I very much welcome this opportunity to debate the Government's second White Paper on international development, "Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor". As the House knows, I greatly regretted the fact that time was not allocated for a statement when the White Paper was published. However, as they say, everything comes to those who wait. I am sure that we all agree that a debate is better than a statement and are pleased to have this debate.
As the House will know, in the past, little time was devoted to discussion of international development, which has for many years been regarded as a residual political issue. We had neither a Department nor a Select Committee to address it. I tell the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) that I hope that we do not have too many more international development events in this Parliament because I have already paid so many tributes to him that any more from me might embarrass him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Perhaps later.
Previously, very little time—10 minutes, I think—was allowed for a Question Time on international development. Now, we have a separate Department for International Development and the Select Committee on International Development, which has done a superb job under the able leadership of the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford. I have already made clear, and I really mean it, my respect for his commitment to international development and for the work that he has done on international development policy throughout his life, both when he worked at the Commonwealth Development Corporation and ever since he became an hon. Member.
Nevertheless, although we have had two White Papers, legislation on the CDC and an International Development Bill—which I hope will soon be enacted—there is further to go. There is no doubt that, as those who have reflected seriously on such matters probably agree, the biggest moral issue facing humanity is the fact that one in five of those who share this little planet of ours live in abject poverty. The consequences of that inequality for the world, both morally and in terms of world safety and stability, are one of the most important political, strategic and economic issues that the world will have to tackle.
We have a way to go in persuading the political system and all political commentators, both in the United Kingdom and around the world, to face up to the seriousness of the issue and to stop treating it as charity or a residual issue outside mainstream politics. We have to make it clear that, if we are to have a safe and decent future, our priority must be to manage the world more sustainably and justly.
I should simply like to reiterate the Secretary of State's point. On Tuesday, hon. Members debated HIV-AIDS in the developing world. Horrendous numbers of people are dying from HIV-AIDS, which she and I entirely agree may be the biggest catastrophe facing the world. Sadly, despite that 90-minute debate, the matter was not picked up at all by political commentators. I hope that she will reiterate, as I think many hon. Members will, that the disease is a disaster, particularly in the developing world.
I agree with the hon. Gentlemen. I also know that he has taken great interest in the subject and frequently tried to draw it to the attention of the House and anyone who would listen. I agree also that the failure of most media political commentators to take seriously that and other international development issues is both worrying and perplexing.
Some time ago, I read an article about the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, which was a time of profound historical change. The article, however, said that not only contemporary debates in the House, but contemporary media reports, novels and cultural activity were all about landowners. Opinion formers of the time took no notice of the transformation that was caused by industrialisation. I think that we have a comparable situation now. The fact is that the world is becoming increasingly interdependent, and it will be increasingly at risk if we do not act to make it safe.
As I said, both political systems and political commentators treat international development as a residual issue of charity. That is a serious problem for the future safety of the world. However, those of us who do attend to these issues realise that fact and are trying to convince people of the issue's seriousness and the need to address it by making the necessary changes.
Our first White Paper on international development was published in November 1997. It committed the Government to focusing all our development efforts, both our bilateral programme and our influence in the international system, on the systematic reduction of poverty and on meeting the international development targets. Since then, we have worked hard, with considerable success, to try to build that type of commitment right across the international system. We have probably been more successful than I could have hoped for when we started out on the task.
My Department has also published a series of targeted strategy papers—which are not, as the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) once suggested, the reason for my Department's increased publication costs. The papers are in no way vanity publications, but serious documents on the international effort necessary if the targets are to be met. They are also being used worldwide to try to mobilise international collaboration and energy to meet the targets. The targets are not an accidental collection of good things; they track all types of policy necessary in poorer countries to lift people up and create sustainable improvement in their lives. They deal with subjects such as higher income levels, better health care, more education, clean water and better governance.
I became committed to moving on to the second White Paper, on globalisation, after the Seattle meeting. As hon. Members will remember, there was chaos, with large and destructive demonstrations, at that badly run meeting. More worrying was the muddle of some of the commentary on the meeting from around the world. We should seek urgently to clarify in world public opinion the definition, the promises and the threats of globalisation. We also have to clarify how we can manage it to ensure that the poor of the world benefit and that future of the world is stable and safe.
After Seattle, we had Prague, Washington and the May day demonstrations in our own country. There has been a strange mixture of forces, including some very nasty elements determined to use violence. It is extraordinary that people travel across the world at great expense to smash up McDonald's, even though there are plenty of McDonald's in their home countries. Such people are destructive and unhelpful.
There are some forces that are simply protectionist. The trade union movement in the United States is very small—only about 8 per cent. of American labour—but mobilised large numbers in Seattle to march for protectionism. It was strange, at a time of unprecedented growth in the US, before there had been any glimmer of a downturn, that they wanted to put up trade barriers, because they blamed any job losses—it was a time of major changes in technology, so some jobs went—on international competition and the fact that labour is cheaper in China. Such thinking is dangerous and muddled.
There are some environmental fundamentalists who, in a completely self-contradictory way, organise on the internet meetings at which they discuss how to prevent any investment in modern technology in the poorest parts of the world. They show deep double standards. In a muddled way, they think that the poverty and closeness to nature of a lot of people in Africa and southern Asia gives them a better standard of life. They enjoy all the fruits of the technology brought to us by multinational capital, but do not want the poorest continents and people to share in that.
All those groups advocate very undesirable policies and can be taken on one by one, but when I came back from Seattle, I found that many caring, decent people were deeply confused about the World Trade Organisation and how best to manage international trade. That is dangerous. The last time countries drew back into themselves in a knee-jerk reaction, as many in the United States want to do, was in the 1930s. Because trade and investment flows are becoming so rapid and bringing so much change, there is a danger of isolationism and recession returning.
Against that backdrop, I thought it important to amplify the analysis in our first White Paper, analysing the effect of globalisation on the poorest countries and setting out an agenda to be read more broadly, we hope, and influence public opinion at home and internationally. We need a commitment from Government to seek to manage this era in a way that benefits the poor and gives us a more stable and safer future.
That is the purpose of the second White Paper. I am pleased to say that it has attracted wide international attention. We published 4,000 copies of the first White Paper, which was considered influential and a success. Already, 14,000 copies of the full text of the second White Paper have been distributed in English, with 1,000 in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. There has already been a reprint of the short introductory version, and 60,000 copies have been printed. The website has had half a million hits, with 11,000 serious visits in which the whole White Paper has been downloaded.
That is good. We need an international debate, and I know that some of the leading figures in the international system have read the White Paper, because they have talked to me about it. I hope that some of the MobGlob—I understand that some of these people who turn up to destroy international meetings call themselves that— might read it, and that some of the more intelligent among them might be encouraged to think more seriously and in a more forward-looking way about what is to be done.
From meetings in this country, I have detected a change of view about the WTO, and an understanding that it is membership-based, with countries joining by choice. People used to think that it was run by multinational companies. Three quarters of its membership are developing countries, and that gives us the possibility of having a multilateral, rules-based international trading body that makes decisions by consensus, holding the world together and bringing more justice to the poor of the world. To lose such institutions would throw the world into far more division, with the rich and powerful bullying and further marginalising the rest.
Apart from its attempt to influence public opinion on how to manage this era in a forward-looking way, the White Paper—I say this largely in honour of the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge)—contains a strong series of commitments across Government to trying to manage change in a way that benefits the poor, securing greater world stability.
There is a superb historical role for Britain. I think that it was Dean Rusk who said that we had lost an empire and never found a role. We all understand that comment. We are an open, trading, multicultural country with links with all parts of the world. We have a lot of influential positions on the international stage, because of both the bad and the good in our history. We are involved in the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Commonwealth and the European Union, which is the largest single market in the world and the biggest destination for the exports of developing countries. To use our international influence to work for a more inclusive and just world that takes better account of the needs of poor people and countries is a fine role for the UK.
I hope that, across parties, we can hone a deeper and more informed commitment to that objective. In that way, Britain could make an important contribution to the world in the coming era.
Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the most useful things that the Commonwealth could do is to identify the big global issues—electoral practices could be one example—on which it could make a major contribution, rather than, as it sometimes seems to do, trying to produce valuable programmes that are very like those produced by other organisations?
Yes. There is such a clear role for the Commonwealth. It has tantalised many people, because it involves relationships of genuine affection that people want to sustain, despite historical forces pulling in the other direction. There are many countries outside it that could join: one thinks of Afghanistan, the US and the Palestinian Authority. Rwanda would love to join, and is trying to convince us that there is a small part of Rwanda that was once colonised by Britain. We are all worried about its not having a role, yet people have such affection for it and there are still countries wanting to join.
In this era, in which we need to strengthen multinational institutions and reach agreements about how to manage the world economy by consensus—that is a fantastic task—the Commonwealth has a distinctive potential role, as it encompasses so much of the world. The consensus that it can generate could be taken into the appropriate multilateral institution to facilitate agreement on how to create a fairer world.
I am enjoying the Secretary of State's exposition of her vision, which I share, of Britain's future role in the world. Does she agree that, by pursuing policies of globalisation and development, we will help to solve the problem that the media are interested in and go on about day in, day out: asylum seekers and economic migrants?
I strongly agree. There are more refugees and asylum seekers in the world than there have ever been, and more of them are being housed in some of the poorest countries. There are more displaced people in Africa than ever before—from memory, about 10.5 million. Tanzania, one of the world's poorest countries, is host to 300,000 refugees. That is misery for the people concerned and for their continent and its future. Clearly, many people are also seeking to come to Europe, where there are better economic prospects. It is cruel to turn refugees away without examining the forces that are pushing them out of their own countries, because everyone prefers to stay in their own countries, given the chance. The creation of a world of equal development, where people have the chance of education and a decent life at home and the opportunity to travel out of interest and to share ideas with each other, is achievable in a 50-year time span. That should be our objective, instead of the erection of barriers around our own country. That cannot be the solution.
No matter how privileged a country is, it cannot control the future of world trade rules, the international environment or the level of conflict. Africa, the continent in the greatest trouble with disease and other problems, is on Europe's doorstep, so we cannot make even the richest and most privileged children or countries safe. We either manage the world more effectively or the catastrophes will bite back at all of us, wherever we live.
I am proud of the fact that, increasingly, it is the UK's view that we should have a coherent attitude to the international economy. For example, we should examine international trade negotiations not only from the perspective of what we can achieve for the UK—although of course we must look after our own interests—but from that of whether they will lead to a more sustainable and fairer international system. We are getting a reputation for taking that approach, and our influence on making the international system more collaborative, coherent and focused on the systematic reduction of poverty is increasing. I hope that that work will continue for many years, whichever party forms the Government. It is a profound, historical and moral approach, but we cannot be complacent whatever we do because so many people are so poor and suffer so greatly.
Some people talk themselves into depression on those issues, as if everything is getting worse. That is not so. More human beings are being educated—including more girls—living longer and having access to clean water than ever before. Partly because of that, more human beings are surviving and the world population is growing.
More people have done better; but there are more people, so we have to ensure that the solutions we have found reach those people. The world population will stabilise as girls go to school and more people have a chance of a decent life, but if we do not increase our efforts there will be more and more catastrophes. We have made a contribution, but there is more to do and no one who cares about the issues can be complacent and think that enough has been done.
The White Paper starts by clarifying the term globalisation, because it is the source of muddle in the international debate. Some people think that it means what neo-liberalism meant some years ago: letting the market and inequality rip and rolling back the state. In the era when those ideas were dominant, public services were run down and poor people were excluded from health care and education, as happened in Africa, Latin America and other areas. Those people opposed those ideas, see globalisation as a continuation, and therefore oppose it. I understand those emotions, but that is a muddled view of what globalisation means.
Globalisation started, perhaps, with the ancient Egyptians. It has existed since humanity started to trade, share ideas and technologies and move around the world. It accelerated at the time of the industrial revolution, with more production, manufacturing and trade across the world, and it has accelerated massively recently for two reasons. The first is the end of the cold war. We now have one global economy, instead of two blocs, and that integration has speeded up the movement of capital, investment and ideas across the world. The second is the new technologies. Information technology moves ideas around the world very fast, so capital is more mobile. That has led to a reduction in barriers to trade and a fall in the cost of international transactions. The global economy is therefore much more integrated now than it was even 10 years ago.
