

The decay referred to in The Times Educational Supplement affects morale. For teachers to realise that there is little prospect of jobs for their pupils affects morale even more. The output from the system shows how badly we are lagging behind our industrial competitors. That is part of the bind we are in. The Government must be aware that we must improve our education system and have a proper training system that compares with that of Germany, Japan, the United States and our other industrial competitors and that we must move to a level of quality training and education. If we have any sense, we must do that in conditions of expansion and not contraction. It is difficult to achieve any change in an atmosphere of decline and cuts.

Britain lags behind its major competitors in every aspect of education and training. Just one third of its work force has any recognised qualifications equivalent to at least O-level, compared with about two thirds in West Germany. A high proportion of our 16-year-olds leave school with no prospects of genuine vocational preparation. That is in striking contrast to Germany and Japan. Only 13 per cent. of our school leavers go on to higher education, compared to one fifth in West Germany.

Our entry into higher education is lower than that of other countries. The recent Green Paper only squares the circle between places and demand by predicting levels of demand that fail to accord with the predictions of those who have no expenditure axe to grind. The Government also fail to see that the object should be to encourage and stimulate demand for higher education and to support all those who want to improve their learning and the value of their contribution to society.

Then we come to the co-called jewel in the Government's crown — YTS. We find that it is not a jewel. Most people's assessment is that it is a bad imitation paste. That must be said without embarrassment. I know that the Government will say that the Opposition are being disloyal to youth, because we criticise a training programme that is not good enough for our young people, our international competitiveness or the country's future. To see the problems of YTS is not disloyalty. It is disloyalty not to recognise those problems.

I have recently visited a number of mode A schemes. I may not have visited as many as the Minister of State. I understand from the grapevine that when I visit those schemes I do something that the Minister does not do. I ask for the trainees to talk to me on their own without their supervisors, teachers or anyone else.

I may be wrong about that. When one sees the trainees in a relaxed and informal atmosphere, one hears the central criticisms of even the mode A scheme about which the Minister brags so frequently. With his hand on his heart, the Minister must accept that most of the schemes that he studies involve work experience and not quality training. We must move to quality training and not merely job experience.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be reassured when I tell him that that is not the fact.

The problem with YTS is that it leads to jobs for only half the trainees. The Government say

I shall stand by that statement. Roughly half the trainees obtain a job. In many parts of the country, hardly any trainees obtain a job. My information on this is as good as the Minister's. The Government say, "Yes, but only half are unemployed." Wonderful — that is the difference between us. The Government congratulate themselves on a job that is only half done. We want to start doing that job for our young people properly.

The Government do not have the figures.

Secondly, the training is not of sufficient quality or any replacement for the apprenticeship schemes, the skillcentres or the industrial training boards. Thirdly, the YTS is being done on the cheap. When the YTS was launched, we were told many times that it would cost £1 billion. That is how much the Government were spending on YTS. Ministers crowed about that figure, but now we know that that £1 billion must pay for two years of YTS rather than just one. If, as the Opposition want, YTS is to be a stepping stone into quality training which matches that anywhere in the world, it will cost money. We cannot train on the cheap. The money must come from the employer, the individual or the Government. The Government have not faced that problem.

I shall deal with the plight of youth in respect of income. First, under this Government, mass family poverty has grown. In total, the number of children living on incomes below subsistence — supplementary benefit level — almost doubled in the first two years of this Government. A combination of growing unemployment, leading more families to depend upon supplementary benefit, and low pay means that one in four children were living in or near the margins of poverty in 1981. The proportion of working parents earning poverty wages has increased in recent years, and the number of children living with working parents on incomes below 140 per cent. of supplementary benefit level more than doubled in the two years to 1981. So much for the Government's celebration of the values of the family. That is how most of the families that we see in our constituencies suffer.

Moreover, young people's standards of living are falling, whether they are on a wage, a training allowance or a student grant, without a grant and having to rely on parents, or on the dole. The Government are like the famous advertisement: they manage to reach parts that no other Government have managed to reach. In terms of delivering poverty, that is not funny.

For the vast majority of young people wishing to continue in full-time education, there are no grants or educational maintenance allowances. sayhat is something for which the Opposition have called for many years and which we are committed to introducing once we are in government. Only those whose parents can afford to keep them can continue in full-time study. The Government have stubbornly refused to provide young people under 18 with grants. It is all right for the Secretary of State to tell us what we did or did not do, but the Labour Government did not have the same level of youth unemployment. We did not have the young unemployed school leaver having to decide whether to stay at school to do his or her A-levels, to obtain a vocational qualification or to take £26.25 home to the family budget because mum and dad are unemployed. That is the terrible tension that exists in many families, and it is one that we must recognise.

Students aged 18 or more are denied grants if they are not on higher education or specially designated courses. Grants for part-time study are non-existent. The value of student grants has fallen by 14 per cent. More students have to rely on parental contributions or are forced to borrow money from the banks. The Government have threatened to introduce student loans—pay as you learn. They have already tried, unsuccessfully, to charge parents course fees.

People on the youth training scheme are paid a totally inadequate allowance of £26.25 per week. Only a very few trainees manage to get that topped up through collective bargaining, and supplementary benefit is cut if trainees leave early. Anyone who has studied the White and Green Papers carefully knows that the spectre of withdrawal of benefit entirely from 16 and 17-year-olds probably merely awaits implementation of the second year of the youth training scheme. I should like to hear the Government's response on that.

Those changes in benefit come at the end of a whole series of changes designed to force young people back on to the resources of their families. I can give chapter and verse. In 1980, supplementary benefit was removed from school leavers for three to four months. In 1982, child benefit entitlement was reduced. In April 1983, 16 and 17-year-olds lost £3.10 per week housing benefit. That was extended to 18 to 20-year-olds in 1984. The catalogue of blows against young people is as depressing as it is possible to imagine.

The current reviews of the social security system will create ludicrous anomalies between the under-25s and the over-25s, so that a couple with a 24-year-old son or daughter will receive a different level of benefit from that received by the couple next door whose child is 25 years old. The Government have totally failed to tackle the tangle of benefits and incomes for young people, and further cuts in benefits for 16 and 17-year-olds are likely.

The plight of youth is equally desperate in housing. The decline of the private rented sector and the failure of the public sector to provide for the young and particularly for young single people has pushed them to the back of the housing queue in every area. As a result, housing problems among young people are on the increase and the unprecedented number of homeless young people is a national disgrace.

The pressure is building up, as reports from around the country show. I cite just a few instances. Between 1984 and 1985, Threshold had 1,500 new inquiries from persons under 25. Flatshop in Cardiff had 1,600 inquiries in 1983, 64 per cent. of them from people aged between 18 and 25 and 8 per cent. of them from people under the age of 18. The Association for the Single Homeless noted that between June 1983 and April 1984 79 per cent. of the homeless were under 24 years of age. Every year, 14,000 youngsters leave local authority care. It is estimated half of them end up homeless, but three out of four local authorities offer no assistance for priority allocation after leaving establishments of that kind and many local authorities maintain housing policies which operate against young people.

I have covered jobs, income, education, training and housing because they are the fundamental stepping stones for youth in moving to a full, worthwhile and secure place in adult society. The Government have not only failed to support those stepping stones but have actually weakened them in many respects. That is the measure of their culpability for the desperate plight of young people today.

The Minister may ask what Labour would do. I will tell him. First, Labour has a vision of youth.

Yes indeed, and we understand young working people in a way that Ministers with their privileged backgrounds cannot begin to appreciate.

At the heart of our policy is an appreciation of the value of youth. Youth does not last very long and it is a crime to deprive young people of all the things that the Government are taking away from them. Youth is a time to be enjoyed, a time to look forward with hope, a time of opportunity. Young people should be able to look to their families for help and mutual support, but they should also be allowed and indeed helped to work towards the essential independence and learning of life entailed by the responsibilities of adult living.

What is needed is a framework for that transition— not to mollycoddle young people but to give them something to build on and to build with—and it is the responsibility of Government to develop that framework. One element is jobs. Labour has set out its programme for getting the country and its young people back to work in "A Future that Works" and "Partners in Rebuilding Britain".

A second element is the education system. We have set out our proposals for that in our charter for pupils and parents. Thirdly, for education and training after the age of 16 we have "Learning for Life" and "Plan for Training". Fourthly, for income support we have set out our commitment to educational maintenance allowances, increased grants and a much improved grant for trainees. We also have a series of policy options to improve the housing prospects of young people, including more opportunities for rented housing, easier access to housing waiting lists and an extension of priority housing need to cover young people.

I have no doubt that the Government today will trot out the usual litany of excuses for their inadequacy, incompetence and indifference to the problems of young people, but however they twist and turn and squeal, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops there. The Government are responsible for what is happening to our young people and for the despair that those young people feel.

7.46 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"recognising that 1985 is the International Year of Youth, congratulates the Government on the action it is taking to improve the prospects for young people and, in particular, for introducing through the Youth Training Scheme the most imaginative and far reaching training programme since the last war; recognises the tremendous opportunities the scheme has created for young people and looks forward with confidence to the introduction of the two-year Youth Training Scheme in April 1986; and welcomes the initiative being taken to provide more effective education for young people."
I was surprised that the Opposition chose to have a debate on youth, but I was also very pleased because their record when in government was not impressive, as what has been said today has shown. I intend to show that, despite the comments of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), the Government's record is impressive. The hon. Gentleman may live to regret his statement that we have no vision. The hon. Gentleman began his speech with a little poetry. He also praised Mr. Livingstone, but I wonder how many youngsters under the GLC have that sort of praise for that sort of man.

The hon. Gentleman's speech was very short on facts, and he was wrong about many facts. For example, he said that only 50 per cent. of those leaving the youth training scheme go into a job. He knows the facts because they have been debated before, so he knows that the figure is about 60 per cent., a further 6 per cent. going on to further training and education and another 5 per cent. going on to another scheme.

Perhaps the Minister will check his figures with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission who is also uncertain about the figures because they are accumulated merely by survey. The figute that we have and that Youthaid has is 50 per cent.

It is extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should take what Youthaid says as official when it has been proved time and again to be factually incorrect. It is also extraordinary that members of the Youth Training Board, not all of whom are members of the Conservative party by any stretch of the imagination, do not question the facts given to them by the Manpower Services Commission. The figures are obtained through an independent survey, so factually the hon. Gentleman is incorrect.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield says that Labour has a vision of youth. That is fine. But what does he intend to do with that vision? I listened carefully to everything that he said, but he did not put forward even one new idea. That is the position of the Labour party. It has no ideas —[Interruption.] Labour Members may not like the fact that they have no ideas, but they cannot bluster their way out of it. Rhetoric is one thing, but constructive ideas are something else. The Labour party is good on rhetoric but bad on constructive ideas. I want to hear ideas about how one gets through a difficult situation such as this, and I have not for a moment pretended that it is anything other than difficult.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield forgot to remind the House that when in government the Labour party had the chance to introduce a youth training scheme. It was put forward by the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is now president of the Social Democratic party. She has vividly reminded us of the way in which the Labour Government at the time totally failed to put youth and the necessary resources up the list of priorities. As a result, many 19, 20, 21 and 22-year-olds have never had a job or any training at all. Had the Labour party had the courage at the time, it would have placed those 19 to 24-year-olds in a quite different situation.

