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House of Commons Hansard

Sustainable Development Goals

13 April 2016
Volume 608

  • For the convenience of Members, I point out that the debate can run until 5.41 pm.

  • I beg to move,

    That this House has considered the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I thank all Members for taking part in this debate. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations on behalf of the Women and Equalities Committee. It was the first time we had attended the United Nations, and it was a great chance to discover what more we can do as a Select Committee domestically and internationally to promote equality, specifically gender equality. During that week, it was clear that all nations have a responsibility to implement the sustainable development goals. Unfortunately, the UK is lagging behind, not least on goal 5, which is about the promotion of equality for women and girls. Given the evidence I saw at the CSW, we as a nation are falling short on our obligations to fulfil the sustainable development goal targets, and that needs to change.

    There are three questions that the Government must answer so that we can ensure the goals are met. Who is in charge of the implementation of the goals in the UK? What is being developed? When is our approach going to be tested? I am sure everyone here knows what the sustainable development goals are, but for those who do not, the sustainable development goals were agreed by nations at the United Nations last year and provide the world with a new set of goals to meet by 2030. The goals aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, and I am sure we are all in agreement that those are essential for the world and our peoples. Each of the 17 goals has its own set of targets, with 169 in total. If all those are met, that will ensure that the overall goal is reached by 2030.

    What makes the sustainable development goals different from the millennium development goals is the commitment that no one will be left behind. If the goal is not reached for everyone, it simply is not reached. I hope that will encourage Governments, private companies and society as a whole to put establishing an equal society at the heart of everything they do. It will be vital to keep the aim of achieving the sustainable development goals constantly at the back of the mind when considering new policies, whether for individual companies or the country as a whole. The need for equality of opportunity underpins many of the goals and is important for no one to be left behind.

    It is fantastic that we have this clear set of goals. It not only ensures that everyone in the world is working towards the same aim, but ensures that there are clear targets to allow us to measure our success. However, it would be a travesty if we were all standing here in 15 years’ time contemplating what went wrong and why the targets were missed. We have the privilege of experiencing fantastic rights here in the UK, but we owe it to all those who do not share the same rights to ensure that we meet each of the 17 goals set out at the UN last year. In fact, we owe it to the UK population to ensure that those rights are enshrined in British policy making. How can we as a nation turn to such countries as Kenya and preach about how they can enhance their rights when 58% of Kenya’s Parliament are women and only 29% of MPs in our Parliament are female? That seriously impacts our credibility as a nation. To ensure that we are not in that situation, we need to start acting now.

    The Overseas Development Institute has done vast amounts of research into the goals, looking into what progress the world will achieve towards reaching them if Government policy across the globe stays as it is today. Through its detailed assessment, the ODI found that if current trends continue, none of the goals or targets will be met. The goals are set in a way that forces big change to occur if we are to reach them—I believe that is what makes them such an asset—but the research makes it crystal clear that urgent work is necessary. We cannot let the goals pass us by, and we certainly cannot afford to reach 2025, just five years from the deadline, and realise that we are too far away to be successful.

  • The goals are not legally binding on nations. Does my hon. Friend agree therefore that civil society, the media and academia are all important in holding nations to account?

  • I completely agree with my hon. Friend that the goals are not legally binding, but they are internationally binding, and civil society and all parts of our society have a role to play in pushing them through. As a result of the sustainable development goals, I have seen many conversations in this place looking from an international perspective at how we can implement our sustainable development goals in this country. What we are missing is that crucial part, which I will come on to later, relating to who is responsible and when will the development goals be put into practice.

    We need a well thought-out, holistic approach whereby we identify and tackle problems that still persist in our own country, while supporting other nations with their progress. It would be helpful to have a clear lead in the Government who can be held responsible for our progress, either in the Cabinet Office or the Department for International Development. Questions already need to be answered, such as why there has been such slow progress. We need to ensure that the Secretary of State for International Development is not sitting on the next high-level UN economic panel feeling awkward that Britain is without a clear implementation plan.

