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International Development Fund

Volume 458: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2007

1. What discussions he has had with the First Minister on the Scottish Executive’s international development fund. (128975)

I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of subjects. In 2005 the First Minister, in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, launched a fund that will provide £12 million over four years to help improve health and education, particularly in Malawi.

I thank the Minister for that reply. In the same year of 2005, the Government signed the Paris declaration, whose stated aim was to eliminate “duplication of efforts” and to rationalise

“donor activity to make it as cost-effective as possible.”

Does the Minister agree that on both counts, the international development fund makes a mockery of the UK’s commitment to the Paris declaration?

No, I do not. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my answer, he would have heard me say that the First Minister was in agreement with the Secretary of State for International Development. Staff of the Department for International Development sit on the expert group that advises how the fund is used, and that group is working in harmony. We will take lectures on international development from many quarters, but not from the party that cut international development spending year on year.

May I draw to my hon. Friend’s attention the fact that NHS Scotland is providing much expertise and training assistance to Malawi? When the International Development Committee visited last year, it was made clear that there was a real need to address the brain drain from that country, and its total lack of capacity. NHS Scotland and its partners in the rest of the UK are playing an important part in helping in that regard.

My hon. Friend speaks with great authority on the matter, as she is a member of the International Development Committee and has a connection with the all-party group on the great lakes region and genocide prevention. She is right to say that DFID and all the other agencies that we work with are operating in partnership in Malawi. DFID is recognised as being the gold standard when it comes to such work: that is why it is important, even though the fund being administered is small compared with the vast sums of money at DFID’s disposal, to make sure that it does not suffer from duplication of effort. I am confident that it does not.

May I too urge the Minister to ignore anti-Scottish and anti-Malawian Tories, and to acknowledge Scotland’s distinctive relationships and associations with sub-Saharan Africa? Has he seen the opinion poll carried out by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, which shows that 76 per cent. of the Scottish people believe that decisions about Scotland’s share of development funding should be made in Scotland?

The people of Scotland, through the country’s membership of the UK, are making the most fantastic contribution to international development around the world. The policy of the hon. Gentleman’s party is to break up the UK and take Scotland out of it, but that would do nothing to further the cause of international development. It is this Government—led, in this instance, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s international leadership—who have led the way in cutting debt and helping the most heavily indebted poor countries. At Gleneagles, we brought together leaders from all over the world to set up an international finance facility. Scots should be proud of the role that Scots in the UK play to help the poorest in the world.