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Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

10. If he will make a statement on the UK’s contribution to the international finance facility for immunisation. (130448)

The UK contributed £1.3 billion over 20 years to the international finance facility for immunisation. I can announce today that South Africa has become the seventh country to join the facility, which will vaccinate over 500 million children throughout the world, and will save nearly 10 million lives.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, and I congratulate him on his great commitment to a global challenge. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, one in four children dies before their fifth birthday. That is a human catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale. On the administration of the fund, do countries have to sign up, or will the money be distributed through aid budgets? When the fund is administered, will we ensure that the vulnerable children in the most conflict-ridden and fragile states receive the vaccinations that they so desperately need?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The aim is to vaccinate all those children who, at the moment, are denied the chance of vaccination. That means that the countries where least is done will be the countries where most is done in future. The fund will be distributed through the GAVI Alliance. The fund operates in every continent and it operates as a charity. Much of the money comes from the Gates Foundation and from Governments, and the fund has a record of success that is perhaps second to none in the development field. I hope that there will be all-party support for that new facility.

I spend a considerable amount of time visiting and working with churches in my constituency. They are tremendously proud of the progress made since 1998, when 70,000 people protested peacefully outside the G8 summit in Birmingham to try to put the issue of debt higher up the agenda. There has been a doubling of aid, the cancelling of debt and the front-loading of aid. Bearing in mind the link between international poverty and international security, will my right hon. Friend make sure that those items are higher up the agenda when the UK takes over presidency of the United Nations Security Council next week?

That will indeed happen, and I can also say that the subject is on the agenda of the G7 Finance Ministers meeting in Washington in April, and there will be a further meeting in June in Germany. We will do what we can to raise the issue to a higher level on the international agenda.

Next Thursday at Gleneagles, there will be a conference that has been put together by the churches to discuss the progress that has been made since Gleneagles. I hope to be able to speak at that conference, and I am pleased that the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, is to address the group. The conference will hear that international aid has grown, that the finance facility has been created, and that the facility for education for all, which will mean that every child has the chance of education, is moving forwards. That will lead to a conference that will be held in Brussels on 2 May so that we can secure proper funding for education, as well as vaccination.

If the striking success of the measles initiative is matched by the output of the immunisation facility, what estimate has the Chancellor made of how much earlier the millennium development goal to reduce child and infant mortality will be reached by comparison with what would otherwise be the case?

I wish that I could tell the hon. Gentleman, who takes an interest in these matters, that the world was on track to meet the millennium development goal on child poverty, but there is a great deal more to do. The immunisation facility will help, because one in five African children dies before the age of five, but we also need a trade deal so that there is economic development in those areas; we need action on education, so that we tackle illiteracy; and we need the infrastructure programmes that are necessary not only to bring industry to those areas, but to enable them to trade with the rest of the world. All those things must come together if we are to be able to meet all the millennium development goals, particularly those for young people.

I am sure that the Chancellor is aware that the lack of insulin availability in sub-Saharan Africa kills more people—more children—than tuberculosis, malaria or AIDS. Following the passing of the UN resolution last December, will the Chancellor seek to ensure that insulin availability in Africa is included in that important programme to reduce that killer disease globally?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that, and I will endeavour to put the issue on the agenda. One of the great problems of health care in Africa and the developing countries is not simply the absence of medicines or of doctors and nurses, but the absence of health care systems with the capacity to deliver what is available, even when it is available. I am pleased that the international facility that we have created and the GAVI Alliance are now taking seriously the next stage, which is to try to build capacity in health care systems. If the hon. Gentleman goes around Africa, he will find that the number of midwives in many countries runs only into hundreds and the number of nurses in many countries is lucky if it runs into thousands. That is an issue of health care capacity that we must address, as we address, too, the supply of particular drugs.

It used to be said that this kind of measure had very little electoral support. I joined the Labour party 36 years ago, because I believed that a Labour Government would be responsible for such initiatives and global leadership. I am delighted that it is happening, and a great many of my constituents believe that it is one of the most important things that the Government are doing.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who takes a very big interest in those matters and communicates regularly with his constituents on those and on other issues, particularly in support of the Budget, as does the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who gave an extraordinary speech from the Conservative Benches in favour of the Budget only a few days ago. On Make Poverty History, the figures are now available, and one in three teenagers wore a Make Poverty History armband during the campaign. The idea that we were talking only to a minority—[Interruption.] Well, the Conservatives may laugh at people being involved in international development issues, but the idea that hundreds of thousands of young people took an interest fills me with hope for the future, and they will therefore reject a Conservative party that cannot even tell us whether it will match our international development spending.