Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The hon. Member for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin) made an excellent speech, which included some powerful points. She demonstrated that the right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) was wrong to dislike consensus. If hon. Members speak with a united voice, our message is that much clearer to the rest of the world. There are others whom we have to convince, not least Congress in the United States and colleagues in other legislative Assemblies, that what we want to do, and what we are promoting, is correct and that our policies are right. The House speaking with one voice is powerful.
I want to comment on climate change, conflict, capacity, commerce and commitment. On climate change, we have to recognise that what is happening at Gleneagles is not two separate debates on climate change and Africa, because they relate to each other. Climate change is important for Africa and developing countries. If I had one sadness in the last Parliament, it was that the International Development Committee's report on climate change and sustainable development did not get the coverage it deserved. I commend it to hon. Members.
Vulnerable communities will suffer from climate change most. It also contributes to conflict. One reason why we have problems in Darfur is that the Sahel desert is moving south and there is more desertification. Pastoralists who used to move their cattle around over the grass are finding it more difficult to find grazing land. They, in turn, put pressure on farmers, which led to conflict. That is all about climate change. Getting both things right is important. I hope that the G8 tackles Africa and climate change.
On conflict, the Secretary of State was right when he talked about peer review mechanisms and what is happening in Ghana and elsewhere, and with NEPAD. That is brilliant. However, there is no peer group pressure in Africa on conflict. There is no excuse for what is happening in Zimbabwe. There is also no excuse for neighbouring countries not exerting peer group pressure on Mugabe.
These debates are brilliant, but we tend to have two lots of debates. We have international development debates and we have foreign affairs debates, and the two never come together. It would be wonderful if both Secretaries of State were present or we at least had a Minister from the other Department to wind up the debate. The issues all interrelate. I suspect one reason why we do not have the sort of peer group pressure that we should have on Zimbabwe is that the South Africans are concerned about the collapse of Zimbabwe and what that would mean in terms of refugees coming across into their country. There is still no excuse for the lack of pressure, however.
There is no excuse for Nigeria not to hand over Charles Taylor to stand trial in the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. We understand that it got him out of Liberia and provided him with asylum, but that was a long time ago. A UN-backed warrant has been issued
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for Taylor to stand trial before a UN-backed court. He should stand trial, and if he does not, I hope that the UN war crimes tribunal will find a way of trying him in absentia. Such trials happened at Nuremburg; I see no reason why they should not happen in Freetown.
On conflict, we do not seem to have a coherent strategy on military or other intervention for the purposes of humanitarian relief. Everything is done on an ad hoc basis: the French went into Côte d'Ivoire; we went into Sierra Leone. We have a different mechanism now for Darfur. The African Union is fine; those of us who have seen its work were very impressed, but we are never quite sure how it is going to be funded. Different Secretaries of State come to the Dispatch Box at different times and say that it will be funded by NATO or the European Union, or perhaps by a bit of money from the United Nations. There is absolutely no coherence on this issue. If we have another humanitarian crisis in Africa, who will take the lead? On what basis? According to what ground rules? There is also no excuse for Ethiopia not acknowledging the international arbitration over Ethiopia and Eritrea. In all these situations, there are some things that Africa has to do and others that we have to do. We need much greater coherence in regard to the way in which the international community intervenes.
The Commission for Africa's report clearly states that capacity is the most important factor. One of the things that strikes us when we visit Departments and Ministries in Africa is how thin the capacity is. The report makes it clear that it is important that more be done to train civil servants, and to develop higher and further education and skills in Africa. About three quarters of those who leave Africa to pursue higher education never return. What has happened to higher education in Africa over the past couple of decades has been a tragedy, and it is now in need of considerable investment. We also need to help parliamentarians in Africa, as we have said on many occasions. We have organisations such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and they should do more to support parliamentarians in Africa, to enable them to understand what is involved in holding Governments to account.
