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We strongly welcome DFIDs advocacy of an increased focus by the Commission on poverty reduction in low-income countries. The European Council, however, now needs to make good on the commitments it made in the 2005 Consensus on Development to prioritise aid to the poorest countries, and to Africa in particular. We recommend that the Government look at all options available, including withholding funds, to encourage the European Union member states to agree parameters for Commission development activity that allow a dramatic increase in aid going to those who need it.
That policy is infinitely more likely to become a reality if we have a treaty requiring the European Union to make poverty alleviation one of the primary focuses of its aid policy. We shall see, when Members vote tonight, whether the Conservatives attach greater priority to poverty alleviation as treaty-required aid policy than to their own policy of scepticism and isolation, which would reduce the ability of the United Kingdom to steer European Union aid policy in the direction of poverty alleviation.
In its examination of development policy in the European Union, the International Development Committee also focuses on other policies, including trade, the common agricultural policy andI see that the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) is leaving the Chamberthe policy on combating international bribery. The European Union is a big player, internationally, and it is extremely important to achieve policy coherence. I quoted earlier the treaty provision which requires that. I see that the hon. Gentleman left the Chamber only for an instant, and that he is now back in his place.
Some Conservative Members have expressed concern about areas in which there is no EU policy coherence; the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) did so earlier. Most notably, he mentioned the common agricultural policy, but I am sure that he would agree
that that applies to other areas as well. Is he really willing to give up a treaty requirement on the EU to improve policy coherence to defend the interests of developing countries? If he votes for his amendment tonight, he will give up the opportunity to achieve the sort of policy coherence for which he has just argued from the Dispatch Box. That would be weird, wonderful and bizarre, so I hope that he and other Conservative Members will reflect before they vote tonight. If they are genuine in what they say about supporting our Labour Governments priority on poverty alleviation and the priority that we have given to international development, voting for their amendment tonight would show that their commitment to those objectives is lukewarm and that their commitment to isolationism in Europe is what really fires them up. That is the conclusion that I draw and I believe many people in this country would draw it, too.
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): It is a real pleasure and privilege to follow the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley). As he has reminded the House and demonstrated, he has a long and proud track record on this particular policy area and has rightly put the key principles of the treaty at the heart of this afternoons debate.
I also thank the shadow Secretary of State for his generous welcome to me. I was particularly pleased with his suggestion of consensus and I am certainly happy to do my bit to continue it across the House. I have to say, however, that a large chunk of his speech reminded me of many other debates on European affairs over the years where, as with other aspects of our debate over this particular treaty, there is very little consensus. It was nice to hear the familiar tones of what the hon. Gentleman had to say, but I regret that, for reasons that I shall advance as my speech progresses, we will not be able to support his amendment this evening. In particular, we cannot accept the assertion that the treaty is a step backwards in the provision of aid to the developing world. I know, however, that there will be many other areas of agreement and I look forward to further debates.
In the context of globalisation, Europe faces many difficult, shared challenges, which I believe are fundamentally best responded to on a co-ordinated basis. In the face of the growing pace and sustained nature of those challenges, the Lisbon treaty has to reform Europes institutions to make them more open, more efficient and effective. We have already debated key areas of consideration in the Bill where that is necessary, but that reform is also crucial to international development.
Providing development assistance to the millions of people less fortunate than we are is first and foremost a moral and ethical imperative. It is nearly eight years since the UN adopted the millennium development goals, and those ambitious targets have framed the international communitys work on development since then. But more than halfway towards our 2015 target, the most recent UN assessment shows that we are a long way from meeting our goals.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that democratic consent is needed for that to be effective? If I were to promise to vote for the referendum he wants on being in or out of Europe, would he promise to vote for the referendum I want on the constitution, which would honour his manifesto pledge?
Mr. Moore: The right hon. Gentleman is assiduous in attending these events and I am delighted that he joined us today just before I rose to speak. May I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the article in The Guardian newspaper by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), my partys leader, which neatly sets out the reasons why we cannot, I am afraid, go along with the right hon. Gentlemans request?
Despite some movement on povertyparticularly in the Asia-Pacific region, fuelled by the growth of India and Chinasub-Saharan Africa remains very far off its key poverty reduction target. The level of extreme poverty in the region has moved from 46 per cent. to about 40 per cent., but it is estimated that given current economic trends, by 2015 360 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will still be living on less than a dollar a day. The moral imperative to improve the way in which we assist the developing world is therefore clear. But development is also fundamentally in our own interests, not least to provide stability in the world and security on these shores, to tackle migration, and to improve trade.
Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman makes much of the moral and ethical dimension, on which I agree with him entirely in principle. Does he not agree, howeverI made this point to the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), and I should like to know what the Liberal Democrats thinkthat poverty cannot be eradicated without proper and efficient mechanisms to deal with corruption in the developing world? It is not possible to remove poverty without removing corruption.
Mr. Moore: For once, I am at a loss to find a reason to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I think he is absolutely right. His right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) mentioned corruption in the common agricultural policy. We must root out corruption: there should be no place for it in Europe, or in any other area where we are doing business or providing support.
Regardless of the current institutional arrangements in Europe, the Liberal Democrats believe in the principles of co-operation and multilateralism in international affairs, including international development. Beyond those principles, there are many practical aspects to recognise. As our development partners make clear, they also demand that donors place greater emphasis on cohesion, efficiency and effectiveness. That provides both an opportunity and a series of challenges for the European Union.
As the worlds largest economy, comprising some of the worlds richest nations, the EU has a number of obligations: not only to help the development of the extremely poor countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, many of which were once part of Europes empires, but to establish international structures to tackle the causes of poverty, be they conflict, climate catastrophe or, as the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) suggested, corruption. To a large extent European countries, acting alone or together through the European Union, have accepted those obligations.
EU members collectively are now the worlds largest international donors, accounting for more than half the worlds total official development assistance. As is shown by figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Communitys development assistance is larger than that of the World Bank, and several times larger than that of the United Nations Development Programme. The EU has played a leading role in the stepping up of the international communitys contribution on development. The agreement reached at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in May 2005, when the EU pledged to reach the international target of a contribution of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income to development by 2015, was a milestone. It provided a real impetus ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles later in the year, which made impressive commitments to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion per year by 2010, to increase aid to all developing countries by $50 billion per year by 2010, and to cancel 100 per cent. of debts for eligible countries.
The EUs member states and institutions are central to the delivery of a large part of that agenda. The EUs unique position in bringing together 27 nations offers a unique chance to introduce co-ordination and coherence to development policy across Europe, although the process is not without difficulties. Strenuous efforts have been made in recent years, resulting in the adoption of the European consensus on development in 2005 and that of the European consensus on humanitarian aid, which set out the principles, aims and criteria on the basis of which the EU and all its member states will pursue international development.
The fact that priority has been given to tackling poverty in the least developed countries represents a breakthrough, and that has now been incorporated in the Lisbon treaty. In its 2007 review, the OECD highlighted the positive reforms of recent years. It has reported:
The adoption of the European Consensus has been a major strategic success.
the community should continue to be a driving force for encouraging progress towards the agreed targets,
but the EUs current development structure is often complicated and confusing, and it is not short of critics. Indeed, the European institutions have a well-established reputation for bureaucratic complexity.
The OECD has highlighted the eternal tussle between control and oversight on the one hand and proper authority and appropriate decentralisation on
the other. Its most recent report again expresses concern about attempts at micro-management and has recommended that
the community should give more say to the delegations in prioritising and applying the thematic programmes in country.
Unlike the common foreign and security policy, the Lisbon treaty does not make substantial changes to the Unions development structures, but it does make a key change in refocusing the Unions development policy on the primary objective of the reduction and eradication of poverty. We join the Government and development non-governmental organisations in welcoming that change.
Mr. Streeter: I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. He is experienced in foreign affairs, and he has seen, as have I, a number of examples of poor delivery of EU aid around the world over the years. Therefore, although the treatys reforms might be laudable in terms of giving it a poverty alleviation focus, does he have any confidence at all that the institutions of delivery within the EU are actually capable of delivering more effective aid in the future than they have been in the past?
Mr. Moore: We are in a period of transition. I have not ducked away from the need for Europe to get its act together on development aid, as on so much else: it needs to reform, and it must not regard the treaty as the end of that process. There is always room for improvement in delivery, efficiency and effectiveness. The Liberal Democrats believe that the treaty will provide the European institutions with more tools to do that job, but we should not be slouches in terms of keeping our eye on what happens. Although the hon. Gentleman and I differ on the analysis, he is right to keep focused on delivery.
The network of NGOs that operate through BONDBritish Overseas NGOs for Developmenthave asked about how development policy will be implemented in terms of the new common foreign and security policy arrangements. While we believe that development policy can be complementary to the Unions foreign policy objectives, foreign policies and development policies have different roles in international affairs, so it is important that the developing worlds viewpoints are central to the development of the Unions external agenda. Having a focus on development in the reshaped Commission will be critical, and having a dedicated administrative structure for development will be essential.
