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I entirely accept that investing in health, education and infrastructure helps to create a climate in any given country that will make the business community better able to thrive and survive, but there are times when a partnership with business is needed to establish what aspects of health, education and infrastructure will best deliver investment. If we could do that more effectively,
we might speed up the process of economic development rather than just aid support, with the help of better trading relations, a World Trade Organisation deal giving people real access to markets, and the elimination of internal obstacles to trade, both within countries and between neighbouring countries.
The hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) has left the Chamber, but I want to say something about climate change. There is concern in the developing countries that all the commitment to poverty reduction could be easily subsumed into climate change measures. The 10% ruling was arbitrary, but I consider it important for the Government to focus primarily on poverty reduction, and not to allow climate change to divert funds that could be used for that purpose. We need a safeguard to ensure that that does not happen.
I am conscious of your constraint, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall not say too much more, but I want to make two or three comments about the country programmes. The Secretary of State said that there would be a review of those programmes. We need a fairly early indication of how that will take place, so that people are not faced with too long a period of uncertainty about where it is heading. Other countries, notably and recently Sweden, have conducted such reviews. It might be best if our review focused on a smaller number of countries in which our assistance could be even more effective.
The Secretary of State will not be surprised to learn that I have a view on the debate about China. The hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley), who is present, does not agree with the rest of the Committee on the subject. I entirely accept that the development relationship with China should come to an end-that is not a point of concern to me-but the general relationship with the country seems to me to have continuing value, and it will require some budget if it is to continue. The Committee heard effective evidence of how well that can be done, and what a contribution it makes to reducing the MDGs, given the size and scale of China. I urge the Secretary of State to look at our report again. It does not really disagree with his conclusions or those of his predecessor, but it does suggest that there should be a little more space in the continuing relationship with China. That would be very beneficial to UK-China relations and to poverty reduction in China, not because the Chinese want our money but because we would be able to work with them to deliver better ways of achieving poverty reduction. Such an approach might even lead to partnerships in third countries between Britain and China, which would be a remarkably interesting and worthwhile development. That is all I would ask that he take on board.
Mr Mitchell: The Chair of the Select Committee is on to a very good point, because the Conservatives have for years said that it was wrong to spend taxpayers' money in China. That country has just spent £20 billion on the Olympics, it has a space programme and it is a nuclear power. Since we made that plea on behalf of the British taxpayer, the right hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander) has spent tens of millions of pounds on British aid in China. The Chair of the Select Committee rightly says that we need a partnership, an elevated relationship whereby we work together on common objectives and have a high-level dialogue on partnering on aid and development. We are in the process of working out precisely how to do that.
Interestingly, the same arguments will start to apply to India, and I suspect that we are unlikely to come to the same conclusion on India. I found it interesting that the arguments used by the previous Government to justify the closure of the programme in China were used in reverse to defend the programme in India.
Mr Mitchell: China and India are fundamentally different, because India has more poor people within its boundaries than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and the average income of an Indian is a third that of a Chinese. Of course we also have deep historical links with India through the Commonwealth and many other mechanisms, so I do not think that there is a direct analogy between the two countries.
Malcolm Bruce: I think that intervention proves my point. The Select Committee may well wish to examine the issue of India again, but we have not yet been formulated and we have made no such decisions.
Finally, it is impossible to have a discussion on global poverty without examining this country's engagement in Afghanistan. I am concerned about the debate about Afghanistan, because the situation is complicated. Inevitably, the focus is on the military engagement and the casualty rate, and rightly so. We have to show, and we do show, enormous appreciation of the bravery of our forces and the sacrifices that they are making in order to contain an insurgency and create the space for a successful Afghanistan that can manage its own affairs-we hope that that is what will happen. It worries me that people do not appreciate what is happening in Afghanistan. They do not appreciate that we are operating across the whole country, that we are having real success in large parts of it and that the military operation in the south is not the whole expression of what is happening. So it is important that the Department for International Development's engagement in Afghanistan continues in a way that demonstrates that what we are trying to do is build a state that can not only run its own affairs and enable us to remove our military support, but deliver to its people a development programme that will take them out of poverty. That will be the best and strongest basis for a secure future for Afghanistan and it is the right and proper, legitimate aspiration of the people of Afghanistan. Our UK aid programme must be focused on that more than anything else. People are looking for a clear separation between aid and development, and military support and containment; they are not looking for confusion between the two. I hope that, provided we can keep that right, we will be able to maintain a programme in Afghanistan that will continue to command popular support, because it is a poor country that we should and would be engaged in even if it was not in a conflict situation.
