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Global Poverty

6. Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the proposals to reduce global poverty to be made at the G8 summit. [8145]

10. Stephen Hesford (Wirral, West) (Lab): What discussions he has had with other Finance Ministers on meeting the 2015 targets for reducing world poverty. [8150]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): The European Union has made a commitment to reach the 0.7 per cent. aid target by 2015, and to double aid by 2010. We are also seeking agreement to further proposals on innovative financial mechanisms, but those measures are aligned to the progress we are seeking on trade, transparency and the attack on corruption.

Anne Snelgrove: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the money freed up from debt relief and debt interest could be well used in improving health and developing education programmes in heavily indebted countries, and that that would lead to greater life expectancy and the wherewithal to improve, in particular, the education of girls and women? That has been shown to be a key factor in helping developing countries become economically independent and thus making poverty history.

Mr. Brown: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken a great interest in these matters. If she had been in Kenya, as I was a few months ago, she could have seen the school that I visited in Kebira, a slum outside Nairobi in one of the poorest areas, where, as a result of free education, because of aid and debt relief, a million more children had turned up for school in one week. That situation is repeated in Uganda, where debt relief has increased the number of people in education from 2 million to 6 million, and in Tanzania and Mozambique where the debt relief agreements that we signed are increasing the amount of expenditure on education and
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the number of pupils going to school. People who say that aid does not work must look at that success in getting more children into education and then look at what we still have to do to get 100 million children who have no education into school, two thirds of them girls.

Stephen Hesford: I do not know how often my right hon. Friend watches television, but last Sunday he might have seen the Richard Curtis docudrama about the G8 summit which, as well as relocating the summit to Reykjavik, painted a very pessimistic picture of the G8 commitment to reduce world poverty by 2015. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will do everything at Gleneagles to ensure that the G8 makes every genuine effort to meet the 2015 target, thus preventing life mirroring art and making the girl in the café unnecessary?

Mr. Brown: If that is the interpretation that my hon. Friend takes from the film, it is clearly fiction, because enormous progress has been made in the past few months. All major countries in the G7 have committed themselves to 100 per cent. debt relief, which is the first time that the world has agreed to 100 per cent. debt relief. Some $55 billion will be written off, with $40 billion written off immediately. Twenty-eight countries will benefit—the number will rise to 38 in time—and we in Britain are making the same offer to another 30 countries. Anyone who says that public pressure and Government action, which I acknowledge has had all-party support, have not worked is wrong because 100 per cent. debt relief has been agreed.

The European Union has agreed to double aid, but that was inconceivable a few months ago. In the 30 years since the Pearson committee, none of the major European powers had agreed to a 0.7 per cent. target, but now 13 countries in Europe have agreed to it. France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Britain, as well as Ireland, Belgium and Finland, have made that decision, some of them in only the past few weeks, which is a result of the changing opinion in the world about what must be done. However, everyone knows that debt relief and aid must be accompanied by action on trade, action on transparency, tacking corruption and opening up economic development, so I believe that that comprehensive agenda will be discussed at Gleneagles. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The Chancellor's commitment to the reduction of poverty in the world, especially in Africa, is hugely admired and his views are shared by every party in the House. However, does he accept that, at the G8 in Gleneagles, the problems created in Africa by the brutal tyrant, Robert Mugabe, could have an adverse influence on people's views about giving more assistance to Africa? Will he try to overcome that, because I believe that we have a greater commitment to tackling poverty in the world as a whole, especially in Africa, although clearly I hope that pressure will be brought upon President Mbeki of South Africa?

Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman takes a huge interest in Commonwealth affairs and especially Zimbabwe. No    Government international aid is going to the
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Zimbabwean Government. Any help for the people of Zimbabwe goes through Churches, voluntary groups or charities and I think that there would be all-party support for that policy. All parties assumed 20 or 30 years ago that a modernising Government might be a strong Government in Africa, but we now realise that having transparency, participation in democracy and accountability is the only sure way to achieve results through both aid and economic development. That is the why the emphasis of the Gleneagles summit will be on not simply aid, trade and debt relief, but creating transparent structures of government in Africa so that the rulers are properly accountable to the people.

Mrs. Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con): I am aware that the Chancellor agrees that it is vital to attach conditions to aid to encourage anti-corruption measures. Does he also agree that reform in the developing world needs to go deeper than that to ensure that it has functioning property, legal and contract systems, which are essential for enterprise and economic growth? If he does agree, will he explain how we can encourage the developing world to reform those systems without looking as though we would like the sun to rise on a new British empire in Africa?

Mr. Brown: I am happy to agree with the hon. Lady. I was privileged to give the UNICEF annual lecture yesterday in which I referred to the need for proper legal systems, for economic stability as the foundation for growth in the continent of Africa, for both private and public investment and for support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which is bringing Governments in Africa into a process through which democracy, transparency and accountability are enhanced. There is all-party agreement on that position, but she would agree that it must be accompanied by an offer from the richest countries of the world to help the poorest countries to develop their education and health care systems We will give them some hope that, if they make the reforms, we will support them. The announcement that I hope to be able to make later today on debt relief for Nigeria represents exactly that—us backing the people who are prepared to make reforms.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): I congratulate the Chancellor on the progress that he has made so far in tackling poverty, which is more than we have seen under any Government.

I recently visited Burtonwood primary school in my constituency and the children were making "buddies" to be sent to the leaders at the G8 summit. I urge my right hon. Friend to persuade those leaders to display the same knowledge of the moral imperatives of tackling poverty in the third world that those young children displayed. If those leaders will not recognise the need to meet the millennium development goals on health and education, may I urge on my right hon. Friend the argument that it is essential for the stability of the whole world that we tackle those problems of poverty that lead to instability?

Mr. Brown: My hon. Friend has done a great deal to publicise both the cause of debt relief and aid and also the need for Governments around the world to support the programme that will be discussed at Gleneagles. She
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will also know that hundreds of schools in the United Kingdom are linking up with African schools. That project has the support of the Government. It involves school teachers and school pupils, and is having a huge effect on the opinions of young people for the better. Equally, she will know that the BBC ran an "Africa Lives" week, and I saw an exhibition of 12,000 postcards written by young children which again publicised the direct links that exist between Britain and Africa. Anything we can do to make the new generation of young people aware of the challenges ahead and the links that we have across the continents is beneficial.

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