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Dr. Tonge: Hear, hear.

Tony Worthington: That is obviously the hon. Lady's experience. The serious point is that the money available for research into microbicides, which are a barrier to women catching HIV from their partner, is extremely limited. There must be much more regulation and much more direction of money in that area, because liberal trading alone simply will not work.

Another area in which our trading policies are not working is sustainable development, which we are not adequately pursuing, and because of that we are promoting future poverty rather than development. It sickens me that, having emptied the seas around Britain, our fleets are now emptying Africa's seas. We should listen to the Namibians about the fishing practices of the Spaniards—it is like going back 10 years to the fishing practices of the Spaniards in this country. They must be regulated, and should not be left to free trade.

We say that sustainable development is a major part of our policy across government. The only problem is that the Government cannot find any case in which damage to sustainable development was sufficient to prevent an arms-related export. I am waiting for an answer to a parliamentary question, which the Secretary of State says she has not seen, on whether arms sales to Africa, apart from South Africa, have gone up. At the end of last year, we managed to achieve the feat of wiping out much of Tanzania's debt with one policy initiative, and increasing its debt with another, through the sale of an inadequate, expensive and inappropriate air traffic control system.

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Trade is immensely important, but we need to interpret it much more widely than we customarily do if we are to get a handle on it. I am in favour of freer trade, but it must be ethically steered. If free trade is allowed to run unregulated, the rich and the bully win. The wrong regulations can be equally devastating.

The European Union is full of people who, from the days of Willy Brandt and "North-South: A Programme for Survival", swear that they are in favour of development and ending poverty, but nevertheless created that abomination called the common agricultural policy, which favours rich farmers in rich countries. Food surpluses are dumped in the third world, and until recently there were tariffs against the poorest farmers in the poorest countries. We impose on poor farmers the obligation that they should not have barriers to our goods if they are to receive poverty reduction assistance from the World Bank.

Last year, we did not even have the boldness to give free access to developing world sugar under the everything but arms initiative. That had to be phased in, although its impact would be minimal. I like what Oxfam says in its admirable document "Rigged Rules and Double Standards". It has constructed an index of double standards, and the European Union wins by a short head from the United States, although that was before the US raised its steel tariffs, so perhaps it has edged ahead.

I have spent some time on the matters that we usually think of as involving trade. Over the past few years, I have become convinced that many countries in Africa are nowhere near an economic breakthrough. There have been some success stories, as the Secretary of State said. I would add horticulture in east Africa, the diamond industry in Botswana and the Customs regime in Mozambique, but they are too few and far between. Often, no progress seems to have been made at all.

I am sure that many of the conversations that members of the Select Committee had in Ghana and Nigeria about economic development could have been had at any time in the past 50 years. Cocoa growers receive a pittance for their cocoa beans, and take massive cuts when commodity prices fall. The big chocolate firms do not allow them to go into value-added territory, and they are faced with big tariffs on any value-added goods that they have.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West was with us when we went to a cable maker in Ghana. It mined the aluminium in Ghana, which was sent to Belgium to be processed and then sent back to Ghana to be converted into cable. The wastefulness and exploitation of that process is wrong.

If I dare, I shall say a little about the CDC. I hope that I shall not incur the Secretary of State's wrath. I have listened to the debate on the CDC, and I think that there is probably some common ground. I am sure that the Secretary of State is familiar with the concerns, shared by many hon. Members, about the direction in which the CDC is going. It may be doing well in new areas such as extending the use of mobile phones, call centres, and investing in banks. Such measures may well be sensible and may generate wealth, and it is true that it is slightly patronising to argue that the CDC should be concerned only with the primary industry of growing crops.

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However, as it moves into such new areas, we should remember that it is no longer involved in farming and agriculture, in which far too little is happening.

I want to return to an issue that we discussed in Westminster Hall. We frequently hear that some 80 or 90 per cent. of the populations of developing countries depend on the soil for their livelihoods. Those populations are doubling every 25 to 30 years, but few of those countries are achieving a growth rate that will exceed such increases. Regardless of profit, we must make the land more productive, so that people in the countryside can be fed and can maintain decent livelihoods, because the cities cannot cope. We must improve the life of people in the countryside, and hopefully we can also improve exports.