This is an important debate. The change in Government clearly will result in questions from all parts of the House about the future of our overseas development assistance, but what is clear to me is that we have a coalition Government who are determined to deliver our United Nations obligations and to apply principles to development that will continue to mean that Britain is a leading global player. As Chairman of the Select
Committee, I look forward to its engaging with the Department in a constructive way that will help to shape that policy and influence it positively.
Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): It is almost five years to the day since the Gleneagles summit, which was a high point in the UK's influence in global development policy. We led by example and we secured commitments from the other G7 members to double their aid and reach the UN's 0.7% contribution target. Allied to that, the European Union gave a parallel commitment in the same year. I therefore deeply regret that the Gleneagles commitments were dropped from this year's G7 communiqué, because that has given the impression, at least to some non-governmental organisations-the shadow Secretary of State mentioned Oxfam and Save the Children-that our country's development policy under the coalition Government has fallen at the first hurdle.
I will say that the Prime Minister is right to lay continuing emphasis on the millennium development goals, as Tony Blair and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) did before him. However, I say to the Secretary of State that that is not an alternative to doubling aid, because the Gleneagles commitment on doubling aid was a means to an end; it was designed to get the world's major donors to provide the resources to make meeting the MDGs possible. We simply will not get all children in least developed countries into primary schools if that doubling of aid commitment is not met; nor will we be able to reduce by three quarters the ratio of mothers dying in childbirth-that MDG is the most off track.
I therefore wish to focus on what I believe the Government should do to re-engage other G7 and European Union countries in order to get them to honour their commitments, and to build a continuing profile for our country as a development leader. There are two opportunities to do that over the next six months. The first is to use the negotiations within the World Bank on the 16th round of the replenishment of International Development Association funding-IDA16-to persuade donor countries to increase their financial commitments to the World Bank's next three-year IDA period. IDA is the World Bank's window for lending to least developed countries. This matter is important because the World Bank is the world's biggest multilateral development agency and, for all its faults, we will not achieve the MDGs unless IDA has increased resources to do the work it does. The United Kingdom is in a particularly strong position to influence others on commitments to IDA, because in the current IDA round-IDA15-we were the world's largest donor.
IDA16 will doubtless be discussed at the annual meeting of the World Bank in October and will probably be finalised at the spring meeting next year. IDA16 is particularly important in relation to the MDGs, because it will cover the last three-year period leading up to 2015, which is the target date for implementing the MDGs. Ending up with an IDA16 with less money pledged than in the current IDA round would limit the opportunity of donors to ensure that the MDGs are met. So I hope that the Minister of State's response will set out the Government's plans to talk to their opposite numbers in other G7 and EU countries and to seek from them the assurance that they will make commitments to IDA.
I chair an international parliamentary body called the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank, which is a network of some 1,200 parliamentarians, roughly half from developing countries and half from developed countries. We seek to hold the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to account, especially to parliamentarians.
Mr Andrew Mitchell: May I ask the hon. Gentleman a serious question on this point? On what basis does he believe the Government should decide on the amount of funding for the IDA replenishment? What is his view on the mechanisms by which we should reach that conclusion?
Hugh Bayley: I would like our Government to contribute to IDA16 at least the same proportion of their development finance during the three-year period in question as the UK contributed to IDA15. In other words, it would be more money in real terms but the same proportion of UK aid overall. That would be a good starting point. If the UK were to make such a commitment, implying an increase in our contribution to IDA for the crucial three-year period leading up to 2015, we would be in a strong position to seek commitments from other development partners. I know that, in reality, some G7 countries-Italy, for instance-have made very negative decisions on development spending. There are others, however-including France, which was broadly on track, although it might have slipped back a bit now-that we ought to be able to persuade to make a firm commitment in relation to IDA.
