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David Winnick (Walsall, North): My right hon. Friend's statement will be welcomed on both sides of the House. She mentioned the rule of law. Will the barbaric practices of cutting off hands and stoning people to death for alleged sexual reasons finally be ended? Would it not be a good thing for those practices to go for good in a liberated Afghanistan?
Clare Short: Yes indeed. The whole country has been liberated and it is absolutely clear that people from all parts of Afghanistan are overjoyed that the Taliban no longer rule. Some of the most barbaric practices that came in with the Taliban are already disappearing, and they were never supported by the people of Afghanistan. I completely support my hon. Friend's point.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): I thank the Secretary of State for letting us have sight of the statement in time for us to be able to comment on it and I welcome greatly her awareness of the needs of the "Stans"I also refer to those countries as such. The whole of that area of central Asia is suffering the same drought from which Afghanistan has suffered. I welcome her statement that they will get help too and that the drought has been taken into account, but, mindful of the appalling health statistics and, in particular, maternal and child mortality rates in Afghanistan, what proportion of aid will go on health care?
Lastly, it is outrageous that the money for reconstructing Afghanistan is coming from the Department's budget, not the Treasury contingency reserve. Is the right hon. Lady not angry that, once again, her Department alone has to pay for damage inflicted on behalf of the international community?
Clare Short: I very much agree with the hon. Lady's first point. This new situation is a real opportunity for the whole area: Pakistan, Iran and all the "Stans". There is oil and gas in that part of the world, but they have not been able to get it out because pipelines could not be built as there has been so much disorder. There is now a real chance that all those countries can be helped to build up their economies. The problems in Afghanistan were spreading and corrupting the state, which led to growing drug use in all the neighbouring countries. The whole region has suffered from desperate poverty, so the reconstruction programme represents an important opportunity for it.
I cannot at the moment tell the hon. Lady how much will be spent on health care. The World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the Red Cross are already moving rapidly to expand immediate health care and immunisation. The Red Cross has been helping land mine victims for some time. There will be an immediate effort to improve health care while the Health Ministry and the country's long-term, sustainable health care system are being built up. As the work goes on, I shall be able to give the hon. Lady the figures that she has requested.
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her considerable achievements in Japan, and on her positive and continuing support for women's rights. Does she share my concern that the Minister for Women in Afghanistan is working out of her front room with one cell phone and one personal computer, and has no staff and no resources? Can my right hon. Friend tell us when Sima Samar will get the resources to build up that critical Ministry within the Interim Administration?
Clare Short: Yes. I had a meeting with Jim Wolfensohn while I was in Tokyo. The UK and other countries agreed that we will immediately resource the Ministry for Women's Affairs in Afghanistan, and the preparations for that are going on as we speak.
Tony Baldry (Banbury): The results of the Tokyo conference are very welcome, as is the United Kingdom's contribution. Is the Secretary of State aware that when the Select Committee on International Development was in Brussels last week, European Union Commissioners made it clear to us that for the EU's contribution to Afghanistan it had to raid every cupboard, and the larder is now bare? Afghanistan is not the only failing state. Does not that show the need to ensure that the EU development budget is as poverty-focused as the UK budget? It seems daft that we give money through the EU to countries such as the Czech Republic and to support the Moroccan fisheries agreement when many countries in Africa are, in their different ways, in as dire need as Afghanistan.
Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Under the Cotonou agreement the European Development Fund is poverty-focused, because it is for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific regions. People who speak for the Commission always say that that is its poverty focus, but the other half of its development budget is focused on Europe's middle-income countries, which is money not well spent. There is an underspend on Asia, which is why the Commission has had so much difficulty making money available for Afghanistan. The balance of the spend is going even further away from poverty. We are making a major effort to reform that process, and I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support. We must seek support across the European Union. The transfer of resources to middle-income countries does not help reform. They should look after their own poor, and they need help to restructure so that they can do that, but the resource stream should go to poor countries that need investment to improve their performance.
Clare Short: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I have said, insecurity, criminality and fighting between factions pose the greatest threat to our ability to deploy resources well, start rebuilding the country and give people hope for a better future.
Throughout the crisis, when the press pretended to know all there was to know about Afghanistan and people tended to repeat what the press said, it was widely suggested that it would be entirely unacceptable to deploy an international force in Afghanistan. In fact, the deployment has been welcomed massively in Kabul: people desperately want the security that an international force will bring.
The suggestion that there should be an international force in all major cities is not an easy proposition, but the Interim Authority have called for that. We should respect the proposition, examine it, and see whether the international community can respond to it. At the same time, however, we must get on with the job of demobilising all the armed factions and building an Afghan army. We want those people to hand over their weapons in the hope of becoming part of an army, or a proper police force, and indeed taking other jobs.
That is the real hope for the future. We need to consider how the international force can be enhanced, and how, as rapidly as possible, we can demobilise the factions and create legitimate security forces led by Afghans.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): Does the right hon. Lady agree that, although it is obviously vital in the short term that Afghanistan's rather antiquated irrigation system should be repairednotwithstanding the fact that it is one of the chief causes of rivalry between the tribeswhat Afghanistan needs in the longer term is a much greater supply of water and power? It so happens that its geographical configurationthe positioning of its rivers, valleys and mountainsis ideal for the building of power dams like the Kariba and Aswan dams. Will the right hon. Lady point out to our American allies that when President Roosevelt launched the new deal he put the Tennessee valley dam system at the forefront of it, and that by spending a good deal less than they have spent on bombing Afghanistan, the Americans could give it a proper dam system?
Clare Short: I agree that Afghanistan needs a new deal. These are hard-working, enterprising people who have managed to cope in the most difficult circumstances. It was Afghan lorry drivers who kept food moving throughout the crisis and Afghan workers who continued the emergency humanitarian effort when all the international staff were withdrawn.