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Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): I am glad to have the last word on this subject. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there continue to be muddle, confusion and sheer incompetence in the Administration, as evidenced in the case of my constituent, Mr. Huntbatch of Hope farm, Minsterly? Last week, he was told that it would be a month before he could move his animals. This week, on Monday, he was told that it would be two months before he could move any of his animals. On Tuesday, he moved animals to an abattoir.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): I very much welcome this opportunity to debate the Government's second White Paper on international development, "Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor". As the House knows, I greatly regretted the fact that time was not allocated for a statement when the White Paper was published. However, as they say, everything comes to those who wait. I am sure that we all agree that a debate is better than a statement and are pleased to have this debate.
As the House will know, in the past, little time was devoted to discussion of international development, which has for many years been regarded as a residual political issue. We had neither a Department nor a Select Committee to address it. I tell the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) that I hope that we do not have too many more international development events in this Parliament because I have already paid so many tributes to him that any more from me might embarrass him. [Hon. Members: "Go on."] Perhaps later.
Previously, very little time--10 minutes, I think--was allowed for a Question Time on international development. Now, we have a separate Department for International Development and the Select Committee on International Development, which has done a superb job under the able leadership of the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford. I have already made clear, and I really mean it, my respect for his commitment to international development and for the work that he has done on international development policy throughout his life, both when he worked at the Commonwealth Development Corporation and ever since he became an hon. Member.
Nevertheless, although we have had two White Papers, legislation on the CDC and an International Development Bill--which I hope will soon be enacted--there is further to go. There is no doubt that, as those who have reflected seriously on such matters probably agree, the biggest moral issue facing humanity is the fact that one in five of those who share this little planet of ours live in abject poverty. The consequences of that inequality for the world, both morally and in terms of world safety and stability, are one of the most important political, strategic and economic issues that the world will have to tackle.
We have a way to go in persuading the political system and all political commentators, both in the United Kingdom and around the world, to face up to the seriousness of the issue and to stop treating it as charity or a residual issue outside mainstream politics. We have to make it clear that, if we are to have a safe and decent future, our priority must be to manage the world more sustainably and justly.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): I should simply like to reiterate the Secretary of State's point. On Tuesday, hon. Members debated HIV-AIDS in the developing world. Horrendous numbers of people are dying from HIV-AIDS, which she and I entirely agree may be the biggest catastrophe facing the world. Sadly, despite that 90-minute debate, the matter was not picked up at all by
Clare Short: I agree with the hon. Gentlemen. I also know that he has taken great interest in the subject and frequently tried to draw it to the attention of the House and anyone who would listen. I agree also that the failure of most media political commentators to take seriously that and other international development issues is both worrying and perplexing.
Some time ago, I read an article about the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, which was a time of profound historical change. The article, however, said that not only contemporary debates in the House, but contemporary media reports, novels and cultural activity were all about landowners. Opinion formers of the time took no notice of the transformation that was caused by industrialisation. I think that we have a comparable situation now. The fact is that the world is becoming increasingly interdependent, and it will be increasingly at risk if we do not act to make it safe.
As I said, both political systems and political commentators treat international development as a residual issue of charity. That is a serious problem for the future safety of the world. However, those of us who do attend to these issues realise that fact and are trying to convince people of the issue's seriousness and the need to address it by making the necessary changes.
Our first White Paper on international development was published in November 1997. It committed the Government to focusing all our development efforts, both our bilateral programme and our influence in the international system, on the systematic reduction of poverty and on meeting the international development targets. Since then, we have worked hard, with considerable success, to try to build that type of commitment right across the international system. We have probably been more successful than I could have hoped for when we started out on the task.
My Department has also published a series of targeted strategy papers--which are not, as the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) once suggested, the reason for my Department's increased publication costs. The papers are in no way vanity publications, but serious documents on the international effort necessary if the targets are to be met. They are also being used worldwide to try to mobilise international collaboration and energy to meet the targets. The targets are not an accidental collection of good things; they track all types of policy necessary in poorer countries to lift people up and create sustainable improvement in their lives. They deal with subjects such as higher income levels, better health care, more education, clean water and better governance.