I can make an offer to the Secretary of State. Through the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank, I have been one of the architects of a campaign among parliamentarians in countries north and south to raise the question of the IDA16 replenishment in their Parliaments, and to seek commitments from donor country Governments to debate the financial commitment they will make to IDA16. We are also seeking a serious debate in the Parliaments of developing and developed countries on what can be done to improve the aid effectiveness of the World Bank's IDA programmes, building on the Paris declaration, the Accra programme of action and the findings of the World Bank's own mid-term review of IDA15. That review contained some good proposals about how the World Bank could achieve more with the money that it already has.
I would also like to see the introduction of a peer review mechanism, so that one World Bank office can review the performance of another, in order to drive up aid effectiveness. I would like parliamentarians in each country to have a role in these processes. In Ghana, for example, one would expect the country office of the World Bank to report to parliamentarians in Ghana. That is not to say that the constitutional relationship should change. The World Bank is owned by its shareholders, and they are Governments. In relation to achieving greater aid effectiveness, however, we want to see more openness and transparency.
We are going to run the campaign as well as we can and in as many Parliaments as possible, in the north and the south, during the period of discussion on the IDA replenishment. I hope that the UK Government will support us. I have already written to the Secretary
of State to ask him to come to the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank's annual conference in December as a keynote speaker. We are also about to launch a call to action to publicise what we are doing. If he were able to provide some sponsorship and support for that in July, or some time soon, we would welcome that.
Malcolm Bruce: The hon. Gentleman is a valued member of the Committee, and his work with the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank is also valuable. Does he agree that the effectiveness of such a campaign will be dependent on the amount of information that is published and made available to Members of Parliament, especially in the developing countries? Does he welcome in principle the Secretary of State's commitment to publishing the detail of the funding on the website? Will he reinforce my request to the Secretary of State for as much detail as possible, in order to illuminate what is going on and enable parliamentarians to be more effective?
Hugh Bayley: Yes, I do welcome that commitment, and I very much endorse what the Chairman of the Select Committee says. I should perhaps acknowledge that one of the reasons that the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank is able to launch its campaign is that the Department for International Development has supported the core cost of running our Paris-based secretariat, which is developing the campaign.
A second opportunity for the UK to re-engage with our G7 and EU partners and win commitments from them in the next few months will be in the work leading up to the September UN summit on achieving the millennium development goals. Again, it would be helpful if the UK Government were to set out their plans for any bilateral conversations with other EU and G7 Heads of Government and to seek to influence the statements those Governments will make at the UN summit on the level of their aid funding. There will certainly be an anticipation in the developing world that donors will come up with the resources to back up the conclusions of the summit on achieving the millennium development goals.
The Secretary of State said that the Government intended to legislate to commit the United Kingdom to providing 0.7 % of its gross national income for development aid. The Chairman of the Select Committee reminded the House that the Committee had examined the draft Bill and made a number of recommendations. The first of those was that the millennium development goals summit is an important opportunity to renew commitments to aid allocations. The Committee's report also identified the real danger that, as aid levels increase to meet the 0.7 % target already agreed, more official development assistance will be spent through other Government Departments that are not subject to the UK's International Development Act 2002. I agree with the Chairman of the Select Committee that we need greater clarity from our Government if a proportion of the increased aid to which they are committed is going to be spent by Departments other than DFID. We need reassurance that the goals of that spending will remain similar to those of DFID, and that poverty alleviation remains the key goal, whether the money is spent in DFID or any other Department. There has been a great deal of interest in this point among the NGO community.
We live in a globalising world. I do not need to remind hon. Members how much the world economy, environmental challenges and migration bind us all together; that is well understood. The centre of gravity of global politics is moving from west to east. In that context, "east" does not just mean Japan, China, Korea and India; it also means the Pacific basin as a whole, including California and British Columbia. Were there more time, I could say a lot about the UK and Europe's need to recast their foreign and defence policy-to some extent, the UK Government will be doing that in their strategic defence review-but I shall just say a few words before I sit down about EU policy.
