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26 Oct 2006 : Column 1764

I hope that the next time we discuss this subject we can give it the attention that it deserves. All the rhetoric about trying to help 2 billion people who are in desperate straits, which they certainly are, looks pretty empty if the House of Commons cannot even come up with two hours of time to debate the subject.

5.46 pm

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I join others in complaining about the paucity not of the quality of debate but of the quantity. It has been far too short. It was, however, opened by two excellent speeches. The Secretary of State set out with great clarity the priorities of the White Paper and he was followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), the shadow Secretary of State, who set out in an intelligent, committed and compelling speech why the Opposition welcome the White Paper, underpinned by an emphasis on good governance, capability, responsiveness and accountability.

The White Paper correctly acknowledges the importance of structural reform, including the necessity to modernise the multilateral institutions, build individual country structures and develop absorptive capacity. It rightly considers methods and delivery mechanisms to focus resources on the alleviation of poverty, tackling humanitarian crises, preventing conflict and promoting peace, thereby ensuring security, incomes and public services. For the first time, the White Paper considered in detail strategies for mitigating and adapting to the threat that climate change could have on international development. We commend this ambitious focus.

We welcome and support the continued high priority to be given to health, education, access to water and sanitation and prevention and cure of disease, which pose immediate threats to future development. Confronting those challenges must remain at the forefront of our efforts if we are to achieve the millennium development goals. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) said, good governance is not simply about democracy. Successful states require effective institutions such as an independent judiciary, a free media and strong and pluralistic civil societies. The evidence suggests that states that are accountable and responsive to their citizens are stronger and better placed to mitigate and respond to disasters, and significantly more likely to benefit from economic growth and attract foreign investment.

It is essential that the international community work to tackle corruption. Corruption and growth are inversely related. While it remains less expensive to bribe a Government official to obtain a concession than to pay the full market price, limited progress will be made. The White Paper commits to a new quality of governance assessment, which must be given a wide remit. The current World Bank assessment of governance is weighted heavily on the degree to which a country has liberalised its economy, as opposed to, for example, whether the media are independent. We welcome the governance and transparency fund, which strengthens civil society and the media, as there is a direct correlation between countries with a free media and sustained economic growth.

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As the Secretary of State said, economic growth is the most effective way of alleviating poverty. It creates independence and ultimately promotes saving and investment, and contributes to the absorption of future economic shocks. The private sector creates growth and we welcome the White Paper’s latent recognition of that fact.

Governments in developing nations have a role in ensuring that the private sector has the optimum environment in which to flourish: low regulation, access to economic opportunity and competition. In addition, there must be conditions in which access to credit, micro-finance and property rights are secure. Developing nations have a role in providing macro-economic stability. They also have a role in the world trade system, in which they must be allowed fully to participate without being restricted by unfair trading rules, as many Members pointed out. In a modern interdependent global world, economic growth is impossible without access to global markets and we are all disappointed that the Doha development round is—to put it politely—deadlocked.

We are also concerned that there is limited consideration in the White Paper of infrastructure development. Rightly, there is significant emphasis on providing services such as health, education and disease prevention, but we must not overlook other fundamental developmental challenges, such as building transport networks, communication capabilities and electrification in rural areas. That will enable regional trade and the expeditious delivery of medical supplies, and allow countries to develop a diverse and balanced economic base. They will then be able to graduate from exporting purely agricultural and other basic commodities to making value-added products.

The real challenge for the developing world is to enable economic growth and wealth creation, which are the drivers of poverty alleviation, without causing environmental degradation. Although the problem of climate change may seem remote by comparison with poverty, disease and economic stagnation, it will most dramatically affect the poorest people, who currently rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood and income. It will also have an impact on population movement, and create a significant increase in environmental refugees. It is worth looking at an expansion of greenhouse gas permits on an international market basis to cut emissions and promote spending on cleaner fuels and energies.

