[Relevant documents: Seventh Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, on Connected world: Agreeing ambitious Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, HC 452.]
I beg to move,
That this House recognises that 2015 is an historic year for development as the countries of the world come together to negotiate the binding climate change agreement at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals; believes it is unacceptable that more than one billion people still live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day; notes that the effects of climate change will be most severe in some of the world’s poorest countries; further recognises that the UK has a leading role to play in these negotiations; regrets that the Government failed to bring forward legislation to enshrine in law the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on international aid as set out in the Coalition Agreement; further regrets that this Government has failed to support standalone Sustainable Development Goals on health and climate change; and calls on the Government to show global leadership on tackling the causes of poverty inequality and climate change.
This year, 2015, is an historic year for development. The countries of the world will come together at the United Nations in September to agree the sustainable development goals, and in Paris in December we will agree a framework to tackle climate change. These agreements would be priorities for a Labour Government. We have called today’s debate—the first since the debate on Burma in 2008—to set out the differences that we see between this coalition Government and Labour on these vital issues.
Fifteen years ago, a Labour Government led global efforts to tackle extreme poverty, which led to the millennium development goals. These goals have produced fantastic results. Every day, 17,000 fewer children die. Nine out of 10 children in developing regions now attend primary school and we have halved the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. In 2002, just 700,000 people received treatment for HIV. The last Labour Government helped to found the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. Today, 13 million people access life-saving HIV treatment. We cancelled debt, increased aid and outlawed cluster bombs, and when my right hon. Friend the leader of the Labour party was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the UK became the first country in the world to put into a law a target to reduce carbon emissions. Other countries, such as Finland, Denmark and Brazil, have followed that lead.
But, today, more than 1 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day, so the new sustainable development goals must go faster to eliminate extreme poverty and, vitally, tackle growing economic inequality.
I appreciate the call that the hon. Lady is making for UK leadership on climate and poverty issues. Does she recognise that her party’s support for things such as maximising oil and gas extraction in the Infrastructure Bill, agreed just a few days ago, is undermining the pledges she is now making to tackle climate change?
Not in the slightest. I will set out in detail tomorrow, on a visit to the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, our plans to expand what we want to do, particularly in the area of universal health coverage. Perhaps I will bump into the hon. Lady on the pier down there.
There are three vital areas that Labour would prioritise to tackle inequality: universal health coverage, human rights and climate change. I will say more on those issues in a moment, but first I would like to look at this Government’s approach. We regret that the Government failed to bring forward legislation to enshrine in law both parties’ manifesto commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international aid. It fell to Labour MPs and the good offices of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell) to ensure that the landmark Bill that would do so was passed in this House.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, but does she accept that trying to set out the dividing lines between the parties on the subject of international development breaks a consensus that has existed for a long time? I think the outside world looking in would fail to understand that it is this Government, whom she seeks to criticise, who have met the 0.7% target.
I am going to make some progress.
There is nothing wrong with supporting the private sector and infrastructure investment in poor countries, but we Opposition Members have grave concerns about the lack of transparency over where this funding for private sector development is going. That area will account for £1.8 billion—nearly one fifth of the Secretary of State’s budget next year.
Perhaps my hon. Friends were writing their speeches. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) is planning to speak in this debate. I pay tribute to the work of the Select Committee, which the right hon. Gentleman chairs, and I shall quote extensively from some of his reports, if he will give me the chance.
I am going to make my point, and this will interest the right hon. Gentleman because it is a body that he set up. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has been highly critical of the Secretary of State’s TradeMark Southern Africa programme. It found that an £80,000 illegal payment was made to the Government of Zimbabwe in breach of the Government’s own rules.
Let me point out that that programme was set up by the hon. Lady’s Government.
Shock, horror! The right hon. Lady’s multi-annual review in 2011 talked about that programme and found that it was working well. The payments I refer to were made between July 2011 and May 2013—on her watch. The commission said:
“We are…deeply concerned that…a private company is managing a £30 million DFID programme without any formal contract with…DFID.”
That is a direct quotation from ICAI. It details serious weaknesses in financial management, with 90% of all expenditure undertaken in cash, without securement or contract—for example, a $20,000 cash payment with a hand-written receipt from an off-the-shelf receipt book; a request for a $100,000 petty cash fund; and a request by newly recruited staff to be paid tax free, which is against South African law. As I say, the review of the capital budget that the Department carried out in October 2011 found that most outputs had been achieved, but after three years of the current Secretary of State being in charge, the third annual review found that DFID was not on track to meet its financial forecast—on her watch.
To her credit, the Secretary of State has shut down that programme, but similar problems persist elsewhere. ICAI’s report into DFID private sector spending published eight months ago found that it was
“impossible to identify how much DFID actually spends on private sector development…because it is not captured as a discrete category of expenditure in DFID’s financial system.”
That leads to the question: “If you don’t know where it’s going, how can you measure if it is working?”
The National Audit Office has criticised another private sector project—the Private Infrastructure Development Group. The NAO criticises the right hon. Lady’s Department’s decision to scale up PIDG funding from a total of £49 million in 2010-11 to £258 million in 2012-13. Her Department will allocate £700 million-worth of taxpayers’ money to that fund between 2012 and 2015. The UK now accounts for 88% of all contributions. The NAO criticises the fact that there was no change to PIDG’s governance and that the business cases for projects were not assessed by DFID’s quality assurance unit—despite the risks involved. The NAO concluded that DFID has inadequate financial control and oversight, lacks robust information and was unable to prove value for taxpayers’ money.
I share the NAO’s and ICAI’s concerns about where and how this £1.8 billion is being spent. I have put a series of parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State about where the funding for her strategic framework for economic development is going. I asked the right hon. Lady how the money would be ”targeted on economic development”, and how it would be
“allocated to different activities and countries.”
The Secretary of State did not answer. The public deserve to know if and how much of the money is being paid to the private sector directly. I asked the Secretary of State that question, only to be told:
“This information is not available in the form requested.”
Perhaps that reflected the concerns expressed in the NAO report. I asked how much of the £1.8 billion had already been spent; no answer. I asked what the purpose of the money was; no answer.
A total of £700 million is being spent in one fund over three years, and the Secretary of State is unable to answer a single question asked by ICAI, by the NAO, or by me about where and how that money is being spent. Presumably—as in the case of the huge increase in the funding of PIDG—that is because she does not know. The Public Accounts Committee has now examined PIDG’s investments. Its report will be published tomorrow, and we await it with great interest.
As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, the amazing, incredible leadership of the United Kingdom, straddling both parties’ times in office, is much admired around the world. I happen to have just come back from speaking at an event in Davos, where our leadership, through a unity of approach across the House, was greatly admired because of our ability to get things done and our amazing achievements in relation to international development. The coalition Government have been no exception, in that we have always ensured that we include the other side. Is the hon. Lady not as saddened and disappointed as I am by the churlish nature of her motion and the tone that she is adopting? Surely we should act together to deliver the greatest possible public good internationally.
I make no apology for demanding transparency when it comes to where the taxpayer’s money is being spent. There is nothing wrong with working with the private sector. These are funds that were set up by a Labour Government. However, when funds are scaled up so quickly without changes being made to governance and oversight, the National Audit Office—not me—is concerned about where and how the money is being spent.
I am sure the hon. Lady agrees that the coalition’s record on delivering the 0.7% of GNI is one of which we should be extremely proud, on behalf of the whole country. If our constituents are to have confidence in that spending, we shall need to see the maximum transparency and value for money. Instead of coming up with a litany of criticisms of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—who I think has done a fantastic job—will the hon. Lady answer these questions? If she ever becomes Secretary of State, how many countries will she identify as an aid target, and what level of sign-off will she prescribe for her Department? How many DFID-run projects has she already visited, and how many projects does she expect to visit if and when she becomes Secretary of State?
That is very kind. Unlike many Government Members who discovered a new-found interest in development as soon as they were appointed to their roles, I have a long-standing interest in the subject. Let us start with my volunteering for Oxfam in Sri Lanka for two months in 1990. Let us move on to my visit to Rwanda and eastern DRC—
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The title of the debate is “Sustainable Development Goals”, and Members have come into the Chamber to discuss sustainable development goals. We have heard from the hon. Lady for 15 minutes, with no discussion of them. A document produced by the Select Committee of which I am a member is tagged to the motion. It is entitled “Agreeing ambitious Sustainable Development Goals in 2015”. Surely, Madam Deputy Speaker, if the hon. Lady had wanted a DFID score card, that is what it should have been called.
I appreciate the right hon. Lady’s frustration, but that was what Mr Speaker would call “not a point of order, but a point of frustration”. The content of the hon. Lady’s speech is not a matter for me, apart from the fact that she must stick to the title of the debate, which, so far, she has done.
I am grateful for that ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I want to respond to the question asked by the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) about the projects that I visited as a Back Bencher. There was the post-genocide work that DFID has been doing in Rwanda. I have visited a Save the Children project in Lubumbashi. I have visited artisanal miners in eastern Congo. I have visited Panzi hospital for the victims of sexual violence—a subject that I know is very close to the heart of the Secretary of State. I visited Burundi—a country that is no longer in receipt of DFID funding—in 2009 to look at the Save the Children hospital there. In 2012, I visited Rumbek in South Sudan to look at the work of the World Food Programme, and last week I was in Geneva talking to the World Health Organisation and the global fund, UNAIDS and UNITAID. So I do not need any lessons about visits.
I am going to make some progress.
I want to talk about Labour’s priorities for the sustainable development goals. As I said, health is very important and is the bedrock of all human development. People in rich countries and poor countries alike are affected by disease outbreaks. Strong health systems build resilience. We have seen Ebola in west Africa overwhelm weak health systems, and as the party of the NHS Labour wants others to enjoy the protections we take for granted.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman was listening. As I said, unlike the many Members on the Government Benches who have discovered a passion for these things in their roles on appointment to the job, I do not need to go on a visit to understand. I have been on those visits that I detailed, and I have been in this role for seven weeks so I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give me some credit for my long-standing interest in this area.
I will now give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), if she wants to intervene.
The moment has slightly passed, but when my hon. Friend was listing the projects she has visited I was going to remind her that we also went together to Pakistan after the dreadful earthquake there and saw the relief efforts and the work DFID was doing.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that. I certainly remember one of the more hair-raising car rides of my life up to the mountains there and seeing the fantastic work that was being done in those areas.
I want to talk more generally now about our priorities. Universal health coverage would reduce inequality and would stop 100 million people a year falling into poverty. Figures from the House of Commons Library show that, unfortunately, this Government have cut bilateral spending on health in Sierra Leone and Liberia from £26 million in 2010 to £16 million this year. Four months ago the International Development Committee criticised DFID, saying:
“The planned termination of further UK funding to the Liberian health sector is especially unwise.”
Lasting health care systems are about more than the delivery of commodities such as vaccines and bed-nets, vital though they are. Despite the progress made over the last decade, HIV and AIDS continue to blight the lives of millions of people. Between 2008 and 2013, Britain gave £40 million to support the work done by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, yet Ministers have slashed that support to £5 million for 2013-18— a massive 87% cut.
I really just wanted to ensure that the record was straight. This Government have spent more on health care in Sierra Leone in every year in government than the hon. Lady’s Government did. I will be specific: DFID’s 2009-10 annual report says Labour spent £11 million on health in Sierra Leone. This Government have consistently spent more than that in every year. Does she regret not spending more previously?
Well, my question to the Secretary of State is: does she regret cutting, and is she going to reverse her decision to pull out of bilateral spending in Liberia—yes or no? My figures are from the House of Commons Library, and I do not recognise the one that the Secretary of State has used. I have also joined them together; the combined total was £26 million for Sierra Leone—[Interruption.] Here is the answer, if the Secretary of State will listen and stop chuntering. The combined total was £26 million in 2010—[Interruption.] It is hard to listen when you are talking, I find. The combined total was £26 million in 2010, and it is £16 million today. That is a £10 million reduction. Perhaps she would like to write to me to set the record straight. We can have an exchange of letters; I am sure it is pretty dull for people to listen to this.