The good side of globalisation, which is rarely mentioned, is the diffusion of global norms and values, including the spread of democracy. More people—around 62 per cent., although some would argue about some countries on the margins—live in a democracy. The proliferation of global agreements on the environment, such as those on ozone-depleting substances, biodiversity and development targets, are the beginning of a global ethic of morality and the inclusion of all. That expectation of the same norms and values is an attractive part of globalisation.
Globalisation also brings with it rapid change and new challenges. The scale and rapidity of the change has generated uncertainty, anxiety and alarm across the world, including in our own country. Rapid change is difficult for us all to deal with, but that distrust and worry creates the danger that regressive political movements could start to appeal to people. There are also worries about the impact of globalisation on people's culture. For example, some deplore Hollywoodisation, with everybody eating hamburgers and watching the same films. The White Paper acknowledges those fears, but it argues that we are more likely to end up with such a world if the poorest countries are all marginalised and their cultures disrespected. In a world of equal development, in which different languages, cultures and music are respected, that danger will recede.
People rightly also worry about the environment and the inequality within and between countries. Many people believe that such inequality is growing, but international equality has narrowed recently; it depends on the speed of development and economic growth in the poorest countries. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries tend to trog along at 3 per cent. growth a year, and inequality will grow or shrink depending on whether poor countries do worse or better than that. The White Paper analyses the performance of individual countries, and some of the poor and middle-income countries that have opened up and liberalised have become more equal. Others have become less equal, but that is a matter of political choice, not a result of an invincible force that responds to globalisation.
The White Paper proposes ways in which the world can manage the forces of globalisation so that they are beneficial to humanity. The lesson of history is clear: open societies that learn from and trade with others are enriched materially and culturally. Societies that encourage education and services for all, that use modern technology and that distribute the resources of economic growth broadly are more civilised, just, decent, comfortable, happy and stable. That is how we should manage in this era, and those who turn their back on that approach will not bring its benefits to their countries.
In recent decades, those countries that have seized the opportunities offered by more open world markets to increase exports, and attract inward investment and modern technology, have made the greatest strides in reducing poverty. More people have been lifted out of poverty in the past 30 years than in the previous 500. The east Asian countries have performed spectacularly. China's performance in the past 15 years in the systematic reduction of the numbers of people living in abject poverty has been welcome, even though China may have other aspects—such as its treatment of Hong Kong—that we do not find attractive. Countries that liberalise sensibly, educate their people and have decent standards and access to modern technology can achieve the sort of economic growth that reduces poverty rapidly. We want to bring those lessons to parts of the world that have not benefited, especially Africa.
We are on track to reach the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, but that is because of the performance of China, India and Bangladesh, although there is much to do still in those countries. Some countries in Africa have reached that level, including Uganda, Mozambique and Botswana, but many have not. We could reach the target, yet large parts of Africa could continue to experience the misery of high levels of conflict and human suffering. We have to do better to bring progress to all countries.
Globalisation is creating an unprecedented opportunity to lift millions of the world's poorest people out of poverty. That can be done if we organise ourselves and share the ideas that make it possible, but it is not inevitable.
We are at a crossroads. Many countries could be marginalised and left to suffer in squalor and poverty while the rest of the world gets more wealthy. That would be morally repugnant and dangerous. As information is globalised, people will be able to see their own poverty and others' prosperity, and they will not accept it. The anger thus created could cause all sorts of disaster for everyone.
The White Paper argues that if the poorest countries can be drawn into the global economy and are thereby able to export goods and increase their access to modern knowledge and technology, the world could make massive progress towards the removal of abject poverty from the human condition. If we define poverty in relative terms, it may be true that the poor will always be with us, but abject poverty can be eradicated. It disappeared from Europe and north America at the time of the industrial revolution in the 1840s and 1850s. That shows that eradicating abject poverty from the world is an achievable objective.
I apologise to the House for being in and out of the debate because of my duties in Standing Committee, but my right hon. Friend spoke about drawing poorer countries into global trade. Is she going to speak about the definitions of pro-poor growth, on which I know that the Department has been working? Does she consider that some areas of growth are more likely to draw more people out of poverty more quickly than others? If so, will the Department do more work on that possibility?
I am coming to that, but it is not a complicated proposition. More research can always be done into how progress can be made more efficiently, but pro-poor growth is inclusive. Non-governmental organisations and people working in the development sector used to argue about whether growth was necessary or desirable when it came to reducing poverty, but that was ridiculous. Population growth without economic growth means that poverty will grow invincibly. That has been evident in some countries, especially in Africa.
However, growth that is not sustainable—such as that depending on the extraction of mineral resources that are not replaced—does not lift up a country. Growth whose proceeds go exclusively to one group does not reduce poverty, but rather maximises the risk of conflict. The research clearly shows that if all a country's people do not benefit from growth, the excluded group is more likely to resort to conflict in the absence of democratic opportunity.
Economic growth has to be sustainable. That means that a country's environment and resources must be taken into account but also, in the modem world, that good education and health care are available.
Education and health care are not just desirable: the technologies of modernity require people to be educated so that they can contribute to their countries and participate in the global economy. The fair distribution of the proceeds of growth means that education and health care are available to all. Economic change often disbenefits one group of people, and Governments have a duty to help them to adjust and find new avenues by which to go forward. If that happens, the sort of growth that brings benefits to everyone, and especially to the poor, can be sustained.
I want to mention inequality. Some of the Latin American countries are the most unequal in the world. For example, enormous wealth and desperate poverty exist side by side in Brazil. It takes longer for growth to reduce poverty in such countries. Unless a country's economic development is strange, the proceeds of growth tend to be distributed fairly evenly, but in very unequal countries the proceeds that go to the poor are very limited. Questions about the degree of inequality are questions of justice, but removing inequality depends on stability and the speed with which poverty is reduced. That lesson is clear, and measures must be taken to ensure that action is put in hand to reduce poverty.
As I said, extending education and health care to everyone is a fundamental requirement. Ill health is undesirable and causes suffering, but the research shows that poor people work endlessly. They are creative people but they work harder than anyone else in the world as they try to lift their families out of poverty. However, ill health constantly throws people back into poverty. If a family's breadwinner cannot work because of ill health, that family has no income. If a child or a dependant is unwell, the family borrows money—or begs, or sells belongings—to get drugs and health care that is often of very poor quality. Better health is desirable not only for its own sake, but because it helps people improve their lives and the lives of the next generation.
Education and health care are crucial for development. They are to be paid for out of the proceeds of development, but investment in those sectors is one of the ways to secure the conditions necessary for development.
The Secretary of State mentioned the terrible disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor in South America. Will she comment on the drug barons and the regimes in that part of the world, where there seems to be a vested interest in feeding drug habits and keeping as many people as possible oppressed in poverty? Should not the western world take even more interest in that than it does at present?
The problem of drugs extends world wide. Drugs involve criminality, illegality and instability. Their use by people who are marginalised and often damaged is evident even in countries such as our own. Drug use is a crisis of the era.
Colombia is an example of a country with poor governance, widespread violence and an absence of justice or law. In such countries, very poor people who do not use drugs grow them, as they are the only crops that will secure an income. It is no good persecuting those people: they must be offered the chance of a legitimate life. They need to have the economic well-being that comes with taking legitimate produce to market, and which gives them the chance to send their children to school and to enjoy decent health care.
Too often in the past the focus has been on bombing campaigns. Unless a decent future is promised, people return to growing drugs because that is all that they can do. The drug barons are the only people who will buy such crops, and we must work hard to find more constructive solutions that offer people the chance of decent lives.
For example, the UN spent a lot of money in Afghanistan on paying people not to grow drugs. They stopped, but they started again because they were not offered the chance of decent lives that did not depend on drug production.
The Secretary of State may know that I have been trying to champion the cause of growing pyrethrum as an alternative to poppies. It is possible that pyrethrum could be a crop substitute for drug production. Will she look again at my letters to the Department on crop substitution, which offers a way forward for families that depend on growing drugs to feed and clothe their children?
I should be delighted to do so, although I do not think that the hon. Lady has sent me any letters, as I would have read them. I am ashamed to say that I do not know what pyrethrum is.
Oh, I know what chrysanthemums are. I should be delighted to look at her letters if she sends me copies, but there is more to the problem than finding just one crop substitute. People must also be able to get crops to market and their children to school. If the package on offer is not sufficient to allow people to have legitimate lives, the men with guns will remain in control and people will be unable to move forward.
Pro-poor growth and establishing educated and healthy populations are key requirements in achieving progress. Development assistance is also vital, and we need more of it, but it must be deployed differently. In the past, it has been associated with the charitable mindset. I do not deny the value of charity—we should all care for those in need—but charity consists of handouts to the poor, and it is not development. The task is to use overseas development assistance to create the conditions that enable people to lift up their lives.
To achieve that, we must stop having lots of different, fragmented projects and instead help countries establish the effective institutions of a modern state. Those institutions provide services to a country's people and run the economy in a way that ensures that savings stay at home, that inward investment is secured and that people have access to modern technology. In that way, a country's economy can grow in a way that benefits all.
The White Paper commits us to increase United Kingdom development assistance as a proportion of gross domestic product to 0.33 per cent. by 2003–04—a 45 per cent. increase. We are also allocating progressively more to low-income countries and untying our development assistance, for which we have had all-party support. However, we could do better and that I hope we will have all-party support to help us continue making progress so that we reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent. I am delighted to tell the House that after 32 years of trying, we have agreement with the OECD Development Assistance Committee that aid to the least developed countries will be untied. That is very important, because when aid is tied, supplies have to come from the giving country. It is motivated by trade connections, leads to growth inefficiency and does not enable countries to put in place the institutions that they need to go forward.
We must build an international system focused on the systematic reduction of poverty. We have been working on that with some success, but there is more to be done. The UN is precious—nothing can replace it—but it could be more efficient. I am haunted by Sierra Leone. We will succeed there, but UN peacekeeping could be more efficient and effective, and we must all work together to achieve that.
We must have fair international rules and strong international institutions to harness private capital and trading opportunities to improve the life of the poor. We must challenge the MobGlob, the mobilisation against globalisation. What they preach is a disaster for the world and for the poor. The systematic reduction of poverty requires greater, not less, international co-operation. Without rules, the strong and the rich will bully the rest. Sovereignty now stays with nation states—it does not go to any other institution, but must be pooled to be exercised. There are some things that countries cannot do on their own. Countries must collaborate with others to produce rules that will benefit everyone. If we cannot do that, we will be in trouble.
I agree with everything that the Secretary of State has said, something that I cannot always say, and I congratulate her on her speech. Will she say something about the need to encourage greater charitable giving in the west? I know that progress has been made with the gift aid scheme and other measures. There is a limit to what the taxpayer in the developed world will pay, yet we would all like to spend much more on international development.
People in this country are very generous. That is also true of the USA, which is not always as governmentally committed to development and often thinks, perhaps because it is such a big country, that it can secure all that it needs unilaterally. In the United Kingdom, people provide £400 million a year to development NGOs and the taxpayer tops that up with another £195 million or so a year. Dues paid into the international system have come to just over £3 billion this year, and at 0.7 per cent. of GDP, that figure would be roughly £7 billion.
People are generous when it comes to charitable giving, but we also want to make a contribution to countries, and there are some things that charities cannot do. Some countries have rotten financial systems and need better management of their public finances. A charity cannot put that right. We are working to educate public opinion in this country; there is no question that people, especially the young, who will inherit the future care about the poor of the world. However, when asked what can be done, they say "Give to charity." That is honourable and I admire it, but we need to call for fairer trade rules and international environment agreements along with stronger UN peacekeeping capacity so that citizens can use their democratic power to achieve the conditions necessary to make the progress that we want to see.
I have three final points. First, it is increasingly clear that no matter what one's economic, political or geographic perspective, in a globalising world, eliminating poverty is more important than ever. We live in a world in which great wealth and great squalor exist side by side. The immorality of that is clear, but in a globalising world we also need to focus more actively on poverty elimination to secure future stability and prosperity for all. The dangers for the future are environmental degradation, conflict and diseases for which we have no cure, such as HIV/AIDS and multi-drug-resistant TB. Some 20 per cent. of the population in our neighbouring continent, Africa, live under conditions of conflict. That causes enormous suffering. Refugee movement is a barrier to development, and the issue of asylum seekers will affect Europe.
This is about our safety and more justice in the world. It is a priority; we know what to do. We live in a time of unprecedented knowledge, technology and capital. We know the conditions that produce development; we must be intelligent in applying them more broadly and collaborating internationally. In that way, we can make massive progress.
