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10 Dec 2002 : Column 146continued
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): Before I specifically answer the question, I am sure that the whole House would want to join me in expressing our concern and sadness at the news that 36 people have been killed overnight by a mudslide in Brazil.
We congratulate President Lula on his convincing victory in Brazil's fully democratic elections, and we look forward to working closely with him and his Administration to deepen further our excellent relations with Brazil.
Lawrie Quinn: Given the important trading relationship between the United Kingdom and BrazilI think that we are the eighth largest exporter to Brazilwill the Minister outline to the House what he will do to encourage that relationship, make sure that we increase the trade opportunities for British companies, and assist in the continuing development of Brazil, the fifth largest economy in the world?
Mr. Rammell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question and for his keen interest in our relationship with Brazil. We certainly believe that Brazil is a good place to do business. It is the UK's largest export market in Latin America, and, so far this year, our exports are up by some 16 per cent. Indeed, over the last year, more than 100 British companies have invested in Brazil, indicating strongly that they regard Brazil as a good place to do business. We will continue to support those efforts.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): While I welcome the Minister's response, will he confirm that fears that the new President might change the economic pattern of Brazil are unfounded, and that he is continuing to lead his people to a better way of life?
Mr. Rammell: I certainly feel able to do that. Whatever initial concerns existed, the whole international community is now reacting favourably to the way in which President-elect Lula is forming his Administration. Indeed, the recent International Monetary Fund delegation to Brazil reacted very positively to the developments that are taking place.
Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): Despite the Government's substantial efforts since 1997 to encourage British business to engage more readily with Brazil, it is fair to say that the response has not always been as good as that for which we hoped. Business often cites the complexity of the regulatory regime in Brazil as off-putting. When the Minister has the opportunity to
Mr. Rammell: The point is well made. As I said, the 16 per cent. increase in exports in the last year is very positive. I am visiting Brazil next week, and I will meet representatives of the British business community there. I look forward to discussions within that forum.
8. Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): What recent discussions he has had with governments of sub-Saharan African countries about the import of their skilled health service workers into the UK. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The recruitment of staff for the national health service is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and his Department.
Nevertheless, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, in October 2001, the Department of Health published a code of practice for NHS employers who are involved in the international recruitment of health care professionals. The publication provides a detailed explanation of the processes that must be carried out when recruiting from overseas to ensure that those developing countries suffering significant staff shortages of their own are not targeted.
Dr. Harris : Surely the Minister understands that his Government's view that this is simply a matter for the Department of Health shows that there is an unethical black hole in the middle of their foreign policy. South Africa, which has already requested this country not to recruit its hard-trained nurses and doctors, has seen the number of its staff recruited by this country increase from 393 in 1997 to 2,114. As for Malawi, 43 out of the 235 nurses that it trains per year are now working here. Surely foreign Governments have told him and his colleagues that that is unacceptable. Until the Government keep an exact record of the extent to which we are destroying the capacity of foreign countries' health care systems, and offer to put something back, we will not be behaving ethically in this area.
Mr. Rammell: With the greatest respect, to describe that as an unethical black hole is exaggeration even by the standards of Lib Dem XFocus" leaflets. We are firmly committed to ensuring the protection of developing countries. That is why we have developed the code of practice, in which we are ahead of the gameno other country throughout the world has done that. On what the hon. Gentleman says about putting something back, through the Department for International Development, we invest #30 million a year, 30 per cent. of which goes into the South African health system.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): It is, however, possible, as my hon. Friend will accept, to provide proper training and assistance to African nations while not denuding them of desperately needed staff. Real problems exist in southern Africa,
Mr. Rammell: My hon. Friend makes an important and serious point. AIDS is the scourge of southern African. Through the Department of Health, we have constructive programmes that we are developing with the South African health department. We will do everything that we can to help. On the specific issue that has already been raised, the code of conduct offers the best protection available for the recruitment of health care professionals from developing countries.
Tony Baldry (Banbury): This is truly disingenuous. The national health service does not have to recruit these nurses, because they are recruited by agencies. If the Minister wants to see hell on earth, he should visit the Lilongwe general hospital where practically every nurse who was trained last year was stripped out to come to work for agencies in this country. The Minister's answer was accurate but totally disingenuous.
Mr. Rammell: Agencies and organisations working with the NHS have to comply with the code of practice that we have established. We take the issue seriously, and we would all want to operate in an ideal world. The fact remains that the code of practice that we have already established is the most advanced in the world. The Government will not apologise for the fact that we are expanding our capacity in terms of the number of nurses in a way that the Conservative party consistently failed to do.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): I hope that we will complete enlargement negotiations with 10 candidate countries at the Copenhagen European Council this week. That will allow us to meet the aim, first set by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, of reuniting Europe in time for the European Parliament elections in 2004.
Mr. Joyce : My hon. Friend will be aware of the enormous contribution that Turkey has made to the security of Europe over the years. Does he agree that the best way to encourage human rights and the Europeanisation of institutions in Turkey is to give it as soon as possible the beginnings of a move to a start date for negotiations on its entry to the European Union?
Mr. MacShane: Very much so. Turkey is at the crossroads. It can look west towards Europe to modernise and democratise its institutions and political processes, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Government have been in the
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): I am mindful of the concerns of some accession countries about securing support for entry in referendums, but will the Minister tell the House if and what the Government's objections are to the latest Danish financial and common agricultural policy proposals? Does he agree that new flexibility on direct farm payments would be advantageous to the accession states?
Mr. MacShane: No, because the accession states have negotiated in good faith under what is called the Berlin ceiling, which was the package set. That means that all of them will be better off once they are inside the EU. They have to absorb the money as part of a process of reform and modernisation. That it is precisely why, in the Financial Times today, four Prime Ministers have argued the case for a yes at Copenhagen and for the reuniting of the European family of nations.
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly): My hon. Friend referred to the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and to Turkey. Does he agree that it is also important to consider the enlargement of the EU in 2007 when I hope that Bulgaria and Romania will join?
Mr. MacShane: Yes, indeed. I am keeping my fingers crossed that, at Copenhagen, we will also confirm 2007 as the target date for Bulgaria and Romania. That is the new Europe of the 21st century, united as a zone of peace, prosperity and democracy.
Angus Robertson (Moray): Does the Minister share the concern of many of my constituents in fishing communities that the Copenhagen summit, which is rightly trying to expedite the enlargement of the EU, does not have the fishing crisis on its agenda? Will he explain to my constituents what efforts the UK Government are making to ensure that fishing is on the agenda at the summit, or do the Government think that the crisis is not important enough for them to press for the issue to be on the agenda in the first place?
Mr. MacShane: No. No Government have done more to raise the plight of their fishermen than Her Majesty's Government. Of course every one of the 15 EU member states will have pressing problems that it will want to place on the agenda at Copenhagen. What is important is that the Fisheries Council deals with the matter and that the reform of both the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy is maintained. For the first time in 20 years, this Government are doing something about that in a serious, professional and coherent manner.