Ministers have slashed funding for the international AIDS vaccine; there has been a massive 87% cut. That cut is a short-sighted mistake if we are to invest for the long term in tackling those neglected diseases. I note that the Secretary of State neglected to explain why the funding was cut by 90% for that international research programme.
On human rights, we want women and girls to exercise their human rights free from the fear of violence, coercion and intimidation—
The Secretary of State will have her chance when she makes her speech.
We want girls to enjoy their education free from the threat of child or forced marriage. However, Tory MEPs voted against the European Parliament’s report on sustainable development goals and on the section on women’s sexual and reproductive rights. We want to tackle the economic conditions and supply chains that tolerate the obscenity of 168 million child workers. We want to ensure that children affected by conflict have the psycho-social services that they need and the right to go to school. We want members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities to be free to love and marry whomever they wish. We want the disabled to participate fully in society, and we want protection for indigenous peoples.
We want workers to enjoy decent work, decent pay and rest breaks, and to have the freedom to join a trade union. We must not have a repeat of the terrible Rana Plaza disaster. We will therefore reverse this Government’s ideological decision to stop funding for the International Labour Organisation.
Will the hon. Lady acknowledge that Members on both sides of the House came together and succeeded in putting into the Modern Slavery Bill—which this Government have enacted—a clause on transparency in supply chains, precisely to deal with the exploitation she describes? Labour Members also supported that measure.
Absolutely, and I pay tribute to Members on both sides of the House for that. I believe that that was a Labour amendment, but it had cross-party support and we welcomed that.
Eradicating poverty will be possible only if we tackle climate change. If we do not keep temperature rises to below 2º C, millions will fall back into poverty. The Prime Minister says very little about his wind turbine these days. He is a prisoner of his divided party, which is split over whether climate change even exists. For Labour, climate change will be at the centre of our foreign policy and integral to our plan to change Britain.
There is a real opportunity to address climate change this year. The United States, the EU and, most importantly, China, are all showing a willingness to act. At the Paris summit in December, a Labour Government would push for global targets for reducing carbon emissions, with regular reviews towards the long-term goal of what the science now tells us is necessary: zero net global emissions in the latter half of this century. In addition, we must ensure that the sustainable development goals have a specific goal on climate change—something that the Secretary of State has repeatedly failed to back.
Having stood opposite the hon. Lady at the Dispatch Box, I know that her tone can sometimes be a bit abrasive. I know that she has been in her present role for only seven weeks, but could she not use this opportunity to say that she welcomes some of the things that are going on in relation to international aid, including some of the bilateral arrangements? Does she not welcome the continued spending of 0.7% of gross national income? Does she not agree that there are some good projects? Her tone today has been deeply divisive on an issue on which there has traditionally been great consensus in the House.
I am not saying that everything the Department for International Development does is bad; I am trying to point out—[Interruption.] No, that is a wilful misunderstanding of it. On the 0.7%, was the hon. Gentleman one of the Members who stayed here to vote that through? More Labour MPs were in this House for that than Conservatives and Liberals put together, and it would not have passed without Labour votes—and he knows it. The Government have had five years of Government time and Backbench Business Committee business time on a Thursday when nothing has been done.
It is entirely fair for my hon. Friend to be scrutinising and questioning Government policy, particularly on climate change and what position is taken into the sustainable development goals summit. Does she feel that a Prime Minister who said that we should “cut the green crap” is the right person to lead this country into crucial negotiations about climate change and the future of poor countries around this world?
I am afraid that the climate issue was used by the Prime Minister. Everyone remembers the hug a husky trip in 2006; I do not know whether that is one of those photos the Tory party attempted to delete from the internet, but yesterday I still managed to find a good few pictures of him doing that. He was certainly less enthusiastic about the issue in government.
With the right leadership, ours is the generation that can end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and tackle climate change. We can move to a world beyond aid and enable people to secure justice instead of charity. The year 2015 provides a unique opportunity for the world to think bigger and do better for ourselves, our children and the world’s poorest people. That is a thrilling opportunity and we must not let them down.
In 2000, the international community agreed a simple and powerful set of objectives: nobody should live in extreme poverty; all children, including girls, should be in school; and the epidemics of HIV/AIDS and malaria must be tackled. Crucially, part of that was about the desire to work in global partnership to achieve goals by working together. I wish to take this opportunity to thank non-governmental organisations, people in the development community and my staff in DFID, of whom I am exceptionally proud, for all the work that they have done, working together, over the past 15 years.
In those 15 years since the millennium development goals were agreed, we have seen the greatest reduction of poverty in history. The MDGs inspired the international community to achieve amazing results: extreme poverty was cut in half by 2010, five years ahead of target; there have been visible improvements across all health targets; more than nine in every 10 children worldwide now have a primary education; and we are well on our way to tackling hunger and malnutrition. Of course the MDGs were to run for 15 years, so, as this House will know, 2015 is one of the most important years for the international community in recent memory.
The Secretary of State rightly mentions the progress that has been made under the MDGs across a range of outcomes, including children’s participation in education. Does she agree that one of the great challenges for the 2015 sustainable development goals is to ensure that disabled children, who are often registered for school but do not attend, fully participate in education? How does she see her Government helping to secure that?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right about that. If we look at the tranche of children who have still not got into education, we see that they tend to be the children who are disabled or who are in more nomadic tribes and it is harder for them to get into education. We are clear that a core ethos underpinning the next development framework needs to be about leaving nobody behind. My Department is pulling together the first ever DFID strategy on how addressing disability should be part of our development programme. So she is right to raise the issue and I can certainly reassure her that this Government have started to bring that issue into our programming more centrally.
In July, we will convene in Ethiopia to agree a new financing agenda for development. Of course the UK Government have in this Parliament, for the first time ever, finally met their commitment to spend 0.7% of our GNI on international development.
In September, on the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we will meet in New York to agree the elements of the post-2015 development framework up to 2030. In December, the world will come together in Paris to agree a binding international treaty to tackle the global dangers of climate change. I am proud to be part of a Government who are taking a leading part in all of those negotiations.
Let me briefly discuss the post-2015 agenda. The international community has a duty to produce a set of equally inspiring goals and targets to run up to 2030 that will put us on a sustainable development pathway to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation. The UK has played a leading role in that process, not least demonstrating our commitment to international development by finally meeting the commitment we made to spend 0.7%. Indeed, that is recognised by the fact that the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, personally asked our Prime Minister together with President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and the then President Yudhoyono of Indonesia to co-chair the high-level panel of experts who were asked to review these issues and to publish a report about how we should pull together the next sustainable development framework.
Does my right hon. Friend also agree that what is important is not just the figure of 0.7%, but how it is spent? What this Government have managed to do is focus the money on where it is most effective. That has required some decisions to be taken. We have had to remove funding from countries that did not need it for those that do.
As the Secretary of State knows, I had some involvement in the decision on Burundi. The shadow Minister cites Burundi. She should be aware that there was a specific project on which we were asked to deliver on a bilateral basis. It was a very effective project, because we delivered to the Office Burundais des Recettes—the inland revenue—so that it could start to mobilise some of its resources to support development. In addition, we enhanced our multilateral aid, which we put through a transparency process. Far from criticising what we did, the shadow Minister should understand that not only did President Nkurunziza and the others in Burundi welcome our approach, but they were particularly grateful that we encouraged the Belgians to step up to fill the bilateral gap. I hope that that is useful information.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. He has huge credibility in the international development arena. He has been a Minister, and his work both then and now is hugely valued not just in this country but worldwide. He is absolutely right to say that there were a number of reasons behind the decision on Burundi. Rather than seeing a fact and then drawing her own conclusions, I urge the hon. Lady to dig a little deeper.
I thank the right hon. Lady for giving way; she is being very generous. The point about Burundi and other post-conflict countries is that, having a DFID office—or in this case a combined Rwanda-Burundi office—in that country means that it acts not just as a development partner, but a political one in knocking heads together and in dealing with some of the post-conflict factions that still exist in that country. We are talking about withdrawing from that country and only entering it through multilateral assistance. There is nothing wrong with tax assistance. We did all that in Rwanda, and it is an excellent part of development assistance. The point is that if we do not have someone on the ground in the country, we do not have the early warning systems. What happened in Burundi—
I will make some progress. I will go back to the high-level panel report that the Prime Minister was asked to co-chair by Ban Ki-moon, that was published in May 2013. We all recognise that it played a key role in shaping the broader debate around the sustainable development goals. I am talking about the discussions that it outlined and some of the objectives and challenges that it set out for the new post-2015 framework.
The UK was one of the first countries to identify sustainable development goals as the best idea around for the outcome of the Rio+20 summit. The presence of our Prime Minister on the high-level panel on sustainability and the vision of the UN Secretary-General brought the millennium development goals and the universal sustainable development goals into one entity.
My right hon. Friend is right, and she speaks from a position of authority. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr O'Brien), she is well respected, both for her service as a Cabinet Minister and for her tireless work with charities such as Tearfund. She is absolutely right: we were one of the key players that recognised the need to fuse the two agendas, of sustainability and climate change and of tackling poverty, successfully if we were to achieve the goal that my Department works faithfully to achieve of eradicating absolute—
Government Members say that they want a bipartisan approach and nowhere is that more useful than on the issue of climate change, because we need a long-term strategy. Why does the right hon. Lady resist having separate climate change goals within the sustainable development framework?
The hon. Lady is somewhat misinterpreting the Government’s position. If she looks at the report by the high-level panel of experts co-chaired by the Prime Minister, she will see that it includes a range of targets and goals in relation to climate change. I shall come on to that later but, as I have said, no one can deny that the UK has played, continues to play, and will play a leading role in climate change discussions, not least because that flows into the work that we do in international development, for example, setting up the international climate fund and investing nearly £4 billion in projects that can help to tackle development and, in many cases, give a real lead in addressing climate change.
Since the report by the high-level panel, the open working group on sustainable development goals—a group of 70 member states mandated at Rio+20 to deliver a proposal on those goals—the UK has pushed for the highest possible level of ambition. We have been consistent in our drive for member states to agree an inspiring and workable agenda centred on the eradication of extreme poverty, with sustainable development at its core, ensuring, as I said to the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), that no one is left behind.
As part of that, we have consistently argued for a strong health goal that focuses on strengthening health systems and on ensuring effective health outcomes for all women, men, girls and boys at all ages. We have clearly stated that the framework must fully integrate environment and climate change, and it must have a strong goal on gender equality focusing on improving prospects for women and girls. I was disappointed that there was no explicit reference to the importance of having a strong gender goal and the mainstreaming of women and girls’ issues in the development framework. I hope that we can continue, as we have done in the past, to have cross-party consensus on those issues to make progress.
I thoroughly endorse what my right hon. Friend has said. I should like to take the opportunity yet again to congratulate her, the Prime Minister and all those involved from all parts of the House in helping to push through the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014—something that that she has emphasised but which—and I say this with some regret—was not sufficiently observed by the Opposition spokesperson.
I am grateful for that intervention. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has worked tirelessly on gender equality issues. I am proud to have been in a Parliament and part of a Government who supported his Bill on international development and gender equality. I hope and expect that by the end of this Parliament we will have passed not just one Bill on international development introduced by a Conservative MP, but a second Bill introduced by a Liberal Democrat—a coalition effort on two Bills that will make a real difference for the long term.
We want to see, and the open working group included, the critical issues that the millennium development goals omitted, including peaceful and inclusive societies, economic growth, which is key if we are to increase people’s prosperity, and good governance. Today I shall reflect on the progress that the international community has made to date on agreeing the post-2015 development framework. The proposed sustainable development goals agreed by the open working group last July reflected a high level of ambition and the UK was instrumental in forging that outcome. Those goals have been welcomed by the NGO community, and, like the high-level panel report, they rightly devote significant attention to climate change and environmental sustainability.
