Skip to main content

International Development

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1997

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.31 pm

With permission, Madam Speaker, I wish to make a statement about international development. I am today publishing a White Paper, entitled "Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century". It will be available in the Vote Office when I have finished speaking.

The White Paper sets out the Government's policies for the sustainable development of the planet. That requires greater progress in eliminating poverty. Nearly one in four of the people of the world live on the margins of human existence. That is morally repugnant and threatening to future security and stability. Our manifesto made it clear that we would give much greater priority to international development than the previous Administration. The creation of my Department, and the fact that it is headed by a Cabinet Minister, reflects that, as does the publication of the White Paper. It is the first White Paper on development for more than 20 years.

Considerable progress in poverty elimination is now possible. The past 50 years have seen great advances. On average, people live longer and in better health. More people have clean water. More are literate. More people have escaped from poverty in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. However, because of population growth, more people are living in abject poverty than ever before.

The challenge of development is to apply the lessons of success to enable the poor to work their way out of poverty. We are committing ourselves to refocus our international development efforts on poverty elimination. That can be achieved only through economic growth, which benefits the poor, and through measures that provide education and health care and enable the poor to develop their talents. As Michel Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said recently:
"We support high quality growth. This means growth that results in a permanent reduction in poverty and greater equality of economic opportunity."

We shall measure our progress against clear, internationally accepted targets that have been agreed at the great United Nations conferences and drawn together by the development committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The key target is to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. The targets also cover environmental conservation and human development. We want everyone in the world to have access to basic health care, education and clean water. The targets are challenging, but they are both affordable and achievable if we can mobilise sufficient political will in the world system to achieve what can be achieved.

We shall pursue the targets in partnership with developing countries that are committed to them. We shall offer such countries a longer-term commitment of support, more resources and greater flexibility in using those resources. Our aim is to ensure that good Governments succeed. The nature of our partnership will depend on the circumstances of each partner country and how we can best help. We shall also work in partnership with other donors and international institutions in pursuit of the targets. Britain has unique international links, which we intend to use actively.

British business, voluntary agencies and our research community have a vital contribution to make to the eradication of poverty. We have held discussions with all those sectors, which are keen to make a greater contribution. British business is increasingly clear that ethical business means good business in every sense and is keen to contribute to development. The aid and trade provision, which lacks poverty elimination as its central focus, will end. We are, however, keeping the option of providing mixed credits within agreed country programmes if they can contribute to the primary aim of reducing poverty. We shall consult the private sector when preparing country and other development strategies.

We shall also transform the Commonwealth Development Corporation into a public-private partnership that will increase the flow of private investment to the poorer countries. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced last month, we shall seek to enlarge the resources at the CDC's disposal by introducing private sector capital, with the Government retaining a substantial minority holding and a golden share. The CDC will act as an ethical and socially responsible investor in poorer countries, with the proceeds from the sale, I am glad to say, being ploughed back into the development programme.

The White Paper is not simply about aid. It covers the full range of Government policies affecting poorer countries. We shall ensure much greater consistency across the range of Government policies, including environment, trade, investment and agricultural policy. All will take account of our sustainable development objectives. We shall give particular attention to human rights, transparent and accountable government and core labour standards, building on the Government's ethical approach to international relations.

We shall use our influence to promote political stability and social cohesion and, wherever possible, to resolve conflict. I recently announced a doubling of my Department's resources for de-mining. I shall be signing for the United Kingdom the international convention on anti-personnel land mines in Ottawa next month.

We must also do more to reduce the external debt of developing countries. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer launched a new initiative at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers' meeting in September. I have also set in place arrangements to write off aid debt owed to the UK by lower-income Commonwealth countries that are committed to pro-poor and transparent policies. We shall do all that we can to mobilise stronger international commitment to debt reduction.

The Government also attach great importance to increasing development awareness in Britain. Every child should be educated about development issues so that they can influence the shape of the world that they will inherit, and every adult should have the chance to influence the Government's policies. We shall establish a working group of educationists and others to improve development education. We also intend to establish an annual development policy forum representing the many strands of society with an interest in international development. We shall publish an annual report explaining how we shall secure the objectives described in the White Paper, and what progress has been made against the international development targets year on year. We shall also consult widely on the case for a new international development Act. The resources that the international community has made available to support the development process have shamefully declined over recent years. The previous Administration almost halved Britain's development assistance as a proportion of gross national product. The Government will reverse the decline in UK spending on development assistance. We also reaffirm our commitment to the 0.7 per cent. UN target.

Every generation has a moral duty to reach out to the poor and needy, but the present generation carries an extra responsibility to ensure that the international development targets are met. If we do not, there is a real danger that by the middle of the next century the world will simply not be sustainable. Population pressures, environmental degradation, conflict and disease could impose catastrophic pressure on the planet.

