World Summit on Sustainable Development and Aid for Poverty Diseases

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The Chairman: Order. Before the Minister answers that question, I should point out that the scope of debate is EU aid overseas and not EU allocations within the EU.

Ms Keeble: Everyone recognises the dangers of which Commissioner Patten warned. They are key matters that we must deal with. If hon. Members look at the current pattern of delivery of our aid, they will see that only 15 per cent. is delivered through Governments. The rest continues to go through

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project aid, because those programmes are up and running. However, one could look at the amount of money that went into projects and ask what impact many of those projects had, and find that while they might have done some people some good at the time, they have not produced any institutional change and they have not provided the kind of sustainable development that the African countries need. They need to have year-on-year growth of between 5 and 7 per cent. if they are to achieve the millennium development goals and get rid of poverty.

A massive change is needed. It is precisely the kind of issue that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) mentions that led the Government working with the EU to ensure that a good amount of the support that we provide goes into tackling governance issues; that is reflected in the statements that have come from the EU about the world summit. For example, the development of judicial and legal systems in Russia, of judicial systems in Uganda and Kenya, and of security reforms in Afghanistan will provide those countries with the institutions and frameworks that are needed, first, to ensure that our aid and European money get through and, secondly, to create the right climate to attract private sector investors. That combination, particularly the private sector investment, will in the long term provide a secure future for developing countries.

Mr. Johnson: I hope that the Minister will not mind if I revert to the constitutional question. This is a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council. The Minister said that there are European Parliament amendments that the Government find unhelpful. Can she make the current constitutional position clear to me? What can the Government do about those unhelpful amendments? On what basis is the regulation framed? Is it part of co-decision procedure or negative assent procedure? I cannot remember what they are all called and how it all works. Is rejecting the European Parliament's amendments now a matter for a majority vote in the Council; if so, who do the Government have on their side in the Council? Is the Minister confident of overturning the amendments?

Ms Keeble: I agree that the European procedures are byzantine. As I pointed out at the beginning, I understand that the Commission is to put the member states' views to the Parliament and a further vote will be taken. If the hon. Gentleman likes, I will give him a complete note detailing precisely the form that the votes will take, and when and where they will occur. We have made our views well known and a number of other states share our concerns.

The Chairman: Order. Several questions have been posed directly at the Minister. I have let them go, but I remind the Committee that questions should be posed through the Chair.

Dr. Lewis: The Minister will see from the paperwork that the European Scrutiny Committee listed three conclusions of its own when it agreed to the report on the world summit on sustainable development. The second conclusion states:

    ''The depressing fact that the Conclusions highlight is that, despite a string of international conferences since Rio, the list of

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    serious problems which need to be dealt with, urgently, seems to get longer and effective solutions are proving elusive.''

What priority should be given to the various urgent problems? It is obvious that up to 3 million people dying every year should be given an overwhelming priority over almost everything else on the agenda combined. If she agrees, why does it not have that priority? If she does not agree, will she say why?

Ms Keeble: If I understand the hon. Gentleman, his question is why health does not have the overwhelming priority because of AIDS. We are discussing two propositions—the world summit and the regulation on AIDS, TB and malaria. As he knows, the EU priorities include some health aspects while ours cover a different range of issues. Clearly, health is recognised. We certainly recognise that health is part of economic development. It must be strongly argued that achieving sustainable economic growth as well as tackling energy issues and access to resources are key to the longer-term well-being of developing countries and to ensuring that such countries meet the millennium development goal of halving poverty.

The health regulation clearly focuses on health. Some $2.1 billion will be given to the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, and we aim to lever in more. That is a sign of the international community's serious intent to combat the risk that those three major diseases pose to the well-being and prospects of individuals in developing countries. The two issues under consideration have a slightly different focus, but that does not mean that we do not take health seriously.

Mr. Johnson: The Committee must forgive me if I pursue again the question of authority. Will Parliament or the Council ultimately take the decision on the regulation that the Minister mentioned? She said that the Commission will let Parliament know the Council's views, but what will happen if Parliament does not agree with the Council? Is there a conciliation procedure between Parliament and the Council?

Ms Keeble: As I said, I must give the hon. Gentleman a procedural note on which has the final say and how the problems are resolved. It might help him to note that most European countries are coming round to our views. Austria remains the most vocal in pushing for unhelpful language around compulsory licensing.

Angela Watkinson: Will the Minister comment on the comparison between the size of the financial envelope—in other words, the money available—to be devoted to the regulation, which will also cover the EU's contribution to the global fund, and the cost of the administrative processes that lead to the decision on how much goes into that envelope?

