I beg to move,
That this House has considered the First Report of the International Development Committee, UK implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, HC 103, and the Government response, HC 673.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I am delighted to have the opportunity to discuss this report, and to see present so many Members from different parties. There is a particularly great turnout from fellow members of the Select Committee on International Development. I welcome my fellow Select Committee Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.
In 2000, the United Nations adopted eight goals that shaped the subsequent international development agenda. The millennium development goals were ambitious, and included the aims of eliminating extreme poverty; achieving universal primary education; reducing child mortality; and promoting gender equality. Their impact was significant. According to the UN, extreme poverty around the world was reduced by more than half; global child mortality rates were halved; primary school enrolments in the developing world increased to their highest ever level; and, through a mixture of vaccination and education, the deaths of more than 6 million from malaria were prevented.
Despite that significant progress, though, the MDGs were not achieved in their entirety, so when the programme came to an end last year, UN member states embarked on a more ambitious and wide-ranging set of goals: the sustainable development goals, often described as the “global goals”. There are 17 goals and 169 associated targets, covering some of the greatest challenges the world faces, including poverty, inequality, the impact of climate change, justice, industrialisation, education, good governance and health. Unlike the MDGs, the sustainable development goals are universal, so they apply as much to us here in the United Kingdom as they do in Nigeria, Bangladesh, China or Brazil. That means that over the coming 15 years, the Government need to be doing all they can to ensure that the UK achieves the goals and their associated targets.
The process by which the global goals were agreed was extensive, involving all members of the United Nations, as well as global civil society and the private sector. The goals will be achieved only if there is global co-operation, so it is right that every country has had the opportunity to influence them. The results will be measured against a total of 231 universal indicators, and each country will then create its own national indicators. Global progress on the goals will be reported annually through the high-level political forum at the UN, which meets every year in July.
I am pleased to say that the United Kingdom played an important role in the formation of the goals. The former Prime Minister, David Cameron, was appointed by Ban Ki-moon to co-chair the high-level panel of eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda, which began the work that led to the global goals. The UK Government played a vital role in fighting for the inclusion of some goals that were resisted by other countries. For example, the UK fought hard for the inclusion in goal No. 5, on gender equality, of targets on female genital mutilation, early and forced marriages, and sexual and reproductive health. We can be proud of that.
During the negotiation of the goals, the UK rightly emphasised that the agenda was about leaving no one behind. Such an agenda recognises the importance of closing the gaps between different social groups and ensuring real progress for the most marginalised. There is, therefore, an emphasis on tackling inequality as well as poverty. I commend the Government on the role they played in shaping the future of the global development agenda, as well as on their continued commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on international development; however, we now need to see how those commitments are being translated into action.
The global goals aim to solve common problems found in every country to secure gains for everyone. Although they are not legally binding, there is a moral imperative for action to reach the targets they set out. Those targets include eradicating extreme poverty; ensuring equality of opportunity; reducing inequalities of outcome; integrating climate change measures into national policies; and promoting the rule of law. We have a duty to ensure that we are tackling the goals globally and acting as a global leader in their implementation.
In June this year, the International Development Committee released our report on the UK implementation of the goals. The report is the biggest we have published so far in this Parliament. We took extensive written and oral evidence from civil society, non-governmental organisations, academics, the private sector and, of course, the Government. We made a number of recommendations to the Government, but our central finding was that despite the UK’s strong leadership during the negotiation and agreement of the goals, the Government’s response to implementation since their adoption had been insufficient, particularly at the domestic level. There are several reasons for that.
First, it is unclear which Department has lead responsibility for the domestic implementation of the SDGs. Today, the Secretary of State for International Development has written to me to explain matters further, and I am grateful for her letter. She has told me that she and the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General have agreed that Departments will report progress towards the goals through their single departmental plans. The Cabinet Office will continue to have a role in co-ordinating the domestic delivery of the goals through the single departmental plans process.
I welcome that clarification from the Secretary of State, but I have two issues for the Minister to address when he responds at the end of the debate. First, it is still unclear whether the overall responsibility for leading on the reporting of domestic progress lies with the Department for International Development or the Cabinet Office. Secondly, how will whichever of those Departments is leading ensure that every Department addresses the global goals in their single departmental plans? My understanding is that the majority of Government Departments do not mention the sustainable development goals in their departmental plans. The Select Committee outlined clearly in our report that we believe the UK can be successful in implementing the goals only if there is a coherent and comprehensive cross-Government response.
Secondly, we were told in the Government’s response earlier this year that the forthcoming report on UK implementation of the goals
“will set out a clear narrative for the Government’s approach to implementing the Goals both internationally and domestically, including key principles, flagship initiatives and expected results and further information on how the government is set up to contribute towards achievement of Agenda 2030.”
The Select Committee recommended that the report should be produced urgently, and must equate to a substantive cross-Government plan for implementation, with clear lines of responsibility for each Government Department.
As the SDGs were agreed more than a year ago, it is deeply worrying that the Government have still not published the report. In her letter today, the Secretary of State says:
“We are currently working on report setting out the UK approach to Agenda 2030. I look forward to sharing this with you once it has been finalised.”
I have three questions for the Minister that arise from that. When do the Government expect the report to be finalised? Can he give us a sense of what the report will look like—how substantive will it be and how much detail will it have? Will it outline a clear cross-Government strategy for the implementation of the SDGs? Of the other countries around the world, 22 have now submitted voluntary national reviews to the UN, and a further 30—including China, France, Germany and Turkey—have already volunteered to produce a national report by 2017. There is a real risk that we have moved so slowly that we will fall behind other countries.
The third challenge is this: for the SDGs to achieve success both domestically and internationally, clearly we need to work with a wide range of partners. For example, our report recommended that the Government enter into discussions with the London Stock Exchange and the City to discuss how they might create incentives for sustainable development in the capital markets. We also recommended that the Government engage with the private sector and, through CDC and the Prosperity Fund, align their work with the SDGs to ensure that they support progress overseas. I welcome the extra information on those issues that the Secretary of State has provided in her letter today.
Civil society has a crucial role to play, both in communicating and implementing the goals in developing countries, and in holding Governments both here and in other countries to account on their implementation. Therefore, the Committee was particularly disappointed that the recent civil society partnership review from DFID did not mention the SDGs. We expect the multilateral and bilateral aid reviews from the Government very soon, and I hope that they will use the opportunity that those reviews provide to lay out exactly how they will work with civil society here and in other countries, as well as with multilateral organisations, to support the achievement of the global goals.
We can learn from the progress that some other countries have made since New York last year. For example, in Germany Chancellor Merkel has initiated a national consultation on the global goals, to develop a national sustainable development strategy. She has also set up a ministerial committee on sustainable development, with politicians, business representatives, academia and civil society, to ensure that all of the Government in Germany is making progress towards achieving the goals. In Norway, Ministries have specific responsibilities for the implementation of individual goals and each Ministry has to report on progress towards the SDGs in their annual budget, which is then scrutinised by Parliament. Finland has committed to producing a comprehensive national implementation plan by the end of this year, led by the Prime Minister’s office, and China has established a domestic co-ordination mechanism, comprising 43 Government Departments, to deliver on the SDGs. These countries are pulling ahead of us in their plans for domestic implementation of the goals. I say to the Minister that the Government need to act swiftly and decisively, so that we do not lose our credibility.
For the International Development Committee, the SDGs will be a thread through all our work in this Parliament and we encourage the Government to think of them in that way. For example, we have recently launched a major inquiry into DFID’s work on education, in which we will focus on SDG 4, which is on education and access to quality education for all. In this inquiry, the interplay between the different SDGs has already become clear. For example, an estimated 50% of children of primary school age who are not in school live in conflict-affected areas. So, to successfully achieve SDG 4 on education, we need to examine how we can ensure that children get a good education regardless of their circumstances, including addressing SDG 16, on peace, justice and strong institutions, which was one of the goals for which the UK Government fought very hard.
Our inquiry on education will concentrate on DFID’s work in three key areas. The first is access—making sure that the most marginalised children are getting to school. The second is quality—ensuring that children receive a high standard of education at primary and secondary level and beyond, with good learning outcomes. Finally and very importantly, there is lifelong learning, which includes good quality tertiary education that has a technical and practical focus, so that children and young people in some of the poorest countries of the world are being prepared for the jobs and livelihoods of tomorrow. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is conducting its own performance review of DFID’s support to marginalised girls in basic education, which will feed into our broader inquiry.
DFID’s spending on education constitutes 7.7% of its overall budget; it is the Department’s fourth biggest area of expenditure, after health, disasters, and government and civil society. Globally, education has seen a steady decline in its proportion of overseas development assistance funding in recent years, both via bilateral and multilateral donors. At a time when conflict is a major threat, it is imperative that ODA money is spent, and spent wisely, to ensure that children get a good education, and in particular to ensure that children affected by conflict and those who are displaced either internally or as refugees have access to good education.
Let me finish by saying something about the role of Parliament in the implementation of the SDGs, because this House and the other place have an important role to play in ensuring UK implementation. I welcome the close interest that the Environmental Audit Committee has taken in the SDGs and if she catches your eye, Mr Stringer, I look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield, who is the Committee’s Chair, during the debate this afternoon. I also welcome the interest that has been shown by the Women and Equalities Committee; the commitment to gender equality and indeed to other strands of equality within the goals is absolutely crucial.
I also pay tribute to the all-party group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development, which is co-chaired by a very active member of the IDC, the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), and Lord Jack McConnell. The work that the all-party group has done in raising awareness of the SDGs in both Houses has been exemplary. The continued support for, and interest in, both the domestic and international implementation of the global goals is clear across Parliament, and I hope that it has been noted by the Government.
I also think that it is in the interests of other departmental Select Committees to engage with the goals, in order to assess any potential gaps in progress against the SDGs for which their Department is responsible. For example, the Select Committee on Work and Pensions should address some of the issues of poverty and inequality in our own country, which I hope will enable the other Select Committees to push for ambitious national indicators in a broad range of areas, and to hold the Government to account on any area where there is a risk that we may fall short domestically over that 15-year period.
