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Let me briefly recite one story of a little girl called Beatrice. In the year I first saw her, her mother had just had a little baby. She also had an older sister and brother. The mother was HIV-positive, but they were all on antiretrovirals and all managing. The next year, the mother had died; the baby had died; the eldest girl, who was not HIV-positive, had been taken away by relatives up-country; and the boy, who was HIV-positive but quite well, had been taken into an orphanage. I saw the little girl in an emergency shelter
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in Nairobi, with no organisation that had funds to protect her. I visited the orphanage where the little boy was, and it did not even have the bed nets that DFID has sent all around Kenya. I know that the bed nets were delivered to that area, but they did not reach the orphanage. They had gone to the district commissioners, and goodness knows where after that. Unless we do careful work on tracking and have the determination to help those children, they will not be helped.

What is needed? I point my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the excellent work coming from the working group on orphans and vulnerable children of the UK Consortium on Aids and International Development. Earmarked money for orphans and vulnerable children is needed—10 per cent. of the money spent on HIV/AIDS. More work on tracking is also needed. There have been difficulties, and while some of the money is starting to come through, unless the funding stream is maintained and given a bigger push, those children will suffer. More work is needed on prevention of mother-to-child transmission, on diagnostics and particularly on the infant formula.

We sometimes do not realise this, because perhaps we do not see people on ARVs, but they have a transformative effect. I remember going to Zimbabwe and seeing a little child who appeared to be at death’s door. When I went back a year later I asked what had happened to her, expecting to be told when she had died. The man who ran the orphanage said “Blessing? There she is, over there”—and there was the little girl, running around. They had managed to put her on antiretrovirals, and although for some unknown reason she was left with some disability in her legs, she was healthy and, as long as she remained on antiretrovirals, would have a reasonable life. However, more infant formulas are needed so that people who have built up resistance to one can go on to another.

The money must go to where the children are. It needs to go to the organisations that are working with them most closely, especially the community-based organisations that provide networking and care in the community at the most basic level. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister, when considering DFID’s strategy for HIV and AIDS, to pay serious attention to the orphans and vulnerable children whom many describe as the “third wave” of the epidemic. The first wave is the infection, the second is death, and the third is those orphans and vulnerable children.

Even after the new infections stop—and in some countries, fortunately, the rate is falling—the people who are infected will die and the orphans and vulnerable children will remain. They will need protections and safeguards for generations to come, particularly in Zimbabwe and other countries that are emerging from collapse, conflict and chaos. Once the curtain has rolled back in Zimbabwe, we will see the terrible toll of HIV and AIDS. We will see a whole generation of children who have been voiceless in what has happened, who have suffered some of the cruellest losses, and whose shattered lives will need to be rebuilt—but we can only do that if we have the committed 10 per cent. of funds, along with tracking mechanisms to ensure that it reaches the children.

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5.17 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): It is a huge privilege to wind up the debate for the Opposition. It has been a sober and highly constructive debate. I think it a great pity that the public do not see more such examples of the House’s work, rather than the more flamboyant occasions.

We have heard 13 excellent speeches, and I hope that Members will show me some forbearance if I do not mention them all. The Secretary of State gave us two particularly good pieces of news in what was a very good speech. First, he confirmed that his Department was giving an extra £100 million to the United Nations Population Fund, which I am sure the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) was very pleased to hear. As the hon. Lady will know but others may not recall, I am going back to my roots: I used to be chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on population, development and reproductive health—a position in which she succeeded me. She mentioned her excellent report, and the devastating effect of problems of this kind on women in Africa, producing the horrific statistic that one woman in 20 dies from maternity-related problems. The group dealt with precisely the same issues when I was its chairman, and it is sad that there has been so little improvement in the intervening period.