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman spends time on the youth training scheme. As he knows, I also spend a lot of time on it and have talked to many trainees. The hon. Gentleman's experience is interesting. He said that young people were not very keen on the scheme. I have not met all the 700,000 trainees who have benefited from the scheme, but I have met a good cross-section and heard quite a different story. However, the hon. Gentleman need not believe me or perch on my shoulder as I go around the various schemes, even though I would be delighted if he came with me. Perhaps he will look again at an independent survey, which is about to go to the Youth Training Board, with which I have had nothing whatever to do. That was a survey of trainees as they came off the scheme, and many were interviewed. It showed that 84 per cent, thought that the scheme was either fairly or very worthwhile. By any stretch of the imagination, that must be an extremely successful, positive rate. I believe that about 15,000 trainees took part in the survey, but if I am wrong I shall correct that figure if I have over-exaggerated or even under-exaggerated.

Just the other day, in conjuction with the Industrial Society, we met the trainees of the year. Had the hon. Gentleman attended that meeting, he would have heard the success stories and met trainees who after some years had changed their attitude and got themselves into employment. One trainee was offered a job provided he had a driving licence. He did not, but, because of his attitude, he obtained a driving licence within 10 days and became employed.

The Minister will be aware that earlier this year at a conference in Bradford there was extensive criticism of racial discrimination within the YTS. He acknowledges that he is aware of that, but what action do the Government propose to take to diminish the level of such discrimination with the YTS, and when will the hon. Gentleman announce the Government's proposals?

If there is any racial discrimination, the same rules and regulations apply up and down the land. I assure the hon. Gentleman that if I hear of specific cases, they will be looked into immediately, and he can also be assured that the right statute is in place so that that should not happen.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield misled the House when he said that we had cut back on YTS. He quoted a figure of £1 billion. We are now spending £830 million on the scheme this year, and it will go up by a further £300 million during the period of the full two-year scheme. But the hon. Gentleman did not acknowledge that for the last two years, the current year and the year ahead, every 16 and 17-year-old school leaver will have the opportunity of joining the scheme if he wishes. That is no cutback at all. Originally the guarantee covered all 16-year-olds, but we have now given the opportunity to every 17-year-old. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman cannot argue that there has been any cutback. Furthermore, there is common ground between us in our wish to see better quality training throughout industry and commerce—[Interruption.] It is obvious that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has nothing constructive to offer.

I hope that the hon. Member for Huddersfield will agree that there is training in many industrial and commercial sectors as a result of YTS which did not exist previously. We have also moved away from outdated time-serving and age restrictions which were a feature of traditional apprenticeships. Many trade unionists believe that that was the right way to proceed. I am sorry that the Opposition Front Bench do not appear to believe that, because they are precluding many school leavers aged 17, 18 and perhaps 19 of getting the right sort of training.

Education and industry have been brought much closer together as a result of YTS. That is to the benefit not only of education and industry, but, perhaps more importantly, of 16 and 17-year-olds.

How many apprentices were recruited under the normal industrial training boards in 1979, and how does that compare with the figure today?

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the precise figures of the number of apprentices, but the number of the traditional apprentices has dropped.

By a substantial amount, but while the number of traditional apprentices has fallen, the number of people who, as a result of YTS, have obtained basic training has increased very substantially. I shall come back to the question of apprentices later in my speech.

Does the hon. Gentleman disagree that between 1979 and 1983 the number of apprenticeships fell from 155,000 to about 90,000? Should we not look at the West German system and introduce statutory apprenticeships?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall come on to that subject at the end of my speech.

Contrary to what the Opposition have put forward— which, as far as I can see, is nothing at all—what we have suggested for YTS is more imaginative than any other training initiative since the war. Therefore, every school leaver aged 16 or 17 has the chance of being trained for the first time—

I shall come to the hon. Gentleman's letter to me in a moment, which might annoy him even more. In the past, only a privileged minority went into the apprentice system.

However, the Government do not rest on their laurels. They are introducing the two-year youth training scheme, which will enhance for 16-year-olds the opportunity of obtaining employment. It could not have happened if we did not have the support of the employers and the unions. Perhaps Opposition Members are no longer worried about the support of the unions for the youth training scheme. It would not have happened without the good relationships that exist between the colleges and the training providers. I am glad to say that, although it is still early days, progress towards the two-year scheme is set fair. That will mean a better-trained work force than hitherto. The fact that we have not had a well-trained work force has meant that we have lost some markets to our overseas competitors and, as a result, lost jobs.

The White Paper on education and training for young people emphasises for the first time the importance of a unified approach to training and education for all 14 to 18-year-olds. It links, crucially, schools and industry. It is extremely depressing — I hope that the Opposition spokesman can do something about it — that some Labour-controlled local education authorities will not jump aboard the technical and vocational education initiative. Perhaps when the hon. Gentleman talks with his colleagues in local government he will encourage them to do so. If they do no take part in the initiative, they will deprive the youngsters in their areas of a vocational education that would certainly benefit them.

I encourage everyone to do what they can about training. I should tell the Minister that Labour authorities are fulfilling the training requirements which the Manpower Services Commission is not fulfilling in many areas. One should give credit for the amount of resources allocated to training by local authorities, which compares well with the amount given by Tory authorities. Indeed, the Minister said today that the Labour authority in Southampton stepped in to save the training centre there.

I accept the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's intervention. However, he must know that some Left-wing local education authorities will not enter the technical and vocational education initiative. I do not know why they are not interested in it, but they are depriving the 14 and 15-year-olds in their areas—

It is not rubbish. It is true. They are depriving 14 and 15-year-olds of the opportunity to have such training. The hon. Gentleman will also know that some Left-wing local authorities will not take part in the community programme. I wonder why. Are they not worried about the long-term unemployed?

Does the Minister accept that if the Government were prepared to make the TVEI money available to all schools it might benefit all school leavers? Many local authorities are worried about the divisiveness of the scheme, whereby money is given to one school but not to another. They believe that that increases the problems of the allocation of children among different schools.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that about £250 million has been spent on the initiative. It is suitable for only some local educational authorities, and it is only a pilot scheme. It must be worth the while of every local authority to try it on a pilot basis. However, for party political reasons, some Labour-controlled local education authorities have not done so.

For some time, the Opposition have criticised the youth training scheme. Indeed, their opposition seemed a little more shrill this evening. I agree that the quality of the scheme is crucial. On 11 March, when we debated this matter, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East mentioned that point. He will recall that I wrote to him a day or two later saying that if he could suggest schemes that did not rate according to quality, I would examine them immediately. On 1 April—I do not know whether the date is significant—he replied:
"Thank you for your letter dated 14 March offering to look into any training schemes which I find unsatisfactory. The one involving shifting cardboard boxes around"—
this is the case which he mentioned in the House—
"is actually run by a Tory councillor and I have sorted the matter out myself, though I still think the training is not up to standard and I have discussed the matter with some of your officers."
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. He continues:
"I am compiling a number of criticisms of the Youth Training Scheme and will make you aware of my case as soon as I have it ready to my satisfaction."
The hon. Gentleman raised the matter in a bland, rhetorical statement on 11 March. He wrote to me on 1 April, but nine weeks later some schemes have become one scheme and the hon. Gentleman has not produced a shred of evidence.

The case to which I referred that evening occurred in a business run by a Tory councillor. I did sort it out. It concerned the exploitation of a young worker. Other examples have come to my attention, and the Minister must know that we intend to produce a report by October—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] We shall produce a report not only about the youth training scheme, but about training in general and about getting people back to work. After we have produced that report, we should have a proper statement from the Minister. He seems to accept the success of the scheme, although little evidence has been produced to show that, on surveys of between 1,000 and 5,000 people. He is obviously easily satisfied. The Minister participated in a BBC programme about the YTS during which youngsters on the scheme made it clear that they believed that it was cheap labour and that they wanted nothing to do with it.

Again, the hon. Gentleman has not produced concrete examples. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not complacent. If my Department receives a complaint, my officials know that they must resolve it within 24 hours, or explain their failure to do so. The hon. Gentleman is the official Opposition spokesman on employment, yet he makes bland statements and, after two and a half months, he cannot give me more than one example of abuse. The youngsters on the youth training scheme will note that he cannot give me more than one example. If the hon. Gentleman has concrete examples, I shall consider them immediately. I am amazed that he cannot give me one today.

The knockers of the scheme, of whom the hon. Gentleman is one, include the British Youth Council. When it gave evidence to the Select Committee, it made similar remarks, and it wrote a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) stating:
"In response to a request of the Select Committee on Employment held 17 April 1985 and your recent comments in the House of Commons. I am writing to inform you that the British Youth Council will be furnishing you with the names of 'Bad Schemes' at the end of June 1985."
If the council knows of bad schemes, why does it not tell us immediately? It is common ground between the hon. Gentleman and me that we should improve schemes where possible. If we know of bad schemes, we shall do so. To make such bland statements is not acceptable.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) referred to health and safety. He will recall that the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) introduced a Bill which dealt with health and safety. The hon. Gentleman had not taken into account the fact that the Government have covered all health and safety matters in legislation. What is just as important is that every trainee on the scheme has statutory protection against racial discrimination in the selection for and termination of training. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the necessary legislation is in force, as it should be.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East referred to the placement of trainees. When I first went to the Department of Employment the placement rate on the youth opportunities programme was 30 per cent. The Labour Government's youth opportunities programme was successful. Today, the placement rate is about 60 per cent., with a further 6 per cent, going into further training and education and over 5 per cent. going into another scheme. Good placements are not necessarily achieved in the areas where one expects them to be achieved. In parts of the country where there are high levels of unemployment there have been placement rates of 70, 80 and 90 per cent.

However, the hon. Member for Huddersfield has never addressed himself to the point that no Government have the power to ordain that a job should be provided at the end of the youth training scheme. The hon. Gentleman and all trainees know that a job exists only when a product is created at a cost and of a quality that the consumer wants to buy.

The hon. Gentleman referred to wages and the allowance. He will have talked to trainees, as I have, and the answer that I receive is, "We get by." Of course they would like more money, but when it is put to them that the more that they receive by way of an allowance the less will be spent on their training, because there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, they begin to understand that the training element — the quality of the scheme—is crucial.