    The Overseas Development Institute put together a scorecard showing how much effort is needed to achieve each goal. The scores did not make for good reading. Three of the goals were given a B rating, meaning that reforms are still needed to reach the target, but that we are none the less on the right track. Most of the targets received a C to E rating, meaning that reaching them needs a revolution in attitudes and policy, with radical approaches and innovation needed for us to have any chance of success. Five goals received an F rating, meaning that the world is moving in the wrong direction to achieve them. I hope the Minister will address what the UK is doing to improve those grades. At the end of the day, this is not something we can fail and resit.

    The ODI research makes it clear that we have much to do over the next 15 years to reach any of the goals. As I have said, following my recent visit to the CSW, my personal focus, and that of the Women and Equalities Committee, is on seeing us reach goal 5, which is to:

    “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

    That is a big statement. It seeks equality. That is not just a bit of equality, or a step forwards or a 2% reduction in the gender pay gap or a few more girls taking science, technology, engineering and maths; it states “equality”, and we must remember that we signed up to that. As the UN document says:

    “Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.”

    At this point, I would like to pause and pay tribute to the superb work being done by the UK’s mission to the UN. Its ability and passion for the delivery of the sustainable development goals was totally apparent over that week at the UN. Much more must be done to ensure that that work is not done in vain. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Family Justice, and Baroness Verma in the other place also took a superb lead at the commission, focusing on tackling goal 5.

    Because of Britain’s significant soft power, other nations are looking to us to make a stand and implement the sustainable development goals. Further delays will risk our credibility in the world’s eyes. The Select Committee will be doing more internationally to hold our Government’s feet to the fire and more to put equality legislation in an international context. We will be doing more work with other European and international equality committees and with other Parliaments to fight for the delivery of the goals by 2030. Of course, I look forward to reading the International Development Committee’s report on the sustainable development goals in the coming months.

    It is clear that the world has a lot to do to reach the goals, but it is still not clear what the world is going to do. It is crucial throughout the next 15 years that we remember that the goals are interrelated. We must understand that the policy to reach one goal may affect our attempts to reach others. I see equality and goal 5 as pivotal. The latter is central to ensuring that no one gets left behind.

    We cannot be left behind in the implementation of the goals. Other nations are already being proactive about reaching them. Colombia set up an inter-agency commission on the preparation and effective implementation of the SDGs to oversee their implementation. Even before the goals were agreed, Sweden commissioned a delegation to support and stimulate the implementation of the SDGs, and it will develop a comprehensive action plan for their implementation. We must take similar action and create a cross-departmental strategy to reach each of the targets.

    The SDGs certainly contain a bold commitment: to leave no one behind when it comes to change and progress towards an equal society. If we begin to create a plan today, we can ensure real progress around the world and in our own country.

  • It is a great honour and privilege to speak under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) on securing such an important debate, and at the right time too.

    Friends, in September last year, one could have seen a strange sight on a bright but crisp New York day. An unlikely crowd had been drawn together. I was stood with parliamentary colleagues from around the world at the announcement of the finalisation of the international negotiations. Alongside my colleagues were other, better-known faces: Beyoncé, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran. What could bring such unlikely allies together?

    Building on the successes of the millennium development goals, the sustainable development goals have the potential to lift 800 million people out of extreme poverty. That is no mean feat, and on its own would be a success of broadly unmatched effect in global development. I have been campaigning on goal No. 3 in particular, which is to ensure

    “healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”.

    Too many children and older people around the world are left behind when progress is made. That is why I am so proud to have supported our commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international development. That commitment has provided long-term stability to the programmes we support. Department for International Development programmes have helped to save the lives of 44,000 women during childbirth and 97,000 newborn babies, and provided food security to 3.5 million people. That is the real effect of the money we spent and an indicator of what a comprehensive, integrated implementation of the sustainable development goals can achieve. Let us make success a reality, rather than just a goal.

    The MDGs were plagued with questions; they did not offer a truly international solution to global problems and they created two classes of country. That is why such a diverse group joined together in New York last year. Where the MDGs were successful was in their fight to stop the global increase in the incidence of TB, malaria and HIV and AIDS. We now look to end those three epidemics by 2030. The new global goals are far more worldwide than the MDGs were. They apply not only in developing nations, but here in the UK as well. We are now committed to eradicating TB and HIV and AIDS at home, not just abroad.

