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G8 (Gleneagles Summit)

Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

3. What steps he is taking to ensure that the G8 continues to pursue the aims of the Gleneagles Summit agreement. (96572)

Since Gleneagles, we have seen progress on debt, humanitarian funding and increased aid, and the UK has been leading efforts to monitor progress. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has launched the Africa Progress Panel to be chaired by Kofi Annan, and we are supporting the Africa Partnership Forum and the civil society African Monitor. The Department’s White Paper set out in detail what the UK will do with the international community to deliver on our 2005 commitments.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, and for the work that he and his colleagues are doing to ensure that the aspirations of all those who supported the Make Poverty History movement are realised. What role and scope does he think that co-operatives and mutuals will have in taking that work forward? Will he draw on the experience of the co-operative and mutual movement in this country to make sure that that happens?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her kind words. She draws attention to the really important contribution that the co-operative movement can make, and we have entered into a strategic grant agreement with it precisely so that we can draw on its experience. Our programmes around the world support co-operatives because they are one of the ways in which people can take more control over what happens to them. Co-operatives mean that ordinary people’s resources, energy and innovation can be used to change their lives.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the report from the International Development Committee on conflict and development was published this morning. It stresses that one conflict’s impact on increasing poverty can wipe out the entire world aid budget, and focuses on the role of conflict resources and how they can prolong and exacerbate a conflict. Will he co-ordinate with other donors in conflict countries and regions to try and ensure that we find a way to identify those resources and choke off the supply of funds that can sustain wars, prolong conflicts and prevent the eradication of poverty?

I accept the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes. I have not had a chance to read the report yet, but I very much look forward to doing so. Dealing with conflict is fundamental to developing countries making progress. We are already taking various initiatives, and he will be aware of the Kimberley process and the extractive industries transparency initiative, both of which we have supported. He makes a good point that we must make sure that donors work together effectively as, ultimately, the problem is one of governance. If countries had good governance and were able to regulate the extraction of their natural resources and raw materials—such as diamonds, wood or, in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, coltan—they would be in a much better position to provide the security on which any development must be based.

My right hon. Friend will know that more than 7,500 people around the world die from AIDS every day. Will he reassure those of my constituents who have written to me to express their concern about the progress that the G8 has made following the Gleneagles summit to ensure that AIDS treatment is available for all developing countries by 2010?

The fight against AIDS is one of the most important fights that developing countries are engaged in, as for some it represents an economic catastrophe as well as a human tragedy. The great achievement at Gleneagles was that the world signed up to trying to get as close as possible to securing AIDS treatment for all people in the developing world by 2010. Since then, plans have been drawn up to try and make that happen.

In sub-Saharan Africa, three times as many people are now on antiretrovirals compared with 12 months ago. We have not dealt with the problem yet, but we have made some progress. That shows what we can do when we put our minds to it.

Will the Secretary of State concede that we are a good way short of fulfilling the G8 pledge of increasing aid by $50 billion by 2010? Will he use his good offices to encourage Governments to stop double counting debt relief in their aid packages, and to set clear targets so that the $50 billion is put in place?

I accept that we need to work very hard to ensure that all countries honour their commitments, and the UK Government will certainly honour our pledges. The sort of civil society campaign evident in the run-up to Gleneagles must continue in all the countries that have made pledges to ensure that they are honoured, but I do not accept that debt relief is double counting. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is the body that counts aid. The measure that it uses enables people to see both the aid element and the debt cancellation element in the aid that is given.

The fact is that, in the 15 months since Gleneagles, 20 of the poorest countries in the world have had written off all the debt that they owed to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank. That money is now available for the things that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and I know are important—getting children into school and improving health care. Debt cancellation really makes a difference.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that Africa will remain top of the agenda in next year’s discussions in Germany, notwithstanding that country’s change of Government?

I can, indeed, assure the House because the German G8 presidency has confirmed that Africa’s development will be one of its priorities, particularly in respect of the fight against HIV and AIDS, which we discussed a few moments ago. I welcome that enormously, because Germany has a huge opportunity during its presidency to provide leadership to the G8 and the wider world to ensure that we continue to make progress on honouring the commitments that were so hard fought for at Gleneagles.

The G8 summit agreed immediately to implement a plan of action on climate change that will promote access by developing countries to low-carbon energy and improve their resilience to the impact of global warming. Climate change could undermine developmental assistance by reducing available water, decreasing agricultural outputs, exacerbating disputes over resources and extending regions in which diseases thrive. What progress has the Secretary of State made since Gleneagles to incentivise environmentally sustainable technology transfers, and does he agree that there needs to be an expansion of tradeable greenhouse gas permits, creating an international market to cut emissions and promote spending by developing nations on cleaner fuels and energy?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that climate change presents probably the greatest threat to the developing world—the part of the world that did least to cause the problem and that will have to cope with most of the consequences. That is the first point. The second point is that the energy investment framework, which we have been working hard with the World Bank to develop, is all about trying to provide financial support to developing countries that quite legitimately want to increase their supplies of energy. What is most striking is how developing countries are recognising their need for more energy supply, which is crucial to the economic development on which tackling poverty will depend. We have to help and incentivise them, including through tradeable permits. The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point because the market has an important role to play in helping the world to adjust to the changes that we all have to face up to.