Skip to main content

International Development

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 13 July 2006

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the White Paper on International Development that I am publishing today. Copies of it, and of this statement, have been placed in the Vote Office.

At a time when the world has never been richer in wealth and knowledge, pregnancy and child birth claim the life of a woman every minute. Every day, dirty water and bad sanitation claim the lives of 5,000 children. Every year, malaria kills 1 million people, tuberculosis 2 million people, and AIDS 3 million people. Each death is a death caused by poverty.

Last year, the world came together and agreed to do something to change that. The G8 summit at Gleneagles promised more aid and debt cancellation, support for free education and health care, treatment for all with HIV/AIDS, and better ways of dealing with conflict. We have made progress in the past 12 months, but we have not yet made poverty history. There is still much to do, and this White Paper sets out our plans for the next five years. In preparing it, we received more than 600 submissions from around the world, and I would like to thank Members and their constituents, as well as many others, for their contributions.

How countries progress and improve the lives of their citizens is a complex process, but we know that governance is fundamental to it. Development does not happen without effective states that are capable of delivering services to their citizens and helping economies to grow—states that respond to people’s needs and which, in turn, can be held to account. For all those reasons, good governance is at the heart of this White Paper.

While we will continue to help build public institutions’ capacity for good governance in developing countries, we will now do more at the grass roots to reinforce the demand for good governance. To do this, we will set up a new £100 million governance and transparency fund, which will support civil society, a free media, parliamentarians and trade unions in improving accountability. To ensure that our aid is used to best effect, we will in future regularly assess the quality of governance and transparency and the commitment to reducing poverty in the countries in which we work. We will publish these assessments and use them to help make decisions about our aid.

Recognising that bad governance and corruption are international problems, too, we will: publish an annual UK action plan to tackle corruption affecting developing countries, and report on progress every six months; set up a new unit to investigate money laundering and allegations of bribery affecting UK firms; help developing countries to track assets and to carry out investigations; seek to expand—including through a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly—the successful extractive industries transparency initiative to other sectors such as construction, procurement and health; and work with others to set international standards to tackle the trade in conflict resources that fuels so much destruction. We will also strengthen implementation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s guidelines with new arrangements for the UK contact point, involving independent experts.

People cannot escape poverty if there is war and insecurity. We will therefore increase our efforts in fragile states and invest more in at least 10 countries where security is a major issue. That will mean help with reintegrating ex-combatants, supporting access to justice, monitoring human rights and reducing the spread of small arms, including through an international arms trade treaty.

Peace and good governance are also essential for the economic growth needed to create jobs and raise incomes. We will support the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa—which has already helped to secure investment of £1.4 billion in a range of projects—and the investment climate facility. We will double our funding for research in science and technology, agriculture, adapting to climate change and new drugs and vaccines. We will help poor people to get better access to markets to sell their goods, and to finance to support their livelihoods. We will also continue to press for a trade round that enables developing countries to earn their way out of poverty, while meeting our pledge to provide £100 million a year in aid for trade by 2010.

Everyone should have decent health care, education, water and sanitation, and social security when times are hard, and UK aid is already helping Governments to bring those to more of their citizens. With our aid rising to meet the UN 0.7 per cent. target by 2013, we will increase our spending on these public services to at least half of our bilateral aid budget. We will make long-term-commitments through 10-year plans, so that countries can make long-term decisions to hire staff, build schools and clinics and abolish user fees.

We will increase spending on education to £1 billion a year by 2010 and, having doubled our spending on water and sanitation in Africa to £95 million a year by 2007, we will double it again by 2010, because clean water saves lives and helps more girls to go to school. We will also significantly increase our spending on social security in at least 10 countries in Asia and Africa over the next three years, because we know that one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of destitution that affects the poorest and most vulnerable is to give them a hand up to get them back on their feet.

All that will need to be done in a world that is changing—in which there is population growth, rapid urbanisation, the depletion of natural resources and climate change. That will be the ultimate test of global good governance, so we will work to secure international agreement on a long-term stabilisation goal; seek to ensure that developing countries are able fully to participate in any international negotiations; and support countries in adapting to climate change while generating the investment needed for clean energy.

