Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Wells: That is a perfectly good correction. We are below the target in Africa but we are beyond it in some Asian and Latin American countries; although, as has been pointed out, the inequality of the distribution of the increased growth in Latin America is causing difficulty.

In the original White Paper and the globalisation White Paper, it has been acknowledged that the private sector will have to drive the programme. We must encourage that but, in 1996, £11.3 billion was invested in developing countries by the private sector in this country. In 1999, that fell to £3.8 billion. There is a serious problem, although I accept that that is related to the Asian crisis. We must resume that level of investment by the private sector; not just to the seven or so fastest-developing countries, but to the least-attractive countries. That is important if we are to achieve anything like the targets that we have set ourselves. Those figures need to be investigated.

I attended a conference at the Foreign Office yesterday for British Trade Partners for Africa. I was alarmed that DFID was not mentioned at all by British Trade Partners, in spite of the fact that more than £1 billion of the DFID budget is planned to be spent on Africa in the next year. DFID's work in Africa is vital to exports from Africa to this country and from us to Africa. When will the Foreign Office stop being jealous of DFID and start co-operating? When will the DTI recognise that trade is a part of DFID's responsibility--as is recognised by the Secretary of State for International Development--and must be integrated in the effort to increase trade and investment into the poorer countries? We could do that.

In many African countries, the infrastructure is not as it would be in more developed countries. Often, there is no clean or reliable water supply, and no adequate telephone system. Roads may be very bad and everything that can be expected in a developed country in which we

3 May 2001 : Column 1051

invest is not there in a developing country. If through grants and assistance from DFID, infrastructure problems were addressed--including health, education and housing needs--and that was followed by private sector investment, we would make a greater contribution than by simply giving ODA.

I ask the Foreign Office and the DTI to work properly with DFID. We would then all gain hugely, because we would be creating wealth in developing countries and we would have a competitive British industry. I am so glad that untying has taken place, but we have to get that to take place in other competitive countries. None the less, the British should be able to get the lion's share of the DFID expenditure, simply because they are the best people to do the work at the lowest possible price, with the best possible quality.

The agreement to introduce a longer period of tariff-free access to the European Community will enable the management of change to take place. Change has to take place, but in introducing tariff reductions and championing free trade we must not be seen to be threatening.

In the example of the Caribbean, some trading arrangements have existed for more than 400 years. These people are our friends and they are part of the fabric of the British nation. A demand that they must change their entire economy in a brief period--forget producing bananas, rice and sugar--would have represented a problem and they would have needed time to tackle it, but wisdom has prevailed and what has been agreed is probably fair.

I do not agree about bananas, however, because, under the arrangements being negotiated by the United States and the EU, there is no way that the east Caribbean banana trade will be able to continue. Why? Because producing the same quantity of bananas costs twice as much in the east Caribbean as it does in central America. There is no way in which we can overcome that, except through diversification.

Clare Short: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want the record to suggest that I have no concern for the future of the Caribbean. I agree that the Caribbean must be helped to adjust on sugar, rice and bananas, although I do not think that the longer adjustment period that has been agreed is necessary. However, I agree that an adjustment period is necessary.

For the eastern Caribbean, there is a niche in organic bananas, about which some of our supermarkets have made proposals, but encouraging the Caribbean to stay in products that it produces expensively, but which are available cheaply elsewhere in the world, will not help. In the end, it would get producers into trouble. They are good on education, however, and Barbados has figures as good as any in the rest of the world. It is a beautiful island that could achieve even more from tourism and value- added activities.

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern for the Caribbean and I agree that its countries are vulnerable because they are small. They need additional help and they need to phase in the adjustment. I do not believe that a longer period is necessary, but we have one and we are absolutely dedicated to supporting the Caribbean in the

3 May 2001 : Column 1052

transition. I am sure that there is a prosperous and comfortable future available for the Caribbean if the change that needs to be made is embraced and carried through.

Mr. Wells: I believe that that is the intention and I very much hope that change will take place. However, I note that Stabex payments are being made because of lack of banana production in the eastern Caribbean following price falls in the British market. They have helped, but the trouble is that they are paid to Governments. The Governments of the eastern Caribbean are using them not to modernise the banana industry, but for other purposes. It would be all right if they used the payments for diversification in the economy, but I am afraid that they are not, nor are they putting them into education, where standards have been falling. Health standards, too, have been falling.

Banana farmers are not rich and the payments are being absorbed by other Government expenditure. A lot more work and management has to be done in the Caribbean if we are to enable them to maintain their current standards of living, which are not luxurious. I cannot afford the prices of the hotels on the west coast of Barbados and the Barbadian community as a whole, unless supported by Government money, could not afford to buy even a gin and tonic in the new Sandy Lane. That is not the issue, however, and we are concerned with the general standard of living in those islands. It is important that we bear that in mind.

