Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Liz Blackman.]
I wish to begin by thanking all those who contributed to the White Paper that is the subject of today’s far too brief debate. I hope that those who take a careful note of what we say in this Chamber will recognise the desire on both sides of the House for more time to discuss these very important matters. I wish to thank Members on both sides of the House who have contributed to the White Paper, and the remarkable civil servants at DFID who wrote it. I also wish to thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for his unstinting support and guidance.
For me, the White Paper was the result of three years in this extraordinary job, years in which I have learned a great deal and reflected much on the causes of global poverty and what needs to be done to help so many of our fellow human beings to transform their own lives. The facts are painfully clear. It is a scandal—there is no other word for it—that we live in a world where every minute a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth; where every day, dirty water kills 5,000 children; and where, every year, malaria claims 1 million lives, tuberculosis 2 million lives and AIDS 3 million lives. But for me, the greatest scandal of all is that that happens, not in a time of famine and global war, but in an age of unprecedented potential. It happens in a world eight times richer than it was 50 years ago.
That potential—the power of politics to change things, of economic development to transform lives, of scientific ingenuity to save lives, and of working together to make all this happen—is immense. But so are the challenges that we face as trade, technology, migration, climate change, terrorism and disease mould our world into a new shape.
As more and more people in the developing world move to towns and cities to try to improve their lives, where will the homes, the water, the sanitation, the public services and the jobs they will need come from?
As the world’s population increases by half as much again in the next two generations, how will we stop many of the as yet unborn from emerging into a life of grinding poverty? How will we cope with pandemics such as avian flu or severe acute respiratory syndrome that could spread right across the globe if they are not dealt with quickly? What will we do if rapid economic change, inequality and arguments over scarce resources result in violence? How will we deal with the effects of the climate change that is already upon us, never mind that which is yet to come? How will we deal with the rising sea levels, the floods, droughts, hurricanes and crop failures, or with the movements of people who will not stay still to drown or die of thirst?
The challenge is simply daunting, but as we contemplate the future, one thing is clear beyond doubt—without good governance we will not be able to defeat poverty, or climate change, or war, or famine. That is why we put good governance at the heart of this White Paper.
Good governance is important for all countries, but especially for those fragile states in which 300 million of the world’s poorest people live. In those states, corruption in often more prevalent, Government structures are weaker and violent conflict is more likely. I welcome yesterday’s International Development Committee report on conflict and development, which said that investing in the causes of conflict is much better, and much less costly in money or lives, than trying to pick up the pieces later.
Peace and security are the fundamental expressions of good governance. There cannot be any development in countries where there is conflict. That is why the UK has helped to build peace and security in Mozambique and Rwanda, for example. It is why we are doing the same in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, and why we are trying to secure peace in Darfur. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the humanitarian workers, to our staff and to local staff, to the people working for non-governmental organisations and to the soldiers of many nations for the courage and professionalism that they show in those most difficult of places.
We are going to increase our efforts in fragile states, and invest more in at least 10 countries where security is a major concern. We will help with reintegrating ex-combatants, and we will support access to justice and monitor human rights. We will try to reduce the spread of small arms, and that will include trying to win support for an international arms trade treaty.
Good governance is also about effective states that are capable of doing things for their people, and about creating the conditions in which economies can flourish so people can have the chance to earn a living. Effective states respond to what people want and need and, in turn, can be held to account. Good governance means that people have the right to choose their leaders and change them, and to have a say and to be heard. Good governance is about ensuring the rule of law. It is about good policing and upholding human rights and freedoms. It is about fighting the corruption that steals money that could otherwise be spent on buying medicines or on getting children into school. Corruption, we know, hits poor people hardest, and poor women most of all.
How does a society—any society—ensure good governance? What makes the difference is what people choose to do. They must demand that their Governments secure such things for them, and that is why we will go on helping Governments to build their capacity. We are setting up the governance and transparency fund so that Parliaments and civil society, the media, trade unions and those working to improve transparency and openness can be helped to hold their Governments to account.
That is why we want to continue to make sure that our aid money goes where it is intended. Our new governance assessments will help us to do that. They will help us to recognise when a country is improving and to determine what to do when there are problems. This approach will build on the three simple questions that we already ask of our partners—are they committed to reducing poverty, do they uphold human rights and international obligations, and are they fighting corruption and promoting good governance? Depending on the answers that we get, we will take decisions about the kind of aid that we give.
Even where governance is awful, such as in Zimbabwe, we will not walk away, as that would be to punish poor people twice over—once for being poor, and a second time for having a lousy Government. The same is true for corruption. We need to be tough on it and on its causes, because the only solution is that countries must change the culture in which corruption thrives. They must enforce the law and implement the checks, the balances and the openness needed to guard against it.
While I agree with every single thing that the Secretary of State has said so far, I invite him to consider the last comment that he made. One has to strike the balance between whether it is better to take a strong position or not. Surely we have to engage in a naming and shaming operation. This could come from external sources so that people in those countries know when things are going wrong. If we do not have proper external accounting arrangements, we will not be able to prove the point which will be followed by the naming and shaming.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has campaigned long and hard on this issue. I agree that naming and shaming—exposure, transparency—is the right approach to take, but I differ with him in that I think that the exposure has to come from within the countries themselves, because that is the only way to fix the problem in the long term. He is right about the power of that searchlight to change practice.
Governance is also an international issue. Bad governance can be caused or made worse by the actions of rich countries and their companies. For every bribe taken, there has to be a bribe giver; for every stolen dollar that is spirited out of a developing country, there has to be a bank account somewhere for it to go into. That means that we have to be more effective in stopping bribery and, where money is stolen, in finding it and giving it back. In August this year, the UK returned £1 million of assets to Nigeria seized by the Metropolitan police from the former governor of Bayelsa state. It is a start, but we can and must do more.
Our new anti-corruption action plan will help us to do that by investigating and prosecuting bribery cases, dealing with money laundering and recovering stolen assets with the help of the new police unit staffed by the Metropolitan police and the City of London police and partly funded by DFID. We will continue to promote the extractive industries transparency initiative and look to extend its principles to other areas of public procurement such as construction, health and defence, where we know that corruption is a problem.
We all know that economic development is the single most powerful way of pulling people out of poverty. It is the private sector, from farmers to street traders and foreign investors, who create growth, but Governments have to create the right conditions for that growth, and aid can help to do this.
I, too, agree with everything that the Secretary of State has said and I commend him for the work that he does. Does he agree that we could do much more to help the poorest people in the third world if we had control over our own trade policy? We could set an example to the rest of Europe and the world by taking away trade barriers that would help people to lift themselves out of poverty without insisting that they get rid of the barriers to trade into their country. Surely if we had control over our trade policy we could do far more to help than even the Secretary of State would like to see.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that changing the world trade rules would make a real difference. I shall come on to that point in a moment. I part company from him when he says that the solution is for us to take back control over our trade policy. We need all the countries of the world to change the rules, not just Britain. That is why the White Paper commits us to supporting poor people in trying to get better access to markets to sell their goods. It is why we intend to double our funding for research to improve agricultural productivity, help countries adapt to climate change, and develop the drugs and vaccines that they need.
We will continue to press for a trade agreement to enable developing countries to earn their way out of poverty. Although the Doha talks are currently deadlocked, we are not going to give up on our attempts to create a freer and fairer trade system for developing countries because, as every single one of us knows, these talks matter. They are the best hope for developing countries to raise the money to pay for the doctors, the drugs, the hospitals, the teachers, the schools and the textbooks that they need.
I, too, welcome the White Paper. On the subject of the world trade talks, my right hon. Friend will be aware that at the Hong Kong conference last year an agreement was reached for special measures for the poorest countries. In the light of the needs of the poorest countries, can he confirm that the EU—with which we are closely involved in negotiations—will implement that package unilaterally, given that the talks may be suspended for some considerable period?
Britain played an important part in pushing for that package; it has been agreed in principle and is fundamental to making progress. In truth, we will have to consider what to do if things remain stalled, but the best way to move them forward is to get agreement in the Doha talks and we intend to continue to push for that. We know that economic development has changed the lives of people in this country over the last 200 years, and it will do the same for people in developing countries.
That takes time, however. We need to help now so that everyone can see a doctor when they are ill, go to school, drink clean water and have a safety net when times are hard. With our aid rising to meet the UN 0.7 per cent. target by 2013, we will increase our spending on those public services to at least half our bilateral aid budget. We will make long-term commitments through 10-year plans so that countries can make long-term decisions. When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I visited Maputo just before Easter, we said that we would put £8.5 billion into education over the next 10 years, so that the money that we and other donors commit can be put alongside the money that developing countries raise for themselves to match their plans to get children into schools, to employ teachers, to build classrooms and to buy textbooks.