Secondly, we are living in a time of profound change. There is intellectual and political mind-lag in the world. Some institutions are attending to the agenda of 50 years ago. We must move our political institutions and thinking forward so that these issues are regarded as a priority for the safety of the future. We must do everything that we can to get more people to involve more people. The White Paper is designed to help in that way.
Finally, I believe that there is more cynicism and negativism in the media and in much political commentary than there has been in my lifetime. Everyone is supposed to have an ulterior motive. There is no room for decent and honest disagreement—we must all carp and sneer. I do not like that—it is not a pleasant way of proceeding politically, and it is also dangerous. We could achieve massive historical change, but for that, people need to work together and believe that it is possible to collaborate. If cynicism takes over, we will not achieve that.
This is a wonderful role for Britain; we can make an important contribution to the world. However, people must raise their sights to see where the need is and what is possible. If they work together to achieve that, we could have a world in which the extremes of poverty that existed in this country in the 1850s have gone from the world. Every child would be educated, and the world would be safer and more decent. All of us who have been able to contribute to that in any way can be proud of our part in political life.
I am very glad to follow the Secretary of State. I hope to make a speech in a similar vein. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), I agree with everything that the right hon. Lady said—to my concern and, probably, her distress. The silent one on our Front Bench is now scribbling furiously in a little blue book.
I share the Secretary of State's vision about the contribution that this country can make to international development, peacekeeping, diplomacy and bringing people together. We are uniquely qualified to do those things. We are not a superpower; we have lost our empire and have, for some years, been in search of a role, and I think this is it. We can punch above our weight, bring people together and seek to make real inroads into abject poverty. I agree with the right hon. Lady that we are at a crossroads in terms of globalisation. The international community and Governments throughout the world need to make the right choice. We must ensure that we encourage them to do so.
As has been said, the British people have repeatedly shown their concern for the world's poorest through their generous response to recent crises in Kosovo, central America, Mozambique and Gujarat, the inspirational Jubilee 2000 campaign and their consistent support, year in, year out, for excellent British aid agencies. Many of our constituents have already sent us a clear signal: they want our country to be at the forefront in the attack on global poverty. I certainly agree that, at present, the House does not do justice to the seriousness of that subject.
At this point in my speech, I had intended to make some sneaky and sneering party political points about the absence of debate, but I have decided not to make them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on, go on!"] No, I am overwhelmed by the spirit of consensus and am reluctant to break out of its orbit.
The Conservatives broadly welcome the thrust of the Government's White Paper. We certainly pay tribute to the Department for International Development for all its excellent work on behalf of the whole House and of the country. I want briefly to explore the working title of the White Paper. I do not want to consider its chapters in detail, because we have all grown familiar with the contents over the past few months; I want to look more closely at its excellent title—"Making Globalisation Work for the Poor". That is much more than a title; it is the very essence of what we have to achieve as we go forward in the next 20 or 30 years.
One of the key points about development is that there must be a long-term view. As politicians, our focus is usually on the next general election, which is probably in about four weeks—not much time to achieve anything significant—while international institutions and multinational corporations are worried about their next shareholders' meeting and so on. However, if we are really to make progress, we have to act on a much longer-term basis than that.
There is no question but that the abject poverty we see in the world is wholly unacceptable. As the Secretary of State said, we know that throughout history a significant proportion of the world's population has always been extremely poor. Perhaps the difference nowadays is that we are much more aware of that fact and that if we have the will and if we get our act together, we have the wherewithal to do much, much more about it.
In the developed world, we do not have to look back far to find a time when in this country, other western European countries and the United States of America, there was rampant poverty, with disease, child labour, sweatshops and urban squalor. In this country, not long ago, the poor were completely disfranchised, but through trial and error, and by pursuing sound social and economic policies during several generations, we and other countries have established the rule of law. Usually, benign governance, free markets and private enterprise produce material comforts and security for all.
As the Secretary of State said, our challenge is to ensure that the same progress is made throughout the entire world. The good news is that it can be much quicker for developing countries which choose the right way than it was for us. They can learn from our mistakes and our experience. Despite some of the mindless chanting and banners of the protesters in London on May day, the truth is that globalisation, if correctly harnessed, is not the enemy of the poor but the very vehicle whereby the world's poorest can be lifted out of poverty.
It is worth reminding ourselves why our goal should be to seek the eradication of abject global poverty. I am sure that everyone in the House at present—although perhaps not everyone in the country—agrees that it is morally unacceptable to witness the horrors of grinding poverty, especially when we have so much wealth. As I said, not everyone feels like that—we should not condemn those who say that charity begins at home and that global poverty has nothing to do with us. Such things are said, but we should gently remind those people of two facts.
First, global poverty leads to global instability, conflict and disease. One way of minimising the risk that future wars will affect our own country is to help to improve living standards and to establish proper democratic frameworks in developing countries. This is a passion of mine: even in greater Europe, the one way to ensure that our children do not have to engage in a 21st century European war is to make sure that the former Soviet countries in central and eastern Europe are welcomed into the European Union as soon as is reasonably practicable. Momentum towards the EU will underpin the rule of law, market economies and fragile democracies in the states that suffered so much under communism. There is a price for us in taking on board those new members, who will need much support for many years. However, the cost of the alternative is immeasurably higher.
Secondly, as living standards improve and market-based economies begin to flourish in more and more places, so the trading and investment opportunities for our businesses will increase, underpinning our own economic prosperity in the north. Thus, for the person who is not minded to go down the route of moral acceptability, there are two reasons why compassion and self-interest combine to motivate our attack on global poverty.
I am convinced that globalisation is the key to unlocking global poverty, and it need not take the many generations that it took us to figure it all out. A stable political framework, the rule of law, open economies, free trade. competition and a strong private sector are all part of the conditions necessary to produce economic growth, jobs and prosperity. A real consensus is growing among politicians, economists, financiers, commentators and some leading NGOs about the true benefits of globalisation, and about the key political and economic policies that will bring benefits to the countries that pursue them. The evidence is clear: countries with more open economies, and which have implemented policies to support and attract inward investment and trade, have recorded the best growth performance.
Not many years ago, Asia was poorer than Africa. However, because many Asian countries embraced strategies and policies that transformed many of them, they have made significant advances, while Africa, in most cases, sadly has not. Those Asian countries encouraged savings, investment, education and the rule of law and many of them have reaped the benefits.
The great irony, however, is that while that consensus has been growing among politicians, commentators, experts and economists, another consensus has been building to the contrary—as the Secretary of State mentioned. More and more people see globalisation and global capitalism not as the vehicles to defeat abject poverty, but as problems in themselves. That opposition has been growing for several years among people who profess to care for the world's poorest—and I am sure they do care. So we have had the Seattle riots and our own May day protests—egged on by such books as the best-selling "No Logo", by Naomi Klein, which takes a pot shot at globalisation.
That situation should concern us and I want to make several points about it—I did not know that those protesters were called the MobGlob, but the expression is apt. As we know from our own surgeries and postbags and from the public meetings we sometimes attend, there seems to be a growing belief that there would be no global poverty if multinational corporations did not exist, if the World Bank and the IMF stopped imposing conditions on their financial support, and if debt everywhere was cancelled. That simplistic approach is mobilising more and more support against the very policies and organisations which most of us believe contain the long-term solutions.
Many decent, caring, well-intentioned people are beginning to hold those views. I am sure that I cannot be the only Member to be receiving more letters and more visits to my surgery from people who express those views and who want us to take that simplistic approach. Does that matter? I think it does, because if those views spread in people's minds, they become a distraction from solutions that might work. It does matter if a lot of well-intentioned people put their energies into ideas and solutions that are likely to make things worse for the world's poorest. Those protesters need to be told that they are fighting to keep people poor. Rather than breaking windows in McDonald's, would not it be a better idea to set up businesses that employ people in the developing world and so create prosperity?
I agree with the Secretary of State that if such opinions grow and take root, they could easily pull us back into a protectionist world that would be very serious and dangerous for us all. It is interesting that commentators acknowledge that just before the first world war, the world was extremely integrated—possibly even more so than today, given the lack of technology. It took shifts in public opinion, increased protectionism and global conflict to drive a wedge into that growing integration.
The onus is on us consistently to make the case for the free trade economic growth model and not to allow ourselves to be distracted. I congratulate the Secretary of State as I believe that she has done that; she has been brave in some of her speeches. I encourage her to continue doing that for the next three or four weeks while she remains in her position—[Interruption.] I did not say where she would be after that.
We must pose the question: what is the alternative? Now that centrally planned economies have failed the world over and modern technologies have rendered untenable an exclusively local and protectionist approach, what is the alternative to globalisation harnessed in the right way?
I do not think that we should be embarrassed by such agreement; we are talking about enormously profound and important issues for everyone's future. Indonesia grew with horrible corruption and repression, but the beauty of the lessons of the Asian financial crisis—provided that we can help people and that the suffering is not too great—is that we have reached the point where that model is not sustainable. In fact, democracy, inclusion, dealing with corruption and bringing education and health care to all represent the stable model, so we have refined the model that is most successful economically in a way that advances the condition of humanity.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that intervention. It is absolutely right to look for sustainable models, not flashes in the pan. We are looking for things that will last, and the Indonesian model and perhaps those of one or two other Asian tigers have shown themselves to be unsustainable, because they did not put in place the necessary political stability, transparency and perhaps the freedom from rank corruption, so I certainly agree with the Secretary of State.
We must make the case for globalisation, harnessed as best we can, although I am sure that many mistakes will be made. If we do not make that case, we will be in danger of letting the arguments go by default and increasing the sense of alienation and disenchantment with the political process as a whole that is felt by a growing number of people.
I would be the first to accept that globalisation is not producing equality. Richer nations have thus far benefited more than poorer ones. Indeed, some of the world's poorest nations have so far been almost entirely excluded from the real economic benefits, but that does not mean that globalisation is not the solution, just that we have not yet driven the process far enough forward. However, that does not need to be the case if those nations can be helped to choose a different path by which they, too, can prosper.
Decisions made in Uganda in recent years have been better, on average, than those made by the Government in Zimbabwe, and the people of Uganda have benefited. Policies pursued in Taiwan have helped its people march into prosperity, while the decisions made in North Korea have had the reverse effect. Countries can choose prosperity in a globalising world.
Our goal is not equality—although some people think that it should be—and perhaps it is not even relativity; it is surely to see absolute living standards rise, so that everyone has access to shelter, food, water, reasonable education and health care. That should certainly be our goal. Some people point the finger at the multinational corporations and blame them for not doing enough to improve living standards for the poor. Of course, their primary goal is to make a profit. That will always be the case, which is as it should be, but by investing in developing countries they will, over time, bring economic growth with them. That is happening all over the world.
The best of our multinational corporations are increasingly aware that they have some responsibility for the communities in which they invest, on wage levels, child labour, environmental stewardship and other issues. I shall cite some famous names that are bound to fill the MobGlob world with fury, but BP, Nestlé, Gap and Nike all employ people in developing countries. They are not the anti-Christ. No doubt they can do things differently and no doubt they can improve their commitment to local communities; and they should be held to account—through whatever stakeholder power is available and through our consumer choices—for the commitments that they make to corporate and social responsibility, which are now a common feature of their annual reports. They say such things, and we are entitled to hold them to account for them, but they do not deserve the vilification that the anti-capitalists have heaped on them.
Globalisation is happening. It has been going on for generations. Modern technology has speeded up the process and, short of unforeseen disasters, the momentum of globalisation seems set fair to continue. We in the Conservative party recognise that and broadly welcome it, and we have designed development policies that are intended to help to shape globalisation in a way that benefits the world's poorest. In the second part of my speech, I shall therefore briefly set out the four key development policies that we shall pursue in government to help to maximise the forces of globalisation for good, not ill.
First, we shall focus on good governance, as we have made clear in our policy papers. I have talked about that endlessly; I am even getting bored with hearing myself speak about it—a serious state of affairs. I accept that the DFID is currently focused on good governance, but we shall make it an even higher priority. My observations and experience, drawn from the past two years, show that the state and quality of governance in a developing country is absolutely critical and fundamental to its success in choosing to enter into prosperity.
Decisions by national Governments remain at the heart of a nation's fortunes. Although globalisation is all about what happens in the entire world, we all recognise that nation states still remain extremely important. Without good governance, the rule of law and a willingness to embrace market economies, the framework for prosperity is simply not in place. I am not talking about a "one size fits all" approach, but I accept that we can advocate nothing but democracy. Some countries have embraced market economies when they are not fully democracies—we are all a little concerned about Uganda and the succession strategy there; but, from our experience, we can only advocate democracy and, certainly, benign government—one of the key fundamentals that must be in place.
