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5.2 pm

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): As I have not yet had an opportunity to do so, may I welcome the bevy of beauty and talent representing international

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development on the Government Front Bench? However, I am outraged by the fact that the Secretary of State is not in the House of Commons, and is not answerable to the elected representatives of the people of this country.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on convincing her party to use the Opposition day for this debate. I know how difficult it can be to convince colleagues that in the long term developing world issues are as important as national issues, if not more important. I congratulate her on her excellent speech, but it is a pity that the Tories' record in government did not match the rhetoric that we have heard this afternoon—[Interruption.] In answer to those sedentary interventions, I would say just give us the chance, and we will show you.

As the hon. Member for Meriden said, this is the second year running that we have had this debate. My constituents have organised a fun event on Saturday and have asked me to take part in a tug-of-war to represent the struggle of poor countries against the rich. While I appreciate how useful my ballast would be on the poor countries' side against the CAP and other evil things, Members will be relieved to hear that I am going to be the referee and will hold the white handkerchief in the middle.

The fact that the debate has become an annual event makes me very angry. The CAP is still unreformed and the world still dances to the tune of the United States of America. Have we no influence at all in the world? The right hon. Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers) stated in May this year—sadly, after he had stepped down from the Department of Trade and Industry:

It is a shame that the right hon. Gentleman did not think of that when he was at the DTI.

We have heard some good things from the current Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. In a speech to the European Parliament in January, she said all that had to be said—a beautifully crafted speech. I congratulate the civil servant who crafted it. It was wonderful stuff and said all the right things, but where is the action? Can she deliver?

It is infuriating that the millions of dollars spent on meetings of world leaders at the G8 or the negotiating rounds of the World Trade Organisation, plus all the security costs now involved, would go a huge way to helping the very countries under discussion—the poorest—to have adequate representation to make their voices heard, as several hon. Members have commented this afternoon. I have asked for the figures involved in such meetings of Heads of State and Ministers, and I understand that they will be published on 1 July. They are eagerly awaited by my office.

Dr. Palmer: I was unable to get a reply from the official Opposition on whether they would favour the

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abolition of the rule that European countries can claim absolute national interest to protect the CAP. Would the Liberal Democrats favour abolition of that?

Dr. Tonge: The Liberal Democrats have long called for the reform of the CAP. I will come to that later in my speech, if the hon. Gentleman will be patient.

Once again, here we are rehearsing the arguments, while half the world's population, 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day, and 1.2 billion—20 per cent. of the world's population—live on less than $1 a day. We must keep reminding ourselves that the global economy allows us to live in great luxury, with even the poorest in our society receiving at least enough to eat, while children all over the world die of starvation and disease. We must never forget them when we discuss debt relief and trade issues.

If we do, poverty and despair will lead to war and terrorism, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) and I saw vividly a couple of weeks ago, and more despair—a vicious circle which, as we have seen in recent years, spills over into attacks on our comfortable way of life. The concrete blocks outside this place and the armed police everywhere in the building are an indirect result of our failure to address the needs of the poorest people in the world, and we must constantly remind ourselves of that.

The trade rules that apply in the world today have caused mayhem all over the third world. Many of us have seen the results. The fall in coffee prices in the early 1990s and our failure to address the problem triggered the Rwandan genocide. Banana farmers all over the Caribbean have to look for an alternative crop because of the USA's determination to protect big boys like Chiquita and Del Monte. That, combined with the US policy to spray Colombian coca fields with herbicides, is likely to encourage Caribbean farmers to turn to the cultivation of illegal crops instead. What sort of progress is that? In the north of Ghana, I saw farmers made destitute because, thanks to the subsidies given to American farmers by their Government, American rice is cheaper than the rice grown in Ghana.

There are many other examples. As the hon. Member for Meriden said, European dairy cows—this is one of the juiciest bits of all—receive a subsidy of $2 a day. That is the daily income of half the world's population. I am tempted to say that I wish I was a cow, but that may produce a response from hon. Members that is not complimentary. What madness this all is. What madness are we indulging in?

American industrial and farm subsidies and the CAP in Europe have to be reformed. They are worth £200 billion a year. It is immoral to expect poor countries to open up their markets to our goods when our exports are so heavily subsidised and when in many cases we erect barriers for their exports to us.

Will the Minister please tell us what concrete progress we can expect? I know that he hopes and believes, but what will he achieve? I am well aware of the anything but arms agreement between the EU and the least developed countries, but sugar, rice and bananas were taken out of that agreement. They are precisely the goods that they could have produced to their advantage. We have seen

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Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi suffer from that policy. They could produce sugar very cheaply, but they cannot compete with subsidised European crops.

I have said that Liberal Democrats want the CAP reformed, and it must be reformed. What will happen when the EU has 25 states? Will the new European members expect the same subsidies as current members receive for their farmers? I understand that the CAP budget will remain at its current level of £30 billion a year, so it will be spread much more thinly anyway and our farmers will have much less subsidy. Could we hear from some Minister or other just what preparations are being made for that and how we will build in a reduction in subsidies so that farmers in the poorest parts of the world can benefit too?

One issue that particularly concerns me is the ever-festering issue of trade related aspects of intellectual property rights, or in plain language that rule overseen by the World Trade Organisation which means in practice that developing countries cannot use cheaper versions of drugs that they need, such as retrovirals for AIDS, even when they can manufacture them, as in the case of Kenya. The developed countries hold 97 per cent. of world patents and any attempt to relax the rule is being blocked by the USA.

Mr. Allan: I am glad that both my hon. Friend and the Minister have mentioned TRIPS, which is an important issue within the world trade negotiations. But is she concerned that the trend in intellectual property law in developed countries is towards broadening and deepening the scope of intellectual property protection, so that we may find that people in developing countries are excluded from an even greater range of products that they need if they cannot afford the licence fees to go back to companies in the developed world?

Dr. Tonge: My hon. Friend is right. Despite all the developments in genetics and all the new medical and scientific developments, we are going backwards instead of forwards. Developing countries will be more and more shut out of the developed world if something is not done about this.

I have asked before and I ask again: what representations have we seriously made to the USA on that issue? Why are we not successful? The USA does not want to contribute to the global health fund in substantial amounts, lest any of the preventive health programmes of the global health fund contain measures to provide safe abortion. We all know how it has withdrawn funds from the United Nations Population Fund. On the other hand, it refuses to allow the cheaper generic drugs to be used in developing countries. That allows me to come to the conclusion that the much trumpeted $15 billion to fight AIDS from George Bush, about which we have all heard recently, is a straight contribution to the United States' pharmaceutical companies, because it cannot be spent on very much else. When will the Government challenge the USA about that?

Brian Cotter (Weston-super-Mare): My hon. Friend mentioned Rwanda and made clear points about the need for cheaper drugs. The case is made in Rwanda,

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where hundreds of thousands of women and others are dying because of HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, the few Rwandans who have come to this country and received treatment can now live out their lives.

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