There are practical problems, but we will do more on AIDS and maternal and child health. We have already committed to doubling our spending on water and sanitation in Africa by 2007 and to doubling it again by 2010, because clean water changes women’s lives. We will 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 small amounts of support are one of the most effective ways to help people out of the cycle of dependency.
I hesitate to intervene because the Secretary of State is talking such obvious sense. The aims and objectives of which he speaks are of course enshrined in the millennium development goals, but to what extent is his Department addressing the issue of population growth in those countries? If a country’s population is growing at 3 per cent. a year, it needs 3 per cent. more schools, roads and hospitals, so to what extent is the right hon. Gentleman incorporating those issues in his thinking?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. Our most practical contribution is to provide a lot of support for reproductive health in developing countries, so that families, women in particular, have some choice about their fertility—partly through the provision of services and partly by women having a stronger position in their society. In the long term, as we all know, population growth relates to economic development; as societies develop economically and people feel safer and more secure, family sizes decline. Evidence from across the globe is clear on that point.
None of that will work if we do not deal with the ultimate test of global governance—climate change. That is the single greatest threat facing development today. The countries that did least to cause the problem face the biggest costs and consequences. Many poor countries are struggling to cope and they will need more energy if their economies are to develop. As the White Paper made clear, DFID will make action on climate change a priority, as the Environmental Audit Committee asked us to do in its report, published after the White Paper. That means helping poor people and poor countries to adapt to climate change, working to give developing countries access to clean technologies, including energy production, so that they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions without damaging their economic growth. It means agreeing a stabilisation target and a new international framework to share out the earth’s finite environmental capacity. For all that we shall need international action and effective international institutions.
The Secretary of State glossed over the report of the Environmental Audit Committee. As I am the only Member in the Chamber who participated in that report, I want to point out that climate change did not occur at the same time as the White Paper, and that the report to which the Secretary of State alludes is very damning indeed about DFID’s placing of the environment. Can the Secretary of State tell the House how many environmental advisers he plans to recruit to DFID to take forward his programme of incorporating climate change measures and aid?
We are indeed planning to recruit more staff and I shall be happy to give the hon. Gentleman the precise figures. The report made some criticisms, but it failed to give DFID credit for what we have done already and it failed to recognise what was in the White Paper—I was slightly surprised about that. Furthermore, at times the Committee’s report reads as though we were still a former colonial power running developing countries. We are not. They are in charge of their destinies and they have to be prepared to take things on. However, the Committee made many important points about why we all need to take the issue more seriously, and I greatly welcome the report in that respect.
We need international institutions that work, but the principal institutions of multilateralism—the UN, the World Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund—were created for the world of two generations ago. We need international institutions that work effectively to meet the challenges of the 21st century. That is why we are pushing for reform in the UN, including through the high-level panel, and that is why we have led the argument for reform of the UN humanitarian system—with some success: there is a new humanitarian fund, so that when disaster strikes, the UN can get to work straight away. That is why I am holding back £50 million from the World Bank until I am convinced that it has improved its practices on conditionality, and why we want European aid to be more effective. I mean not just European Commission aid, but aid from all European countries, because almost all the increase in aid that will be promised before 2010 will come from Europe.
The list of challenges that I have set out is daunting enough, but the real question is whether we have the will, the hope, the courage and the belief to change things. History should encourage us to see that we do and we can, because we have made progress. In the past 40 years, life expectancy in developing countries has increased by a quarter. In the past 30 years, illiteracy rates have halved. In the past 20 years, 400 million human beings have been lifted out of absolute poverty. We are close to eradicating polio from the face of the earth, and there are three times as many people on antiretroviral drugs in sub-Saharan Africa as there were 12 months ago. Is that enough? No. Is it progress? Yes.
I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State, who has been most generous in giving way. To take him back to what he said about the United Nations and climate change, does he agree that there is a case for rewriting the UN charter, so that alongside the three pillars of the UN—development, human rights and the prevention of conflict—there is a fourth on the prevention of climate change? That should be one of the key overall objectives of the United Nations, which is the only body with the international moral authority to deal with the issue.
I agree with that sentiment. The UN, like any other institution, must adapt to a changing world. Much time and energy would be involved in trying to get agreement on a change to the charter, and it would be a matter of tactics, but I am absolutely with the hon. Gentleman on the principle of making the UN take climate change more seriously, as my remarks have demonstrated.
In the end, the issue is whether progress is made, and whether we make a difference. I think that, with the help of other countries, Britain and its money, ideas, effort and politics are helping to change things. Very soon, the international finance facility for immunisation will be launched, and it aims to save 5 million children’s lives over the next 10 years. The debt cancellation agreement for which many people fought so hard at Gleneagles has already wiped out the debts that 20 of the world’s poorest countries owed to the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Zambia can now provide free health care in rural areas because of that deal. Our education funding in India has enabled 9.5 million children to go to school for the first time. In Kenya, we are distributing 11 million insecticide-treated bed nets, and that could save 167,000 children’s lives. That is practical action that makes a difference.
Each of those examples, and many others, show that when human beings bring together the hope, the courage, the will and the belief, we are capable of transforming our lives. That is what people in Edinburgh marched for, and what people campaigned for. That is what we are in politics for, so let us get on and do it.
I start by strongly supporting the Secretary of State’s comments about the way in which this debate has been shoved on to the schedule, at the fag end of a Thursday afternoon, when many Members cannot be here. As a result of the short time available for debate, few Members will be able to take part. It is more than a year since we had a debate on international development, and I hope that the usual channels will conclude that that is simply not good enough.
Let me start by making the Conservative position absolutely clear. We strongly support the Government’s goals for international development as set out by the Secretary of State today. Support for the British contribution to international development is not a Labour or Conservative policy, but a British commitment, and the Secretary of State knows that he can rely on support from across the House. I will go further: at a time when the Government’s failures—whether on public service reform or across the spectrum of Home Office policy—are the currency of practically every news bulletin and comment column in our press, the Secretary of State and the Minister are, uniquely, doing a good job, and we applaud them for it. From time to time, we have differences of opinion about how to make British policies more effective and how to reach the millennium development goals faster, but in many ways, however, the Government are on the right track.
The situation is not all doom and gloom. A few days ago, I heard about an HIV/AIDS clinic in Namibia that recently closed its doors, not because of a lack of funds but because the spread of new infections in the area had been curtailed. As the Secretary of State said, we have made good progress on polio, and far fewer children die from diarrhoea than was the case 20 years ago, because oral rehydration therapy is more widely available. Far too many children, however, continue to suffer. As the Secretary of State said in the House yesterday, and as he reiterated today, there are three times as many people on antiretrovirals as there were just 12 months ago.
There is a nucleus of African states whose Governments are increasingly committed to doing the right thing. People such as Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, are showing leadership. They are tough on corruption and they serve the people whom they are honoured to lead. Their example shames the corrupt, self-serving dictators and autocrats who, alas, still populate the developing world. We can work well with those improving Governments and, by their example, show the rest what can be done. At the moment, the friends of development operate in a benign climate. There is political consensus on the importance of development, and all parties are committed to the unified British approach to development.
There is mass public support for the development agenda, as Gleneagles showed last year. Germany has agreed to back that agenda and take it forward when it assumes the G8 presidency next year. However, we must not take public support for granted. Our aid budget is set to rise to 0.7 per cent. of national income by 2013. Indeed, that is the only spending commitment that the Conservative party has announced so far. To put that percentage into context, based on current economic predictions, the equivalent amount in cash will be well over double what it is today. Taxpayers rightly demand clear and transparent spending. As the funding rises so, too, will their expectation that output should match input. Our aim is to achieve the millennium development goals but, on current trends, the 2015 target will not be met. Ironically, Asia will probably achieve its MDGs, but Africa will not do so. In five years’ time, when the period covered by the White Paper comes to an end, people will look at the MDGs and realise that they will not be achieved, despite a rising aid budget. They will be right to ask tough questions, so we cannot afford to leave any doubt in the public’s mind about whether the money has been well spent. We must be able to demonstrate the concrete, tangible results of their investment. If we do not achieve those results, we will lose the determination of purpose and public confidence that have fuelled the enthusiasm and commitment to development.