I should like to read a brief extract from the World Bank report "Poverty in an age of Globalisation", just to make the point. Page 9 states:
Good governance has emerged as one of the most important prerequisites for development. This is both because of the role of government as a builder and provider of institutions, and because the failure of governance can lead to an overall political breakdown. Weak governance has been an overriding characteristic of the poorest performing economies"—
no surprises there.
The next Conservative Government will do more to help to build good governance. That is our unique governmental contribution to global poverty. I know that the policy is long term, intangible and difficult to measure, but it is vital. As part of our policy, we want the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the British Council to increase their work in democracy building and governance. We want to see more support for political parties overseas. Strange as it may seem to some of us, political parties are actually rather important organisations, and their establishment in many of the countries that we are talking about is very important, especially if they are rooted in the community and open to all. We will seek to support strong civil society, and we will draw upon the experience of the know-how fund and make British expertise available, especially in the civil service, judicial and security sectors.
There is one thing that we know how to do well in this country—collect tax. That represents the sort of expertise that many countries would be very keen to draw on, and we will make that the primary focus. That will be the best way to meet international development targets, which we support. The best contribution that we can make to poverty reduction and to producing a poverty focus throughout the world is to help to strengthen the framework of countries with which we are working, so that the private sector and foreign direct investment can do their jobs in increasing living standards in such countries.
Our second and related focus will be to bear down on corruption. We all know of the reality in many countries. I was interested to read some recent research by Mr. de Soto, a Peruvian economist, who found that corruption and poor bureaucracy represented a real block to enterprise in many countries. He wrote:
In the Philippines, to formalise a squatter's house built on state-owned land can require 168 steps involving 53 public and private agencies and taking between 13 and 25 years.
In Malawi, the bureaucracy that administers property law is, in the words of an official report, riddled with jurisdictional overlaps and internal conflicts, and is often the cause of delays, errors of judgment, lack of coordination, rampant corruption and dereliction of duty.
We want to bear down on such corruption, wherever we possibly can. We shall be rigorous in withdrawing development assistance where there is evidence of misuse, and we shall encourage other donors to do the same. We will review the increasing use of sector-wide funding plans, which are clearly more open to misuse than more strictly monitored financial support.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. An effective modern state goes beyond democracy and human rights, proper tax collection, the proper management of public finances, the rule of law and people having the right to property so that they can build houses, which is important for many slum dwellers, and so on. All that is absolutely key and we are increasingly moving towards it, but sector-wide approaches involve building an effective state, and they replace an old approach that went outside the state because there was corruption. We must take the risk and become engaged in helping countries develop their financial management systems and those by which they deliver services to their people. That is what sector-wide approaches involve. I therefore agree 100 per cent. with the hon. Gentleman about wanting to work more on corruption and effective government. I agree with the diagnosis completely and that is what we are doing, but he has a contradictory objective in wanting to move away from sector-wide approaches—they go together.
The jury is still out on this. Even the Overseas Development Institute said in its recent report of 1 May that the sector-wide plans
have lacked good evidence on how poverty is being addressed and with what effect.
The Secretary of State may well be right, but I was simply saying that the jury is still out and that I would review sector-wide funding, not abolish it, on 8 June.
We do part company, however, on my third point for putting in place the best possible development policy to harness the forces of globalisation for good, not ill. I profoundly disagree with the Secretary of State about the charitable sector. We Conservatives want to build a new partnership with the charitable sector. We want to do much more to encourage and harness the energy and compassion of the British people and our aid charities. I accept that there are many developments that only Governments and multilateral organisations can undertake, but there is a massive role for the charitable sector. Most important, it can build long-term, committed relationships, people to people, which Governments can never do.
The Secretary of State said that charities are really about handouts and that she was talking about sustainable development. Of course we want sustainable development, but I visited a project in south-west Rwanda—I could list several dozen and I am sure the Secretary of State could, too—where a few years ago people were hungry. World Vision was sponsoring a project there whereby an agricultural expert from Ghana was teaching farmers how to increase massively the yield on their hilltop farms, partly by terracing and partly by better husbandry. After the three-year project, the yields were significantly increased and the people were no longer hungry. Indeed, they had surplus to sell, with which they bought cows. I was introduced to the cows, of which they were so very proud.
I hope that those dear cows to which I was introduced do not have foot and mouth. They were of the "Phoenix the calf' variety: extremely desirable—I do not mean to eat. As I was saying, the farmers were no longer hungry and they could sell their surplus crops. Most significantly, they were passing on their new skills to other farmers in the region. I think that that is sustainable development and I know that the Secretary of State does too. That was achieved through a long-term relationship established by a charity that was doing the right thing. I could cite many other examples. That is absolutely at the heart of international development.
Does my hon. Friend think that we have anything to learn from US tax regimes in making sure that we are a generous society in terms is of donations to charities?
That is the direction in which we want to go. Government cannot do it all. The British people are very compassionate and give generously and often in response to humanitarian crises, but they do not have much confidence in our public development schemes—or at least that is what the recent survey indicated.
We must do more to encourage the charitable sector. We want to encourage people to give more and we want the charitable sector to do the right thing in terms of a strategy that we agree with it. We Conservatives have thus pledged ourselves to double the amount that the DFID spends through NGOs and charities over the lifetime of a Government. We want to make sure that money is available to large and small NGOs and that we work more closely with the charitable sector in making a real long-term difference.
We will set up a web-based, one-stop-shop information and advice service. As I have said before, I really believe in this; I ought to as it is my idea. I offered this idea, called aid direct, to the Secretary of State and I hope that she has looked at it. The idea is to provide up-to-the-minute information about the situation in each developing country, with inputs from embassies, NGOs and major corporations working there. It is so often the case that people who want to make a contribution and a difference do not know how to start or what to do for the best in a particular country. As a result, we get overlap and duplication and people get frustrated and turn away. More information and up-to-the-minute advice, matching needs and resources, is what we have in mind. It could be a very effective facility for encouraging an even better performance from the charitable sector.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is keen on this. In the course of my life, I have found that most good ideas have already been thought of by someone. The Royal Bank is in the process of trying to do that for the whole international development system, so that in any given country everybody knows what everybody else is doing and they all have access to the information. The idea is a good one, but it is in hand.
The Secretary of State said that the idea is in hand, but it is not yet in existence. We have checked carefully but there is nothing in the whole world or on the world wide web along the lines that I am suggesting. It would be great if it were put in place. We do not mind our best ideas being pinched. Indeed, in this party we are used to that—it has been happening for at least 10 years and we were getting pretty cheesed off with it. However, we want this to happen because it will provide a real service to people who want to make a difference.
Finally, in government we propose to make sure that globalisation is harnessed for good, and not for ill, by reviewing the performance of all multilateral organisations. We recognise that although the nation state remains dominant, there is a need for multilateral agencies and combined resources. We accept that, but we want them to perform well and to offer value for money. We have often spoken about the European Union aid programme. Our policy on that is well known: unless the recent reforms produce vast improvements, we will work for a treaty change to allow member states to opt out of much of the EU aid contribution, and so spend the same money much more effectively.
We are unhappy about the lack of true accountability of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and about the performance of the UN. The UN should do less, better. We want to champion the cause for reform of the important organisations which, sadly, have too often been under-achievers. We want the World Trade Organisation to concentrate on smoothing the path of global free trade.
I hate to disagree with the profound consensus that has built up in the Chamber this afternoon, but does my hon. Friend share my unease from the White Paper that Britain will be channelling more money through multilaterals and the UN family than we have done up to now while working for reform? Does he agree that it would be best for reform to take place before we channel more money into such agencies?
My hon. Friend is right. When I launched our well-received policy documents, I said that on the day we came to power—on my first day as Secretary of State for International Development—I would seek an urgent review of all our contributions to all multilateral agencies, particularly UN agencies, to make sure that we were getting value for money and doing the right thing in spending British taxpayers' money in that way. We can use the threat of withdrawal of that money to push for more reform.
The House might like to know the figures. As a Government, of our £3 billion we give £195 million through British NGOs, £172 million through the World Bank and £152 million through UN development agencies, some of which is compulsory as a member of the UN. People think that the UN is massive, but the British NGOs take more of British taxpayers' money than the UN development system or, indeed, the World Bank.
Is the Secretary of State right on that point? My recollection is that £1.4 billion is spent through multilateral agencies—half through the EU and half largely through the UN and various organisations which are part of it—but we can take this offline. We need to make sure that whatever is spent through the UN represents value for money and that British taxpayers are getting the best possible bang for their buck.
In conclusion, I pay tribute to two colleagues who are retiring at the general election. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has been a champion of many causes throughout the developing world. Of course, I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells). I think that this is the fifth such tribute that has been paid to him. He has retired several times already. [Interruption.] Yes, he is doing an impersonation of Frank Sinatra. He has been an outstanding Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development and is respected on both sides of the House. We will miss him very much and hope that he will find new life in the development sector after 7 June, if that is when we leave this place.
In conclusion, globalisation is happening and is part of the world in which we live. As all of us have said, we are at a point where there is a historic opportunity to make a genuine difference for the world's poorest people. The choices that we make will determine whether we seize that moment. The next Conservative Government will seek to harness the forces of globalisation by helping countries to strengthen their Governments, bearing down on corruption, entering into a new partnership with British charities and championing reform of global financial architecture. All that we need now is an early opportunity to put our ideas into practice.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter). I did not say that last time that I did so, because he did not deserve such comments, but I think that he is getting a little better. I was impressed with his optimism, as I think that the whole House was. Perhaps he went a bit over the top about what he would do in his first day in office, but I think that we can forgive him for that. As always, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State rose to the occasion and was massively impressive in leading the debate.
Having mentioned those two speeches, I hope that I can be forgiven for opening my remarks by referring to another speech that was made a long time ago. I am inspired to do so because one of the documents provided by the Department for international Development refers to the commanding heights of the global economy. I suddenly realised on reading those words that it had rightly become fashionable again to quote Aneurin Bevan. I hope that I might also be allowed to introduce a bit of empiricism, as I want to refer to the first Labour party conference that I ever attended. Indeed, I made my first speech at the conference. The Leader of the Opposition made his first such speech at 16, but I was an elder statesman, as I made mine at the age of 18.
However, the conference was remembered not so much for my speech as for what was, sadly, the last speech of Aneurin Bevan. I think that he died seven or eight months later. I want to draw to the attention of the House to the following point: Aneurin Bevan said that, in his experience, the burdens of public office were far too heavy to be borne for trivial ends. I genuinely believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken that message on board. Her Department is not about red boxes and chauffeur-driven cars. The work that is going on in the Department at Victoria—and, if I may say so, at East Kilbride—and elsewhere is constructive and is based on responding to the modern world and the challenges that are presented by the universe of today.
The White Paper reflects those views. It is practical and relevant, but it is also thematic in terms of tackling poverty and of grasping the possibility of promoting global social justice My right hon. Friend will agree that those two aims often go together. The White Paper raises issues such as humanitarian relief, education, health and the great problem of world debt, but it also does something else to which this debate has added: it challenges us to remember that there is still a poverty of ideas.
That is why I believe that the media have not quite caught up with the need to respond to the problems, although in the very nature of things, they have made a substantial contribution in bringing those problems into people's living rooms. Among other things, that explains why international development has taken off in the current Parliament. Day after day, people are seeing on their television sets starvation in Ethiopia and the tragedies in India, EI Salvador, Mozambique, Kosovo and East Timor. They rightly expect the sort of response that the Government have provided. Tragically, they are seeing fratricidal warfare in Rwanda, Burundi and elsewhere, and they know that we must deal with the consequences of those terrible situations. They have also seen the obscenity of landmines in Angola and Afghanistan. I think that they genuinely welcome the progress that the Government are making in that regard.
The media are to be commended for bringing those issues to people's homes and into the public domain, but they are failing by not examining as they should the question of how we can deal constructively with those problems. Their failure to give full coverage to the White Paper shows that they must catch up on that.