    In 2015, TB re-emerged as the world’s leading infectious killer. It led to 1.5 million deaths in a single year. The Global Fund works across all countries ravaged by TB and is key to the fight to end the epidemic. It has saved about 17 million lives through its interventions so far, and perhaps 5 million more can be saved this year alone. More than 75% of all the financing in the global TB fight comes from the Global Fund. Sadly, however, at the current rate of investment, it looks as if we will only end TB in 150 years—not by 2030.

  • On finance, does the hon. Gentleman agree that for all the goals to be achieved, which is what we want, we need to convert billions of pounds into trillions of pounds in aid? Does he agree that, in order to do that, much more work needs to be done to engage the private sector and make the most of the private capital market?

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. She is a proactive member of the International Development Committee and we all agree that a partnership is needed, with Governments, the private sector, the third sector and all non-governmental organisations working in the field coming together to find a solution and the resources, which will be a huge amount.

    The Global Fund needs replenishment. As part of our implementation of the SDGs, I want to see a commitment to keep the fund well supported. In the last round, we pledged £1 billion and, in line with most donor nations, we need to increase that by 20% to keep up with the aims of the goals to eliminate the diseases by 2030. The fund has the chance not only to eradicate infectious diseases, but to save a further 8 million lives by 2019.

    The new SDGs offer a better way forward, and our Prime Minister threw his support behind them in New York. Implementation must be universal—universality is what makes the SDGs as promising as they are. The British Government should not merely choose a few goals and targets to focus on; all 17 goals and 169 targets should guide our strategy. However, this is not just an international development issue, because the SDGs work even more broadly than that. Along with, I am sure, others present in the Chamber today, I want to see the Cabinet Office given the role of co-ordinating the work across not only DFID, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We are falling behind other countries, but we can do better, and co-ordinating action across Government to fulfil the promise of the Prime Minister’s words in September is how we do that.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • May I check that everyone who wants to participate is standing? I will call the Front-Bench speakers at 5.20 p.m. and there are four of you, so if you take about five minutes each, we will get everyone in.

  • It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) on securing the debate on sustainable development goals, which are now referred to as development goals. Along with other Members here, I am a member of the Select Committee on International Development and I am also the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable development goals. I take a particular interest in this matter and the International Development Committee has an ongoing inquiry on it, so I welcome the chance to speak.

    The SDGs are the successors to the millennium development goals. There were eight MDGs but there are 17 SDGs, which were agreed to at the end of last year. They are much broader than the MDGs and I was pleased to see that they gave particular focus to women and girls as well as to health, governance and much more. In fact, there is much more in the SDGs than in the millennium goals. They also require a fundamentally different approach to sustainable development from the UK and beyond. Like any plan, strategy or agenda, the goals are all down to the delivery and implementation on the ground and the difference that will make to people’s lives. That is how they will be judged, be that in the next few months and years or in 15 years’ time.

    In broader terms, the UK is taking a leading role in international development. I, too, am a supporter of the UK’s commitment to 0.7% for international development, but it is not enough just to commit to spend; we must commit to deliver and achieve value for money and accountability for the British taxpayer. Good and effective international development is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do as well. It is in the country’s interests to do good international development, be that in responding to humanitarian emergencies and disasters, building resilience in countries that are prone to crisis, building stability or using influence. All of those are linked to goal 5 on women and equality, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) referred to today. The goals are very much interlinked. It was often said when they were agreed that perhaps there were too many, but I would not have liked the job of trying to remove one of them.

    My hon. Friend spoke eloquently about women and equality, on which the Government have made a huge contribution. In particular, the girls’ summit in 2014 showed the way and the importance of putting women and girls at the centre of international development, especially in education and in health. They have also done work on preventing sexual violence against women in conflict. Of course there is much more to do. I, too, would like to see greater clarity as to how the SDGs are linked into other Departments’ plans as well as the broader official development assistance-defined projects.

    I take the opportunity to highlight a couple of projects and campaigns that show the importance of SDG 5 and women and equality. First, as some Members know, I spent many of my summers in Rwanda with Project Umubano. I was there a number of years ago and I had the pleasure of visiting a project organised by ActionAid, helping to empower women—I often refer to it as the bee project. A group of women were shown how to farm beehives, which produced not just an income and livelihood for them but enabled them to educate their children, empower themselves and improve the future chances of their families, which is really important.