We will also need an international development system fit for this century, not the last. We will push for reform of the United Nations, so that there is centrally pooled funding and a single plan in each country; an integrated UN humanitarian system that responds faster when crisis strikes; further reform of European aid, so that the European Union can play its full part in international development; and a better system for holding all of us—developed and developing countries alike—to account for the promises that we have made.

Finally, because this is a task for all of us, but particularly for the next generation, we will double our investment in development education so that every child in the UK has a chance to learn about the issues that shape their world. We will set up a new scheme to help UK groups to build links with developing countries and expand opportunities for our young people and diaspora communities to volunteer in those countries and to undertake internships with development charities.

Madam Deputy Speaker, there is much for all of us to do. We have listened to the voices of people in developing countries, who have told us all what they want. We listened to the British people as they campaigned to make poverty history and, with their and the House’s support and the proposals I am setting out today, the UK will play its part in helping people to eliminate poverty and to change their lives, and thus our world, for the better.

I thank the Secretary of State for his customary courtesy in giving us advance sight of his White Paper this morning and of his statement on it. The whole House will understand that it is a White Paper of more than usual importance—not only to the hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of our fellow citizens in Britain who care very deeply about these matters, but also to those living in a dangerous world where poverty and conflict breed anger and deep disaffection. We must demonstrate that Britain has the determination and the leadership to make the contribution that both our self-interest and our moral duty demand.

I very much hope that the Secretary of State will feel that he draws strength from the fact that this is not a Labour or a Conservative agenda, but rather a British agenda. All mainstream parties in Britain are committed to the 0.7 per cent. target by 2013. On this side of the House, we are as determined as the Government to ensure that the British contribution to lifting the living standards of the poorest, combating disease and illiteracy, promoting good governance and improving multi-national institutions is effective and successful. We may have differences of opinion about how best to deliver some of the noble aims and objectives set out in the White Paper, but those aims and objectives have our wholehearted support.

We look forward now to studying the White Paper and note that the House will have an opportunity to debate it next Thursday. At this early stage, I should like to ask the Secretary of State a number of questions. First, he has said that good governance is at the heart of his White Paper. We acknowledge the steps that the Government have already taken, building as they have on the foundations laid by Chris Patten, Lynda Chalker and the last Conservative Government, but more needs to be done. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has said today that he will in future regularly assess the quality and transparency of government. I would like to ask him, though, what form that monitoring will take, who will do it and, most importantly, whether it will be independent of his Department?

Secondly, the Secretary of State mentioned in respect of good governance a new unit to investigate money laundering. That is of interest to other Departments and agencies of the Government, so what discussions has he had with colleagues to ensure that the process is properly joined up and co-ordinated?

Thirdly, the Secretary of State has rightly spoken up for an international arms trade treaty, but he will be aware of the deeply disappointing conclusion and lack of progress at the recent international conference. What is he doing to re-energise this important effort ahead of the UN General Assembly later this year?

Fourthly, the Secretary of State set out his plans to spend more in fragile states, but how does he intend to ensure that such help gets through to the most needy on the ground? What steps will he take to work through deeply committed and effective non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam, working, for example, in Darfur? The shadow Foreign Secretary and I recently saw the work it does there.

Fifthly, the Secretary of State spoke of the importance of securing a successful trade round that enables countries to earn their way out of poverty. He will know that the next few days are critical in persuading the key parties to the talks to give a little more to avoid the calamity of failure. What steps are the Secretary of State and, in particular, the Prime Minister taking to reinvigorate the negotiations in the margins of the G8 and beyond? Do not recent developments in China and India, where millions have been lifted out of extreme poverty, demonstrate that access to markets and trade are a vital component of prosperity?

Sixthly, the Secretary of State rightly spoke of the need to update and reform the international institutions on which international development depends. In particular, he mentioned the United Nations. In my experience, it is an organisation that attracts people of the highest calibre and idealism—people like Mark Malloch Brown, the Deputy Secretary-General—but it is floundering because of an outdated organisational structure. What ideas does the Secretary of State have to make the much-vaunted “responsibility to protect”, enthusiastically embraced by all nations at the UN summit last year, meaningful to people suffering in Darfur, Burma or Zimbabwe? How far should it impose on the international community a responsibility to intervene?

In his statement, the Secretary of State mentioned future reform of EU aid. As he knows, we have reservations about the fact that aid channelled through the EU does not always reach the poorest or those who most need our support. What can he tell the House about his plans for leading such reform within the EU, which would bring EU aid closer to the ideal that we both share?

