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Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that our recent visit to South Africa and the black township outside Capetown underlines how massive the problems are and how important today's debate is?

Alistair Burt: The hon. Gentleman is right. We visited Khayeletsia, a community that did not exist in 1985, but in which 1.2 million people now live in shanty conditions. The South African Government are doing their best to cope with those conditions and to make changes, but the scale of the poverty—which we see only from time to time, when we visit—is very great. If it were suffered by our constituents, whose voices we hear every day, the patience and equanimity with which we debate these matters in this place would disappear. I have travelled to South Africa several times with the hon. Gentleman—I want to call him my hon. Friend—and he makes his point very well.

There is an imperative on us to translate compassion into something rather different. As the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) said, we know that we are not responsible for everything. The causes of world poverty are complex and the ways to escape from it are even more complex, but there are things that we can do. What would the people who live in the remote parts of the world that we visit make of what we say in this debate and, more crucially, of what we are going to do?

If agriculture is the key to releasing the poverty-stricken world into better conditions, we must look aghast at the state of negotiations under the Doha agenda. The declared aim was that those negotiations would be a development round, and nations mouthed their support for development for the poorest nations, but at the same time big decisions were being made in capital cities that went directly against the spirit of the Doha agenda.

When the US passed its Farm Act 2002, it changed its financial support for agriculture. According to a document from the House of Commons Library, the Act


What could $73 billion achieve if it were spread around the world, in some of the places that we have visited and situations that we have encountered?

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): Does my hon. Friend accept also that the direct effect of support for the US cotton industry, for example, negates every penny of aid that the US gives to many African countries, because they are unable to sell their products to the rest of the world?

Alistair Burt: It is a topsy-turvy world. We seem to be stuck with what people in the medical profession might

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term a psychotic condition. We can see what needs to be done, but we find that we are unable to do anything about it. That is true at Government level, and among people whom we know well and with whom we are in contact all the time. We can see the problem, but do we have the will to solve it?

At the same time as the 2002 Act was being passed in the US, something similar was happening in the EU. Oxfam reports that, at the Brussels summit of October 2002, Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Schröder


And so say all of us.

This has been a brief but excellent debate in terms of the contributions made by colleagues on a vital subject that has risen up the agenda. However, it is hard to escape the sense that we have all been here before. If we faced poverty, hunger, disease, HIV and AIDS on an African scale and if we faced the barriers to trade that might make some difference to those conditions, would we—as I said to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike)—conduct our debate with such patience and equanimity? Would the capital cities of Washington, Brussels and London be as reasonable in dealing with each other and would they take so much time breaking through a myriad of negotiations before something was done?

In this Chamber, our compassion may be deep but our collective voices, mine included, will count for little unless we see some progress. The world is changing; the inequalities of history are, at last, at our own door. Let the consensus in the House and in the debate come through in the decisions to which we contribute, either directly, through the EU, or through our friends in the United States. In the developing countries that most of us will visit from time, people are listening and they deserve no less than that we translate our voices into action.

5.56 pm

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): I welcome the title of the debate; it is fresh and new. It is not often that a title of a debate in the House is "Fair Trade". For hundreds of years, we have constantly talked about free trade. The ultimate free traders were the Liberals, when they were in power—hundreds of years ago. For nearly 20 years, we heard nothing but free trade from the neo-Conservatives, the new right. I welcome the fact that we are all fair traders now and that we are campaigning for managed trade. We should be asking: how is trade to be managed and who manages it? If we can find consensus on that in this place, the debate will have moved on significantly and in a helpful way for the 21st century.

When I first worked on development in the 1970s, someone sent me a cartoon. It showed a man holding a teaspoon to a peasant's mouth. On the teaspoon was the word "Aid". The man's other arm was around the peasant's throat, in a stranglehold grip. Emblazoned on

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his arm was the word "Trade". Sadly, nearly 30 years later, we have hardly moved on enough to realise that the grip on the windpipe is the trade processes that undermine any increases in the aid budget. That Mexican cartoon rings just as true today.