I warmly welcome the call in the White Paper to focus our aid on the poorest people and countries, as well as its resolute poverty focus. We have rightly moved on from the time when aid was tied to commercial interests, and the White Paper correctly notes that aid is more effective when given to countries with good governance. Even in those countries, however, not all aid projects are effective. Aid selectivity is not enough—we need stronger aid evaluation, too. We need rigorously to evaluate aid projects, giving more money to those that work, and refraining from supporting those that do not, to achieve the greatest possible reduction in poverty and suffering with our finite aid budget.
Aid projects are not always well evaluated. A recent internal report entitled, “How effective is DFID?”, showed that the Department often has little awareness of whether its aid has been spent on effective projects or whether it has obtained good value for money. I was disappointed by the lack of new proposals on improving aid effectiveness in the White Paper. DFID must take the lead by guaranteeing the independent evaluation of project effectiveness. There should be greater use of impact assessments to discover exactly how our aid is helping people, which is why I have proposed an independent aid watchdog to scrutinise British aid.
It is, I acknowledge, sometimes difficult to measure the effectiveness of aid. The Statistics Commission recently highlighted the problems with using the MDGs to measure DFID’s performance. A poor country could be making progress towards the MDGs despite ineffective aid programmes, or the positive effects of an effective aid programme could be masked by negative outside factors. The White Paper would have been a good opportunity to grapple with some of those difficult issues and to suggest improvements in the way in which aid effectiveness could be consistently and rigorously assessed and compared.
The White Paper’s focus on governance is, of course, enormously important. Without good domestic institutions, outside aid cannot lead to victory in the battle against poverty. I note with interest the White Paper’s pledge for DFID to double its spending on science and technology. New technologies—in particular, vaccines and medicines—have the potential to do immense good. However, we should not forget that many technologies already exist that allow us to reduce suffering cheaply: $5 malaria bed nets, DOTS treatment for tuberculosis, vaccinations that protect an entire family from disease for a few pounds, and oral rehydration therapy that can save a child’s life for 20p. The challenge is to roll out those technologies, as well as to invent more of them. We must ensure that new technologies are appropriate to the context in which they will be used. That is why I am particularly interested in progress on microbicides, which could empower women in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I welcome the discussion of migration and remittances in the White Paper. Sending money back to developing countries is often a costly business. I look forward to hearing what specific ideas the Secretary of State has to help lower the cost of remittancing. Economic growth is clearly central to development. One has only to look at India and China to see that. The White Paper rightly identifies trade as a crucial driver of wealth creation and development. Last week, I met the deputy US trade representative, Ambassador John Veroneau. He is not a man with whom one would wish to play poker. However, I got the impression that he is willing, in principle, to go further to make the Doha round work. Indeed, President Bush has given such instructions. Commissioner Mandelson has also indicated that he is willing to go further. As soon as the mid-term elections are out of the way, I urge the Government to press hard for real movement in the Doha talks.
The White Paper also indicates support for an international arms trade treaty. It focuses on the need for the treaty to include all the world’s major arms exporters, rather than to be overly rigorous in what it enforces. There is a tension between a universal and relatively weak treaty, and a stronger treaty ratified by a small number of Governments. The priority must be to ensure that countries such as China sign up to it and then live up to their obligations. Perhaps in his summary the Minister could say a little more about how and when the treaty might get some flesh on its bones.
I am pleased that the White Paper covers the crucial issue of how climate change and environmental degradation interact with international development policy, as the Secretary of State said. As I saw in Bangladesh recently, climate change will hit the poor hardest and fastest. It has arguably had an effect on the crisis in Darfur and it will lead to more natural disasters. The idea of an independent world humanitarian report to monitor how well the world responds to humanitarian crises is a good one.
I warmly welcome the decision to focus more on disaster preparation and mitigation, rather than simply responding to disasters once they have happened. One of the major problems with current aid efforts is that we have not worked out a good way of making the transition from immediate humanitarian relief after a catastrophe to long-term reconstruction. Sadly, there are a number of examples of that around the world. I hope that we will hear more from the Secretary of State on that and I hope that he will press for better co-ordination, auditing and accountability in relation to the aid funds that are used in response to disasters.
Much of the White Paper focuses on the issues that I have been discussing—governance and aid—but there are some other important areas that the Government may have overlooked. For example, addressing gender inequality should play a major role in international development efforts. Women often bear the greatest costs of poverty. Too many girls do not go to school. Women bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to Amartya Sen, the most effective aid projects are those that improve access to water, so that women spend less time walking miles to fetch it, and those that improve female education.
The White Paper also largely neglects the growing role of China and India in international development. The geopolitical landscape is changing, and the growing prosperity of India and China pose new challenges for DFID. Last week, in Beijing, I struggled to resolve the conundrum that Britain is spending £150 million over the next few years in a country that had a trade surplus last month of $15 billion. However, even as those countries approach middle-income status, we must not forget that hundreds of millions of people in western China and states such as Bihar in India are very poor. Indeed, there are more poor people in India than there are in the whole of Africa. In reality, India and China lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty each month because their economic policies embrace growth and they benefit from participation in the international trading system.
I was slightly concerned by the inconsistent analysis in the White Paper of the role of business. Private businesses are the ultimate engines of growth here and in the developing world. Multinational businesses create employment, drive up wages and working conditions, and help to spread technology. They contribute to not just growth, but social justice. However, the White Paper confines the role of business to one chapter, and when it refers to international partners, business does not seem to be one of them. The private sector should not be defined in such a limited way. There is a role for business in building water infrastructure and providing health care, education and other basic services. DFID should be open-minded about working with businesses to achieve more. I welcome the White Paper’s robust stance on tackling corruption by business, but the Secretary of State and the Department of Trade and Industry will know how treacherous an area this is: one man’s bribe is another man’s free lunch. As well as clamping down on the private sector when it does wrong, we must celebrate and encourage its achievements when it is a force for good, which it is for the vast majority of the time.
The White Paper contains some 170 action points. They cover a broad and rightly ambitious agenda and I am pleased to say that I agree with at least 150 of them. Many of them require DFID staff to engage with international stakeholders, and I hope that the Department has the capacity to deliver on them.
I had hoped to interrupt my hon. Friend before he moved off the subject of business. Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to Grameen banking and welcoming the Nobel peace prize that was recently given to its founder? Will he also acknowledge that there is a real role for the growth of private funds, which I believe are developing quite substantial amounts towards Grameen banking? There might be a solution there to some of the kinds of poverty about which the White Paper talks.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his timely intervention. In July, I had the great pleasure of spending two or three days in Bangladesh with Professor Yunus, the man who founded the Grameen bank. I join my hon. Friend in saluting the excellent news that came through last week. I hesitate to draw his attention to the article that I wrote in The Times when I got back from my trip, but he might find it of some minor interest.
I look forward to generous British support for the 15th round of the International Development Association replenishment at the World Bank next year. Despite much investigation in Washington last week, I remain somewhat confused about the Secretary of State’s decision to withhold £50 million from the World Bank. I am assured that the bank’s use of conditionality with regard to privatisation and trade liberalisation affects hardly any of its newer lending, and DFID itself is an admirable champion of freer trade. However, I am sure that the Secretary of State knows what he was doing. While it was certainly not always the case, the World Bank’s programmes are hugely respected around the world today, and Britain’s role is greatly respected in the bank, too. We should give the bank our firm support at this time.
Does my hon. Friend agree with what Tearfund says in its briefing paper about economic partnership agreements? It is absolutely essential that EPAs are completely reformed. The Government have clearly approached the subject with a little bit too light a touch. We must tackle the EPAs and ensure that we get proper economic liberalisation.
My hon. Friend’s point is the subject of much debate. If he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope he will be able to develop his argument about EPAs.
I am glad that the White Paper recognises that UN reform is crucial. The Secretary of State made that very point in his speech. All of us who engage with the UN on the ground know that the organisation is full of the most talented and dedicated people, but that they are all too often let down by organisational weakness. The UN has been guilty of mission creep into areas beyond its core competency. I hope that the Government will support measures to slim down the number of United Nations agencies, and we must improve the UN’s performance in co-ordinating the world’s response to humanitarian disasters.
Finally, I shall deal with the importance of conflict resolution and pay a warm tribute to the Select Committee report that was published yesterday. This is probably the most crucial area of all in international development, and although I shall not detain the House long on it, I want to say a word in the context of Darfur. Conflict resolution is so important because no matter how much aid and trade people receive, if they have been forced out of their village and are living in a camp, they will remain poor, destitute and frightened.
