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Pete Wishart: Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, and I hope that he has an opportunity to expand on that if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Certain things work for certain countries, but the attitude that western Governments must impose their view of what should happen in Africa concerns me most.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge the role of Scotland. We are hosting the G8, and we will have all those fantastic demonstrations. I hope that Scotland will be seen positively around the world, and that the events pass off peacefully. I am concerned about some of the security and policing issues—I still do not know who will meet the £100 million expected costs of hosting the G8, and I certainly hope that it will not be the council tax payers of Perth and Kinross.

I want to praise Scotland's First Minister, however, for undertaking his mission to Malawi several weeks ago. He has rightly upped Scotland's international ambition by taking that trip, and I hope that he is congratulated by the Minister in the wind-up. The First
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Minister has acknowledged that Scotland has a particular and specific role to play in the developing world, especially in nations such as Malawi, with which we have a great association through the work of David Livingstone and Christian missionaries in the 19th century. I hope that that is noticed. The First Minister acknowledged that we have that distinctive role—I agree with him—and I am glad that he did so.

If we can achieve that in Malawi, however, surely we can do it in other nations, too. I do not want Scotland's ambition thwarted; I want to see Scotland do a lot more of that. I encourage the First Minister, the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to undertake more of that type of work. I also believe that were we a sovereign, self-governing nation, we would reach that 0.7 per cent. target, as other small nations have done, which has proved elusive for some of the larger Governments.

I am looking forward to next week, which I think will be a fantastic week for Scotland, and to a new role for Scotland internationally. Let us ensure, however, that any decisions taken at Gleneagles in Perthshire next week are acted on, and that we get compliance. Let us ensure, too, that we do not make eliminating poverty conditional.

3.43 pm

Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): In approaching this debate, I am reminded of the defining statement of the Labour party, produced on the back of each membership card:

Through that statement of principle and notion of solidarity, I hope that our fellow parliamentarians and legislators around the world, and our fellow people around the world, come together sincerely to address the huge injustice that exists in Africa.

Levels of poverty in Africa are beyond that which many of us in the Chamber can comprehend. Despite the images on our television screens, and the reports from Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and other nations, we cannot truly comprehend what it must be like to live on £1 a week or a small portion of rice a day, or to walk miles just to collect a small amount of water. Our life of relative luxury does not come close to the endless hardships faced by the people of Africa. By the strength of our common endeavour, however, we have already begun to achieve something.

In Uganda, debt relief of £700 million in 2000 helped to increase its poverty reduction budget by 75 per cent. Since then, Uganda has abolished health user fees, and attendance in clinics has risen by a staggering 87 per cent. In Rwanda, the revenue authority has increased revenue by 40 per cent. over two years, allowing the Government to double spending on health and education and improving the lives of many Rwandans, both young and old. Possibly more importantly, we have written off 100 per cent. of the debt owed by the poorest countries to the UK.

We cannot become complacent, however. We cannot stop working towards a greater good for the continent of Africa. In a week's time, the leaders of the world's eight richest nations will meet at the Gleneagles hotel in my constituency. This will be a real chance to increase
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the speed at which change is brought about and to give back to Africa some of what was taken from it during the years of imperial rule.

Debt relief is a vital part of the relief of poverty in Africa. Nations can spend a lifetime simply paying back the interest on their debts. All too often, the moneys involved are small for western nations but huge for the African nations, where the debts hang round countries' necks, prohibiting their development and progress.

This Labour Government's commitment to debt relief has led the way for other nations. The Prime Minister, with the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has constantly maintained the pressure on other nations to join our campaign to eradicate poverty. We now see the beginnings of the international finance facility, pledges to ensure that Government spending on aid reaches 0.7 per cent. of GDP, and a dedication to wipe out the debts of those nations so that they can begin to lift their citizens out of poverty.

