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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): The global environment facility was established following the UN Earth summit in Rio to provide funding to developing countries for their costs incurred in dealing with global environmental challenges. Up to now it has committed nearly $3 billion. The UK contribution to that has been £215 million. We have made it clear that we would like to have a third replenishment by 2002, to increase this facility by 50 per cent. Our Department stands willing to increase our own contribution by that amount.
Ms Russell: I am sure that the House will agree that that is welcome news. I wonder whether the House is aware that the Red Cross now estimates that more refugees lose their homes through natural disasters than through war and famine. Will my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend give a commitment that environmental protection and sustainable development will be factored into all their Department's work?
Mr. Foulkes: I can give my hon. Friend that absolute assurance. She is absolutely right: the common perception is that refugees are principally fleeing conflict, but the vast majority are fleeing floods and other environmental degradation. That is why we need to put more money into the global environment facility, to stop the degradation and inhibit the flooding by replanting.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): The Minister's Freudian slip harks back to the negotiation of the global environment facility at Rio in 1992 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), on which I hope he will congratulate him. If the Government are as committed to environmental goals as the Minister claims, why, just yesterday, did the Environmental Audit Committee report say that they do not take the environment seriously at all?
Mr. Foulkes: I have read that report. The Committee criticised itself more than it criticised the Government. As the green Minister for our Department, I can say that it is entirely wrong in its criticism of the Government. We are taking the environment more seriously than any previous Government. As for Freudian slips, as a psychologist I can tell the House that I am somewhat prone to them--but there is one thing that I am absolutely sure about: when the people of this country are asked to choose the next Government, they will make no slip whatever.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): In the past, International Labour Organisation work focused on the needs of workers in formal employment and had little relevance to the needs of the poorest. More recently, the convention on eliminating the worst forms of child labour and the commitment more actively to promote core labour standards, including action against bonded labour, discrimination and promoting the right to organise, have increased the relevance of ILO work to the needs of the poorest, so my Department has increased its collaboration with the ILO and has provided £9 million in funding since 1997.
Mr. MacShane: I welcome that strong statement and congratulate my right hon. Friend on the encomium for the ILO on page 29 of her excellent White Paper. The ILO is an important institution, and we should play a full part in it.
I spent a part of my life before entering Parliament working in Asia, Latin America and Africa, supporting workers in developing countries. My conclusion is that the best way to let workers earn a decent living is to allow them to participate fully in the world economy. Therefore, will my right hon. Friend continue to make the case for free trade, for eliminating trade barriers and, above all, for defeating the isolationist and protectionist attitude of the Opposition?
Clare Short: I agree with my hon. Friend. In the words of the Director General of the International Labour Organisation, the poor of the world want the chance to have decent work, to earn a living, to bring up their children and send them to school, to get health care, to improve their lives and to be self-reliant. For that they
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): Does the right hon. Lady agree that the elimination of child labour is an essential part of the programme of developing educational opportunities for children in developing countries? Is she satisfied that enough progress is being made to reach the targets that have been set with regard to primary education?
Clare Short: I shall not be satisfied until every child in the world is in primary education. The research evidence is clear that the single most powerful intervention that any country can make in its development is to educate a generation of children, including the girls. Those children grow up and transform their country. They have fewer children later, so their children are much more likely to survive to go to school, to get health care and to improve family incomes. Although children have a right to education, it is also profoundly developmental to get them into school. Children who are labouring and are not in school lose out on their childhood, but damage is also being caused to the next generation. We have expanded our work in this area massively, but none of us should be content until every child in the world is getting a basic education.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): The new White Paper, "Eliminating Poverty--making globalisation work for the poor", stands alongside our first White Paper that was published in 1997. It reaffirms our commitment to the elimination of poverty and the achievement of the international development targets. It sets out an agenda for managing globalisation, increased trade, investment and the new technologies in a way that could ensure that the abundance of wealth currently being generated brings benefits to the one in five of humanity who live in extreme poverty.
The White Paper makes it clear that globalisation can be managed either to bring a massive improvement in life to the poor of the world or to lead to their growing marginalisation, leading to division, squalor, poverty, conflict and environmental degradation. The future is not pre-determined; it is a matter of will and choice. The White Paper is designed to help mobilise a stronger international effort systematically to reduce poverty.
Clare Short: I thank my hon. Friend. I should love to have such a debate on the Floor of the House. These are the most important moral issues facing the world and it is important that we do better for the future stability of the world and its security and avoid growing conflict, environmental degradation and the movement of refugees. I am proud of the fact that the UK has entirely untied its aid. There is $50 billion worth of aid in the international system, but it could be twice as effective if instead of being used to promote the exports of donor countries, it were used to build capacity in developing countries to run their Governments and their economies well. That is what the UK is doing and we are doing all that we can to persuade other countries to follow our lead.
Mr. Mackinlay: While welcoming the moneys for promoting ILO conventions to which my right hon. Friend referred in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), will she bear in mind that ILO conventions are widely flouted and ignored throughout the world? What proposals does she have in terms of international discussions to ensure the enforcement of ILO core values and conventions, particularly the right of association? Will she beef up the commission proposed in the White Paper on trade-related intellectual property rights? When will that commission meet? From where will it take evidence--will it be from overseas? When will it report?
Clare Short: I will make a statement on the commission on intellectual property as soon as I can. I do not yet have full details for my hon. Friend, but we are anxious to get it up and going to sort out how we can ensure that those rules benefit developing countries. I can certainly give him an undertaking that we shall do all we can to enforce core labour standards. Too many children in the poorest countries are in work and not in school, as we said earlier. There is still much bonded labour; people go into debt and therefore work for nothing and their children work for nothing. They need decent rights to work with a rate of return so that they can build up their future. Enforcing those standards is about justice and decency, economic self-reliance and a safer and more decent world. We are strongly committed to do all that we can to ensure that they are better enforced.