Will my hon. Friend comment upon the announcement by the Manpower Services Commission of its intention to employ clerical assistants as trainees at £60 a week? Does that not undermine the laudable efforts of the Government to persuade young people to take realistic training allowances? If everybody were to copy the MSC, there would be a substantial reduction in the number of young people who would be able to take advantage of the youth training scheme.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Lawler), I read the report, and it came as a surprise to me, too. I made inquiries about it. My hon. Friend and I agree that wages or allowances are relevant in terms of prospective employment. Like my hon. Friend, I do not believe everything that I read in The Times.

On apprentices, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, is out of step with another of his supporters. Look at what happened in the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union. It agreed that the pay of apprentices should be reduced from £41·63 to £27·88. The result was that the intake of apprentices trebled. But there is still a long way to go.

That is a most fraudulent claim. 1 have checked this with the EETPU and with the employers. The package for the three and four-year period provides a higher rather than a lower income over that period. There is merely a reduction in the starting rate. However, there is an overall increase. To equate low wages with more apprentices is to turn logic on its head.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment says, "By George, he's got it."

Despite the fact that this is an enlightened development, there is still a long way to go. The Liberal spokesman pointed to West Germany where first-year apprentices earn about 20 to 30 per cent. of the adult rate compared with the average rate of 60 per cent. in this country. The result is that about 50 per cent. of school leavers in West Germany become apprentices compared with about only 5 per cent. in this country. The Opposition fail to take that matter on board.

No. I have given way on many occasions, and I know that many hon. Members want to take part in this debate.

During the last three years the Government have introduced a new training scheme which is universally popular and very successful. It is sad that some people are trying to encourage youngsters not to join the scheme. The Government have introduced a community programme that provides training, the technical and vocational education initiative and the enterprise allowance scheme, all of which are imaginative and relate to the 14 to 25-year-old age group. The provision of proper education and training for young people is vital both for them and for the future prosperity of this country. The measures that I have outlined represent the most wide-ranging programme of reforms that has been produced for many years.

I commend the amendment to the House.

8.17 pm

About 24 hours ago there appeared on television an advertisement warning young people and children of the seductive advances that can be made by strangers. That was in an entirely different context, but in terms of this motion the youth of this country should listen hard to the non-explanation and the bland and unpositive attitude of Government Ministers about the plight of the unemployed, particularly the youth of this country. It is to the credit of the Opposition that we have raised this key issue, not as a bantering match between sixth formers but as the reality of life for millions of people in this country, in particular for our youth. In some instances it is a life and death struggle for the youth of this country. For Ministers blandly to push aside the reality that faces the youth of this country is a crime.

I should declare an interest on two counts. I am both a father and a grandfather. My daughter has two young children. Her husband is unemployed. Both of them are in their early twenties. When I look at those kids who have no hope for the future, I despair. I have a 22-year-old son who had to leave Liverpool three years ago because of this Government's policies and the system that they represent. He has had to leave the home circle and his friends to look for work elsewhere. He has had to follow Tebbit's advice to get on his bike. I also have a 17-year-old daughter who is on a youth training scheme. She prays that she will be kept on at the end of it if she is given decent training. I have a 14-year-old lad who is still at school, with nothing in front of him but the youth training scheme and exploitation by this Government, as long as they remain in power.

It would be easy to raise the spectre of the wicked witch or the mad monk, but these matters should not be personalised. By providing simplistic answers, we do not educate youth about why these things are happening, who is responsible for them and how to resolve the problems that they face.

The hypocrisy of members of the Government is evident in their everyday speeches. As we listen to the Prime Minister talking about the creation of one nation, we must wonder where the evidence for such a creation exists. Is it in the contradictions which appeared only last week in the press? In the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo stories appeared saying:
"Sexual harassment, verbal abuse, unpaid overtime, dirty conditions and wages as low as 48p an hour have been uncovered by a team looking into the plight of working teenagers.
They are considered to be the lucky ones because they have a job.
A 16-year-old girl machinist complained female staff were left in no doubt how they could find an extra £10 in their pay packet by an employer who regularly tried to touch her breast.
A 19-year-old clerk typist received just £25 for a 49-hour week, an 18-year-old with 11 O-Levels earned just £32·25 a week, while a young roofer was paid £8 for 12½ hours overtime."
That is the way in which the young are suffering.

Our elders and betters are supposed to be telling us what is good for us. Last week on Derby day those elders and betters consumed 8,000 bottles of champagne, 5,000 lb of strawberries, 1,800 lb of beef, 1,500 lb of salmon and 2,500 gulls' eggs. They must think that we are gulls if they believe that we will accept the propaganda, lies and distortions that come from Conservatives about the conditions of working people. They are out of touch with reality.

The Government's policy on education — on comprehensive schools, further education, higher education and universities—is an exposition of their lunacy and bankruptcy in relation to investment for the future. Places are being cut, courses are being savaged and standards in our educational establishments are being reduced.

Investment in the future should be the name of the game. If the Government were serious about their policies for industry, they would be encouraging massive investment in science and technology. The reverse is the case. The needs of the next decade, if not of the next century, are in our hands today and we, legislating in Parliament, should be preparing for the future if Britain is to survive as an industrial nation. Unfortunately, the resources and means of the nation are being frittered away by the Government.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that it helps standards in schools for youngsters to be led out of their schools to take part in demonstrations? Does he believe that constantly advocating breaking the law gives people the right standards for living?

Order. I hope that hon. Members will keep to the terms of the motion.

I knew that I was being foolish the moment I gave way to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton).

Government propaganda tells us that we are now going through a boom period. Tell the youth, the unemployed, the people living in substandard housing, those with no hospital services and those deprived of social services that we are going through a boom and they will reply that there is no boom.

But even if we were going through a boom, the Government, particularly in view of the class of people they represent, should be making massive investment for the future. The unfortunate truth is that increased investment is going ahead, but it is not occurring in this country. The wealth created by the workers of Britain is being invested abroad rather than in industry in our own nation.

We warn the Government that the consequences of their actions will be felt in the next 12 to 18 months when worldwide capitalism faces a further slump, and Britain will be unable to live with that situation. Hence we explain to the youth the need to create vast armies of unemployed, of people on slave rates of pay, of youth on YTS schemes doing full-timers out of jobs and part-time workers out of work, reducing the standard of living of those in work by the schemes that the Government are adopting.

In addition, on the backs of trade union legislation, the Government are attempting to whip the trade union movement into line for the inevitable catastrophe that is round the corner, a catastrophe which the commentators on capitalism understand but to which the Government seem impervious.

The myth that workers are pricing themselves out of jobs—that myth is applied in particular to the young— has exploded. But for millions of working people, in particular the young — we have the highest levels of youth unemployment and the lowest wages—that myth is a crime for which the Government are responsible.

We tell youth, "You will not resolve your problems in isolation, any more than the difficulties of the old, the unemployed in general, the problems of peace in the world, low pay, inadequate health services and social services can be resolved in isolation."

While we are fighting to get these reforms and better conditions for youth, we must explain to the young the nature of society and the reasons why, because of the greed of the acquisitive few, those few propped up by the policies of the Government are feeding off the backs of working people. Despite the faint hearts in our movement, the Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign has carried out in recent years sterling work on behalf of the youth of Britain.

The Minister boasted about the Government's record in health and safety at work. The Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign—with myself and comrade Dave Nellist as honorary vice-presidents — has achieved better health and safety conditions. In 1982 we fought against cuts in benefits for the unemployed. The demonstration and school strike this year brought about a climbdown by the Government over the compulsory nature of the YTS. We warn the Government that, if they bring in compulsory YTS, the 250,000 kids who were seen on the streets will pale into insignificance beside the mass movement of working-class youth that will appear.

A myth has been created about it being wrong to politicise young people. From the cradle to the grave, the working classes' minds are poisoned by the ruling classes and the Tories, by the present Government. It is happening in our schools. I will give just one example. Discussions were taking place in a school that I know in Liverpool about the Tolpuddle martyrs. Although that school is in a working-class area, the story that was peddled was to the effect that the Tolpuddle martyrs were criminals who, in the dead of night, carried out satanic worship, with skulls and the rest, for which they were transported to Australia. That is the level of political education in our schools.

We make no apology for joining with youth in politicising them. In my view, working-class youth should be politicised from the cradle, when they first start to speak and go on to read and talk about the nature of society. We must explain why there is no future for them under the present Tory Government and this capitalist system.

The deceit, lies and hypocrisy of society, with the YTS scheme being used, with wages councils being abolished, with low pay being the order of the day and with high levels of unemployment, which will become even higher in the period to come, is one side of the coin. On the other side are those who are telling us how wrong we are. They preach in the press that we are wrong, but they own and control the wealth of society. They are handing themselves vast pay increases, money got off the backs of working people.

The choice for us and for youth in 1985 involves recognising that society is at a crossroads. Increasingly, we must reach a decision. We must decide whether society is to continue on the greed of the few or the needs of the majority, using the wealth created by working people for the benefit of the workers.

We on the Opposition Benches, particularly Labour Members, are not here on the sufferance of the ruling class. We were forged as part of the trade union struggle, understanding that we should have to change capitalist law to working-class law. That is why the Labour party and trade unions were established. They were set up not to come to terms with the present system but to change it.

The young of today have not lived through the years of class collaboration and reformism over policies. They know, as all hon. Members should know, that there will be no return to the 1950s and 1960s. The system is bankrupt and crooked, and in terminal decay. The youth must understand that the future is theirs. As the most audacious and enthusiastic section of society, they are being denigrated by society in general and by the Government in particular. They are being demoralised.

I recently quoted the case of kids being used as scarecrows to chase away starlings from a rich farmer's cherry orchard. As I came through Euston station today I saw a young man on his knees cleaning people's shoes. "Shoeshine", he shouted, and when I spoke to him he told me that he had eight O and three A-levels. This is happening in London, not Liverpool, where we have been birched by the Government. Youth in London have no future.

The hon. Gentleman should sit down. He has nothing to say to me.

I, for one, have confidence in youth in particular and workers in general. [HON. MEMBERS: "They have none in you."] They have confidence in me as vice-president of the Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign. We want to point out that the Thatcher Government understand what must be done to maintain the profit system and give profits to their rich backers. That is why they are selling off all our nationalised industries and our assets to the sharks on the stock exchange.

A future Socialist Government need to carry out the pledges enshrined in clause four of Labour's constitution, giving to those who work by hand and by brain the full fruits of their labour, taking over production, distribution and exchange in society.