The Secretary of State has made clear the potentially disastrous effects of climate change, particularly for the developing world, whether in the deserts of Africa or the flood plains of Bangladesh, which I am visiting on Monday. Will he tell us what structural changes his Department is making to address that problem and the interface between development and climate change?

Finally, although we will want in due course to discuss in detail whether the Department is giving adequate and rigorous attention to the independent evaluation of aid effectiveness, particularly to outputs and outcomes, we welcome what the Secretary of State has said and applaud the emphasis that he has placed today on the importance of good governance.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for supporting the White Paper. It is indeed, in the broadest sense, the product of politics and of our own form of good governance. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned two of my predecessors from the Conservative party, who occupied the position that I now have the privilege to hold, let me say that part of the reason why I am able to announce increased spending on education and on a doubling again of investment in water and sanitation is that we have a rising aid budget. While I welcome the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman approaches his job and what he has said today, it has to be said that, in the end, we should all be judged by what we do when we have the chance to do it, rather than by what we say when we are not in power. People will have memories about what has happened in the past.

To deal with the hon. Gentleman’s specific questions, we will undertake the assessment ourselves, but we will draw on a wide range of sources. It will include others who are looking at the quality of governance and we will obviously talk to the Governments of the countries concerned. The fact that we will publish that will mean that there is transparency, and if others have a different view of our assessment they will no doubt be able to speak up.

On the new unit to fight corruption and money laundering, I have, of course, discussed it with my right hon. Friends. I believe that it is absolutely right and proper that, in addition to the contribution of officers from the Met police and City of London police, DFID should contribute. As the hon. Gentleman knows, if we can be more effective in fighting corruption, the development benefits will be enormous.

On the arms trade treaty, the short answer is that we will continue our efforts to persuade others in the international community that that is the right approach to take. If my memory serves me correctly, about 50 countries in the world support the principle of an arms trade treaty, and the consequences of the unfettered flow of arms are always to be seen in conflict, death and destruction. We are making the case and we are working hard to encourage other countries to support it.

It is, of course, important to do more work in fragile states and the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that we will work with a variety of partners. Where it is possible to work with a country’s Government, we will do so in the right circumstances, and we will also work with NGOs and other international partners.

On the trade talks, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister has been working very hard since the failure of last year’s Hong Kong talks to try to get the discussions back on track. He is doing so as we speak in the run-up to the G8 summit this weekend. The question is how the logjam between the three big blocs can be broken. The Prime Minister has done as much, if not more, than anyone else in the world to try to break that logjam, but it requires all parties to recognise the need to move.

On UN reform, the principal change that we need is that the UN development system should be more effective, which is why we have been very strong advocates both of the “four ones” in-country and of a central pool of funding, so that the UN system—which ought to have lead responsibility, particularly in fragile states and in setting standards—can be more effective.

On the responsibility to protect, we need a combination of political will and the Government have demonstrated that—as the hon. Gentleman referred to Darfur—in pressing very strongly in the UN Security Council for sanctions, for the UN force to be allowed to come in and for referring what happened in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. That is one aspect of the responsibility to protect. The other thing that we need to do is to build the capacity to act. That is why we have been such a strong support of both AMIS—the African Union Mission in Sudan—in Darfur and building an Africa stand-by capacity.

On EU aid, it is a question of both European Community aid—which has undoubtedly improved in recent years, but still has some way to go, particularly in ensuring that the EC has the right skills in-country—and the quality of aid of other EU members states, because almost all the growth in aid over the next five years will come from Europe. Therefore, part of what we will do is to talk to our partners about ways in which we can work more effectively together.

On climate change, the permanent secretary is undertaking a skills review in DFID precisely to do what the hon. Gentleman referred to, namely, to ensure that we have the right skills to take on that increasingly important work.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman can rest assured that I will continue to be determined to ensure that we keep an eye on aid effectiveness, because in the end all that work and all the policies laid out in the White Paper are for a purpose, which is to demonstrate to people that our international development effort makes a difference—and to do that, we must show results.

