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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): I join the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) in paying tribute to all hon. Members who spoke in this excellent debate. In particular, I single out the strong and passionate speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke). Ministers in the Department for International Development do not have the same opportunities as our colleagues to debate on the Floor of the House new ideas for amendments to UK law. We look forward with relish to 20 January, when he introduces his private Member's Bill, for further discussion of his proposals.

I join hon. Members in paying tribute to the excellent maiden speech of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). We are all aware of his contribution to Northern Irish policies. We look forward to his contributions to domestic politics and, on the basis of his speech, to international debates, too. I also pay tribute to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty), who rightly reminded us of the need to continue to focus on sexual and reproductive health issues.

There were equally interesting speeches from Opposition Members. I pay tribute not only to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) for the way in which he opened the debate, but also to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) for the way in which he chairs the all-party malaria group. I join others, too, in paying tribute to the excellent work done by the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) in chairing the Select Committee on International Development, although I confess that I am not sure that I enjoyed appearing before it. I also pay tribute to the continuing eloquence of the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) in rightly reminding us of the need to continue to focus international attention on what is going on in the Sudan. On the Liberal Benches, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) for her continued championing of micro-credit issues.

All hon. Members alluded to the fact that Africa is a remarkable continent. It has much to celebrate and is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin) said, a continent of breathtaking beauty and stunning scenery. It is home and birthplace to great talent and huge ability, from the excellent Haile Gebrselassie—one of the world's greatest athletes—to arguably the most influential and impressive politician of our time, the incomparable Nelson Mandela. However, as all hon. Members also highlighted, it is a continent that remains scarred by terrible poverty and savaged by the scourge of HIV and AIDS, and its development remains inhibited by the legacy of conflict—in some cases, ongoing conflict—by unfair trading rules, by appalling debt and by weak governance.
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What is also clear is that Africa deserves our support. For the peoples of a continent to be so disadvantaged in the 21st century is an outrage. That demands, as the Commission for Africa made clear, a big push for Africa now, with rich countries, such as ours, supporting an African-led agenda. The Commission for Africa also made it clear that its principal demand for African Governments is for them to build clean and accountable Governments—a recommendation that we strongly support—while donors must ensure that aid to Africa is doubled, that expenditure on education, health, AIDS and infrastructure is significantly increased, that there is more radical debt relief and trade reform and, indeed, that the international finance facility is launched.

Our job now, as the Prime Minister made clear as president of the G8 and the European Union, is to maintain the momentum of the commission's report, and to help ensure, through the Gleneagles summit next week, the UN summit in September and the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in December, that the international community continues to make an appropriate response. We remain committed to doing our bit.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) highlighted the size of US aid to Africa. He might be interested to know that, almost as he was speaking, President Bush was announcing plans to more than double aid to Africa by 2010, which I am sure that all Members will agree is an important and welcome step that will create real momentum for a successful outcome at Gleneagles. That, combined with commitments from the European Union, Japan and Canada, means that the G8 and EU will more than double aid to Africa by 2010, increasing it by some $25 billion, as called for by the Commission for Africa. That will also put us within reach of our goal of an extra $50 billion a year in total aid for all developing countries.

We shall, of course, continue to work hard right up to the Gleneagles summit for the best possible package for Africa. We are making progress on aid, and on multilateral debt relief. Hon. Members asked me about a particular deal on Nigeria's debt. That deal will see the write-off of approximately $18.6 billion of that country's debt. That again is a significant step in the right direction.

HIV and AIDS are a continuing priority of our presidencies of the G8 and EU. Last year, we set aside some £1.5 billion for HIV and AIDS expenditure—almost a doubling of our commitment. We also announced a doubling of funding to the global fund. We are hosting the global fund replenishment conference in September. In addition to its work on AIDS, the fund is a key vehicle for scaling up our support for tuberculosis and malaria, the other two key poverty diseases facing Africa. I welcome the fact that the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa with access to antiretroviral drugs has trebled in the past 12 months, but, as many hon. Members have said, much more needs to be done to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

We will of course continue to champion improvements in governance by using our aid budget as well as ministerial and diplomatic effort, and by seeking to improve government standards and to consolidate and expand the African peer review mechanism. We want to ensure greater transparency in public revenues,
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to empower judiciaries, to create more and better free public media and to support the African Union and other key pan-African institutions.

We shall also seek to ensure an ambitious outcome from the Doha development round. We want to agree on a date for the end to export subsidies. The 2003 CAP reform package was a good initial reform package, but, as many hon. Members have rightly said, we need to go further. We are working for an immediate extension of quota-free and duty-free access to all exports from sub-Saharan Africa. We are also working to ensure that restrictive rules of origin do not prevent countries from taking advantage of preference schemes that exist at the moment.

Much has been made of the apparent consensus on these issues, and I, too, welcome the support from the Conservative Front Bench for the Government's objectives at Gleneagles, in New York and in Hong Kong. However, we still remember their halving of the proportion of national income that was spent on development and assistance during the 18 years that they were last in power. We remember their failure to secure meaningful CAP reform. We also remember how many in their ranks did not seem that interested in good governance when apartheid was in full swing. But to mention those things would be churlish, and I am not that sort of politician.

At Gleneagles next week, we shall have a real opportunity to build on the progress that the G8 has already made in confronting the challenges facing Africa and the developing world. Since Birmingham, back in 1998, we have seen considerable progress on debt relief, the launch of the global fund, the polio eradication initiative, the Africa action plan, and the education for all fast-track initiative. All were made possible though G8 support. Already this year we have seen significant commitments on additional resources for aid and debt relief, far beyond what cynics might have predicted this time last year.

Next week presents a huge opportunity for the leaders of the G8 to give a political boost to make the 2005 agenda a great success and to create that big push for Africa on peace and security, on governance, on investing in the basic services on which people depend, on progress on trade, and, we hope, on further commitments on the resources to finance these undertakings. Not only is it morally right to support
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Africa; ultimately it is in Britain's self-interest. Our humanity, our internationalism and our belief in social justice demand that we respond to the needs of Africa's people. As the Prime Minister said at the launch of the Commission for Africa—

It being Six o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

It being Six o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Questions relating to Estimates which she was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to Standing Order 55 (1) and (4) (Questions on voting of estimates & c.).

ESTIMATES, 2005–06


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