Ms Keeble: I do not have the figure in front of me. Does the hon. Lady mean the 35 million provided for the cost of implementing the regulation?

Angela Watkinson: The proposal is unlikely to be ready for adoption because of the size of the financial envelope. In other words, insufficient funding is

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available for all the proposal's different elements. I am asking the Minister to compare the amount devoted to coalface services with the costs of EU administrative procedures underlying the decisions.

Ms Keeble: I find it hard to comment on comparative costs, and as I said in my opening statement, some financing issues are still to be agreed. The pledges to the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria stand at $2.1 billion and those funds are going out to developing countries. We expect more donations as more pledges are received, but substantial sums are already getting there.

The Chairman: There seem to be no more questions, so we can debate the motion.

Motion made and Question proposed,

    That the Committee takes note of European Union Document No. 7727/2/02, draft Council Conclusions for the preparation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and No. 6863/02, draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on aid for poverty diseases (HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis) in developing countries; and welcomes the Government's approach to the World Summit and to discussions on differential pricing of medicines and other key issues. [Ms Keeble.]

5.6 pm

Mr. Hawkins: I welcome the Minister to her responsibilities. This is the first time that I have served on a European Committee with her, although I have already welcomed her in Westminster Hall and in the House.

Conservative Members acknowledge the good intentions of Governments throughout the EU, including Her Majesty's Government, in supporting continuing aid to deal with the scourge of disease across the developing world. However, as I intimated in a question to the Minister, we have grave reservations when so much aid fails to reach people in need.

When someone as eminent and experienced as Commissioner Patten expresses grave concerns about how much EU aid goes to line the pockets of corrupt people in various recipient countries, when so many people with generations of expertise affirm that Government-to-Government aid is not necessarily the best way to deliver it and when the European Scrutiny Committee states that the matter should be debated today because it is so ''politically important'', analysing the Government's position is crucial. Are the reservations about the European Parliament's approach rightly held and will the proposals help the people in greatest need in the most effective way?

In several speeches and at international development Question Time over the past year or so, my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) has expressed our fear that many of Africa's problems are due to the lack of good governance. That does not mean that the developed world cannot provide considerable aid, but we must ensure that it is provided effectively. We are not convinced that the Government have it right, that the Government's right hand knows what the left hand is doing or even that the right and left hands agree with each other.

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On a number of occasions—I shall not detain the Committee by going into great detail—the Secretary of State for International Development has contradicted not only the Prime Minister's statements, but other Cabinet Ministers' statements at a time of international crisis. We are therefore entitled to question whether the Government always get these issues right and whether they always speak with a single voice.

I was slightly surprised that the Minister could not answer my question about the Khanbhai report, because the European Parliament refers to it in paragraph 11 of the report that we are discussing. Much good work has been done by people in the European Parliament, including my colleagues Bashir Khanbhai—a Conservative Member of the European Parliament from the East of England—and Nirj Deva, who was Member for Brentford and Isleworth from 1992 to 1997. He now represents South-East of England and is our European Parliament spokesman on international development.

The European Parliament adopted Bashir Khanbhai's report in 2001 and, more recently, accepted Nirj Deva's report on aid and the way in which multinational companies must play their part. Both men have been at the forefront of arguing that it is important, when aid is suggested, to have some security of good governance in recipient countries.

In response to questions from me and from my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden, Ministers have often said that they, too, are concerned about good governance, but they do not seem to have made the connection between the need for good governance, to which they always pay lip service at least, and us querying the fact that they constantly say that we are moving from aid via NGOs towards more Government-to-Government aid and more aid delivered through the EU.

Many people in constituencies such as mine, particularly those who work for major pharmaceutical companies that develop medicines that will be used to help the developing world, become concerned when they see that much of the aid that comes from their taxes does not necessarily help those who should be the recipients. There are two such companies in my constituency—Novartis and Eli Lilly.

The European Parliament has said that we must take greater account of concerns about pharmaceutical patents and so on, so it is not good enough for the Minister simply to say, ''Well, we think that the European Parliament has got this completely wrong.'' There is much expertise in that Parliament. The matter involves not only history, but ensuring that the aid provided through our taxes and those of people elsewhere in the developed world gets to the right place and is used most effectively.

Many questions must be considered carefully, but Opposition Members certainly will not oppose aid to combat poverty diseases. We recognise, as does every Member from every party, the enormous problem being caused by the AIDS pandemic as well as the problem with economic development and ensuring

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good governance in any country—particularly in Africa, but also elsewhere in the developing world—where so many of the population are stricken by AIDS.

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