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Doha Development Round

7. Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): What progress has been made following the road map for a final agreement to the Doha development round agreed to in Hong Kong, with particular reference to the promotion of a pro-development agenda within the negotiations. [43231]

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alan Johnson): The World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in December set a deadline of the end of April for modalities and the end of July for tariff schedules. As work recommences in the new year, strong political will and hard work will be needed to achieve those deadlines. Later this month, the World Economic Forum in Davos and associated trade meetings will provide the first opportunity for the major players to define their ambitions for the year and to set out a path to April. As discussions continue, the UK is especially keen that developing countries should be involved in both formal and informal discussions at every stage, because we are strongly committed to a pro-development outcome.

Tony Baldry: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. As he will know, the European Union spends each year some €64 billion on trade-distorting subsidies, which is really a conspiracy against the poor. Effectively, is not the situation that, until we see reform of the common agricultural policy and France removes its objections to CAP reform, we will not make any progress on Doha? We are caught in a double bluff, with the European Union unwilling to move on agricultural reform and the United States not moving until Europe moves, and cotton-producing countries and everyone else trapped in the middle. What does the Secretary of State think, in his heart, will happen between now and April? Should we not acknowledge that we must establish a much more rigorous process to take us up to 2013?

Alan Johnson: The hon. Gentleman talks a lot of sense. The discussions are bogged down in agriculture chiefly because of the protectionist instincts of some, although not all, European Union member states. Now that we are free of our presidency mantle, we can work on that.

As for whether we need a change in the common agricultural policy, we came away from Hong Kong with an agreement that all export subsidies would be eliminated by 2013, and that we would make substantial progress by 2010, the half-way stage. That, combined with a number of other factors, will help us to ensure that there is a proper pro-development outcome, which of necessity will require us to look at the CAP again.
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Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): An important but complex process must be resolved over a short period. Does my right hon. Friend accept that not just agriculture issues, but the opening up of services, are important in this context? Is there not a possibility of some trade-off involving those two modalities?

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend mentioned the time scale. Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organisation, believes that we came away from Hong Kong—which was not a roaring success, but the train is still on the track, which could not be said of Seattle and Cancun—having taken ourselves 60 per cent. of the way to our objective.

My hon. Friend is right. We must start to resolve the dilemma of European Union member states that are protectionist on agriculture but wish to experience the benefits of opening up industry and services. We must convince them of the value of a win-win opportunity: a win for developing countries as we help to deal with the fact that a fifth of the world's population live on less than a dollar a day and also a boost to the world economy.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Given that Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad depend on cotton for between 30 and 40 per cent. of their export earnings, is it not a scandal that the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, continues to spend $4 billion a year on subsidising 25,000 high-cost, inefficient but politically influential cotton producers, thereby exacerbating the plight of some of the poorest people on the planet? Is it not still the case that the United States needs to understand that with power comes responsibility?

Alan Johnson: The hon. Gentleman, who was in Hong Kong and was very active there, makes a valid point. It is indeed a scandal. The WTO is due to rule on the matter, so the United States is subject to a WTO ruling against it on cotton. Although the United States made some small concessions in Hong Kong, cotton was the reason why Cancun failed completely, and it cannot be allowed to be the reason why the Doha development round failed completely. It must be sorted out.

Welsh Companies (International Market)

8. Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): What assistance his Department has given to companies in Wales to build their international market in each of the last three years. [43232]

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael): Companies in Wales have access to UK Trade and Investment's services and support, as well as to WalesTrade International as the lead organisation supporting international trade in Wales. I will put in the House of Commons Library full details of the support given to Welsh companies over the last three years as soon as the information has been collated, as well as giving the information directly to my hon. Friend.

Chris Bryant: The Minister may know that the average small or medium-sized company in Wales is far less likely to have an international market of any kind than its counterpart elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Will he work as closely as possible with the Welsh
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Development Agency and his counterpart in the Welsh Assembly to ensure that, as the WDA is folded into the Welsh Assembly Government, no Welsh firm is left out in the cold when the DTI offers marketing opportunities through international trade organisations?

Alun Michael: We work closely with colleagues at the Welsh Assembly Government. I am sure that my hon. Friend would applaud, as I do, the fact that WalesTrade International was funded through objective 1, whose continuation through to 2013 has been assured as a result of the Prime Minister's success in achieving agreement on the European budget. That gives us an opportunity to see a continuation of that success. It is worth pointing out that Welsh exports for the year up to and including the third quarter of 2005 were up 9.3 per cent., which is above the average for the English regions. I share my hon. Friend's wish to see that success continue.

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): What overall share of DTI assistance does Wales get in this area? Does the Minister believe that the balance of trade between Wales and the rest of the world is in surplus, or is it in record deficit, like that of the rest of the United Kingdom?

Alun Michael: The hon. Gentleman brings his unique brand of pessimism to every question he asks. He may have missed my earlier answer, in which I indicated the growth in exports from Wales, a success that we wish to continue. I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity to congratulate the Government, the Prime Minister and the Welsh Assembly Government on their success in providing objective 1 support not only for the communities of mid and west Wales but for the development of business and trade.


The Minister for Women was asked—

Engineering Apprenticeships

18. Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): What proportion of engineering apprenticeships in England are being undertaken by women.[43245]

The Minister for Women (Tessa Jowell): Learning and Skills Council figures show a small increase in the number of women taking up engineering apprenticeships, from 2.6 per cent. in 2002 to 2.7 per cent. in 2005, so the House will understand that I remain concerned that engineering, in which there is a skills shortage, is still not attracting young women in significant numbers.

Ian Lucas: Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest hurdles is the fact that young people's perception of engineering is still outmoded? In my constituency, modern engineering sectors such as renewable energy would be well advanced through more women being involved.
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Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is right. That is why we are addressing our efforts to increasing the level of information and understanding among young women in schools and in higher and further education, and to examining how job opportunities and apprenticeships are marketed. That is why we have made a significant investment in the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, which is addressing precisely those matters.

Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): The Minister will be aware of Learn Direct, an adult apprenticeship scheme aimed at attracting the over-25s into non-traditional careers. The Learning and Skills Council's first evaluation highlighted that, in engineering and construction, not a single place went to a woman. What will she do to address that spectacular failure?

Tessa Jowell: That is indicative of precisely the attitudinal problem that exists. It is not just that that shuts women out of potentially satisfying and significant jobs and careers, but there is a skills shortage in this sector of the labour market. Any sector of the labour market that fails to attract the talent of more than half the population will find itself in trouble. The women and work commission will publish its report shortly. We will look carefully at the practical recommendations of that important commission, led by Margaret Prosser, to help us to take more aggressive action to deal with the problem that the hon. Lady and the figures that I gave the House earlier identify.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab): The problem with the enrolment of women in engineering has not just arisen now but has been there for centuries. We, including the Department, are taking huge action to address that problem. There are two possible further opportunities that need to be considered, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look into them. First, the UK resource centre is indeed outstanding—it is under our Government that we have achieved that great step forward—but it only looks after graduate women. I would like its portfolio to be extended to include apprenticeships and appealing to girls under 16. The second area—

Mr. Speaker: Order. One area is fine. There is no need for a second.

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend has a distinguished record of advocacy in this area. I thank her for that, and I shall take her suggestions seriously. We are absolutely determined that young women will take their rightful place, and that the barriers to their choosing certain careers are removed wherever possible. Another clear example of the difference between the Government's approach and that of other parties in the House is the fact that we believe that only by taking purposeful action, not by leaving things to chance, will we make progress.

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