I became committed to moving on to the second White Paper, on globalisation, after the Seattle meeting. As hon. Members will remember, there was chaos, with large and destructive demonstrations, at that badly run meeting. More worrying was the muddle of some of the commentary on the meeting from around the world. We should seek urgently to clarify in world public opinion the definition, the promises and the threats of globalisation. We also have to clarify how we can manage it to ensure that the poor of the world benefit and that future of the world is stable and safe.
After Seattle, we had Prague, Washington and the May day demonstrations in our own country. There has been a strange mixture of forces, including some very nasty elements determined to use violence. It is extraordinary that people travel across the world at great expense to smash up McDonald's, even though there are plenty of McDonald's in their home countries. Such people are destructive and unhelpful.
There are some forces that are simply protectionist. The trade union movement in the United States is very small--only about 8 per cent. of American labour--but mobilised large numbers in Seattle to march for protectionism. It was strange, at a time of unprecedented growth in the US, before there had been any glimmer of a downturn, that they wanted to put up trade barriers, because they blamed any job losses--it was a time of major changes in technology, so some jobs went--on international competition and the fact that labour is cheaper in China. Such thinking is dangerous and muddled.
There are some environmental fundamentalists who, in a completely self-contradictory way, organise on the internet meetings at which they discuss how to prevent any investment in modern technology in the poorest parts of the world. They show deep double standards. In a muddled way, they think that the poverty and closeness to nature of a lot of people in Africa and southern Asia gives them a better standard of life. They enjoy all the fruits of the technology brought to us by multinational capital, but do not want the poorest continents and people to share in that.
All those groups advocate very undesirable policies and can be taken on one by one, but when I came back from Seattle, I found that many caring, decent people were deeply confused about the World Trade Organisation and how best to manage international trade. That is dangerous. The last time countries drew back into themselves in a knee-jerk reaction, as many in the United States want to do, was in the 1930s. Because trade and investment flows are becoming so rapid and bringing so much change, there is a danger of isolationism and recession returning.
Against that backdrop, I thought it important to amplify the analysis in our first White Paper, analysing the effect of globalisation on the poorest countries and setting out an agenda to be read more broadly, we hope, and influence public opinion at home and internationally. We need a commitment from Government to seek to manage this era in a way that benefits the poor and gives us a more stable and safer future.
That is the purpose of the second White Paper. I am pleased to say that it has attracted wide international attention. We published 4,000 copies of the first White Paper, which was considered influential and a success. Already, 14,000 copies of the full text of the second White Paper have been distributed in English, with 1,000 in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. There has already been a reprint of the short introductory version, and 60,000 copies have been printed. The website has had half a million hits, with 11,000 serious visits in which the whole White Paper has been downloaded.
That is good. We need an international debate, and I know that some of the leading figures in the international system have read the White Paper, because they have talked to me about it. I hope that some of the MobGlob--I understand that some of these people who turn up to destroy international meetings call themselves that--
From meetings in this country, I have detected a change of view about the WTO, and an understanding that it is membership-based, with countries joining by choice. People used to think that it was run by multinational companies. Three quarters of its membership are developing countries, and that gives us the possibility of having a multilateral, rules-based international trading body that makes decisions by consensus, holding the world together and bringing more justice to the poor of the world. To lose such institutions would throw the world into far more division, with the rich and powerful bullying and further marginalising the rest.
Apart from its attempt to influence public opinion on how to manage this era in a forward-looking way, the White Paper--I say this largely in honour of the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge)--contains a strong series of commitments across Government to trying to manage change in a way that benefits the poor, securing greater world stability.
There is a superb historical role for Britain. I think that it was Dean Rusk who said that we had lost an empire and never found a role. We all understand that comment. We are an open, trading, multicultural country with links with all parts of the world. We have a lot of influential positions on the international stage, because of both the bad and the good in our history. We are involved in the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Commonwealth and the European Union, which is the largest single market in the world and the biggest destination for the exports of developing countries. To use our international influence to work for a more inclusive and just world that takes better account of the needs of poor people and countries is a fine role for the UK.