Dr. Tonge: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those problems still exist in the Caribbean and that, with the Americans determined to pursue Plan Colombia, there is a great danger that Caribbean farmers will turn to coca as an alternative crop?

Mr. Wells: Yes, but that is not merely a possibility. I could take the hon. Lady to areas around the volcano called Soufriere in St. Vincent where coca is being grown.

Dr. Tonge: Is that a promise?

Mr. Wells: Perhaps we can make an arrangement.

I could take the hon. Lady to that area or to Dominica, where I know coca is growing very well. It is a wonderful crop with few enemies, it has no diseases and there are no insects that eat it. Indeed, it grows so well that three crops a year can be produced, so it is a major temptation--the Secretary of State referred to that matter when discussing Colombia. There is a serious problem and our help, sympathy and support are necessary while people are making those adjustments, which, I agree, have to be made.

I want to discuss human migration, as $70 billion is generated by those who have left the countries in which they were born for countries such as the United Kingdom. From those countries, they send money back to their own countries to help to maintain the families from which they came. That is a huge sum and, in some countries, such money represents the largest single source of income. I welcome that, but the question of human migration will dominate such discussions for the next 100 years.

The trouble is that we attract some of the most skilled people from those countries. There is a bar on the national health service recruiting doctors from those countries to

3 May 2001 : Column 1053

help us through the NHS crisis. However, although the Government are debarred from such activities, the private sector agencies are recruiting nurses from South Africa, a country that can ill afford to lose them, having trained them and spent money on them. Yet those nurses are now coming to work here, which I think is immoral and quite wrong. If anything, we should be lending our skilled people to deal with HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases prevalent among the poverty-stricken people of South Africa.

Economic migrants come to this country, and we are having difficulty processing them once they claim political asylum. They are fleeing terrible regimes and countries that hold out no economic hope for them or their children. They should not be described as inferior people or as criminals who are breaking the law. They should be treated with great courtesy, as is the tradition in this country in welcoming people from overseas. If they are breaking the laws on immigration, their cases should be treated seriously; they should quickly be examined and then asked to go back to the country from which they came. We cannot take the numbers that are coming here, and they are breaking the immigration laws that have been agreed.

However, we cannot send those people back to those countries unless we make an effort to develop those countries in the way in which the globalisation White Paper suggests and demands. When we explain why they have to go back, we should also explain what opportunities the British and the international community will offer them for a better life in their own country. That is the human and sensible way to deal with the people who come here--who are among the most skilled, energetic and innovative people--to the discomfiture of our immigration service and our Customs and Excise service.

That discomfiture is irrelevant, however. Those people are human beings just as we are, and they are seeking to achieve a better life. We would do the same if we were in their position, and they should be treated with dignity and courtesy. None the less, they should not be admitted unless there are genuine political asylum reasons. It is a disgrace that we have let our immigration system get into such an appallingly incompetent state.

On corruption, the International Development Committee has produced a report worthy of serious study not only by the Government--who will undoubtedly have to introduce a Bill to enable us to comply with the OECD legislation to make it a criminal offence to seek to bribe foreign public officials--but by the civil service. The civil service will have to be organised in several Departments, including the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Foreign Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department. There are 14 such organisations dealing with this problem spread across government, including the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Services Authority.

The Government must put that matter in order, but we must also address the fact that London is one of the major money-laundering centres of the world. We must get our banks, lawyers and accountants to stop laundering money from overseas. They must also stop harbouring money stolen from third-world countries and enabling it to come here to be cleansed so that it can be used by families and relatives elsewhere in the world.

3 May 2001 : Column 1054

That is what we have to do, but the countries in which we are investing must also clean up their act. We can make a major contribution by not giving them a means of disposing of the money. This must be an international effort. If we close our doors, it is possible that the money will go to Switzerland, Frankfurt, New York or elsewhere. We must ensure that there are international agreements, which will stop some of the corruption in the countries with which we are dealing. If they continue to be corrupt, private development and private investment will not take place.

When the International Development Committee held a seminar for business men, we asked them what inhibited them from investing in some of the world's poorest countries. The main problem turned out to be corruption. Corruption is an important issue, which we must address as soon as possible in the next Parliament. We must drive out corruption, or at least drive down the level of corruption to which we contribute, and which inhibits the private-sector investment that is so badly needed.

The White Paper--14,000 copies have been sold, and the Secretary of State gave figures relating to translations and the website--has aroused debate and interest throughout the world. That is a tribute to the Secretary of State's work, and that of the Select Committee, in leading discussions in the international-development world in Europe and elsewhere. I am thinking of the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations development programme, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, all which bodies the Committee has visited during the current Parliament.

The White Paper is a major contribution to discussion on this issue. I trust that it will produce a consensus that will drive the current programme towards maximum success.

Next Section

IndexHome Page