The youth of today are the adults of tomorrow. Past generations have let down today's youth, but youth now have an opportunity. They are saying, "We shall no longer take the crumbs from the rich man's table. We do not even want the cake now. We want to take over the bakery." The youth of today have seen through the Government and the system that they represent.

rose

I shall not give way. I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman should sit down.

We have a warning for the parasites who feed off the working people, who hive off the wealth for their own aggrandisement. When working people wake up and see through their own experience the distortions, lies and manipulation of society and hear the message of our Socialist alternative, an unstoppable movement will develop. The youth will be at the head of that movement, carrying out the historical task of transforming society from this rotten, decayed, exploitative system into a caring compassionate society where people will be treated as human beings, not wage slaves or market commodities for the benefit of a handful in society. Only then will youth look forward to a future free from fear and despair.

There is a correlation between unemployment and drugs, although we would not say that unemployment was the sole cause of drug use. There is also a correlation between unemployment and crime. No one condones crime, hooliganism or drug taking, but if people are treated subhumanly we cannot expect any better from some of them.

The Government have brutalised social relations. They have brought about the politics of the jungle. The rich and powerful get the lion's share, and the poor and weak get the scraps. It is little wonder that the pale shadows of the Tory Government and the alliance ask why we seek to defend ourselves, our youth, our families and our conditions. We are fighting for those people against this brutal system which you are propping up along with the Government.

Order. I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Member, when he is in such fine flow, but I do not prop up anything.

I shall not go into that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The message from this debate is that the Tory Government have nothing to offer youth. This system has nothing to offer youth. Despite the criticisms of the faint-hearted, my appeal to youth is to get organised in the Young Socialists and the Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign and fight back against this vicious Tory Government and their attacks. We say to youth "The future can be yours, organised with a programme that can and will change society to create civilised conditions in health, education, housing, jobs and personal fulfilment." If youth hear no more during this debate than this message of hope, I for one shall be satisfied.

8.34 pm

1 have an awful feeling that when the colleagues of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen, (Mr. Fields) take over power they will treat the young and the old with the same delicate courtesy as the hon. Gentleman showed to those who sought to intervene during his speech.

Nearly a fortnight ago, on the day on which Liverpool football club played Juventus in Brussels, I was in Holland talking to employers, trade union leaders and Government officials about the youth unemployment problem. The latest figures for youth unemployment in Holland had come out a couple of days before, and they were excited about the trend. The April unemployment rate among those under 19 had fallen by 20 per cent. between 1984 and 1985. This had followed a decrease of 14 per cent. in the March unemployment rate for the same group between 1984 and March 1985. People were optimistic that the tide had turned.

In the recent past, the Dutch were in a bad position. In 1980 an employers' federation estimated that one manufacturing job in two was operating at a loss. When the recession came, the loss of jobs was more rapid and went further than in the United Kingdom. The Dutch unemployment rate increased to 18.5 per cent. in January 1984. Nearly half the unemployed were young people.

At the end of 1982, a Conservative coalition was elected to Government. It followed policies that are broadly in line with those of the British Government. The Dutch Government gave priority to competitiveness and profitability and waged a successful battle against

inflation. They kept tight control over the money supply and sought to cut public spending. They sought also to remove themselves directly from the wage negotiation process.

The one aspect of wage negotiation from which the Dutch Government have not removed themselves is in setting wages for young people. For many years, under successive Governments, an elaborate system of minimum wage levels has operated. With the co-operation of the trade unions and employers, the Dutch Government have sought deliberately to lower the minimum wages of workers under 19. Although the minimum wage for those over 20 increased between 1980 and 1985 by 6 per cent., the minimum wage of young workers was reduced, on average, by 22 per cent.

The Dutch Government's tactics in tackling youth unemployment were set at the beginning of 1983 by the chairman of the Federation of Netherlands Industry, an employers' organisation. The proposals that he put forward bore a remarkable similarity to the programme suggested at the end of 1982 by the unemployment steering group of the CBI, under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Cave, then the chairman of Thorn EMI. The one difference was that, because the situtation was rather worse in Holland than it was here, Mr. van Veen had an easier ride with his proposals and found it easier to get co-operation than have Sir Richard Cave and the unemployment steering group of the CBI in Britain.

Basically, the proposal was that the minimum wages of young workers in Holland should be reduced—as they have been there—by about 22 per cent. At the same time, a great deal of attention was paid to youth training schemes. They are not as comprehensive or as costly as those in operation here, but they are still an improvement on what has gone before. The one scheme which was adopted in Holland which we have not adopted in Britain is a shorter working week for young workers. In Holland it is impossible for any new young worker under the age of 23 to get employment in the public sector, or in a major firm covered by a collective trade union agreement, for more than 32 hours, with, of course, 32 hours' pay.

There have been some problems in introducing the scheme. The unions in the public sector showed a certain amount of reluctance, but they eventually accepted it, and I note that the 32-hour week scheme has been introduced in the public sector in a way that would certainly appeal to a Prime Minister wishing to see a reduction in public sector employment. One Civil Service department is reducing the number of posts open to recruitment from 4,500 to 4,000, yet it is taking on 5,000 new workers to fill those 4,000 jobs. Therefore, there is a reduction in the level of employment within the public sector, while at the same time more job opportunities are being given to young people.

The result has been spectacularly good in the past few months. There has been a reduction of 14 per cent. in youth unemployment in March compared with the previous year, and a reduction of 19 per cent. in April compared with a year ago. There is a real feeling that the problem of youth unemployment has been tackled successfully. If the Dutch experience continues to be as satisfactory as it has been in the recent past, I would ask the Government to look seriously at the possibility of introducing a shorter working week for young workers.

Our Government have introduced their own job-splitting programme, although not adopting it themselves.

We saw further encouragement of job-splitting for young people in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's last Budget. Perhaps this a concept that is too revolutionary at the moment. At the last count, only 1,500 posts had been split. It may well be that the Dutch approach, which is less revolutionary and much simpler to operate, offers a better and a simpler road to follow.

I hope that my hon. Friends will look very carefully at what is taking place across the Channel. As one Dutch employer said to me, "The 32-hour week for 32 hours' pay has two great attributes: first, it is very simple; secondly, it costs almost nothing." Both attributes should appeal to our Government, and I hope that they will consider them very carefully.

8.46 pm

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) has put forward a very sensible proposition, and I hope the Government will take due note of it. I support the idea of a shorter working week for younger workers. Anything that can be done to ensure that more of the employment opportunities are shared more evenly is well worth our support. It is useful to look at examples from other European countries and see how we might emulate them.

We heard earlier about the statutory apprenticeship scheme in West Germany. At present, 500,000 young people are employed in statutory apprenticeships in West Germany, and we could well copy that. A similar scheme operates in Belgium.

In the three countries which have been mentioned— Holland, West Germany and Belgium — there is one thing that they all have in common, and that is Liberals participating in the Government. One of the problems in the United Kingdom is that the people who might be advocating measures of that sort — some of them in groups such as the Conservative Centre Forward—are not listened to with sufficient seriousness.

This year, 1985, should be a time of hope. Young people should be able to look forward with confidence to making their contribution to our community, but instead it is very much a time of hopelessness and despair.

About half of the unemployed in Britain are young people. I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields)—I hope that it will not do him too much damage in the Militant Tendency—that there is an undoubted relationship between high unemployment and high rates of crime, despite the Prime Minister's regular denials of the link. Half of all the crimes are committed by young people. There is a link, too, with the escalating problem of drug abuse—a subject to which I shall like to return later in my speech.

Many of our young people face the prospect of 50 years on the dole. They face youth training schemes. They face increasing competition for university places. Many of my contemporaries, with worse A-level results than brothers and sisters who are now being turned away from universities, were able to get into higher education. It is a tragedy that those younger brothers and sisters are now denied the opportunity of going to university. What we see today is a reduction in self-esteem and self-respect.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), who opened the debate for the Opposition, indulged himself in some poetry. I am glad to see him returning to his place. I think that Alfred, Lord Tennyson put it very well in a couplet that he composed when he asked:

"Ah, what shall I be at fifty, Should Nature keep me alive, If I find the world so bitter When I am but twenty-five?"
The truth is that there is today a great sense of bitterness, hopelessness and despair among many of our young people.

The hon. Gentleman complained that only £250,000 had been made available for International Year of Youth. I do not intend to follow that argument because the debate is not simply about throwing money at young people and their problems. However, I agree that it should be about the Government taking International Year of Youth seriously.

The hon. Member for Broadgreen, who spoke as a member of the Labour party, struck an interesting contrast with the Labour Front Bench. We should not laugh him off, as some hon. Members tried to do today. In Liverpool, his colleagues run the council. Indeed, his colleagues have a great say in who is to be selected for many seats throughout the country. We shall see more and more people like him in the House representing the Labour party.

We know that there are great affinities between the London and Liverpool Labour parties. We should not laugh off the hon. Gentleman, but should take him seriously. When he talks, as he did today, about breaking the capitalist laws and replacing them with working-class laws, it shows how he and many of his hon. Friends regard the law of the land. When I intervened, I pointed out to him that it sets an appalling standard and example to young people to lure them from their school classes, to march them to the pierhead in Liverpool and for speakers to harangue them at open-air rallies. The effect of that on discipline and morale in schools, and on their long-term opportunities and future, is unbelievable.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House why he believes that explaining to young people the cause of their lost opportunities and how the system brutalises them is a disadvantage to them?

It is not a disadvantage to explain to people the causes of our problems. The way to solve those problems is through the ballot box and parliamentary democracy, not by pulling young people on to the streets, or by encouraging them to leave their classrooms. That is simply to take the first steps towards breaking the law.

As I also pointed out in my intervention, constantly to tell people that it is all right to break some laws but not others, and that they can defy the Government, whoever that Government may be, breeds contempt for parliamen-tary democracy. Some of us know that this is all that the members of Militant Tendency who dominate the Labour party in many parts are concerned with. I warn the House not to laugh off those pied pipers who pull young people from their classrooms and who constantly advocate breaking the law.

I also have a criticism of the Government. They have created the breeding ground that has allowed people like the hon. Member for Broadgreen to prosper and thrive. We have witnessed the creation of a disaffected, disillusioned, cynical and bitter youth. The measures which the Government have announced during the past two weeks have compounded the problem. They have announced a rise in students' grants below the rate of inflation, which will cut the real value of the grant further. They have continued to threaten to extract young people from the vital protection of the wages councils. They have presented a review of social security which treats anyone under the age of 25 as a juvenile and forces young people into greater dependence on their parents. It has been a bad 14 days for young people.