In our report, the IDC recommended that all House of Commons departmental Select Committees should engage with the SDGs, particularly those goals and targets that are most relevant to their Department. We encourage other Committees to push for ambitious national indicators against the goals; to monitor departmental progress against these indicators; and to use the data produced by the Office for National Statistics annually to hold Departments to account on their performance. In the light of the letter from the Secretary of State today, departmental Select Committees now have a particular role to ask questions of their Departments about the inclusion of the SDGs in the single departmental plans. Ideally, this scrutiny would culminate in an annual session with the relevant Secretary of State in advance of the high-level political forum on global SDG progress each July, enabling an alignment between the domestic consideration of the goals and the UK’s reporting at the high-level forum of the UN in July. We also raised the possibility that the Liaison Committee might wish to question the Prime Minister annually on progress.
For the rest of this Parliament and hopefully all the way through to 2030, the IDC will scrutinise the Government’s implementation of the SDGs. Rightly, our focus will be on global implementation and the role that the UK, through DFID and other Government Departments, plays in overseas development assistance and other forms of development work.
As I have said and as our report set out in detail, so far we are disappointed, particularly with the domestic response. I welcome the clarification that the Secretary of State has provided today, but I encourage the Minister to go further in his response this afternoon. As one of the countries that played a leading role in the development of the global goals, it would be shameful if we failed to meet the goals in our own country. The UK Government need to act, and act quickly, to produce a plan for both domestic and international implementation of the goals. We now have less than 14 years to achieve this momentous agenda. There is no time to waste, and I look forward to listening to colleagues from all parties in the House during our debate this afternoon, and in particular to the Minister, because I think there is a desire to work together to ensure that the great opportunities that the global goals provide are realised, both at home and abroad.
It is a pleasure to follow the excellent speech of the Chair of the International Development Select Committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg). He provides great leadership to our team, and I support everything he has said in this debate.
In September 2015, when Britain backed the global goals, the then International Development Secretary applauded them as
“a major landmark in our fight against global poverty”.
If I recall correctly, shortly after that a DFID Minister said in reply to a question I asked in the House that each in-country office would be reviewing their in-country plan in light of the goals. It is extremely concerning to me, as a member of the International Development Committee, to know that as of today—more than a year since the SDGs were fanfared—there is still no clear narrative, as our Chairman described it, on DFID’s approach to the SDGs or the practical actions and practical plan for each goal in each country where UK aid is spent. Can I echo his call for a plan to be produced quickly and for that to include specific reference to the SDGs in each country where UK aid is spent? When can we expect that?
I was extremely disappointed that the recently produced civil society partnership review contained no specific reference to the SDGs—I am echoing our Chairman’s remarks. It was long awaited but disappointingly short. If the Government were serious about the SDGs being a major landmark, as DFID has stated, and
“a historic opportunity to eradicate extreme poverty and ensure no one is left behind”,
the SDGs should be front and centre in such key DFID documents. I hope that that will be the case when we see the multilateral aid review and the bilateral aid review.
DFID made a promise to leave no one behind. That is a key theme of the SDGs, and the UK Government pledged to work together with citizens, civil society and others to eradicate extreme poverty. I was pleased that in DFID’s published promise in November 2015, it made commitments to:
“Listening and responding to the voices of those left furthest behind, such as people with disabilities, children, older people and those who face discrimination on the basis of who they are”.
I am pleased, too, that in that same promise, DFID commits to
“sustainably address the root causes of poverty and exclusion”,
and to challenge
“the social barriers that deny people opportunity and limit their potential, including changing discrimination and exclusion based on gender, age, location, caste, religion, disability or sexual identity.”
I have detailed that promise because I want to look at how DFID can work better with civil society in developing countries, particularly to achieve goal No. 16, which is a new and very ambitious goal.
Specifically, I want to touch on a theme that I have continually raised in Parliament, almost since I became a member of the Committee. I am optimistic that current Ministers may at last, following their appointment, have ears to hear it. It is the importance of promoting inter-religious dialogue to help prevent the dangerous pathway of extremism within societies, which is a root cause of poverty. I will elaborate on that. If we do not have freedom of expression, thought and belief within societies, there is a dangerous pathway; intolerance can lead to discrimination and ultimately to persecution by state and non-state actors. We now see that across the globe. It may initially start with marginalisation, inequality and a denial of civil liberties such as free speech, but it can lead on to discrimination in terms of access to education, a job or a home. More gravely, that can lead to displacement and violence. The pathway is now a major contributory factor in the considerable increase in refugees across the globe. Indeed, in the past two years alone the number of refugees has risen by 5.8 million, from 59.5 million to 65.3 million. In many areas of the world, intolerance of others’ beliefs has ultimately led to that catastrophe, on which so much UK aid is spent.
Would it not be a good investment and good value for money to consider spending a proportion of UK aid on tackling more profoundly the root cause of civil society instability, which is so often religious intolerance? Expending money in that way would be a wise investment. Prevention is better than cure. In many of the countries that our Select Committee is currently concerned about such as Burma, Bangladesh and Nigeria, religious intolerance is a direct cause of displacement and poverty. It is one of this century’s greatest plagues. It is a global cause of profound poverty and distress, and it cannot be ignored.
I welcome the recognition on pages eight and 11 of the civil society partnership review of the importance of improved working with faith groups, of recognising the unique contribution they can make and of DFID’s commitment to increasing opportunities for engagement with in-country civil society organisations, including DFID country offices working better with faith groups. It is so important because we cannot ignore this phenomenon any longer. There is now a 21st-century phenomenon, which is the rise of hyper-extremism. It is a wrecking ball. It is primarily but not exclusively violent Islamic hyper-extremism, and it is determined to do nothing less than eliminate all other beliefs, including moderate Muslim beliefs, and develop a monoculture. The aim is nothing less than the elimination of diversity—particularly, but not exclusively, religious diversity. Women in particular are often subject to inequality as a result of this hyper-extremism.
Those involved in hyper-extremism target basic rights and freedoms. That is why the aims highlighted in goal 16 are so important. Goal 16 is to:
“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
This 21st-century hyper-extremist phenomenon is not a distant threat. It resonates here in the west, where violent terrorist atrocities have been perpetrated in many countries—from Sweden to France to Australia—including 17 countries in Africa. If, as our current Secretary of State has said, UK aid should work in our interest as well as in the interests of those in developing countries who wish to help, surely it is an area that we need to focus on more closely.
How can we do that? Well, I welcome the paragraphs in the letter from the Secretary of State that the Committee received just today. It is hot off the press. I think I was given it two minutes before I walked down to this Chamber. I will refer to one or two elements in it. I am pleased that the Secretary of State acknowledges that she is
“concerned about the trend of increasing restrictions on civil society activism, media freedom, social movements and human rights in many countries…As part of the Civil Society Partnership Review I am committed to supporting civil society abroad and to standing alongside civil society against encroachments against freedom of thought, association and expression”,
and that that includes working alongside the Foreign Office. She goes on to say that it works on a “case-by-case basis” and adds:
“We work…with the FCO to raise concerns with governments at the appropriate level.”
That is good, and I welcome it, but DFID needs to be much more proactive. It needs not just to stand alongside civil society or deal with individual cases but to take a lead globally and work proactively to prevent these kinds of horrendous civil disturbances in the countries where we work. Ministers should consider how that could be done.
It is critical that we all work to improve interfaith relationships and promote community cohesion, in this country as much as in any other. I highlighted that as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on religious education in a report we produced a few months ago, entitled “Improving Religious Literacy—A Contribution to the Debate”. That was about understanding others’ beliefs. It is in our interests and the interests of developing countries to promote dialogue between people of different faiths and no faith—dialogue about cultural and religious heritage, experiences and religious practices—to bridge gaps in understanding and to help communities to live together in freedom and peace and accept one another. Without that, in a global world of increasing religious intolerance, it will be all too easy for misunderstandings to develop into hatred and for hatred to result in violent action; for intolerance to develop into discrimination and for discrimination to result in persecution. As we all know, the poorest in the world are the least resilient when affected by such issues.
To give just one suggestion to Ministers, we need to consider training teachers in the developing world to conduct classroom discussions about combating racism and inter-religious tensions. That would help young people deal with differences and ensure that potential conflicts can be diffused. It would teach young people to understand the complexities of such situations, in the same way as we are now teaching how important it is not to shut out women and girls from their potential leadership positions in society but to give them an equal place and equal opportunities. It is critically important that we teach young people not to shut out those with other beliefs and to combat exclusivism in order to help build a more peaceful and just world.
Through its diplomacy, the FCO has already come a long way on this issue in the last few years. I pay tribute to FCO Ministers; they have frequently attended debates that I have spoken in over the last few years in this House on the issue. However, DFID Ministers have been notably absent, and I do hope that will change. Although through diplomacy the FCO already substantially and increasingly promotes freedom of religion and thought throughout the world, DFID must take action not just to follow that lead but to provide its own lead. There is a great need to encourage inter-religious dialogue and promote freedoms—religious and other freedoms—in aid work with civil society in-country, at local government and community level and with non-governmental organisations. If religious freedom goes, so many other freedoms fall as a result, such as freedom of belief, thought and expression, as I have said.
Promoting inter-religious dialogue is just one way in which DFID could make a valuable contribution to tackling this 21st-century challenge of hyper-extremism—there may well be others—and I challenge Ministers to consider it. It would go a long way towards attaining goal 16. If DFID is serious about tackling that goal, it must make religious freedom an explicit priority now more than ever.
It is a pleasure to see you in the chair this afternoon, Mr Stringer, and I am equally pleased to follow the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who has established a very doughty reputation in the House defending communities against religious discrimination and intolerance. That was demonstrated straightforwardly and powerfully in her speech.
I congratulate the Select Committee on the production of this very important report. Although it deals with national and global responses to the United Nations sustainable development goals, I want to focus more on delivery. I declare an interest as the voluntary, unpaid chair of Fire Aid, which is an umbrella organisation for fire and rescue services and non-governmental organisations and charities in the UK doing work around the world. I want to discuss their role in the context of two of the sustainable development goals. I make no apology for using this opportunity to unashamedly promote Fire Aid and everything that it does, as I hope colleagues will understand in a few minutes.