On commerce, the figures show that Africa's economies need to grow by 7 per cent. a year if there is to be any hope of meeting the millennium development goals, yet many are growing by no more than 1 per cent. a year. The vice-president of Sierra Leone was speaking today at Chatham House about how his country was going to go forward, but very little is happening there. It would be very difficult for its economy to grow by more than 1 per cent. a year at the moment. During the last Parliament, the International Development Committee went to South Africa. The unemployment rate in many of the townships there was between 60 and 70 per cent.
We all talk about health, education and AIDS in Africa, but an issue that we must all address is that of enterprise. Where are the new jobs going to come from? We saw Lesotho get a toe-hold in the textile industry for a while, only to get completely knocked off course by what is happening in China. Of course, what happens at the WTO talks in Hong Kong later this year will be very important, but south-south trade is also important, and there is a great deal of trade that does not involve the reform of the WTO rules. It is difficult to see how even a country as influential as South Africa can be
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sustainable in the long term if it continues to have to support unemployment rates of 60 or 70 per cent. We need to pay a lot more attention to commerce.
On commitment, some people believe that if we manage to achieve what the Prime Minister and the Chancellor hope to achieve at Gleneagles, we shall be able simply to tick that box. However, this is a long-haul issue. We are miles behind on the millennium development goals. What leaves the greatest impression on my mind when I visit Africa is the persistent, grinding, unremitting poverty that so many people have to endure. We must tackle that problem, but it will not be done in a matter of weeks or months; it will require a long-term commitment by all of us in the House over many years. It is brilliant that there is now broad cross-party agreement on that, because Governmentsirrespective of their political persuasionwill need to maintain that commitment over the next five, 10 or 15 years. We have a simple choice as a civilisationeither we get this right and meet the millennium development goals or we just turn our back on Africa and shut the door. From some articles and reports in the press it is clear that some people are urging us to do the latter. They do not see the point of investing in Africa or of caring about it. We care about Africans, because they are fellow human beings, and are as valuable, valid and important as any other individual. Our commitment must therefore be long term. The fact that in the past few years these issue have risen up the political agenda in the House and the fact that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are making a political commitment are to be greatly applauded. Everyone in the House hopes that they will succeed at the G8 conference and that we can take a definite step forward to ensure that we meet the millennium development goals by 2015.
Mr. John McFall (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I pay tribute to the sterling work that the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) has done as Chairman of the International Development Committee. We are all grateful for his chairmanship of that Committee in the last Parliament. I congratulate the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) on his maiden speech and, as has been said, his contribution over a period of many years to the Northern Ireland peace process. It has been lonely and rocky, but it needed courage, which he has shown in abundance. I welcome him to the House and wish him well in his endeavours both as leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party and as a Member of Parliament.
I congratulate the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Development on the agreement that they secured from the G8 Finance Ministers. The fact that all multilateral debts and some bilateral debts have been written off is a huge step forward. Congratulations should also go to ordinary people. For many years, my constituents, as well as Churches and voluntary organisations in my constituency have worked with me on the Jubilee 2000 campaign and other initiatives. More than 3,000 of my constituents signed up to those campaigns, so there is enormous enthusiasm locally. Many events have taken place in my local schools over the years. More than a year ago, on my
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return from a visit to Zambia, we organised a Christmas response to the problems there. Almost £18,000 was generated by the local community, including primary schools. St. Michael's primary school in my constituency, for example, contributed £1,500. Christie Park school mounted a spontaneous concert and gathered £200 from parents as they came to collect their children from school. Secondary schools, including the Vale of Leven academy, Dumbarton academy and, in particular, Our Lady and St. Patrick's high school have a taken lifelong interest in the subject.