The other good news in the Secretary of State’s speech was the additional £20 million for the Governance and Transparency Fund. Many Members have mentioned the desperate need to find a way of improving governance, particularly in the countries of Africa. I shall return to that subject if I have time.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke)—if I do not mention all the people in his constituency, they will be upset—who always makes a very sound speech. He must be congratulated on producing what is now an Act. As he said, this should become an annual debate, and I hope that the Secretary of State has taken that on board. He also made the very good point that we need to encourage all other nations that signed up to Gleneagles commitments to meet the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. It is now a widely accepted United Nations target, but in the last speech or two we heard that one or two countries are falling short, and we must do all that we can to encourage them to meet their commitments. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the 0.7 per cent target is not the end of the matter. We hope that our GNI will continue to grow considerably so the budget will not be set in absolute terms but will grow in real terms as well. We hope that other countries’ budgets for international development will grow in the same way. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the relationship between aid, trade and debt. I will come back to that issue if I have time.

We heard an excellent speech from the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), the Chairman of the Select Committee; in fact we heard excellent speeches from several members of the Committee. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and his staff on producing the report for the debate today. As he said, the report has added hugely to the quality of the debate. I congratulate him also on what his Committee is doing in going to some of the most difficult
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troublespots in the world. I, too, have visited Afghanistan and it is a very difficult country to get around in. It is not safe and I congratulate the Committee on going there, as one of the biggest jobs in the world is in Afghanistan. Will the Secretary of State consider having a powerful international co-ordinator so that all agencies—including USAID, which has a tendency to go round the country doing its own thing—are tied in together, along with all military efforts from NATO and the Americans?

I shall give the House an example of where that is not happening at the moment. USAID suddenly announced that it wanted to spend many billions of dollars on the Kajaki dam project to produce hydroelectricity without first checking that the security situation would be good enough to get the heavy rotary pumps into place by road.

I commend the proposal in the globalisation and poverty report produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) for demonstrating how keenly important trade is to ensuring that we sustainably lift out of poverty some of the countries of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said that we needed to make sure that aid was seen as a tool for getting middle-income countries out of poverty and towards developed country status.

I have just come back from looking at economic partnership agreements in Uganda, as well as in the Caribbean and Pacific. Many of those Caribbean countries that are currently middle-income countries, with a little extra help, could be turned into developed countries and would not need any aid at all.

Will the Minister be very kind and answer one or two questions about one of the most pressing issues of the day, economic partnership agreements? There is an absolute deadline of 31 December because of the EU’s requirement to be WTO-compatible. In view of the Cotonou agreement, will he let the House know the current progress? Are we likely to have any or all of the six agreements signed by 31 December? I know that there is a critical meeting of the Commission and Ministers next week, so it may be slightly premature to ask the question. However, when I was in the Caribbean last week, the issue was very much in the balance and I met several Trade Ministers who were very unhappy. I hope that an agreement can be made that is satisfactory to all parties.

The Cotonou agreement envisaged that if an EPA were signed, there would be a satisfactory package of development aid. The Trade Ministers were unhappy that at present—the Minister may be able to update us—no such package of aid has been agreed to help what in some of the smaller islands will be a difficult and painful transition.

Let me give an example of the sort of thing that could happen under these economic partnership agreements. I recently met some Seychelles MPs. The Seychelles has a population of about 88,000. One major industry is tuna canning, which employs several hundred people, and the MPs were fearful that if the EPA goes through in its current form that entire industry would go to Thailand as it would not be cost-competitive. That would be a difficult transition, and we must bear such situations in mind. Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient impact assessments
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have been conducted in respect of such countries so that we know what effect the EPAs will have in the short to medium term?

My final question in terms of the EPAs is on the interpretation of the WTO rules. One important element is the interpretation of what counts as the substantial opening up of markets. It has in the past been perceived that that would mean that the EU would open up 100 per cent. of its markets to some of the smaller African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, but in return they would open up 80 per cent. of their markets. It seems, however, that the ground has shifted in the past week or two—that the 80 per cent. figure has increased to 90 per cent. That would make a huge difference, and if the ground has shifted we must look carefully at whether the EU is operating double standards. It was asking for at least 8 per cent. of sensitive industries, mainly agriculture, to be excluded from the WTO arrangements—which is one of the reasons why the Hong Kong round has so far not succeeded—but on the other hand it seems to be pushing the ACP countries down from 20 per cent. to below 8 per cent. That would have an even more difficult effect on such countries. The EU cannot have it both ways.