The White Paper sets out how we can make progress. We should not overestimate what we can achieve alone, but we should not underestimate what we can achieve with others. The new British Government commit themselves in the White Paper to working for a major advance in poverty elimination and the building of a more just and sustainable future for all the people of the world.

I thank the Secretary of State for making her statement to the House, and for giving us good prior notice of it. I assure her, as I did earlier in the year, that international development is an issue in which both sides of the House take the deepest possible interest. Does she share my belief that an informed debate on this subject before too very long would be helpful, and that the Select Committee on International Development should examine her document thoroughly before we have a full debate?

Does the Secretary of State recollect that aid policy was reviewed only three years ago? Does she accept that the White Paper broadly reaffirms the priorities and policies that were set then? Does she recognise how very welcome is the Government's commitment to seek to halve the number of people living in absolute poverty by 2015, and does she acknowledge that the target was set by the previous Government? Does she accept that the adoption of the 2015 target—which, as she said, is an extremely ambitious but none the less realistic target—is a tribute to her predecessor, Lynda Chalker, whose achievements the House and many people throughout the world respect and the White Paper underlines?

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the White Paper reasserts the four key points for development set out in the Conservative Government's review of aid? They were that the purpose of aid is to promote sound political and economic policies; stronger health and education services; sustainable development; and co-operation with our international partners.

Does the Secretary of State acknowledge, as businesses do, that the aid and trade provision, which was introduced by a previous Labour Government, has provided important projects that have benefited developing countries as well as boosted British enterprise? Which of the criteria governing ATP cause her particular problems, and which of the projects approved since 1993 would she have cancelled?

For which countries will the mixed credits to which the Secretary of State referred be available, and in what amounts? Which in-country programmes will be increased to reflect the current and projected levels of ATP funding? Will the mixed credits in aggregate be more or less than the current ATP budget? Pending clarification of that, recipient countries and the business community will feel that—how shall I put it?—the Government emerge from this part of the White Paper with, at best, mixed credit.

I remind the Secretary of State that the House is still waiting for the details of the proposed public-private partnership for the CDC. Will she join me in paying tribute to the work done by the CDC? Does she agree that the longer the details for the new arrangements are kept secret, the more uncertainty it will bring to the CDC and those who want to work with it? Can she say how the new entity will be financed in terms of debt and equity, how much she expects to be the proceeds from the sale of the majority of the Government's interests, whether the sum would constitute a net increase in the aid budget and when the new entity will come into being?

Does the Secretary of State accept that tied aid has enabled British firms to benefit from British aid programmes over the years, as well as the recipient countries? Does she agree that any untied British aid must be given in conjunction with other donors, because unilateral untying, like universal disarmament, would ultimately be pointless?

The Secretary of State acknowledged the work done by the previous Government to reduce third-world debt. Will she confirm her support for the Jubilee 2000 initiative, and say what measures will be taken to ensure that debt relief is linked to good government and sound economic criteria? Will she say how much of the aid debt to which she referred, owed to the United Kingdom by lower-income Commonwealth countries committed to pro-poor and transparent policies—potentially up to £132 million—she is writing off, and tell us when that will happen? Will she also tell us how she sees the Government's role in the world's campaign against corruption in this context?

The Secretary of State mentioned the impact of population expansion on developing countries, but I do not think that I heard her commit the Government to continuing to support the family planning programme sponsored by her Department and by the United Nations. I am sure that the House would be grateful if she did so.

Does the Secretary of State wish to take the opportunity to endorse the OECD report that praised the quality of bilateral British aid? Can she tell us what measures the Government will take to ensure that that quality is maintained, and that there is proper oversight of multilateral donor organisations? In particular, what plans has she to improve the management of the European Union's environmental aid during the British presidency? Will she join me in paying tribute to the dedication of the civil servants and non-governmental organisation employees whose professionalism has contributed so much to the present high regard in which British aid is held?

I am sure that the Secretary of State shares the House's concern over today's news about the latest evacuation on Montserrat. Does she agree that the people of Montserrat desperately need the British Government's help to provide housing, safeguard health, build an airstrip and bring about a return to the self-sufficiency of which the island is proud? Does she agree that British dependent territories should have first call on British aid for all reasonable purposes? Is she aware that the previous Government used the contingency reserve to support Montserrat, and that the present Government should do the same?

The Government's support for the United Nations' 0.7 per cent. public aid target is not new; but will the Secretary of State undertake that it will now be met in the lifetime of the present Parliament? Will she confirm that there is a larger UN target of 1 per cent. of gross national product, which takes into account public and private money, and that in the last financial year the United Kingdom exceeded that target by more than a third? It was second to the Netherlands in GNP percentage terms as a donor of aid to the developing world. Will the Secretary of State commit the Government to continuing to exceed that larger target, and will she acknowledge that it is not the source of funding that matters, but its application? Will she tell the House whether she expects to increase the amount of money disbursed for bilateral aid?

Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to the private investors who are creating real jobs with real investment in the developing world? Will she confirm that the 2015 target for cutting poverty is accompanied by a target for achieving world free trade by 2020? As she has said, trade and prosperity are linked, and although she has readily signed up to the first date, will she now say that she supports the second?

Does the Secretary of State accept that she has inherited an internationally acclaimed aid programme, underpinned by a bipartisan determination to tackle development issues, and that our role in opposition will be to ensure that our targets are kept to and that that legacy is not squandered?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support for the White Paper. I agree that the Select Committee's announcement that it intends to scrutinise it is welcome to everyone, because we want the broadest possible agreement about how to take this matter forward.

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that the targets were set by the previous Government. I have paid my tributes, and they were genuine, to Lynda Chalker, but the Conservative Government cut her aid programme and restricted many of the things that she wanted to do. The Conservatives make her a saint when she is no longer the Minister, which I am not sure she would appreciate. The targets were set by the UN conferences and drawn together in the OECD's development committee report. That is the beauty of them: they are already agreed internationally, so we can all co-operate in implementing them.

On the aid and trade provision, the best of British business agrees that business does not want subsidies to bring forward programmes which do not help development that eradicates poverty. The ATP took us into countries and into projects that were not the highest priority—it took us to Pergau. The right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed to bring that up. His Government put forward that programme, which was found to breach our law by the British courts. That is why we are getting rid of the ATP—it has not been effective in supporting poverty eradication and it brought Britain's development programme into disrepute.

There are no figures for future mixed credit. We have said that if the private sector can come in behind a country's strategies, bringing in investment that helps to benefit that country and to eradicate poverty, the leverage that can properly come out of the aid budget will be made available. The aim is not to distort priorities, as the ATP did, but to help development that helps the poor.

On the CDC, details will, of course, be brought to the House. The reforms require legislation, so there will be full scrutiny in the House. I have an idea of what the sale might raise, but I would not dream of putting that before the House now. However, we shall report fully and the House will have a full chance to scrutinise the proposals. The purpose is not only to keep the CDC as a development organisation—the Government stake and golden share will secure that—but to increase private sector flows into the CDC, so that there is more private sector investment in the poorest countries. There is no uncertainty in the CDC: it is absolutely delighted with the proposals and keen to take them forward, working closely with me and my Department.

There has been much misunderstanding about tied aid—the World Development Movement got itself in a muddle on that. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, traditionally, all programmes coming out of countries' aid budgets have involved firms in this country and the OECD has said that that sometimes leads to inefficiency. We in Britain are saying that our tied aid is down to 20 per cent. We want increasingly to source in developing countries, because that helps their international development, and we want multilateral untying because that increases efficiency. Unilateral untying would mean just that French, German or Dutch firms could come in to fill the gap, which would not benefit developing countries in any way.

We certainly admire the work—particularly that of the Churches—on the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which highlights the problem of debt, which is a barrier to development in some of the poorest countries. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced to the Commonwealth Finance Ministers' meeting, we are keen to do everything in our power—we have put in more resources and more effort—to speed up the implementation of the heavily indebted poor countries initiative. We want every country that is heavily indebted to be on track by 2000, which is in tune with the aspirations of the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

I cannot off the top of my head tell the right hon. Gentleman how much is already committed of the £132 million that I have made available for the cancellation of Commonwealth debt. We have already reached agreement with six or seven countries and talks are taking place with some others. I shall certainly let him have the information immediately.

On the right hon. Gentleman's point about corruption, there is no doubt that this is a time when we can make great advances. Corruption hurts the poor. Both developed and developing countries have been implicated, so the OECD is now calling for all countries to make the offering of a bribe to a public official in a foreign country a criminal offence and also to cease making bribes tax deductible—which they were in this country until two years ago. To his credit, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), stopped that. Britain has put its house in order, and every other country must also do so. Together, we must bear down on corruption. At the annual meeting of the IMF and the World bank, there was a new statement on dealing with corruption. There is the possibility of a real advance. It is the poor whom corruption hurts and we must all do what we can to eliminate it.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to endorse the praise for British aid administration. Let there be no doubt that my Department is second to none. We have high-quality civil servants and the quality of the administration of our aid programme is admired internationally. It is sad that the programme was halved under the previous Administration—[Interruption.] It was; it was halved from 0.51 per cent. of gross national product to 0.27 per cent. It was halved in terms of the international target of 0.7 per cent. The Opposition know that and should not try to hide behind Jesuitical points.