    More recently, the Select Committee was in Nigeria, where one of the most humbling experiences was to meet some of the campaigners from the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. They hold a daily vigil at the Unity fountain in Abuja and we could not help but be moved by the stories they so bravely shared with us. These are just two examples.

  • I, too, would like to comment on the Bring Back Our Girls campaigners. We have been doing a lot of work with the Nigerian Government to try to help them to overcome Boko Haram and its horrendous maltreatment of young girls in northern Nigeria. The anniversary of that campaign is coming up; the girls have been missing for two years. I hope that the Minister will reflect on what more can be done.

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her valuable contribution. We were all moved that afternoon.

    These are two very different stories. The bee project is a story of great hope, but Chibok is one of great sadness and tragedy. That is why SDG 5—achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls—is so important. I hope that in today’s debate we are able to continue to raise the importance of DFID’s work, the SDGs, women and diversity and, crucially, implementation and accountability. The success of the SDGs will depend upon the collection of data to analyse and assess the results, which is a challenge in itself. We need to be robust, because accountability matters. However, there must also be a recognition that although the UK is putting huge effort into the SDGs and playing a significant part, these are universal goals and it is up to everyone to play their part in them. Others must also step up to the mark.

  • I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) on bringing this extremely important debate to Westminster Hall. The sustainable development goals are universal and therefore must be applied both at home in the UK and internationally. I do not wish to reiterate the information that has already been relayed so well by colleagues, so I will focus briefly on some issues that have been highlighted as part of my work on the International Development Committee, which is currently undertaking an inquiry into the sustainable development goals.

    One very pertinent and important issue that I would like the Minister to comment on is the collection of data—from a variety of sources, both governmental and beyond. We must be able to evidence the implementation of the goals and indicators that we have set. There are a great many ways to collect informative and necessary data in the UK and in developing countries. In many countries where such data have never been collected, we must first gain a baseline to show where we are now, but we must also have data that give us an understanding of the progress that is being made towards full implementation.

  • The hon. Lady is making a very good point. Does she agree that many developing countries will have difficulty collecting such data, and that this could be a great opportunity for DFID to do everything it possibly can to assist those countries to meet the required standard?

  • I agree entirely. It is key that we show leadership in this area, in which we historically have very good ability and understanding, and we can certainly lend our expertise to the rest of the world, including developing countries.

    Data must be gathered from various sources. For example, if they exist at all, governmental data on child marriage are linked to the legality of child marriage. In countries where child marriage is illegal but still exists, such marriages are often not conducted in registered settings; they are cultural ceremonies and therefore unrecorded. People know that they are happening, but they are excluded from the data. We must therefore collect accurate data. Governmental data may not themselves be accurate. Household survey data are required, as are data from technologies such as mobile phones, imaging and other sources, to make sure that the data are accurate, particularly for people—such as women—who may feel too vulnerable to provide accurate data to governmental agencies that are collecting such data. Will the Minister comment on the support that DFID is providing for data collection, and the use of technology in that collection, and the methods it uses to verify statistics, so that it does not just accept them at face value?

  • There is also the issue of the disaggregation of data. In terms of what the targets are—leaving no one behind—the data need to be articulate and specific, not least for groups that could easily be overlooked, such as ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. The way in which DFID deals with its own statistics is hugely important.

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman. He shows his expertise in the area. Disaggregated data will be crucial in our understanding of whether we meet indicators.

    Before I finish I will speak of another particularly important part of the implementation—the “leave no one behind” agenda. As a member of the International Development Committee, I have been fortunate to visit a number of developing countries, and I must say that I have visited few projects that reach out and undertake interventions for people with disabilities. Many of those people continue to be left behind and marginalised, and are missing from the programmes that I have visited. Do we have data on their numbers? The data may vary across countries. What are we doing to ensure that people with disabilities are not continually left behind, and to ensure that we do not think we are doing enough because we are simply not reaching out and noticing that they are there? That should be integral to DFID’s programmes.