When the UN agreed last year, amid much mutual congratulation and back-slapping, to embrace a responsibility to protect, it offered hope to those waiting for help in Darfur’s camps, but the international will to give meaning to that responsibility to protect remains woefully inadequate. The problem is compounded by the fact that people who have suffered in Darfur and seen the failure of international action in that area, and who note that in Lebanon it took the UN only 30 days to intervene effectively, must come to the conclusion that the world counts the life of an African as of less value and less importance than the life of others. That is a challenge to us all.
Is not one of the differences between Lebanon and Darfur that in Lebanon the international community had the co-operation of the Government of Lebanon, whereas in Darfur, regrettably, we do not have the co-operation of the Government of Sudan?
I do not propose to enter into a debate on the comparison between Lebanon and Darfur, but the position facing the international community was in many ways more complex in Lebanon than in Darfur. The point I make to the hon. Gentleman, who I know thinks carefully about these matters, is that the sort of African that I am describing, who watches intelligently what is going on around the world, is very likely to draw the extremely uncomfortable comparison that I have just put before the House. I reiterate that that is the challenge to all of us as we seek to reform the international architecture in the way that the Secretary of State and I have set out.
The White Paper that we are considering has the potential to stimulate an enormous amount of good. The public determination that Britain and the rest of the developed world should make a huge commitment to lifting the poorest people in our world out of poverty is the task that the Government and all of us as politicians are charged with implementing. As I discuss the White Paper with those involved in the world of international development—with the members of NGOs, DFID personnel and groups of dedicated professionals engaged in development work far and wide—I am constantly struck by their commitment, enthusiasm and determination that this generation will make the greatest possible contribution to ending the scourge of international poverty which blights the life chances of so many in Africa and the poor world. I hope that the White Paper will play a modest part in steering our activities in the right direction.
Order. At the risk of stating the obvious, there is not much time left for the debate. Hon. Members will do themselves a favour if they make relatively short speeches, so that I can get as wide a variety of contributions as possible.
I declare an interest as a member of the Select Committee on International Development. I welcome the comments of the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell). The report published yesterday on conflict and development is crucial and is one of the best reports I have been privileged to participate in drawing up in almost 20 years in the House. It deserves a full debate on the Floor of the House and should be the subject of our next debate on international development. I shall leave it to our Chair to say more about that.
The world is eight times richer than it was 50 years ago, yet the inequalities between the rich and the poor are widening. There seems to be enduring, endemic poverty in the world. The Economist, in its future trends, suggested that we should focus on four themes in the next 50 years—in the first half of the century. The first of those themes was the development of economic globalisation, including India and China, but still excluding African countries. The second theme was the pace of climate change, to which Members have referred. The third theme was the impact of migration, which will massively increase and has been underestimated. The fourth theme was the persistence of faith and religion.
I welcome the White Paper, which is subtitled “making governance work for the poor”. I found it to be a brilliant summary of where we have got to on the subject both here in Britain and internationally. I felt that it was a good workbook or handbook; it tells some of the good stories of what has been achieved, as well as what we are up against. I recommend it, and I hope that there is a reprint—and, if there is, that it is distributed to schools and elsewhere—because it is a good volume.
In my remarks, I do not want to concentrate on governance and corruption. There is a view that 2005 was the year of international development. It was certainly the year of increased money and commitment to the aid budget—a doubling of it, in our case. I should mention that I welcome the commitment from the Conservative party; the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield has done very well to get his one commitment—and, I say with some edge, we shall watch that space. In 2005, there was some good work on aid and on debt—although there is much to do on trade, as other Members have mentioned, and I wonder whether there is an agenda for that. But at least it was a good year. However, although 2005 was a good year, on page 29 of the report there is a piece of graffito that says, “2006 corrupt. We need change.”
In facing up to corruption, there is a danger that aid is not used well. An agenda that focuses solely on corruption might take away the dynamic that has focused all our attentions on tackling poverty, so I do not want to focus on corruption.
I was in Ethiopia last week as part of an attempt to tackle corruption and to address good governance. Does my right hon. Friend accept that many people on the ground recognise that corruption and good governance are crucial to their lifting themselves out of poverty? Does he agree that although, as he says, we should not concentrate solely on that, it is fundamental to everything that flows from it?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks, and I hope that others will underline what he says, because I agree that it is crucial; I will listen to other contributions on that, and I am convinced of the point. But other points are missing from the report, and I want to focus on them.
Good governance is about more than simply elections. We seem sometimes to think that good governance equals having elections, but my experience in visiting countries and occasionally being an observer of other countries’ elections—as other Members occasionally are—is that there is an emphasis on getting people organised so that they get to the polling booth, on organising the voting booth, on making sure that voters stamp their thumbs properly on the ballot paper, and on making sure that they are organised into lines. Often, when officials and civil servants are helping in the process of ensuring that elections take place well—they do so with the best intentions, so I say this without a pejorative edge—it is as if the people just need to be shepherded in the right direction, and then on the day of the election the problem is solved. Elections are sometimes seen as the end of a strategy, rather than the beginning of a process. We must focus much more on the process of politics, and on an election being a part of that process.
Let me just point out that in 1945 there were 32 countries with a universal franchise—countries that we would call democratic—and that there are now 192. So elections are taking place regularly, but I think that we have more to do, because in many cases we are a long way from having what I would describe as participatory democracy, built from the base upwards.
I suggest that we, as practising politicians, cannot leave election processes to officials. We, as politicians committed to political parties, could do much more to help build up political processes in emerging democracies, and particularly in fragile states, so that we do not leave countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo thinking that it can have an election that might reinforce the existing elite and that then the show is over. No: I hope there will be more elections, even though that one was its first for 30 years. That process will help the transformation of that society.
I particularly welcome the commitment given on page 124 of the White Paper to building links between community groups, tenants and residents groups, local government, faith communities, schools and businesses and charitable organisations here in Britain. I want a much more mutual conversation about building participatory democracy—one that does not assume that we in Britain have done it, have all the answers and have a perfect democracy. We have not, but we can learn from each other through exchanges and by building a much more mutual conversation.
Page 20 of the White Paper contains the most important passage in the whole report. Under the heading “Understanding good governance”, it refers to
“Providing ways for people to say what they think and need. Implementing policies that meet the needs of the poor. Using public finances to benefit the poor—for example to encourage growth and provide services. Providing public goods and services in ways that reduce discrimination and allow all citizens—including women, disabled people and ethnic minorities—to benefit.”
That is a basis for working on the theme of participatory democracy—by building, perhaps, from the base up.
Secondly, I want to echo the points that the Secretary of State—and, indeed, the shadow Secretary of State—made about the pace of climate change. As desertification, the destruction of forests and flooding in Bangladesh show, it is the poor who pay the highest price for the lack of action in the northern hemisphere. The onus is on us to do much more, for the practical reason that they cannot: they do not have the capacity to prevent such occurrences or to address their impact. We need to do a lot more to blend the climate change and poverty eradication agendas.
Indeed, one theme that has emerged is the good will of people toward addressing climate change. They are willing to change their behaviour—to change their light bulbs, unplug appliances and get personally involved. I want the climate change and poverty eradication agendas to be fused, so that people say, “Can we live a bit more simply, so that other people can simply live?”, as Ghandi once said. If we are altruistic toward the environment, we might also be a bit more altruistic toward the idea of reducing the gross inequalities between the rich and the poor. We should fuse together those agendas, rather than continuing to believe that it is a question of trees versus people—an attitude that we are still a little locked into. Trees and people go together, and we must realise that fusion.
To my mind, the millennium development goals do not focus sufficiently on employment, which is an issue that does not resonate loudly in the report. Of course we need business development and economic growth, but we need a much stronger focus on employment. We must take into account the increase in the world population, to which reference has been made, and the emergence of China and India, but the real issues across the globe are going to be job generation, employment and under-employment.
The meetings that I have held in my constituency about making poverty history have been very positive, but one went wrong. It was held around the time that the Chancellor announced an extra £10 million for schools in Africa. One person at the meeting who lives in one of the poorer communities in inner-city Leeds—and who has every good will toward African countries and their development—said to me, “John, why should I support money for Africa? I am not against training and educating them, but if we do, they might be trained better than I am, and the jobs will go there and not here. What will we do about unemployment here? What about migration trends? Where will the work be within the world?” We should not draw up protectionist boundaries, but we need to address much more seriously the questions of migration and employment.
Is the growth agenda about job generation and employment? That issue is not dealt with in the millennium development goals, but it is a vital question in East Timor. Young men who participated in the conflict there and who were once armed are now standing around saying, “Where are our jobs? We have handed in our guns, but if we do not get jobs, we will start fighting again.” Exactly the same is being said in Freetown, in Sierra Leone, and in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Without work, people do not have a vision of the future.