It has also been the 14 days during which the Government have implemented their change in the Department of Health and Social Security board and lodging house allowance regulations to save £70 million. The affect of that saving has been to force about 10,000 people in Scotland on to the streets, and about 4,000 people in Merseyside to endure greater hardship. Many young people will now sleep rough in the inner cities rather than go home. Others will make fraudulent claims. Others again will take to prostitution or to peddling drugs to pay for living accommodation. How can the Government reconcile that policy with their previous urging of young people to get on their bikes, to become a nation of Dick Whittingtons, and to go off and seek their fortunes? The Government urged them from their homes, but now do not give them the wherewithal to survive in the social antipodes—the inner city areas—where young people find themselves.

This year is International Year of Youth, and my hon. Friends and I have tried to take it seriously. That is why we invited 1,000 young people to participate in our Youth Day in Westminster earlier this month. The young people who came wanted to learn about Parliament, its processes, and how this building operates and functions. I believe that they learnt a great deal that day. Many of them may have seen my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) introduce his Bill on disabled young people.

Four other Bills have also been introduced by my hon. Friends during International Year of Youth. My hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon), who is present, introduced a Bill to deal with the problem of young people in rural areas; my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) introduced a Bill to deal with the problems of young people in Scotland; my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) introduced a Bill to deal with employment opportunities for young people, in which he advocated the statutory apprenticeship scheme, to which I referred earlier; and on the first sitting day of Parliament in International Year of Youth my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) introduced his Youth Charter Bill. We have taken International Year of Youth extremely seriously.

"International" is a word that I wish to draw to the Government's attention. It is very sad that the Young Conservatives and the Federation of Conservative Students have decided not to participate in the British Youth Council's visit to Moscow this year. The best way of building bridges and creating peace in the world is for our young people, whether they live on the eastern or the western side of Europe, to get to know each other. Unacceptable pressure has been placed on the British Youth Council. It has been threatened with losing its grant if it goes ahead with the visit. That is utterly unacceptable.

I hope that the Government will say tonight that there will be no reduction in its funds. I hope that they will reconsider supporting what could be a mission of peace.

As the joint chairman of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, I also regard it as a tragedy that during the past five years young people from the poorest pans of the world have been denied the opportunity of coming to our colleges and universities because of the introduction of full-cost fees for overseas students.

I shall make my remaining remarks in the context of the three grand themes which the United Nations designated for International Year of Youth — peace, participation and development. I ask the House to consider now not international peace, but inner peace. What sort of generation is being brought up on heroin and cocaine? Some 100,000 young people in Britain today are taking heroin. Only two weeks ago the chairman of our Home Affairs Select Committee rightly said:
"Every son and daughter of every family in this country will be at risk from this terrible epidemic."
For years, Liberals have been advocating the introduction of life sentences for those who peddle heroin and organise the evil of trade in heroin. It is one of the worst maladies to affect our age. My right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal party has also said that we should sequestrate the funds of those who have been making then-vast profits from peddling heroin to the young. At present the racketeers salt away their ill-gotten gains, place fortunes in bank accounts in Zurich, or bask on beaches in countries with which we have no extradition arrangements. They should not be able to get away with it. We must make every effort to bring them to justice, to sequestrate their ill-gotten gains and to use them for the treatment of young people who suffer from the heroin plague. It was very easy during the strike of the National Union of Mineworkers to sequestrate the union's funds. Surely it must also be possible to track down those to whom I have referred and similarly to sequestrate then-funds.

Inner peace, the opportunity to feel that one can be a self-respecting member of the community and the right to self-esteem are important conditions for many of our young people. Similarly, the right to play a part in society is vital. That is why we on the alliance Benches have considered the lowering of the age of candidature in line with the voting age. My noble Friend Lord Tordoff introduced an amendment to the Representation of the People Bill, which, sadly, was defeated by Conservative peers voting against the proposal and by the abstention of Labour peers. The alliance believes that there should be statutory representation by young people on organisations such as the area manpower boards of the Manpower Services Commission, which monitor youth training schemes at local level, thereby allowing trainees some say in the schemes in which they participate.

The alliance thinks that young people should be able to sit on local authority committees. I served on the education committee in Liverpool some years ago. The Liberal group introduced the right for a young person from one of the local schools to be elected—incidentally, by the single transferable vote system—after hustings had been held to sit on the education committee and to be able to speak on behalf of the consumers. There are other organisations, such as the health boards, where young people should have the chance to express themselves.

Participation is crucial to Liberals. We believe in giving people control over the institutions that govern their lives. For many young people the mechanisms of control do not exist as yet. Participation should not be confined to a purely mechanistic level. Unemployment means having nothing to do, and sometimes that can mean having nothing to do with the rest of us. Young people also need to be able to participate by virtue of having a job.

I have reminded the House of the number of apprenticeships that have been lost. There were 155,000 in 1979, and the total declined to about 90,000 in the mid-1980s. Far too many of our young people have been introduced to the hopelessness and despair of the dole queue.

Liberals believe that the youth training scheme is based on sound principles, but we are not happy with many of the ways in which it operates. Far too many employers view the scheme as a means of obtaining cheap labour. Too few young people enter permanent employment at the end of their YTS scheme. Many young people receive no real training from YTS and, therefore, are not having their employment prospects improved. Too many people on the YTS are being put into jobs in which they are neither interested nor suited to.

Liberals would like to see the YTS improved, first, by the establishment of an inspectorate to vet companies which wish to take part in the scheme and regularly to scrutinise the scheme at the workplace. Secondly, all health, safety and insurance regulations applying to industry should apply also to the YTS. Thirdly, no young person should be forced on to the scheme under the threat of reduction or removal of state benefits. Fourthly, we should establish an improved system of consultation so that everyone entering the YTS is appointed to a training scheme in which he is interested and to which he is suited. Fifthly, those on the scheme should receive fair payment that is set at a level appreciably higher than that of state benefit. Sixthly, each young person should receive training in a number of skills, and the system of assessment and qualification should be developed in consultation with both trade unions and employers. Seventhly, each young person on the YTS should receive training in life skills. Finally, there should be greater emphasis on training in skills that are of use to the community.

Earlier, the Minister asked what practical proposals the Opposition had for improving the YTS, and he was given some ideas by the hon. Member for Huddersfield. I hope that the ideas which I have introduced to the debate will be considered seriously by the Minister.

After peace and participation, the other great theme of this year is supposed to be development. There should be more opportunities in our Britain of 1985 for more personal development. At present, the clock is being turned back in education to a time before the Education Act 1944 and even before Mr. Gladstone's Elementary Education Act of 1870. Opportunities for development are being reduced.

Young people in the International Year of Youth have suffered a great deal if they have wanted improved education opportunities. There has been a series of attacks on their standard of living—they are already poor—and on their representative institutions. In the past fortnight they have been told that there is to be yet another cut in the value of their maintenance grant. After a 10 per cent. drop in the real value of the grant over the past five years, they are to receive only a 3 per cent. increase this year. That increase will not even allow the grant to keep pace with inflation. They will probably have to rely even more on housing benefit payments and long vacation supplementary benefit payments, which have come to provide vital income for students on inadequate grants.

The Government have thought of that. The Secretary of State for Social Services has promised that in his already infamous Green Paper there will be proposals that students should soon be deprived of long vacation supplementary benefit and housing benefit payments. Why is he taking that course? It appears that the payments made to students cause the DHSS administrative problems. However, the Secretary of State claims that it will not really matter if these payments are not made as the amount of benefit involved is usually small. The payments are not small if the student's grant barely covers his college bills, if he has a permanent bank overdraft and if his parents do not pay the full contribution. They are certainly not small if, as thousands of students have found, the new travel grant system has left them hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

How do the Government expect young people in colleges to manage? The answer is in the social security Green Paper, which says that students should be
"helped through the grant system by their families and by their earnings in vacation".
As nearly half the parental contribution to grants are not paid in full now, and as the Secretary of State chickened out of asking parents to contribute to tuition fees last November, in reality this means one thing. If a student finds that his money has run out, he will have to rely on part-time or temporary work to stay in education—never mind the damage to studies. These are Victorian values of the worst kind, and the Government are undermining the funding of public education.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that forcing students into part-time work takes jobs from other people in the community?

I made that point at the outset of my remarks. We should be sharing the available work and making more, not fewer, working opportunities available. Encouraging students to take up jobs adds to the unemployment problem. I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

There is worse. The only institutions on which students can rely to defend their interests, the student unions, are also under attack. The Green Paper on higher education accuses them of being unrepresentative and says that some of their policies are
"determined by a minute portion of the union membership."
That is rich, coming from a Conservative Government with a mandate of only 31 per cent. of the electorate.

Every student union in the country uses proportional representation in some variation to elect its officers, and all of them are therefore more representative of their electorate than is the Secretary of State. The strict controls on student union expenditure threatened in section 7.19 of the Green Paper are yet another attempt by the Government to clamp down on those of their victims who have the audacity to fight back.

What do the Government have in store for students? The likelihood is that it will be some form of student loans system, which would be a disaster. Not only would it be extremely costly to introduce, taking years to become cost-effective, but it would discourage entry into higher education by women and those from less affluent backgrounds. This is at a time when a fall in the 18-year-old population offers us a golden opportunity to broaden access to education across the social spectrum.

The International Year of Youth will, for young people in Britain and in British colleges, represent the opposite of the United Nations' themes. The Government are encouraging protest, not peace. They are discouraging participation and turning away from the development of a fair and accessible higher education system. The Secretary of State for Education and Science is a fellow of the Oxford College of All Souls and the Faithful Departed. He clearly wants to add traditional British education to the faithful departed.

9.3 pm

I declare an interest. I have worked for a large proportion of my career with young people, and I made my maiden speech on this topic. The Opposition, with their unerring sense of overstatement, talk about the "desperate plight" of young people. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) went over the top with his Marxist analysis of the situation. For those reasons, as well as many others, I shall oppose the motion and support the Government amendment.

Although the world of the 1980s is not easy for young people, it is important to emphasise that they are in good heart. Every day in my constituency I learn about the achievements of the young people of Norwich and the surrounding areas. I learn of young people who have gone on Operation Raleigh round the world and achieved great things; I learn of young people on the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme who are achieving great things; I leam of young people starting their own businesses; and I learn of those who are aiming high in academic, sporting or other sectors. We should commend the achievements of our young people and not continually talk them down in the gloomy tones of the Opposition.

Above all else, our young people need a sense of direction — not the direction provided by the hon. Member for Broadgreen — and leadership. Any fair-minded person must pay tribute to the Government at least for their efforts to provide higher standards of education, which must be the right way forward for our young people. We should also congratulate the Government on improving and extending the youth training scheme. They plan to extend it to two years so that no young person need be without a job, training or education. If that is not an ambitious programme, I do not know what is.

The hon. Member for Broadgreen spoke proudly of how the Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign organised a strike of school students against the youth training scheme. The hon. Gentleman does not appear to be thoroughly ashamed of himself, but he should be. That is the type of irresponsibility among adults which leads young people to ignorant rather than tolerant and enlightened attitudes.

