I am not talking about white farmers, although their treatment has been appalling and unjust. I am talking about the estimated 250,000 black Zimbabwean citizens who have been brutally ejected from their homes, which have been destroyed, and left without shelter or sustenance because they were suspected of voting for the opposition in the last election. I am talking about the many millions more who are starving and dying in the country at large for belonging to the wrong tribe, for having the wrong political allegiance, or simply because they are the random victims of policies that have
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reduced a once-thriving country to penury. We were told that public criticism of Mugabe's regime by donor Governments would be counterproductive and that we should allow Mugabe's peers and neighbours to use quiet diplomacy and economic leverage to ameliorate his policies. From here, that quiet diplomacy looks far more like spineless consensual silence.
As for Ethiopia, which is run by another of the Prime Minister's friends, Meles Zenawi, the African Union, explaining its silence about the recent murder of more than 20 opposition supporters on the streets of Addis Ababa, said that it had more important issues to deal with.
Neither protestors, nor politicians, nor rock stars will be able single-handedly to make poverty history, which is a task that can be accomplished only by the efforts of African countries themselves. People, not Governments, create wealth, but there is much that our Government can do to make that task easier: we can champion and reward good government; we can give more aid and make sure that it is spent well; and we can allow people in poor countries to trade with people in rich countries without hindrance. However, the ultimate success or failure of the British presidency of the G8 will be judged not by inputsthe headline figures on aid or debtbut by outcomes. How many children will it save from an early death and how many poor countries will it enable to become more wealthy? We have a duty, both to people in developing countries and to the hard-working British taxpayer, to see that the money released for development in 2005 is well spent.
Good intentions and generous spending alone achieve nothing. If we are to make poverty history, we must match compassion with realism and generosity with practicality. Although we should recognise the crucial role of aid in reducing immediate human suffering, we should also remember that the only sure road out of poverty is wealth, spurred on by property rights and freedom under the rule of law. Reforming immoral, hypocritical and pernicious trade barriers and subsidies would do more to help sub-Saharan Africa than anything else.
We fully support the Prime Minister and the Government in their determination to act this year, but we will monitor them closely and hold them accountable for the hopes they have raised, both at home and in Africa. My signal to those marching to Edinburghmany of us will be marching with themis that we will not allow their expectations to be let down. Failure by the leaders of the G8 to seize this moment of opportunity would be a betrayal of their own citizens as much as of the poor, the sick and the destitute in Africa. The Government must not squander the emotional capital that they have earned, which is why we will support them in the noble aims and aspirations that they will champion at Gleneagles next week. I hope that they will draw strength from our determination and support and from the faith of those across the world who will be watching.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord):
Order. Before I call the next speaker, I remind hon. Members that the 10-minute limit on speeches by Back Benchers applies from now on.
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Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): In opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State welcomed the focus on these important issuesit is marvellous that people are writing and speaking about them, and on Saturday people will be marching about them, too.
On 7 June, I read a piece in The Guardian by Martin Kettle that made me feel angry. Having re-read the article, which was entitled, "The naive lead the naive in a campaign of liberal guilt", and having re-examined Martin Kettle's conclusion that
I think that the article probably served a useful purpose by reflecting, along with the enthusiasm for making poverty history and for Saturday's march, the cynicism which undoubtedly exists in some quarters and which has even been reflected in today's short exchanges. As the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) has said, Africa has received more aid than any other continent, but has also repaid more debt and more debt interest than any other continent, and it has to deal with countries that pursue grotesque trade policies that clearly make impositions on the poorest people in Africa. We must address those matters in the modern world.
So what do we seek to do? We want to take on board what Make Poverty History is about and to address the issues of conflict. We are all deeply worried about Darfur, and we want to strengthen the international community and the United Nations in their response to that terrible and ongoing crisis. In our aid policies, we want to ensure that we deal with child care issues. In Africa, one woman in 14 is likely to die in childbirth as against one woman in 1,400 in Europe; that cannot be right. We want to address health care problems and people's need for food and medication. We want to tackle genuine development and to challenge the terrible scourge of HIV/AIDS, especially where we know that we have the opportunities to do it.
There is cynicism, and we might as well acknowledge that. It is perfectly fair to criticise what is going on in Zimbabwe, which is abominable, but it has to be set in the context of the problems of the whole of Africa. Some 12 million people live in Zimbabwe1.6 per cent. of a total population of 817 million. The policies being pursued there are deplorable, but Zimbabwe is not Africa and Africa is not Zimbabwe. Transparency, on the part of donor nations and recipient nations, is absolutely essential. It is essential too in terms of partnership, because without that partnership we cannot achieve the millennium goals and objectives that most Members wish to achieve.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave a lead yesterday and today when he mentioned Kenya. He said that school fees had been abolished and that 1 million more children are at school, which is splendid, but he did not do it in a starry-eyed way. He pointed out that 40 million children in Africa are not where they should beat their desks in the classroom. That, too, remains a challenge.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) spoke about Ethiopia. He mentioned some people in his constituency who went there to help to build a little school, but had not been there for long
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when they realised that it could not be done. They found children starving and dying and children who were blind, and saw that food and medication were not getting there. They went back to Ireland to review their priorities and to address the problems that they had encountered.
It is not unreasonable to respond to the demands for transparency that have again been made in this debateindeed, I support them. It is not unreasonable to say that there should be accountability in relation to the extraction of the huge mineral resources in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. The companies that exploit those resources should be open and democratic, and the Governments who obtain them should be open not only with their own people but with public opinion in this country. I welcome the fact that our Government are taking that issue seriously.
I believe that the Bill is highly relevant to this debate. If we achieve, as the International Development Committee is urging upon the Government, something like the Swedish model, then we will indeed be making progress. Under the Bill, not only would we expect and demand in this Parliament a report on how Governments achieve the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national incomesome do not have a particularly good record on thatbut would look for the kind of transparency that Members on both sides of the House have demanded today, as well as a compact with recipient countries. We cannot instruct them about how they spend their money in absolute detail, but it is fair that we as a Parliament and the British people know how it is being spent.
We are right to aim for poverty reduction and to see as a huge priority the upholding of human rights and obligations, as well as strong financial management and action on the compelling issue of corruption. Today, we look forward to the events of the weekend. We also look forward to some other important gatheringsthe G8 itself, the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong, and the millennium summit in New York later this year. They will not solve all the problems in themselves, but they are extremely important in making a practical contribution towards challenging the poverty and deprivation and the lack of opportunity and aspirations that we see in the continent of Africa.
In that spirit, I welcome the debate, the Government's policies, and the support that public opinion is giving to the continent of Africa because people recognise that it is a continent seeking to make progress in a world that is experiencing great disenchantment.