There is another very encouraging statement on page 25 of the White Paper:
“The UK will…adopt a new ‘quality of governance’ assessment to monitor governance and our partners’ commitment to fighting poverty...use this assessment of ‘quality of governance’ as well as commitment to the three principles—reducing poverty; upholding human rights and international obligations; and improving public financial management, promoting good governance and transparency, and fighting corruption—to make choices about the way in which we give UK aid.”
That offers a strong human rights agenda based on tackling corruption, the initiative that the Secretary of State is launching, and making good governance work for the poor.
This is about not only tackling corruption and improving accountability but building up a culture, here in the north as well as in the south, of what I would describe as economic justice. We should institute that concept as a different paradigm that brings together the agendas on the environment and tackling poverty. Tackling poverty is a universal challenge: north and south; urban and rural. Tackling wider inequalities is about good politics; they go together. The report helps us to realise that.
Democratic politics must be developed in depth from the base up. In African countries especially, that means taking account of the structures of solidarity, community and hospitality that already exist and working through them to blend new shapes of democratic participation.
I modestly suggest that politicians who get behind the agenda of tackling poverty as an economic and a political agenda will do much to restore faith in politics and the processes of politics. That is a challenge not only for African and poor countries but for us here and now.
The White Paper is in many ways a report card on the past and an agenda for the future. I join the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) in saying that the Department for International Development is right to give itself good marks. I join, too, in some of his criticisms, although the number of international quangos that he proposed for various forms of monitoring put a chill through my heart, as I would hope that monitoring could be a matter for this House.
The Secretary of State is well able to make his own case, so let me use my time to raise some of the missed potential in the DFID report. On trade, we all learned of the suspension of the Doha round with trepidation, as we are conscious that if it fails the greatest losers will be the developing countries. Aid and debt cancellation are interim tools. Trade is the tool that countries can take to themselves; it empowers them to make their own future. While I fully support an agenda that moves rapidly towards free trade, trade agreements must allow the policy space for developing countries to adjust their economies. In the Doha round, the language used was “special and differentiated treatment”.
If Doha is revived, the timetable will be exceedingly tight and will present a big challenge to the developing countries in getting their voice heard. I hope to hear that during these negotiations DFID will be actively trying to get across the message of developing countries, because it was largely drowned out in the earlier stages. If Doha fails, what role will DFID play in the bilateral and regional trade treaties that will undoubtedly enter the vacuum to ensure that our understanding of developing country needs is properly expressed and protected? Given that the European economic partnership was not a side issue, we particularly need to know how the partnership between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries will progress. I am afraid that that issue gets left to the Department of Trade and Industry, but it should be centre stage for DFID.
What worries me even more is that we are in benign economic times. It is the easiest phase in which to get an agreement that benefits developing countries. However, if we lose the opportunity and major economies begin to go into recession, it will become increasingly hard to reach for that prize.
Let us consider pro-poor development. We all understand that trade and development work for a significant section of people in developing countries—India has been cited as an example many times. However, trade and development work for approximately 50 per cent. of the people in India. For at least half, there is no progress and 30 per cent. are losers, including subsistence farmers now reduced to casual labour and living at the roadside, utterly displaced. I could give many examples but I do not want to take up the House’s time. The White Paper does not include a coherent strategy for the losers from development. There are some projects and programmes, some micro finance and infrastructure and I was glad to read the language of social security in the document. However, there is no consistent and coherent approach to tackling the needs of the group.
There must be a partnership between Governments, the private sector, civil society and the international community but many of the solutions will be counter-intuitive. For example, a solution may mean reinforcing the way of life of those who will continue in subsistence farming and not convert to commercial farming. I met Dalit women in Andhra Pradesh and, for them, the commercial farming happening around them is the greatest threat to their existence. It is not an option for them because of the land that they farm. They are faced with either joining the commercial flow of life and becoming casual labour or finding a way to reinforce their traditional style and approach. There is no consistent discussion of that in the White Paper.
Many of the most vulnerable people and many of those who lose out are women. As I have said in other debates, the Department for International Development’s language is full of references to gender equality and the importance of women, but does that translate into delivery? A good example is retrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. There is hardly ever a programme to follow up the women who have been identified as HIV positive. The system does not regard them as significant in the way it should.
Disability is a cross-cutting issue. There are 400 million disabled people—the population of a large country—in the developing world, yet disability, because it is a cross-cutting issue, never makes it to the top of any agenda.
I want to speak about climate change and low carbon development. Yesterday, I heard part of the Secretary of State’s speech in one of the Committee Rooms. He said that he had been treated rather unfairly by the Environmental Audit Committee. I therefore reread the relevant section in the White Paper. Frankly, it is timid. We have 10 years in which to act on climate change or reach a tipping point. The urgency of the matter is not conveyed in the language or the programmes.
We all know that the poor suffer most from climate change, which could involve, for example, flooding, because of their dependence on agriculture, water scarcity or conflict. Darfur is an example of a conflict in which climate change and population movement has played a role.
The White Paper contains an excellent analysis:
“Initial estimates put the additional cost of meeting the energy needs of developing countries with cleaner, more efficient sources at over £40 billion a year.”
I looked for a suggestion about how to find the £40 billion a year, but the White Paper includes little more than talk about supporting the World Bank’s energy investment framework. We must scale up our effort. I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) that it is essential to bring together the pro-poor and climate change agendas. The two are not in conflict and we must find a way of weaving them into our approach. That does not get the rich countries off the hook. We created 70 per cent. of the CO2 pollution in the atmosphere, and we must deal with it. I come from a council that has taken direct action on those issues, and I look forward to hearing support for that action on both sides of the House—that has not happened locally, but I hope that it will happen here.
Time is short, so I shall raise the remaining issues fairly quickly. I am concerned about DFID’s shift from programme support to budgetary support—I am not concerned about the principle, but I am concerned about the way in which the balance between the two has been struck. Governments should make their own decisions, and we provide budgetary support to recognise and facilitate such decision making. Civil society is the group that holds Governments accountable, and funding must come from outside Government control if it is to be independent and effective.
DFID has acknowledged the difficulties of building the environmental agenda into budgetary support, because it is extremely difficult to provide aid to fragile states through a budgetary support mechanism. Many NGOs wonder whether the pendulum is swinging too far, and I have a suspicion that much of the motivation behind the shift into budgetary support is to cope with the difficulties presented by the Gershon cuts, which are reducing resources and manpower in DFID at a time when the budget is growing. Budgetary support is a lower manpower strategy, which has made it the direction of choice. However, that is not how policy should be driven, and DFID needs to consider that point.
I hope that some of the hon. Members who were responsible for the brilliant report about conflict and development will speak in this debate, so I shall be brief on that point. The White Paper lacks clarity on conflict and resolution. Page 47 of the White Paper includes a wonderful picture—I do not know what an opium poppy looks like, but I am willing to guess that that picture shows an opium poppy field, and it looks like an advert for the excellence of the crop.
The White Paper does not address the tension between foreign policy on the one hand and reconstruction and development on the other. In Afghanistan, the US mission is search and destroy, while the UK mission is said to be reconstruction and development. In Lebanon, we supported the destruction of our own reconstruction. In Palestine, it is unclear whether we are committed to development or whether we are merely providing life support for a failing and declining economy.
In conclusion, I join other hon. Members in saying that this subject, which involves a five-year plan for the poorest people in the world, is far too important to be crushed into a two-hour debate on a Thursday afternoon, when only a handful of hon. Members are present. The underlying issues deserve the attention and scrutiny of the House. If we act collectively, we can make sure that those issues come to the Floor of the House far more frequently.
I congratulate Ministers on this DFID White Paper, which is both inspiring and sober. It gives us hope on what can be achieved and warns of the great hurdles ahead. I also congratulate the production team, because this excellent document is beautifully presented, easy to read and composed of 100 per cent. recycled material.
My main parliamentary interests are the environment and gender, so when I joined the International Development Committee, I brought those issues to my deliberations, and I see the White Paper from that perspective. Nowhere is global co-operation more vital than in tackling climate change. As the Gleneagles communiqué noted, around 2 billion people lack modern energy services, and global energy demands are expected to grow by 60 per cent. in the next 25 years. Before the ink was dry on that communiqué, the scientists were telling us that the situation was even more critical. As the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) said, the tipping point for irreversible change could arrive by 2020.