I strongly commend my right hon. Friend’s statement, as well as the White Paper that underlies it. He will have widespread support for the whole concept of capacity building, which is absolutely vital not simply in the fight against corruption, but in building strong societies. In that context, we as the United Kingdom have a special role in increasing the capacity of the legal and courts systems, which are absolutely fundamental to the whole concept of good governance, precisely because the English legal system is still the dominant system in large parts of the world. Will he tell the House how exactly we can enhance our role to ensure that the courts and the general legal framework are central to his own capacity building for good governance?

I agree completely with my hon. Friend, because an effective, functioning legal system is fundamental to good governance and, in particular, to giving people the confidence that if they have a dispute—whether between two neighbours or in trying to enforce a legal contract—their court case will be dealt with fairly. With a good, functioning and effective legal system, people are more likely to invest their money in those countries and therefore create jobs and generate the wealth that they need to pay for improvements in health and education.

We already do a great deal of such work, as my hon. Friend knows, but what has been most striking in the past year is the keenness with which my Cabinet colleagues have said that they would like to do more of this work together. That is why we are now moving to the next stage of the Africa capacity-building initiative, which is to find a mechanism to match the desire to help with the demand for assistance from developing countries, so that we can draw on the great well of expertise and good will in the UK to work with legal professionals and others in developing countries to share skills—indeed, to learn from one another—because that is absolutely fundamental to making progress.

I, too, thank the Secretary of State for presenting the White Paper and for the courtesy of supplying me with an advance copy of both the White Paper and his statement. The White Paper deals with issues that are literally matters of life and death for many of the most vulnerable people on the planet, many of whom are not only suffering from poverty, but from hunger and thirst, in some of the most dangerous parts of the world—with natural and man-made disasters combining to add to their misery. These are complex issues and the detailed response set out today in the White Paper is a good milestone on the journey towards the end of that misery.

Only a year ago, we witnessed not only the Make Poverty History march through my home city of Edinburgh and the Gleneagles summit, but the claims that, if only the G8 leaders would act on aid, trade and debt, we could make poverty history. However, I believe that such claims alone are simply not true, because other important issues, which are set out in today’s White Paper, must also be tackled fully to make poverty history. Conflict is detailed on page 46 of the report, and the crisis that often follows the availability of natural resources in many of those fragile states is dealt with on page 35. Corruption is highlighted, as is global warming and the problems of disease—AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis—and access to clean drinking water supplies.

The title of the report highlights the importance of good governance, and corruption dramatically affects many of the fragile states that we have talked about. Corruption is not just an issue at the lowest level, where people on starvation wages might take a bribe as a way to feed their children; some people at the top are skimming millions of dollars into overseas bank accounts, and action on that both in DFID and in the City of London is absolutely vital. I look forward to hearing what the Secretary of State can do in conjunction with the banks and other institutions in the City to tackle that issue.

Democracy is also highlighted in the report, but we must remember that elections are simply not enough on their own if they give legitimacy to corrupt regimes. I should like to hear from the Secretary of State what he will do to empower citizens to hold their own Governments to account and to work with other Departments, such as the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, and parliamentarians here and abroad to ensure that that problem is tackled at all levels.

We have also heard that aid must be effective. It is good that DFID’s aid budget is increasing, but the Secretary of State is under pressure to reduce staffing levels. It is more important than ever for his Department to monitor the effectiveness of the spending to ensure that it is effectively delivered. Where DFID has taken action—for instance, in Malawi, where the World Food Programme was charging more than $240 a tonne to deliver food aid, when DFID could deliver it for $100 a tonne—much more aid was delivered, and I hope that reducing staffing levels will not reduce the ability to monitor where the money is effectively spent.

Does the Secretary of State agree that DFID will be judged not on how much it spends, but on how effectively that money is spent? The Department has a good record on delivering humanitarian assistance following disasters. I recently witnessed its excellent response following the earthquake in Pakistan, but one interesting issue that cropped up on the ground there and stimulated debate is that of flag flying and the awareness of exactly what aid DFID is funding and delivering. An example was that the temporary shelters provided to help some of the 2 million to 3 million homeless in Pakistan had the Norwegian Government’s brand on them, but they were more than 50 per cent. funded by DFID. Although I do not say that the flag should be waved in a colonial manner, we must ensure that two things happen. First, people must not be misled into not being aware of what DFID is funding. Secondly, when we are trying to build bridges with the Islamic community here at home, it is key that we make clear exactly what is happening in areas such as Pakistan and in other communities throughout the world, where good work is being done that is sometimes not fully recognised.