Nevertheless, the White Paper, the Government's thinking and the progress that has been made in the past four years have given me great hope. People want the sort of matters that have been raised, including those that are relevant to the environment, to be addressed. When President Bush made his announcement about his Administration's attitude to the Kyoto protocol, there was an instinctive and genuine feeling of revulsion throughout this country. That feeling was rightly reflected in the House. Apart from the fact that we expect better of a great nation—I am not anti-American in any sense—we also know that more than 77 per cent. of people, if the opinion polls are to be believed, disagree profoundly with the President on this matter. I do not believe that the production of 20 per cent. of carbon dioxide emissions in a country where 4 per cent. of the world population live is acceptable.
The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) made important points about the environment during the recent proceedings of the Standing Committee on the draft Asian Development Bank (Seventh Replenishment of the Asian Development Fund) Order 2001. I think that Cambodia was very much in his mind and I am delighted that these matters are now being addressed.
I am also delighted about the genuine inclusiveness in the Department for International Development. That inclusiveness is seen in its work with NGOs and charitable organisations, which is to the advantage of both. The organisations include Oxfam, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, War on Want and many more. We have gained from such pluralism as we approach international affairs in the way that the White Paper sets out.
For example, I am grateful to CAFOD for the information that it has given us on Peru. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will bring us up to date on that later. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State replied to a written question that I tabled a week or so ago. Less than a year ago, there was no democracy in Peru and the election was rigged, so it is encouraging to hear from CAFOD that the Minister for Women's Affairs in Peru, Susana Villaran, has set up a truth commission and that her Ministry is assessing the plight of about 600,000 people who were displaced by political violence.
We want to address such matters and we want the international community to be involved in seeking a solution. That dialogue will continue.
I welcome the fact that the Government—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State rightly referred to this today—are committed to an aid budget that will increase by 45 per cent. in real terms between 1997 and 2003–04, and have refocused all the UK's development effort on the reduction of extreme poverty. I am glad that my right hon. Friend constantly underlines that challenge to extreme poverty wherever we find it in whatever part of the world.
We have led the world in dealing with the dreadful problem of debt repayment and its implications for the poorest people in the poorest countries. I do not talk with any sense of complacency, because I know that that view would not be shared by those on the Front Bench. However well we happen to be doing, organisations such as Oxfam continue to remind us of the challenges that lie ahead.
For example, Oxfam, in a parliamentary briefing, states:
Of the twenty-two countries receiving debt relief under the HIPC initiative, three-quarters will be spending over ten per cent of government revenue on debt this year, leaching vital resources away from poverty reduction efforts. Sixteen countries will still be spending more on debt than on health care. Ten countries will be spending more on debt than on primary education and health combined. Zambia is a case in point—this year the Zambian government will spend a quarter of its national budget on debt, more than its entire spending on health. This in a country where one out of five children will not live to see their 5th birthday, and where the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis has reduced life expectancy to 40 years.
Oxfam makes a relevant point.
Of the 22 countries receiving debt relief under the HIPC initiative, which is designed to remove the overhang of debt so that they can borrow and trade sensibly and use aid and their own revenues for other purposes, all, on average, spend less than 11 per cent. of their revenue on debt relief—that is lower than the rest of the developing countries. If we focus only on the heavily indebted poor countries and on debt, we start distorting need. In the case of Zambia, President Chiluba is talking about breaching or changing the constitution, going for a third term and ripping up the agreed economic reform programme that brought debt relief to Zambia. That is the threat to Zambia—bad governance. We must go on with the debt relief programme, but the obsession with having more and more debt relief for a small number of countries is getting a bit out of proportion.
I am delighted by my right hon. Friend's response, and the House and Oxfam will take on board the important points that she has made. However, I hope that she will forgive me for quoting from another parliamentary briefing from Oxfam on the related but equally important subject of global education. It states:
Today 125 million children are not enrolled in school; two thirds of these children are girls … We are witnessing a global crisis—children throughout the world are being denied their fundamental right to education … In developing countries, one in four adults—some 900 million people—are illiterate, 64 per cent. of them are women.
My right hon. Friend has seen that as a huge challenge, particularly remembering the role of women; women seeking emancipation, and rightly so—the poorest people in the poorest countries. The Government's response is progressive.
The hon. Member for South-West Devon referred to institutions such as the EU, the World Bank, the IMF and the United Nations and its agencies. It may be that I and many others share some of his criticisms, but the main thrust of such international organisations, including the EU, cannot be changed by giving the impression that we are half in and half out. In such a situation, nobody takes us seriously. We made a grave mistake in leaving UNESCO, for all its faults. I am glad that we are back. We should be in there fighting—in the EU, in the UN, and playing our part in seeking the transparency and improvement in the World Bank, the IMF and elsewhere, as the White Paper tells us. That is the way to achieve our objectives, not self-imposed isolationism, for which the hon. Gentleman seemed to argue.
International development is a wonderful subject, but there are difficulties, some of which I have seen for myself, as have other hon. Members. It was no great pleasure to stand by Lake Victoria and see bodies floating down from the terrible carnage in Rwanda, and to see how the locals had to deal with mass graves and the pollution of their rivers and their fish, upon which they were almost exclusively dependent for their food supply. That is the negative side of our work. That was sad and something that we wanted to erase, and it is right that we should continue to seek to do so.
I want to end on a more positive note by remembering two countries where tremendous progress has been made. The first is northern Iraq. The right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) has not been given the credit that he deserves for setting up the safe havens. Having visited Iraq in the early stages and then again about 18 months ago, I could see the transformation in that country, much of it due to the UN, which is extremely commendable. It is a remarkable and welcome change.
But for me, in this Parliament, and perhaps in the previous one, my greatest memory was of visiting South Africa in the week when we saw almost a miracle—the democratic election of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid and oppression, the progress for which we are all now striving. With that came the message that, if Mandela can spend 27 years in prison, as he did, and yet come out with such huge optimism, as we in Britain saw this week, what we see in the White Paper is inspiring to us all and I warmly and genuinely congratulate my right hon. Friend.
I should warn the House about the mutual admiration society that we seem to be creating this afternoon. Despite that, I still want to say how grateful I am for the kind remarks made about me by the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter).
However, I am not alone on the International Development Committee. We have a superb Committee, whose members are dedicated and work extremely hard. We have produced more reports than most Select Committees, all of which have provoked enormous interest. I should like to extend the kind remarks that have been made to the members of the Committee, including the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), who played a remarkable part in the first two years of that Committee. The Committee has supported and helped DFID's effort to build consensus and to make this the important subject that it is.
The Secretary of State's energy and conviction have undoubtedly driven, led and inspired the Department for International Development and others. Discussions on pro-poor policies and achieving international targets have taken root in all international organisations, although some are not as good as others. We recently discussed regional development banks. The Asian Development bank will focus on and operate a pro-poor programme, which will totally change the way in which it has operated since its foundation. The Secretary of State has encouraged that sort of achievement and vision, and we should congratulate her on the globalisation White Paper, which is the second such document that the Department has produced since she took up her post.
The globalisation White Paper encompasses almost all the subjects that the Select Committee on International Development has confronted. One of our early papers was on conflict. We all agree that conflict drives back development, and it is important to find ways in which to reduce it, especially in places where it is rampant, such as sub-Saharan Africa.
Another important report covered women and development. We cannot begin to tackle the problems of the poorest of the poor until we empower women to take charge of their lives, their children and families. Currently, 70 per cent. of those in abject poverty cannot do that. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Many others who are very poor are not in a position to take control of their lives or begin to contribute to their escape or that of their countries from abject poverty.
I want to complain to the business managers about the lack of opportunity for debate on the Floor of the House. The first White Paper that the Department produced was never debated or the subject of a statement.
Yes, but not of a debate. That was disgraceful. As the Select Committee report on globalisation requests, business managers should provide for a debate on international development at least once every Parliament. I believe that we should debate it more often. After all, the Department's budget is set to increase every year and it will soon spend more than £3 billion. If the Secretary of State continues her success in getting money from the Treasury, the Department will have an even bigger budget. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has attended our Committee proceedings more than once to discuss debt, which the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) mentioned, and I know that he is also dedicated to tackling the problems of abject poverty not only through debt relief but in other ways.
The expansion of the budget should be seriously debated. We do not have to worry about the press. I am sure that all hon. Members will have noticed that no members of the press are here because we do not intend to have an argument, slag each other off and make their news. I am grateful for that, but it does not make the debate less important. Indeed, it probably makes it more important.
Opposition Front-Bench Members have strongly supported the Secretary of State's efforts to secure an annual debate. Today, the International Criminal Court Bill is being considered in Committee. I was supposed to attend the proceedings and several hon. Members, who take a specific interest in international matters, are serving on the Committee and cannot be in the Chamber. That applies not least to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King), who interviewed earlier. Surely it is not outwith the wit of man or the usual channels to timetable our business so that those who take a special interest in international development can be in the Chamber.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Select Committee members often serve on Standing Committees. Those hon. Members should be spared their duties on Standing Committees, including the Committee that is considering the International Criminal Court Bill, and given time to attend the debate.
The approach of The Economist to globalisation has infuriated the Secretary of State. It claims that she has abandoned her convictions and ideals by wholeheartedly adopting the liberal free trade ideas of the past. Such commentators miss the point. The Secretary of State constantly says that we need growth and extra money to tackle poverty. I agree with her. Contrary to the old liberal theories on free trade, she and I believe that the process must be managed. As she constantly says, there is nothing automatic about growth leading to the diminution of abject poverty in any country. It has to be managed and the goal of diminishing poverty must be wholeheartedly pursued if we are not to find that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and we make no progress on expanding the wealth of countries, and introducing good governance, democracy, the rule of law, a sound civil service, an independent judiciary and a free press.
That is the difference between the globalisation White Paper and old-style liberal economics. The Economist is almost always profoundly wrong about everything. If The Economist claims that something will happen, almost invariably it will not. If hon. Members want to know what will not happen, they should read The Economist. The Secretary of State was right to take it to task for accusing her of being a Whig, an old liberal in the 19th century sense. The Secretary of State is trying to create the right conditions for growth. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon also wants to do that.
In 1996, sub-Saharan Africa earned six times more from exports than from overseas development assistance. Exports, trade, the expansion of agriculture, surpluses and markets to which surpluses from rural areas can be transported over good roads will lead to growth, education, health for women and children and thus bring under control the serious problems that population increases will cause. In 25 years, there will be 8 billion people in the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a world population of 1 billion; we are now contemplating a population of 8 billion. The idea of doing nothing, sitting still and not searching for methods to create economic growth is not sustainable. The population in developing countries will increase by 97 per cent. in the next 25 years. If we are not careful, abject poverty will increase, not decrease.
As a result of HIV-AIDS—on which the Committee produced a report—life expectancy is being driven back in some countries. Life expectancy had grown from 46 years, on average, to 64 in 20 years. It is now being driven back. As we discussed with the Under-Secretary of State in Westminster Hall, we will be driving back 30 years of development in Africa if we do not help the African countries to manage HIV-AIDS. We cannot ignore that important issue.
However, let us not get too depressed. In a publication, the World Bank—commenting on international development targets—says:
The Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Morocco belong to a select group of countries that halved the proportion of their people living in poverty in less than a generation. So did the Indian states of Haryana, Kerala and Punjab. Another dozen countries—including Botswana and Mauritius—reduced the proportion by a quarter in a
generation. Other countries can learn much from the well-documented lessons of this experience, for if it has been done, it can be done again.
Empowering poor people is the starting point—providing opportunities for women, opening political space for poor people to organise. Democratisation has to go beyond simple rule by the majority to include minorities.
The task to which the globalisation White Paper is putting our shoulders can be achieved. We are not pursuing a lost cause. We must strengthen our determination that we are going to achieve our targets.
We are not doing as well as we should at the moment. The publication to which I referred mentions the target of reducing abject poverty by half by 2015, and suggests that we are running below the target level that we should be achieving at the moment.
We are on track for the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, but we are below the target on maternal mortality and some of the others. The trouble with the target is that it is an average across the world and Asia is doing a lot better than Africa. I agree that people who see the sad images care but feel very depressed. They should know that we have had a lot of success and that if we could universalise that success, we could make progress. We are on track for the target of halving the proportion of people in poverty; it is achievable, but we have to do better in the countries that are missing out.
That is a perfectly good correction. We are below the target in Africa but we are beyond it in some Asian and Latin American countries; although, as has been pointed out, the inequality of the distribution of the increased growth in Latin America is causing difficulty.