I deplore recent events at the University of East Anglia. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Broadgreen has anything to do with the Socialist Workers party, but its members did all that they could to prevent free speech at that university. Thanks to influence and firm action by the university authorities, the meeting went ahead. That was a triumph for democracy and a defeat of everything that the hon. Member for Broadgreen appears to stand for.

Opposition Members should remember that ever since the early 1960s, when Labour was in power, there has been pressure to increase the wages of young people. There may be votes in this, but the result of increasing such wages was a reduction in the length and effectiveness of apprenticeship schemes. We all regret that trend, but responsibility must be laid squarely with the Labour Governments of the 1960s. In 1970, 12 per cent. of 18-year-olds had adult rates of pay. That proportion has increased to more than 50 per cent. today. Anybody who compares what is happening in Britain with what is happening in West Germany will not be surprised at the serious depletion in the British training effort and the reduction in skills which are vital to our economy.

I do not need to spend long reminding the House of our serious skills shortages. Information technology is just one shortage area. In response to such shortages, the Government introduced and extended YTS. It was the Labour party which failed to take up the challenge when it had an opportunity to do so.

Will the hon. Gentleman cast his mind back to 1979 when total unemployment was equivalent to youth unemployment today? The proportion of the problem is quite different now. Does he agree that the youth opportunities programme was successful and tailored according to conditions at that time? We did not have 1·25 million unemployed young people then.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of 1979.1 remember it well. I remember campaigning when the number of unemployed people had doubled under Labour. I can remember the criticisms of the youth opportunities programme. It was right for the Conservative party to make good those deficiencies and to introduce a proper scheme in the shape of YTS.

I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to some serious points about the youth training scheme. There are dangers in that scheme — for example, too much bureaucracy. I hope that we shall address ourselves to those dangers. I hope that there will be more co-operation and liaison between the Manpower Services Commission, education and industry. The lines of communication between those three areas of national life are not as good as they should be. I hope that Ministers are taking note of this point. As a matter of urgency, we should do all that we can to raise the standards of achievement on the YTS. I hope that we shall not be tempted, as sometimes happens, to mislead our young people into the belief that they are gaining qualifications when they are not.

For example, if young people are on a scheme that provides them with skills, that is fine and it must be better than having no training at all; but we must not try to give them the impression that they are obtaining craft skills that are provided by more extended training schemes elsewhere. I am not criticising the YTS in saying that; I am merely stating a very important way in which it can be improved. We must raise standards, make sure that young people fully understand what skills they are acquiring and what they will be able to do with them when the time comes.

The good news is that in Norfolk the number of people going on to jobs from YTS is as high as 80 per cent. I am quoting the most up-to-date figures available. Surely that is a success if ever there was one. So much for Opposition carping on that point.

Education is mentioned in the motion and the amendment. Again, I should like to pay tribute to the Government's efforts to raise standards in education. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will not argue with this. There is no doubt that at the moment there is difficulty and low morale in the education service. We should look seriously at the causes. That does not mean that we should change course. I should like to set the record straight. The House should be reminded that we are accused of making cuts in education, but the facts are that more than ever is being spent on education per pupil, the teacher-pupil ratio is the best ever, and more young people aged between 18 and 20 are entering higher education than ever before.

Nevertheless, we should look seriously at the causes of the present unhappiness in the education service. I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are doing so and taking that point seriously. I believe that, in the long term, for the sake of education and our young people, the financing of teachers' salaries should be removed from the local authorities. I hope that if that were ever to come about, we would end once and for all the sad saga of the Burnham committee and the consequences resulting from the failure over and over again to reach satisfactory agreements. As a Member of Parliament, and as a past member of the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, it is good news to find that at least some of the teachers' organisations have realised that there is no future in conducting their dispute by strike action. I hope that that message will finally get across, and that we can get back to talking about the problems of education, the teaching profession, and so on.

The financing of teachers' salaries should be taken out of the control of local authorities because, ideally, schools should be run by head teachers and boards of governors. State schools should be run by those who are closest to the school, not by large bureaucracies. There must be local input. That matter needs debate and discussion. I hope that there will be much more debate and discussion before we finish discussing local government finance and related topics.

There should be a national approach to the teaching profession. That is why I support the idea of a professional teachers' council. I hope that that matter will be discussed again. If we can move in those general directions and continue pressing for higher standards in education, as the Government are doing, we shall serve our young people well.

In case the Opposition should feel unduly pleased with themselves over their criticisms of the present education set-up, they should remember the serious damage that I saw done in Manchester and elsewhere by the headlong rush into comprehensivisation. I was teaching in Manchester at the time. Nationally, we have not recovered from the damage. We need to move on and to improve our schools in every way that we possibly can. Let us not forget the prominent part played in that dreadful, mishandled political rush to the new comprehensive organisation by one of the members of the gang of four, now a member of the alliance.

The youth service in Norwich is doing a good job. I have obtained a great deal of experience of the work being done by its professional and voluntary workers. Last Monday, I visited a youth and community centre in Thorpe St. Andrew. There is a great deal to discuss on this subject, but I shall confine my remarks to saying that I hope that the Government will continue to do what they can to encourage the professional and voluntary leaders and the young people who do good work and who take part in the worthwhile activities provided by our youth service.

In the House and the country, we need to apply ourselves even more vigorously to ways of harnessing the ambitions and energies of our young people. I should favour some form of national service, if it were possible. Nevertheless, whatever happens, we must set higher standards. The Opposition wish to level down. We must set the highest challenge and standards for our young people, and they will respond to that challenge. As we have heard tonight, they are responding to the challenge.

We have seen the effects of lower standards of discipline and moral education in schools, families and society. The subject of drugs has been mentioned tonight. Those are serious matters. Lower disciplinary standards and the failure of moral education will lead to ever more appalling effects unless we seek to reverse the trends. I am sure that there is consensus throughout the country that that is the direction in which we need to move.

The Government are addressing themselves seriously to the problems of youth and will continue to do so if we push them in the right direction. Our young people will have, and will be able to provide, the energy and leadership for their children in the future. Therefore, I am happy to support the Government's amendment and to oppose the Opposition's overstated motion.

9.22 pm

The Government's White Paper "Education and training for young people" contains at least one interesting sentence. On page 4, it states:

"Yet, for all these developments, much still remains to be done."
The word "much" can cover a multitude of sins, as can the word "very" and many others. When the Minister replies I should be interested to know whether he considers that the problem of what needs to be done in our education system for youth is massive, enormous or a crisis that desperately needs attention and not just a sentence in a White Paper which merely states:
"much still remains to be done."

As a teacher of many years' standing, I want to concentrate upon some of the features of our education system which have been covered in various documents such as "Better Schools" and that excellent report from the Select Committee on Science and Technology in the other place on education and training for new technologies.

The environment in our schools creates a problem for young people, in that they are worried by the impression created and the urges given to them by teachers and parents. There is a feeling that they must work harder so that in future they can somehow achieve the paradise of high-wage employment, as a result of which they will throughout their working lives enjoy a high salary combined with job security, marvellous holidays, trips abroad and so on.

In reality, school buildings are deteriorating, buckets are provided to catch the leaking water from the roofs and library facilities are denied. A recent report showed that very few chartered librarians work in our state schools, as a result of which very few children learn how a good library works within the school system. Many pupils do not know how to use the reference and cross-reference facilities that a good library provides. In addition, book stocks are now suffering from prolonged use over many years.

When my little boy comes home from school he asks, "What is the point of working hard? When I see Mr. Davies in my classroom, I think to myself, 'If that is the sort of job I will have when I finish my school career I would rather not bother'." That is the type of discrimination that has been built into our education system.

Morale among teachers is low, and the Government are not helping. Paragraph 4.27 of the report of the Select Committee of the other place stated:
"In schools there is a shortage of teachers in specialist subjects, notably mathematics and physics"
It said that the Cockcroft committee, looking at mathematics in secondary schools,
"estimated … that the 'hidden' shortage of mathematics teachers in secondary schools was about 9,000."
Yet this country prides itself on an education system that is supposed to be the best in the world.

According to the Select Committee of the other place, teachers seldom have experience of applied science in industry and commerce. There is an inbuilt tendency among teachers to be inward-looking. They do not have the necessary work experience to pass on to their pupils. A fundamental change in the secondary school curriculum is necessary. The Open University system, under which material is made available through radio and television programmes and units provided to students, is a model that could be repeated in our schools. That would avoid the sad situation which still exists, whereby teachers trot out dictated notes day after day. The notes which teachers used in their colleges are passed on to their students with no additional input. There must be a fundamental change so that the Open University system is repeated in our schools.

I welcome the training and vocational education initiative, but I believe that companies should increase their efforts to interest local and head teachers in their enterprises. In liaison with schools, companies are doing very little to ensure that our young people are prepared for the changes that are now taking place in our economy.

The former chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, now Lord Young, stated in evidence to the Select Committee that in 1983 the youth training scheme cost the Government about £850 million. German employers, not the Government, pay about £7·5 billion per year towards apprenticeships. The Government have said that much needs to be done and have outlined some proposals in their White Paper. I hope that they will rectify the fact that, according to Lord Young, the expenditure on training and the proportion of the working population holding vocational qualifications was lower in the United Kingdom in 1983 than it was, for example, in West Germany.

Relevant knowledge is critical. It is a sad reflection on our education system that most young people in our schools not only have no link with local industry but do not know the difference between the roles of their local community council, the district council, the county council and their Member of Parliament. A serious look needs to be taken at a school system which churns out young people ignorant of the roles of the important decision-makers in our system. If we do not combat that ignorance, we shall be in serious trouble.

The decline in our standard of living is shown by the GDP per head for the United Kingdom compared with other industrial countries. We are slipping year after year. Before long, we may not be able to describe ourselves as an advanced industrial economy at all.

In a recent oral answer to me, the Prime Minister expressed complete confidence in Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools, but what experience do the inspectors have of life? Is there any guarantee that they have done other than been educated in our schools, passed on to our universities and colleges, then gone back to our schools and then been appointed as inspectors to advise others on the best way forward? In Wales, the inspectors churn out papers such as "Home-School Links", which is just chat about the way in which teachers should mark reports. There is no mention of solvent abuse, under-age drinking, crime, pornography and the rest. That is a pretty bad show on the part of the inspectorate. On the subject of obscenity, I hope that orders will shortly be brought in to bring the video recordings Act into operation. That will be of at least some assistance to our youth.

In West Glamorgan there has been a massive increase in the percentage of young people among the long-term unemployed. The DHSS research report No. 11 on the cohort study of unemployed men states that the relationship between long-term unemployment and illness in our society is a fruitful area of research for the future. I hope that the Secretary of State for Employment and other Secretaries of State will consider setting up a research study for that purpose.