The open working group’s gender goal is excellent, with targets on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies and access to justice is especially welcome.
The right hon. Lady might have missed my point on human rights, but there was a point on women and girls and child marriage in my speech. She mentioned sustainable development goal 16. Can she explain why her Conservative colleagues in the European Parliament voted against that goal?
The hon. Lady continues to seek division, which is regrettable.
Those goals have been welcomed by the NGO community, and the UK Government have said that we support the breadth and the balance of the open working group report. We recognise, though, that the post-2015 framework needs to have the universal appeal that made the MDGs so successful. Developing countries were able to take those goals in their entirety and integrate them directly in their national development plans. The deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Jan Eliasson, said clearly to me the last time we met a couple of months ago when he was in London that that was one of the unintended impacts of the MDGs—countries used them as their development strategy because they felt that they could work with them. That is why the UK has been strongly advocating a shorter, more inspiring and more implementable set of goals and targets that resonates with people around the world. We want to keep the breadth and the balance of the open working group’s goals and targets, but we want to ensure that we get a framework that can truly improve the lives of the poorest people in the poorest countries.
We know that, for the poorest people in our world, we cannot allow this discussion, process and debate to be kicked around as a political football. We should be steadily building consensus. In December the UN Secretary-General published his synthesis report “The Road to Dignity by 2030”. He called on member states to strive towards the highest level of ambition and he set out six principles that member states should strive towards: dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice and partnership—working together. He also called on member states to look at targets and to ensure that these are measurable, implementable and in line with the level of ambition that we want to see. I have spoken to the Secretary-General on a number of occasions about the post-2015 framework and about the need to make sure that, like the MDGs, it is compelling and transformative. He is right that these principles must be taken forward in negotiations.
In his synthesis report the Secretary-General made a clear link between the post-2015 framework and the outcome of the climate change conference in Paris. I agree that the two are fundamentally connected and that 2015 is a unique year and a unique opportunity to bring the two agendas together. As I argued at the UN General Assembly last year, it is the very poorest who will be hit first and hardest by climate change. Our objectives for the Paris meeting are clear and ambitious. We want an outcome that delivers the ultimate goal of the UN framework convention on climate change, which is to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting the global average temperature increase to no more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels. We are one of the few countries arguing for this to be explicit in the SDG framework. The most cost-effective and reliable way to achieve that is through an international, legally binding agreement with mitigation commitments for all.
Our approach to the 2015 framework can support that in two ways. First, it will ensure that climate is truly integrated in, and demonstrably an integral part of, the final framework of goals and targets. Secondly, if we can secure agreement at the September summit, it will help to boost multilateralism ahead of the Paris meeting in December.
I appreciate the tone that the Secretary of State is taking. I want to ask about consistency, because the one thing that I learned when I worked for Oxfam for 10 years was that to have credibility on the global stage, we need to have consistency in our domestic policies. The Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into SDGs found that there is a contradiction in the Government supporting subsidies for fossil fuels while at the same time promoting the climate change agenda. Will she say something about that?
As the hon. Lady knows, I was happy to give evidence to the Committee, because that is a key part of the SDGs that we need to get right. She will know that within the broader international development agenda we have tightened up our work, including with the World Bank, in terms of the projects that we are prepared to sign off on, so we are not investing in those fossil fuels unless there is no alternative for the poorest countries in the world to be able to get the energy they so desperately need to help them start to move down the road to development.
The UK Government have one of the proudest records of any development aid donor, both in delivering real results for the poorest people in the poorest countries and in shaping the international consensus around what matters most. Let us consider our record for one moment. We are the first country to reach the 0.7% of GNI spent on aid target—something that we promised to do for many years, and done by this Government. Our Prime Minister led the world, hosting the summit in 2011, supporting the global alliance for vaccines and immunisation, saving the lives of millions of children. Just yesterday, the world agreed to commit a further $7.5 billion to continue the important work of GAVI, or the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, from 2016 to 2020. In response to the UK’s pledge of £1 billion, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:
“The UK’s generous pledge to Gavi—which will save around 1.4 million children’s lives by 2020—is another example of how Britain invests in development solutions that provide value for money and real impact. The UK has been instrumental in helping to mobilise the international community to give generously to Gavi. The people of Britain should be proud of their huge contribution in creating a world that is healthier, more stable and increasingly prosperous.”
I wonder whether he would be confused by the tone that the shadow Minister has taken.
Would my right hon. Friend like to reflect on the fact that because of the decisions made by the whole of the House of Commons in respect of the GAVI replenishment in 2011, throughout the five years of this Parliament a child will have been vaccinated every two seconds and a child’s life saved every two minutes from diseases that none of our children, thank goodness, die from in Britain?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will know that in addition, the pledge that we made yesterday has increased our level of support for GAVI even further. The fund is not just able now to deliver vaccination and immunisation for those children; in the case of Ebola it can play a real role in stepping up to help us to combat new emerging diseases and health threats as well, so it has a much broader and more strategic impact on global health security than anyone could possibly have realised when it was being set up. It is also, critically, a model that pulls in the private sector, and allows drugs to get to children in a way that would never have been possible if we had not pulled together those different parties to work for one common goal with countries that have a common strategy on immunisation. It is incredibly important and we will continue to support it.
Our Prime Minister has led global summits in London—in 2012 on family planning and in 2013 on nutrition and combating stunting. In 2014 I was immensely proud to work with him on the Girl summit, where we catalysed a global movement to eradicate female genital mutilation and early and forced child marriage. It was a pleasure to be able to go back to Walworth academy last week to talk to people there about some of the progress that we have made over the past six months since that conference and the key role that they were able to play in ensuring that it was such a success. That focus on girls’ rights came on top of the global summit that my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), now Leader of the House, organised to prevent sexual violence in conflict.
We will use this proud record and the credibility it brings us on the world stage to argue unashamedly for a post-2015 development agenda that works as a clear strategy for eradicating poverty, leaving no one behind and achieving sustainable development.
It can be a huge step forward. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to see the broader opportunities in that Bill for enabling us to increase our ability to tackle FGM at home. One of the most important elements of the Girl summit was recognising that we have issues to resolve here in the UK, as well as playing our role internationally in helping other countries to tackle theirs.
The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) accused the Government of failing to support a stand-alone goal on health. She seems a little befuddled on this point, as her claim is inaccurate. We have supported a stand-alone goal throughout this process. Going back to the high-level panel report, if she looks at goal 4 she will see that it explicitly states that it is to “ensure healthy lives”. That is partly why, under this Government, spending on health in relation to international development, just bilaterally, has risen from £750 million a year when we came into government to about £1.25 billion a year now. We absolutely have invested in this area.
I should correct the hon. Lady on another matter where she seems to have got her facts mixed up. In a recent interview, she said that spending by the Department on fragile and conflict states has “reduced under this Government”. I have to update the House by saying that that is incorrect. In fact, investment has risen from £1.8 billion in 2009 to £2.8 billion in 2013. On the issue of poverty, where we are talking about matters of life and death, and how we can lift people out of sometimes miserable day-to-day existences, it does not do those people, or the challenges they face, any justice to be kicked about as a political football. If the hon. Lady must engage in what she calls hand-to-hand combat, I ask her at least to get her facts right.
On a stand-alone goal on climate change, I point to our Prime Minister’s own words:
“Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world. And it is not just a threat to the environment. It is also a threat to our national security, to global security, to poverty eradication and to economic prosperity.”
In short, climate change is too complex an issue to belong in just one goal; as we have said repeatedly, it needs to be interwoven or mainstreamed throughout the entire post-2015 framework.
I was only too happy to come to this place to talk about the Government’s record on shaping the sustainable development goals. As I said, I would very much have liked women and girls, and particularly tackling violence against women and girls, to have been mentioned explicitly in the motion.
I will not give way because I need to make progress.
I know that the hon. Member for Wakefield has still not yet found time to go on any visits to see any international development projects in her role as shadow Secretary of State. As and when she does get a chance to visit some of those DFID projects, I hope she will realise, and agree with me, that putting women and girls at the centre of international development is absolutely the right thing to do.
Finally, we are proud to be the first G7 Government to have achieved the 0.7% target. We are supporting the Bill on the 0.7% target that is currently passing through Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) mentioned another international development Act, and I hope that it will be the second such Bill to make it through the House. That has largely been achieved by cross-party agreement on international development. Until now, the main parties have very much worked together to ensure that we can support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
I regret that, as far as I can make out, cross-party consensus seems to be anathema to the hon. Member for Wakefield. From my experience in my current role, she seems to be doing the exact opposite of what is needed to achieve a successful post-2015 framework. It seems to me that she is picking a fight for the sake of it and, ultimately, putting politics before tackling poverty. I urge her to work constructively with us to build the strongest possible post-2015 development framework.
All picking such a fight does is give support to Poujadists outside Parliament who want to attack international development as a concept. We in the House should be united on this issue, not trying to pick fake fights, as the Opposition seem to be doing.
I agree. I believe that the track record of this Government, led by our Prime Minister, shows our absolute commitment to work with all partners so that later this year the UN can agree the most ambitious, inspiring and workable post-2015 framework that will eradicate extreme poverty once and for all, and put the world on a path to sustainable development. The world watches the UK Parliament, and I very much hope that we can now have a constructive debate with the Labour party about how we can work together—as a Government, and as a Parliament—to achieve that aim.
Several hon. Members rose—
I have listened with great interest to the opening speeches. I say to the Secretary of State that the purpose of an Opposition day debate is scrutiny, and that she has been just a trifle petulant in somehow doubting the entitlement of the Opposition to question the Government.
I say that from my experience of working with African Health Ministers, Finance Ministers and non-governmental organisations from around the world. They recognise that a new standard in international development was set by the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), during the early stages of the 1997 Labour Government. The previous Government achieved so much progress that they established the consensus from which we must now move forward, but such consensus arises only from having such opportunities for scrutiny and debate.
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to talk about scrutiny, but will she at least give this Government credit for setting up the Independent Commission for Aid Impact and for the transparency initiative? That initiative ushered in a new era of transparency, which was a first not only for a British Department of State, but for any European country.
I of course accept the importance—particularly in this area—of the discipline of transparency and of creating an expectation of it both within Governments and between them in making progress on the delivery of donor aid. That is one of the successes achieved by the millennium development goals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield has shown, progress has clearly been achieved.
This is an important moment to take stock, to recognise the huge challenges that remain and to consider the nature of the advocacy that this Parliament will make in the final stages of the UN process, which will conclude in September.
I will focus, as I said, on one important area that I have pursued with other Members through the auspices of the all-party parliamentary group for conception to age two, which is ensuring that the new sustainable development goals have a focus on early childhood. There is a universal language of childhood. Parents around the world have shared ambitions for their children, but the realisation of those ambitions is impeded by a range of circumstances.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis), the former shadow Secretary of State for International Development, asked me to undertake a campaign to secure a focus on early childhood in the next round of sustainable development goals, working through the auspices of the all-party group. Using the model of Sure Start for the world, we sought support from countries around the world to make this issue one of the benchmarks against which investments by donor countries in developing countries should be measured.
Why is this issue so important? Nearly 50% of African children will be stunted by the time they are five. That is appalling on humanitarian grounds and morally indefensible. Given that six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, the prospect of continued economic growth is less likely. There must be global investment in developing countries to ensure that their economic potential is realised. Among other interventions, we must ensure that there is maximum benefit from interventions in early childhood.
I welcome the support of 12,000 people around the world on this issue. I welcome the support of 170 countries, and the support and leadership of UNICEF. I welcome the opportunity we had to present the global petition to Amina Mohammed, Ban Ki-moon’s representative, and to address a representative group of member states at the UN.