In the original White Paper and the globalisation White Paper, it has been acknowledged that the private sector will have to drive the programme. We must encourage that but, in 1996, £11.3 billion was invested in developing countries by the private sector in this country. In 1999, that fell to £3.8 billion. There is a serious problem, although I accept that that is related to the Asian crisis. We must resume that level of investment by the private sector; not just to the seven or so fastest-developing countries, but to the least-attractive countries. That is important if we are to achieve anything like the targets that we have set ourselves. Those figures need to be investigated.
I attended a conference at the Foreign Office yesterday for British Trade Partners for Africa. I was alarmed that DFID was not mentioned at all by British Trade Partners, in spite of the fact that more than £1 billion of the DFID budget is planned to be spent on Africa in the next year. DFID's work in Africa is vital to exports from Africa to this country and from us to Africa. When will the Foreign Office stop being jealous of DFID and start co-operating? When will the DTI recognise that trade is a part of DFID's responsibility—as is recognised by the Secretary of State for International Development—and must be integrated in the effort to increase trade and investment into the poorer countries? We could do that.
In many African countries, the infrastructure is not as it would be in more developed countries. Often, there is no clean or reliable water supply, and no adequate telephone system. Roads may be very bad and everything that can be expected in a developed country in which we invest is not there in a developing country. If through grants and assistance from DFID, infrastructure problems were addressed—including health, education and housing needs—and that was followed by private sector investment, we would make a greater contribution than by simply giving ODA.
I ask the Foreign Office and the DTI to work properly with DFID. We would then all gain hugely, because we would be creating wealth in developing countries and we would have a competitive British industry. I am so glad that untying has taken place, but we have to get that to take place in other competitive countries. None the less, the British should be able to get the lion's share of the DFID expenditure, simply because they are the best people to do the work at the lowest possible price, with the best possible quality.
The agreement to introduce a longer period of tariff-free access to the European Community will enable the management of change to take place. Change has to take place, but in introducing tariff reductions and championing free trade we must not be seen to be threatening.
In the example of the Caribbean, some trading arrangements have existed for more than 400 years. These people are our friends and they are part of the fabric of the British nation. A demand that they must change their entire economy in a brief period—forget producing bananas, rice and sugar—would have represented a problem and they would have needed time to tackle it, but wisdom has prevailed and what has been agreed is probably fair.
I do not agree about bananas, however, because, under the arrangements being negotiated by the United States and the EU, there is no way that the east Caribbean banana trade will be able to continue. Why? Because producing the same quantity of bananas costs twice as much in the east Caribbean as it does in central America. There is no way in which we can overcome that, except through diversification.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want the record to suggest that I have no concern for the future of the Caribbean. I agree that the Caribbean must be helped to adjust on sugar, rice and bananas, although I do not think that the longer adjustment period that has been agreed is necessary. However, I agree that an adjustment period is necessary.
For the eastern Caribbean, there is a niche in organic bananas, about which some of our supermarkets have made proposals, but encouraging the Caribbean to stay in products that it produces expensively, but which are available cheaply elsewhere in the world, will not help. In the end, it would get producers into trouble. They are good on education, however, and Barbados has figures as good as any in the rest of the world. It is a beautiful island that could achieve even more from tourism and value-added activities.
I share the hon. Gentleman's concern for the Caribbean and I agree that its countries are vulnerable because they are small. They need additional help and they need to phase in the adjustment. I do not believe that a longer period is necessary, but we have one and we are absolutely dedicated to supporting the Caribbean in the transition. I am sure that there is a prosperous and comfortable future available for the Caribbean if the change that needs to be made is embraced and carried through.
I believe that that is the intention and I very much hope that change will take place. However, I note that Stabex payments are being made because of lack of banana production in the eastern Caribbean following price falls in the British market. They have helped, but the trouble is that they are paid to Governments. The Governments of the eastern Caribbean are using them not to modernise the banana industry, but for other purposes. It would be all right if they used the payments for diversification in the economy, but I am afraid that they are not, nor are they putting them into education, where standards have been falling. Health standards, too, have been falling.
Banana farmers are not rich and the payments are being absorbed by other Government expenditure. A lot more work and management has to be done in the Caribbean if we are to enable them to maintain their current standards of living, which are not luxurious. I cannot afford the prices of the hotels on the west coast of Barbados and the Barbadian community as a whole, unless supported by Government money, could not afford to buy even a gin and tonic in the new Sandy Lane. That is not the issue, however, and we are concerned with the general standard of living in those islands. It is important that we bear that in mind.
Yes, but that is not merely a possibility. I could take the hon. Lady to areas around the volcano called Soufriere in St. Vincent where coca is being grown.
Perhaps we can make an arrangement.
I could take the hon. Lady to that area or to Dominica, where I know coca is growing very well. It is a wonderful crop with few enemies, it has no diseases and there are no insects that eat it. Indeed, it grows so well that three crops a year can be produced, so it is a major temptation—the Secretary of State referred to that matter when discussing Colombia. There is a serious problem and our help, sympathy and support are necessary while people are making those adjustments, which, I agree, have to be made.
I want to discuss human migration, as $70 billion is generated by those who have left the countries in which they were born for countries such as the United Kingdom. From those countries, they send money back to their own countries to help to maintain the families from which they came. That is a huge sum and, in some countries, such money represents the largest single source of income. I welcome that, but the question of human migration will dominate such discussions for the next 100 years.
The trouble is that we attract some of the most skilled people from those countries. There is a bar on the national health service recruiting doctors from those countries to help us through the NHS crisis. However, although the Government are debarred from such activities, the private sector agencies are recruiting nurses from South Africa, a country that can ill afford to lose them, having trained them and spent money on them. Yet those nurses are now coming to work here, which I think is immoral and quite wrong. If anything, we should be lending our skilled people to deal with HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases prevalent among the poverty-stricken people of South Africa.
Economic migrants come to this country, and we are having difficulty processing them once they claim political asylum. They are fleeing terrible regimes and countries that hold out no economic hope for them or their children. They should not be described I as inferior people or as criminals who are breaking the law. They should be treated with great courtesy, as is the tradition in this country in welcoming people from overseas. If they are breaking the laws on immigration, their cases should be treated seriously; they should quickly be examined and then asked to go back to the country from which they came. We cannot take the numbers that are coming here, and they are breaking the immigration laws that have been agreed.
However, we cannot send those people back to those countries unless we make an effort to develop those countries in the way in which the globalisation White Paper suggests and demands. When we explain why they have to go back, we should also explain what opportunities the British and the international community will offer them for a better life in their own country. That is the human and sensible way to deal with the people who come here—who are among the most skilled, energetic and innovative people—to the discomfiture of our immigration service and our Customs and Excise service.
That discomfiture is irrelevant, however. Those people are human beings just as we are, and they are seeking to achieve a better life. We would do the same if we were in their position, and they should be treated with dignity and courtesy. None the less, they should not be admitted unless there are genuine political asylum reasons. It is a disgrace that we have let our immigration system get into such an appallingly incompetent state.
On corruption, the International Development Committee has produced a report worthy of serious study not only by the Government—who will undoubtedly have to introduce a Bill to enable us to comply with the OECD legislation to make it a criminal offence to seek to bribe foreign public officials—but by the civil service. The civil service will have to be organised in several Departments, including the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Foreign Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department. There are 14 such organisations dealing with this problem spread across government, including the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Services Authority.
The Government must put that matter in order, but we must also address the fact that London is one of the major money-laundering centres of the world. We must get our banks, lawyers and accountants to stop laundering money from overseas. They must also stop harbouring money stolen from third-world countries and enabling it to come here to be cleansed so that it can be used by families and relatives elsewhere in the world.
That is what we have to do, but the countries in which we are investing must also clean up their act. We can make a major contribution by not giving them a means of disposing of the money. This must be an international effort. If we close our doors, it is possible that the money will go to Switzerland, Frankfurt, New York or elsewhere. We must ensure that there are international agreements, which will stop some of the corruption in the countries with which we are dealing. If they continue to be corrupt, private development and private investment will not take place.
When the International Development Committee held a seminar for business men, we asked them what inhibited them from investing in some of the world's poorest countries. The main problem turned out to be corruption. Corruption is an important issue, which we must address as soon as possible in the next Parliament. We must drive out corruption, or at least drive down the level of corruption to which we contribute, and which inhibits the private-sector investment that is so badly needed.
The White Paper—14,000 copies have been sold, and the Secretary of State gave figures relating to translations and the website—has aroused debate and interest throughout the world. That is a tribute to the Secretary of State's work, and that of the Select Committee, in leading discussions in the international-development world in Europe and elsewhere. I am thinking of the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations development programme, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, all which bodies the Committee has visited during the current Parliament.
The White Paper is a major contribution to discussion on this issue. I trust that it will produce a consensus that will drive the current programme towards maximum success.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on publishing her Department's second White Paper. It is not simply a wish list of noble aims; it constitutes a practical approach to lifting millions out of poverty. I am proud that our Government are setting realistic targets, and leading the push for positive change. If the ambition is to be realised, it will take many years but decisions made now and in the coming months will help to shape a better future for people in developing countries.
It was encouraging to note the consensus among Opposition Members, and their support for the White Paper. I confess, however, that the vast majority of my constituents are hostile to the idea of accepting anything that is said by the Conservative party.
I have a special interest in the debate. Having been born and brought up in Pakistan, I understand the importance of investment in health and education for developing countries. Moreover, I represent the Scottish constituency with the highest ethnic minority population. The vast majority are from Pakistan and Kashmir, but many come from India and Bangladesh.
Interest is heightened when decisions made now will affect constituents with families on the other side of the world. Let us bear in mind the stark figures. A fifth of the global population live in abject poverty: that means that more than 1 billion people exist on the equivalent of less than $1 a day. We live in a world of growing material wealth, yet the outrage of abject poverty persists. Now we have a real chance to end poverty. It is our moral obligation, but it is also in our interest.
The biggest problems facing Scotland and the United Kingdom are fuelled by poverty. I am thinking particularly of the drugs trade, which breaks up families and communities and kills young people in Govan and other parts of Scotland and Britain.
The heroin trail starts in some of the poorest and most underdeveloped parts of Asia. It is very much in our national interest to make globalisation work for the world's poor. When Martin Luther King said around 40 years ago,
Before you finish your breakfast this morning, you will have depended on half the world",
we may have seen his point most clearly in our cereals, coffee, tea and fruit, but it has now taken on greater significance.
Greater movements of people, goods, services, capital and information are bringing every part of the world closer. With every passing day, we are increasingly dependent on people thousands of miles away in our modern world. Globalisation is powered by advances in technology, particularly e-mail and the internet. It is as fast and simple now for someone in Indonesia or Peru to contact me by e-mail as it is for my constituents in Ibrox and Pollokshaws. The costs of international transactions have been reduced and capital is much easier to move. The poorest developing countries must be part of that. We must not allow them to be left on the fringes of progress. Decisions by political leaders throughout the world now and in the immediate future can end poverty.
We must not underestimate the importance of good government. Globalisation will work for people in poverty only where their Governments are effective and responsive to their needs. Where there is conflict and corruption, the people who have the least will always suffer the most. I am pleased that the White Paper makes it clear that reducing world poverty is a goal for all in our Government—for all Departments.
At present, there are great disparities through globalisation. The far east has clearly benefited, while millions in Africa have yet to see any change. Thirty years ago, Korea was poorer than Ghana. Now it is richer than Portugal. Governments of poorer countries must create conditions that help the poorest in their communities to find work or a marketplace for goods that will keep their families. Developing countries must attract foreign investors who can conduct their business safely and with a reasonable return. If not, investment will quickly go elsewhere. That demands a stable legal system that punishes theft and bans bribery and corruption. By the same token, people's human rights and working conditions must he protected.
If a developing country has good government, it will have a better chance of growing economically. We must do everything that we can to encourage decent education and health care, fair law enforcement and proper financial management. It is noticeable that healthy democracies with a free media and open debate about government have the best chance of making globalisation work for the poor in their countries.
Those investing in basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, electricity, transport and telecommunications have a key role in giving poor communities access to global markets. One of the biggest barriers to development is armed conflict and the threat of conflict. India and Pakistan invested vast sums of money developing nuclear capabilities while large sections of their populations lived in abject poverty. Conflict threatens investment, stability and security and hinders any chance of growth. I warmly welcome the White Paper's commitment to increasing international efforts to resolve conflict and regulate the arms trade.
The greatest disparities in wealth are caused by disparities in the availability of education to rich and poor. More than 110 million children of primary school age have never attended school. Moreover, 150 million other children have dropped out of school before attaining basic literacy and numeracy. Education is the quickest way out of poverty. Countries that invest in primary education develop much more quickly, and girls especially benefit from it. Women constitute two thirds of those living in extreme poverty, and I commend my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for giving such priority to providing education and health care for women and girls in poverty.