DFID must ensure that its impacts are taken into account in every bilateral funding decision, by considering both the impact of its projects on climate change and how climate change affects its projects. The Opposition agree with most of the White Paper and acknowledge DFID’s global reputation as a provider of development assistance. As a result of the Department’s work, significant progress has been made in some countries. However, there must be a change in the fortunes of developing nations; they need the establishment of good governance and effective state organisations, investment in infrastructure, wider and deeper debt relief, adaptation to environmental changes, more robust disease prevention, increased access to public services, reform of the global trade routes, a strong and pluralist civil society and more
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effective conflict prevention, as well as reconstruction, macro-economic stability and secure property rights.

The White Paper rightly acknowledges many of those challenges and it is essential that it is translated into effective and expeditious action. Ultimately, we must assist developing nations to progress from aid dependency, and that will require sustained economic growth and wealth creation, not just wealth redistribution.

5.53 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): I welcome the many contributions to the debate and I recognise the House’s appetite for further opportunities for lengthier discussion of the issues.

I particularly welcome the support for the White Paper’s focus on governance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) and the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) rightly highlighted the fact that although dealing with corruption is crucial, we must recognise that the governance agenda is much broader than that. It includes access to justice and a free media, the importance of strong civil society, developing effective local government, a strong civil service and effective Parliaments and ensuring effective elections. That is all part of the increased work on governance that we intend to do.

In his opening remarks, the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) welcomed the White Paper and raised the question of results. I do not accept his implicit comment, or indeed the implicit comment of the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), that the Department focuses only on inputs, although I accept that we have to do more to communicate the results of our development assistance.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the extremely effective assistance that we are providing in India. Between 2003 and 2005, that aid helped to give 9.5 million more children access to primary school. The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford is, quite sensibly, pro-European, so he may be interested to know that the European Commission contributes to that programme of assistance, as do the Indian Government through their effective programme of development assistance.

The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield questioned the Department’s effectiveness. He asked whether we could be still more effective, and suggested that we needed an international body to evaluate donor performance. May I gently remind him of the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international force that already evaluates donor performance? Recently, its representatives visited the Department for International Development to conduct a peer review, in which they said:

It went on:

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I accept, however, that we cannot rest on our laurels, and we must still do more.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the arms trade treaty and the time scale for moving forward. I hope that he will forgive me, but I do not wish to pre-empt the vote on whether to move forward and discuss an arms trade treaty that takes place later today. I hope that voters will decide in favour of progress, and there is considerable support for that position, but we cannot afford to relax. Rightly, he raised the issue of the emerging donors—China, India, South Africa and Brazil. I hope that he is reassured to know that our permanent secretary recently visited Beijing to discuss China’s role as a donor. Yesterday, senior officials and I met a delegation of senior officials from China who are involved in aid programmes, and we discussed the exact issues that he raised.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Thomas: In light of the time, I will not, and I apologise for that.

I join the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) in praising the contribution of Mohammed Yunis. Some 2 billion people still do not have access to credit, which is one of the factors that fuels the opium trade in Afghanistan. Britain’s businesses and financial sector have a role to play in helping us to give people access to credit, and we are working with them on that issue.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) asked whether the desire to move from project to programme spend is driven by Gershon. I can reassure her that projects still have their place, as budget support is not always appropriate. We use a variety of aid methods, and we will continue to do so, but if we want to reach all the poor in a developing country, if we want all children to have access to primary schools, and if we want all pregnant women to have access to a skilled attendant, we have to build the Government capacity, and that is why budget support continues to be important.

The hon. Members for Richmond Park and for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), and the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) all raised the issue of climate change. I remind them of the commitment given by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Chancellor to push the World Bank and other international financial institutions on the issue of an investment framework. We hope that that will galvanise some $20 billion in investment in low-carbon technologies. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford asked about the
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contribution of regional development banks, and I hope that she is reassured to hear of the work that President Kuroda of the Asian Development Bank is doing on that issue.