Draft target 4.2 states:
“By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education”.
I am confident that that will begin to address the intractable inequality faced by children in the poorest countries of the world.
I sat with mothers in Malawi just over a year ago and listened to them talking about the importance of a pre-school playgroup in a rural hut and the benefits it brought to their children. Any one of us could have heard the same conversation in our constituency.
Let this House acknowledge that progress, and recognise that the sustainable development goals that underline the importance of early intervention will reshape the economies of some of the poorest countries.
I welcome this debate and am enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss what should come after the success of the MDGs and SDGs in galvanising the world in this regard. I was naturally saddened by the tone of, and some of the expressions in, the motion, which are unnecessarily divisive. I had not intended to use up any of my six minutes on that point as I do not wish to descend to that level. The right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell) was right to say that it is the duty of the Opposition to question the Government—I was an Opposition Front Bencher for 11 years so I understand that—but it is not the Opposition’s duty to adopt a tone that is both churlish and deeply divisive. That was unfortunate and I hope for some reflection after the debate on that unnecessary move.
The UK carries huge authority because we have delivered practically what people across the House, the nation and indeed internationally have so aspired to for many years. I declare my interests which, as it happens, are all pro bono and go back 35 years since I first started combating malaria. I sit on the board of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, I am the global advocate for Roll Back Malaria, the UN and World Health Organisation partnership, and I am the Prime Minister’s envoy to the Sahel. I am in no doubt about how it is critically in this country’s interest—across all political views and none, as well as for the whole international community in an increasingly globalised world—for us all to be totally focused on how to build on the success of the MDGs and the SDGs.
I am struck by the success of the coalition Government, which does indeed build on some of the work and successes that went before—I am happy to acknowledge that. The Secretary of State and her team have shown an absolute dedication and commitment, as well as a very real practical application to what makes for good results in international development. That includes the whole spectrum, from humanitarian intervention and rapid response to sustainable, resilient and good economic developments.
As we know, the best way to deliver people out of poverty—the top goal we all want—is to help them have an economic future. They will not have that without good education, with an emphasis on girls. I am proud of the fact that I started the FGM debate in Dakar in 2011, which was then taken forward by my successor. I am glad that has been supported across the House. It was all the more powerful because a bloke was doing it. We should not have divisive debates where one side tries to claim the credit. We were totally united on the issue and it is a deep sadness to me that this debate has been set up in the tone that it has.
I welcome our authority in the area of international development, which comes not just from practical delivery and the 0.7% of GNI. It has been hard won, because it has been coupled with scrutiny and transparency. Ministers set up the Independent Commission for Aid Impact to be a rod to beat ourselves with. It reports directly to the Select Committee and ensured that the shadow Secretary of State had the ammunition she has used today. Its role is not to attack the whole basis of international development, but to make sure that every single pound we spend of taxpayers’ and constituents’ money is well spent and properly targeted. That is why I was happy to put the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) right on her rather superficial approach to Burundi.
The Government, with leadership from the Prime Minister and technical ability and fantastic support, are totally committed to this agenda. We have also had some magnificent successes that give people confidence that the money has been well spent. DFID is technically superb and a world leader, and our thought leadership is also driving into the mainstream of thinking about international development. That is all at the service of the one thing that, post-1945, we have all wanted to support—the UN, which is the greatest peace deliverer on the planet. The UN has set the agenda. The Prime Minister has been part of the leadership and significant goals have been proposed on climate change, as well as the economic and human development indices.
We have had the draft 17 goals from Ban Ki-moon, which will now be debated. It would have been a worth while debate today if we could have decided how—through results and trying to set up real responsibility and accountability—we could narrow the focus of those goals so that they become deliverable and we can get them financed by the international community. That is vital, because at the moment there are too many goals and the effort could be too diffuse. We could end up losing some of the successes of the MDGs. That would have been a worthwhile debate, and Ban Ki-moon and our colleagues at the UN would have been deeply impressed had we been able to offer such help. But no, that was not the tone of this debate, sadly.
Unity of approach has put good governance, security, humanitarian development, resilience and sustainability together as part of a holistic approach, with great NGOs, great technical support from donor nations, finance and an emerging clarity of partnership. That is what I have been doing in the past two and a half years in the Sahel—another pro bono position. As recently as last Tuesday, I was sitting in Niamey in Niger, which is the poorest country in the world. The people there are desperate for food, but what is really important is to make sure we get security right—they are more fearful of Boko Haram coming across the river in the Diffa region. It is therefore much more important to tie security with humanitarian development, good governance and transparency.
While I was in Davos, it became clear that what the UK thinks was considered instructive. As we move from MDGs to SDGs, it is clear that we have leadership and we should be grateful to this Government for delivering it. I hope that unity will now break out.
I welcome the debate and have no difficulty in supporting the motion moved by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I think the House is in danger of being a bit hard on itself. Some very good points have been made already. I have to say, as somebody who has been very interested in international development since I came to the House, I have heard debates that I have found much, much more disturbing than today’s one.
It is right for the Opposition to use the time available to debate these issues. The Government could be encouraged to give more time to them, if only because it would give an airing to the Secretary of State and her ministerial colleagues—that cannot be a bad thing. I want to see more debates of this kind. I cannot join the criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) that, after seven weeks in her role, she has not been abroad. My heavens, it is a difficult enough issue to master! For heaven’s sake, let us give the House a bit more time to focus on the issues before us.
I welcome, in the spirit of the debate, the Government’s achievement of the 0.7% of GNI target. I have said that previously, and I have made no secret of my view that DFID is one of the better Government Departments. However, I believe it is perfectly reasonable for the motion to invite the Government to put before the House a commitment to that target in legislation. That has not happened, and because it has not happened we were able to debate an excellent Bill promoted and guided through Parliament by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore). He knows—I served on the Committee and am one of the Bill’s sponsors—that the Bill had my full support. I also supported the excellent Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who is not in his place. I have to say to the Secretary of State—I hope this will not be seen as unduly controversial—that it is not enough to say we have had debates initiated by Back Benchers—through them introducing, rightly, good Bills—without accepting that the Government, too, have a responsibility to introduce transparency on these matters by encouraging debates in the House.
The Bill from the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk was debated in another place last Friday. I read the debate, which I thought was excellent. It was the kind of discussion I would like to see, and have heard, in this House. I pay tribute, in particular, to the speeches of Baroness Royall, Baroness Williams, Lord Judd, who has great experience with Oxfam, and Baroness Chalker. I shadowed Baroness Chalker, although it was a bit difficult because she was in the House of Lords as the Minister in the Department. Our ability to discuss these matters has improved tremendously, but there is still room for improvement, as the need for today’s motion suggests.
I would like to pay tribute to my constituents, who have given me great support on the international development issues I have raised over the years. In particular, I pay tribute to Charles Fawcet, a retired teacher, for his work in Malawi, which I shall visit in a few weeks with him. It would be churlish of me not to thank DFID, particularly its office in East Kilbride, and the Secretary of State for the support they have given to Charles and his team as they have built up relationships between my town of Coatbridge and the people of Malawi. I hope to see some of that work when I am there.
I recognise that not everything I am saying is popular. I received some awful e-mails after the Third Reading of the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. One came from a man in Harrogate who challenged me to defend our giving money to India. I urge the Government to take a role in development education. Does this man really believe—it might comfort Conservative Members that he plans to vote for UKIP—that the starving children and the people dying of tuberculosis whom I saw when I last visited India had the slightest input into the decision of their Government to send rockets into space? Of course, they did not, and they should not be punished for their own poverty.
I am proud of the efforts of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development—I am chair of the all-party parliamentary friends of CAFOD group—but a lot more has to be done, particularly on climate change. It is right that we address this challenge, and I am glad we are doing that in this debate.
I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), who has a long and distinguished record of championing development issues and was the author of important legislation in this field.
I welcome this debate. In a year when momentous decisions have to be taken on international development, it is important to have such a debate. However, I am disappointed by the tone and terms of the motion. I have had the honour to chair the International Development Committee for nearly 10 years, in opposition and government, and during the tenure of four different Secretaries of State. I have never feared our being critical of Governments so long as our criticisms are constructive, evidence based and designed to improve the quality of our aid delivery and to probe how effectively it can be delivered. That is the tone with which we most assuredly deliver the best outcomes.
Many people, including representatives of donor Governments who have not achieved the 0.7% target, ask me how we have managed to do it. I say, “It’s quite simple. The overriding reason has been cross-party consensus”. The suggestion, therefore, that the Labour party might now break that consensus is deeply disappointing, and it should reflect on the implications. The motion criticises the Government for not having legislated on the 0.7% target, but only one country, Belgium, has done so; there is no requirement to do so; and, most importantly, we have actually delivered the target—0.71% in fact. Having said that, I am pleased that the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) is well on the way to completion, with Government support. Yes, of course it could have been done by the Government, and I wish it had been, but that is not a point of substance, because it is happening thanks to cross-party support.
The motion also criticises aspects of the SDGs, which, like the Secretary of State, I do not actually understand. We have 17 draft goals and 169 supporting resolutions, which is clearly unmanageable. It has to be boiled down to something that people can work with and remember. Ban Ki-moon has got his own six essential elements, for which I think he is seeking support. The Secretary of State or the Minister might want to say where the Government stand on that, although I imagine that we will want to be constructive and work with the United Nations. After all, it is the United Nations that to a substantial degree has ownership, although we are all members of the United Nations and Britain is a particularly important member. I think Ban Ki-moon understands, as we do, that having a plethora of goals dilutes them to the point where nobody can remember them.
Those six points—which I am sure will receive support—encapsulate the very essence of what is being criticised in today’s motion. There is a commitment on health and a commitment on climate change—they are central to those six overriding sustainable development goals. What we should be doing is working to get the maximum international consensus for a set of goals that are understandable and transparent and that enable all those commitments to be delivered in terms that will make a difference, which means ending absolute poverty by 2030 and leaving no one behind. Surely we are all agreed about that.
I believe that is where we should go. In addition, I am particularly pleased that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) referred specifically to women and girls and disability, two things that have been particularly championed by the present Government—I am not saying they were not championed by the previous Government, but they have been taken forward. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State and her former colleague as Under-Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), who took those causes up and championed them with her brand of campaigning enthusiasm.
That has made a difference, not just here and in our policy, but globally and internationally, because the thing I have found in the 10 years that I have had the privilege of doing this job in the House is that the UK gives huge leadership, not just through the volume of what we do, but through the quality of the way we do it. I know that there is an election coming up in May, but there are people outside who want to discredit and destroy our commitment on international development. I would plead with Members to recognise that what will ensure that it is delivered is for us to stay together in our commitments and to ensure that our criticisms are constructive and designed to improve the outcome and make sure that what we do actually makes a difference.
As for the final criticism—of the engagement of the private sector—in reality, unless people can gain livelihoods and employment that will enable them ultimately to pay taxes and fund social services, health care and education, the countries we are supporting will never get out of poverty. The question is: what is the role of the private sector, what is the role of the donors and how do they work together? The questions we have heard are perfectly legitimate—let me be clear about that—but the implication behind them is that, somehow or other, DFID is doing the wrong thing by pursuing that agenda, and I could not agree less.
The Committee has taken evidence from the Secretary of State this afternoon; we will publish a report that will give our view on this issue in due course. We will also publish a report next week on the future of aid, giving real challenges to DFID, but ones that are based on evidence and that I hope all parties in the House will support, so that we can continue to lead the world on the quality of development that we deliver.
It is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the International Development Committee, of which I am a member, although I think he made the cheapest political jibe of the day. However, I will not pursue that any further; I will speak to him about it another time. I would rather pay tribute to the work he has done in this place. He will be a huge loss —we will lose his experience, his commitment and his generosity in working with new members of the Committee —but I am sure he will continue to make a contribution in some other way, because it will be too much of a loss otherwise.
