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Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. The international consensus is clear. We are absolutely firm in making the case for effective treatment. As he will be aware, policy has changed in South Africa because of the force of that argument, notwithstanding some people's views. There have been problems in relation to turning that change of policy into practical help on the ground, as he will be only too aware. We will continue to do what we have done up to now: to say that if we are to beat this disease, we must be honest and open about its causes and how people can protect themselves. We must make available the means of protection, including condoms; get treatment to people who need it, which is partly about the price of drugs and partly about having the health infrastructure, doctors and nurses to do the testing and to administer medicines and so on; and continue to do so resolutely. We can see from countries such as Uganda, which has managed to bring down the infection rate, that strong
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leadership, combined with all those other measures, really can make a difference. We need to give support to everyone, and the fight against HIV/AIDS is a particular focus of our programme in South Africa.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): In an earlier response, the Secretary of State rightly drew attention to the infrastructure problems of Africa, and pointed out that all the major transport links exist to take mineral or agricultural riches from Africa to the coast for export to western Europe and the United States. I welcome the commission's document. I hope that the Secretary of State will accept that the west has made an awful lot of money and riches out of the continent of Africa over the past 200 years. In our support for African development and future economic developments, will he assure me that the International Monetary Fund will no longer descend on African countries insisting on mass privatisation and the imposition of market economies, which do a great deal to damage the agricultural infrastructure and create more rural unemployment and urban shanty towns, and that instead we will develop African internal trade and markets?

Hilary Benn: The experience of structural adjustment in the 1980s was an unhappy one for Africa, as the report makes clear. On the other hand, we must be honest about what is needed if things are to change, and one of the things that Africa needs is investment. That is partly an issue of the climate that Africa itself creates for investment, which must include tackling corruption and establishing an independent legal system. How long does it take to establish a company? I believe that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo it takes an average of 263 days. That is not a great incentive for investment in the DRC, which has a good many other problems as well.

Part of the issue is what Africa does, and part of it is what the rest of the world does to give Africa an opportunity to trade and earn its way out of poverty. Only if both of those happen will Africa be able, in its own way, to reap the benefits of economic development.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet) (Con): I associate myself entirely with what was said by both the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) about the need to encourage good governance and get rid of corruption in at least certain African countries. Does the Secretary of State agree that there is something that the developed world could do, namely end its obscene practice of subsidising its own agricultural industries? Will he confirm that the developed world subsidises its farmers to the tune of seven times what it gives, in cash or kind, to the developing countries in overseas aid? If that could be at least reversed, there is a better chance that the increased wealth of the world and the advancing engineering and medical technology could be used to stop the hideous obscenity of 8,000 African children dying every day from preventable water-borne diseases.

Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman is, of course, absolutely right. It is an obscenity, and he has given a powerful reason for why it must change. It is no good
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telling Africa to participate in the world economy if we make it difficult for it to participate. That is why reducing the EU's export subsidies, which have already fallen by 70 per cent. in the last 10 years, is a step in the right direction, and why the commitment to an end date for all export subsidies agreed last July is so important. Only in the negotiations will we see that reach fruition, but it is one of the most important steps that we can take to help Africa create a better future for its people.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): My right hon. Friend said in his statement that there was more democracy in Africa now than before. That is welcome, but is he aware that democracy is about much more than votes? The civic society provisions mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) are part of that, as are civil liberties. How do we help to build a grass-roots Africa? Tackling poverty is part of creating conditions in which people can implement democratic provisions, but should we not be helping people to make advances in their democracy, rather than imposing sanctions and specifying no-go areas for aid?

Hilary Benn: We need to do exactly those things, and they are already a feature of our aid programme. We are working with a wide range of civil, voluntary and community organisations to build local capacity for the holding to account of local and national governments. That is a fundamental part of improving governance, and we need to do more of it. We also need to encourage Governments in Africa to engage in better dialogue with civil and community organisations. As I think every Member recognises, that is vital to making democracies function as they grow and develop.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that by their works shall ye know them? He will be aware that one commissioner, Prime Minister Zenawi, has led Ethiopia for 15 years. Today, however, a Foreign Office profile says

Only last month, President Mkapa of Tanzania was lauding Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

Does the Secretary of State not think that the report would be more credible if those people put their own houses in order before pronouncing on how things should be done? Does he agree with Kenya's former Finance Minister, a very honest man, who told the International Development Committee a few years ago "Don't give us any more money; ask us what we have done with the money you have already given us"?

Hilary Benn: I do not agree with the last point, because I can see—as the hon. Gentleman can—the impact that Britain's aid money is having in a number of the countries to which he referred, including Ethiopia and Kenya. Nor do I agree in any way with what President Mkapa had to say on Zimbabwe. Our partnership agreement with the Ethiopian Government—the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) raised this point earlier—refers to the steps
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that they propose to take to address the problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred, such as those relating to human rights. Indeed, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi himself acknowledges the existence of such problems. The question is whether the Ethiopian Government are taking steps to change the situation for the better. That is the basis on which we should judge such countries, while at the same time recognising that Ethiopia has a lot of very poor people and that it cannot feed its population. In such circumstances, is it not right to give support to those people through an increasing aid programme, which is precisely what we are doing?

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the important issue is not whether the British Government support the commission's robust recommendations—after all, our Prime Minister will take them to the G8 and to the EU presidency—but whether other world leaders fall in behind them? Does he also agree that if these recommendations are implemented by other G8 and EU leaders, that will mark a step change in the rich world's relations with Africa and enable a much-delayed but still vitally necessary wind of change to blow through Africa? What steps are the commissioners taking—especially those from other G8 countries—to get in touch with parliamentarians in their Parliaments, so that they debate this issue before the G8 summit and put pressure on their Governments to deliver when that summit comes?

Hilary Benn: On that last point, the commissioners will travel round their own countries and others, presenting the commission's recommendations, arguing the case and encouraging people to think about the proposals and what their own countries need to do. This is an argument that needs to be won, and in a sense I come back to where I started. We now have an
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opportunity—a moment—because the circumstances are right and we have the understanding and the means, as a world, to do something about the situation. The real test—if we accept the analysis—will be deciding what we do about it, which is why this year is so important. If there is the will and the commitment, we have the chance by the end of the year to reach agreement on doubling aid, on multilateral debt relief and on enabling Africa to trade its way out of poverty. If we can achieve that, this commission report will have been extremely worth while.

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