    Summing up, because I am aware of the time and want the Minister to be able to respond, the SDGs are a welcome step forward. Their implementation is complex and requires funding, although I agree with other hon. Members that there should be investment, so that it is a partnership. Data collection and verification will be key, but what a worthwhile aim it is to make sure that we implement the sustainable development goals, and that the most vulnerable people across our world are no longer left behind.

  • I ask the last two speakers to divide the final eight minutes between them.

  • If there are eight minutes, I have four. It is a pleasure to be called to speak. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) on setting the scene, and other hon. Members who have made valuable contributions.

    I am going to focus on the issues of health and the sustainable development goals, which the Minister will reply to. I know how much progress has been made in responding to epidemics. The dual impact of HIV and TB continues to be devastating for millions of people and their families. Of the 1.5 million people killed by TB in 2014, 400,000 were HIV-positive. AIDS-related illnesses claimed some 1.2 million lives in 2014, which included 400,000 TB deaths among HIV-positive people. Malaria causes hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, predominantly among young children.

    To put it in Hansard and on the record, the incidence of HIV and of TB in London has increased; I am not sure whether hon. Members are aware of that. They are probably coming from some of the people who have moved here and maybe their contact with others. We have issues here at home that we need to address, but that is not for this debate.

    The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria plays an essential role in reducing these upsetting statistics, and will be part of the drive to eradicate them in future, but it needs help from Governments across the world. The Global Fund is asking Governments, the private sector and other organisations for a total just short of £10 billion for the period 2017 to 2019, which would save millions of lives and avert hundreds of millions of infections and new cases of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The debate we had in Westminster Hall yesterday on HIV in women and girls also highlighted that. The Minister responded, as he always does, in a very positive and helpful manner; I am sure he will do the same today.

    Responding to the Global Fund’s call for additional resources, UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé said:

    “We have to invest additional resources today to end these epidemics, otherwise the deadly trio will claim millions more lives, as well as costing us more in the long run.”

    We need to be an integral part of the global efforts to eradicate the deadly trio, with the United Kingdom making a positive difference across the globe. Ensuring our commitment to the future success of the Global Fund will deliver that, as well as security and support for a global organisation that makes a positive difference.

    When it comes to addressing the deadly trio, perhaps the Minister could give us some idea of what discussions have taken place between DFID and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that some of the very necessary medications and drugs get to where they need to be—at the source of the problems. Of course, that will not be free, but the Global Fund’s plan can work to end this pandemic. The Global Fund has been successful and is ready to continue its life-saving work if funded.

    I attended an event today on the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the kidnapping of 200 young girls in Nigeria, to which the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) referred. We have to speak out for women, for diversity and for equality, and on issues such as child marriage. There is a systematic abuse of women and girls, and that issue has to be raised and spoken about today.

    Seventeen million lives have been saved globally because of the work of the global partnership; 8.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS who would not otherwise receive any treatment are receiving ARV therapy as a result of the Global Fund; 13.2 million people who would not otherwise have been tested for tuberculosis have been treated; and 548 million insecticide-treated nets have been distributed. We are trying to address the issue of the number of people dying from malaria. We have a chance in this debate to highlight the issues, and I ask the Government and the Minister to do their best.

  • I thank the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) for initiating this debate and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for speaking with even faster delivery than normal, to ensure that I can say a few words.

    I am speaking on the back of an event we held in Speaker’s House yesterday with the all-party group on global education for all, which I co-chair, ParliREACH, Results UK and the Malala Fund, following an incredibly inspirational showing of the film “He Named Me Malala”.

    I want to talk in particular about education. First, I commend the far greater detail of the SDGs on educational issues—something on which civil society has been campaigning for years. We have heard about goals 3 and 5. I want to talk about goal 4 and the necessary depth that the SDGs have gone into. I will remind Members of goal 4.1:

    “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete”—

    “complete” being the key word—

    “free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”

    Goal 4.5 is:

    “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations”—

    something that the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) mentioned. Finally, goal 4.c is to increase the supply of qualified teachers by 2030, which is essential.

