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International Development: White Paper

Volume 684: debated on Monday 17 July 2006

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How the recent White Paper on international development addresses the main problems of developing countries.

My Lords, the new White Paper is about delivering the promises of 2005. It responds to four big challenges: first, how to promote better governance in countries and globally; secondly, how to improve security, growth and public services to reduce poverty; thirdly, the need to tackle climate change; and, fourthly, reforming the international system so that it is better equipped to deal with international problems.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging Answer. She will not be surprised to hear that I particularly applaud the new £100 million governance and transparency fund. Can she say how this might help women, who suffer the detriment of petty corruption in the provision of health, education, water and other services, arguably more than men, both because they have less means to pay bribes and because they often need to be the procurers of those services for their families?

My Lords, the fund is obviously still at an early design stage, and there will be consultation with civil society organisations on the issues. I expect support for women to arise. Assisting women is one of our commitments, and through that we are placing a big emphasis on education, particularly education for girls.

My Lords, first, I welcome the overall principles behind the White Paper. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that, although there may be differences of opinion on how to deliver the aims and objectives, they have wholehearted support across the House. What steps are Her Majesty's Government taking, in particular the Prime Minister, to reinvigorate negotiations in the margins of the G8 and beyond, following this weekend’s meeting, especially with regard to talks on trade?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, for those statements of support, particularly given the history of her Government on development, for which the budget fell steadily up until 1997. We have made it clear that there needs to be a particularly big push on trade, especially given its importance in delivering our agenda. The noble Baroness will know that the talks stalled in Hong Kong; that there were talks at the end of June; and that there is still a problem. The Prime Minister will do everything that he can to reinvigorate the talks with the World Trade Organisation.

My Lords, does my noble friend recognise the severe toll and the economic and human costs of the high level of road traffic accidents and deaths that occur in developing countries, often taking away the young people who are most needed for developing economies?

My Lords, my noble friend is right. It is not an area that we focus on sufficiently. There are high levels of road traffic accidents and death. In some countries, the numbers are as high as those dying from HIV/AIDS.

My Lords, has the Prime Minister’s promise to match the public contributions made in support of the victims of the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 been fulfilled?

No, my Lords, that promise has not been fulfilled. The British public were so generous that the limited capacity of the countries affected by the tsunami to absorb the money that they were receiving, not only from the British public but from the British Government and other Governments around the world, meant that we did not have to match those promises. The money is of course being spent in other ways.

My Lords, the White Paper is certainly welcome, especially the emphasis on climate change and good governance. However, does the noble Baroness agree that perhaps insufficient emphasis has been placed on the AIDS crisis, which threatens the development of sub-Saharan Africa as much as climate change? The G8 promised last year that, by 2010, all who needed treatment would receive it. Does this paper effectively chart how that will happen?

My Lords, as the noble Baroness will know, our strategy on tackling AIDS is set out in another paper called Taking Action, which is reaffirmed in the White Paper. So the White Paper does not go through all the arguments in Taking Action. They include action to close the funding gap, to improve the international response and to strengthen political leadership. We are on track to deliver the commitment on the provision of free medicines, though we do not have to do so until 2010.

My Lords, while we on this Bench would welcome a great deal that is in the White Paper, I wonder whether the Minister would agree that one of the most serious omissions is the lack of any firm proposals to plug the gap through which illegal moneys are haemorrhaging from Africa to European tax shelters and that more needs to be done to help trace and reverse that serious capital flight.

My Lords, there is a significant problem. That is precisely why the Prime Minister responded to the request from parliamentarians that we should have someone to champion anti-corruption. My right honourable friend Hilary Benn is the UK champion, and a cross-party and cross-departmental organisation, which includes the Metropolitan Police, has been set up to address these issues.

My Lords, I am happy to do that. Overall, our aid has increased from £2.1 billion in 1997 to £5.9 billion last year. We have spent 39 per cent of that through multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others. Of our bilateral budget—the budget we spend with individual countries—we have spent 45 per cent in Africa and 38 per cent in Asia.