The European Union as a whole still has the world's largest GDP-some $16.5 trillion a year, compared with $15 trillion for the United States, $5.5 trillion for China and $5 trillion for Japan. The UK's share of that is some $2.5 trillion. The EU remains economically a big player on the world stage, but the UK on its own is rather less so. I believe that the EU punches below its weight. I am not in any sense a federalist, but I want the new European External Action Service, under Baroness Ashton, to deliver a great deal more for people living in Europe than the old directorate-general for external relations. I want to see a comprehensive approach whereby the European Union's common foreign and security policy and common security and defence policy, as well as its development policy, EU aid policy and trade policy, all pull in the same direction to ensure that long-term development, state building, peace building, trade, foreign relations and reform of international institutions such as the UN also all pull in the same direction better to co-ordinate the development policies of the European Union and member states and to strengthen the poverty focus.
We have a strong poverty focus in this country, whereas the EU has a much less stronger one. Only half of EU aid goes to the least developed countries compared with about two thirds among donors as a whole. We need to minimise duplication and wasteful competition between individual bilateral donors, reduce red tape and increase the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of our aid. Now, 60% of all the world's aid-some €50 billion out of a total €80 billion-comes from Europe, both from EU member states bilaterally and from the EU acting on behalf of the Union as a whole. If the world is to succeed in achieving the millennium development goals by 2015, the EU and its member states must deliver more with the resources that are already committed to development as well as increase their spending to meet the commitments given at Gleneagles.
The Government are in a position to use the EU to multiply the value and effectiveness of aid from member states. It would be wrong, in my view, to back away from the EU or to reduce the UK's contribution to EU development programmes. Our aid alone, however well spent, will not be enough to ensure that the least developed countries achieve the millennium development goals. Glorious isolation would make us less influential and less effective than concerted action to get the new European External Action Service to improve the EU's performance.
Esther McVey (Wirral West) (Con):
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech during the debate on global
poverty-a debate in which I was inspired to speak after meeting class P of Hayfield primary school in Upton. If I had not spoken today, I am convinced that they would never have forgiven me-so more of class P later.
First, may I say that it is a great honour to be here to represent the people of Wirral West? For those who do not know Wirral West, it is placed on the north-west tip of the Wirral peninsula between the River Mersey and the River Dee, with wonderful views of the Welsh hills and the Liverpool waterfront. It is described as a hidden treasure, made up of a beautiful collection of towns and villages-West Kirby, Hoylake, Greasby, Frankby, Irby, Pensby, Barnston, Thingwall, Upton and Caldy-like a string of pearls, each one a jewel, sitting next to one another. However, let us not get carried away. Beyond the natural beauty, we have struggles and concerns: the small village shops, fighting for survival against the giant supermarket chains; youth unfulfilled and unemployed; debt; and financial hardship. To that end and for those reasons, I shall be supporting my constituents. They had the faith to vote for me, and I have the strength to support them.
Some distinguished MPs have done so before, for I follow in the footsteps of some notable predecessors, distinguished by their considerable ability and dedication of service: Lord Selwyn-Lloyd, who served as Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House; David Hunt, now Lord Hunt of Wirral, who became Secretary of State for Wales and Secretary of State for Employment; and, more recently, Stephen Hesford. They all served their constituents tirelessly, and I hope that I will follow that tradition.
On a personal note, I want to thank David Hunt and his wife Paddy. They both still play a significant role in the community and, in particular, with Hoylake cottage hospital, Wirral marine disabled association and the Wirral sick children's fund. They have been a source of tremendous support to me, helping me throughout the 10 years for which I have tried to win this seat. It has been a long journey. To anyone who says that it is a fast way into politics, I say that it is not. But it was a journey worth taking, and those 10 years have made it all the more pleasurable to be here.
Wirral West is an enchanting and enriching place that is full of history, legend and the spirit of Vikings. I shall explain some of that today, but hon. Members will have to discover the rest when they come to visit, which there will be plenty of opportunity to do. Golfers are likely to want to visit the Royal Liverpool golf club at Hoylake, which will host the Open again in 2014 and the women's British open for the first time in 2012. There is also sailing, particularly the annual Wilson trophy championship, in which 200 Olympic-class sailors compete. It is frantic and frenetic as they spin across the water touching grand prix speeds. Our home team, the West Kirby Hawks, is one of the best around and won last year.
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