The consequences for development are awesome, which is why I greatly welcome chapter 7 of the White Paper, with its stark headlines, “Climate change poses the most serious long-term threat to development and the Millennium Development Goals” and “Developing countries will need support to adapt. The costs will be huge.” As other Members have said, the effects of climate change will bear down hardest on those who depend most on environmental factors for their livelihood. Last year, in Malawi, our Select Committee saw the terrible effects of the previous year’s drought, and the dependency of people on foreign food aid. In neighbouring Mozambique, we saw the devastation brought by floods and torrential rains. As the White Paper says, three of the four natural disasters—droughts, floods and cyclones—are weather-related, and 97 per cent. of deaths from natural disasters occur in developing countries.
The devastating consequences of climate change are our responsibility. The challenge is for all of us to face up to the fact that all our promises, and all our expectations and hope for development, could be negated by climate change. The G8 meeting at Gleneagles attempted to bring that to the fore, and it is critical that DFID leads the way in pursuing that Gleneagles agenda. Following on from that meeting, Globe UK, the all-party environment group, of which I am vice-chair, set up the G8 plus five dialogue to bring together parliamentarians to advance the Gleneagles agenda. We have worked closely with the World Bank on its energy investment framework, and we look forward to monitoring DFID’s work in the field. When my hon. Friend the Minister sums up, will he give his assessment of the response of regional development banks to the World Bank’s investment framework for clean energy?
On my second interest, gender, I am afraid that, like some other Members, I must be critical of the Department. Women make up the vast majority of the poorest. They are poor because they are members of the poorest communities, but also because they are women. Women experience discrimination in every sphere of political, social and economic life and at every age. African women are the world’s poorest people. They have the lowest life expectancy, and Africa has the greatest disparity between women and men in access to education, literacy and income in the world. Tackling women’s poverty and inequality requires a transformation in relations between women and men, and a transformation in the way in which we define development. It also requires a definition of good governance—which, as the Secretary of State has said, is central to the report—which recognises the implications of gender differences for people’s access to essential public services, political participation and economic opportunity.
The Department for International Development has a twin-track approach, combining specific activities aimed at empowering women with a commitment to pursue gender equality in the mainstream of all development programmes. To date, however, those commitments have not been implemented thoroughly or consistently. One World Action, in giving evidence to various reports, has argued that women’s rights and gender equality are not a high priority outside the social development department of DFID. It says that, today, evidence of effective gender mainstreaming outside that cluster remains disappointing. I add to that assessment my dismay and astonishment that a 15-page consultation document on conflict policy produced by DFID does not mention the word “women” once.
Six years ago, however, the UK led the international community in promoting Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. That resolution, unanimously adopted, recognised the disproportionate effect of conflict on women and underlined the essential role of women in the prevention of conflict and as full participants in post-conflict peace building and reconstruction efforts.
Earlier this year, in recognition of the importance of that resolution, DFID, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office produced an action plan. I hope that my Front-Bench colleagues will appreciate how disappointing it is that the consultation document on conflict includes no reference to women or to the action plan. I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister will give me an undertaking that that serious omission will be corrected when the actual policy document is produced.
The points that I have raised about gender are not new. My right hon. and hon. Friends will recognise them from various sessions in the Committee. There is, I think, a critical need for DFID to change the way in which it is working. I know that the Secretary of State has acknowledged the need for a gender strategy, and I hope that one will be produced very soon.
Although the White Paper contains references to women in the context of micro-finance and girls going to school, it is very light on all the other important issues, such as the climate change and economic agendas. As the Secretary of State says, good governance is at the heart of the White Paper, but governance that denies the rights, basic needs and interests of women and girls—the majority of the population—cannot be considered good governance. No Government who neglect the rights, needs and interests of women and girls can be described as legitimate, and nowhere is that more important than in developing countries and countries recovering from conflict. I hope that my ministerial colleagues will give much fuller consideration to those issues, and will endeavour to strengthen accountability in relation to them.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. Although I have made criticisms, I have not the slightest doubt that we have one of the best international development Departments in the world—possibly even the very best.
I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and to endorse all that she said, not only in terms of the contribution that we are making but in terms of her contribution. I assure the House that she is assiduous in presenting the issues that she raised. In my view, the Committee does not listen to her enough, and does not respond enough. If she continues to speak, we will.
As a co-vice-chair of Globe UK, I consider issues of climate change to be fundamental. Although I do not think that all the criticisms of the Environmental Audit Committee are entirely fair or valid, I think that the Department must look again at what it is doing in its environmental and climate change programmes, and decide whether it can incorporate some of the Committee’s recommendations in its future work.
We are constrained by time. I agree with others that we require far more time to debate issues such as these, and I think that the Leader of the House—who will be presenting proposals next week—should take account of the fact that this is not the right way to treat the business with which we are dealing.
There is much in the White Paper that I support. I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle): it is extremely well produced, a good read and a very good statement of policy. I am not sure that its content is radically new, but it provides a very good focus on “where we are at”. If some of what I say is critical, it is only because of the time constraint: there is no time to give praise, but there is time to make suggestions.
Very briefly, then, I will say that there is cross-party recognition of the commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) for reaffirming that on behalf of his party. There is, however, a need for clarification of how we are to achieve that target. There is also total support for debt relief, but I think that the Secretary of State will know what I am going to say next.
It is true, of course, that when countries whose debt has been liquidated and which were servicing the debt in some way are relieved of that duty, money is released that can go into poverty reduction programmes. The Secretary of State must accept, however, that a good many countries were not servicing or repaying their debt, and writing off a debt that was not being repaid does not produce any more money. It seems to me that including all that debt relief as if it were a contribution to our 0.7 per cent. target is at least a little debatable. Would the Secretary of State be prepared to conduct an analysis to establish where money is and is not being genuinely released, and come up with an adjusted figure representing the real extra benefit from debt relief? That might help to define our contribution. Having said that, I obviously welcome the commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target, but the Secretary of State knows that some people say that, as a consequence of incorporating debt relief this year, there has been no real increase in the spend on development itself. Clearly, we should expect to see increases year on year.
The Secretary of State was right to say that when we are working with developing countries, governance is crucial both for them and for us. Simply handing over money to corrupt regimes to siphon off is neither good for poverty reduction, nor the credibility of the programme. We must find ways of dealing with those circumstances. One of the problems in very poor countries where Governments do not pay their civil servants, teachers or nurses, for example, is that public service is no longer regarded as a job, but as a franchise. People have to go down below to get bribes from the people they are supposed to serve in order to sustain their family’s income. We have to find ways of ensuring that that does not happen.
It is interesting to note the launch of the campaign by the Mo Ibrahim foundation to form a league table of governance and give an award to the African leader who achieves the most. I have often said that one way of resolving problems of super-incumbency, if I may call it that, in Africa is to ensure that whatever presidents get in office, ex-presidents should get double, which might encourage people to move on.
The relationship with the World Bank is the next important matter and the Secretary of State has made much of his withholding of £50 million. He told the Select Committee that he believes that it has already galvanised the bank into focusing attention on his concerns about conditionality. In a few weeks’ time, we will see what the response is. I am sure that the Secretary of State would acknowledge that the reality is that we will be giving more money to the World Bank and we will be working with it. It has put tackling corruption high up its agenda, so it has to be a welcome partnership, which we will support.
The Secretary of State’s dilemma is that if he has a rising budget, and a reducing head count, more money will go by definition into international institutions that we do not control directly or into budget support. Finding ways of ensuring that our objectives are realised in that context—without necessarily imposing new conditions—is highly important.
I am not omitting climate change from my discussion because I believe that it is less than absolutely central, but only because I agree with what has already been said and I want to put that on the record.
On trade and the Doha round, it is simply unacceptable that the promise of delivering on a development round should be allowed to die or even to slumber. It would be a matter of shame to me if the EU contributed in any way to such a failure. I hope that the British Government will do everything in their power to persuade the EU, over which we have some influence, to take a bold step—[Interruption.] I hear someone shouting, “What about the Americans?”, but we do not have institutional control over the Americans whereas we do have institutional engagement with the EU. Of course the Americans must respond. After what the Conservative spokesman said about the mid-term elections, I hope that America will be more prepared to do so.
Surprisingly, however, I have a little bit more confidence that the Bush Administration might deliver on a Doha round than a reconstructed Congress after the November elections. That Congress looks to be more left-wing in one sense, but more protectionist in another. There is an opportunity here, but if we do not seize it now, the consequences will be unacceptably bad. If we reflect on the fact that the EU puts three times more money into agricultural subsidies than into its entire overseas development budget, that can only fill us with shame.
