Although the 10-minute restriction on Back-Bench speeches does not apply to me, I will apply it to myself, for two reasons. First, I may not be able to remain in the Chamber until the end of the debate. I have explained why that is to the Secretary of State, to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the Conservatives, so I will not bore the House with it.
Secondly, I have never been to Africa myself. People might say that I am therefore not worthy to contribute to the debate, but I hope that they do not. One does not need to travel to a place in order to be able to express concern or to engage in a debate about it. A maxim that often trips off the tongue is that travel broadens the mind. Its most ardent advocates perhaps say it to salve their consciences about using disproportionate amounts of non-renewable resources as they travel the globe. Some people who travel all over the place come back with the same teeny-weeny little mind that they went off with in the first place. I do not argue that travel does not broaden the mind, but I would say that if one starts with a broad mind, there is a great deal to gain from travelling. I hope that I can prove that, as I will be putting the matter right with regard to Africa in the very near future.
As we could have anticipated, so far the debate has been consensual. I could sign my name to the speech by the Secretary of State and to most of the speech by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), who speaks for the Conservatives. I hope that they might be able to do the same to mine when I shortly reach the end of it; we shall see.
I congratulate the Government on their leadership through the Commission for Africa. They are raising expectations with regard to the G8 summit. Politically, that is a dangerous thing for any politician to do. They have done it, however, in a responsible way. The Chancellor's lead on debt relief is also welcome. We can therefore take pride, across parties, in the Government taking a lead in the world on those issues. Challenges still exist, however, which we want to probe and encourage the Government to address.
The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who takes a strong interest in such matters, mentioned the national TB control programme in Malawi, and I have also met Professor Salaniponi. The Department for International Development is providing welcome assistance and aid to that programme, supplementing the salaries of medical workers in Malawi, to ensure that they are not poachedat least we hope that they will not leave the country to work elsewhere, as they are essential to the success of that programme. The funding comes to an end, however, at the end of this calendar year. I know, however, that one of the challenges that the Department must face is the exit strategy.
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con):
Will the hon. Gentleman join me in acknowledging the enormous damage done to countries such as Malawi when large numbers of nurses leave? I believe that more are now working in Britain than in Malawi, and we must be careful to ensure that the third-world countries from which we recruit can afford to lose those people. There are many nurses from the Philippines in my constituency, for example, but that is not a problem because that country has a surplus of nurses. We should
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not recruit nurses or teachers from South Africa, however, when that shortage causes huge problems for the countries concerned.
Andrew George: I endorse the hon. Gentleman's sentiments. The Minister will no doubt address such issues, and the question of what the Government are doing, in his response. Certainly, supplementing the salaries of medical workers in Malawi makes a contribution, and we need to do a great deal more. Sophisticated activity might be needed to enable such workers to remain in their home country, whether they be teachers, medical workers or others.
The timing of this debate is related to the G8 summit in Gleneagles next week and the Live 8 marches and concerts at the weekend. I will also be in Edinburgh this weekend, and look forward to meeting the Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and other parliamentarians to ensure that the messages get across. When one of the primary issues of the G8 summit is the eradication of poverty, however, I am concerned that that debate is among the eight richest countries in the world. In effect, the poorest countries can wait to hear what benefits come from the top table after the event. When countries that are not present are being discussed, the same principle should apply that applies to the disability communityone should never discuss others without them being present. The G8 should also have what I have described as the P8the poorest eightpresent so that they can look them in the eye, negotiate with them and understand exactly the consequences of their decisions.
In one of the most impassioned contributions to the debate, the Secretary of State described those in the wealthy west as having a moral duty. He described his recent experience of visiting Sudan. I hopeI know that the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), who has also spoken passionately on this issue, agreesthat the Government and the G8 will consider ways of building the capacity of the African Union and the United Nations as a means of recognising that conflict resolution might mean international intervention, from which we have held back too often in the past.
I asked the Secretary of State earlier about his response to the International Monetary Fund reports and the premise that aid results in economic growth. I have never believed or argued that aid programmes are necessarily intended to result in economic growth, and I was encouraged by his response that aid is about saving people's lives. We hope that trade and other mechanisms result more directly in the capacity for economic growth.
As further background, the Secretary of State mentioned, as reported on the front page of The Times, President's Bush's announcement that he intends to increase the US contribution to aid to Africa in three programme areas, on the condition that African Governments put their house in order. Of course we talk about governance, but it is wrong for us in the west to hector African Governments as we often end up doing. I hope that President Bush will put his house in order with regard to his trade rules.
Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab):
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Gentleman, but how does he think that we can get good government in Africa? I have not heard him explain that.
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Mr. Andrew Mitchell: I strongly disagree with the hon. Gentleman's contention that we should not hector the Governments of Africa. Where we think that they are letting down the people whom they are there to govern and lead, we should express ourselves in the strongest possible way, which I tried to do in relation to the Government of Zimbabwe.
Andrew George: Perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough. Of course we should express ourselves clearly when we disagree, but my point is that President Bush should also recognise that he should put his house in order with regard to trade rules. The US is dumping cotton on poor countries, which is having a detrimental impact and undermining the intention to improve poverty eradication in those countries.
Pete Wishart: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a real distinction between good governance and corruption? Western Governments are imposing their political will on developing African nations, particularly on issues such as liberalisation of markets and insisting on privatisations.
The message that I hope that we can send to those at the Live 8 concerts and protests this weekend is that it is not an opportunity for momentary compassion for the poorest in Africa, but that it can be sustained. I hope that the Government will also be encouraging and look for opportunities in which that compassion and concern, expressed by millions of people in this country, can be expressed in practical application. One of the first things that can be done by those who are joining hands around Edinburgh or attending the Hyde park concert is to ask, the next time that they go to their large local grocery store, whether it can provide reassurance that their purchases will not damage the ethical standards for which they have just been campaigning, and will not harm the poorest people in African countries whom they have just attended a concert to support.