However, debt relief must be coupled with governance changes in those countries. Democracy needs to be strengthened, and corruption stemmed. We must provide the necessary assistance to individual African nations to help them to diversify and stimulate internal and external economic relationships, and to become more fiscally understanding of the needs of good governance.

We cannot simply write off debt in the hope that countries that have been ravaged by dictatorship, military rule and war will bloom into model nation states. Corruption is a huge problem, and improvements must be made to ensure that the assistance reaches the people whom it is meant to reach. We cannot assume that individual nations can always make those changes on their own. We must provide them with the help that they need to take those steps, so as to guarantee that the debt relief that this Government and many others have fought to secure can be effectively managed.

Addressing debt relief and governance will not solve all Africa's problems, however. There were 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa in 2003, with 5 million new infections in that year alone. HIV/AIDS directly or indirectly affects nearly everyone in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of children are left orphaned by parents who have contracted the disease, and the stigma attached to the illness breaks up communities. The cost of drugs that help fight the infection make those who suffer even poorer.

The IFF will allow us to build the health care systems that those countries need to combat HIV/AIDS, and to implement a plan for prevention and care—and, I hope, one day a cure. Nelson Mandela said that AIDS is a curse that we must not deny, and better education in countries such as South Africa can help to set the world on the right track in combating HIV/AIDS. Campaigns waged by religious groups encouraging young people not to use condoms must be addressed, and the denial of assistance by foreign governments to organisations that provide condoms as a method of HIV/AIDS prevention should also be corrected. Religious beliefs should not be ignored, but neither should the devastating consequences of such misdirected advice.
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The cost of AIDS drugs to many in Africa is phenomenal. All too often, western companies charge more per dose in developing nations than in their home nations. I cannot place a price on the cost of a human life—but it appears that many pharmaceutical companies can. I see companies with soaring profits that publish catalogues of their compassion in helping developing nations, but still charge just enough for HIV/AIDS treatment to ensure that their shareholders dividends are kept high. They give with one hand and take away with the other.

The IFF advance purchase scheme could prevent more than 1 million deaths a year. The work by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and the generosity of the Gates Foundation have helped to secure vaccinations for 50 million children around the world. I am proud to see the £1 billion pledged by this Government to the finance facility for immunisation. That is a real start to addressing the plague of diseases that blight so many countries in Africa, and attention must now be drawn to how we can tackle the damage done by malaria.

Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell's comment that the west is increasingly developing rampant consumerism and a "must have" culture, leading us to huge waste, is correct. Consumerism and the protectionism that is so closely associated with it hold back nations that are struggling to develop. As the Chancellor said yesterday in his speech to UNICEF, we should be opening our markets and removing trade-distorting subsidies. We must more urgently tackle the waste caused by the common agricultural policy by setting a date for the end of export subsidies.

I am confident that through our presidency of the European Union we shall be able to begin to address the issues of agricultural subsidies, and help to combat trade issues which mean that it is cheaper to import rice from America to southern Senegal than to grow it and transport it from the north of Senegal to the south. Big business should not profit at the expense of people and the environment. Greater corporate responsibility must go hand in hand with freer trade. We must end the export dumping that damages the livelihoods of the poorest communities in Africa. We must fight corruption, work to improve the health and education of millions of people in Africa, implement debt relief programmes and investment, and open the markets to provide a truly free-trade environment.

The fruits of this Labour Government's leadership in regard to poverty in Africa are already beginning to show. Even President Bush's comments yesterday reflect the willingness of other nations to listen to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development. However, I urge those who will attend the G8 summit at Gleneagles next week not to let this opportunity pass. We have been here before. We have seen discussions take place on the need to address poverty and debt relief in which much has been promised and little delivered. I hope that the actions of my right hon. and hon. Friends at DFID in recent years have shown that this time it is different, and we will deliver. I fear, though, that a watered-down result from next week's discussions may harm future attempts to address global poverty, despite the advances that we may make at Gleneagles.
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3.51 pm

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