I am deeply perturbed that the effects of long-term unemployment among young people will be seen after a time lag. The eminent professor of gynaecology and paediatrics at Edinburgh university, Professor Baird, has examined longitudinal studies of the effect of long-term unemployment on infant mortality rates 15 and 20 years ahead. I wonder what the effect on young people in terms of neonatal and perinatal mortality will be and what other consequences and hardships will appear after the time lag. The Government must set up a research project to find out what evidence exists and to ensure that the young girls who will be giving birth to children in 15 or 20 years' time will not have such problems.

The two-year YTS scheme worries me, as it does other Opposition Members, because the youngsters do not believe that they are part of a proper work force. Indeed, they do not know where they belong. They are neither one thing nor the other. Youngsters who want independence and who wish to live away from home will be forced by the Government's new board and lodging regulations to move from place to place to find homes. I wish that the public had given the same attention to that change as they did to the cut in education grants, which forced the Secretary of State for Education and Science to change his mind.

I am extremely angry about the present education system. The priority of all hon. Members should be to talk to youngsters and to listen to what they say. The message that I have received from them is that the Government do not care. Unless we start to embrace those youngsters and stop leaving them in ignorance, in terms of income per head of the population and the quality of life, Britain will be doomed to slip down the international table of standards of living. In the end, we shall say that we are lucky to be ahead of some of the most under-developed countries in the world, but we should be saying that we wish to be one of the great countries in terms of our progress and development.

9.37 pm

A motion phrased in such generalised, negative terms, which lumps together those who have done well, including the 20-year-old football stars and people who have started their own businesses, with the unemployed, is an insult to those who have done well and glosses over the special needs of the disadvantaged. After hearing the speeches made by Opposition Members tonight, I am not surprised that youngsters are much more cynical about politicians and politics than is the rest of the population. They believe that they are being manipulated by politicians.

One thing that youngsters have in common is that they do not like general statements about their having no hope or no future. Nor do they wish life to be run for them. They want the opportunity to control their destinies. It is no coincidence that two main themes of the International Year of Youth are development and participation. Traditionally, youngsters have looked to education and employment for development. But what development? We have heard the praises sung of the old apprenticeship system, but hon. Members have ignored the fact that many youngsters could not enter the system. Indeed, many youngsters who obtained jobs had no training at all. The majority of youngsters—it is estimated to be 60 per cent.—who left school and went into employment received no training, whereas in competitor countries the reverse was the case. They went into dead-end jobs with low wages and minimum security, which is one reason why Britain has more youth unemployment than do its competitors.

We are now moving into a new world where youngsters have the opportunity to learn skills that will be of real use to them. There will be an end to those wasted school years when youngsters could not wait to leave school. Nowadays, the headmaster of a TVEI school will say that youngsters are queueing to get into school in the mornings and that they cannot get rid of them at the end of the day. We are creating a generation of people who can look forward to qualifications, real skills and security of employment, and the economy will benefit as a result. Those who doubt that young people want this ought to talk to them. We have heard about young people wanting this and wanting that.

When the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) talks to his pushchair revolutionaries, one wonders how many other people he talks to. If one talks to those who are taking part in the technical and vocational education initiative and to those who are in youth training schemes, one finds that the majority are happy about being in those schemes. They believe that they are receiving a worthwhile training. The youth training scheme is taking those who were written off at school. They played truant because they found that the school course was entirely irrelevant. Having been written off by their teachers, they went into the youth training scheme and discovered that they possessed talents that they did not know they possessed. After nine months on a YTS course they have written computer programmes. Before YTS they had no future. Now their future is bright. They find that they can contribute something to society.

To those who purport to have the interests of young people at heart I say that every time they deter, by politically motivated propaganda, young people from going into the youth training scheme they destroy their self-advancement. There must be many 17-year-olds who wish that they had never been misguided by professional critics. They look at those who did not listen to the professional critics but went instead into the youth training scheme and find that they have jobs, or at least that they have received some experience and training.

The youth training scheme is developing into the major avenue between school and employment. It is being incorporated into longer-term craft training, as is happening with the electrical contractors, but the vital point about the new scheme is that it must remove the distinction between employed and unemployed trainees. It must not remain the second best, the alternative to a proper job. It must be the accepted destination of those 16-year-olds who want to acquire a skill when they leave school. That distinction must be removed if the stigma of YTS being the second best is to be removed. It must not be regarded as the avenue for the unemployed.

There are still too many young people over the age of 18 who are still unemployed and who have been without work ever since they left school. They have to look for other avenues of self-development. That is dealt with by the youth service. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) referred to the youth service. I wish that the Opposition recognised the valuable role played by paid and, more often than not, unpaid people who dedicate themselves to the development of young people.

The positive approach of the youth service to the problems of large scale unemployment has led to new initiatives and new ideas. It has provided young people with the self-confidence that they would not otherwise have had. There is a new range of options, from drop-in centres to "instant muscle". It is appropriate that in 1985 this work has been supported and enhanced by means of the youth circular and the formation of the National Youth Advisory Council.

I wish that every local authority was as supportive as are the Government. In 1982–83, 78 out of 96 local education authorities spent less than their grant-related expenditure youth service assessment on the youth service. It means that £35 million—30 per cent. of the total— was lost to the youth service. The Government cannot be accused of failing to recognise the importance of the youth service. They provided a 13·1 per cent. increase in the youth budget for 1985–86.

Many local authorities also failed to recognise the valuable contribution of the voluntary organisations. For every £1 of public money that is put into the voluntary youth sector, a huge amount of money is generated in terms of cash and time. I hope that in this International Year of Youth local authorities will consider their responsibilities, pay heed to the circular and give young people that which is rightfully theirs.

As we debate this motion, hundreds, indeed thousands, of young people are meeting in youth clubs all around the country. They will be planning community work and raising money for charity. There will also be a minority who are smashing telephone boxes and indulging in other acts of vandalism. We shall read of the latter in the press tomorrow; we shall not read of the former. If it were not for the youth service, there would be much more of the latter than of the former.

Opposition Members make the big mistake of seeing everything as a problem. Young people are, to them, a problem, when in reality they are not. They do not want to be viewed as a problem. They are a major resource in terms of the future, and now, for the first time, there is a guarantee that every young person will have an opportunity to realise his or her full potential. That is the best contribution that the Government could make to International Year of Youth.

9.50 pm

We have had a full debate and, although I have only a few minutes in which to comment on it, I must deal with three points of fact following the Minister's remarks. He challenged me about the saving of £5 billion to £7 billion. I have with me a copy of the Unmployment Bulletin containing the figures, which I will let him have.

The hon. Gentleman was unhappy when I referred to half of those leaving YTS getting jobs. I refer him to an article entitled
"Half YTS leavers find jobs"
in The Times Higher Educational Supplement. He also challenged the veracity of Youthaid information. I hate to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, following the altercations that took place about discontent with bad youth training schemes, but a few months ago, replying to a parliamentary question of mine, the Minister accused Youthaid of inaccuracy. I challenged him on that, but received from him no example of inaccuracy in Youthaid reports.

Youthaid has catalogued many misleading statements that various Ministers, from the Prime Minister down, including Lord Young, have made about the number of people getting jobs following YTS training, the Youthaid figure being not 70 but 40 per cent. That information is on the record and I will let the Minister have that, too.

I got the feeling as the Minister spoke about the YTS that he was really discussing the philosophy of "Never mind the quality, feel the width." My hon. Friends and I have been indulging in positive and constructive criticism of the YTS. We want it to be a training scheme, not job experience, whatever the quality of that job experience. We want it to be the sort of training that will match the training received by youngsters given by any of our industrial competitors. That is palpably not what it is now.

I do not have time to give way.

If we are to compete with our major competitors, we must perform in training and education, and I refer the House to an interesting written answer yesterday by the Secretary of State for Education and Science to my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), who asked about the age participation and training in European countries, in the United States and in Japan. [Interruption.] There is no need for carping criticism from Conservative Members. The table contained in the answer given by the Secretary of State ends with Spain, followed by the United Kingdom at the bottom of the league. We are at the bottom of the league as a result of the Government's education and training policies. We in the Labour party have ideas that the Government palpably do not have.

Prior to this debate we had a fascinating discussion about famine in Africa and under-privilege in various parts of the world. A range of schemes is needed and a Government with imagination could harness the idealism of our young people—the wonderful youngsters that we have in Britain—to fight under-privilege and poverty and to carry out the constructive tasks that need to be performed. The potential is there. The Government lack the will to do anything for our young people.

9.49 pm

I must start by telling the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) that I am not deaf, that I listened intently to what he shouted and that, if he wants to quote Disraeli, I wish that he would get it right. In "Sybil", published in 1845, Benjamin Disraeli said:

"The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity."

If the Under-Secretary of State reads Hansard tomorrow, he will see that I said "posterity". I said that the words could be updated today to include "prosperity".

I accept the hon. Gentleman's apology. We have had a stimulating debate, with contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart), for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) and for Bradford, North (Mr. Lawler) and comments by the hon. Members for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields), for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and for Gower (Mr. Wardell). I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Gower, who made some very sensible points to which I shall certainly give my attention.

I accept that schools can do much to increase young people's chances of finding employment or of creating jobs for themselves and others. The House must accept that our schools have a duty to prepare pupils effectively for working life. I am very much afraid that the standards now generally attained by our pupils are not as good as they need to be for the competitive world of today, still less of tomorrow. Schools must promote enterprise, adaptability and the qualities and skills needed for work in a technological age. They must seek to develop the attitudes that will help young people to find their way in modern society. To do this, changes are needed, in what schools do and how they teach. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has launched his initiative to improve standards. That is why we need national agreement, as the hon. Member for Gower said, about the objectives of the school curriculum. That is why the Government are spending £250 million on the technical and vocational education initiative.

During the early part of the debate, we were challenged to list Labour authorities that had refused to participate in TVEI. The non-participants are the Inner London education authority, Manchester, Sheffield and, of course, Liverpool. I hope, because bids for the final round of the TVEI allocation are not due until the end of July, that those authorities will decide to join the initiative for the benefit of the children for whose education they are responsible. I welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) condemned those authorities that were not taking part because of their political animosity to the scheme.

I believe that the hon. Member for Broadgreen was trying to make a helpful speech—at least, helpful to his hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench—but I must express concern that a Member of this House, when giving advice to impressionable young people, should advise them to break the law rather than to take advantage of the opportunities that may or may not be available to them.