Tony Baldry: Is the hon. Gentleman not concerned that under this treaty EU aid development policy will become subsumed into the Unions external action planin other words, that international development policy will become secondary to foreign policy?
I do not share the hon. Gentlemans concerns, but may I pay tribute to him on the expertise that he has shown in this subject over many years? It is clear that poverty alleviation is now central to the treaty, but we will need to keep an eye on how the institutional arrangements are developed. I am sure that a part of that will be to ensure that there is
adequate and proper focus on international development in the high representatives new arrangements. It might be more straightforward to convince me on that than the hon. Gentleman; I believe that that is a perfectly appropriate way for things to develop.
Beyond the treaty and the institutional arrangements, we must ensure that the EU pursues the right development policies. A number of people have raised the issue of the economic partnership agreements, and the case can be made that the EU has not excelled itself in their negotiation. Now that the interim trade agreements have been initialled, the EU must honestly negotiate the comprehensive deals and honour the promises made to revisit provisions of the interim agreements.
As the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) remarked, as we start Fairtrade fortnight it is right that we celebrate the huge progress made on this issue over many years, particularly in the past few. Significant announcements have been made by Tate and Lyle about the future of its UK sugar sales and significant increases have been made in the amount of fair trade produce available in British supermarkets and elsewhere.
On trade policy more broadly, seven years on, the Doha development round remains stubbornly unresolved. At this years Davos summit, the World Trade Organisations director general, Pascal Lamy, shared his optimism that an agreement can be reached this year, but we have heard such statements before. The Doha round seems to be in danger of becoming part of some interminable groundhog day. If it is to be anything but that, the EU must be willing to drive forward an agreement that is genuinely in the interests of the developing world, based on a radical reduction of subsidies and tariffs and on improvements on market access.
In addition, we must keep the pressure on to ensure that environmental sustainability is a key millennium development goal. The agreement reached at Bali has the potential to address many of the developing worlds particular concerns about climate change, and we must all move quickly on technology transfer and adaptation. The EU must also ensure that Bali is only the beginning of a more comprehensive process. As the main player in establishing the Kyoto protocol, the EU must remain at the forefront of securing a successor agreement. It must learn from the experience of Kyoto and use all the tools at its disposal to ensure that the US and others come on board.
The test of our development policies will be judged in places as diverse as Kosovo, Gaza, Darfur and Sierra Leone. Under a new framework, the EU must ensure the following: a sharp focus on humanitarian assistance; proper policy coherence for development; a continued emphasis on the effective distribution of higher volumes of aid; and better aid implementation and management. Under the Lisbon treaty, it can, and must, make real progress in all those areas.
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab):
I think I am the only Member of Parliament whose constituency borders those of two Chief Whipsmy right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) and
the right hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin)so I take some exception to the way in which the character of my neighbours has been traduced. They are both quite cuddly teddy bears, and I have never felt the slightest bit intimidated by either of them. I would be surprised if people thought that hon. Members are not able to stand up for themselves. I take exception to the remarks, particularly because I have had the experience of seeing at close quarters the Chief Whips for both the main parties in this Chamber.
I welcome the changes embodied in the treaty because they embed principles of concern to us that are starting to be set out, particularly on poverty eradication. It must be possible for us to work better collectively to ensure that our efforts on aid and all development issues are progressed. Such an approach would be better than countries sometimes operating individually and not necessarily always co-ordinating. The more co-ordination to make our efforts count, the better. Various figures have been cited showing that the EU is responsible for between 55 and 77 per cent. of world development aid, and I am sure there is no disagreement in the Chamber about the fact that we must take measures to ensure that aid and assistance are given as effectively as possible.
As has been said, we have done well and the EU has made a major contribution to push forward the agenda. Reference has been made to the commitments that we achieved on the millennium development goals and at Gleneagles on extending aid to Africa. Those commitments are important and we need to build on them. The Opposition have made much of saying that the EU is ineffective and that its delivery does not work. Many examples have been given, but they are not an argument that we should not embed proper principles in the EUs workthe issue is how we make that work operate more effectively, not that we should not go ahead with the treaty, which embeds the principles that we want.
There has been evidence of improvement in EU policies and their promotion. Every four years, the OECD development assistance committee undertakes a peer review, and its conclusions were different from the rather gloomy picture that we have been given so far. The review commended both the role of the Commission in reshaping development co-operation and the progress made since the previous review four years ago.
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