There are three basic issues that I want to address, which are relevant to goals 3 and 11: the role of fire and rescue services internationally, the creation of Fire Aid and the connection to and delivery of the UN SDGs, which were considered by the Chair of the International Development Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), in his introduction to the report.
Fire and rescue services have a long history of responding to international disasters. For decades, firefighters have volunteered to go to parts of the world affected by earthquakes and other natural disasters. In the early days, I believe all were volunteers. It was personal, unpaid, informal and sometimes not helped—indeed blocked—by the fire brigade bureaucracy. That has changed. Firefighters now not only attend disasters but are continuously out in countries around the world, being proactive—building safety infrastructure and resilience, and therefore saving lives.
A number of fire and rescue organisations and NGOs emerged from those years of activity and experience and in 2012-13 banded together. I was recruited and invited to assist by Emma MacLennan, director of the charity EASST, the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport, which works in eastern Europe on road safety matters. I was nominated by Lord Dubs and Lord Robertson from the other place, because of my background of 23 years in the fire brigade, two years as road safety Minister and time as a former member of the Select Committee on Transport, which you served on in a distinguished manner, Mr Stringer, for many years. I was asked to chair that umbrella organisation.
What emerged was the organisation now called Fire Aid. Founding members included the Asian Fire Service Association, whose conference I spoke at in Wembley this morning, Blythswood Care, the Chief Fire Officers Association, EASST, Fire Safety Friends of Russia, Kent fire and rescue service, Operation Florian, Staffordshire fire and rescue service, the United Kingdom Rescue Organisation and the World Rescue Organisation.
We had one-off funding from the Department for International Development to set up our website, which was extremely welcome, in recognition of the vital role carried out by the UK fire and rescue services and NGOs in donating equipment and training for communities and countries in need. We subsequently secured some sponsorship from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile Foundation. We have memorandums of understanding with the Institution of Fire Engineers, the Chief Fire Officers Association, and the Fire Brigades Union.
Our founding organisations are working in 30 countries around the world, mainly in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe. Volunteers from our partners deliver equipment donated by fire brigades and fire industry manufacturers. They provide training on how to use the equipment as well as mentoring key staff wherever they go. They instruct on how to build the safety infrastructure, emergency services co-operation and communications that we in the UK take for granted.
Our website provides a clearing house for donated equipment, for which we organise and provide storage. Overseas partners or UK-based organisations can bid for that equipment and we match what is available with identified need and assure transparent and accredited use for those good enough to donate that equipment.
Our organisations have provided the manual for fire safety in refugee camps to the United Nations. Operation Florian was invited to work in the Lebanon for three weeks in August this year to undertake a fire-risk reduction project in a number of informal settlements to improve the protection and safety for Syrian refugees after a series of fatal fires.
That brings me to the UN and the sustainable development goals. The UN declared a decade of road safety from 2010 to 2020, and we have been supporting those objectives. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby mentioned, the 2015 UN summit adopted a new agenda for the next 15 years. It included 17 goals and 169 targets, several of which directly relate to the work of Fire Aid partners, and therefore we can assist with them. I will mention two in particular. Goal 3 is
“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”,
and target 3.6 is
“By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents”—
we call them crashes in the UK, but the language has obviously not caught up yet. The majority of collisions are caused by people making deliberate decisions to use their mobile phone, to speed, to drink drive, not to wear a seat belt or to take drugs. Most crashes are not accidents, because they could be avoided.
Goal 11 is
“Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”,
and target 11.2 is
“By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons”.
I attended the UN and World Health Organisation’s second road safety world summit in Brasilia last year. Sadly, no UK Minister from DFID or the Department for Transport was available to attend. The UN subsequently adopted the statement from that summit. The targets are as I mentioned, but in real terms they aim to halve the 1.2 million people who die in road crashes around the world every year and reduce the 20 million people who are seriously injured.
As we all know, our roads in the UK are among the safest in the world, and our fire and rescue service has the ability and motivation to play its part in delivering that great record. We can share our knowledge, expertise and abilities with other countries that are not so fortunate. I thank DFID for the support we have received from it so far. We stand ready to assist in realising the international targets.
It to the Government’s credit that they have achieved the 0.7% GDP aim. We are a small facilitating charity, and we are very frustrated because when we approach our embassies and other organisations overseas to try to tap into the DFID money, we are told that it is not worth getting out of bed for less than £1 million. We have only one part-time member of staff, and £20,000 would sustain us for a whole year. It is difficult to get recognition for the role that we play.
When I spoke at the conference in Brasilia on a post-crash response platform, most of the other speakers were bidding for more investment in medical facilities. They wanted trauma centres, better-equipped accident and emergency departments, more neurosurgeons and MRI scanners. Those are all appropriate asks for casualties, but Fire Aid pointed out that the victims need to be rescued from the crashed vehicles first. Without fire engines, cutting equipment and trained crews, they will not need better hospitals and clinical staff because the casualties will not get to the medical facility. Without joint working with the police and ambulance services, the casualties will not reach the hospitals; therefore, they will not need medical assistance. In some eastern European countries, nearly 80% of road crash victims die at the roadside. In the UK, it is about 30%. Some countries do not have a single 999-type emergency telephone number. There are simple things that we can deliver, such as equipment training and facilities. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate all our volunteers and membership organisations on what they deliver. I hope we can solicit some more support on their behalf.
We have a solid road safety record in the UK. We have great expertise in dealing with crashes, and we have volunteers who want to help less fortunate countries. That could be viewed as soft diplomacy—clearly it is—but morally it is the right thing to do. Organisations such as Fire Aid need resources. I am delighted that the Minister and my hon. Friend the shadow Minister are in their places, and I look forward to their responses.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and to follow the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). I was interested that he mentioned Staffordshire fire and rescue service. I shall contact it and ask it about the work it has been doing. It is also a great pleasure to follow the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who made very important speeches.
The UK has a great opportunity to show leadership in implementing the sustainable development goals. In our report, we have given four or five out of 10 for what has happened so far, but I want to let bygones be bygones and look ahead to the future. We have got a new Minister and a new team, and this is a great opportunity for them and the United Kingdom to show leadership, as the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, showed in developing the SDGs with the two other leaders and the United Nations more generally.
As the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby said, the millennium development goals were, on the whole, a success. They were fairly narrowly focused, but they were all the better for that because we could see that great progress was being made. As the chairman of the all-party group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, I saw how much the emphasis on malaria in the MDGs meant for countries in which the disease is endemic. Malaria deaths have been reduced by more than half over the past 15 years, with a huge reduction in the number of cases. The SDGs are much broader, but that does not mean that they should not equally be a success. All of us have to work to achieve that.
We must start at home. These are global goals, and they are meant to apply to the United Kingdom. I welcome the Secretary of State’s letter, because it gives a lot more clarity. I have a suggestion for the Minister on something that other countries have not yet done, so perhaps we can take the initiative. Why do we not ask to be marked by other countries—particularly those to which we give bilateral aid—so they can look at what we are doing? We should open the books in the great spirit of partnership and equality so they can see whether we are matching up to the goals. International development should be something we do together with each other, not to other people.
I have five levers—I tried to think of a better word, but I could not—that the Department for International Development can use to achieve the 17 SDGs and the 169 targets to be achieved, and five means by which those levers can be supported. The levers are ways into not just one goal but lots of goals.
The first is jobs and livelihoods, which help to reduce poverty. If someone has a job or a livelihood, they are likely to have access to better health, better education and many other things. It is not just about economic development. Many areas in which jobs and livelihoods are created are beyond economic development. For instance, they will be created in the health and education sectors as countries employ more health workers and teachers.
The second is education, about which the Chairman of the Select Committee spoke at length. Without education, we will not get anywhere. As he said, DFID is already spending more than 7% of its budget on education, but I think we need to up the amount going into all forms of education, because it is one of the great levers for tackling almost all of the 17 goals.
The third is gender equality. If we do not aim for gender equality, we will not reduce poverty as we should, and we will not achieve the health outcomes, education outcomes and all the other outcomes that we want from the SDGs.
The fourth lever is water and sanitation. Earlier this year colleagues on the International Development Committee and I had the honour of going to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see an excellent project that DFID had funded, providing water to villages for the very first time. We were humbled by people’s reaction. The project was low-cost, only a few dollars per head to provide clean water, but it meant that children and women in particular had to spend far less of their day getting the water that they and their families needed. That brought home to me how cheap it really is to make such life-changing interventions for so many people.
Over the past five years DFID has reached more than 60 million people with better water and sanitation. What has happened is absolutely wonderful, but a lot more can be done—so many more hundreds of millions of people are still without. Over the past two or three years that was brought home to me while most of Stafford was dug up in order to replace the water and sewerage systems. Of course I had plenty of moans about the effect on traffic congestion but, ultimately, my constituents said, “Yes, we know that this has to be done. We know that we have a system that is decades old and needs to be replaced. And we know how vital water and sanitation are to our everyday lives.” If that is the case for us, it is the case for every person on the planet.
The final lever I suggest is that of global public goods in health, climate change and, following on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton said, peace building. Global public goods are, by definition, goods for the benefit of everyone, such as the development of drugs against tuberculosis—we know how far we are falling behind on drugs against TB—or research into antimicrobial resistance, which I raised in the main Chamber earlier today. The Government have taken the lead after an excellent report from Lord O’Neill earlier this year but they need to pursue it relentlessly because, as he said, by 2050, if we take no action, 10 million lives will be lost every year—that is more than die from cancer —to diseases that cannot be cured because of resistance, and that will cost the global economy trillions of dollars.
Global public goods are not only in the area of health, but in climate change. Many communities around the world face the prospect of being submerged, or flooded regularly, and others face regular droughts, even though there are practical, if not simple, actions that we could take on behalf of those communities and of the world as a whole.