I recognise that our Department needs to do more work on climate change. In my evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, I committed the Department to recruit additional staff to work on climate change. I hope that hon. Members accept that that process is under way. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford raised specific concerns about our commitment to women. Most recently, on a visit to Pakistan, we released £90 million to help to improve access to good maternity services. We have taken the lead on pushing the plight of women affected by HIV/ AIDS on to the international agenda. At the recent UN high level meeting, we pushed for a bold political declaration that ensured a commitment to protecting women’s rights. As she recognised, we are in the process of developing a new gender action plan, which will set the agenda for strengthened work on gender equality. I have taken on board her point about the need to reflect those concerns, and the point made by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield about the need—

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



Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With the leave of the House, I will put motions 6 and 7 together.




26 Oct 2006 : Column 1769

Satellite Navigation (Vehicles)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Alan Campbell.]

6 pm

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Part of my political credo is that technology should be man’s slave, and not his master. Therefore, I welcome the introduction of satellite navigation in principle, even though I have not yet got it and have never used it. Four million drivers in this country use it already and satellite navigation is fitted as standard in one in every five cars. Half of all motorists have planned routes using internet mapping, which is a closely associated technology. We have seen a commodity grow from an expensive gimmick for the few to a more affordable must-have for the many in little more than a few months—high street stores have already noticed that Christmas is coming.

The aims of satellite navigation are worthy: simple navigation with updated mapping information; onscreen mapping that is not too intrusive or dangerous; avoiding hazards or congestion, thus saving time and fuel; and even, perhaps, someone to talk with on long journeys. If only it were that simple.

Millers Dale is a quiet village on the southern border of my constituency. Through it runs a narrow road in a steep-sided valley under a tall bridge carrying a former railway line. It is a poorly lit stretch of road, with no pavement underneath the bridge. It is bad enough for children to navigate that road on foot in the dark after the school bus has dropped them off, but the situation has got more frightening than ever recently and has become more dangerous since the number of HGVs using the road—the A6049—has increased considerably.

Why has that happened? Long-distance lorry drivers, perhaps from eastern Europe, who are not familiar with the geography of Britain might find themselves making a delivery in Liverpool or Manchester. If they seek the quickest route back to the southbound M1, the satellite navigation system will direct them through Millers Dale. That does not make any sense, but someone who does not know any better than to follow its advice will take that route.

In Brookbottom, on the western border of High Peak, a coach load of 40 tourists from London spent more time than they had planned enjoying the Peak district after their coach became wedged on a tight bend. A tanker lorry did something similar a week earlier. Typical of satellite navigation’s idiosyncrasies is to take people down short cuts that turn out to be anything but. Coming west on the A624 from Chesterfield, heading for Stockport or Manchester via the A6, one reaches the picturesque village of Sparrowpit, where a pub called the “Wanted Inn” perches on a hairpin bend. Satellite navigation tells drivers that if they turn right immediately behind the pub and then first left, there is a straight road over to the A6, which cuts off a corner and saves 3 or 4 miles. It is up a short hill and then down a very long one. There is a great view of Manchester from the top, for those who like that sort of thing. At the bottom of the hill, however, around Blackbrook, there are a couple of hairpin bends that can only be described as mean. Woe betide the articulated lorry that tries to take those blind
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bends at any speed—as some have, aided and abetted, no doubt, by the helpful person who removed the weight restrictions signs from the Sparrowpit end of the road.

Once drivers have navigated that road, they have another problem, according to my constituent, Guy Martin. His TomTom satellite navigation system apparently shows the A6 as a single carriageway—in effect directing drivers the wrong way up a lane of a dual carriageway. Mr. Martin complained to TomTom when his device told him that its memory was full and he could not upgrade the information that it carried. He wrote to the local press about it. His letter in the local paper said:

Now, being slagged off in the local press is nothing new to me, except that I had seen Mr. Martin’s original e-mail, which he kindly copied me into. He actually wrote:

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