Eammon Cullen is one of the teaching colleagues with whom I used to work. He teaches at Our Lady and St. Patrick's, where he organised a justice and peace group. It has been in existence for more than 20 years, so the young people in my constituency can say that they worked on these initiatives before we did. I pay tribute to Eammon and his colleagues. He is about to retire after 30 years' teaching service in Our Lady and St. Patrick's school, but his interest will not decline and he will work with renewed vigour on justice and peace and other issues that are vital to the Gleneagles summit. Without that groundswell of support, the Government and the G8 would not be where they are. May I therefore suggest to the Minister that, given the enthusiasm of young people in my constituency and elsewhere, he and the Secretary of State should devise an initiative to engage them? They could provide finance and opportunities for them to engage with a particular country in Africa and thus achieve a constituency focus on the subject. The only way we will take the goals forward is by passing the task from generation to generation. Given the good work that young people have undertaken to date, I would like the Government to respond with an initiative such as I have suggested.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity, as has been said. The UK is hosting the G8 summit, the UK holds the EU presidency, the UN summit on the millennium development goals is taking place later in the year, and the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting will be held in Hong Kong in December. To date we have failed miserably on the millennium development goals. The rich nations pledged that there would be primary education for all in the developing countries by 2015, but present estimates indicate that it will not be universally available until 2130115 years late. The rich nations pledged to halve poverty by 2015, but that will not be achieved until 2150135 years late. The rich nations pledged to eliminate avoidable infant deaths, but that will not be achieved until 2165150 years late.
If a citizen of one of the developing countries asked whether there was any justice in the world, the answer would manifestly be no. Does that make the task impossible for us? Certainly not. There needs to be a much more urgent focus on the three intertwining strands of aid, trade and debt. We have heard today about aid to Africa. From 1981 to 2001 the number of poor people in Africa doubled from 164 million to 313 million. That level of deprivation is unconscionable. It is accompanied by disease, conflict and squalor.
The injustice in global trade has been mentioned. The rich countries' massive support and protection for their own agriculture is paradoxical, since agriculture is the sector with the greatest potential in Africa to decrease
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poverty and achieve the pro-poor engagement that is so crucial, particularly to rural Africa. On debt, notwithstanding the agreement that has been madewe do not yet know the detailsAfrica still owes almost $300 billion and pays off $15 billion a year in interest and fees. Only seven states out of the 53 in the African Union have seen their debts reduced to sustainable levels.
I mentioned Zambia. I have had a number of contacts with civic society in Lusaka, having visited on a few occasions and having welcomed representatives of that society in the United Kingdom. One of my friends, Peter Henriot, runs the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka. Peter and his group undertook an economic, social and cultural rights survey in March this year. One of the issues on which they focused for countries like ours was employment. At present 90 per cent. of Zambians are unemployed or work in precarious conditions in the informal sector. They are hampered by inadequate skills, inadequate capital and inadequate support for infrastructure. When we discuss aid, it is important to focus on transport and other aspects to ensure that people in rural areas can be involved in and welcomed into the country's economic development.
Despite the fact that the Zambian Government provide free primary education, education is gradually becoming the privilege of the very few. Tuition fees in colleges and in the two universities in Zambia range between US$60 a year and US$1,600, which is beyond the reach of the vast majority of Zambians. On public health, my colleagues tell me that only 15 per cent. of houses have access to proper toilet facilities. The 2000 census on population and housing indicates that although 49 per cent. have access to safe water, 51 per cent. do not. The lack of access to clean water and sanitation presents a huge risk to public health in that country. The statistics are dismal, but they remind us of our task.
Mention has been made of the economic and social progress that our country had to make, so let us compare our country with Zambia. In the UK, the death rate per 1,000 population is 10.8, whereas it is 20.23 in Zambia, which is double the UK rate. In the UK, infant mortality is 5.16 per 1,000 live births, whereas it is 112 in Zambia. In the UK, life expectancy is 78.5 years, whereas it is 37 years in Zambia, where 23 per cent. of under-fives are underweight, too.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries) asked, "Why has Africa gone backwards?" Africa has gone backwards since the 1960s. Living standards and growth levels in Africa in the 1960s were greater than they were in the 1990s, but does that mean that we should halt our support