I am surprised at the sensitivity about looking at the hard politics that exist—and they do—in aid and development. That does not mean that there are not times when we can work together and agree. People may have problems with tone—I am pleased to say that the present Secretary of State has a very different tone from her predecessor—but we should not be put off talking about the substance and the different choices that we make. In the case of the right hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr O'Brien), although it is not a declarable interest, I would like to say that we are both patrons of Malaria No More. I am pleased and honoured to work with him in this area, but that does not mean that we cannot raise questions. Why do we think it is okay to have the Independent Commission for Aid Impact give the Department green, amber or red ratings, but not for us to talk about its performance in this Chamber and have the same open debate? I really do not understand that, so I deeply disagree with the right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry), who is not in place at the moment. I think the public become more sceptical if we do not debate this issue enough and we do not have the open debate we need. There is nothing to fear from that; otherwise, it looks like we are being terribly precious about this issue, and that we think the public could not cope with knowing that there are risks with international development. My goodness, the gains are so much greater; it is worth taking those risks. It is often a dangerous and difficult environment for a Department to work in.
It is right that the Secretary of State has provided great leadership on the issue of women and girls. I pay tribute to her for that, but I would like to see different choices and other areas in which the Department could take a lead. I hope that the next Government—hopefully a Labour Government—will be able to make those decisions. I hope that dealing with malaria will have priority, because for every minute that each speaker is on their feet in this debate, a child dies of malaria. It is an entirely preventable disease that has killed more people in the history of our planet than any other.
I am not taking any interventions; I do not want to take time away from other contributors—I am practically a saint, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I would like to see both Front-Bench teams—I am treating them fairly and equally sceptically—making a commitment to at least maintain the investment for dealing with malaria. We know that the minute we take our foot off the gas, as the Americans say, we see a resurgence of the disease. We have seen with Ebola the knock-on effects of people not seeking treatment. That would be desperately sad. As Bill Gates said, when we had the honour of him coming to speak in the Palace of Westminster recently, we are now at the point of developing a toolkit that would allow us to eradicate malaria. That is the language I would like us to start using when we talk about malaria. I would like the UK to take the lead and say that the world’s ambition should be to eradicate malaria. We need to look at the progress made as a great story, with both UK Governments taking a lead in investment and contributing to halving the number of children who die of malaria.
That is the leadership I want to see on malaria because, as Bill Gates said, we have eradicated smallpox and are close to eradicating polio. We need to raise our ambition on malaria. This is not just about health; it is about the well-being of children and access to education. The World Health Organisation recently showed that 198 million people are currently missing out on either education or employment because of malaria. We need to think about the futures of these children. Departments should be pursuing economic growth for all these agendas. That is my plea to both Front-Bench teams today. I am grateful for the House’s attention.
I am proud to serve as co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on global tuberculosis, which was established as a cross-party committee in 2005, after a group of Members went to see the problems of dealing with tuberculosis in Kenya and were immensely struck both by the then failure to get on top of a disease that had resurged globally and by the inadequate attention paid to this disease in our national discourse. Since then, our parliamentary group has worked to increase the profile of this terrible disease, which still kills 1.5 million people a year worldwide—entirely unnecessarily when this disease is, in the main, easily treatable and curable.
It is striking to reflect that TB was declared a global emergency two decades ago and that since then 25 million lives have been lost. However important our efforts to tackle Ebola—I fully support them and welcome DFID’s work in that respect and the sacrifice that many are making in doing so—we should note that TB kills as many people every two days as Ebola has so far killed in total. We have to make sure that we have a focus on this disease, while maintaining focus on the need to beat old diseases that pose a new threat today.
Yes, there have been successes. New cases have fallen sufficiently to meet the millennium development goal target, and deaths have nearly halved since 1990, but there are still 9 million new cases of TB globally every year. The number of new cases in central Asia, Africa and eastern Europe is not declining, and that is of particular concern. Moreover, we should note that the decline in new cases globally is only 1.5% a year. At the current rate, it will take us two centuries to beat the disease.
When the west got on top of TB, the annual decline was 10 percentage points a year. That tells us that unless we accelerate efforts to tackle the disease, we shall face a huge loss of life over the next 200 years, and we shall also face the growing costs of dealing with the disease. One of the reasons for that rise in costs is drug resistance. Drug-resistant TB is caused by the fact that we have drugs that are 60 years old. We have old-fashioned antibiotics. Nor do we have a proper vaccine for TB, although many believe that we do. As a consequence, we are seeing the emergence of a lethal form of TB that is 450 times as expensive to treat. It is worrying that less than a quarter of drug-resistant cases of TB are detected, and only half are successfully treated. The Prime Minister’s anti-microbial resistance commission, which was established last July, has warned that a failure to tackle drug resistance could mean 10 million deaths from all diseases by 2050, and that, crucially, that would reduce world GDP by two to three and a half percentage points by 2050. All those facts make the case for more action now.
No. I was about to say that the Government’s response has been superb. They have just committed £1 billion to replenish the global fund, which is one of the biggest commitments that have been made. Eighty per cent. of all the world’s funding to fight TB is channelled through the fund, and as a result 12.3 million TB sufferers have been tested and treated so far. However, it should be recognised, in the context of the overall programme for tackling TB and the World Health Organisation’s target of ending TB by 2035, that there is a £2 billion annual shortfall. That is not the responsibility of the United Kingdom. There is a global shortfall amounting to a quarter of the resources that we need to beat this disease.
Let me urge two courses of action. First, we need to focus in the sustainable development goals on diseases that we can beat—TB, HIV and malaria—and on an explicit target to beat them. Secondly, we should step up our research and development effort to combat TB. We are at a tipping point: there is an opportunity, and there is a threat. The opportunity is the availability of new technology, which could enable us to beat TB within a generation. The threat is drug resistance, along with inadequate funding and insufficient efforts to combat the disease. That could mean an awful lot of cost and human suffering in future. DFID is the world’s best funder of research and development, and, given its fantastic leadership position, it could convene an international effort to step up research and development to beat TB.
I am proud to have led the formation of a global TB caucus last year, when 170 Members of Parliament from five continents came together to urge stronger action to tackle this disease. The success of our Committee and the caucus has been due to their cross-party nature, and the fact that they have operated on the basis of consensus. That tone was sadly lacking in the ill-judged speech of the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh).
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Although there is cross-party agreement on much of the United Kingdom’s aid programme, it is perfectly proper for all of us to ask questions, raise concerns and demand evaluation, in order to ensure that the taxpayer’s money is spent transparently and wisely and we secure the best possible value for money in the outcomes that it produces. Those are genuine concerns that our constituents have raised with us. The more certain DFID can be that money is not going astray—and, moreover, can demonstrate to the British public that that is the case—the better.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) on introducing his Bill, but it was chance that his name came up in the ballot and he chose that topic. It is a shame that it was left to chance, rather than being brought forward by the two Government parties, both of which had promised such a Bill in their manifestos.
Clearly, 2015 is a historic year for international development. It is a time when we will be talking about both the sustainable development goals and climate change, on two very important occasions in September and December of this year, and I want to see the UK really taking a lead, as we have done in the past. I certainly do not want us to be backtracking on anything to do with climate change, which I see as one of the most important issues. It is directly linked to international development. It is blatantly clear to us that while we have enjoyed economic development and have created many of the climate change issues, it is people in developing countries who are suffering the consequences;, and it will be they who suffer drought and flooding if the temperature rises and they who will have the least resilience. It is very important therefore that we help those countries to build the necessary resilience and that we recognise the importance of tackling climate change and raise it at every possible opportunity. We know perfectly well that our tackling it here is not enough; it needs to be done on an international scale.
It is important that we get value for money, so will the Secretary of State tell us exactly what she is going to do to tackle the issues raised in the National Audit Office report on the funding of the Private Infrastructure Development Group? The report said the Department
“lacks sufficiently robust information to demonstrate that investment in PIDG is the best option”,
and its financial control has been lacking. Likewise, please will she tell us what she is going to do about the concern that was raised about TradeMark Southern Africa—about petty cash and so forth—as that is important?
The Ebola crisis is ongoing, and it is too early for us to say what might not have been done as well as it could have been. I want to praise the efforts of all who have been involved and pay tribute to the sacrifice that many of them have made to help people, but concerns were raised in the evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee, and in what we saw on our TV screens, with Save the Children suggesting that perhaps there was not sufficient experience there. What can be done in future to identify people who would be able to help in such circumstances—people who would be able to go and help build the infrastructure, because it was a case of starting from zero? Can we make sure that if such people are identified they can be released to help, perhaps in the way that happens with reservist forces?
It also appears that not having direct flights has hindered some of the aid organisations and has increased costs. I would have thought it would be easier to identify planes coming in from Sierra Leone, for example, than having people change planes somewhere else and making it less easy to identify who is coming back from Sierra Leone.
The issue of human rights is fundamental to the SDGs. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) on his International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, but we know that rights and empowerment are often hard-won and easily eroded, so we can never be complacent. While there have been strides forward in getting more girls into school and raising the issue of violence against girls and women, there are still huge challenges.
Likewise, we need to do more to safeguard the rights of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and of people who have disabilities. It is also important that we should promote the right to join a trade union, just as we talk about self-sufficiency and sustainability in terms of economic development and good governance. With these rights too, empowerment and training are vital, and it is regrettable that the Government have withdrawn funding for the International Labour Organisation, which I would like restored as soon as possible.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith). I welcome the fact that the Opposition have brought forward this debate, if not the particular motion. This is an important subject, and I agree with them that it is regrettable that there is not more opportunity in Government time to debate these important matters. However, I really regret the tone in which the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) chose to introduce the debate. She disregarded the consensus that has existed on this subject over a number of years, and I am really surprised that she did so; it was like a hackneyed replay of the playbook that we saw before the last general election.
When the draft Bill to enshrine the spending of 0.7% of our GDP on the United Nations target for official development assistance was introduced, it was clear that it was intended to create a dividing line between the then Labour Government and the Conservative Opposition. I give credit to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) for the rather nifty piece of footwork that he employed in committing the Opposition to supporting it. It was easy for me, as the Liberal Democrat spokesperson, to make that commitment. The Bill therefore had cross-party support.
In the past, I have credited the Labour Government with the fact that they started the debate and set the track for us to follow in getting to the 0.7% target. However, there was no hint today of Labour acknowledging that leadership and welcoming everyone else into the fold; it was Labour, Labour, Labour and nothing else. I think that people outside this place will judge us harshly if this hard-won consensus cannot be seen to hold. They would have gained no impression at all from the hon. Member for Wakefield that we had even reached the 0.7% target under the coalition, on the back of the work that the previous Labour Government did.
I set all that out on Second Reading of my private Member’s Bill and on every subsequent occasion. It was my great good fortune to come second in the ballot and to introduce that piece of legislation. Until today, I also regarded it as my great good fortune to have such clear cross-party support, rather than the point scoring that we have now seen. If Labour had wanted to claim leadership on this, it had the chance in government to bring such legislation forward, but it did not actually do it, so Labour Members should not criticise the coalition for not having done it in Government time.
On the point about Labour MPs delivering on this, I must say that they were here in numbers during the passage of my Bill. I am grateful to every last one of them who was here in the Chamber and who voted on all its different stages. Six people voted against it on Second Reading. Seven voted against the money resolution and five voted against it on Third Reading. Any one of the parties on this side delivered more votes than was required. Labour Members were critical of closure motions, but please let us recognise that the passage of the Bill in this place was a joint enterprise.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that I supported his Bill all the way. If I may say so, he seems unusually proactive this afternoon, but perhaps if he calms down he will acknowledge that the fact that some people—albeit a minority—tried to talk out his Bill on Third Reading shows that there is a case for more development education, starting in this House.