My Department and I are working together to develop the White Paper and then to implement it. My officials are the best—and now they will be able to do their best with a Government who are committed to their endeavours, instead of holding them back from what they can achieve.

The right hon. Gentleman was right to say that one of our targets for our presidency of the European Union—apart from getting the mandate for the Lomé renegotiation right and incorporating the international development targets in that—will be to improve the quality of the EU performance. It could be much better. A great deal of our spend goes that way, so we must improve its performance.

The news on Montserrat is bad indeed. The volcano is erupting and, even worse, the levels of ash are very serious. There is great worry about the health and safety of the people on the island. Conservative Members should be careful not to think of this as a cheap party political issue, as most of the present arrangements were put in place under the previous Administration. It is an enormously difficult emergency because the behaviour of the volcano has kept changing.

I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman about housing on Montserrat. In fact, 50 of the houses that I authorised in July are now ready. Unfortunately, they are not occupied because of the strike by electricity workers on the island, which is not helpful. My view is that some of the larger projects must be pulled together into a sustainable development plan. I am under pressure to build an expensive prison on Montserrat. I really think that that should come later. First, we should make people safe and see how many of them want to stay on the island; the prison can wait. Some people think that big projects are the answer, when in fact current services for some people are just not good enough. It is a serious difficulty.

The right hon. Gentleman called for an increase in our aid contribution, which was a great cheek. He then rightly said that public and private investment was needed, but at the moment private flows go only to the 10 most developed of the developing countries. If we rely only on that, the poorest countries will never take off. That is why we need overseas development assistance as an investment in the take-off of those countries' human development and the sort of economic arrangements that will enable them to create economic growth that will benefit the poor.

The right hon. Gentleman's last point was that he wanted efforts to be bipartisan. I welcome that. As I have said to him before, this is the most noble and most pressing imperative for humanity. Not only is it morally pressing, but the world will be unsafe in 25 to 30 years' time for everyone, no matter how privileged now, unless we make progress. I hope that both sides of the House will unite in seeking to do that.

I am glad to be the first Labour Member to welcome warmly my right hon. Friend's White Paper. Does it not paint a significant contrast between this Government and the previous Government? Whereas we did not see such a White Paper in the 18 years of the previous Administration, it has taken this Government only six months to produce one. Will she comment further on her plans for women? I know that she is particularly interested in that aspect of the issue. Women in impoverished countries often suffer doubly, because they are oppressed by political and cultural outlooks that make a poor life even worse for them. I look forward to hearing her plans.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks. She is absolutely right. The fact is that 70 per cent. of the world's poor are women and children, and that we cannot make progress without strengthening women's position. It is now absolutely proven that educating girls is transformatory. In the poorest countries, however, girls are excluded from education. We will not succeed in development unless we achieve as a priority the objective of universal primary education. Strengthening the position and confidence of women who care for children, and increasing their access to credit, so that they can increase family income will also be absolutely key to making progress.

Like the rest of the House, I welcome the White Paper, which is being produced after 20 years. I welcome also the emphasis that the White Paper—after much consultation, on which I congratulate the Government—places on my chief concerns: primary education, health and welfare of women, and women's access to health and family planning services. I suspect, however, that the White Paper is strong on words and weak on action. I am very worried by the number of times that the word "encouraged" is used and by how little commitment there is to establishing processes to put proposals into practice.

The White Paper announces that there will be a welcome end to the aid and trade provision, which achieved such notoriety under the previous Government. So far, however, the signs have not been encouraging. The Government's ethical foreign policy sits uncomfortably with arms contracts recently negotiated with Indonesia. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] Surely we should be leading the world in reducing tied aid. I was disturbed to note that, in Montserrat, aid was being used to employ a British contractor.

Order. I must call the hon. Lady to order. She is not required now to make all the comments that she is making. Back Benchers, too, are not required now to make comments. The exchange between Front Benchers took 30 minutes. As many hon. Members would like to ask a question, I will have to have brisk questions to the Minister if they are to be called. I know that the Minister will respond with brisk answers, because she is very articulate. I expect the rest of the House to be likewise.

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker; I misunderstood the purpose of the statement.

I should like to say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] This is a question. I have every confidence in the Secretary of State—if she is able—and in her Department to deliver the aims of the White Paper. I warn her, however, that the road to hell is paved with good questions. Does she carry the rest of the Government—the Department of Trade and Industry, the Treasury and all other Departments—with her, or not?