I have not had time to read all the report, but I should also like to hear from the Secretary of State whether more will be done on remittances. He will know that massive sums of money are flowing into the poorest countries of the world, but some of them have significant transaction costs, which reduce the money’s impact at its final destination.

Page 7 of the report refers to the number of people living in the poorest countries of the world. Although we know that the poorest of the poor live in Africa, most of the world’s poorest live elsewhere. I should like to know what the Secretary of State will do to reconsider how best to focus DFID’s attack on poverty to catch those missing millions who live on less than $1 a day in Asia and Latin America.

The Secretary of State rightly highlighted—again, there are details on page 93 of the report—the more erratic weather conditions that are affecting more of the poorest of the poor in places such as the horn of Africa. Never before have we seen a clearer example of how the actions of the developed world, which is producing carbon emissions and eating up natural resources as if there were no tomorrow, and the impact that we in the west are having on the future of the poorest of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world—

Order. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could bring his remarks to a close. There is pressure on the business of the House because of the further statement.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. He made an important point about the two types of corruption—grand and petty corruption. The action plan that I shall publish will give the House an opportunity to see the progress that we want to make. The governance and transparency fund will be the main vehicle for supporting people in their communities in improving the demand for good governance, and I will consult about the best way of setting that up.

We will indeed monitor the effectiveness of our spending. It is good to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) in the Chamber. I hope that his Bill will get on to the statute book, because it will provide us with a very effective means of doing precisely what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) asked for in that regard.

On disasters, we are considering putting in place some branding of the help that we give. There was, however, little doubt in the minds of those in the UK Kashmiri and Pakistani communities about the effectiveness of Britain’s aid in response to the earthquake, not least because we sent the first search and rescue teams to the area. We are already doing work on remittances, particularly to bring down the costs involved, and we will continue with that work. In relation to the larger countries in Asia, I remind the hon. Gentleman that our biggest programme of all is in India, which is now making real progress. However, all those countries are going to be affected by climate change, and we have set out proposals on how we intend to respond to that.

I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend on the excellent White Paper. He may be aware that the World Bank and the International Energy Agency have estimated that it will take $300 billion every year for 25 years to meet the energy needs of developing countries and emerging economies. Will he work with the World Bank on its energy investment framework to ensure that, as far as possible, we donor countries no longer support polluting old energy technologies in developing countries, and that instead we provide them with the new technologies that deliver clean energy so as not to add further to the problem of climate change?

We will indeed support the World Bank in developing the energy investment framework. We will have a progress report on that at the World Bank’s annual meetings in the autumn. My hon. Friend is right. There is a great thirst for energy in developing countries, because that is literally how they are going to be able to fuel economic development and fight poverty. It is vital that, as they invest in that new generating capacity, they do so in a way that does not add to the problem of climate change.

I welcome the White Paper and commend the right hon. Gentleman’s Department for the leadership that it gives in setting standards for how aid should be delivered. I also welcome the fact that he is concentrating on good governance, which is essential if the money is to get to the poor rather than to corrupt elites. How effectively will he be able to deliver his objectives in the light of his recent cuts in budget support, particularly in Ethiopia and Uganda? Despite the fact that $200 million of international aid is going to northern Uganda, the Ugandan Government are failing adequately to deliver health care, education and policing. How will the Secretary of State ensure that they deliver those services and that we get an international settlement that will allow people to return to the region? Does he believe that he can deliver his budget with reduced staffing levels? If he has to go down the multilateral route, how will he use his role as the British member of the World Bank to make it more effective and follow DFID’s world-class example in delivering aid more effectively? Is he aware that the International Development Committee will publish its report on private sector development before the recess? Will he explain what he proposes to do, through his Department, to unlock foreign investment and, in particular, domestic indigenous investment from entrepreneurs in poor countries? That is an essential means of expanding the private sector and delivering growth, which will bring down the levels of poverty.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his work in chairing the International Development Committee and for his kind words. In the case of Ethiopia, we have found another route for our aid, through the basic services grant, so that poor people are not punished because of the problems of governance there. In Uganda, a political settlement is needed. In my view, that requires the five indicted leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army to be hauled off to the International Criminal Court where they belong, because that would unlock an end to the terrible crisis that has affected so many people there.