    We have built on the success of the MDGs, but we must now set a target to ensure that the term we used in those goals—out-of-school children—is made redundant in the next 15 years. Globally, 200 million young people still have not completed primary school education, with 60% of them being women. It is about ensuring quality primary and secondary education. The Malala Fund is adamant that we should ensure 12 years of education—not just primary, but meaningful secondary education as well.

    Our all-party group has been to Kenya. We talked to many people there who asked us, “What happens then?”—“then” being when primary education finishes. We need to ensure that schooling is adequately resourced in terms of both physical and human resources. While the old MDGs had an emphasis on quantity, we had a healthy debate in New York, and we won talking about quality.

    Malala was clear in her film about discrimination against young girls and women. Of course, we must ensure that we address the biggest minority of all: the disabled. In the few seconds I have left, I commend to hon. Members the all-party group’s report entitled “Accessing inclusive education for children with disabilities in Kenya”. I reiterate the point that many hon. Members made today: the Government’s objectives need to be data-related. In other words, data need to be the starting point and we need to know how the Government’s intentions will be monitored. I look forward to the regular progress reports on how we are meeting the all-important SDGs.

  • I ask the Front Benchers to follow the example of the Back Benchers and confine their remarks to about five or six minutes to give the Minister and Mr Howlett time to respond to the debate.

  • It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) on securing this debate. This is first debate on various aspects of the SDGs since the goals were agreed but—I have used the shiny new Hansard search facility—about the fourth since the start of the Session. There was, not least, my own debate in Westminster Hall on 16 June last year. There was a debate on the educational aspects led by the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) a few weeks later in July, and a very useful Back-Bench business debate on 10 September led by the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips). Just yesterday, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) led a debate on tackling HIV and AIDS in women and girls, in which a number of the issues that we have heard about today were touched on. I suspect that we will continue to revisit these issues throughout this Parliament and the lifetime of the SDGs. That is appropriate, because the effective implementation of the sustainable development goals will require considerable and ongoing scrutiny and monitoring from Parliaments around the world.

    I should declare an interest: until the election last year, I was an employee of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, the chair of the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland and a member of the Scottish Government’s working group on the implementation of the sustainable development goals. I will perhaps touch on some of those things if time allows.

    I want to look briefly at how the structure was arrived at and the opportunities that it presents, at the approaches that have been taken in Scotland—because there are lessons that DFID can learn—and, more generally, at the options for prioritisation and implementation of the goals by DFID. The process by which the goals were arrived at was incredibly inclusive and consultative. The SDGs are not simply the millennium development goals mark 2; they are a complete refresh. They represent a global consensus on the kind of world that we know is possible and that we have the resources, the knowledge and the technical ability to achieve. The most important thing that is needed is the political will to get there.

    The universal, comprehensive nature of the goals is significant. The hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) talked about goal 3; the hon. Member for Bath and for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) talked about gender equality; and the hon. Member for Ceredigion talked about goal 4, on education. In the context of this debate, perhaps the most important goal is No. 17, on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development, because it will encourage all the Governments of the world to work together to implement the goals in their own countries and internationally. As we have heard, no goal is met unless it is met everywhere and in full. That is the important universal nature of the goals.

    The Scottish First Minister committed Scotland to the SDGs last July while they were still in draft format. She committed to the principle of achieving them at home and abroad and of using the Scottish Government’s powers to meet them in Scotland to eradicate poverty and achieve gender equality, which is very close to her heart. A great deal of work is going on at civil society and civil service level to see how the goals can be integrated into the national performance framework and the Scottish national action plan for human rights. Incredibly encouraging progress is being made. It would be interesting to hear how DFID plans to take forward a similar approach and, more broadly, the attempt at policy coherence for development.

    This issue also came up yesterday in the HIV debate. A number of us were disappointed at the Command Paper published by DFID. The Government had showed commendable leadership in the development of the goals, in the negotiation process. Then last November they published a Command Paper that mentions the global goals only four times in its 28 pages. It would therefore be useful to hear from the Minister when a clear strategy for implementation of the SDGs will be published and whether that will happen before the high-level political forum in New York in July—the first key milestone—what the cross-Government role will be and whether they see a role for the Cabinet Office in co-ordinating across Government how domestic policy has an effect overseas, but also how the goals can be met at home, as well as how this will complement other commitments that have been signed up to, not least the Paris commitments on climate change.

