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Mr. Wells: The hon. Lady may recall that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that he was minded to approve the issue of export credit guarantees to Balfour Beatty, which will be one of the contractors in the building of the Ilisu dam. The Select Committee has asked to see the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Department of Trade and Industry that gave rise to that extraordinary statement, but the Foreign Office is refusing to show that advice to the Committee. Does the hon. Lady think that it has something to hide and that its advice on humanitarian matters is overridden by political considerations?
In a sense, the hon. Gentleman interrupted my flow, but he will be glad to hear that I have even more questions beginning with the word "why". The Home Office cannot cope with asylum seekers and we know that it is not coping. We also know that people migrate because they are unhappy, poor and want better lives, or are being persecuted, so why are we not putting more resources into aid and development to stop the flow of asylum seekers? Why do we not receive the Home Office's support for that?
If the Prime Minister wants poverty reduction and conflict prevention, why does he not express his total disapproval of Plan Colombia, which is being perpetrated on that tortured country by the United States of America? Why does he not protest at the United States' withdrawal of funds from non-governmental organisations that support abortion in some of their programmes? Why does he support the USA by staying silent on these issues? Why, why, why?
To end on a rather depressing note, I sometimes get the feeling that the Department for International Development takes one big step forward and then the other Departments take two steps back. That is a difficult situation in which to work. Where is the joined-up government about which we have heard so often?
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): I am delighted to participate in this debate. Like almost all the Members who have spoken, I welcome the Bill. I congratulate my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the emphasis that they have put on international development since 1997.
One result has been the focus in my constituency on these issues. More than 2,000 people are in contact with me and write to me about international development. Many churches and voluntary organisations in Dumbarton, Helensburgh, Alexandria and Balloch communicate with me as a direct result of the Government's White Paper. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Scotland Office, when he was a Minister at the Department for International Development, attended a meeting in my constituency a year ago that more than 200 people attended. I congratulate the Government on their approach, and organisations such as Jubilee 2000 on their good work in bringing the issue to the fore at civic level. That gives the lie to the notion that people are disengaging from politics; it is gratifying that people are engaged.
If I have one message for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, it is that at the next election, the Government should commit themselves on a phased basis to the 0.7 per cent. target that the United Nations has set. However, if we aspire to more, that will be very popular throughout the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) has already mentioned the conference on international action against child poverty that took place more than a week ago, which Nelson
Children are obviously an integral part of any Government's strategy. We can all support the development targets of providing universal primary education and reducing infant mortality by two thirds by 2015, when it is estimated that half the people in the world will live in poverty. When we look at the statistics, we see how important it is to reduce infant mortality. Some 30,000 children die needlessly every day, 7 million die before their first birthday and 10 million die before their fifth birthday, all for the lack of access to clean water, proper sanitation and basic medicines. Malaria and tuberculosis are thought to kill 8 million children a year. It is vital to reduce infant mortality by the target rate of two thirds.
I also welcome as a core component of the Bill the establishment of poverty reduction strategies. I commend the Government for the way in which the Bill has been formulated. There is a simplicity to it, which means that there is more that they can do to focus on those strategies. However, trade with poor countries is the key. Oxfam recently described access to the markets as being a matter of life and death for such countries. Trade barriers cost poor countries nearly £500 billion a year, which is 14 times what they receive in overseas development assistance. It is important to focus on that. Justin Forsyth of Oxfam said:
The World Trade Organisation connects developing markets with the global network. However, there is not always equal access to it. For example, the United States has 250 permanent delegates, but the 35 poorest countries have none. We must address that inequality. We should tell the WTO--as I am sure my right hon. Friend has done--that the poverty reduction strategy should also be one of its main aims.
Many countries have been mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) referred to Peru, which I have visited four or five times in the past decade or so. Some hon. Members suggested that money should be channelled to Governments and not to organisations on the ground. We knew when Fujimori came to office that his Government would be corrupt. If money had not been given to the voluntary organisations and NGOs, no progress would have been made in the barrios because there was a complete disengagement of Government and communities. Organisations such as the Columban Fathers, a missionary group, and its sisters helped to implement the poverty reduction strategy in the barrios. The Bill's measures dealing with that matter are important.