The head count restrictions will have an impact on the way in which we work. The permanent secretary is also looking at how we are going to make that happen. I know that he gave evidence to the Select Committee the other day. On the multilateral system we will become more selective about where we put our money. The question that I will increasingly ask—as the House would wish—is, “What effect will we get from putting our money into this route, as opposed to that one?”

I look forward with great interest to the private sector development report. Good governance is fundamental to unlocking the investment that the hon. Gentleman and I want to see. If there is peace, security, stability and good governance, people are much more likely to invest their own money and that of other people.

Order. I remind hon. Members that there is a further statement to follow, as well as the main business. I therefore request that Members ask just one supplementary question, and that the Minister gives just a brief reply. In that way, as many people as possible will be able to catch my eye.

I welcome the White Paper. My right hon. Friend rightly emphasises the need for good governance and transparency, but I am sure that he will appreciate that this is a two-way process. Will he outline how our Government will increase their accountability to the beneficiaries of our aid? How will the accountability of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund be increased?

The Government will achieve that by publishing more information about the work that we are doing, including the new commitments that I set out today in the White Paper, as well as what we are doing already. We will also achieve that aim through the support that we shall give to civil society, whose members can not only hold their Governments to account but talk to us about the way in which we provide support. In relation to the multilateral institutions, we are publishing for the second year in a row a report on the stance that we have taken in our discussions at the World Bank. Indeed, we have been pushing for greater transparency in the way in which the World Bank runs. It is right and proper that people should be able to see how these multilateral institutions work and make their decisions, because they receive a very large amount of our money.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development—NEPAD—was meant to be a compact in which we gave more money and aid and African countries enhanced their governance. What is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the progress of the NEPAD initiative? He rightly referred to the importance of parliamentarians, and the civil capacity fund for Africa is obviously very good news. However, is there not also work there for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association? As we went through Africa, those of us who were on the Select Committee in the previous Parliament found—as I am sure those on the present Committee will—that parliamentarians were often left out of civil society. Their capacity seriously needs enhancing.

NEPAD has made progress most of all on the peer reviews. A couple of them have now been published and those of other countries are coming through the system. In the end, people will judge how effectively the results of those reviews are implemented. I specifically mentioned parliamentarians in relation to the governance and transparency fund because I agree with the hon. Gentleman that parliamentarians play a very important part in holding Governments to account. We will therefore look into how the fund can work to support them.

I welcome the White Paper and know that my right hon. Friend is aware that some of the most fragile states in the world are in the Pacific region. The declining UK diplomatic representation in the south Pacific, among some of the most pro-British small nations in the world, is a matter of great regret to those peoples. Will my right hon. Friend consider what additional aid can be given to the poorest Pacific islands, which are facing tremendous problems of poverty, remoteness and climate change?

We no longer have the programmes in the Pacific region that we had in the past, principally because we are focusing our efforts—rightly, in my view—on the poorest countries of the world. However, we continue to contribute to those Pacific countries through our contribution to the multilateral agencies. Just because we do not have a bilateral programme does not mean that we are not providing them with support; we are.

The Secretary of State reminded us that the millions of people who die from AIDS, TB and malaria do so as a result of poverty. Is it not also the case that they do so as a result of weak health care systems in developing countries? What balance has he struck between delivering vital drugs through the health care systems of those countries and through non-governmental organisations? Is it not a concern that, if the health care systems remain weak, vital drugs to treat entirely curable diseases such as TB will continue not to reach the people who need them?

The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely good point. That is why long-term commitments of support to enable developing countries to build their health services are needed. One benefit of a rising aid budget and a 0.7 per cent. commitment is that we can enter into more long-term arrangements with Governments. If they know that they have money coming in, from our contributions and from debt relief, they can plan to train nurses, build clinics and buy drugs that will help to beat those diseases.

The work of my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on this important issue is a source of pride to all Labour Members. In recent weeks, I have visited a number of schools to pick up “buddies” that they have made as part of the Make Poverty History campaign. Those young people send the message to me that they want to make poverty history, but they do not want the aid that we provide to have strings attached. Through the White Paper, will my right hon. Friend engage with those schools to foster their interest and support for the Make Poverty History campaign, and make sure that the only strings attached to aid are to ensure that it gets to the people who need it most?