Better-educated countries attract business investment because of their skilled and flexible work forces. Education makes globalisation work. Nevertheless, there is a danger of what the White Paper describes as a "digital divide". Only one in five people in the world have access to reliable telecommunications, fewer than half of people in Africa have ever used a telephone, and there are more computers in New York city than in the whole of Africa. Ever more international business is conducted by the fast global transfer of information. Such technologies must benefit traditional industries, as is beginning to happen with the development of internet marketing.
Investment in education must be coupled with affordable access to telecommunications. The introductory version of the White Paper provided a good example of how such arrangements can work. People in remote villages in Bangladesh can obtain a loan to purchase a mobile telephone, enabling them to establish a tiny call centre for community use.
Good health care also is needed to lift people out of poverty. More women will die in India during pregnancy this week than will die in Europe this year. Illness can ruin a whole family's livelihood. When one family member becomes sick, another family member often has to care for him or her. At such times, the family may need more money for medicine.
I welcome the decision to hold this debate during save the children week. Children are most at risk from sickness and disease, but they have to be healthy to get the most from any available education. We must act now to provide decent health care for the 600 million children around the world who live in poverty.
Globalisation should enable us to share medical knowledge and make a real difference to the health of the poor. At the most basic level, people must have clean water and sanitation. Every year, diarrhoea ends hundreds of thousands of lives although it could be treated with simple rehydration. However, globalisation also entails increased travel and the spread of more killer diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS; 16,000 new HIV infections every day decimate communities. Zambia lost 1,300 teachers to AIDS in less than one year.
International institutions are badly in need of reform. I congratulate our Ministers on leading the debate on poverty reduction and reaching agreement with bodies such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, those bodies do not provide a strong, clear voice for developing countries. We must make bodies such as the World Trade Organisation fully involve the world's poorest countries and include them as part of an open and fair global economy. International trade rules must change and not simply serve the most powerful interests. The greatest growth in developing countries has consistently been achieved where exports have received the greatest promotion. Such promotion has been most clearly evident in the far east, where poverty has decreased most rapidly.
We must also ensure that the trade rules work for all countries. Britain's largest merchant shipbuilder is in my constituency but it has suffered at the hands of heavily subsidised overseas yards. Recently, Korea has taken the lion's share of world shipbuilding but its yards have undercut competition by building ships at a loss. We need the WTO to work fairly for all countries, including the United Kingdom.
The tide is not always against developing countries. ActionAid is among the many British groups campaigning to stop patents on food crops. This week, the United States patent office threw out 13 of 16 claims by the American company Ricetec seeking patents on basmati rice plants and grain. Farmers in India and Pakistan were appalled by the patents, and there was considerable lobbying and campaigning worldwide to have them struck off. International pressure may have paid off in this case, but crop patents are still a reality under WTO rules.
The world's poor must be heard on this issue through the WTO. I am not advocating flagrant disregard for intellectual property rights. In my constituency, there is an established firm of highly trained intellectual property attorneys, Murgitroyd and Company. I have seen the importance of its work, protecting and enforcing property rights over ideas and inventions. It could operate from anywhere in the world, but chooses to base itself in Glasgow. What I advocate is proper respect for intellectual property. The idea that an American company could claim a patent for basmati rice would be treated as a bad joke in the Punjab if it were not so serious. There is much to do before the WTO shakes off its image as a rich man's club.
There is also much to do to meet our global responsibilities towards the environment. The goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth by 2010 received a major blow when President Bush decided against implementing the Kyoto agreement. I do not envy my right hon. and hon. Friends the job of trying to persuade the Governments of developing countries that we must all act to protect the environment while the United States disregards the agreement with impunity. We must lend support to those in America who continue to press their President to take action to protect the world's environment and future.
The best chance of progress comes when people are organised in their demand for change. In Britain, that has been seen in the successful Jubilee 2000 campaign to end crippling debt, leading to substantial commitments to cut the burden on heavily indebted countries. Most recently, in my constituency, Queen's Park and Pollokshields church members have written to me expressing fears over ethnic conflict in Indonesia between Muslims and Christians driving more people into abject poverty.
There has also been a successful postcard campaign by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund calling for global trade to work in the interests of the poor. Hundreds of constituents have expressed their personal commitment to the issue, focusing the minds of Scottish Members on the White Paper. There is a broad alliance of Church and faith groups, charities and campaigning organisations, amounting to a huge 3 million people throughout Britain, demanding policies that will meet the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
There is also pressure to provide more funding for development, rising to 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product, and to allocate more of our aid to the lowest-income countries. I welcome the Labour Government's strong commitment to the issues outlined in the White Paper. While such a movement can influence Government policy in Britain, we see a need for similar action by civil society in developing countries. Their Governments are more likely to address the needs of the poor if their own people demand that they do so.
I welcome the assertion in the White Paper that globalisation can work for the world's poorest people. It is a great challenge for developing countries, and for our country, but we now have the framework for success and can look forward to ending abject poverty for millions.
I warmly welcome this debate and thank the Department for International Development for its two very fine White Papers. In one sense, this debate is poorly timed, coming, as it does, at the end of the Parliament—we are all rather frustrated that it did not come earlier—but in another it is well timed, because the May day demonstration on Tuesday should have highlighted to the rest of the country and of the world what we in this Chamber are about. Unfortunately, the media seemed to be searching for a riot. Every time I turned on the television, the media were waiting for a riot to develop, but it never came.
I have a suggestion for the demonstrators and the police. We could save all the money and spend it on development causes if the demonstrators and the police would each nominate a small group. The two groups could then execute a modern morris dance in Trafalgar square, with wooden planks, instead of staves, and riot helmets. That would be a token demonstration of the protesters' point, because we all know that they have a valid one. It has not been said often enough this afternoon that globalisation is exploiting poor people and the environment, and trying to make us all the same the world over—all eating burgers, wielding mobile phones and drinking coke.
In an editorial, The Times mentioned a banner waved by the demonstrators that said, "Replace capitalism with something nice". I asked myself whether communism was nice. It was tried, and it did not last because the people who lived under it did not think that it was nice. Is the primitive life style nice? The Victorians spoke of noble savages, living in their wonderful villages and engaging in subsistence farming to try to stay alive. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Paddy Ashdown) mentioned Gladstone's hill villages of Afghanistan in a debate last week. If anyone is interested in globalisation and needs inspiration, I refer them to my right hon. Friend's speech. I am only sorry that the official Opposition missed it, because it was an extraordinarily good speech—
It has been handed round to them. I have visited villages in India and Bangladesh and across sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Sudan, people want peace more than anything, but they do not see their previous life style of crop growing and cattle grazing as especially nice. It was grinding slavery just to keep alive. In all the places I have mentioned, globalisation of communication has occurred; people know now what our capitalist life style is like, and they think it is much nicer than theirs. The villagers of India and Bangladesh want their fridges and cars. The people of southern Sudan would accept decent housing and a few roads for a start. To them, capitalism looks nice, and they do not want it replaced by anything else until they have sampled it.
I have tried to point out to people terrible working conditions, including the use of child and slave labour, filth and disease in the workplace, and the destruction of the environment by mineral extraction and the cutting down of forests, but they ask me, "Who are you to criticise us? Sorry, British people, but your country became rich in the 19th century on the backs of the poor at home and abroad."
I originally hale from the black country and if I had enough time I would read out passages from J. B. Priestley's "English Journey", which describes that area, just before our lifetimes, as a hell hole.
With that encouragement, I will. Priestley said:
There was the Black Country unrolled before you like a smouldering carpet. You looked into a hollow of smoke and blurred buildings and factory chimneys. There seemed to be no end to it.
I could easily believe that there were no people down there.
He spoke of the area's
iron face lit with hell fire.
I remember from my childhood the hell fire of the blast furnaces when they opened at night. Priestley wrote of yards
filled with rusted metal and great patches of waste ground, shocking as raw sores and open wounds.
That is very familiar to me. We did that here, so who are we to criticise people abroad who want to get rich?
The hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) accused Tuesday's demonstrators of mindless chanting, but they are right to be worried about globalisation and the activities of the multinationals. Those activities often benefit people in this country, and a few people in the developing countries who are already rich, but no benefit accrues to the poor in those countries.
The multinationals, of course, disagree. They produce wonderful, glossy brochures extolling their own virtues. They say that they would not dream of disobeying OECD guidelines on the environment and labour standards. However, NGOs and representatives from countries all over the developing world frequently tell me stories of exploitation and destruction allegedly carried out by British companies.
Sometimes it is worth naming names, and this debate is one such occasion. I shall use the word "allegedly", even though I am in the House of Commons. Weir Pumps and Rolls-Royce are accused of contributing indirectly to the terrible civil war in southern Sudan, where people were killed, abducted, enslaved and murdered. BP is claimed to have been involved with paramilitary organisations to protect its oil interests in Colombia. Shell's involvement in Nigeria is legendary, as is Nestlé's promotion of baby formula in Africa and India.
Chocolate manufacturers everywhere—Cadbury, Nestlé, and Thornton—are alleged to have used child slave labour. Rio Tinto's exploits in south-east Asia offer numerous examples of bad practice. Other stories circulate about Balfour Beatty's involvement in the Ilisu dam project. Supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's are alleged to use third-world countries to grow foods and flowers for the western market.
The list goes on, but I stress that these are allegations. The multinationals tell a different story. I have mentioned their brochures, which describe their aims and their missions to educate and treat the sick as part of their projects. Members of the Select Committee on International Development have seen those projects. I recall the model clothes factory in Bangladesh making clothes for Gap. In that factory, the Department for International Development was providing health care for the women. We were troubled about that at the time, but good practice does exist.
I am sure that the Select Committee was shown the best examples, but hon. Members are not easily fooled and we know that that was not the whole truth, unfortunately. Local managers in developing countries cut costs to attract more multinational investment, and they will do so by exploiting people and the environment. Because OECD guidelines and WTO regulations are not legally binding, the multinationals will continue to turn a blind eye for the sake of profits for their shareholders.
I am not saying that there are not some multinationals that exploit, especially in the mining and extraction sector, but the standard of jobs offered by multinationals in agricultural sourcing and textile production, for instance, in developing countries across the world is greater than what is otherwise available in those countries. We want improvement, but those people need investment. A million young women in Dhaka work in the textile industry who previously lived in rural areas and had no income. It must not be suggested that such investments do not bring benefits, because they do.
The Secretary of State must not think that I am condemning all multinational companies, but NGOs and others constantly report examples of multinationals not following good practice, and of people being exploited.
I remember a wonderful film on television called "Mangetout"—everyone must have seen it. People in Zimbabwe—or perhaps it was Tanzania—went up and down the mangetout plantations singing something like, "Up the hillsides, down the valleys, Tesco is our greatest friend." They sang that little song as they picked the mangetouts. They were happy and well cared for; it was a good project. I am not suggesting that all is bad.
What can we do about the deficiencies that used to exist in our country and now exist in other parts of the world in the name of economic growth? How effective are we in our own policies? As the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) asked, how joined-up is our policy? We have no criticism of the Department for International Development. It has made tremendous strides and produced two White Papers. There have been other positive steps such as the cross-departmental initiative to combat conflict in Africa. That is excellent stuff. The export credit guarantee review is being carried out, and efforts on debt relief are being made with the co-operation of the Chancellor. Again, that is all wonderful stuff. A draft export controls Bill will be introduced in the next Parliament. I welcome greatly the pre-Budget support for the vaccines for TB, malaria and AIDS. However, the co-operation of other Departments, which is so essential, seems to be lacking.
The Department for International Development did not sign the annual report on human rights this year, having done so for the past two years. It is not a permanent member of the Cabinet Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy. I think that it should be—after all, as DFID cleans up all the mess, the Secretary of State should be a member of that Cabinet Committee.
I think that the hon. Lady was a member of the Select Committee when that recommendation was made. Since the conflict in Africa cross-departmental review was set up, which I chair, I am now a full member of that Committee. That is not so important for me, because I used to attend; it is more important that the Department is recognised.
That is excellent news. However, I note that the Secretary of State still does not sign the annual report on strategic arms exports, which is a significant factor in poverty in the developing world.