The Secretary of State believes that budget support is an important mechanism for delivering aid. In principle, I and members of the Select Committee agree, but it does have its problems. Setting up 10-year partnership agreements, which create commitment and continuity, is a good approach. Given the all-party support for the basic principle of increasing aid, I hope that those agreements will be fully honoured and endorsed in principle, subject to the vagaries of what happens. It is important that the development of civil society in these countries is viewed as part and parcel of the process of budget support. The parliamentary network of the World Bank and all sorts of other bilateral arrangements with parliamentarians and civil society are important so that people know what is being given to a Government and where it is coming from. The right questions should be asked to hold people to account. The objective is to create the capacity for the Governments and the citizens of affected countries to deliver their own outcomes. If it is understood in that context, it is a project that it is well worth continuing with—and, I hope, delivering.
On the issue of conflict, I welcome the comments by the Secretary of State on our report and his assertion that it is a legitimate subject for debate in the Chamber rather than in Westminster Hall. The issue is the extent to which one single conflict can wipe out the whole value of the world aid budget, and there is more than one conflict going on. For example, what happened in Israel and Lebanon over the summer is a classic case in which we now have to divert massive amounts of aid money into Palestine because the conflict destroyed the Palestinian economy. I am not saying that those poor people should not be helped, but the conflict diverted funds and that means that other poor people, whom we want to help, will not get funds. That is an indication of the problem.
This is not the moment to have a debate about whether all the conflict situations we are in are ones in which we are totally blameless. The ones that we have considered in Africa are not ones in which the United Kingdom can be said to have been involved, but we have tried to promote peaceful solutions.
Real issues arise from the role of British and European companies in contributing to the promotion and extension of conflict by dealing in conflict goods. When the Committee took evidence, there was an exchange between the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and the chairman of Afrimex. The hon. Lady asked him whether he was aware of the OECD guidelines after the UN had identified his company. He said no. The hon. Lady asked if he had referred to the DTI and again he said no. She then asked whether the DTI had ever contacted him, and again he said no. That tells us that the DTI is not at one with DFID in ensuring that British companies are squeaky clean in the engagement in and possible contribution to conflicts. We need to resolve conflict resources, we need higher standards and we need to stamp out corruption inside and outside the countries involved if we are to ensure that we are not party to promoting or encouraging conflict in the future. Those are issues that need to be thoroughly debated.
This is an excellent report. I have only a few minutes to speak, so I shall concentrate on a few points that have not been entirely explored this afternoon. I generally welcome the recommendations in the White Paper.
One theme of the report is corruption and accountability, and what is said is good as far as it goes. But let us not forget that the issue of tackling corruption and ensuring accountability is not one only for developing countries. There are banks, financial institutions and big companies in rich countries, including the UK, which have a lot to answer for in the way in which they have encouraged corrupt practices, laundered money and preyed on corruption in developing countries. We have a lot to do on that issue. We are doing some work, but we could do more. If I had more time I would mention the Christian Aid recommendations, which we should take seriously. It is not only for “them, out there” to deal with this: it is also our responsibility.
The issue of climate change has been discussed and I agree with all that has been said on that so far today. But we must remember that it is not an issue for 10 years’ time: it is happening now and the consequences are felt not just in developing countries. The boat people in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic who are affecting us in the European Union are also partly a consequence of climate change. It is important to recognise the link and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we need a debate on the issue, because there are still some unresolved tensions between the interests of development and of tackling climate change. We have to ask how far we can rely on opening up markets as a way to meet developing countries’ needs, if in so doing developing countries rely on methods of transport—for example, air travel—that, apart from contributing to climate change, may not be sustainable in 10, 20 or 30 years. Air travel over longer distances may not be sustainable. My suspicion is that the answer will be to emphasise the need for regional co-operation and development for developing countries. That is a matter about which the report is a little weak, and I hope that the Department will say more in the future about how it intends to develop regional co-operation among developing countries.
Finally, I turn to peace and security. Many hon. Members have mentioned the very worrying threat of a nuclear arms race developing in the middle east and east Asia. Whatever North Korea is doing with its apparent nuclear tests, it seems pretty clear that devoting the resources necessary for its programme will impoverish even further an already impoverished country. Another danger is that it will set off a nuclear arms race in countries in the region. Even though some of them may be relatively rich, experience shows that an arms race will subsume resources from the poorer countries as well, as they will also feel that they must do something about their security.
That emphasises the need to get a genuine non-proliferation process under way. We must try again to make progress with getting the world community to agree a non-proliferation treaty, and we must also build a stronger set of the multilateral organisations, agencies and agreements that will give us the long-term peace and security that are essential if we are to achieve real development in the longer term. We must not settle for having a few measures that will be undermined by the greater insecurity that always affects countries in the developing world much more than those elsewhere.
I do not want to say a word against the Secretary of State, for whom I entirely share the esteem already expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell). The right hon. Gentleman made an excellent speech, but it is clear that he did not succeed in persuading his colleagues, including the Leader of the House, of the importance of this debate. To allocate only an hour and three quarters—that is, less than an hour for all the Back-Bench speeches—is nothing less than contemptuous of the subject.
I am left with trying to make three points in about four minutes. First, international development is a very peculiar subject. It is the only one that we discuss in the House where we target inputs—in no other field would we dream about targeting 0.7 per cent. of our GDP. It is a very un-businesslike approach, although I accept that we are so committed to it, psychologically and politically, that we cannot go back on it. However, we should not deceive ourselves into believing that spending more money will automatically achieve progress in poverty reduction.
In fact, the connection between spending money or targeting inputs and achieving outputs is very uncertain. Sometimes, the connection may be an inverse one. The western world has spent about $2.3 trillion on aid in the past 50 years, with very inadequate outcomes. For about 20 years, the highest per-capita recipient was Tanzania under Nyere, but per capita income there fell in that time. That tells us that we must be quite sceptical.
Secondly, that need for scepticism means that we must be careful that aid is properly spent. We must ensure that it does not displace expenditure by recipient Governments away from health or education programmes and on to arms or greater bureaucracy. We must be sure that Governments do not pursue the sort of perverse and damaging economic policies, such as excessive taxation or excessive and perverse regulation, that only undermine entrepreneurship. We must foster a climate that encourages foreign investment, and make sure that corruption is controlled and punished appropriately.
The Government are in a mess in respect of the whole question of conditionality. They seem to accept it in areas such as human rights and governance, but not in economic policies. I prefer the word “partnership” to conditionality, for obvious psychological reasons, but it is essential that there be a dialogue. Let us be clear: there is no point in spending our taxpayers’ money if its effect is counteracted by the recipient state adopting unfortunate and inappropriate policies.
We should not run away from conditionality. In that context, I am worried about the Secretary of State’s argument with the World Bank. It is far from clear to me that the conditionality that the World Bank is imposing is unreasonable. If it is imposing sensible conditionality on the economic policies pursued by donee countries, we should support it.
Thirdly, precisely because conditionality is important, we cannot achieve our purposes in poverty reduction and development spending in general alone. It is crazy to think that there can be 25 or 30 bilateral dialogues between 25 or 30 separate donors and a recipient country. That is hopeless. There cannot be 25 or 30 different sets of monitoring arrangements or sets of donors demanding several days a year with key Ministers and officials in the partner or recipient country. The officials and Ministers would not have time to do anything other than meet donors. We therefore need to make sure that we co-ordinate much more effectively and systematically than we have done so far. We have done so sometimes, in an ad hoc way. In some countries we co-ordinate effectively with other donors. We should make it a rule—we can do this within the European Union—that we develop one set of policies and have one dialogue so that we are not sending different signals to our EU partners or to the Commission. We should agree with them on the strategy for a country. We should then launch a co-ordinated single dialogue; we should agree with the donee country on common targets and approaches. We should set up a single monitoring procedure. It is much more difficult to do it outside the EU, but we should do it pragmatically where we can with the World Bank and other donors. The United States always wants to do its own thing; I understand that. But we can co-ordinate. We should have formal protocols. The opportunity is there precisely because of the structure of the EU.
I hope that the next time we discuss this subject we can give it the attention that it deserves. All the rhetoric about trying to help 2 billion people who are in desperate straits, which they certainly are, looks pretty empty if the House of Commons cannot even come up with two hours of time to debate the subject.
I join others in complaining about the paucity not of the quality of debate but of the quantity. It has been far too short. It was, however, opened by two excellent speeches. The Secretary of State set out with great clarity the priorities of the White Paper and he was followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), the shadow Secretary of State, who set out in an intelligent, committed and compelling speech why the Opposition welcome the White Paper, underpinned by an emphasis on good governance, capability, responsiveness and accountability.