    Hon. Members have raised a number of operational points, in particular about data collection and disaggregation of data. There are questions about the funding cycles that DFID introduces, given that these are 15-year horizons and many projects perhaps receive only two or three-year funding. I am conscious of the time, so I will conclude simply by reiterating what I said earlier. We have the knowledge, the ability and the technical know-how to reach these goals. What is needed is the political will.

  • It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett)—as a northern English MP, I have been looking forward for quite some time to addressing the hon. Member for Bath, because we know that there are no stray r’s in the name of his constituency. I say well done to him for securing the debate and focusing on holding Governments to account, because that is the job of all of us, no matter which party we represent.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) made an extraordinarily powerful speech, as he has done on a number of occasions, and reiterated the consensus across nearly all parties about the 0.7%, but it is interesting that, as the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) said, goal 17 refers to strong institutions. That is also about collecting tax. In the week of the Panama tax release, we know that we need to be doing more, because we know that three times the global aid budget is held in developing countries, in offshore tax havens. We all have to work harder to ensure that we get more transparency, because we would not need international development aid budgets if companies at source paid their taxes in those developing countries.

    The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) made a very powerful speech. I commend her work and her leadership as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable development goals. I sort of say that with a smile on my face, because I think she has her work cut out over the next few years, if she does not mind my saying so. We have made a start, but we have a long way to go.

    Data are massively important, as the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) stated and as the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said in an intervention. As a clinical psychologist, the hon. Lady will know that mental health is an absolute Cinderella service in developing nations. We try for parity in this country, but it is almost nowhere to be seen in developing countries. We will have to work much harder and do much better on that.

    The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) talked, as he does every time, about the big three: HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis. I do not think there has been a debate to which he has not contributed. I commend him for his campaign work.

    It was great to visit the jungle in Calais with the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) recently. Both of us, as former primary school teachers, felt the passion for education coming through.

    The goals set out ambitions not just for the UK Government, but for all nations. The UK and DFID need to take a leading role in promoting the SDGs and implementation of the goals, as they did for the MDGs under Labour and the coalition. Realisation of these goals by 2030 is a significant challenge. That is why regular updates and scrutiny must accompany them—in order to hold all Governments to account.

    What has come through in this debate is that the Government need to outline a clear strategy on how we implement the goals as soon as possible. It is important for the credibility and reputation of the UK as an international leader, especially in the light of the high-level political forum meeting in July, that we get that strategy out there. The point I want to press the Minister on is that I think the UK should be represented at that meeting at Secretary of State level. I hope that he can answer that point.

    The implementation strategy should include a detailed review of what is required of the UK to achieve each goal. That could be achieved through a gap analysis. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow went on about data and the hon. Member for Foyle talked about data aggregation. We need to know the baseline and how we are moving forward. DFID and the leadership, through the Cabinet Office, need to show that.

    Furthermore, the UK must commit to implementing the goals in their entirety, not picking them off one by one. Although it is recognised that political and economic developments might necessitate a greater focus on certain goals at a given time, I urge the Government to ensure that the SDGs are continually maintained on the policy agenda as a whole—a commitment in line with the pledge to “leave no one behind”, as already mentioned. That and sustainability are the two key ideas that the public and civil society must be encouraged to engage with, as the hon. Members for Bath and for Aldridge-Brownhills pointed out.

    I want to make a point about local government representation. My political party in Manchester will achieve 50% representation in May, if the results go our way. It is not just us, as national politicians, but civil society that is engaging.

    The SDGs are an integrated and indivisible package of targets that should be delivered for all people, in all countries, with all institutions of civil society being engaged. We have an enormous opportunity before us to shape our planet as we take this journey to 2030. We must grasp that opportunity with both hands.

  • I will endeavour to speak quickly, but I am afraid that I will not be able to reach the word count achieved by the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams).

    I commend the sense of urgency and haste brought to the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett). However, I want to introduce a sense of proportion. His accusation was “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin”—somehow we have already been weighed in the balance and found wanting. We have been scored already.

