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Developing World: Business Enabling

Volume 672: debated on Wednesday 4 March 2020

1. What steps her Department is taking to help increase the ease of doing business throughout the developing world. (901091)

6. What steps her Department is taking to help increase the ease of doing business throughout the developing world. (901096)

12. What steps is her Department taking to promote the ease of doing business throughout the developing world. (901102)

The UK Government work in 35 low and middle-income countries to implement legal, regulatory and policy reforms to make it easy for business, including from the UK, to operate. Business-enabling environment reform was also discussed at the UK-Africa investment summit, which secured commercial deals between UK companies and African partners worth more than £6.5 billion.

Does the Minister agree that now we have formally left the European Union we have an exciting opportunity to build on our historic ties with the Commonwealth and use close business links to help developing countries create wealth?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. He makes a good point. The Government are committed to working with our Commonwealth partners to support and deepen intra-Commonwealth trade, to improve the business environments in Commonwealth countries to enable them to be more globally competitive, and to facilitate the economic empowerment of women and young people by providing more business and educational opportunities. He will have an opportunity on Monday to take part in the Commonwealth debate.

Now that we have left the EU, the UK can deepen and expand its trade with countries and businesses across Africa. Can my hon. Friend update the House on progress made to develop that potential to the benefit of constituencies across Wales?

Indeed. This is a great opportunity for constituencies across all the nations of the UK. Leaving the EU provides an opportunity to explore the best ways to develop our trade and investment relationships across Africa. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) want to intervene? The trade connect programme, announced at the Africa investment summit, will support African businesses to increase their presence in international markets while supporting UK firms to source products. This will benefit UK customers with more choice and quality and lower prices.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments on the success of the Africa investment summit. Can he update the House on how we can further strengthen our economic partnerships with African nations?

I certainly can. My hon. Friend raises an important point. We are working with African countries to promote mutual prosperity. This incorporates a range of initiatives to increase trade and investment, including a new growth gateway, which will enable businesses to access the UK Government’s trade, investment and finance offer for Africa all in one place.

All of us should be truly proud of our contributions to international development, yet the opening questions demonstrate the dangerous direction in which many in the Tory party are looking to take aid spending. The Department for International Development does not exist to increase the size of our business abroad, and nor is it part of the Department for International Trade. Indeed, the public good will and trust in the Department has been because every penny spent has been on helping the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. As the Government undertake their integrated review, will the Secretary of State reaffirm the Government’s commitment to a fully independent Department, with Cabinet-level representation, and does she agree that this should not be compromised for quid pro quo deals made to facilitate aid for trade?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department has Cabinet representation. I just make the point that trade can be and is a key driver for economic growth. It triggers positive changes in a country’s economy, which helps raise incomes in the poorest countries, creates job, lifts people out of poverty and helps countries to move beyond trade dependency.

I welcome the Secretary of State to her place. I will take an answer from the Minister, but I warmly welcome her to her new position in the Cabinet.

On the Department’s role around investment in developing countries, the International Labour Organisation sets global standards for employment rights. As DFID invests in African nations, will the Minister ensure that those Governments meet international labour standards, if not even higher standards?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that where we have these interests in developing countries we take those rights incredibly seriously. Our network fully engages with them, and this fantastic array of Ministers, who will shortly do some travelling, will ensure that that is the case.