The hon. Lady is a new hon. Member, and we will therefore have to be a little patient. I know, however, that her intentions are good. I forgot to reply to the right hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir A. Goodlad) on family planning, but she has also raised the issue. Almost half the people in the world do not have access to family planning, which is a grave breach of their rights and ability to raise healthy and educated children. Our commitment to universal basic health care includes a commitment to reproductive health care and to an expansion in provision for everyone in the world, so that people can make their own decisions about their own family size.

I should explain to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) that a White Paper is an analysis and a statement of permanent Government intent. We are currently engaged in the process of adjusting all our staffing and budgeting, and big amounts of money are moving around within my portfolio. A White Paper is meant to be a long-lasting statement of policy purpose. Implementation follows, and she will see it.

I hope that the Select Committee on International Development will examine the tied aid issue. There is so much muddle in the debate; it would be helpful if everyone—including the World Development Movement—learned the meaning and particulars of tied aid and how best to make progress. The hon. Lady was misinformed on that matter, also.

White Papers are Government White Papers. If the hon. Lady thinks that a White Paper can be published without the support of the Treasury and that the aid and trade provision can be got rid of without the support of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister, she does not understand how Government works. This White Paper commits every Government Department. We are united in that commitment and we shall ensure that it is implemented across all our policies.

The House will welcome the Secretary of State's noble imperative of attacking world trade—[HON. MEMBERS: "World poverty."] I am sorry—I am confusing my concepts. I have not read the White Paper, but will she confirm that on the back of trade we can expect a rise in living and labour standards in third-world countries? While the International Labour Organisation is an appropriate forum for that, will she confirm that there is a role for the World Trade Organisation to help build labour and social standards in developing countries on the back of trade?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will know that the projections of increased wealth in the world from globalisation are very large indeed, but if the process is not well managed, there is a risk that it will marginalise some countries and cause growing inequality within countries. That is why we need support for core labour standards and a strengthening of the ILO.

There are interesting arguments about whether there should be some minimum human rights conditions in the WTO. That argument will continue, but most developing countries are opposed to the idea. Therefore, the way to make progress is through the ILO. We are strengthening our commitment to its work, to core labour standards for everyone and, especially, to the eradication of hazardous child labour.

Will the Secretary of State accept my congratulations to the Government on their attempts so far to maintain the lead in international forums such as the G7 and others on third-world debt relief, a lead which was first established by Lord Lawson and my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the previous Prime Minister?

The Secretary of State pleased and surprised me by referring with approval to the approach of Michel Camdessus of the International Monetary Fund. Does that mean not only that she is approaching new Labour, but that she is committed to conditionality in debt relief and that debt relief should be tied to compliance with well-judged IMF programmes? Does she accept, as old Labour did not always do, that debt relief with those conditions is the right way forward, because it ties debt relief to good economic policies that deliver sustainable development and does not simply restore credit worthiness to regimes that might squander precious moneys?

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In fact, Britain's lead on debt relief started under a previous Labour Government, but I have paid full tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's contribution and to that of his Government. However, he will know that some countries say that Britain keeps taking the high ground but not producing too much money. I am sure that he is familiar with the idea that many countries thought that his initiatives were of that kind—good on analysis but short on resources. I pay genuine tribute to the leadership that Britain has given under the previous Government, under the previous Labour Government and now under this Government, with the Chancellor's efforts on debt relief. However, we must do more.

I have enormous regard for Mr. Camdessus. I recommend anyone who worries about the IMF's track record—people were entitled to do so in parts of the 1980s—to read his speech at the last annual meeting, in which he made a commitment to high-quality growth. That is growth which reduces poverty, promotes equality, sustains the environment and respects people's traditions. Earlier, when the IMF imposed conditions that required some of the poorest countries to charge for basic education and health care, it went too far. Mr. Camdessus is much better, and the IMF is healthier in his hands. I absolutely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there has to be conditionality for debt cancellation. If Mr. Mobutu were still in power, I would not be in favour of cancelling his debt. Debt cancellation has to support Governments who want to deliver to the poor. It is because debt hurts the poor that we have to take action. We want to get behind the right kind of conditionality which supports good Governments who encourage human development and the type of economic growth that is sustainable and which helps the poor.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on establishing so quickly the principles according to which she will work in her new Department. I congratulate her especially on the focus on poverty and on women—we all know that investment in women is very good investment.

As the person who brought the scandal surrounding the Pergau dam to the House's attention in the first place, may I ask my right hon. Friend to confirm again that there will be no link between aid and arms in her Department, unlike under the previous Government who linked the two rather too often in the cases of Malaysia and Indonesia?

I am glad that we are aiming to spend 0.7 per cent. of gross national product on aid. Does my right hon. Friend have any idea of the time scale in which that might be achieved? We have had that aim many times in the past, but it is important to establish the time scale.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I pay my respects to her work on exposing the Pergau scandal. Of course there will be no repeat of Pergau, because what happened was illegal. The previous Government were hauled through the courts for breaching their own laws. There will be no link between aid and arms sales under this Administration. It was illegal under the previous Administration.