Peace building is another area. As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton said, we need to invest in peace building at an early stage—in inter-faith relationships and dialogue, for example—and, as the Committee has said on many occasions, in training peace negotiators, women in particular. There are almost no women peace negotiators whom I am aware of in the United Nations. Let us invest in that: prevention is so much better than cure or, as Churchill said:
“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
Those are the five levers that I humbly suggest the Department looks at. It is doing many of those things already, but I wanted to put them in one place. If we concentrate on those levers, we will succeed in addressing the SDGs in the best possible way.
Finally, I will talk about the five means. The first, as our report suggested, is the collection of data, and the UK has a comparative advantage in data accumulation. Earlier this week at our all-party group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, we heard how an Oxford centre for collecting data has been hugely helpful in identifying which areas have problems with malaria or particular neglected tropical diseases and how to address them. With good data we will make much more progress, and I know that DFID has that as a priority.
The second means we refer to as scale. We hear a lot about pilot projects, some of which go to scale, but many stay as pilot projects and get nowhere. Right from the beginning of a pilot, we have to think how it will be scaled up. The project might of course not work, in which case it can be cut after the two or three years of the pilot, but so often we hear about a successful pilot project only for a hiatus to occur as people think how to get it to hundreds of thousands, or millions of people, as opposed to the hundreds or thousands whom the pilot helped.
Third is the issue of partnership, which has also been mentioned. It is absolutely vital that we work in partnership with NGOs and other Governments. We need to see the SDGs as an enterprise on which we are all engaged together. I come back to the point made by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse about small grants. The idea that DFID will not get out of bed for less than £1 million—I am sure that is not the case—is how things seem to many of us who have met several such excellent charities in our constituencies or are aware of them through previous or current work. They simply cannot get access to funding, even when they have raised a lot themselves. The Department is looking at that carefully, and the Minister has expressed a desire to do more, so it will be good to hear his suggestions when he replies to the debate.
The fourth means is parliamentary scrutiny, and I mean not the scrutiny of this Parliament alone, but that of parliaments in the places where we work. Frankly, if Members of Parliament in a country where we operate are not interested in the work being done for the development of their own constituents, why should we be? I agree that we have a moral imperative to do such work—I am sure all Members present feel that—but if a Parliament does not look at the kind of things that our own DFID officials look at, we should begin to question whether we are in the right place, because there might not be the right commitment. I urge DFID to help and work with parliaments in the countries in which we are active—through multilateral organisations in those with whom we do not have bilateral relations—to scrutinise the work of their own Governments and of the development agencies there.
Finally, long-term engagement is another point made by the Committee on a number of occasions. DFID has been involved in some excellent long-term programmes. The one I always come back to is the reforestation programme in Nepal, on which we have worked together with the Nepali Government over more than two decades. It has resulted in a tremendous increase in reforestation in that country, which is vital in tackling climate change in Asia and globally. We need to do more, however. Too often, I fear, people involved in a country and doing great work are not aware of what DFID did 20 or even 10 years ago in the same country. It was good to hear the permanent secretary take up that challenge at a recent evidence session the Committee had and suggest the possibility of looking at one or two countries to map what DFID has done, together with the NGOs and the Government of the country, over the past 20 years, so that we have much better understanding of how long-term partnership can or perhaps, in some cases, cannot help us.
It is an honour to take part in the debate. I welcome the Minister’s presence, because I know how seriously he takes his portfolio, and I look forward to hearing his reply.
I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and it is an absolute privilege to follow the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy). I also congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), the excellent Chair of the International Development Committee, on introducing this extremely important debate, as well as colleagues from the Committee and from the all-party parliamentary group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development—I am a member of both.
The sustainable development goals are universal and therefore must be applied both at home and internationally. I do not intend to reiterate much of the information that has already been relayed so well by colleagues today, so I will focus briefly on some issues that have been highlighted in my work on the International Development Committee. A pertinent one on which I will spend more time is data collection and the importance of doing that from a variety of sources.
It is imperative that we collect both governmental data and other data, because we need to ensure objective measurement. We must be able to evidence the implementation of the sustainable development goals and the indicators that we have set. As the International Development Committee has heard in evidence, there are a great many ways to collect informative data. In the many countries where such data have never been collected, we first need a baseline to show exactly where we are now, but we also need data that give us an understanding of the progress towards implementation.
For example, governmental data on child marriage, if they exist at all, may be linked to the legality of child marriage in a particular country. I am led to believe that in countries where child marriage is illegal but still exists, such marriages often are not conducted in registered settings; they may be cultural ceremonies and are therefore unlikely to be recorded. People know that such marriages are happening, but they are excluded from the data. We must therefore collect accurate data, and governmental data by themselves may not be accurate. Household survey data might be required, as might data collected using alternative technologies, such as mobile phone surveys or imaging. That would ensure that the data were accurate, particularly that which came from marginalised people or women, who may feel too vulnerable to provide accurate data to governmental agencies.
Another example is sexual violence, where stigma exists for people who come forward. How will we collect accurate and objective data that do not underestimate that issue, country-by-country? We know that such data are difficult to come by in the UK, as sexual violence, domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse are vastly under-reported. Will the Minister comment on the support that DFID provides for data collection—in particular the use of technology and collection from multiple sources? What methods do we use to verify statistics rather than simply accepting them at face value?
I turn to another particularly important part of the implementation of the SDGs: the “leave no one behind” agenda. I have been fortunate to visit several developing countries with the International Development Committee, and I must say that I have visited few projects that reach out to and undertake interventions for people with disabilities or mental health problems. Many such groups continue to be left behind and marginalised. Do we have data on their numbers? Such data may vary across countries, but what are we doing to ensure that those people are not continually left behind? Do we think we are doing enough? We are simply not reaching out enough and noticing that those people exist. Ensuring that we identify those who are left behind should be integral to DFID’s programmes.
I was pleased to hear from the Minister yesterday in an informal meeting that the Department may look at support programmes for marginalised groups such as the disabled. Will it also examine key mental health issues to ensure that we address people’s holistic needs—particularly those of refugees and refugee children? It was a privilege to welcome the Tree of Life project to Parliament last month. It presented its work on trauma among refugee children. It takes a reconstructive rather than deconstructive approach to trauma work and is keen to build children’s resilience, which is important in building both people’s lives and peaceful and just societies around the world, particularly where conflict has left its mark.
As we have heard, we must also look at policy in the United Kingdom to ensure that the most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, are not left behind. I am particularly concerned by the cuts to employment and support allowance, which helps people to be independent and enables them to get into work. The disability employment gap in this country is shocking. This morning, I met the National Autistic Society, which indicated that that gap is even higher among people with autism. Will the Minister confirm who is responsible for ensuring that the goals are applied in the UK and that Government policy is underpinned by those aims?
We know that the sustainable development goals will be in each departmental plan, but who will evaluate those plans and who will have key responsibility? We heard recently from the Civil Society Partnership Review, which is linked with the work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact and the International Development Committee, that non-governmental organisations are disappointed that the sustainable development goals and climate change do not feature highly in those plans. I, too, am disappointed, particularly if they are to underpin our strategy and goals.
I have been particularly struck by the programmes that I have visited that leverage several goals at once; this has already been described to a degree by the hon. Member for Stafford, who has great experience in this area. One area that has already been referred to is sanitation. Refuse recycling in particular addresses health, disease transfer, climate justice and jobs—four agendas in one. I have been absolutely dismayed to see the potential in developing countries for disease transfer via the litter and waste that is often strewn across streets where children play. I am heartened by the potential of waste recycling projects and their ability to address multiple goals, including sustainable development goals and climate change objectives. Are the Minister and DFID addressing those issues in a co-ordinated way and looking at projects that underpin many goals at once? Secondary education for girls is also extremely important. It not only targets education issues but helps reduce incidence of child marriage, overcome cultural stereotypes and promote equality, since it means that families place just as much value on girls as boys. We should prioritise secondary education.
Will the Minister address: data collection; leaving no one behind, particularly those with mental health and disabilities; implementation across the UK; and policy cohesion? The United Kingdom has actively advocated a transparent, participatory and accountable follow-up and review process. We therefore expect commitment to full domestic implementation of the sustainable development goals. We need an outline for how each of the 169 targets will translate into UK policy and practice, cross-Whitehall mechanisms for delivering and monitoring the goals, and a strong focus on policy coherence and the means of implementation.
The sustainable development goals are such a welcome step forward. They are universal. It is a worthwhile aim indeed to ensure that we implement them at home and internationally so the most vulnerable people in our world are no longer left behind.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I thank the Chair of the International Development Committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), for securing this debate. It is always a pleasure to serve with so many other members of that Committee from all parties.
As has been said, the UK’s implementation of the SDGs has been a large part of the Committee’s work in the past 12 months. It has perhaps been one of our biggest inquiries, and the subject will remain very much on our radar. As the hon. Gentleman said, I co-chair the all-party parliamentary group on the SDGs, although we now refer to them as the “global goals”, which is a slightly shorter term. Although the International Development Committee has the role of scrutinising DFID’s work, our APPG takes an active interest in the goals and how they are working. We have been able to invite interesting speakers to our meetings and bring together Members from both Chambers. We have covered many aspects, from health to youth engagement and the role of the business sector in leveraging the business community to help on the economic development angle of the global goals. I like to think that we raise and debate issues across the broad base of the goals, and I pay tribute to Lord McConnell for his work on the APPG.
Members of the IDC are fortunate to be able to visit and look at many examples of DFID’s work. I know that other colleagues in the Chamber have seen more examples than I have through having served on the Committee for much longer. That really is a useful source to get a deeper understanding of the work of the Department that we scrutinise, such as: economic development in Nigeria, creating livelihoods and encouraging enterprise, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) spoke passionately; schools in Nigeria, looking at the role of education—as has been said, we are undertaking an inquiry into DFID’s work in education —and healthcare projects and hospitals. That highlights not just the depth of DFID’s work but the breadth of the global goals and their far-extending reach.
