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Fairtrade Fortnight

Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 3 March 2010

The Minister of State, officials from my Department and I are all taking part in a number of events and awareness-raising efforts through Fairtrade fortnight. Our participation is testament to the value that we place on Fairtrade’s contribution to development and to reducing poverty. That is, of course, underpinned by our White Paper commitment of £12 million to expand Fairtrade globally, so that we can double the number of producers who benefit directly.

On this side of the House, we are enthusiastic about the achievements and potential of the Fairtrade movement, which allows British consumers to send a voluntary signal through the market about the conditions in which they want their goods to be produced. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating British brands that have moved towards Fairtrade in recent years?

I am happy to do so. One reason for the almost explosive growth in Fairtrade in recent years is that major retailers—started, I am proud to say by the co-operative movement, and including brands such as Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer—have made Fairtrade products available in many large stores and supermarkets. Of course, I pay tribute to organisations such as Traidcraft that have flown the flag for Fairtrade for many years, but if we want the growth of Fairtrade products to continue, it is vital that those major brands continue to support them.

Existing trade rules often prevent producers in the developing world from lifting themselves out of poverty. Does the Minister agree that now, more than ever, is the time to champion a free, open and fair trading system, and will he do all he can to end the deadlock in the Doha round of trade talks?

I hope that I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. Only tomorrow, I will be meeting Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, to discuss how we can continue to make progress towards achieving the fairer trade rules that were promised by the global community, and anticipated back in 2001, but that, alas, have not yet reached a conclusion.

For years, Cath Greenlees of Longton in my constituency has organised Fairtrade stalls at community events across South Ribble. Indeed, she met my right hon. Friend when he visited my constituency recently. Will he join me in paying tribute to the hundreds and thousands of Fairtrade activists who do so much work to promote that cause?

I am unyielding in my admiration of the work that I saw for myself in South Ribble and of my hon. Friend, who has been a tireless campaigner for Fairtrade for many years in the House. His comments reflect a sentiment that is shared on both sides of the House—that we should applaud and pay due respect to those people who have advocated Fairtrade for many years and who are now directly benefiting many millions of producers across the developing world.

May I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is a tribute to the people of these islands that such a high volume of Fairtrade products are now going through our major retailers, including the supermarkets? Will he take this opportunity to pay tribute to the pioneers, who are still needed in the independent third-sector outlets, who keep the flame burning and who keep pushing forward the case for Fairtrade in this country?

Of course, I am happy to do so. I am something of a long marcher when it comes to Fairtrade produce—I remember when Campaign Coffee tasted nothing like coffee. In that sense, the success of the pioneers is now being seen in major multiples across the country. Were it not for the powerful voice of campaigners, advocates and consumers, we would not have seen the shift in recent years by the major supermarkets, so I am happy to pay tribute to those people.

I am sure that the whole House will acknowledge the success of Fairtrade fortnight. The Secretary of State has highlighted the fact that his Department will spend £12 million on Fairtrade and helping farmers to work their way out of poverty, but how will that money be spent and how will he evaluate its impact and effectiveness?

For all our expenditure, we consider both impact and effectiveness. The principal challenge that we have directed that money towards is both international and domestic. Domestically, we want to increase the range of products available that have the Fairtrade mark and the range of retailers that stock Fairtrade products. At the same time, we want to sustain the kind of growth that we have seen even in the teeth of recession—there has been a 12 per cent. rise in Fairtrade sales in the past year. We also want to replicate internationally the success that we have enjoyed in the UK. If we were to achieve nothing more than the replication of that success, it would transform the lives of farmers and communities across the developing world.