Many other issues have been raised. I agreed so much with most of what my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge) said that I was almost leaping up at every moment to intervene. He made some very important points. I know from a former role of mine how important it is for the different Departments to co-operate—for example, the Foreign Office, DFID, the Ministry of Defence and the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. That is especially the case in terms of some of the most difficult human rights issues in the world—those in Darfur and Zimbabwe, for example. The international community must try to put in place packages so that we can stop such countries collapsing into absolute chaos and causing extreme misery to their populations. Last week, I met Zimbabwean representatives of an excellent charity called ZANE. It is doing very good work in Zimbabwe, but it was harrowing to learn that because of the regime’s measures forcing goods to be sold at the same price as two years ago there are no goods in most of the shops and children in particular are beginning to get into a very parlous state. We in the international community must find a mechanism whereby we can stop countries getting into such difficulties and causing such misery to their people.

In an intervention on my hon. Friend’s speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newmark) mentioned the Portland Trust and microfinance. I travelled to Nigeria last year and witnessed one of DFID’s microfinance projects. It was wonderful to see how some of the poorest people in the world in Kano were being encouraged to make rugs and thereby provide a little bit of money for themselves and their children. It is amazing how very small sums of money—guaranteed loans or even grants from DFID—can make such a huge difference.

My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire was right to say that we need to look at some of the farming practices in the third world and the developed world—I say that coming from my
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background as a farmer, which I declare now. My hon. Friend is right that we must make sure that the developed world is not adopting practices that put some of the poorest farmers on the planet out of business. That is, of course, one of the reasons why the WTO round has so far failed. He mentioned the US subsidy to cotton of $4 billion, which is one of the principal reasons why it has failed to date.

My hon. Friend was right about other things, too. I support the Fairtrade initiatives. While I was in the Caribbean I heard of the considerable effect in St. Lucia of the banana Fairtrade initiative. Sainsbury’s now stocks only organic bananas, principally from St. Lucia, which has had a hugely beneficial effect on that country.

Ms Keeble: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: As the hon. Lady was one of the last to speak I might not quite get to her contribution, so I will happily give way when I have finished this point. The Fairtrade initiative’s time is coming, and one or two of the supermarkets are beginning to adopt a fair trade regime for cotton, which is extremely welcome. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire referred to the 300,000 to 400,000 children who are seized and taken out of school to work in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan for a matter of 2p a kilogram. That is an absolute disgrace and as he said, the BBC did a fantastic job in exposing that under extremely dangerous conditions. I will now happily give way to the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble).

Ms Keeble: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. On farming, is he aware that our clampdown on tobacco products has resulted in a 15 per cent. drop in the tobacco harvest in Malawi? Does he think that wealthy countries such as ours that institute such bans should provide support for Malawian farmers and others, so that they can grow alternative crops and are not pitched into poverty?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I entirely agree. We saw in Afghanistan the great difficulty in persuading farmers not to grow narcotics and to grow alternative crops. The hon. Lady is absolutely right: we should help farmers in Malawi and in many other countries to diversify into crops that are more environmentally friendly, or more human-friendly.

I have just two minutes left and in that time, I want again to congratulate the Government on moving towards the 2013 UN target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. However, in moving towards it they need to consider two critical things, the first of which is the level of staffing. If they reduce the staff dealing with such projects in-country, they will inevitably have to direct more of their budget to the direct budget funding of the individual country concerned, or through multilateral agencies. Those are both good things in themselves, but as the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Sharma) rightly said, DFID has the best reputation in the world as an aid and international development provider, and we want to make sure that that is maintained. We should bask in its glory and congratulate all its staff on what they do, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) rightly said, we need to ensure that that money is being spent wisely. I suspect that the Government’s independent watchdog will become
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merely a puppet of the Department, and I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that it is more independent. If it is critical in one or two areas, it is doing a thoroughly good job.