The aid and trade provision has gone because it distorted the use of aid funds and took them to countries and projects that were not a priority. We are very keen on the availability of credit to attract inward investment that will promote development, but such credit must satisfy proper tests.

Many hon. Members have not thought through the logic of our commitment to reverse the decline in our aid spend. Because the target is a percentage of GNP, considerable year-on-year increases are needed to reverse the decline. How fast we reach 0.7 per cent. depends on economic growth. To keep our promise, we have to make substantial year-on-year increases. That commitment has been upheld by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. The previous Labour Government went steadily up to 0.51 per cent. Labour's record is good.

No, it did not. Sadly, the figure came down to 0.27 per cent. under the previous Administration. We shall reverse that and reinstate our proud record.

The Select Committee on International Development looks forward to welcoming the right hon. Lady next Thursday for a long discussion on such matters. As she knows, I object strongly to the ATP and have always opposed it. I am delighted that she has ended it. Will she join me in a campaign against countries that subsidise their exports and get work that would otherwise come to this country? It would be a disaster if she did not join me in a campaign—and, indeed, lead the campaign with the enthusiasm that only she can provide—to get Germany, France and Japan, the three countries which are also difficult on debt issues, to abandon ATP with her, so that jobs for our people are not put in jeopardy.

Are the mixed credits that the right hon. Lady is proposing expected to take the place of ATP? Will she assure the House that any money saved on ATP will not be taken away from the aid budget?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I very much welcome the Select Committee inquiry. I want our commitments to be deeply shared across the country to strengthen any Government's endeavours. The work of the Select Committee will help us with that and I look forward to giving evidence.

I share the hon. Gentleman's objective of preventing other countries from misusing their aid budget. That is why it is right for us not to untie our remaining tied aid unilaterally. Wherever possible, we shall source in developing countries, but then use our willingness and the OECD campaign, which has given a good lead, to get multilateral untying so that dubious motives are removed from everybody's aid programme. If we untied unilaterally, French and German companies would be able to come into our aid programme, which would be a nonsensical way to make progress. I repeat the commitment in the White Paper to do everything that we can to ensure multilateral untying and to use our influence in any way that we can.

There is no question of the money that went into aid and trade being taken away from the aid programme. It will be redirected to the objectives that we have outlined today.

While I look forward to discussing it with the Select Committee, I am certain that under the conditions laid down in the White Paper, there is no risk that mixed credits could be abused. If we can help in developing countries by, say, paying for feasibility studies or initial costs to draw a large-scale investment into, for example, rural transport where the poor cannot get their produce to market, it will be a proper use of the aid budget. The OECD, however, has a test. It must be proved that such assisted projects could not have worked commercially. It has been tightening up on that. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's objectives and will happily work with him on them.

May I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend and our Government on the publication of the White Paper and the setting of measurable targets on which an annual report will be given to the House? May I especially welcome the moves to ensure that all pupils learn more about development issues so that they will be better able than many of their parents to understand the importance of such issues in a shrinking world?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The beauty of the targets is that they are internationally agreed. If we could get the international system to work towards them, and measure progress in country after country, year on year, we could move the international system forward and be clear about when we are succeeding and when we are failing. We could achieve considerable progress. Our commitment is to report to Parliament every year against those targets and to encourage everyone else to do so.

I agree about young people, in our country and world wide. If we do not make progress, the dangerous future will be their adulthood. If we do not make progress on poverty elimination, when today's little children are my age, they will be living with catastrophe. We owe it to them to ensure that they understand what is going on in the world and how to make progress. We are committed to driving that forward, and to considering how we can bring better materials into the national curriculum and teacher training so that we will have a generation that can take command of its future and understand how important all this is for them.

I wish to make two small points. First, does the right hon. Lady agree that in all the talk about Government-to-Government conversation, development is increasingly seen as responding to the needs expressed by the poor themselves? That is fundamental.

Secondly, I have not yet seen the White Paper, but I hope that it deals with the fact that of the poorest of the poor, the 5 or 6 per cent. who are disabled are unquestionably at most disadvantage. Will the Secretary of State give a commitment not to forget them?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The point about Government-to-Government conversation, where we can get it and where we are dealing with good Governments committed to poverty eradication, is that we can work with a country that wants to introduce universal primary education by giving support for teacher training, books and administrative systems. We could perhaps help finance departments to get rid of wasteful spending and redirect money and so create sustainable, long-term universal services. That is the best way to work, but it works only if the people of the country involved know the plans, own them and are able to participate and push their Government forward. We get success in countries that are committed, and where public opinion understands the commitment and pushes the Government to make greater progress.