    There are 17 goals, 169 targets and, the last time I looked, 250 indicators—the indicators have yet to be agreed by the General Assembly. It is rather too soon to start scoring anyone for doing anything. I accept that there is a challenge and that there has to be urgency, but equally we have to do such things properly and proportionately.

    I commend to hon. Members the departmental goals set out by DFID on our website. They should look at those 10 goals, which have delivered a portfolio for DFID that is highly relevant to the 17 goals now adopted as the global SDGs. We are compliant with them in what we are attempting to do, which is no coincidence. The reality is that it is precisely because we had a leadership role in fighting for the goals that have been accepted that we are already doing much of what we need to do to achieve those goals.

    We are working across Government and with our development partners to determine where our comparative advantage is and where we can make the greatest impact. There will, of course, be rather more formalised objectives once the whole review season is over.

    First we had the spending review, which sets out the envelope in which we have to operate—the money that we will have in order to deliver the goals, which are central to everything that we do. Then we had the strategic defence and security review, into which our own aid strategy fits intimately, in our national interest—I have no difficulty facing any audience to defend the fact that the achievement of the goals is intimately connected with our national interest. Now, we are still going through the bilateral aid review and the multilateral aid review, which determine how we can achieve the best value for money in how we operate in the countries we operate in, and through the organisations and partners that we operate through, in order to achieve the goals most effectively. I know that it is frustrating and takes time, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bath will know that time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted. These are important decisions and it is important that we get them right.

    The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) raised the vital point about data, which is worth a debate in its own right. The reality is that we spotted this coming. There has to be a data revolution. She is absolutely right. The earliest meetings and conferences on that were organised by Lynne Featherstone when she was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in this Department, and we continue to lead on it.

    We set out in the Conservative manifesto that preceded the election a series of 23 initiatives that are highly relevant to the achievement of the goals. I do not anticipate, given all the work that we are currently doing, that there will be a separate goal strategy document. The goals are intimate to everything we are doing at the moment through the bilateral aid review and the multilateral aid review, which will be published.

    On the question of no one being left behind, we saw this coming ages ago. We had published our framework for disabled people, and we were already driving forward an agenda on women and girls and ensuring that our development partners were delivering on that. Before even the General Assembly adopted that principle, we had spotted that it was an important tool for resource allocation within our Department, and had produced two papers to instruct staff on how to use it. It is central to what we do.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Bath was absolutely right that we have to implement the goals universally, which means doing so here. If we do not do it successfully here, we will have no credibility as an international development force to see that they are developed elsewhere. That is an essential point, and my hon. Friend asked a number of important questions about it. My prejudice is that we are pretty well compliant, but it is not my prejudice that will count.

    This is a matter for departmental responsibilities. Departments must take ownership of the goals that fall within their terms of reference. However, cross-Government responsibility will be taken by the Secretary of State for International Development—that is appropriate because we are the Department that fought for the goals and we are passionate about them—and she will be supported in that role by the Cabinet Office.

    It is early days. There have been a number of conversations across Government, and I suspect that we will know more shortly when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin), appears before the International Development Committee. That evidence will be instructive.

    Responsibility for measurement will be with the Office for National Statistics. It has already contributed hugely and taken a leadership role in the determination of the 250-odd indicators that have yet to be agreed. We anticipate that they will be agreed shortly. We currently measure social progress across the United Kingdom against 60-odd indicators, so there will need to be a measure of mapping.

    On the “no one left behind” agenda, which is central to everything we do and will determine whether the goals have been met, we in DFID are setting up a cross-Government committee, together with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics, to drive that forward and ensure that the lessons we have been learning internationally are applied nationally.

    I need to give my hon. Friend the Member for Bath a moment or two to sum up, but I hope that in my very short speech I have been able to convey both a recognition of the urgency and the fact that there is indeed a plan.

  • I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for his response, and I thank all hon. Members who have taken part in this crucial debate. Whenever I follow a speech by the Minister, I always need to go back and learn a little more Latin, which I will do with the utmost urgency.

  • It was Hebrew; I apologise—even more so since I am visiting Israel later this year.

    There is clearly some sort of confusion here. I look forward to seeing the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin), give evidence to the International Development Committee. It is sensible that the Secretary of State for International Development is leading the way.

  • Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).