I come back to the theme that the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill started, and which the hon. Member for Northampton, North finished with. Many of our constituents might be critical of the huge amount of money going into international development. I say to them that if they had come with me to Haiti last week, they would have seen the abject squalor and filth, the absolute poverty and the number of children just wandering around the streets with no education, and no education available to them. There are many other countries like that. A country such as ours, which has so much, should be well and truly prepared to provide its full share to those who have so little, and it should expect other countries to live up to their Gleneagles commitments and do the same.

5.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): I join the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) in welcoming this extremely interesting debate. As he rightly said, there have been some very thoughtful contributions from Members in all parts of the House. I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and of the shadow Secretary of State in paying tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) in taking the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Bill through the House last year. As the Minister in the Department for International Development who had the pleasure of responding to debates on his Bill, I should tell the House that he was ferociously polite, always assiduous in pressing his case and extremely careful to take into account opinions from all parts of the House. I know that he consulted civil society thoroughly during the passage of the Bill, and its enactment continues to be a tribute to his skill in navigating the complexities of this House.

One area that my right hon. Friend particularly focused on throughout his contributions in the House, and in all the private discussions that we had, was his insistence that the Bill must ensure that there was year-on-year reporting on our progress to meet the UN goal of 0.7 per cent. of national income being spent on development assistance. I therefore welcome his comments about the outcome of the comprehensive spending review. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear, the Government will provide more than £9 billion of overseas aid a year by 2010, keeping us on track to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment to achieve the 0.7 per cent. target by 2013.

The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) made a number of comments and asked a series of questions, to which I shall return. I welcome his opening general praise, and the comments of several other hon. Members praising the Department and those who work outside it in the area of development. There are many highly committed people in civil society, in international institutions and in our Department, who often work in
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very dangerous places, and I join the House in paying tribute to their courage and passion.

My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin) and for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) asked a series of questions. Before I come to some of the specifics that they raised, may I take the opportunity to pay tribute to their work as the respective chairs of the all-party group on debt, aid and trade and the all-party group on population, development and reproductive health?

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North, asked, among other things, about the need for further innovative sources of finance to help tackle both international poverty and the adaptation needs flowing from the climate change challenges that we face. I reassure her that we are looking at exactly that issue, in part because of the run-up to the Bali considerations, and we will, of course, carefully examine what her all-party group has just published.

The all-party group that my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley chairs has been a bright and shining star in the fight to get safe abortion facilities and the access to the sexual and reproductive health commodities that women across the developing world deserve. I hope that she will recognise and continue to champion my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s announcement of £100 million of further assistance to the United Nations Population Fund as an example of this Government’s continuing commitment in the area of interest to her all-party group.

I say gently to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) that I cannot echo such positive comments in respect of her speech. I thought that it was disappointing. If she mentioned the millennium development goals at all, I for one missed it. Her speech certainly did not dwell on the plight of the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 a day or on the possible solutions to help tackle that poverty.

Lynne Featherstone: I want to correct the hon. Gentleman. I mentioned three of the MDGs specifically: those on gender equality, climate change and poverty.

Mr. Thomas: I say to the hon. Lady that merely mentioning those MDGs is simply not good enough. Her speech seemed to be more about Saudi Arabia than about development. I suspect that that reflects, with some notable exceptions, the lack of priority that her party has given international development. In the time that I have been a Minister in the Department for International Development, the Liberal Democrats have changed their international development spokespeople on an almost annual basis.

Lynne Featherstone: The mention of Saudi Arabia was with regard to corruption and asking: how can we lecture the Africans? In fact, the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) has just given me a very good report, “The Other Side of the Coin”, which goes into how much corruption robs from development aid. That was the point that I was making. How can we lecture Africa?

Mr. Thomas: I am glad that the hon. Lady has been given help by others in the House: on the basis of her speech, I think that she needs it.

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