In September I was fortunate to visit Sierra Leone with my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and our party’s social action project. When we were there, we saw some of the work of non-governmental organisations, including some of the smaller ones, and other organisations there in the recovery phase post-Ebola. Again we saw the breadth of work of the international community and why the broad goals are so important.
In the last 40 years, extreme poverty has halved. Since 2000, deaths from malaria have decreased by 60%, saving more than 6 million lives, and UK investment in immunisation saves the lives of children across the world. Therefore, the work DFID does through UK aid does make a difference, and the UK leads the way in working with women and girls, which is at the heart of SDG 5, tackling female genital mutilation and preventing sexual violence against women. The inclusion of goal 5 among the 17 goals was an important step forward. In the Syrian refugee crisis and the Ebola crisis, international development has helped some of the world’s poorest, but it is not just our moral duty to do it; it is in our national interests, strengthening long-term security, protecting our prosperity and tackling migration.
As the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby has explained, the sustainable goals are a global commitment and an ambitious agenda to end poverty and achieve sustainable development and prosperity. The UK took a leading role in developing the goals, which were adopted in September last year, the culmination of three years of negotiation. We should not lose sight of the fact that there are 17 goals underpinned by 169 targets, a major shift from the millennium development goals but building on them.
The other shift covers domestic policy. Therefore, in reading the letter from the Secretary of State, I note and welcome that she, together with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, have agreed that Departments will report progress towards the goals through their single departmental plans. As a Committee we have focused on and called for that for some time.
I also welcome DFID’s acceptance of our recommendation that, following the multilateral aid review, it should lay out exactly how its engagement with multilaterals will help it support the achievement of the SDGs as well as look at civil society and funding some of the smaller NGOs. It is fair to say that that theme has come out this afternoon, and it is something that we as a Committee have raised on numerous occasions. It is therefore welcome news that Ministers will look at that. As a Committee we recognise the work and value of civil society and why it is so important that it has the space to do the work it does, recognising that it can often reach some of the harder-to-reach groups that others cannot. For example, goal 16 focuses on peace—such areas are very hard to reach.
We should be proud of the UK’s contribution to international development and the work of DFID and its staff, many of whom work in challenging environments. As the hon. Gentleman explained, as our Chair, the Committee’s work on the SDGs will continue. It is important that we maintain an SDG thread running through all the work that we do while continuing to ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent and used effectively. We must ensure that work continues on implementing the SDGs and embedding them not just internationally but domestically.
We are just past the end of year one of 15. We have made a start, but there are still many years to go. I look forward—assuming I am still on the Select Committee—to working with DFID and playing a part in ensuring that we deliver those goals.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and to follow such excellent speeches from the hon. Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). I find myself in violent agreement with everyone but particularly with the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) about her remarks on cycling. As a keen cyclist, I shall don my helmet and dash up to Euston later to conduct a witness session with young people in Birmingham.
I was keen to take the Environmental Audit Committee out of London. We are going to the midlands to listen to what young people have to say about their futures and their involvement in delivering this incredibly ambitious agenda. I therefore give my apologies to you, Mr Stringer, because I will have to leave at 3.15 pm—I thought we were to finish at three o’clock.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) on the International Development Committee’s report. I will pick up a couple of the issues it found about the worrying lack of engagement from Departments across Government and how we will achieve the goals domestically and internationally.
I am reminded of when I was out campaigning for the Labour party, when I had just become an MP, to make poverty history. I was in Wakefield city centre giving out leaflets and said, “We’re trying to make poverty history,” and this woman looked at me and said, “Well, what are we doing to make poverty history at home?” Actually, probably all of us have been confronted with that question, and finally as MPs across parties and as Governments of whatever colour we have an answer. It is imperative that we get it right. As I was Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for International Development until 2015, this cause is very close to my heart.
The Environmental Audit Committee launched its inquiry on 25 July. We want to build on the International Development Committee’s inquiry and measure, monitor and—importantly—communicate the Government’s performance and progress towards achieving these goals. I will share a few initial observations on the principles of applying everywhere and to everyone and ensuring that no one is left behind. That is imperative, and that means that we must implement the goals domestically. The second principle is that we must focus on the poorest and most marginalised groups in society. That presents significant challenges that the Government, NGOs, the Office for National Statistics and we as politicians will have to tackle. I was in our Committee yesterday and I was in Berlin on Tuesday talking about the global goals. If we ask a bunch of 20-something people who work for NGOs—this is interesting—we hear, as a witness said yesterday, “We’ve got to look at all these goals, and we looked at water quality and access to water and thought: in the UK we don’t have a problem with that,” and yet we received evidence a couple of weeks before that nine UK water companies are in water stress. That might be 15 water companies by 2020 and all of them by 2030. The definitions of what we measure are in some way defined by the people we ask. If we put the question to NGOs in this country—which do not normally campaign on water and are not involved in its delivery—they will give a different answer to the people who are actually involved in that delivery.
On data collection, disaggregating the data is really important. A headline goal or target could be on nutrition, but we are not generally malnourished in this country; some might even think we are a bit too well nourished— I am certainly feeling that way at the moment; that is why I am on the bike again. We have got to look underneath malnutrition and at this country’s problem with obesity, particularly among children. A significant percentage of children are obese by the age of five, which has increased by the age of 11. That is a massive problem.
There is also a hidden problem of malnutrition among our frail, elderly population. It is hidden because we do not go into care homes and say, “Did you have your breakfast today?”, or, if the old person’s stomach has shrunk, “Did you have a light lunch at 11 o’clock and then something to eat at 1 o’clock?” We are able to consume and absorb less food as we get older, but we are not really changing our habits. We still expect three meals a day, but old people might need five or seven meals a day. Are we adapting our services? These goals profoundly challenge us to think about the problems and the difficulties we will have in collecting those data.
The Office for National Statistics says that about 70% of the targets are covered, but it will need to use data partners, such as NGOs, businesses and local government, to make sure the data are of good quality, and it will have to build trust in the information. We hope to inform the ONS’s consultation. It will be published on 29 November, which will be a critical moment in our country’s implementation. We need to engage the public on the goals.
We also heard from businesses yesterday. At the meeting I attended in Berlin, where there were environmental charities that are used to fighting businesses that want to build dams, chop down trees and exploit mineral deposits, it was very interesting that there was a strong reaction against me when I said, “No one is really talking about the role of business in this.” I thought to myself that business has probably lifted more people out of poverty than the combined global aid budgets and everything that charities have done, so it is a question of how we get business to address market failure. If people are hungry or in poverty, that is a market failure. How do we work with businesses to address that? Businesses want well-paid people who are able to purchase their goods and services, whatever they may be. We heard from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is developing an interesting data mechanism that can be applied globally. We heard about the insurance company, Aviva, which is on the frontline of flooding and climate change issues, and also from Hermes Investment Management.
We also have things to learn from other countries. Wales has a commissioner for future generations. At first, the Welsh Government were going to introduce a sustainable development Act, before realising that no one knows what sustainable development is—it is too abstract, too distant, too out there—so they talked about solidarity with future generations. They had a great programme of implementation and consultation that gave everybody in Wales ownership and understanding of what that Act means.
When we have our data partners and data parameters, we will need some poets to translate it into normal language. Obviously, that is part of our job as politicians —to translate very technical, difficult issues. However, we need to cascade that down. One of my concerns is that a lot of international NGOs came to our inquiry but we did not hear much from UK charities. That is a big problem, and we have a real job to do with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to get that message out and get those charities to map every activity against the baseline targets.
We will also have to translate those goals into what we do as politicians. How is what we do in the House and every day that we spend as MPs going to end poverty or violence? Every Bill that we pass should be run past that mechanism if we are going to have meaningful action. We have looked at innovations from other countries. For example, Colombia has put its peace process at the heart of everything it is doing, while Finland has developed an online tool so that everyone can put in what they are doing to contribute to the goals and bring them to life. I am afraid that we have not yet seen the same level of enthusiasm from the Government. I will read the Minister’s response very closely in Hansard. I hope we will see a new level of enthusiasm on this.
Dr Graham Long, who is a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, set out some areas of concern in the UK: 40% of homes fail to meet the decent homes standard; 40,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution every year; the Trussell Trust gave out half a million emergency food parcels in the first half of the year, including to more than 180,000 children; we throw away more than 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year; as I said, nine companies are under water stress; since 2013, the suicide rate has increased to 12 deaths per 100,000 people, which is its highest rate since 2004. On energy efficiency, the phasing out of fossil fuels and non-communicable disease mortality, we have done an awful lot as a country, but we have an awful lot to do.
We need to work with local government, the NHS, schools—I was pleased to see some young people in their school uniforms in the Gallery who had come to listen to the debate—colleges, universities, large and small businesses, local and national charities and trade unions, which realise that there are no jobs on a dead planet. Those organisations will help to transform the goals into action on the ground and to build a community of likeminded people. As I said, I am off to Birmingham this afternoon.
However, we need leadership from the Government. The voluntary sector is waiting for the Government to show leadership; it is a sort of chicken and egg thing: if the Government do not lead, nobody knows about it and the charities feel like they are talking into a vacuum. We heard during our inquiry that the Government’s contribution to the goals is confined to the 2015 Conservative manifesto, but that was published before the goals were agreed and only lasts until 2020.
Perhaps we need to look at fixing this into law, as we did with climate change, and having something that sets the goals on a five-yearly basis—although not to coincide with general elections—and that are agreed by an independent committee and with an independent monitor that is able to look at those things in the round. The area on which I think the International Development Committee report was most damning was the “deep concern” at the lack of a strategic approach, the
“deep incoherence across government policy”
and the potential for progress made in one area to be undermined by its lack in another. We will look at that in a granular way. This is a 15-year agenda, and the goals are non-binding and voluntary, so we really need to see robust accountability mechanisms in place; we cannot rely only on the Environmental Audit Committee or the International Development Committee, which have very limited resources.
