Lords looks at plight of Dalits in international development aid debate

02 December 2011

Members of the Lords, including a former Director of Oxfam and a founding member of the Development Studies Institute at the London School of Economics, discussed the Government’s international development policy in a debate on Thursday 1 December

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK and editor of the Sikh Messenger, made his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

Lord Sandwich (Crossbench), who tabled the debate, said that, ‘largely due to the work of our voluntary organisations, the British public in their many forms have become much more aware of needs around the world.’

During the debate, Lord Harries of Pentregarth (Crossbench), expressed his concerns for the Dalits – often known as the Untouchables – in India. He said:

‘It is impossible to tackle the subject of poverty, particularly in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, without highlighting and prioritising the issue of Dalits and expressing those priorities in real policy terms.’

A House of Lords Library note examines the Government’s international development policy for India, currently the largest recipient of UK development aid, and provides an overview of the situation of Dalits in South Asia and the issue of caste-based discrimination in India.

Maiden speech

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK and editor of the Sikh Messenger, made his maiden speech during the debate, saying:

‘It is a tribute to Britain that we are continuing to give assistance, with international development the highest priority. In the past year, Britain's development budget of just short of 0.6 per cent of GDP helped to train more than 95,000 teachers, build or refurbish 10,000 classrooms, train more than 65,000 health professionals and provide clean drinking water to more than 1.5 million people.’  

Members that took part in the debate

Members of the Lords that spoke included:

  • Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Labour), Opposition Spokesperson for International Development
  • Lord Judd (Labour), member of the Joint Committee for Human Rights, former Director of Oxfam and former Minister for Overseas Development
  • Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat), former party Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with special responsibility for Africa 
  • Lord Roberts of Llandudno (Liberal Democrat), former party spokesperson for International Development

Viscount Craigavon (Crossbench), Lord Hannay of Chiswick (Crossbench)  and the Bishop of Rippon and Leeds also took part in the debate.

Baroness Northover (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the Government.

Further information

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee is carrying out an inquiry into the economic impact and effectiveness of development aid:

The term ‘maiden speech’ refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech usually takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.

Image: iStockphoto

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