The campaign for increased overseas aid has taken on a new dimension. It has shifted so that it includes a focus on the unfair workings of the trade system. The Trade Justice Movement is to be congratulated on achieving that nationally; it includes many bodies, non-governmental organisations and faith communities, such as CAFOD, Oxfam, the World Development Movement, Christian Aid or the Save the Children Fund. They are all to be congratulated on shifting the focus and on getting across the message that trade relations are as crucial to long-term sustainable development as any aid. There is no trade justice in a world where 800 million go hungry. The trade system is not delivering for the poor. The trade system is unfair; it is weighted in favour of the rich countries and its massive in-built global imbalance is likely to continue unless action is taken to give the poor a break into the system.

It is to the credit of the Government that they recognised the need to tackle unfair trade. In 2001, they published a helpful pamphlet, "Trade matters, eliminating world poverty", which acknowledges that trade can be a force for development, but only if it is fair and works for the whole world, not just for rich countries and—I would add—multinational companies. Central to the Government's development policy is a commitment to the internationally agreed target to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

Yes, the Government also have positive targets on basic health care provision and universal access to primary education. Yes, there has been some progress. Yes, there has been a welcome increase in the aid budget, ending a decade of cuts imposed by the Opposition when they were in Government. However, any current analysis of progress towards the millennium development goals shows that, on current trends, there is hardly a cat-in-hell's chance of halving poverty by 2050, never mind by 2015, unless there are radical changes in the trading system and in debt as well.

Tragically, many poor sub-Saharan countries are struggling their way up an overwhelmingly down-moving escalator. The situation is getting worse for most sub-Saharan countries. Take health—some 7 million people still die every year from preventable diseases. Take education—more than 115 million children do not go to school, and 88 countries are nowhere near achieving the targets in education, to give but two examples. So without radical changes in the unfair trade balance, real and welcome increases in the aid budget will make hardly any impact on development.

The preparations for the WTO round in Cancun in September—labelled the development round—have hardly got anywhere so far. They have not heralded much progress. Discussions on agricultural trade reform—a basic building block for any fair trade system—are well behind schedule. There are no signs of progress in dismantling the massive subsidies, which

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many other hon. Members have mentioned, that go to American and European agricultural production. The American Farm Bill and the European Union common agricultural policy subsidies are being reinforced and strengthened, rather than being dismantled.

Yes, to our credit, the Government are pressing for genuine CAP reform, dismantling those subsidies that keep developing countries' products out of Europe. In practice, those subsidies are generating a huge system of agricultural dumping. That dumping is occasionally dressed up under the heading of food aid or other aid, but it ensures that agriculture in poor countries has no real chance of getting off the ground. In effect, it is being killed off by dumping. EU Tomato paste is sold cheaply in Ghana and subsidised EU dried milk powder is destroying the Jamaican Dairy Farmers Federation, to give two practical examples.

While we press for CAP reform, let us not press on developing countries methods of change that we have not adopted in the past. Let us not say, "Do as we say, but not as we did." Let us not say, "You liberalise, while we continue to subsidise." I shall give a quotation from the US-based National Law Centre for Inter-American Free Trade:


That is classic, so let us not ask developing countries to move faster than they can. They need managed trade, but in the context of what they can achieve; otherwise, in the words of one great writer on these matters, we are simply "kicking away the ladder" and leaving developing countries with no chance at all.

Finally, I recommend the Chancellor's International Finance Facility. That is the way to get investment into the developing countries quickly, effectively and for the longer term, rather than by being jumped into a new framework. My hon. Friend the Minister referred to "an appropriate framework", but let us take up the Chancellor's proposal on the international finance facility as one means to put in more investment quickly. Perhaps the WTO could take a leaf out of this debate. I close with this remark: as well as adopting the millennium development goals—getting into line on development would cost the WTO nothing—why does it not change its name? Instead of being the World Trade Organisation, why does it not call itself the fair trade organisation? In the meantime, we have much work to do—


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