[Mike Gapes in the Chair]
I conclude, Mr Gapes, by saying that ours is the generation that can end extreme poverty, hunger and violence, reduce inequality and tackle climate change. I know that my Committee, and the other Committees of the House, will work over the course of this Parliament to ensure that we live up to our commitments and achieve those global goals. Our constituents, our children and our grandchildren are relying on us to do that. We must not let them down.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. Unfortunately, you have missed most of the debate. It has been incredibly interesting, and I am delighted to follow so many hon. Members, from all sides of the House, who have spoken very eloquently about the sustainable development goals. They have not been in existence for that long, but we are making some progress.
I am particularly interested to follow the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), who said, “There are no jobs on a dead planet”, and that the unions understand that. That is actually something I will touch on in my speech. We know that we need better health and education and a reduction in the disaffection of young people with politics, particularly, and with the world. We also know that we need more peace and fewer conflicts in the world. Many of those things affect countries in Africa.
I want to concentrate on jobs, which relates to goal 8. That goal is for
“sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
I will focus my remarks on African countries. Without jobs and economic growth, we cannot have any of the other things in the sustainable development goals. We cannot have better health or better education unless somebody pays for it. Jobs and livelihoods are incredibly important. They help families to educate their children and to have better health.
I have been privileged to travel to many African countries, and they are all delightful. They have very varied landscapes and types of countryside out there. The only thing they have that I hate is mosquitoes and malaria; that is the only downside I can see to African countries. It is a unique continent, but without tourism, which is what I want to talk about, most of its countries would have very few jobs for people to earn a living and to help their children and grandchildren. We do not want to continue giving handouts. People do not want handouts; they want a proper job, so that they can contribute to society, pay their taxes and help others by doing so. They want a livelihood that engages them and that they can enjoy.
Tourism is one such livelihood. It encompasses all sorts of jobs, from rangers out in the field to people working in the hospitality industry. Without tourism, Africa would struggle to survive. It is something many people in this country take advantage of; many of us have been on holiday to African countries and recognise that it is a most beautiful continent, with a fantastic climate. As I say, the only downside is malaria.
There is a tremendous diversity in African countries that tourism can take advantage of, but that diversity is at threat. If that threat is not tackled by the world, diversity will decline, if not disappear, in many countries. Elephants, rhinos, gorillas, wild dogs and even lions, to name just a few, are at risk of extinction from poachers, who earn so much by killing those majestic and beautiful animals.
The other problem that animals face, aside from the poachers, is their shrinking natural habitat, which I believe this country can help to protect. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) about the planting in Nepal that helps with climate change. That can also help to provide a habitat for some of these wonderful animals. DFID, alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, needs to push our Government, through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to ban the trading of ivory worldwide.
Parts of elephant families are being killed, which is tragic. Since the Conservative party came into power, in the coalition Government before and now on our own, 120,000 elephants have been killed in Africa alone, reducing the population to just over 300,000. The problem is that the speed at which they are being killed is escalating, so my grandchildren and great-grandchildren may never see elephants.
The hon. Lady is making an interesting and valuable point. Does she agree that we need to do a lot more to ban the domestic trade in ivory in this country and the loophole that allows ivory allegedly produced before 1948 to be freely sold and traded? People can go to any antique shop down on the King’s Road and pick up some ivory. Until we take the cachet and the glamour out of ivory, including antique ivory, in our own country, we cannot lecture people around the world on this, because they can come back and say, “Well, I can get this on the King’s Road.”
There is a market and people are making money from it; the hon. Lady is right. I am campaigning to stop the trade in ivory not only worldwide but here, because we are nowhere near there yet, and we should be. We should be leading the world in blocking the ivory trade, and I know the Minister is interested in this issue.
Elephants live in large herds. They are very social animals. When an elephant is killed, the others grieve. We have seen it on David Attenborough’s programmes. If several animals in a herd are killed, poachers will generally go for the largest, because they have the biggest tusks, which poachers make so much money from. That means elephant families are losing role models for the younger elephants to follow.
We talk about dysfunctional families in this country; that is what we are seeing with wild elephants in Africa. Those elephants are losing the role models and the family structure that we have lost quite badly here. The non-mature males have no role models to follow, so they become delinquent and dangerous to the population. I know of one wildlife photographer who was trampled and savaged—he survived, but only just—by an elephant that was not behaving naturally. We are not only decimating these beautiful animals but changing the structure of their lives.
I agree, but I do not think it is as bad as poaching. People make so much money from ivory poaching that they can afford to hire helicopters to fly in a poacher who shoots an elephant or rhino, saws the tusks off with a chainsaw, gets them into the helicopter and flies off before any ranger can get near them. They are very efficient, and the trade is worth millions, but they are not the people who should be targeted. We should target the people who are commissioning this and buying the tusks. I agree with the hon. Lady that there are multiple problems.
Rhinos now need 24/7 security. I was in Kenya in the summer, and the two rhinos there had two guards walking around with them 24/7. That is changing the rhinos’ nature, because they are becoming too habituated to humans and know them too well. The habitat of gorillas is constantly reducing and they are losing the ancient rainforests that they need. Without those habitats, we lose potential tourism for many countries. Wild dogs are down to an absolute minimum. The habitats need protection, and the animals need protection.
The ivory trade needs to be stopped, without further ado. We should not consult on it next year; we should stop it next year. We should have stopped it before. We are not leading the world in this. We now face the prospect of destroying jobs and possibilities for people in Africa, because without those livelihoods, which I believe we can and should facilitate, people will be left behind. We will fail on the sustainable development goals. We will not have better education or health, and those people will genuinely be left behind. I urge the Minister to push the Foreign Office and DEFRA to stop the ivory trade, and stop it now.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. I congratulate the Chair of the International Development Committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), on securing this opportunity to discuss an extremely substantial and important report.
The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) has had to leave for another appointment. I had to give my apologies this afternoon, as I was unable to attend an appointment at the Malawi high commission, where the Social Work Malawi programme is being launched by the Children and Families International Foundation. The programme aims to bring social work skills and expertise to that country through training, resources and skills sharing. It is a very exciting initiative, which will no doubt contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals.
I am delighted to be back here in Westminster Hall talking about this subject because the first debate that I secured as a new Member in June 2015 was on the negotiation and implementation of the sustainable development goals. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby spoke in that debate; I think he was pitching for the chairmanship at that point—clearly a successful pitch. We were also joined by the former Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. I think it is fair to pay tribute to him. Although we would not necessarily agree on everything, given the different parties that we represented, he spoke powerfully and with considerable experience on matters of international development in his time as a Member of the House.
Since the start of this parliamentary Session, the sustainable development goals have been an issue on the agenda of Members who have continually pressed the Government to make more progress. The target date of 2030 is not a moving target; it is not getting any further away. Every day, every second is precious and the Government need to continue to play the leading role that they played in drafting the sustainable development goals in starting to take forward implementation. The goals are not going away now that they have been agreed. I pay tribute to the work of the all-party group and the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) and Lord McConnell for their role in providing ongoing scrutiny.
The new Administration have sometimes been accused of having an aversion to their predecessors’ policies and legacies, but I hope that is not true when it comes to the sustainable development goals.
In summing up for the Scottish National party, I want to look at why the sustainable development goals are important. Themes have arisen from the debate. I want to comment on key points and recommendations from the report, and I have specific questions for the Government, many of which have been touched on by other hon. Members today.
The sustainable development goals are important, as we have heard from various Members. They build on the really important success of the millennium development goals, and the lessons of the millennium development goals, and they start with a very different mandate. They were not cooked up in a basement negotiating room of the United Nations General Assembly building. There was a global consultation and a participative drafting process, which gives them a significant mandate. The universality aspect is also hugely important. The goals apply equally everywhere. We must work to meet them at home as well as abroad, as almost every Member has said. The hon. Member for Wakefield drove that point home when she spoke about her experience on the Environmental Audit Committee. They also apply to all groups everywhere. They are not met until they are met in every geographic place and for every demographic indicator. That is the whole point of leaving no one behind. That is particularly true of older people and of women, as has been mentioned.
Most importantly, the goals are integrated with the climate change agenda. Climate change threatens to undo the progress made under the millennium development goals framework, so we cannot tackle poverty and instability without also tackling climate change. That relates also to the biodiversity points made with great eloquence by the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham).
The framework provides an accountability mechanism. This Government and Governments around the world, whether they like it or not and whether the party of government changes or not, are committed to achieving the goals. I was interested in the proposal by the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) for a 360° appraisal mechanism whereby countries could make recommendations and monitor the progress of their peers. It would be very interesting to take that forward. We have had several international examples—the national consultation in Germany, the responsible departments in the Norwegian Government and a programme for future generations in Wales. The Scottish Government have been thoroughly committed to taking forward the sustainable development goals agenda. Even before negotiations had concluded, the First Minister said that she wanted Scotland to play its part in achieving the goals. Work is under way to align the sustainable development goals with the Scottish Government’s national performance framework domestically and also to underpin their international development policy.
The report is a detailed piece of work. It is incredibly comprehensive, and I am happy to endorse pretty much everything it contains. It is important for the Minister to note that it was agreed on a cross-party basis. We have heard from all parties, and I congratulate the Chair on bringing colleagues together to make really useful policy and practical recommendations. The key message is that poverty reduction must be at the heart of development policy; the sustainable development goals provide a ready-made, consensus-based framework to deliver those.
The report touches on various important points. I did not hear much from Members, about tax justice and the importance of domestic resource mobilisation, although they are important. If we ever get to the point where we are able to start reducing aid spending, as some Government Back Benchers—not represented here today—seem desperate to do, it will be because developing countries are able to raise their own funds for poverty reduction work, but that will not happen without an end to tax dodging, which must be stopped. That could be started, as the report recommends, by introducing beneficial ownership registers in UK overseas territories.
There is a role for the private sector to play, as everyone has recognised. In the coming days we will be considering the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill, which will provide interesting opportunities to explore these issues in more detail. What comes out of the report is that poverty, not profit, must be at the heart of development assistance and development investment.
Absolutely. Tax treaties were touched on briefly. I think I heard double taxation talked about in the Chamber earlier today, and our hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Roger Mullin) will be seeking to build on his predecessor’s reputation with his private Member’s Bill, the Double Taxation Treaties (Developing Countries) Bill, in a couple of weeks’ time.
