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Dr. Tonge: My hon. Friend is right, but we must not think that drugs are the only answer to the AIDS epidemic. Sadly, however much we fight even for generic versions, many developing countries will not have the money to afford those drugs and their economies will suffer as a result. Everyone knows that AIDS attacks the economically active members of the community.

I desperately want to make the point that, before we start to engage in the traditional multinational company bashing and to refer to the wicked, evil drug companies about which we hear so much from NGOs and campaigners, we should ask: is it not time that they were recognised as being able to make a huge contribution to development?

I recently learned of a public-private partnership in Botswana between Merck Sharp Dohme, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Botswana Government themselves. I see the hon. Member for Meriden nodding, as she has also heard of the project. Such a partnership is delivering all the prevention measures, education, health care and retroviral drugs that are needed to treat the AIDS epidemic in that country. It is a brilliant public-private partnership between a multinational company and a developing country.

Surely, we can investigate the potential for such initiatives in all sorts of aspects of development. Multinational companies have huge budgets that are bigger than those of many countries. They have expertise in management that can counteract the lack of capacity in developing countries about which we are always hearing. They are also now accepting the need for far more transparency, which would counteract the corruption that the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) mentioned, which so often destroys developing countries. Will the Minister tell us what steps are being taken to encourage those very welcome initiatives?

Dr. Palmer: The hon. Lady appears to be nearing the end of her speech. Will she be returning to the question whether her party would abolish the national veto on CAP reform?

Dr. Tonge: I repeat that we have called for the reform of the common agricultural policy. I enlarged a little on that issue and I think that the hon. Gentleman should wait until we have debates specifically about the policy, not least so that we can learn what his party and the Opposition will do about it. We do not deny that it is a difficult problem, but it has to be resolved.

One of the best initiatives in recent years, which we must not forget, is the fair trade movement, which started out in the form of fair trade goods in the Oxfam shops and a few bags of coffee here and there, but is now mushrooming into a very interesting development. What do the Government think about the fair trade initiative? Why cannot they take it up and support it much more nationally?

My party acknowledges the progress that the Government have made on debt relief and on increasing the percentage of gross national product that is used for

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development aid, although the inclusion of debt relief in that figure means that the increase is not as large as it may seem. We acknowledge the Cotonou and anything-but-arms agreements and the recognition that public services, including health, education and water services, should be excluded from the general agreement on trade in services. I use the phrase "should be", as we are told that countries are not being forced to open those markets to external competition unless they wish to do so. We welcome that, but I have some reservations, as I am told that things are not as they seem. I hope that the Minister will address that issue.

Of the least-developed countries, 100 per cent. have had their telecommunications sector requested by the private sector, 24 per cent. have had their environmental sector requested, 69 per cent. have had their financial services sector requested, 59 per cent. have had their transport sector requested, and 3 per cent. have had their energy sector requested. Seventy-two of 109 countries were requested control over water for human use and waste water management. Those are all essential services. In some countries, the relevant sector was effectively controlled by public services and there had been substantial public opposition to privatisation.

We need to know from the Minister just what is the position on public services and the general agreement on trade in services. Liberal Democrat Members want faster progress on trade. By the time of the next conference in Cancun we must have liberalised our markets to allow access to exporters from developing countries. We must radically reform the CAP. We must lift TRIPS—trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights—restrictions on generic drugs.

I have made only three main points, but they are vital. The EU and the USA are running out of time before the Cancun summit to get moving on the issue of subsidies generally. That must be addressed beforehand. If the Doha development round collapses, it will be our fault for not putting more pressure on the USA and the EU. New issues must not be addressed until those main problems are solved, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said.

Please let us not have this debate again next year with no progress having been made. Let us get on with it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. May I remind the House that the eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches begins now. With a fair wind and co-operation, it should be possible for all those seeking to catch my eye to do so.

5.21 pm

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): The Prime Minister is on record as saying that the biggest thing happening in the next six months is world trade. Therefore, in my necessarily brief speech, in the presence of my distinguished colleagues on the Front Bench, I shall seek to influence a process that has the opportunity of addressing, in the most effective way, the plight of poverty, which afflicts millions of people around the world; to do otherwise would be an irrelevant indulgence.

We inhabit a world that has brought great benefits to the people of our nation and to those of other western European countries, as well as America. However,

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many of my constituents and local organisations are, I am pleased to say, acutely aware of the consequences of free trade and the impediments, barriers and hurdles to fair trade.

This is not an anti-trade debate, but one that asserts that our trading affairs can be organised so that the benefits go to the many, not to the few, and so that social justice and enlightened self-interest can go hand in hand. I refuse to believe that it is beyond the wit of modern society to protect, and even to improve, the environment that we inherited, underpinned by more equal trading. I am greatly encouraged by the work of the Trade Justice Movement, including aid agencies such as the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Oxfam, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Christian Aid and many others, all of which will campaign in every constituency in Britain over the next few days.

I welcome this opportunity to contribute because, like so many other hon. Members, I have visited many countries that suffer immense and absolute poverty. Recently, I was in Cameroon, where I met the Minister of Finance, who I think at one point was the ambassador to South Africa. He cited the tremendous problem of falling commodity prices, coupled with his country's attempt to try to compete with subsidised goods, which he regarded as completely impossible. I was also in Rwanda, and following the terrible genocide—and now, happily, the reconciliation—it was a privilege to see Tutsi and Hutu children playing together, but despite the merits of the country's agricultural potential it was extremely disappointing to know that they are not dealing internationally with fair trade.

Recently, I was in Angola, to which reference was made. The country is extremely rich in diamonds and in oil. It is not the fault of the British Government that those resources are not being made available to the people, or that, appallingly, one third of Angolan children die before the age of five.

I have visited some of the shantytowns in Peru, where the young people said the same as my young constituents: they were looking for job opportunities. [Interruption.] They did not find that amusing. Given the lecture we had from the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), I am somewhat puzzled by her response to what has just been said.

The poverty that we are facing is identifiable. Half the world's people live on less than $2 a day; a billion people are hungry every night; 1.5 billion people never have any clean water; 130 million children never go to school; and 10 million children die every year of preventable childhood diseases, even though, overall, life expectancy is up and infant mortality down.

Last year, Professor Keith Popple of the Southampton institute said that


No wonder CAFOD says:


Mr. Reed: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that we maintain the link between debt relief, our aid

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programme and trade, and that none should be taken in isolation? For example, the collapse in commodity prices, to which he has referred, has led to the HIPC initiative falling into some disarray. Is it not vital that we do not lose the focus on the combination of trade, aid and debt relief, with all being equal in importance?


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