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UK aid minister stuck in era of anti birth dinosaurs

20 June 2011

UK aid minister stuck in era of anti-birth dinosaurs London, 20 June 2011: Andrew Mitchell, secretary of state for international development, is stuck in the era of anti-birth dinosaurs, said leading pro-life group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

SPUC was responding to just-published parliamentary answers in which Mr Mitchell said that the UK government backs so-called "family planning" to "help reduce unwanted fertility and reduce population growth" and (see Notes for Editors below).

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, commented: "Andrew Mitchell blames environmental degradation on poor people who have more children than he thinks they should.This kind of thinking should be consigned to the history books, along with the attitude that the poor are to blame for their own existence.The reality is that development can only happen with sufficient concentration of human resources – of people – to enable infrastructure to be built and maintained.Waste recycling, flood defences and sewage treatment are examples of systems that are beyond the means of poor, sparsely-populated areas. 

“Mr Mitchell claims that current levels of growth are unsustainable, but that is not the case. Populations in many western countries would already be shrinking but for immigration from poorer countries. In the developing world, an increasing number of countries have birthrates below replacement level, and all the factors affecting fertility are moving in an anti-natal direction. Factors like age at marriage, age at first child-bearing, educational levels, etc., are all tending to reduce fertility rates. Birthrates are falling everywhere, and falling faster than anyone anticipated in the 1970s.

“Mr Mitchell needs to wake up to the fact that the era of the so-called population bomb is history. The danger now is that developing countries will go into premature population decline and stunt their educational, economic and cultural development. “Mr Mitchell cites the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development as grounds for promoting family planning, but ICPD said that abortion should never be promoted as a means for family planning. In its May 2011 spending review, DfID announced that it will spend nearly half a billion pounds on projects that include reproductive health which covers both abortion and contraception. DfID won’t say how much of this goes on abortion, but we know it funds lobbying, infrastructure and services for abortion. Tax payers have a right to know how DfID is spending their money, and how many babies are dying as a result", concluded Mr Tully.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, can be contacted on (0)7939 178719 or (020) 7820 3127. http://www.spuc.org.uk/ Notes for editors: House of Commons, 16 June 2011, column 955W Developing Countries: Family Planning Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make it his policy to press his counterparts at the Rio Earth Summit preparatory meetings to (a) invest in and (b) prioritise family planning services for the purposes of population stabilisation, poverty eradication and sustainable development.

[59748] Mr Andrew Mitchell: The UK Government recognise the links between population, environmental degradation and stresses on natural resources.

DFID will continue to work closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which leads the British Government’s preparations for Rio2012, to ensure that critical factors in encouraging more sustainable trajectories of growth are addressed.

Meeting the need for family planning, together with wider investment in girls’ education and empowerment, will help reduce unwanted fertility and reduce population growth. DFID is committed to enabling at least 10 million more women in developing countries to use modern methods of family planning by 2015 and, in doing so, prevent more than 5 million unintended pregnancies.

House of Commons, 16 June 2011, column 956W Developing Countries: Poverty Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will (a) attend the Rio Earth Summit preparatory meetings and (b) press his counterparts at such meetings to recommit to the Programme of Action on eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable development agreed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

[59749] Mr Andrew Mitchell: Decisions regarding ministerial attendance at Rio2012 will be taken in due course.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has overall responsibility for coordinating the British Government's preparations for Rio2012, The Secretary of State for DEFRA will attend meetings in preparation for Rio2012.

The UK supports the Programme of Action from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which agreed that population and development are inextricably linked, and that empowering women, advancing gender equality, eliminating violence against women and ensuring women’s ability to control their own fertility were essential elements of development policies.

We continue to seek appropriate opportunities to advance the ICPD agenda.


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