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Clare Short: Or woman.

Mrs. Gillan: I shall come to the role of women shortly.

The Secretary of State kindly took an intervention on the pyrethrum issue, and I have had my file copied for her. A marvellous company in Penn in my constituency, Agropharm Ltd, produces that alternative to organophosphate and organochlorine-based insecticides, made out of chrysanthemums. I wrote to the Secretary of State on the issue on 5 March, but I understand that she has had other things to do. She has undertaken to consider the issue, and we would be grateful for her comments on it.

The Secretary of State mentioned some relevant institutions. I hope that the absence of mention of the British Council and scant reference to the Commonwealth does not mean that we have forgotten those institutions. I wish to take this opportunity to praise the work that is done by the British Council and to point out that the Commonwealth should be a great force for good in the future.

The right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) was the first Member I met when I came into the House, and I think that he was the Opposition spokesman on the subject at the time. He has an impressive track record and made a wide-ranging contribution. He touched on Kyoto and the environment, praised Oxfam for its advocacy and briefings, and discussed debt relief under the HIPC initiative and the role of education in the third world. He was also generous enough to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) for his creation of the safe havens in Iraq, and he also referred to Nelson Mandela's inspiration, which is an inspiration to us all. I was pleased to see Nelson Mandela at the concert on Sunday celebrating South Africa, and I am also grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his contribution to this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) was elected Chairman of the Select Committee on 16 July 1997. He is truly the Frank Sinatra of politics, but he is really going away this time and we will miss him. In fact, I do not know what we will do without him. He spoke passionately about the empowerment of women, and I agree that if we can reach the women of a society and ensure that they are enabled and empowered, we can improve that society's hopes and aspirations.

I also share my right hon. Friend's complaint about timetabling. He echoed a theme that has become common in this debate, which is the need for better co-operation between the Departments, including the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry. We all know that cross-departmental issues are the most difficult to solve for Ministers and Secretaries of State, and many hon. Members explored that theme during the debate. I am sure that the Secretary of State will take those points on board.

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The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar) welcomed the White Paper and spoke about his constituency. When he said that India and Pakistan had wasted money on nuclear proliferation at the expense of their people, a murmur of assent ran around the House. He also championed women and children, and their education, and that was another common theme of the contributions from hon. Members today. The hon. Gentleman spoke about shipbuilding in his constituency--rightly so--and about GM crops. We all know that GM crops will not solve all the food shortages in the developing world. GM technology may be of benefit in the future but, before large-scale planting begins, we need to ensure that proper trials are undertaken and that crops are safe. We should not threaten the poorest nations with crops that could reduce fertile land to desert.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) allowed her frustration to show a little at the beginning of her contribution. She gave a poetic glimpse into the history of the black country, and managed to talk about a song from the film "Mange Tout" that mentioned Tesco. However, she named some companies--Rolls Royce, BP, Shell, Nestle, Cadbury, Thornton, Rio Tinto, Balfour Beatty, Tesco and Sainsbury's--and I should be keen to see the examples of alleged wrongdoing to which she referred. I should like the hon. Lady to write to each of those companies so that they can provide an explanation.

Dr. Tonge: I have done that.

Mrs. Gillan: I am glad that she has done that already. I should be interested to look at her correspondence, to see exactly what the complaints were and how the companies responded. We should not always rail against multinationals and tell them to keep away from development, as their foreign direct investment is often most important to the countries that receive it.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) as usual made an excellent contribution. He made four points--on AIDS, mobility of labour, money laundering and trade--and they were well expressed.

What can I say about my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe)? Once again, his outstanding contribution made us all think. I hope that the Secretary of State will find something for him when he retires--although he should not be allowed to retire, as he has a wealth of experience and education to offer.

The hon. Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths) spoke briefly. I believe that people in Reading, East are more interested in foxes than in international development, but the hon. Lady spoke with fervour about the slow release of funds.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) spoke in his usual thoughtful and thought- provoking way. He issued a wake-up call.

The hon. Members for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) and for Wythenshawe and Sale, East also made excellent contributions--especially the latter, who is a member of the CAFOD board.

I reserve my final praise for my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), who has led me in this brief for some three years. He has led the

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shadow team on international development from the front. He gave a reflective speech, in which he spoke of our three aims--good governance, working with the NGOs, and reforming the multilateral organisations. My hon. Friend has moved the discussion on and has given a blueprint for the future in the work that he has put into "First Things First".