The hon. Gentleman is right. Poverty makes people ill, and sickness makes people poorer. That is the tragedy of people without health care who live with dirty, polluted water and who are constantly sick. They and the disabled become poorer and poorer. Giving them the chance to have a decent livelihood is key to eradicating poverty. Without that, people with sickness and disability will remain on the margins of human existence and we will not achieve what we must achieve. I give him that assurance.

My right hon. Friend said rightly in her statement that conflict was a catastrophe for the planet. In those circumstances, is there in her Department a paper on the effects of sanctions, which have devastating results for the poorest people and often no results at all for the leadership of the country against whom sanctions are imposed? Will she reflect on the effect of sanctions?

My hon. Friend is right. The world history of conflicts since the end of the cold war reveals that they have been concentrated in poor countries. They are caused by poverty, and those conflicts, in turn, create poverty and instability, which affect civilians and create refugees. As a key to development, we must prevent that and build people's life possibilities instead of their descending into war.

As my hon. Friend knows, and as I have said to him before, I am keen that we should do what we can to refine the sanctions instrument so that its hits the elites more. My Department is doing work on that; it is difficult, but there is room for more progress. I hope that we can take that work forward, and I expect him to continue to prod me about it.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the former Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, is constantly warning that a poor middle east is a very dangerous middle east? With that statement in mind, when the Government assume the presidency of the European Union, will they step up efforts with our partners to get clean proper water supplies to Gaza and the west bank? Without the lifting of living standards from the bare minimum in those two areas, the agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation simply will not stick.

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern. We are all desperately worried about the middle east peace process which is not going forward as rapidly as we would wish. He will be aware that we have considerable programmes in Gaza and on the west bank, but the constant closure of the borders and people's inability to work are reducing income levels and creating yet more poverty and desperation there. I can give the hon. Gentleman our commitment to continue to work on the west bank and in Gaza and, as a Government, to do everything we can, particularly during our EU presidency, to bolster the peace process.

May I positively welcome my right hon. Friend's White Paper? As she will know, over the years, the British Government have sponsored many projects which are not good. They have not been properly evaluated by outside contractors or, indeed, by departmental people when they have been required to do so. Will she re-examine project evaluation arrangements within her Department?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend who has so noisily defended ATP—there may have been a little movement on it which I welcome greatly.

In the past, there has been an obsession with inputs in development and not enough evaluation. We need high inputs, but we also need to evaluate what succeeds. We should not just squabble about inputs. ATP distorted projects, but that does not mean that every ATP project was bad; merely that many were not as good as they should have been.

I absolutely guarantee to my hon. Friend that we have introduced arrangements for strong evaluation. We are getting rid of ATP and, in future, any collaboration with the private sector to increase inward investment will be evaluated. The British private sector wants an ethical reputation at home and abroad. If we succeed in development, we shall be looking at the big markets of the future. British firms want to be known for doing good-quality business. They do not want a cheap subsidy for a second-rate project. I guarantee to my hon. Friend that evaluation is about quality projects.

Will the right hon. Lady tell us something about the dog that did not bark in her statement—the question of tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers? Does she agree that one of the major contributors to improving the lot of poor people in poor countries is to remove those tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers? Can she explain why she did not mention that?

I invite the hon. Gentleman to read the White Paper. I would have loved to stand here and read the whole thing to him, but I do not think that you would have permitted that, Madam Speaker.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that tariff barriers are important. It is important that the least-developed countries get good access to developed markets and can take up that access. We have firm, detailed commitments to achieve that. I believe that, if we get it right, the private sector will want to invest in some of those countries so that access to the EU market is gained. That will bring development to the poorest. That is the approach which we want to adopt, and I promise the hon. Gentleman that there is a significant section in the White Paper on that matter.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the cancellation of debt that was supposed to aid third-world countries in the course of the past 18 years under the three Chancellors of the Exchequer who have already been mentioned was not all that it was cracked up to be? It is significant that, during that period, about £5 billion was written off as irrecoverable debts that benefited the four top clearing banks—Barclays, Lloyds, Midland and National Westminster, all of which now have Tory Members of Parliament or ex-Members of Parliament on the board. Will she give an assurance that, under the new regime, if any money is to be written off, it should be the debt of poor third-world countries?

I defer to my hon. Friend's knowledge of the banking sector, which surprises many people. I would not dream of challenging his detailed grasp of these matters. The big debt write-off that is needed now is debt to the International Monetary Fund and the World bank, which would ease public sector and government debt around the world. I assure my hon. Friend that there will be no rip off of the aid programme in any way whatsoever; it will be used to promote development for the poorest and nothing else.

