EU Document 8403/08 and Addenda 1 to 5 relating to The EU—a Global Partner for Development—Speeding up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

[back to previous text]

Mr. Lancaster: The hon. Gentleman has made a reasonable point. Our principal concern is simply that the geographical location of a country should not be the main reason why it gets support.
Mr. Moore: The hon. Gentleman has made that point slightly differently from the way in which he expressed it in his speech, but I welcome what he has said. He is right to keep asking the question, if he is not satisfied. If the treaty is ratified, it will allow us to focus on the steps needed to allow Europe and the rest of the world to catch up on what is, so far, fairly poor progress in reaching the millennium development goals.
The hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out in his speech his concerns about the effectiveness and slowness of European aid provision and the difficulties with corruption. In all the meetings the Minister and his colleagues will attend, it is important that the delivery of aid and tackling corruption are at the heart of the next steps for the European Union. We have different opinions on qualified majority voting, but I take the hon. Gentleman’s point about Hamas, although I do not intend to distract the Committee or test your patience, Mr. Atkinson, by debating Europe’s and Britain’s approach to aid to the Palestinians. Simply put, we have qualified majority voting, but he should be more confident that Britain will find supporters to block proposals that he does not like. On the other hand, it is surely critical that Britain and other countries that have major reasons for developing a policy or set of actions do not get held up by other countries that hold a veto over every last step. Frankly, that makes the whole policy area more vulnerable to the politicisation than any other mechanism.
European development policy is easily broken down into basic points. We need the money, and we need to ensure that it is spent well to promote wealth through trade. We need to ensure that our policy and Europe’s are coherent, so that one country’s policies do not undermine the core objective of tackling poverty and assisting countries that are less developed than ours. There are significant shortfalls on key areas in aid for trade. If he cannot do this today, will the Minister set out what other countries are doing in a letter to members of the Committee? The member states’ contribution to aid for trade is, quite shockingly, behind schedule.
I share the concerns expressed by the hon. Members for North-East Milton Keynes and for South Ribble about the dip in the United Kingdom’s contributions to direct aid. I appreciate what the Minister has said about the effect of reaching the end of the debt relief programme—there was clearly going to be a step down after that. There are a lot of warm words and supportive gestures in the documentation, but we need a few more specifics to give us the confidence to say that we will reach the targets.
The Commission clearly spells out the fact that Europe already has the tools and the policies, but it must now move from words to action. There is no shortage, sadly, of instances in which Europe has been over-bureaucratic and slow, so we ought to welcome the Commission’s impetus, which is focused on the predictability of aid, taking conditionality away and, crucially, teamwork, to clarify the division of labour between different donors.
The Minister faces a busy year of attending different summits. I hope that the energy that he and his colleagues put into the matter means that, when we have equivalent debates a year from now, we will see progress, and that we will not be ruing the fact that we are still behind schedule.
5.44 pm
Mr. Malik: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble for championing the cause of HIV/AIDS in the developing world—he has done so for many years—and for his broader commitment to international development. It was a pleasure to be in South Ribble last week.
To answer the initial question asked by the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, which he integrated into his closing comments, the 0.7 per cent. by 2013 target is political. As such, it is unaffected by growth variance. On the assumptions built around the comprehensive spending review, the target of 0.56 per cent. by 2007 to 2010 is based on growth of 3 per cent. in 2007, slowing to between 2 and 2.5 per cent. in 2008, and rising to between 2.5 and 3 per cent. in 2009-10. I concur with hon. Gentleman’s interpretation of the Lisbon treaty. As I attempted—unsuccessfully—to articulate, the new text is far superior to the previous one. The focus is very much on poverty, which is welcome, and 90 per cent. of European development fund assistance will go to low-income countries.
The hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes rightly focused on Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, and he is right that that is where the challenge is. In some ways, it is helpful that half the increase to 0.7 per cent. in the EU will focus on Africa. Concern is so great that the Prime Minister launched the call to action with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reinvigorate the world community’s efforts to meet the millennium development goals.
The agenda for action that Development Ministers agreed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in May will identify specific actions in key areas, such as education, health, the environment, water, gender equality, agriculture, growth and infrastructure. Those actions will be based on collectively agreed milestones for 2010 to enable us to achieve the MDGs by 2015, and we support that.
The hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk spoke about the slowness of the European Commission, and nobody can deny that things could be better and faster. However, there has been some improvement, and disbursement time reduced by a third between 2000 and 2005. As ever, however, it is important that we are vigilant on these issues.
The hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes has discussed fraud. The European anti-fraud office—OLAF—has stated that just 1 per cent. of total fraud cases relate to external spending, which should give some comfort.
The EU is absolutely vital in dealing with the issues that we have discussed. Three key issues are order volumes, aid predictability and, as the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk has said, the division of labour.
On the Paris declaration, additional EU targets are extremely helpful. There are four such targets: all capacity-building should be conducted through co-ordinated programmes; 50 per cent. of aid should be channelled to Governments through country systems; the number of unco-ordinated missions should be reduced; and new parallel implementation units should be avoided.
The Government can rightly be proud of their leadership role on aid—leading the international community, of which I have given many examples, and meeting their pledges to the developing world. It is our job now to work much harder in order to ensure that other donor countries meet their commitments. We should also engage civil society and the private sector to ensure that we meet the challenge of our time, which is to eradicate poverty and disease. Those wretched elements still remain in far too many parts of the developing world, and I know that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would like to see them eradicated sooner rather than later.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee takes note of European Union Document No. 8403/08 and Addenda 1 to 5, Commission Communication, The EU—a Global Partner for Development—speeding up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); and welcomes the progress being made.
Committee rose at ten minutes to Six o'clock.
Previous Contents
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 10 June 2008