However, I did not sense that many of the countries I visited have an agricultural policy that uses the land to its full potential. In some countries, it is appallingly difficult to establish such a policy. Because of inheritance rules, land is repeatedly divided up, and for all manner of cultural reasons land policy is very difficult to change. Northern environmentalists resist putting our science to work because they insist that developing world farmers have all the wisdom—despite the fact that, without change, there will be deepening poverty, huge infant mortality rates and the perpetuation of squalor. In addition, one can predict desertification, an even greater lack of access to water, and the elimination of forests.

I am simply raising with the Secretary of State my concerns about the neglect of agriculture. It is true that there are success stories. Interestingly, in 15 years Vietnam has changed from being a net importer of rice to being the world's second largest exporter, but in terms of a command structure its culture is perhaps very different from Africa's.

The annual report contains little on macro-agricultural policy. Even the lengthy and very good Oxfam report on rigged rules and double standards contains nothing on agricultural policy, or on how the people will be fed and exports created.

It is argued that if one removes the European tariffs, everything will be all right, but it will not. On our visits abroad, we have examined whether there is a connection between tariffs and what can be grown. The Chairman of the International Development Committee mentioned the tomato surplus in Ghana. He will agree, however, that even if the tariffs had been right, no one in Ghana could have argued in a systematic and business-like way that that surplus was connected with any form of export market.

Much work needs to be done on agriculture. It has been neglected, and we should examine it much more fully.

5.49 pm

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): I have followed the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) on a number of occasions, and I always end up agreeing with him on most topics. A while back, with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, we spent a week going around Nigeria before the civilians took over. We were trying to impart some spirit of democracy and integrity, but I got the impression that politics in Africa more closely resembled piracy. We have to keep trying, but sometimes the feeling is that one is banging one's head against a brick wall. We can only do our best, but the debate has shown that the difficulties are very substantial.

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One in five people in the world lives in abject poverty, and 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. We are part of a global community, so for us to take an interest in the rest of the world, and in improving standards, is a matter not only of morality but of self-interest.

We take for granted such things as clean running water—but if we could achieve no more than the provision of clean water in the third world and the developing world, we would have taken a great step forward.

Another matter to emerge from the debate is the need for sensible contraception. This may be slightly more controversial as a subject, but sensible contraception—especially the provision of condoms—in the developing world would be helpful, given the population growth. Indeed, the AIDS problem would have been diminished had we managed to put as much effort into convincing people in Africa of the benefits of condoms as we have into dealing with the aftermath of unsafe sex.

Today's debate is on a worthy subject, and it is being held on the day when the annual report from the Department for International Development and a report from the Select Committee on International Development are published. The House is full of experts on international development, all of whom want to debate these very important issues.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie was right to focus on trade. I believe that it is probably more important to get the world economic cake growing, and to enable countries in the third world to take advantage of an expanding trading environment, than it is to pursue many of the aid programmes that have been introduced.

As has been noted, Africa produces many primary products. The next stage for the countries in Africa is to process those products themselves. The House has heard this afternoon about the barriers that have been erected against Ghanaian chocolate, so one wonders how much chance those African countries have of breaking into the trade cycle.

All of us shop in supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's, and I am always amazed by how many products from all corners of the globe—such as wine from New Zealand or Chile, and apples or other goods from other places—are available. However, until we get African goods into the supermarkets so that salaried people can return value to the producing countries, we will not be able to raise the basic standards in those countries. The World Trade Organisation and the general agreement on tariffs and trade are therefore extremely important.

Over the past 20 years there has been a trend away from supplying aid through Governments to supplying it through NGOs. Also, big aid packages have given way to much smaller packages. Corruption is endemic in parts of the globe, so it is sometimes better to bypass the governmental structures and deal with people in villages and local communities.

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