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I pay tribute to the maiden speech by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). His reputation precedes him, and I am sure that he is a worthy successor
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to John Hume. In the summer, an SDLP Member and I are visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I am looking forward to it.
As has been said, Africa is a huge subject, and no one speech can do justice to the myriad issues. My particular concerns are the conditions imposed on debt reliefso-called conditionalitiesand compliance, which concerns the international community's failure to honour its commitments to Africa in previous years and decades. I will even suggest a mechanism, which would be easy to set up, by which we can honour any new commitments that might be made at next week's G8 summit.
The Government's decision to place Africa on the G8 summit agenda was inspired, and I congratulate them on galvanising public opinion and making Africa part of the public consciousness, which has created an almost unstoppable and insatiable demand finally to address African poverty. However, expectations are heady and the issue could become a cross for them to bear, because the British public expect the rhetoric to be matched by action. I urge the Government not to resort to their Pavlovian instinct of spinningsome of the Chancellor's contributions have come closebecause the British public, who expect action to be taken, will find them out.
Next week, the expectation will reach a crescendo as the G8 circus eventually rolls into Perthshire. I am sure that Scotland will be an excellent host, and I am looking forward to it putting on an excellent show. I will be marching with colleagues in the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh on Saturday and am also fortunate enough to have secured my tickets for next week's Live 8 event at Murrayfield, where I look forward to seeing the cream of Scotland's artists and international acts.
It is an understatement to say that my constituents in Perthshire, along with people in Edinburgh and throughout the rest of Scotland, are bracing themselves for the arrival of the G8 summit with a mixture of apprehension, concern and anxiety. Perthshire will bear the brunt of any pain created in the next few weeks, but hopefully it will also gain, because we will be highly visible throughout next week as images of our beautiful corner of the country are transmitted across the world.
Like all hon. Members, I hope that real progress is finally made on addressing African poverty at the G8 summit. The G8 summit has rightly been described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get to grips with the problem, and it is there to be grasped. It would be fantastic if that beautiful little corner of Scotland is for ever and a day associated with making progress in Africa, and it would be wonderful if the "Perthshire accord", or whatever we call it, were for ever remembered for starting to make poverty history.
It now seems as if everybody and their granny is getting involved in the debate about Africa. Even the BBC has discovered where Africa is and has shown some fantastic programmes in the past few weeks. Of course, all my old chums from the world of rock and roll are gearing themselves up for the Live 8 concerts next week. Although I do not share Bono's view that Blair and Brown are the Lennon and McCartney of international politicsmy hon. Friends and I see them more as its Laurel and HardyI welcome the contribution that Bono, Bob Geldof and the rest of
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these international artists have made to creating the groundswell of public support for trying to deal effectively with poverty in Africa.
But in order to make progress on Africa, it is time for the politics to kick in. That is our job. We must finally ensure that there is compliance and that we get the best possible deal that we can in order to address African poverty. The last thing that anybody wants is for this massive circus to come into town, say a few words, and then pull up its pegs and go on its way again. There would be massive frustration and disappointment if we were marched to the top of the African hill only to be marched all the way down again.
That is why in recent weeks I have called for a legacya permanent resourceto be left behind in Perthshire to ensure that whatever is agreed to next week is adhered to and that the commitment has been made. We must have some mechanism in place to ensure that the big promises that we expect to be announced next week are finally turned into reality on the ground, that the work is co-ordinated, and that any agreements reached at Gleneagles are effectively monitored and acted upon. I have even written to the Prime Minister to suggest the establishment of a co-ordinating centre bringing together the G8 Governments, the African nations, the non-governmental organisations, the charities, and the academics involved in this field to establish best practice and to ensure that all the commitments that we have made to Africa are delivered. Of course that should be financed by the G8 and should be in beautiful Perthshire near to the site of Gleneagles.
Compliance is important. When we look at the record of the G8 nations, we have to acknowledge that their compliance has been pretty poor in terms of what they have agreed to in their summits and the commitments that they have given to the developing world. The international community has consistently let Africa down at times when it has promised the earth. We are nowhere near meeting our international commitments. The millennium development goals now seem like nothing other than distant aspirations. There has been no real progress on the targets that were set on HIV/AIDS, peace-building, and so on. We have gone backwards in Africa instead of forwards. Following the Toronto G8, research found that G8 members comply only modestly with their commitments. That cannot happen with important commitments to Africa, which is why the legacythe permanent resourcemust be left behind. We cannot allow Africa to be left on its own once more.
While compliance is being monitored, it should also be possible to look at the conditions for aid. The setting of conditions for debt relief and aid should be as apolitical as possible. Politically dogmatic western Governments should not be trying to impose their political will on African Governments. I have big problems with the conditions imposed on debt relief by the G8 Finance Ministers in recent weeks. Yes, we must tackle poor governance and corruption. Corruption cripples poor nations, especially in Africa.
I recognise that, as the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) said, tensions are involved in tackling poor governance and corruption, but we should do what we can to ensure that those who are subject to appalling dictators and despots are not left in the poverty in which they find themselves. We have to be just that little bit
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more creative in how we deal with the tensions. It is not good enough to draw up lists of the worthy and deserving and, by implication, a list of those who have been discarded. No one can argue against good governance, and everybody would want aid to be targeted to the nations and regimes that will ensure that it is passed on to their populations, but I am concerned when those conditionalities start to intrude into how Governments should govern.
Mr. Walker: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the rule of law and property rights in South Africa have encouraged private investment, and have made that country a beacon of hope in Africa? Before he dismisses private investment entirely, perhaps he should consider what it has done for South Africa over the past decade.
Pete Wishart: I thank the hon. Gentleman for those remarks, and I agree with them. In some instances, private investment is exactly the right way to go, but the one-size-fits-all approach of western Governments demanding liberalisation and privatisation is a step too far. The right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton mentioned the example of Uganda and the privatisation without regulation that costs that nation millions of pounds. It gets worseto qualify for the next round of debt relief, the Ugandan Government must sell their water supplies, agricultural services and commercial banks, probably at great loss to that nation again.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one can distinguish between the need for the rule of law and privatisation? One can have the rule of law without necessarily having privatisation.
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