I spent some time visiting schools and an impressive group of young people from Tower Hamlets came to the House today to talk about these very issues. We have moved away from economic policy conditionality, because it was the wrong approach. I am unapologetic, however, about asking whether Governments are committed to reducing poverty, whether they uphold transparency and good governance, and whether they will ensure that the money is used for the intended purpose. People expect us to ask those questions, and I have no reluctance about taking decisions on the way in which we give aid on the basis of the answers and our assessment. Ultimately, it is about ensuring that the money that we give makes a difference to people on the ground.

I thank the Secretary of State for his excellent statement. One way of alleviating poverty in the developing world is to allow farmers in those countries access to the more developed markets of western Europe and north America. What progress is being made in that area at present?

The short answer is, not enough. Despite the agreement reached in Hong Kong in December to end export subsidies by 2013, which would help the agreement on aid for trade, we are stuck on the central question of access to agricultural markets, with the three big groups—including the larger developing countries, the United States and the European Community—all saying that they have made a good offer and will not move unless others do so. However, that is the key to unlocking opportunities for prosperity for farmers and others in developing countries, and that is why we must keep up the pressure to try to break the logjam and give them the chance that they want—to trade their way to a better life.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and look forward to reading the White Paper. In his statement, he mentioned that everyone should have decent health care and education. Last year, my all-party Nigeria group saw derelict buildings that had once been schools or hospitals where no sustainability had been built into the system to ensure that they continued. What does he intend to do to ensure that money that is invested continues to be invested in years to come?

One of the legacies of badly given aid is that donors turned up and built schools and clinics, and went away and said, “Hey, we have brought something good to the community.” However, there was never any connection to the capacity of the Government of that country to fund and put in staff to maintain the buildings. In the right circumstances, therefore, the best approach is to work with Governments to build their capacity so that they can plan on the basis not only that they will build the school, but that they have the money to employ the teachers, do the maintenance, provide the supplies and make sure that the children are educated.

I very much welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s recent announcement of an Africa compliance panel. As he knows, I have called for that for the past year. I only hope that the panel might be based in Perthshire. What action or sanction will be taken if G8 commitments are not met? What more can be done to ensure compliance with G8 commitments among the international community?

The Prime Minister set up the Africa progress panel to increase the political pressure on all of us, both developed and developing countries, to make sure that we honour our promises. It will be chaired by Kofi Annan. It is about keeping up the political pressure, which, along with political leadership, enabled the commitments on aid, debt relief and other matters that have been implemented over the past 12 months to be achieved at Gleneagles last year. Only by keeping up that pressure will we achieve what the hon. Gentleman wants.

I warmly welcome today’s White Paper. I share my right hon. Friend’s recollections of the activities of the previous Government, which were not as portrayed by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell). My right hon. Friend mentioned UN reform, including central pooled funding and a single plan in each country. Will he expand on that and indicate what further reform he would like in the UN?

To take a practical example, in Vietnam, from memory, there are 11 different UN agencies with a budget of about $2 million all pursuing their own objectives. The truth is that the UN should get its act together. Having a single pool of funding in country, with one office, one plan and one person to lead it, would be sensible. That issue and the question of whether central pooled funding should be introduced in the UN development system generally are now being considered by the high level panel on which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor represents us. I very much hope that that will produce a report in the autumn that recommends such change, which could ensure that the UN development system is more effective.

Well done to the Secretary of State for his commitment, stewardship of the Department and this White paper. Well done to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) for helping to ensure that international development now has the priority and budget that it always deserved. From talking to colleagues on the continent, it is clear that environmental issues are still a higher priority for them than development issues. How will the Secretary of State ensure that G8 and European Union presidencies will give development issues the same priority as in this country?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. We must make the case that poverty will not be beaten in the developing world unless there is economic development, which must be sustainable economic development. If the rich world thinks that it can turn to the poor world and say, “You know the benefits that we had from economic growth—you can’t have them, because the world can’t cope,” the poor world will turn round and say, “We’re not having that.” We must share out the earth’s environmental carrying capacity on a more equitable basis. That is the fundamental political problem with natural resources and CO2 emissions. The second argument is that, unless we do that, we will not have a safe and secure world to inhabit, wherever we happen to call home.