The White Paper correctly acknowledges the importance of structural reform, including the necessity to modernise the multilateral institutions, build individual country structures and develop absorptive capacity. It rightly considers methods and delivery mechanisms to focus resources on the alleviation of poverty, tackling humanitarian crises, preventing conflict and promoting peace, thereby ensuring security, incomes and public services. For the first time, the White Paper considered in detail strategies for mitigating and adapting to the threat that climate change could have on international development. We commend this ambitious focus.
We welcome and support the continued high priority to be given to health, education, access to water and sanitation and prevention and cure of disease, which pose immediate threats to future development. Confronting those challenges must remain at the forefront of our efforts if we are to achieve the millennium development goals. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) said, good governance is not simply about democracy. Successful states require effective institutions such as an independent judiciary, a free media and strong and pluralistic civil societies. The evidence suggests that states that are accountable and responsive to their citizens are stronger and better placed to mitigate and respond to disasters, and significantly more likely to benefit from economic growth and attract foreign investment.
It is essential that the international community work to tackle corruption. Corruption and growth are inversely related. While it remains less expensive to bribe a Government official to obtain a concession than to pay the full market price, limited progress will be made. The White Paper commits to a new quality of governance assessment, which must be given a wide remit. The current World Bank assessment of governance is weighted heavily on the degree to which a country has liberalised its economy, as opposed to, for example, whether the media are independent. We welcome the governance and transparency fund, which strengthens civil society and the media, as there is a direct correlation between countries with a free media and sustained economic growth.
As the Secretary of State said, economic growth is the most effective way of alleviating poverty. It creates independence and ultimately promotes saving and investment, and contributes to the absorption of future economic shocks. The private sector creates growth and we welcome the White Paper’s latent recognition of that fact.
Governments in developing nations have a role in ensuring that the private sector has the optimum environment in which to flourish: low regulation, access to economic opportunity and competition. In addition, there must be conditions in which access to credit, micro-finance and property rights are secure. Developing nations have a role in providing macro-economic stability. They also have a role in the world trade system, in which they must be allowed fully to participate without being restricted by unfair trading rules, as many Members pointed out. In a modern interdependent global world, economic growth is impossible without access to global markets and we are all disappointed that the Doha development round is—to put it politely—deadlocked.
We are also concerned that there is limited consideration in the White Paper of infrastructure development. Rightly, there is significant emphasis on providing services such as health, education and disease prevention, but we must not overlook other fundamental developmental challenges, such as building transport networks, communication capabilities and electrification in rural areas. That will enable regional trade and the expeditious delivery of medical supplies, and allow countries to develop a diverse and balanced economic base. They will then be able to graduate from exporting purely agricultural and other basic commodities to making value-added products.
The real challenge for the developing world is to enable economic growth and wealth creation, which are the drivers of poverty alleviation, without causing environmental degradation. Although the problem of climate change may seem remote by comparison with poverty, disease and economic stagnation, it will most dramatically affect the poorest people, who currently rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood and income. It will also have an impact on population movement, and create a significant increase in environmental refugees. It is worth looking at an expansion of greenhouse gas permits on an international market basis to cut emissions and promote spending on cleaner fuels and energies.
DFID must ensure that its impacts are taken into account in every bilateral funding decision, by considering both the impact of its projects on climate change and how climate change affects its projects. The Opposition agree with most of the White Paper and acknowledge DFID’s global reputation as a provider of development assistance. As a result of the Department’s work, significant progress has been made in some countries. However, there must be a change in the fortunes of developing nations; they need the establishment of good governance and effective state organisations, investment in infrastructure, wider and deeper debt relief, adaptation to environmental changes, more robust disease prevention, increased access to public services, reform of the global trade routes, a strong and pluralist civil society and more effective conflict prevention, as well as reconstruction, macro-economic stability and secure property rights.
The White Paper rightly acknowledges many of those challenges and it is essential that it is translated into effective and expeditious action. Ultimately, we must assist developing nations to progress from aid dependency, and that will require sustained economic growth and wealth creation, not just wealth redistribution.
I welcome the many contributions to the debate and I recognise the House’s appetite for further opportunities for lengthier discussion of the issues.
I particularly welcome the support for the White Paper’s focus on governance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) and the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) rightly highlighted the fact that although dealing with corruption is crucial, we must recognise that the governance agenda is much broader than that. It includes access to justice and a free media, the importance of strong civil society, developing effective local government, a strong civil service and effective Parliaments and ensuring effective elections. That is all part of the increased work on governance that we intend to do.
In his opening remarks, the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) welcomed the White Paper and raised the question of results. I do not accept his implicit comment, or indeed the implicit comment of the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), that the Department focuses only on inputs, although I accept that we have to do more to communicate the results of our development assistance.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the extremely effective assistance that we are providing in India. Between 2003 and 2005, that aid helped to give 9.5 million more children access to primary school. The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford is, quite sensibly, pro-European, so he may be interested to know that the European Commission contributes to that programme of assistance, as do the Indian Government through their effective programme of development assistance.
The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield questioned the Department’s effectiveness. He asked whether we could be still more effective, and suggested that we needed an international body to evaluate donor performance. May I gently remind him of the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international force that already evaluates donor performance? Recently, its representatives visited the Department for International Development to conduct a peer review, in which they said:
“The UK is currently seen by many aid practitioners and donors as one of the bilateral models for today’s evolving world of development cooperation.”
It went on:
“DFID has inspired and endorsed both the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness and the EU action plan on harmonisation.”
I accept, however, that we cannot rest on our laurels, and we must still do more.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the arms trade treaty and the time scale for moving forward. I hope that he will forgive me, but I do not wish to pre-empt the vote on whether to move forward and discuss an arms trade treaty that takes place later today. I hope that voters will decide in favour of progress, and there is considerable support for that position, but we cannot afford to relax. Rightly, he raised the issue of the emerging donors—China, India, South Africa and Brazil. I hope that he is reassured to know that our permanent secretary recently visited Beijing to discuss China’s role as a donor. Yesterday, senior officials and I met a delegation of senior officials from China who are involved in aid programmes, and we discussed the exact issues that he raised.
In light of the time, I will not, and I apologise for that.
I join the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) in praising the contribution of Mohammed Yunis. Some 2 billion people still do not have access to credit, which is one of the factors that fuels the opium trade in Afghanistan. Britain’s businesses and financial sector have a role to play in helping us to give people access to credit, and we are working with them on that issue.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) asked whether the desire to move from project to programme spend is driven by Gershon. I can reassure her that projects still have their place, as budget support is not always appropriate. We use a variety of aid methods, and we will continue to do so, but if we want to reach all the poor in a developing country, if we want all children to have access to primary schools, and if we want all pregnant women to have access to a skilled attendant, we have to build the Government capacity, and that is why budget support continues to be important.
The hon. Members for Richmond Park and for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), and the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) all raised the issue of climate change. I remind them of the commitment given by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Chancellor to push the World Bank and other international financial institutions on the issue of an investment framework. We hope that that will galvanise some $20 billion in investment in low-carbon technologies. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford asked about the contribution of regional development banks, and I hope that she is reassured to hear of the work that President Kuroda of the Asian Development Bank is doing on that issue.
I recognise that our Department needs to do more work on climate change. In my evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, I committed the Department to recruit additional staff to work on climate change. I hope that hon. Members accept that that process is under way. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford raised specific concerns about our commitment to women. Most recently, on a visit to Pakistan, we released £90 million to help to improve access to good maternity services. We have taken the lead on pushing the plight of women affected by HIV/ AIDS on to the international agenda. At the recent UN high level meeting, we pushed for a bold political declaration that ensured a commitment to protecting women’s rights. As she recognised, we are in the process of developing a new gender action plan, which will set the agenda for strengthened work on gender equality. I have taken on board her point about the need to reflect those concerns, and the point made by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield about the need—
It being Six o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE (CONSEQUENTIAL PROVISIONS) BILL [LORDS]
That the National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Bill [Lords] shall be proceeded with as if it were a consolidation bill and Standing Order No. 58 (Consolidation bills) shall apply.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]
With the leave of the House, I will put motions 6 and 7 together.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
That, at the sitting on Tuesday 31st October, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Mr Secretary Alexander relating to the Crossrail Bill not later than three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first Motion; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.
That, at the sitting on Tuesday 31st October, paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments) shall apply to the Motion in the names of Mr Alex Salmond and Mr Elfyn Llwyd as if the day were an Opposition Day; proceedings on the Motion may continue, though opposed, for three hours and shall then lapse if not previously disposed of; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]