The report goes on to talk about domestic responsibility. There has been a development today, and I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) for slipping me a copy of a letter that has been delivered into the hands of the Chair at short notice. I echo the questions that still remain and the disappointment that the sustainable development goals have not so far featured in the single departmental plans. There is a need for clearer and more co-ordinated policy. It would be useful to get some clarity about when the multilateral and bilateral aid reviews are going to be published and whether the Government’s rejection of the recommendations for a fresh White Paper and a consolidating Act is valid for the lifetime of this Parliament. Will they review that as we continue to make progress?
The point about Select Committees was particularly well made. I am a member of the Procedure Committee, and I think I would have a hard time persuading the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) to do very much in monitoring progress towards the sustainable development goals. The procedures that allow Select Committee reports to be discussed here in Westminster Hall and in the main Chamber can perhaps play a role in taking forward scrutiny of the sustainable development goals.
Will the Government continue to engage? I hope that they have not ruled out for the lifetime of this Parliament some of the more practical recommendations that have been made. We look forward to the publication of the aid reviews, and we hope that they contain more detail or at least a reference to the sustainable development goals. I have read the civil society partnership review document, and I was surprised to find that it did not contain the words “sustainable development goals” at any point, as I think the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) mentioned.
The point about data and monitoring is very important. The Overseas Development Institute’s briefing pointed out that Governments need to know where people live and what they need, so I hope that the Government will continue, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow asked, to use capacity building programmes to help countries generate timely and disaggregated data.
It is important that the commitment on gender equality and minority groups continues. The National Committee for UN Women is calling on the Government to commit to the Step It Up for Gender Equality initiative, and I have tabled written questions about that. Can the Minister tell us about the willingness of the UK Government to engage with that initiative?
The hon. Member for Congleton also spoke about religious intolerance. In this very Chamber, earlier today, Aid to the Church in Need issued a report on religious persecution around the world; and yesterday we marked red Wednesday, when a number of landmarks, including Westminster Hall, were lit in red to highlight the persecution of religious communities.
Other hon. Members went into detail on various matters. The hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) talked about Fire Aid, whose conference Glasgow was proud to host earlier this year. Both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Stafford mentioned the small grants programme, which, incidentally, the Scottish Government runs very successfully; perhaps the UK Government can learn some lessons from the programme.
On Tuesday the House will consider the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill in more detail, and I hope that the Government will be prepared to engage constructively with any proposals to strengthen it or to make more explicit CDC’s responsibility to work for poverty reduction and the sustainable development goals.
I hope that the debate and the report will serve as something of a wake-up call for the Government. Despite what may be read in some of the gutter and right wing press, there is consensus across the country about the importance of aid and the need to tackle poverty. We of course welcome the continuing commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid, but there is no point in doing it by going down a completely different track from the rest of the world, or not living up to the existing sustainable development goals framework and ambitions. We hear a lot about how aid should align with the national interest. Surely meeting the SDGs is itself in the national interest. The emphasis on the national interest implies somehow that previously aid did not work in the national interest, or that we have a deeper interest in aid’s effectiveness beyond what the SDGs are intended to achieve. In that case my question would be what is its purpose? What better or more noble purpose could there be than the eradication of poverty and disease, and the building of peace and equality for all? That is not just in the national interest. It is in the interest of everyone who lives on our shared planet. I hope that collectively we can continue with that attitude.
This is an honour for me, Mr Gapes; I think it is the first time I have spoken in Westminster Hall under your chairmanship. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) on securing this important debate, and I commend the International Development Committee, which he chairs, on the excellent report that we are debating today.
I also thank all the hon. Members who have contributed to the debate, including the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who spoke about the importance of the use of data, and how that will help with the work that is needed. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) spoke about his five-lever challenge for DFID, and I look forward to the implementation of his work; I am sure that, as we speak, part of it is already being implemented. It is important to use the information the hon. Gentleman has provided to monitor the sustainable development goals.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) for the work that he does voluntarily for Fire Aid. I encourage anyone to read more about the work that it does, domestically and internationally. I also thank the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who is not in her place, for her work on peace building and on highlighting the problems of religious intolerance around the world; and the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) on her work as co-chair of the all-party group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development.
I want the House today to think about the day after the Chancellor’s autumn statement, the future of DFID’s ring-fenced budget, and
“our promise to the world’s poorest”—[Official Report, 23 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 906.]
which could be broken at the next spending review. The work of the International Development Committee and the timing of the debate are now more important than ever to the insistence that the UK must remain a world leader in our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid.
At the heart of the Committee’s report is that basic question: is Britain still a world leader on development? Under a Labour Government Britain created a dedicated Department for International Development; helped to negotiate the millennium development goals; trebled the amount that we spent on overseas aid; and put us on the path to 0.7%. In the process, it helped to lift 3 million people out of poverty, get 40 million more children into school and provide millions more people with access to life-saving medicines and vaccines. It is a record of which not just the Labour party but the whole of Britain can be proud. The question today is how that record is being maintained by the present Government in relation to the design and negotiation of the sustainable development goals.
As the Committee says in its report:
“If implemented by governments with appropriate ambition and focus, the SDGs could have a transformative impact on the wellbeing of people all over the world.”
I could not agree more. With the Trump Administration on the horizon and troubling elections ahead in France and Germany, such leadership may be needed urgently. So I am disappointed that the Secretary of State has not adopted all the Committee’s recommendations: she has rejected proposals to provide a coherent administrative and legal structure to co-ordinate implementation of the SDGs across Government; and, despite the Committee’s recommendation that DFID must actively and explicitly apply a test to every investment it makes or supports, to ensure they will contribute to achieving the SDGs, taxpayers’ money is increasingly being used to fund investments such as the oil exploration project in Malawi exposed this week, which have nothing to do with tackling poverty or climate change but are entirely focused on boosting British companies’ commercial interests at the expense of the environment.
It was frankly shameful that yesterday the Government threatened to make up for their own fiscal failure by cutting the aid budget, and to attempt to balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest. If they follow through on that threat it is not just their commitment to the SDGs that will lie in tatters; any pretence of world leadership on the issues will be at risk. I hope that the Government will therefore reconsider their position, withdraw that threat today, and ensure that Britain can remain proud of the role we play in the world in tackling poverty.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. I normally try where I can to speak without the assistance of notes, but we have had such a wide range of valuable contributions from extraordinarily well informed hon. Members that I have taken the time to note down, to the best of my ability, some of the comments; I shall respond in as much detail as I can.
I congratulate the International Development Committee Chair, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), on his opening remarks and on his part in securing the debate. He gave an effective summary of why sustainable development goals matter, and why the UK, having played a key leading role in developing those important global targets and the structure that will guide development across the world over a 15-year period, must maintain its leading role in driving the agenda forward. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) mentioned the former Prime Minister, David Cameron—I, too, commend him for personally pioneering the UK’s work in the international development space and for being the person who brought in the measure enshrining 0.7% of GNI UK aid budget in law.
The Chair of the Select Committee asked a number of questions that I want to address directly, including on which Department has the lead responsibility for ensuring that the sustainable development goals are delivered across Government in the UK. It is DFID, working alongside the Cabinet Office. As the hon. Gentleman has been informed by the Secretary of State in the letter that he received today, that is done through the single departmental plan process, to ensure that every Department recognises that it needs, in the way it manages its affairs and plans its progress throughout this Parliament and beyond, not just to be mindful of but to deliver on the sustainable development goals and contribute towards that delivery. That will be monitored by the Cabinet Office, with the responsibility falling to DFID.
I am sorry that I was not able to be here for all of the debate, but I am pleased to have heard what I have. May I ask the Minister, in relation to his last remark, to what degree the Department will also encourage other Departments to learn from other countries’ measures to implement the goals? This is not a one-way trade of the UK giving and bestowing aid and advice to developing economies. My experience is that we also have much to learn from both developed and developing economies in the way they apply the goals.
The hon. Lady is of course absolutely right. It is a partnership process, particularly in the international aid space. We deliver long-term and lasting improvements by working together with those countries, with the actors in them, with the civil society organisations and with the people who are affected by and, we hope, benefit from the work that we do. We need to ensure that the improvements last for the long term, and it is through those partnerships that we learn both lessons that can be applied here and lessons that can be applied to other countries in which we seek to drive forward development and this agenda. That of course needs to be part of the process for this Government, as it would need to be for any other. We need continually to learn and review the process by which we deliver on our goals and targets. That will be the case and is, through the departmental plans and the process that I have described.
The Chair of the Select Committee asked about Agenda 2030. I do not want to be drawn into speculating too much on things that have yet to be published, but I will say that the views that he expressed about what he expects to see in due course were heard loud and clear here. They will of course be recorded in Hansard and, I am sure, reviewed, one way or the other, as time passes and things are made known, and made public.
In the letter from the Secretary of State, she says, as I quoted earlier, that they are currently working on the
“report setting out the UK approach to Agenda 2030. I look forward to sharing this with you once it has been finalised.”
Can the Minister give any sense of timescale? Are we talking this side of Christmas, or is this likely to be in 2017?
The hon. Gentleman tempts me to talk about something on which I do not want to comment, given the risk of misleading the House, because it is information that is not immediately available to me at this time, so I will resist the temptation on this occasion, but I will ensure that the importance that he attaches to it is passed on and is properly understood by the Department.
The hon Gentleman sent a clear message to other Select Committee Chairs about their role in ensuring, as other Departments take on responsibility for delivery of the sustainable development goals in their plans, that the Select Committees that shadow them and hold them to account focus on this agenda. I wish the hon. Gentleman every success in persuading his fellow Select Committee Chairs to undertake that responsibility. It is a noble suggestion to make and will be a valuable part of the process going forward. I would offer what support I might be able to, but as a lowly Minister, my ability to influence the Chairs of Select Committees is sadly, although perhaps appropriately, limited.
