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Tony Cunningham (Workington): I have a couple of points. We are talking about the Sudan, the Congo and Angola, but there are conflicts in other parts of the developing world. Although they may be at peace at the moment, the fact that they are not oil-rich or diamond-rich means that they tend to get neglected. Not too long ago, Ethiopia and Eritrea were at war. In one battle, something like 80,000 people were killed, but that did not even appear on page 17 of The Guardian. It was forgotten about because the countries involved do not have oil, diamonds and so on. Two of the poorest countries—they are both in the UN's bottom six—were wasting huge amounts of resources on fighting each other.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to spend more time and effort on all the countries that are in conflict rather than just on those that are highlighted because of their natural resources? In addition to Sierra Leone, will she consider the success in Mozambique on bringing the former Renamo and Frelimo guerrillas together after the civil war there? That might be a good example for Angola.

Clare Short: I agree that we should bring wars to an end everywhere. I do not agree that the focus on Angola, Sudan and the DRC is coming from people who are interested in investing in those countries. Those countries are in such an appalling state that their natural riches are not being deployed to the benefit of their people. I do not therefore apologise for focusing on the Sudan, the DRC and Angola, as, if they moved to peace, it would transform the prospects of the whole continent.

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Ethiopia-Eritrea war was an absolute tragedy. It was fought out like the first world war with lots of young men thrown at each other and slaughtering each other over a barren piece of territory. There has now been an adjudication on the border, which both sides have accepted. There are no rich resources in that border area, and the war was completely wasteful and caused great loss of life and suffering, and was a setback to economic development.

I am hopeful about Ethiopia. Prime Minister Meles is a remarkable man. He is determined to bring reform to Ethiopia. It is one of the poorest countries, with a gross domestic product of only $100 a head. Some 62 per cent. of its children are chronically malnourished and many of those who do survive are stunted physically and mentally. Even if they get the chance to go to school, they will never be able to develop their natural talents. We desperately need a major reform effort in Ethiopia.

I agree that Mozambique is a great success. It is a very poor country, but has had 10 per cent. economic growth for many years. We need similar levels of growth in other countries in Africa if we are to halve poverty there.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): I agree about the importance of focusing attention on those particular conflicts in Africa to get the economies growing again. However, does the right hon. Lady agree that it was

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counter-productive to increase substantially this country's arms sales to Africa over the past four to five years? I accept that countries have a right to defend themselves, but increasing arms sales, which are usually paid for by increasing debt, goes against sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty.

Clare Short: I have seen the claim about increased United Kingdom arms sales to Africa made in documents produced by non-governmental organisations. I am afraid that I have not checked the figures, but I think that they are largely explained by South Africa's big arms order. Let me make my position clear: properly procured weapons and equipment for properly and transparently managed armed forces are essential to achieve stability and order in the continent of Africa, so some arms sales are legitimate and right. However, there is much corruption in the arms industry throughout the international system. Indeed, Transparency International published a report on that today. Badly procured arms and wasteful expenditure often lead to bloated armed forces, which sometimes results in coups. That type of procurement is the last thing that countries need in order to develop.

Africa needs better, more disciplined, more transparently managed and properly equipped police forces, courts, judicial systems and armed forces. I am pleased that we have agreed to carry out a defence review with Uganda. People from the Ministry of Defence are in Uganda helping it to look objectively at the security threat that it faces, what equipment it needs and the size of its armed forces. It will be possible for it to manage its expenditure properly through public finances rather than secretly, which is how most defence expenditure is managed at the moment. I agree that the issue is important. We are making progress, but we need to make much more progress on supply and demand.

The world is grossly unequal and in danger, but we have an opportunity to make enormous progress. We have great clarity about what we need to do. All sorts of lessons have been provided to promote effective development and some countries are doing very well. Those examples need to be widened. If we also do better at resolving conflict, we could have a period in which countries make enormous advances. It is within the grasp of our generation to remove abject poverty from the human condition, which was only a dream for previous generations. That is an achievable objective, but it is not inevitable that we will be successful. If we are not, the world will become more unstable and more dangerous for us all, and no privileged country will be able to buy its way out of the trouble that will otherwise spread across the world.

2.13 pm

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): People are so weary of politicians carping about each other that I want to begin by congratulating the Government on holding this debate on the occasion of the publication of their annual report on international development. We asked for that during the passage of the International Development Act 2002, and although the amendment was rejected, we are delighted that it has been accepted in spirit. I think this is the first time that the publication of the annual report has given rise to an annual debate. All of us with a deep interest in international development appreciate the opportunity that that offers us.

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I also thank the Secretary of State for letting me have a copy of the annual report at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon. That certainly made a difference to my ability to prepare. However, speed-reading a document of about 136 pages is not the best way to achieve close scrutiny, so inevitably my remarks are based on a mixture of what I read in the document and what I have seen of the Government's work in practice.

On the positive side, last year we saw improved responses to international crises in Goma, Gujarat and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that the Department's emergency relief model is becoming more refined. We applaud the Department for that, and it is right to place that on the record. We also gave a warm welcome to the Home Secretary's decision to incorporate the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention on bribery and corruption into emergency legislation following the events of 11 September. We pressed for that to be part of the International Development Bill, and thank the Home Secretary for giving credit to the Conservative party for pressing for its inclusion.

There are many positive aspects to developments, but there are also some serious concerns. In the report, there is a deafening silence on the Commonwealth Development Corporation. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Barker) for raising that in an intervention, and also my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), who secured an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall on that very subject.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation was a model of its kind. It was established in 1948 specifically to encourage, through investment, small, mostly agricultural enterprises in the third world. What made it different was that there was never an expectation of a return on the investment of more than about 8 per cent. It was something good, something that worked, something that did not cost a lot of money, something that was constructive and something that had dignity.

So what happened? The Government abandoned the guiding principle of the concept to replace the scheme with a planned public-private partnership. Investment will move away from small businesses with low profits to be invested instead in more high-tech high-yielding enterprises with greater profits. As likely as not, those will be companies that could attract investment without any help from us. What madness!

After we debated that issue recently in Westminster Hall, I received a letter from a former employee of the CDC. Without wishing to exaggerate in any way the investment success of the CDC, he says:

He cites the example of a CDC-supported teak company that made 80 per cent. of its work force redundant in one of the poorest regions of the country before re-employing many of them on a casual basis and without the benefits that went with the CDC's terms of employment. He asks the question, and I echo it: is this development?

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