It was indeed welcome that the hon. Member, in the honesty with which he expressed his views, left us in no doubt whatever where he and his colleagues will stand when they form a majority on the Opposition Benches. [Interruption.] They certainly will not form a majority on the Government side of the House. The hon. Gentleman's attempts to influence and infiltrate the young people of Liverpool will be seen for what they are — a cynical abuse and misuse of the feelings, motivation and anxieties of young people. I wish him no success whatever in the evil campaign that he and his colleagues are embarked upon.

I welcomed the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) when he said:
"those who support the youth trade union rights campaign are a bunch of dafties".
I welcomed those words, and the approbation given to them tonight by the Opposition Front Bench.

The hon. Member for Mossley Hill asked some specific questions about the youth training scheme, and listed seven or eight of them for the attention of the House. He will be pleased to know that the Manpower Services Commission, via its inspectorate, already checks and monitors schemes as they are created, and makes regular visits accordingly.

The hon. Gentleman asked for an improvement in consultation between the applicants and those providing the scheme. The careers service already offers advice to youngsters about the YTS, and regular consultation is available.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the allowance. He knows as well as I that the allowance is a training allowance and does not pretend to be a wage.

The hon. Member for Mossley Hill called for training in life skills — something that I see very much as a future role for the schools themselves. He will know also that training in life skills is already part of the YTS.

Will the Minister tell the House whether the Government have any proposals to make the youth training scheme compulsory?

I can say a great deal in the course of a minute.

With regard to training for relevant skills, to which the hon. Member for Mossley Hill referred, he and I know that schemes are approved by the area manpower board, comprising employers, trade union representatives and representatives of the community, and that such schemes are based in the community itself.

As for staying-on rates, over 30 per cent. of 16 to 19-year-olds are now in full-time education, half of them in further education colleges. Here, as before, we seek improvement. We shall continue to raise standards and to raise the quality of what is taught.

The answer to the question by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is, briefly, no.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 274.✶

AYES
Abse, LeoEllis, Raymond
Alton, DavidEvans, John (St. Helens N)
Anderson, DonaldEwing, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon JackFields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Ashton, JoeFisher, Mark
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bagier, Gordon A. TForrester, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Foster, Derek
Barnett, GuyFoulkes, George
Barron, KevinFraser, J. (Norwood)
Beith, A. JFreeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Benn, TonyFreud, Clement
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Garrett, W. E.
Bermingham, GeraldGeorge, Bruce
Bidwell, SydneyGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Blair, AnthonyGolding, John
Boothroyd, Miss BettyGould, Bryan
Boyes, RolandGourlay, Harry
Bray, Dr JeremyHamilton, James (M'weil N)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hardy, Peter
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, DaleHaynes, Frank
Canavan, DennisHeffer, Eric S.
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cartwright, JohnHolland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Home Robertson, John
Clarke, ThomasHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Clay, RobertHowells, Geraint
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHoyle, Douglas
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Cohen, HarryHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coleman, DonaldHughes, Roy (Newport East)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Conlan, BernardHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Janner, Hon Greville
Corbett, RobinJohn, Brynmor
Cowans, HarryKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kennedy, Charles
Craigen, J. M. Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Crowther, StanKirkwood, Archy
Cunliffe, LawrenceLambie, David
Cunningham, Dr JohnLeadbitter, Ted
Dalyell, TarnLeighton, Ronald
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H"l) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Deakins, EricLewis, Terence (Worsley)
Dewar, DonaldLitherland, Robert
Dobson, FrankLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dormand, JackLofthouse, Geoffrey
Douglas, DickLoyden, Edward
Duffy, A. E. P. McCartney, Hugh
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Eastham, KenMcGuire, Michael
Edwards, Bob (Wh'mpt'n SE) McKay, Allen (Penistone)

McKelvey, WilliamRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorRobertson, George
McNamara, KevinRogers, Allan
McTaggart, RobertRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
McWilham, JohnRowlands, Ted
Madden, MaxSedgemore, Brian
Marek, Dr JohnSheerman, Barry
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Sheldon, Rt Hon R
Mason, Rt Hon RoyShore, Rt Hon Peter
Maxton, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Maynard, Miss JoanSmith, C.flsl'ton S & F'bury)
Meacher, MichaelSnape, Peter
Meadowcroft, MichaelSpearing, Nigel
Millan, Rt Hon BruceStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Miller, Dr M S (E Kilbnde) Stott, Roger
Mitchell, Austin (G t Gnmsby)Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe)Thomas, Dr R (Carmarthen)
Morns, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)Thompson, J (Wansbeck)
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonThome, Stan (Preston)
O'Brien, WilliamTinn, James
O'Neill, MartinTorney, Tom
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWainwnght, R.
Park, GeorgeWallace, James
Parry, RobertWarden, Gareth (Gower)
Patchett, TerryWeetch, Ken
Pavitt, LaurieWelsh, Michael
Pendry, TomWhite, James
Penhaligon, DavidWilson, Gordon
Pike, PeterWinnick, David
Prescott, JohnWoodall, Alec
Radice, GilesYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Randall, Stuart
Redmond, MTellers for the Ayes
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Mr Don Dixon and
Richardson, Ms JoMr Ray Powell
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)

NOES
Aitken, JonathanBurt, Alistair
Alexander, RichardButcher, John
Amess, DavidButler, Hon Adam
Ancram, MichaelButterfill, John
Arnold, TomCarlisle, John (N Luton)
Ashby, DavidCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aspinwall, JackCarttiss, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir HCash, William
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Rt Hon K (Mole Vall'y)Chope, Christopher
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Churchill, W S
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Clark, Hon A (Plym'th S'n)
Batiste, SpencerClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bellingham, HenryClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bendall, VivianCockeram, Eric
Bennett, Rt Hon Sir FredericConway, Derek
Benyon, WilliamCoombs, Simon
Best, KeithCope, John
Bevan, David GilroyCormack, Patrick
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCorrie, John
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCouchman, James
Blackburn, JohnCranborne, Viscount
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterCntchley, Julian
Boscawen, Hon RobertCrouch, David
Bottomley, PeterCurne, Mrs Edwina
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaDicks, Terry
Bowden, A (Brighton K'to'n)Dorrell, Stephen
Boyson, Dr RhodesDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardDover, Den
Brandon-Bravo, MartinDunn, Robert
Bright, GrahamDurant, Tony
Brmton, TimDykes, Hugh
Bnttan, Rt Hon LeonEmery, Sir Peter
Brown, M (Bngg & Cl'thpes) Evennett, David
Browne, JohnEyre, Sir Reginald
Bruinvels, PeterFarr, Sir John
Bryan, Sir PaulFletcher, Alexander
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AFookes, Miss Janet
Buck, Sir AntonyForman, Nigel
Budgen, NickForsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, EricMorris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Freeman, RogerMoynihan, Hon C.
Gale, RogerNeale, Gerrard
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Needham, Richard
Garel-Jones, TristanNelson, Anthony
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanNewton, Tony
Glyn, DrAlanNicholls, Patrick
Gorst, JohnNorris, Steven
Gower, Sir RaymondOppenheim, Phillip
Grant, Sir AnthonyOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Greenway, HarryOsborn, Sir John
Gregory, ConalPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)Parris, Matthew
Grist, IanPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Ground, PatrickPawsey, James
Grylls, MichaelPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Gummer, John SelwynPercival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Pollock, Alexander
Hampson, Dr KeithPorter, Barry
Hanley, JeremyPortillo, Michael
Haselhurst, AlanPowell, William (Corby)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelPowley, John
Henderson, BarryPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelProctor, K. Harvey
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hill, JamesRathbone, Tim
Hind, KennethRhodes James, Robert
Hirst, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hordern, PeterRifkind, Malcolm
Howard, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Irving, CharlesRoe, Mrs Marion
Jackson, RobertRossi, Sir Hugh
Jessel, TobyRost, Peter
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rowe, Andrew
King, Rt Hon TomRumbold, Mrs Angela
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Ryder, Richard
Lang, IanSackville, Hon Thomas
Lawler, GeoffreySainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lawrence, IvanSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelSayeed, Jonathan
Lee, John (Pendle) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShelton, William (Streatham)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lightbown, DavidShersby, Michael
Lilley, PeterSims, Roger
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lord, MichaelSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lyell, NicholasSoames, Hon Nicholas
McCrindle, RobertSpeed, Keith
Maclean, David JohnSpeller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Spencer, Derek
Madel, DavidSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Major, JohnSquire, Robin
Malins, HumfreyStanbrook, Ivor
Malone, GeraldStern, Michael
Maples, JohnStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Marland, PaulStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Marlow, AntonyStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mates, MichaelStokes, John
Mather, CarolStradling Thomas, J.
Maude, Hon FrancisSumberg, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinTaylor, John (Solihull)
Mayhew, Sir PatrickTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mellor, DavidTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Merchant, PiersTerlezki, Stefan
Meyer, Sir AnthonyThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Mills, lain (Meriden) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Miscampbell, NormanThorne, Neil (llford S)
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Thornton, Malcolm
Moate, RogerThurnham, Peter
Monro, Sir HectorTownend, John (Bridlington)
Montgomery, Sir FergusTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Tracey, RichardWatts, John
Trippier, DavidWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Trotter, NevilleWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Twinn, Dr IanWhitney, Raymond
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Wiggin, Jerry
Vaughan, Sir GerardWilkinson, John
Viggers, PeterWinterton, Mrs Ann
Waddington, DavidWinterton, Nicholas
Waldegrave, Hon WilliamWolfson, Mark
.Walden, GeorgeWood, Timothy
Walker, Bill (T'side N) Yeo, Tim
Wall, Sir PatrickYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Waller, GaryYounger, Rt Hon George
Walters, Dennis
Ward, JohnTellers for the Noes:
Wardle, C. (Bexhill) Mr. Michael Neubert and
Watson, JohnMr. Peter Lloyd.

✶See Mr. Speaker's ruling at column 898.

Question accordingly negatived,.

, Question,, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have just walked through the Lobby and come out, and found that the Tellers have disappeared. The exit door of the Lobby was open, but the tellers had gone. I do not know on what basis my vote has not been counted. Can you help me?

I am slightly surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman saying that, because four Tellers appeared, and as far as I am aware the Division has been correctly recorded. I shall look into the hon. Gentleman's point.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House recognising that 1985 is the International Year of Youth congratulates the Government on the action it is taking to improve the prospects for young people and, in particular, for introducing through the Youth Training Scheme the most imaginative and far reaching training programme since the last war; recognises the tremendous opportunities the scheme has created for young people and look forward with confidence to the introduction of the two-year Youth Training Scheme in April 1986; and welcomes the initiative being taken to provide more effective education for young people.

Business Of The House

Ordered,

That, at this day's sitting, the Enduring Powers of Attorney Bill [Lords] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.— [Mr. Durant.]