I apologise for surprising the right hon. Gentleman with my tone. I do not want to say that the Opposition started it, but there really is a different kind of tone to the debate today. I thank him for his contribution to the Bill, and for his own track record as a Minister and in piloting the earlier legislation through. He is right to draw attention to the nay-sayers, who I must point out opposed the Bill from both sides of the Chamber—
None of them is in the Chamber this afternoon; that is the important point.
The point is that we have now, happily, got the Bill into another place, and I want to pay tribute to my great friend the noble Lord Purvis who is piloting it there. There were two speeches against it on Friday—one from a Conservative peer and one from a Labour peer—so let us please put this nonsense behind us. It is entirely legitimate to scrutinise legislation in that way. It is entirely fair of the hon. Member for Wakefield to ask challenging questions of the Secretary of State, and it is entirely fair of the hon. Member for Llanelli to add to that list of questions. Let us have more time to debate and scrutinise, just as the International Development Committee, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), has done, with cross-party support, and just as the Independent Commission for Aid Impact is doing within the Department. All those things matter, because outside this Chamber the consensus is not as wholehearted as we believe it to be. It is therefore important that we can show what aid is for and show that we, as custodians of taxpayers’ money, are looking after that money properly. We have a proud position in the United Kingdom. We can claim international leadership in this regard, but it is a joint endeavour; let us not squander it.
Given some of the comments made in this debate, may I begin by saying that I firmly believe there are sincere individuals on both sides of this House who have track records of commitment and of speaking in this House on these issues? However, it is fair to raise sceptical questions, and some of the glossing over of history we have heard is a little rich coming from Government Members. May I gently mention the comments made by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore)? I strongly welcome his effort in bringing in his Bill, but to say that the last Labour Government put this down as a dividing line is very unfair.
I was an adviser in the Department at the time and was very involved with the drafting of our draft Bill. I can tell him with all sincerity that it was brought forward, first, to show leadership and, secondly, to lock in the commitment that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) later gave. We had reasonable scepticism about what a possible incoming Government might do, given some comments about international development aid that we hear from Members who are not in the Chamber today, and given the record of previous Conservative Governments in slashing DFID’s budget. Every time they had come to office previously, they had merged it back into the Foreign Office, so it was perfectly reasonable for us to set that down.
I welcome the fact that the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk introduced his Bill and I welcomed his commitment in opposition, too. I also welcome the Government’s support for his Bill—or at least some Conservative and Liberal MPs came to support it as it went through. But it is a bit rich to gloss over things. The last Government’s leadership took the aid budget to where it was and set up DFID, and it is important to put that on the record.
I wish the hon. Gentleman would not accuse people of “glossing over” things. I invite him to look back at any of the speeches I made, particularly the one on Second Reading, where I laid out, in terms, the Labour party’s record on this issue. I remind him that half a dozen people opposed the Bill, and he needs to be careful what he is suggesting.
I am not accusing the right hon. Gentleman; I was accusing some in this House today of glossing over Labour’s record on these issues. Indeed, I have previously welcomed what he did.
Let me deal with the sustainable development goals, the main subject of the debate. It is important that we get back to the base principles. It is in our fundamental common interest, as well as being a moral imperative, to get the sustainable development goals right and to continue to make the case for development in this House. Fundamentally, it is a moral case that everyone is born the same and deserves the same opportunity. People in this country and the world over, including in my constituency—where I regularly have difficult debates on the doorstep about this—are not insulated from the consequences of poverty, conflict and climate change in other countries. We may see that in shifts in migration—we have all seen the terribly tragic events that are repeatedly happening in the Mediterranean; in poverty-driven conflict creating further zones of instability around the world, which can then lead to the risk of young people, including from my constituency, being dragged into fighting for organisations such as ISIS or al-Shabaab; and in terms of disease, as we have all seen with the tragic circumstances of Ebola in west Africa and the consequences of people then travelling around the world.
This is about the tragedy of the Mediterranean. I do not blame the Secretary of State for this situation, but tomorrow it is one year to the day since the House of Commons voted to support the Syrian refugee programme, and as of now there are only 90 Syrian refugees in the UK. Is that not shameful? Let us hope the Government will still, even at this stage, reconsider.
I thank my hon. Friend for the point he makes. I have met many Syrian refugees in my constituency and they come with some truly harrowing tales of what they left behind.
We need not only to guard against the risks but to consider the opportunities of fairer trade, which would benefit this country and developing countries. I am glad to say that many organisations and individuals in my constituency recognise that fact, and do some incredible campaigning work to raise these issues locally and put the pressure on internationally, too. I am thinking of organisations such as the Penarth and District Lesotho Trust, of which I am proud to be a patron. It has been operating for 10 years, supporting a schools and churches link with Teyateyaneng in Lesotho, and supporting a school, a library and other community work there; there are strong links with the local schools of St Cyres and Stanwell in my constituency. The Penarth fair trade forum has set up a local fair trade business directory, has gained the support of the town council, does fundraising and has held fair trade fashion shows. Indeed, last year it had a fair trade public speaking competition for local schools on the question, “Is fair trade a load of bananas?” That sort of work, bringing in the younger generation, enables the pressure to be built up and the consensus to be developed.
I also wish to pay tribute to the diaspora communities in my constituency, particularly those from Somaliland and Yemen, who do incredible work in fundraising for crucial development projects back in their home countries. I have been to a number of events where such fundraising has taken place. Those communities provide incredible support in terms of their remittances. They are also involved in fundraising for places such as Gaza which are facing humanitarian crises. Incredible work is done locally in raising funds for Islamic Relief.
I also praise the Welsh Labour Government for setting up the Wales for Africa programme, which encourages community links and the mutual understanding that fundamentally changes the simplistic view that we should not be helping people overseas and that charity begins at home. It recognises that we are all interdependent and that what happens overseas matters to our own communities.
Let me turn briefly to a false dichotomy that I often hear in this House. It is the idea that there is clash between supporting development and supporting defence. I am very clear that there can be no development without security and, equally, no security without development. I mentioned Yemen and Somaliland, which provide us with some interesting examples in that regard. Yemen is a country with which we have historical ties. We also have a strong diaspora in this country, including in my own constituency. It is also one of the poorest countries in the middle east, and far too often it has been overlooked and forgotten by the international community. I know that this Government and the previous Labour Government made commitments to Yemen and have taken a strong interest in the country. None the less, I question whether we are doing enough. Yemen is now descending into chaos, with al-Qaeda affiliates and others now in the country. It is a prime example of a country that matters.
The opposite has happened in Somaliland, in which the right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) takes a great deal of interest. Investment in development, in increasing democracy and in action to prevent the spread of extremism by groups such as al-Shabab has led to great strides forward for its population. There is the more fundamental question about the recognition of Somaliland. I firmly believe that we need to listen to its citizens in that regard. These examples show why development matters, why we need to continue to consider these issues, and why we need to ensure that they are at the heart of the sustainable development goals.
This is a crucial year. As you said, Mr Speaker, there are a number of anniversaries in 2015. They include the 10th anniversary of the Make Poverty History movement and that incredible march in Edinburgh. I hope that we will all go forward with the same vigour and spirit in trying to achieve success at those summits.
In 1983, shortly after being elected to this House, I went with an all-party team to Ethiopia to witness a famine of almost biblical proportions. Over the past 30 years, Parliament has moved considerably when it comes to all-party consensus on supporting the need to invest in international development. It is also fair to observe that throughout those 30 years, under Governments of different dispensations—for a time, I was Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for overseas development aid—we always had an aspiration to use 0.7% of our GDP to fund overseas development, but not until this Government has that been achieved. In both 2013 and 2014, we reached that target, and we were one of the few leading economies in the world to do so.
Like other Members, I am disappointed that we have had to have this debate in these terms. It must have been difficult for the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) to take up a Front-Bench brief so near to a general election, and I can understand her wanting to make her mark. However, it would have been perfectly possible for the usual channels and the two Front-Bench teams to have produced a motion for today’s debate on which we could all agree.
As everyone who has taken a close interest in international development issues will know—as indeed you, Mr Speaker, will know, because we served together on the International Development Committee—there are more critics of international development outside the House than inside it. One only has to look at the editorials of some of our national newspapers to see continuing criticism of our spending funds on international development. We should be totally up front about our position. We should explain not only that it is morally indefensible that billions of people in the world are living in grinding poverty on less than $1 a day, but that it is in our national interests that we support international development. We should be proud, collectively and on both sides of the House, of what we have achieved.
With all due respect to the shadow Minister, all those who listened to her speech—and all those who read it in Hansard—will have got the impression that she was slightly spoiling for a fight because she needed to find something to disagree about. When it comes down to it, one report by the National Audit Office does not add up to any policy differences.
We should focus on the sustainable development goals, which the Prime Minister has played a big part in leading—he co-chaired the UN Secretary-General’s high-level panel on post-2015 goals together with the President of Sierra Leone and the former President of Indonesia. It is absolutely right that the basic concept should be of no one being left behind: we must make it clear that no goals or targets are considered achieved unless they are met by all relevant economic and social groups. It is important that the social development goals are clear, concise, relevant and communicable. We should not have too many goals. Sometimes, there are so many goals that people forget what they are and they get lost.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the proposals from the panel the Prime Minister co-chaired included 12 universal goals and national targets, which have been taken forward in the brief that Ban Ki-Moon issued six months later. My right hon. Friend will be aware, given the point that has been made by the Opposition, that three or four of those goals refer specifically to energy and climate change. As a Minister, I was privileged to support Ban Ki-moon in the conference that he convened on energy support for renewables in the developing market.
I would hope that no one in the House believes that tackling climate change is not important. It is important that the sustainable development goals give priority to environmental sustainability to tackle climate change—that is an essential prerequisite of poverty eradication—and go on to deal with issues such as disaster risk reduction, water and food security, and nutrition. All of those are tied up with climate change. The House should not spend time being concerned about climate change deniers—we have moved on from that.
The sustainable development goals highlight aspects of governance that the millennium development goals left out. If we go back to the heady days of 2000, it was a frabjous time when the whole international community came together. There was a feeling that just by announcing millennium development goals they would happen but, as we have seen, there are still issues with transparency, corruption, the rule of law, property rights, peace and security, all of which are important.
The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and I are both officers of the all-party group for Somaliland and Somalia. Earlier this year, the Foreign Office allowed me to go to Mogadishu for a single day—it was a very long day visit—because security is so bad in Somalia that that was all that I was permitted to do. Two days after I returned, there was a mortar attack on the presidential house in Mogadishu, in which, sadly, a number of people were killed. It is incredibly difficult—how does one manage a country that has been undermined by terrorists and insurgents? Likewise, when I went to Juba last year—how does one run country that is locked in civil war? So it is absolutely right that the sustainable development goals are going to focus on issues such as corruption, transparency and trying to bring security.
I will be brief. A report by the Environmental Audit Committee is tagged to this debate, and we hope it will inform the discussion and that Members will look at our detailed conclusions.
I welcome today’s debate and agree that we should enshrine in legislation the goal of 0.7%, irrespective of whether or not it has been agreed. The point I want to emphasise is that previously in the millennium development goals, insufficient attention was paid to environmental protection and sustainable development. In this year of opportunity, we must make sure that we in the UK and the European Union show the necessary leadership to get to where we need to be at the Paris negotiations with the climate change targets, and at the New York summit with the sustainable development goals.
Looking back at previous work on sustainability and initiatives such as local agenda 21, I feel that we do not yet have the mechanism across civil society, Parliament, Government and business to make sure that the objectives we all seek are not seen as merely academic, but are translated into policy in both developed and developing countries. The sustainable development goals are important for the UK, so that we do as we say and say as we do, giving us the integrity to lead by example.
Just as the International Development Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee are scrutinising the sustainable development goals, so did the Environmental Audit Committee. I noted with interest the letter that came through on 8 January in response to the European Scrutiny Committee report, which said that it is important to achieve
“a final framework of goals and targets that is simple, inspiring and workable while retaining the breadth and balance of the 17 goals”.