Finally, I thank the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, who will answer the debate. I, too, have enjoyed this debate and I feel that, at least in the past four years and thanks to the Secretary of State, the debate on international development has been moved forward.

6.48 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Chris Mullin): As all hon. Members I think agree, we have had a very good debate. I am only sorry that more hon. Members could not take part, but some have been tied up in Committee duties upstairs. I hope that debates on international development will become a regular feature of the parliamentary calendar, and it may be a better test of demand if they are not always surrounded by one-line Whips.

I want to add my tribute to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who has made yet another final appearance--although I think that this one was positively his last. He and the Select Committee on International Development, which he chairs, have played an important part in the sea change that has taken place in our attitude to overseas development over the past few years. We are grateful for the constructive, positive and rigorous oversight of the work of the Department that the Select Committee has offered under his wise stewardship.

We shall miss the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford, and the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), not least because they belong to that dwindling band of one-nation Tories that is so fast becoming an extinct species in the modern Conservative party. Whatever their next incarnations, I wish them well.

The hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) made a constructive and thoughtful speech which rose to the spirit of the occasion. In his final point, he talked about withdrawing from some of the multilateral institutions with which he was not happy. I hope that that will be a last resort. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) said, it is generally better to stay and fight one's corner than to take the ball and play elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford gave us a long list of the countries in which the number of people living in poverty has been halved during the last generation or two. That was a worthwhile point, because we need to remind ourselves from time to time that we are not up against impossible odds. It can be done and it has been done, and we must get used to publicising successes. He also asked about the Proceeds of Crime Bill, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). The Bill was published last March and will be introduced in the next Session. I agree that it is an important and necessary piece of legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar) mentioned the outrageous attempt by a number of multinationals to claim patents on things such

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as basmati rice. I was delighted to hear that they have been seen off this time around. I understand that patent offices around the world have cancellation procedures, so it is worth bearing it in mind that once a patent has been granted, it can be retracted if sufficient evidence exists to suggest that it should not have been granted in the first place. Perhaps we should look at a few more of the patents that have wrongly been granted, as my hon. Friend outlined.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) rightly reminded us of the misbehaviour of some multinationals. I think that she would agree that there are good ones and bad ones. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, many of them operate higher standards than local employers, so we should not lump them all together. One of the most effective ways of mitigating misbehaviour by multinational companies is to empower the consumer. Many of those companies want to be loved, and they can be embarrassed into changing their behaviour--witness the outcome of the recent court case in South Africa over the HIV/AIDS drugs. There have been other examples in which the power of the consumer has faced down mighty corporations when sometimes not even Governments have been successful in doing so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, quite rightly, that prevention of AIDS is more important than a cure. We had a very good debate on this in Westminster Hall the other day, which I think that most right hon. and hon. Members who are here today attended. The point was repeatedly made that even if the drugs were available at a relatively low price, most of those who are most affected are beyond the reach of effective health systems. Therefore, the most useful things that we can do are to encourage prevention and help establish effective health systems.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) made an interesting speech, and a good one. He said that we ignore at our peril the scale of the crisis that is growing, and that if we continue to ignore it we will reap the whirlwind. He was right to make that point, and we shall bear it in mind when we talk about what prompts asylum seekers to come to this country and the desperation that exists. One has only to look at some of the perilous ways in which they make their way here. Would we put ourselves and our children in a truck or send them to a destination, without adults, unaccompanied, as some people do? They know that they will never see their children again, but hope that they will at least lead a better life. Such desperation lies behind any rational discussion of asylum seeking.

The hon. Gentleman expressed the hope that he would alert Conservative-minded people to that problem. I share his hope and trust that his voice will be heard in those parts of middle England that my right hon. Friend and I cannot reach. I look forward to the day when the main political parties compete for votes through an appeal to the best instincts of middle England rather than the worst.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) asked about the Tobin tax and the response to the Select Committee report. The response will be

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issued tomorrow and a note on the Tobin tax will be attached. I am sorry that it was not possible to provide the House with the response in time for today's debate. As hon. Members may know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been attending the spring meeting of the World Bank in Washington. She returned only yesterday and has thus only recently been able to approve the text; that is the reason for the delay.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire is well aware that the great difficulty with the Tobin tax is that to make it effective we have to persuade everyone to sign up to it. It is rather like the proposal to tax aviation fuel. It is another desirable objective but unless we can persuade everyone to sign up, some countries could drive a coach and horses through the plan.

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