I join other Members in warmly welcoming the statement and White Paper. We are all painfully aware that making poverty history is not about quick fixes but long-term commitment and determination. With that in mind, I am pleased by the commitment to development education, the commitment on UK groups building links with developing countries and the expansion of opportunities for young people, especially from diaspora communities, to work in developing countries. What steps are my right hon. Friend and his colleagues taking to ensure that those initiatives are adequately resourced? In particular, what steps will he take to ensure that local authorities have the resources, encouragement and powers to ensure that those initiatives become reality?

First, we are increasing funding. We already have a programme to support development education in our schools. It is not just a question of money, but of attitude of mind. I have been to many schools that are using the opportunity of citizenship education—and of studying geography and other subjects—to make sure that the generation growing up understand more about the world of which they will be part. The truth is that they will be taking decisions about the future of our planet when most of us have long gone. It is therefore right and proper that we give them the skills and understanding that they need to make their way in the world and to take the right decisions for the future of our planet.

Zimbabwe was once a great African country with a first-class agricultural system. It has now become a total disaster, with an evil corrupt dictatorship not just persecuting its poorest people, but regularly stealing aid money. How can Britain and Europe make sure that the starving, helpless and poor of Zimbabwe are helped without further bolstering the Swiss bank accounts of Mugabe and his henchmen?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s assessment of Zimbabwe, which provides a spectacularly bad example of governance. Zimbabwe has suffered above all from a failure of governance over the past 25 years. What do we do? We continue to help feed people through the World Food Programme. We do not give money directly to the Government of Zimbabwe. We have an AIDS programme, because HIV and AIDS are a big problem in Zimbabwe. We work through non-governmental organisations and others. That is a very good example of our determination as a Government to give our aid in different ways according to our judgment of the circumstances, so that the poor of Zimbabwe are not punished because they have a bad Government and we continue to play our part in helping them.

I welcome the White Paper, and pay tribute to all the efforts of my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on behalf of the world’s neediest people.

Mention has already been made of the iniquitous and unfair world agricultural trading system. I know that the Government have led efforts to reform it, but will my right hon. Friend expand on what pressure he and his colleagues will exert on the other European Union members and the United States in the crucial next few days to bring about the reforms that are so desperately needed, and to make all the other admirable policies work to full effect?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words and especially for what he said about my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who does a wonderful job in supporting me and the Department’s work.

Our principal argument must be that if we are serious about fighting poverty, we need a trade deal. We must persuade people to turn the words that they utter when they make speeches about the importance of that into policies for trade negotiators that will allow progress to be made.

Europe contains many different countries and agriculture is more important in some than in others. A political debate is taking place about the extent to which Europe should move, but no one should doubt that, if we pass up this opportunity now, we will probably miss the single most important step that we could take at this point to fight world poverty.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that Africa possesses incredible tourist attractions in its history and natural beauty, yet fails to realise its assets. That is partly because of poor facilities—poor transport, for instance—but also because of the negative messages that emerge from African countries. People do not think that they should visit Africa, and they do not know what they are missing. What can the Government do to help those countries promote tourism in their areas?

I have described the steps that we will take and the work that we are already doing to help countries improve their governance. The best way to put tourists off is to have a war, because no one will visit a country in those circumstances. If there is insecurity or conflict on the streets or a problem involving corruption, people may choose to go elsewhere.

As the hon. Gentleman suggests, we must also enable people to see Africa in all its complexity. The same applies to other developing countries. Africa is not one continent; it is 54 countries. Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa are making real progress, and many people visit those countries. We want people to visit as tourists, we want people to invest and we want people to trade, because ultimately that will bolster the countries’ economies and provide the money that they need to invest in saving people’s lives and educating children.

Like others, I strongly endorse the Secretary of State’s commitment to good governance and transparency. Can the Secretary of State reassure us that his Department will cease to double count debt cancellation as aid expenditure?

With respect, we do not double count debt cancellation as aid expenditure. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development does the counting. It produces the overall figures and identifies aid and debt cancellation separately.

I resolutely reject the argument that debt cancellation does not help. Why will Nigeria be able to send another 3.5 million children to school? Because it has benefited from the biggest single debt deal in African history. Why has Zambia been able to introduce free primary health care in rural areas? It is because of aid and debt cancellation.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s argument at all. We will continue to give help through both aid and debt cancellation.