We must not water down those 17 goals. There are risks in watering them down if that means less emphasis on sustainable development. I hope the Minister will address that when he responds.
I note that in the same response the Government speak about the eradication of extreme poverty, but we must give the same amount of policy attention to the need to reduce inequalities. We must deal with sustainable development as well as inequalities internationally on the world stage and in our constituencies. I heard what my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell) said about children and the best start ever. As much as we do internationally, we must do at home. Tomorrow I am hosting a working group with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists so that children in Stoke-on-Trent have the best possible start.
All these issues are important. I hope that in his reply the Minister will tell us a little about the climate change aspects and how we will ensure that that is embedded in all the sustainable development goals. I hope he can tell us how the green thread of environmental sustainability will similarly be embedded in those goals. I hope he will tell us how we will deal with the issues nationally. We have heard a lot about international development, but this is just as much a matter for the Treasury, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Cabinet Office and the Office for National Statistics, because we will need to monitor and audit the implementation of the sustainable development goals that we want to see agreed in New York.
Finally, this is about future generations—our children and grandchildren. We must do everything possible to communicate this policy through education for sustainable development, so that graduates are equipped by their training to apply the principles of sustainable development to the outcomes that we want from the sustainable development goals to be agreed in New York this year.
This has been a long debate. I would not say that the tone of it has been edifying or that the content of some of the speeches has added to the great words in Hansard for generations to come. Perhaps now, as we near the end of the debate, we can get on to some of the positives that four and three quarter years of this Parliament have been about. It has been about reaching the 0.7% goal. That is a huge achievement. It has been about guiding the private Member’s Bill through so that it will be enshrined in law. That is an amazing achievement that has not been done in 13 years or in four years. We are getting there. Those things need to be put on the record and we should be incredibly proud of them.
We must take forward issues such as ensuring that girls can go to school, not just up to the age of 11, but up to the age of 14, or whenever. That is where our ambition should be. This debate should have been so much more about the positive future, about building on the fantastic four and three quarter years of this Parliament and reaching the 0.7% goal, and where we will go in the future. It is unbelievably churlish for people to talk disparagingly about the private sector being involved in these things. Are they really having a pop at Diageo, which has taken over from the Guinness Trust? Is that what this has come down to in this Chamber? Some of the people who have made comments in this Chamber should be ashamed of themselves. I cannot believe that they were proud to stand up and make such comments. It is very sad.
On a more positive note, the important thing is to take forward the next set of goals that this country can agree to, with their great plans for the future. We work with some tremendous charities. Plan UK and RESULTS have been superb in educating and showing parliamentarians what is going on out there in the world: what is going on in Ethiopia with TB, in Tanzania with farming, with Oxfam and other such organisations. That is where the future lies. I hope that we never have another of these debates with this tone. It demeans Parliament and I am really sorry that it happened today. The future is with us and we can explain to all the voters that it is in our country’s best interest for other countries to develop and have a peaceful and safe future. If we can do that with some of our taxpayers’ money, that is the right thing to do.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, referred to the report we have produced on the sustainable development goals. Given the nature of business during the next few months, it will probably not even receive a Government reply and it certainly will not get much time for debate, so I would like to highlight a few of the report’s recommendations, to which the Minister and the shadow Minister might respond.
We strongly took the view that it was important that there were stand-alone climate change goals in the new sustainable development goals. I know they are currently there and I hope that the Government and the Opposition will confirm that they will recognise the importance of maintaining those in the final package.
In terms of specific recommendations, we emphasised the importance of phasing out the subsidies to carbon intensive energy sources in developing countries. There is no point in our having tight emissions targets if we then encourage activities that produce increasing carbon emissions anywhere in the world, and certainly in developing countries. We emphasise the importance of ensuring there are the highest standards of environmental protection in trade deals. Only today, the Committee took evidence on the new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership proposals and the need to ensure that they do not jeopardise environmental standards, both within the European Union and the United States, and in the consequential effects on developing countries.
We emphasise the importance of the UK leading efforts to improve air quality in cities. We know that in the UK, the numbers dying from poor air quality are much greater than originally realised, and that is even more of an issue in developing countries, with urbanisation continuing to develop in many parts of the world. Once again, I hope that is an issue on which the Government will take a lead.
We emphasise the importance of—the phrase we use may not be the most elegant but nevertheless it highlights what we want to say—decoupling economic growth from an increase in natural resource use. I hasten to add that we are not against economic growth, but we want to get away from the idea that economic growth has to be accompanied by increasing resource use, and increasing climate emissions as well.
We recommended an annual report on the impact of the international climate fund. That is an important initiative, but it has to be done properly to ensure, apart from anything else, that we do not waste the money when it is going to the most effective uses.
It is important to establish marine protected areas in the UK overseas territories. The only marine protected area that has been established so far is in the Indian ocean territories, and that is more to do with the Chagos islanders and other issues than with having a marine protected area in that part of the world.
There is a very important recommendation on engaging young people in the UK with the renewed sustainable development goals and supporting activities that raise awareness about sustainable development. I am concerned about the future of the international citizen service—an initiative initially promoted by the previous Government that has been much promoted by the current Government. I hope the Minister can give a commitment that the UK will continue to support the international citizen service after this year, when it is due to terminate. That is important. We all know from our work in our constituencies that the genuine interest among schoolchildren and other young people underpins the commitment across the Chamber and across the country to supporting our international development goals.
Absolutely. Public debate, engagement and support strengthen the hand of any Government in international negotiations such as those later this year.
Last week, I was fortunate to visit Leith Walk primary school in my constituency, where the students and their teachers had been involved in the important and valuable send my sister to school initiative. I am sure that we all have in our constituencies the same experience of young people being very committed to taking action on these issues. I hope that the Government will continue to support that through the continuation of the international citizen service.
It is important to be non-partisan on this issue, as far as possible, and to ensure that we have the widest consensus among political forces in this Chamber and outside. At the same time, it is also right to criticise and challenge a Government where there are failings. That is why I intervened on one of my colleagues about refugees from Syria and, bluntly, the Government’s failure to live up to what was promised just over a year ago. I know that is not the direct responsibility of the International Development Secretary, but the failure of the Home Secretary and her Ministers to live up to what we promised is a blot on our otherwise good record in supporting refugees and international development. I recognise that the Secretary of State cannot today suddenly reverse the Government’s record to date on supporting Syrian refugees, but I hope that she will have a word with her ministerial colleagues to ensure that we now live up to the Government’s commitments, which I believed at the time were made in good faith and which were supported across the House. I would like a change in our actions to be consistent with the policy that the Government followed just over a year ago.
I refer Members to my entries on international development in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
I am delighted that we have this opportunity to debate the sustainable development goals, which are incredibly important. Since 2000, the eight millennium development goals have achieved amazing results. My right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr O’Brien) and my colleague on the International Development Committee, the hon. Member for East Lothian (Fiona O’Donnell), spoke about malaria. Since 2000, there has been a fall in the number of malaria deaths per year from over 1 million to about 600,000. That is still far, far too many. Nevertheless, several million people, mainly women and children, are still alive today because of the results of the work that has been done through the MDGs. I congratulate this Government on increasing the amount spent on combating malaria from £150 million a year to approximately £500 million this year, in fulfilment of a commitment made in the Conservative party manifesto. That was a direct result of the millennium development goal. If it had not been there, this would not have happened.
The twin goals of the World Bank are, by 2030, to eliminate absolute poverty and to promote shared prosperity and thereby reduce inequality. Those goals are absolutely vital. This afternoon, the International Development Committee had the honour of questioning the Secretary of State for our report on jobs and livelihoods. In evidence to the Committee, the Department has said that the world must create 600 million new jobs not by 2030, but by 2020, which is the end of the next Parliament should it run for a full five years. For me, that is the major challenge that the world faces, and so many of the sustainable development goals are pertinent to it, which is why I will concentrate on it today.
Without peace and governance—goal 16—there is no prospect of sustainable development or of creating those jobs. Let us remember that Somalia is improving at the moment thanks to the work of the peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, each of which has lost hundreds of its soldiers in that effort, and that some of those soldiers have been trained by the United Kingdom. Peace and governance are therefore absolutely critical.
Jobs and livelihoods are referred to in goals 1, 2 and 8, particularly in relation to agriculture, which sustains so many hundreds of millions of people. It is vital to give priority to the work on jobs and livelihoods. I congratulate the Secretary of State and her predecessor, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), on doing so, and I also congratulate the previous Government, who set out on that course.
Following on from that work must come taxation, which is mentioned in goal 17.1, because only through fair taxation can we provide the revenues to bring about the public goods necessary for sustainable development.
Health systems have quite rightly been mentioned. We have recently published a report on them. It is vital to ensure that the direct work done on malaria, TB, HIV and neglected tropical diseases is reflected in horizontal work across health systems. We must not forget about strengthening health systems while we are tackling diseases.
That is absolutely critical, and I entirely agree that it must come out in the SDGs.
Goal 4 deals with education, without which people will not be in a position to fill the jobs and create the wealth needed. My constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), has done sterling work in piloting through his Bill on gender equality. I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State say in Committee today that it looks as though we are spending roughly 50% of the international development budget on women and girls. It would be great to have that confirmed for the record.
Finally, as many Members have said—including the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), whose work in this area I greatly respect—unless we tackle climate change, it will be impossible to live in a sustainable world and to create the jobs and livelihoods that everybody needs.
The motion calls on the Government
“to show global leadership on tackling the causes of poverty inequality and climate change.”
I am afraid that I cannot support the motion, because I believe that the Government are already showing such leadership under the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, and with the support of the whole House.
I am very pleased that Labour has called this debate to highlight a particularly momentous year for international development, with the launch of the sustainable development goals and the climate change talks in Paris in December. Much was achieved under the previous development framework of the millennium development goals, but much more of course needs to be done. In the time available, I want to concentrate on a few of the goals.
Goal 2, on hunger, has among its targets that the world should ensure that
“food systems are stable, sustainable and produce enough nutritious food for all”,
“all people can access and consume adequate, affordable and nutritious food.”
Given that the sustainable development goals, unlike the MDGs, will apply to developing and developed countries, I am keen not only for such targets to be implemented in the developing world, but for them to be addressed in the UK, where food poverty is very much an issue and there are real concerns about child malnutrition.
There are also concerns about food distribution. The International Development Committee produced an excellent report on food security. We produce more than enough calories to feed a world population of 9 billion, which we are estimated to reach by 2050. There is enough food, but it does not get to the people who need it. We have obesity on the one hand, and starvation and malnutrition on the other. According to the UN, more than a third of the food that is produced—about 1.3 billion tonnes—ends up being wasted. That is a scandal.
The food that is wasted, according to Tristram Stuart’s excellent book of 2009, “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal”, is enough to feed 3 billion people. That would still leave enough surplus for countries to provide their populations with 130% of their nutritional requirements. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that every year the production of food that is wasted generates 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases and uses up to 1.4 billion hectares of land, which is 28% of the world’s agricultural area. Globally, the blue water footprint for the agricultural production of food waste is about 250 km3, which is more than 38 times the blue water footprint of USA households.
That brings me to goal 9, which is that,
“All people enjoy a sustainable, healthy and resilient environment”,
and goal 10, which is that,
“The world is on track to avoid dangerous climate change and is less vulnerable to its impacts”.
The targets that are attached to goal 9 are admirable:
“Reduce ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss… Manage natural resources that are essential for people’s basic needs within their natural limits… Embed sustainable consumption and production in national policies and practice.”
Again, those goals apply not just to developing countries, but to the UK. There is much that we could do and need to do to meet those targets.