My right hon. Friend mentioned countries with alternative strategies for eliminating drugs. A couple of weeks ago, I attended an international drugs conference in Bolivia. I was taken to the Chapare region to see what the Government described as the total elimination of drugs in that area. We went to a military base, which we were not allowed to leave because 30,000 campesinos were outside protesting against us. The Government stated that they had eliminated the coca crop, but there was nothing for those people to work on. Development strategies, such as banana crops, are lauded as alternatives, but there is only one banana crop a year. The coca crop is harvested four times a year and the country does not have suitable access for selling bananas abroad.
We need to understand the complexity of alternative development strategies, which need to encompass health, education and economic issues. We will get nowhere if all we do is engage in rhetoric and produce hot air. We need to ensure that we implement better policies for the people of such regions. That is one message for my right hon. Friend, and I am delighted to hear her say that such a strategy is envisaged.
I have also visited Zimbabwe in the past few years, before the unrest and the problems with Mugabe. I saw for myself what effect the World Bank's policies and structural adjustment programmes were having. There was the economic cream at the top and a void at the bottom. Work in such areas is extremely important. I saw the good work that was being carried out by organisations such as Oxfam. It was putting what it called "Blair toilets" into the countryside and, at a stroke, ensuring proper sanitation for those communities. Although the initiative was developed by Oxfam, it was supported at a local level by many people in different areas.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie asked about strategies in central and eastern European countries. I was in Romania just after the revolution and recall the great dawning of a new age. People thought that democracy would improve matters and that there would be economic stability. Sadly, that has not happened. It is necessary to focus poverty reduction strategies on those areas. Flexibility is important, especially if we want them to join the wider body of the EU. We need to help them to develop.
The final objective of the international development target was to provide universal primary education. The best anti-poverty strategy is education, which is a precondition of progress in both personal and national terms. We must remember that 130 million children--two thirds of whom are girls--do not attend primary school. Nearly half of all African children and a quarter of children in south and west Asia have been denied that fundamental right. Some 900 million children over the age of 15 are illiterate--that is one sixth of the world population.
I taught for many years in what some people might disparagingly call a bog-standard comprehensive school. [Hon. Members: "Who?"] I shall not name them, but they know who they are. In that school, we had a gifted music teacher. Instead of the kids throwing stones at each other before school, we looked across the wasteland and saw young children with violin and trombone cases and drum kits coming to school. That lifted their aspirations and the spirit of the community. It energised the young children and the community, and they felt part of society. Of the children whom I knew, I am pleased to say that one is a
The latter part of my wife's educational professional life was spent as a special needs teacher, largely dealing with children who had been written off. When she eventually got through the programme with them, she saw a transformation in them and in their parents. There was a light in their eye and a spring in their step. She has "thank you" letters from parents for bringing their children on. That progress has been accompanied by a transformation in the children's attitude and behaviour. They are no longer excluded from school or society. We should have those same aspirations for the many millions of young children in the world to whom we can bring hope.
I welcome the recent Government proposals and I particularly welcome the new tax incentives which would accelerate research on AIDS, TB and malaria, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced only a couple of weeks ago. I also welcome the purchase fund, which provides a credible commitment to create a market for current and future treatments in developing countries through strong incentives to develop and deliver affordable treatments. When we remember the current case in Pretoria of the pharmaceutical companies against the South African Government, it becomes obvious that it is important that we develop such strategies.
Africa must be a focus for us. Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel said that Africa was a problem, but will now be part of the solution. In Africa, 25 per cent. of pregnant women die from AIDS; in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana, 25 per cent. of the population have AIDS; 24 million Africans have AIDS and 50 per cent. of children are expected to die by the age of 15. When we consider that, we realise the need for urgent action in that continent.
The Secretary of State has two challenges. I agree with the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) that the first is to change the culture of Government to ensure that if poverty reduction strategies are to be achieved, poverty reduction must be at the heart of every Department. We need a whole-Government approach. I have previously mentioned agriculture; poverty reduction needs to be at the heart of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if we are to get away from the obsession with cheap food. I have mentioned drugs; poverty reduction needs to be at the heart of the Cabinet Office and, in relation to crime, at the Home Office, if it is to be achieved. Not least, it must be at the heart of the Department of Health, if we are to tackle AIDS and the other infectious diseases which bedevil much of the world. That culture is there for the Secretary of State to change. I commend her for her work in the past, but she still has an awful lot to do.
The second issue is the challenge to the rest of the world. Today, I read in a magazine sent to me by a development group a comment by the former President of Chile, Patricio Aylwin, who came to office immediately after the Pinochet regime. I, for one, think that he did a tremendous job in healing the country and establishing a civic Government again. What he wrote about the market relates to what I said earlier. The article says: