Since 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has been highly effective in leading international efforts that have reduced polio cases by more than 99%. Only 15 cases have been reported in 2017—in two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan—and we hope the last case will come through at the end of this year or early next year.
I thank the Minister for that answer. May I also take the opportunity to welcome the leadership the Government have shown in the battle to eradicate polio from the face of this earth? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is exactly the sort of thing the great British public can get behind, support and welcome our aid being used for?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and he is absolutely right. Eradicating polio will be one of the great global public health success stories. United Kingdom taxpayer support since 1988 has helped prevent 1.5 million childhood deaths, and 16 million people are walking today who would otherwise be paralysed. People across the UK can be proud—not least those who support the Rotary movement, because the Rotary movement worldwide has played an important part, and I thank my colleagues in the Sandy Rotary club for their efforts in this regard.
Does the Minister agree that what has marked out the fight against polio is its international nature, and that we should be pressing this same approach to tackling other diseases at the Commonwealth summit next year?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The use of United Kingdom funds to support things such as the Global Fund, which take part in international activity, and to strengthen global health systems is important. We have to work in partnership with others. The Commonwealth summit will provide a good opportunity to emphasise more of what we can do together.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Department on the work that is being done to help eradicate polio. However, there is a risk that it can return if inoculations do not take place. Will he use the opportunity of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting next year to press the case for further inoculations across the Commonwealth?
We are working with those who are putting together the Commonwealth summit to make sure there is an ambitious agenda devoted to all aspects of life in the Commonwealth, including global health. My hon. Friend is right on immunisation: through the GPEI, the UK will immunise 45 million children against polio and save more than 65,000 children from paralysis each year, so there will be no let-up in immunisation and the fight to make sure polio is eradicated.
Will the Minister show the same level of commitment he has shown on the international level to the prevention and eradication of animal and livestock diseases—something that poses a grave threat to very rural constituencies such as mine?
Order. That is scarcely even tangentially related to the matter on the paper. What the hon. Gentleman is implicitly saying is, “I don’t really like this question, and therefore I’d like to propose the insertion of another in its stead.” It is ingenious to the point of being cheeky. A one-sentence reply of no more than 20 words from the Minister.
I will draw the attention of one of my hon. Friends in the Government to the hon. Gentleman’s question.