My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who is no longer in her place, spoke about the need for clarity and accountability and particularly about religious tolerance—an issue on which she has a very strong track record and in which she has a longstanding interest. She was absolutely right to say that DFID should and, indeed, must work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to pursue these issues, which are not just of UK national interest but in the interest of long-term stability and development. That message has been heard, but it was already understood. I am determined and, indeed, the new ministerial team are determined to use every lever at our disposal to drive positive change. That includes the access that DFID sometimes gets, but that other Departments may not get, to the actors in states, and Ministers in Governments in states, where we want to influence behaviour. It is important that we use every tool in our armoury, and the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton is well received and well heard.
The hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) spoke about Fire Aid, which indeed received core funding from DFID. I was delighted to hear acknowledged the range of good work that it does and the impact that that can have. He also touched on the broader challenge of small charities—the organisations that often do great work, but that seek a smaller sum rather than a large amount. It is true that that presents something of a challenge for an organisation such as DFID, which deals with a large budget and which has rigorous requirements on accountability and due diligence. However, I am personally determined—I know that this view is shared by the other Ministers in the new ministerial team—to see what we can do to open up the opportunities for funding to organisations like those that he described, such as Fire Aid and the many more that do not want large sums of money but can do a great deal of good with relatively small amounts.
I absolutely recognise that although we work in this space and have done in the past, that has not always been as easy as it should be. I recognise the challenges in doing it. That is a discussion that I had in an informal meeting with the International Development Committee, in which I said that I would take the issue away and look at it—and, indeed, I am doing so. We must be able to do better and, indeed, we should endeavour and strive to do so. The point that the hon. Gentleman made is well received and very much agreed with.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford gave a most persuasive and comprehensive overview of what needs to be done in the international development space—the levers and tools that we can use and, perhaps most importantly, the things of which we must be conscious if we are to ensure that development is effective and lasts for the long term. I thought that his comments, particularly on the peer review of progress, were imaginative, perhaps requiring a level of courage from Ministers that I am not yet persuaded to display on this occasion, but none the less I can see the value of the proposal. Transparency is a good thing. Understanding the effect of the money that we spend, understanding the difference that it makes and learning the lessons from the way we do things, so that we can always improve the outcomes that we deliver, is incredibly important. Having transparency, having peer review and having those who understand the environment in which we are trying to work—and what we are trying to deliver—look at the actions that we are taking, feed back their comments on them and make observations on the impact that they have can only be to the good, so I am very sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s proposal. Although I am not able to make an immediate commitment to such steps, I recognise the broad thrust of the direction of travel that he is promoting, and it is one with which I agree.
My hon. Friend also said, very importantly—this is something that we must not forget but sometimes the debate that surrounds international development in our media appears to neglect it—that we need to take a broader and longer view. We need to ensure that what we do is sustainable, that we have transitional arrangements in place for projects that we support, and that the long-term impact is good and not just what might be shorter term deliverables or measurables, which all too often can tick boxes but not actually deliver on our goals.
The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) spoke about data, and I entirely agree with her comments. In my limited time—three or four months—as a Minister in the Department, I have been impressed by the way in which the DFID in the UK leads on the use of data in many respects—to predict disasters that might happen, to identify areas that might be hit by drought, to identify changes in human behaviour and to spot anomalies that might mean that we are missing a small group in a community and not supporting it in the way that we would wish.
The hon. Lady was also right to observe that accuracy is essential. Increasingly, we live in a world of big data; we live in a world where so much of what we do is recorded, algorithms are applied and incredible things are discovered. That can be a real driver for effective delivery, which is what we are about. I am proud to say that this Government and this country are committed to our 0.7% GNI spend. It is none the less incumbent on us to ensure that every pound and penny that is spent delivers the maximum benefit to the people whom it is supposed to help. That is vital, and data have a key role to play in that, particularly when we are talking about using data and the patterns in data to identify some of those marginalised groups about which the hon. Lady spoke so eloquently. I thank her for her contribution and I agree entirely with her observations. We will continue to strive to be a world leader in that space.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), who has a longstanding interest in this area of policy and whom I commend for her work as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development, made a very persuasive contribution, including comments about the value of civil society and the work that it does in many of the countries in which we operate and in which we want to deliver and drive change.
It is incredibly important to empower people to control their own lives—whether that is in the political space or whether we mean individual rights, women’s rights, minority rights, girls’ rights, people who want education or representation, or to stand up for the things that affect them and the communities in which they live—if we are going to embed the long-term change that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford spoke about. If we want long-term, sustainable development in many of the countries in which we work, a key part of that has to be strengthening civil society. I therefore absolutely agree with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills and commend her for them.
The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), who is no longer in her place, agreed with a number of the comments that other hon. Members made, including the need for good data, and she applied much of that learning to make observations about the situation domestically. She spoke about the requirement for the sustainable development goals to apply here in the UK as much as anywhere else and the need to work with organisations such as the Office for National Statistics to ensure that we are able effectively to deliver the policies that will drive the change that we want to put into effect. I commend her for those comments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) spoke most persuasively about the illegal wildlife trade, tourism and the need for development. I could not agree more with her. One thing we need to do—those who care about the contribution this country and its people make to international development for some of the poorest people in the world—is to broaden the narrative and explanation of the difference that the money we spend makes. Too often, too many people think—because of what is presented to them by some of the more nefarious parts of our media—that international aid development is either feeding people and doing basic humanitarian aid or getting lost in Government systems and being stolen.
We do—and are able to do—a wide range of things that people care about, but the message about them is not always communicated. The money that we spend is key to tackling immigration flows and the push factors on immigration. It is key to security and to tackling terrorism. It is key to developing markets that we can access and with which we can trade. It is also key to ensuring that we give the best possible chance of long-term survival to some of the endangered species about which my hon. Friend spoke.
Were we not to do what we are doing—and if we do not go on to do more, which is still a danger—our children, grandchildren and future generations may be able to read about these species but they will not be able to enjoy going to see them in the way that we do. There is a strong development narrative for tackling the illegal wildlife trade, because of its corrosive and damaging influence on the judicial systems and economies in the countries involved, and because of the damage that is done when a gamekeeper is shot by a poacher—a person loses their life and a family goes without a breadwinner.
The opportunities for tourism and economic development, when measured against the negative impact of doing nothing, make a compelling case for more to be done in this space. I have had many discussions with my hon. Friend on this topic, about which she is passionate, and I am pleased to confirm that I had a meeting only this week with a range of charities—eight or 10—working in this area. We want to see what we can do to get them to start thinking about working with DFID and applying for funding streams that may be appropriate for the development aspect of their work, so that we can support further engagement and activity in this space.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) summed up well a range of the comments that hon. Members made. He made the undeniably true point that poverty reduction must be at the heart of development policy. Much of what we do is about improving lives, whether that means access to water or education, a humanitarian response, growing economies or tackling the illegal wildlife trade. At the heart of many of the ills of the world is poverty. We have an opportunity through what we do to play a role in tackling that. I therefore agree with the hon. Gentleman and commend him for his comments.
The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the multilateral and bilateral aid reviews and when they may become available. As I understand it, my Secretary of State said only the other day that it would be around the end of this month. That is therefore as specific as I would dare to be in the current environment, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman with some certainty that he will not have to wait too much longer for those documents to be published. I know that there is much interest in seeing their content.
Finally, I thank the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), with whom it has been a pleasure to work for the short time during which we have faced one another across the Floor of the House. Only recently, we had the opportunity to meet in Malawi, when our trips there coincided. We had a very constructive and productive discussion.
I would not claim to be a parliamentarian of lengthy and great experience—I like to think I am still young and new—but I have seen many Departments and many debates. I have engaged in those debates and have had the privilege of being a Minister in another Department. However, I have never seen a space of debate in which there is so little party politics and in which people can gather because they are like-minded and focused on getting the best outcomes for some of the poorest in the world. Collectively, we want to ensure that we do the best job that we can in using British taxpayers’ money well, to change the world for the better, to secure long-term development, and to improve and save the lives of countless people who would otherwise be left without the support to which they should rightfully feel a certain sense of entitlement.
In the short time that I have served opposite the shadow Secretary of State, I have enjoyed our discussions and dialogue. I welcome the nature of our debate today, with contributions from Members across the Chamber. I absolutely expect that I and other Ministers in the Department will be held to account for the decisions that we make and will be challenged on the things that we do—indeed, that is the role of Parliament and its Select Committees. I hope, however, we will continue to do all that in a spirit of broad co-operation to secure the goals and outcomes that we all want to see delivered, because this matter is too important to be drawn into what occasionally might be characterised as the party politically driven debate style that can take place between hon. Members.
This is an area of policy to which we are privileged to have the opportunity to make a contribution and one which, almost uniquely, draws hon. Members together, regardless of their political differences, in pursuit of a good thing, a shared goal and an outcome that we wish to deliver. I am pleased to be given the opportunity to play my small part and I have been pleased to respond to the debate today. I congratulate hon. Members on their contributions to it, and I thank the shadow Secretary of State for her ongoing challenge and co-operation as we try to make the world a better place.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Gapes, and thank you for your role in chairing the latter part of the debate. I echo what the Minister, the shadow Minister and the Scottish National party spokesperson said: we have had an excellent debate this afternoon. We have demonstrated the significance of the sustainable development goals to policy both internationally and domestically. We are getting some answers to some questions that we raised in our report, and that is welcome, but there is a long way still to go to ensure that we as a country regain—to use that word again—the momentum to move forward globally and domestically.
I intervened on the Minister specifically on the point that the Secretary of State raised in her letter to me today. We very much look forward to the report that will set out the UK Government’s approach. I very much hope that we will see many of the things that the Minister has said in response today, and that we have heard from him and his colleagues in recent weeks and months, reflected in other statements from the Government, so that the sustainable development goals and the focus on the priority of poverty reduction remain absolutely at the heart of Government policies. As has been said, the aid reviews are an early opportunity for the Government to demonstrate that once again.
On behalf of the International Development Committee, I thank all those who participated in the debate. I welcome the opportunity for Parliament to demonstrate its commitment to these important goals.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the First Report of the International Development Committee, UK implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, HC 103, and the Government response, HC 673.