Not only will the House welcome the statement, but many outside the House will welcome it. The Secretary of State referred to education and, as the recipient of many letters from children pressing these issues, I understand the role that that plays in Northern Ireland.

I want to press two questions. First, is there a staged augmentation to reach the target, because that is where we have gone wrong all along? The Government have failed, but one has to admit that the voluntary organisations, and especially the Churches, feel that their world development appeal has also failed to reach its target.

Secondly, when there is an attempt to increase the capital of the Commonwealth Development Corporation by private investment, may I take it that that is not intended to be a loophole so that private investors invest money in the CDC when they might previously have given it to the voluntary agencies that do so much good work?

I know that the hon. Gentleman receives many letters; I receive letters from him enclosing some of those letters. I agree that these matters inspire deep feelings across the country, and I admire our people for having those concerns.

The hon. Gentleman says that we have not worked strongly enough on targets before. The paradox is that, world wide, more people have escaped from poverty in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years of human history. We have made great progress: fewer children die, people live longer and more people are literate, but population growth is very fast and there are, therefore, even more people living in great poverty. The beauty of the current position is that we know what would succeed, if only we applied it more effectively and more broadly.

We now have targets agreed by the whole international community and if we can get the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the European Union, all the donor countries, the World bank and so on to work towards those targets, we will be able to measure progress and make significant progress. That is the opportunity presented by these times. I hope that we can all get behind that commitment and that Britain can make a contribution towards leading it.

On the CDC, the hon. Gentleman should be absolutely assured that there will be no loophole whatsoever. The CDC will remain a development organisation; it will make a stronger commitment to ethical principles and the Government will retain a big stake and a golden share so as to hold it to those objectives. That is what the organisation wants, but it will now be able to raise money from other sources. British pension funds—the growing ethical pension fund movement—and some of the Churches might want to take a share in what will be a big, leading ethical investment organisation which will help to lever investment into the countries that currently do not receive it.

There is no danger. Most investors will not be investing the cash that they give to charity, and I hope that people will continue to do both. I hope that people who are concerned about development will press their pension funds to invest in bodies such as the CDC, or think of buying a stake themselves, while continuing to make charitable contributions as well.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, especially her reference to the link between human rights and aid and debt relief. An early test of our commitment to that link will be our attitude towards Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad and the other Caribbean countries that display an atrocious disregard for human rights and are in the process of reneging on their international obligations. Does she have any plans in that respect?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is important to spell out the fact that human rights include political rights, the right to education, and social and economic rights. A commitment to human rights unites the north and the south of the world. I would add that we are also talking about the right to free expression, the right to a job and the right to a decent life—we want to reinforce them all.

I have arranged for talks with Jamaica and Belize on whether they will qualify for the initiative on Commonwealth debt that I have announced. If my hon. Friend would like to talk to me some more about his concerns, I shall make sure they are taken into account in that process.

I join in the chorus of welcome for the White Paper, but is my right hon. Friend aware that it will also be welcomed by many people around the world? She referred to third-world Governments, but she might care to make a distinction between what authoritarian Governments say about some of the linkages she has mentioned and what the people in their countries—the workers, the Churches and the organisations—have to say about them.

I invite my right hon. Friend to consider the idea of incentives and rewards—of linking access to trade to good behaviour in the areas of human rights, environmental and labour standards. Finally, I invite her to set an example herself by serving in her Ministry coffee supplied by Café Direct; and to have a word with her parliamentary private secretary, the Chairman of the Commons Catering Committee. Early-day motion 362 invites him to ensure that coffee and tea produced under fair trade conditions are served in the palace of Westminster. That will put into effect action, not words.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I agree that trade is very important. We want to back good Governments who are struggling to make progress much more, so that they succeed and so that people who live under bad Governments are given hope and are offered examples of good Governments elsewhere. We need to establish solidarity with the people who live under bad Governments by, for instance, working with NGOs.

We are negotiating in the European Union on the general system of preferences to produce the sort of positive incentive system that my hon. Friend has described—greater preference for protecting environmental and core labour standards. Many people think that the World Trade Organisation should move in that direction, but that will not be achieved in the short term because so many Governments oppose it. That is why we need to make progress through the ILO and the general system of preferences.

As for coffee, I have told everyone what a fine Department I have. We already serve fair trade coffee there; my PPS has been discussing the matter and he may have an announcement to make before too long.

I am glad that the British people are becoming ethical consumers, forcefully telling supermarkets and shops that they want guarantees that their produce has not been made using child labour and is the result of decent labour standards for those who produced it. I hope that such practices will spread throughout the country, and that firm after firm and local authority after local authority will commit themselves to buying ethically sourced goods. Of course, the British people want good produce, but they want to know that the labour overseas used to make it was properly paid and treated.