Goal 10 is about linking human development with the future of the planet. As has been said, we cannot eradicate poverty unless we tackle climate change. It has an impact in many ways. It affects whether a country can produce enough food to feed its people and whether people can move beyond subsistence farming to being able to make a living from farming. It affects the water supply. For example, we can look at the impact that climate change and glacial melt are having on the mountainous areas of Nepal and Tibet, which are sometimes described as the third pole because they make up the third biggest ice mass after the Arctic and Antarctic. It causes natural disasters that range from droughts to floods and that include typhoons, tropical storms and landslides due to soil degradation.
Yesterday, I met seven of the eight ambassadors and chargés d’affaires from central American countries and last week I met the high commissioner from the Maldives. Those countries see the impact of climate change on their lives on a daily basis. The Maldives might no longer exist if we do not meet the 2° target. That is why what happens in Paris at the end of the year is so important.
I have asked the Secretary of State at International Development questions about the Government’s commitment to a stand-alone climate change goal. I admit that I am still slightly confused. I have heard from other people that we will probably accept all 17 goals. However, in her response to me, the Secretary of State suggested that she would prefer to see sustainability mainstreamed across the post-2015 framework. I agree that it is important that the issue is mainstreamed, as it ought to be across all Departments in the UK, but that does not mean that there is no need for a lead Department on climate change in the UK. In the same way, I believe that a stand-alone sustainable development goal on climate change would help to focus minds, keep the issue firmly on the agenda and ensure that we do not drop the ball on what is a very important issue.
As we have heard from a number of speakers, 2015 has the potential to be an historic year for international development. The international community will come together in September to agree the sustainable development goals and at the end of the year to agree a framework to tackle climate change. That will happen just in year one of the next Parliament. The next five years must be about not just making the right agreements but, crucially, delivering on them. That will require commitment, energy and, crucially, leadership on the international stage. We will need the ability to set the agenda, to advocate and persuade, to build alliances, and to use our influence to make a difference for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell), who rightly mentioned how we strove for consensus. Let us remember that the consensus was built by the last Government; it was not there from the beginning. It is also important to recognise that our criticism of the Government is not that they do not act on the international stage on international development—of course they do and we welcome that—but it is the force of their advocacy and leadership. Compare that with the last Labour Government. We created the Department for International Development. We trebled the aid budget. We founded the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We led on cancelling debt. We created the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and we drove the efforts on the millennium development goals.
In contrast, the Government have failed to show leadership at home, never mind abroad. They had a clear manifesto commitment to legislate on 0.7% gross national income in international aid—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) listens, he will find that we are much more in agreement and perhaps he too will be open to transparency, accountability and debate—things that both sides of the House welcome. The 0.7% aim was in the Conservatives’ manifesto and the coalition agreement. Thankfully, the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) delivered a Bill on 0.7% and I pay tribute to him and all the Members who got behind the Bill to make sure that we delivered on our international obligations. I just wish that it had been done in Government time, which would have shown more leadership—
The Government supported it.
Well, we should also highlight the fact that more Labour MPs voted in favour of the Bill than MPs from every other party combined.
With crucial negotiations and agreements coming up, I want the next Government to be drivers, not passengers. The new sustainable development goals must go faster to eliminate extreme poverty and focus on tackling inequality, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley). To add to that, we would prioritise universal health coverage, human rights for all, including women, children and the disabled, and the effects of climate change.
Access to health care should be based on a person’s need, not their ability to pay. It should be a right, not a privilege. That is why, unlike the Government, we will support a stand-alone goal on universal health coverage. Universal health coverage does not just help improve health outcomes, it would help reduce inequality and stop 100 million people a year from falling into poverty. I pay tribute to two Conservative Members who spoke passionately about causes that are dear to them. The right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) has shown a tremendous commitment to the fight against tuberculosis and raised the important point of multi-drug resistance. Universal health coverage could be an important element of that fight in the future. I had the privilege of serving on the International Development Committee with the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) for almost 18 months, and he spoke of his commitment to the issue of malaria, and the work done by the last Government and this to tackle it. I know first hand, from our conversations and from serving on the Committee, of the good work that he does. I am sure that that will have the support of both sides of the House and, I hope, the next Labour Government.
Negotiations on universal health coverage are also about resilience to humanitarian disasters or outbreaks of disease, and we have already heard about the difference that can make. Nigeria, which has invested strongly in building its health systems, was able to contain and beat the Ebola virus, but Sierra Leone—let us remember that the Government cut support for that country—has struggled to cope, resulting in loss of life and the need for even greater support from the Government and the international community.
On the issue of Ebola, I wish to put on record again, on behalf of both sides of the House, our thanks to and appreciation of Pauline Cafferkey and all those from the United Kingdom who volunteer to go and help in the fight against Ebola. Pauline is an example of a real hero in our community, and I am sure that we all want to send her our best wishes as she recovers from Ebola and returns home to Rutherglen in Scotland.
I echo the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), who rightly paid tribute to our tremendous staff at the Department for International Development. They are heroes in their own right, struggling and fighting to make a difference to people’s lives across the world.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned that we had cut aid to Sierra Leone. We have spent more money on health in Sierra Leone in every year of this Parliament than the previous Government. Where is he getting his figures from? It is duff information.
It is good to see the hon. Lady taking part in the debate. She was not here earlier when we were discussing that very important issue. She may want to refer to the House of Commons Library and to a Westminster Hall debate with the Minister of State, Department for International Development, the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Mr Swayne) on this important issue. In that debate, the Minister admitted he did not know how much money the Government were spending in Sierra Leone. He also said he would go away and find out. I am still waiting for an answer.
Another point raised with the Minister in that debate was how we recruit from developing countries to our NHS. The Minister said he would investigate and come back on that. I would be interested to hear the result of that investigation. There is a sad irony in the UK recruiting one in four doctors trained in Sierra Leone into our NHS, when it has an acute need itself. Our NHS—thought of, created and saved by Labour—is the envy of the world. The previous debate is proof enough of this Government’s shoddy commitment to it and its values. That is why only Labour can be trusted to make the case for universal health coverage at home and abroad.
Another priority is to put women and girls at the heart of the sustainable development goals. We would like gender equality, access to education, clamping down and taking action against female genital mutilation, and making sure every child is protected from slavery or abuse to be included.
On private sector development, Labour agrees that a thriving and free private sector is vital to the elimination of poverty, but it cannot be based on the ideology of trickle-down economics. Labour believes the most sustainable and dignified route out of poverty is work. We must ensure that that also means decent pay, fair conditions and the freedom to join a trade union. That is why we will reverse the Government’s decision to slash funding to the International Labour Organisation. DFID’s spending on private sector development in 2011-12 was £549 million. That now sits at £1.8 billion—a fifth of DFID’s budget.
At the same time, we have seen Ministers completely fail to ensure value for money or transparency, a point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) and for Llanelli (Nia Griffith). It is very difficult to establish what DFID is spending that money on. It is channelled through private bodies such as the Private Infrastructure Development Group, a multilateral organisation that is considerably less transparent. Government Members may criticise Labour’s approach, but the National Audit Office and the Government’s own Independent Commission for Aid Impact warn that oversight of this funding is inadequate and risks wasting taxpayers’ money. We await the Public Accounts Committee report tomorrow.
It is completely unacceptable that any Government Minister can fail to answer basic questions on how we spend £2 billion of taxpayers’ money. It is not just the Government who have a responsibility, but companies too. It is an absolute scandal that every year three times as much is lost in tax revenues to developing countries than the global aid budget combined. That is why we must make tackling tax avoidance a priority at home and abroad. We must look at supply chains adopting the same principles we apply in this country.
My hon. Friends the Members for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), and many other colleagues, raised the issue of climate change. Labour will, unlike this Government, put the fight against climate change front and centre of international agreements. We will use the G8 in Germany to push for climate change to be a permanent standing item at the UN Security Council. It will be on the agenda of every meeting with world leaders here in the UK. Leading on the sustainable development goals; leading on climate change; leading on private sector development; leading on universal health coverage; and leading right around the world. That is the leadership this country needs.
This debate has, to a large extent, been wrested from the Opposition Front-Bench team and rescued by the many excellent contributions we have heard. We began with the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell), who rightly pointed out the importance of pre-school education, and then my right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr O’Brien) brought the benefit of his expertise in stressing the need for security. I always welcome the experience and wisdom of the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), who made an excellent point about development education. I hope the project that our schools go through every summer, Send My Friend to School, spreads to parents, because the children’s enthusiasm for the agenda is an example to us all.
I thank the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) for his excellent speech. He hit the nail on the head, as one would expect from a Select Committee Chairman of 10 years, and I shall return to his speech shortly, if time allows, because it was a seminal contribution. The hon. Member for East Lothian (Fiona O’Donnell), who rightly concentrated on malaria, made some important points, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) concentrated on tuberculosis and brought the benefit of his long experience, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), who has long been committed to these issues.
The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) concentrated on the importance of our taking a lead and asked several questions about TradeMark Southern Africa. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which we set up specifically to examine what was going on, drew attention to the problems with the project, and, as a result, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State cancelled it. The hon. Lady also mentioned the PIDG, which, I recollect, was set up in 2002—perhaps when the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) was in the Department. However, we will attend to the issues raised in the NAO report. I share some of the concerns, but we need to bear in mind the huge leverage of the PIDG in getting private finance into poor countries. In her short, but pithy speech, the hon. Lady also asked about the ILO, as did other hon. Members. We took the decision we did following the multilateral aid review, but we still work closely with the ILO—in Bangladesh, for example.
I thought the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth on fair trade were particularly pithy. He rightly drew attention to the false dichotomy between security and defence, and development; they are intimately connected. My right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) gave us the advantage of his 30 years’ experience, including as a Minister, and rightly drew our attention back to climate change and sustainability. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) highlighted the important report from the Environmental Audit Committee and asked several detailed questions. I offer her a trade. I have every intention of reading her report, but perhaps she will read this report: “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development”. It is all in here: exactly how every single one of the targets has to be permeated with the key issue of sustainability. We are confident that the goals will be universal and we are ready to play our part: we have a strong cross-Government approach to this agenda, which is crucial to ensuring that all Departments are engaged and that the UK will be well placed to deliver these goals—it says.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) raised our sights and our ambition, pointing the debate back to the millennium goals. The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) focused our attention back on the Environmental Audit Committee report, but also made an excellent point about the international citizen service. He is right to praise that excellent initiative, which we are now considering what we can do to expand. I hope I have been able to reassure him on that point.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) brought her long experience and knowledge of nutrition to this debate, but when she went on to climate change there was an element of criticism. I would point out that we were one of the few countries that constantly tried to get a specific reference to the 2° target back into the goals.
This has been a very good debate in many respects—[Interruption.] Yes, there is a “but”. I want to return to the opening of the debate. We have a motion before us that seeks to divide the House. I have sat here and listened to all these excellent speeches and searched for the issue of substance that divides us. What have we got in the motion that seeks to divide us? The 0.7% target? We were all in the same Division Lobby on 0.7%. The only gripe is one of process—what kind of Bill it was.
We are also absolutely united in our approach to the importance of health. I pay tribute to the last Labour Government, who increased the bilateral spend on health. We have continued that; so much so that in the last seven years, bilateral health expenditure has doubled and now represents almost a quarter—23%—of our spend. We have already heard about the £1 billion commitment that has been made to the global fund. That will fund life-saving treatment for an additional 750,000 people with AIDS. There is no issue between us on health. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) asks, “What about the SDGs?” We canvassed hard and we have succeeded in getting specific targets and goals on health care.
When it comes to climate change, there is again no division of substance between us. On equality, there is the principle of no one being left behind before a target can be met. Again, there is absolutely no division of substance between us.
I come back to the speech by the Chairman of the Select Committee. He pointed out that we now have some 17 goals and 169 targets, when it was the ambition of the Secretary-General that we would have something small and understandable—something that we could all get behind and campaign on, something that we could measure and something that we could hold Governments to account on. That is what we should have been talking about tonight: how we get behind that agenda. They wasted the opportunity—