The Department for International Development supports ethical trading and ethical foreign policy, but I sometimes wonder whether the Department of Trade and Industry does. We certainly worry about whether the Foreign Office does any longer. There was confusion a few weeks ago about arms to Morocco. The Foreign Office said in a written answer that it had not supported the arms going to Morocco, but that the DTI decided such matters. So the buck was passed to the DTI. We need more joined-up Government, even though progress has been made. We certainly need more progress on the aid budget and on alleviating debt.
Incidentally, I think that development will be set back hugely if the Government support the United States on national missile defence. The world could not sustain another arms race; it would be anti-development.
The WTO is, in theory, one of the most democratic global institutions, and it must be made to work. However, it is in need of reform. A significant co-ordinated effort is needed to ensure that developing countries establish the administrative capacity to be able to participate in WTO proceedings. I understand that 38 of the world's poorest countries are unable to send representatives to the 50 or so meetings held in Geneva. If we are to encourage good governance and good world trade, it is important that they should be encouraged to attend those meetings and given the expertise that they require. WTO dispute settlement proceedings must be made more transparent and must be resolved more quickly. I think that the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford would agree with that.
That surely means that the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF must somehow be brought under the umbrella of the United Nations. There must be world regulation of those things. It can work; it has already happened—for instance, global certification for conflict diamonds is under discussion and is being agreed by 159 countries. That is surely proof that such worldwide systems are possible. We must work towards them.
I shall not say much about HIV/AIDS—as hon. Members know, in my view, that is probably the biggest problem facing the world at present. If we do not do more about HIV/AIDS, it will stop development—it will engulf the world. It is not a problem only for developing countries, but for all of us.
As I said in a debate on HIV/AIDS held at the beginning of this week, among the earliest examples of globalisation were the Christian and Catholic Churches. If only the Vatican would promote the use of condoms in developing countries—really go for it, make it public and produce a big statement on the subject—that would help so much in what is really the only defence of the developing world against HIV/AIDS at present. I hasten to add that that would be a pro-life measure, not anti-life. I hope that the Special Assembly of the United Nations in June will command the attention of the world's media. It must do so, because as I said, this is a global emergency.
In conclusion, we need global monitoring and global legislation to tackle globalisation so that it will be a force for good for all the people in the world. Without concerted international and domestic cross-departmental action, without moving from declaration to implementation and tackling those problems, the 2015 development targets and the noble aims of DFID will be irrelevant.
Order. Before I call the next speaker, I point out to the House that several right hon. and hon. Members are trying to catch my eye and that, unless contributions are considerably shorter, a number of them will be disappointed.
Out of respect for my colleagues on both sides of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall attempt to follow your advice and cut my remarks short.
The globalisation White Paper just about gets it right: as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development says—rather than in the words attributed to her—she is not pro-globalisation, but pro managed globalisation that serves the needs of the poorest people in the world. We have resources that must be used for the poor.
My right hon. Friend and I agree, above all, that that means getting our ideas right. We have to conceptualise the problems in the right way. I have four brief examples of that. The first relates to the way in which we think about HIV/AIDS. A recent judgment in the Pretoria high court was greeted with triumph; it was seen as a wonderful achievement—as indeed it was. However, in a sense, that triumph was one for the drug companies, because it means that we think about HIV/AIDS almost exclusively in terms of finding drugs for it. That is wrong.
No matter how cheap those drugs are in South Africa, only a tiny number of people will benefit from them. What matters is that we stop AIDS and prevent people from catching it—not that we manage death better, but that we keep people alive by stopping them catching that appalling disease.
When I looked into the subject, my immediate thought was that the drugs companies would make more money from managing death than from saving life through anti-retrovirals. There would be less money to be made from a vaccine and even less from microbicides. The World Bank estimates that $2 billion is being spent annually, world wide, on treatment research, for example, on anti-retrovirals—primarily by the private sector. It is estimated that the total research on a vaccine was not $2 billion, but $300 million, and private research accounted for less than half that sum. Public money is being spent on a vaccine, but only a little bit of private money. In 1999, the sum spent on microbicides to protect women was about $35 million, of which $3 million came from the private sector.
We have a very clear picture and if those figures are correct, the private sector spends $7 or $8 on managing the disease for every $1 it invests in research on finding a cure or preventing it. Virtually nothing is spent on microbicides to protect women who are reliant on men. That is not a sensible policy. The challenge for us is to find out how to structure the fight against AIDS—where to spend the money and on which basic services—but we must somehow get the research right.
Another way to structure ideas is in terms of manpower and the mobility of labour. As the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) has suggested, we tend to think of ourselves as a given in such matters. We use the language of aid, but I think that we should ban the word "aid"; it is damaging because it implies that we are the good guys. I suspect that an audit of whether we gain from the developing world or give to it in terms of labour would show that we are the gainers—certainly the United States is. It is unbelievable that a country such as India, which has to struggle to find resources to train its doctors, IT workers and scientists, finds that it has used its own scarce resources to help the United States, and we must audit those exchanges.
We must consider another inhibitor of development. When we studied corruption, I started by thinking that it was about good governance in the developing world and that the developing countries were exploiting the poor with their appalling practices. They are, but by the end of that piece of work, I became convinced that the problem lies here.
Let me cite some unfair figures. According to last year's annual report, we put about £14.9 million of bilateral aid into Nigeria. However, the Nigerian Government are trying to trace £4 billion that the Abacha regime took out of Nigeria and invested in the western world. So for every £1 that we put into Nigeria, one Nigerian family took out £200 and invested it in the west, and it is not the only family in Nigeria and that happens not just in Nigeria.
Let us consider what has happened in Russia. We used to have know-how funds for Russia—perhaps we still have them—but I think that those funds should come this way because enormous rackets have been involved in placing Russian money in this and other countries. If we are to promote development, we must be a bit sharper than the Home Office, the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury in closing down money laundering in this country and elsewhere. That would be in our own good and in everyone else's.
Next, I turn to the way in which we consider trade. I am amazed when people demonstrate against the World Trade Organisation. It is amazing that one of the few agencies for bringing trade under control should become a bogey figure. We have to consider multinationals such as Cargill. People in this Chamber have never heard of it, yet it is the world's largest agricultural company and private firm. It has huge control over every stage of food production: from the supply of seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides right through the food chain to shipping and transportation. Its interest is not in ending poverty. When it offers miracle seeds to the developing world, it is interested in making profits and dominating the market. If, as a consequence of that, it reduces poverty, that is a useful by-product. However, its by-product is more likely to be depleted land, which is likely to be dependent on Cargill fertilisers and pesticides, the elimination of small, self-sufficient farmers and the destruction of the biodiversity of the area. That must be stopped on behalf of the poorer people of the world. We should work with the poorer countries in the WTO to bring democratic control to the world's marketplaces, not campaign on the streets against one of the only mechanisms that we have for controlling multinationals.
I have tried in my speech to say how futile it is to protest against globalisation. People are right to say that this is an area of major concern. I have tried briefly to look at four areas: AIDS, the mobility of labour, money laundering and trade. It is important for the Secretary of State and all of us who remain here to get our questions right about how we manage globalisation. If we accept the questions as they represented to us, we are in danger of intensifying rather than curing poverty.
The Secretary of State is right to point out the impact that her globalisation White Paper is having throughout the world. DFID has been useful in getting a focus in this place for crucial ideas on subjects such as AIDS, corruption and trade. We have not had such a focus here before. The existence of DFID has enabled us to do that.
I start from the Christian position, which is that every human being is of equal value in God's eyes. We do not always live as if we believe that, but it is the Christian position and it drives us to have a responsibility for those less fortunate than ourselves. That responsibility carries a cost. In my view, the developed nations of the world have been playing at helping the poor of the world. Their bottom line is: how cheaply can we do this job? Can we invest a small enough percentage of our wealth so that our electors will not notice?
Let me give the House some figures. If someone in the United Kingdom earns the minimum wage, which from next October is to be set at £4.10 an hour, and works a 35-hour week for 48 weeks, he or she will earn £6,888. That is little enough. Goodness knows, I could not live on it. The present percentage spent on development is 0.3 per cent., which is just under £21. More important, 0.3 per cent. of a Member of Parliament's pay of almost £51,000 per annum is £150. I have no idea how my colleagues spend their money, but when I look at the price of a restaurant meal or an opera ticket, it makes me realise how small a proportion of the UK's national income we are prepared to devote to the poor of the world. We can and should do more. We should engage our population in the debate and stop pretending that we can look generous without cost to ourselves.
Secondly, we need to practise what we preach about empowering the poor. In Government agencies and NGOs there remains a culture of patronising the less well educated and the poor, and it is time that that stopped. Part of the problem stems from the understandable desire among aid agencies to protect their own way of life, their career prospects and sense of self-esteem, but few attitudes do more to perpetuate a culture of dependency or to fuel a sense of helpless envy and resentment.
Let me tell the House a true story. I know a black African who has considerable experience of development work in a number of different settings. He tells me that he was once asked to go to Ethiopia as a consultant. At meetings with white-led NGOs, he was treated with patronising condescension. As he said, that treatment would have been inexcusable if he had been, as they assumed, one of the Ethiopians whom the project was designed to help, but as he was a professional consultant, it was even less tolerable.
The Secretary of State has on many occasions made welcome and trenchant remarks about the contrast in overseas projects between the glossy new Land Rovers that are deemed to be indispensable to the aid workers and the inability to provide the local health workers with the bicycles that would allow them to be more effective. I sometimes think that too much development assistance is like that. A much greater proportion of our assistance budget should be ploughed into enabling local people to find the resources to enable them to take the skills that they have learned to other parts of their own country, and successful projects in one country should share their experience with other countries. Too little use is still made of the information revolution, and too much of the travelling to spread good practice in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa, is undertaken by white professionals.
One of the advantages of globalisation should be that it makes it much easier for development to be taken forward on the basis of south-to-south information exchange. I also look forward to much greater use being made in this country, where community development is mostly at a very primitive stage of evolution, of consultants from Africa, South America or other parts of the globe where community development has been carried to a much more sophisticated level. That implies, of course, that in coming years the huge development industry that has grown up since the end of the second world war will become increasingly controlled by organisations in the developing countries themselves and that the expatriate industry will shrink. That change will not be welcome to the international NGOs, which will resist it, however much their rhetoric claims the reverse.
That brings me to the-issue that I raised in Westminster Hall earlier this year: the accountability of NGOs. I am glad that some of the bigger international NGOs are addressing that matter in a joint working group and I look forward to seeing the results of their endeavours. However, the fact remains that international development is an arena in which public compassion can be manipulated to secure funding for organisations whose agendas may be idiosyncratic and whose standards of work may be below what should be acceptable. If NGOs are to continue to play such a key role in the global development strategy, they need to subscribe to a code of conduct and to inspection.
In passing, it is worth noting that one possible benefit of globalisation could be that it makes the pooling of expertise and resources across some of the great international organisations such as the Christian Church easier to achieve. I understand that the budget of the worldwide Christian Church is three times as great as that of the United Nations Children's Fund, but, in terms both of standards and global reach, its contribution does not match that huge potential. Globalisation could help to change that.
Before my hon. Friend moves on from that point, will he confirm that although rationalisation, mergers, acquisitions and pooling of resources have occurred in almost every other sector, they rarely—if ever—happen in the NGO community? Will he say a word about that?
I could not agree more, but I think that the establishment of competitive organisations that must risk public compassion fatigue in order to obtain funds is a mistake.
I turn now to other aspects of globalisation. I should like to deal first with its impact on national sovereignties. When the United Nations was established, it was taken for granted that it could proceed only on the basis of the nation state. That remains the position and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future, but we should not ignore the considerable change that globalisation is bringing to the world in that regard.
The most obvious sign is the emergence of the great trading blocks. Few nations believe that they can continue to stand aside from membership of a trading area, although I realise that some of my hon. Friends believe that we should do so. As we all know, such membership carries rules that circumscribe the freedom of action of national Governments. This process will continue and accelerate, and there will come a time when the nation state is no longer seen as the best guarantor of liberty and prosperity.
The emergence of international criminal courts and many other institutional innovations are heralds of that change. It will be important to ensure that whatever takes the place of the nation state protects the interests of the poor. For example, that is why it is of cardinal importance that poor nations should be resourced to play a full and well-informed part in negotiations that involve international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation. It is no use the rich countries claiming that they are keen to help the poor and then skewing the international instruments of world trade in their own favour, either by accident or design.
As an element of the interaction between sovereignty and globalisation, the future of cultural diversity will be a key area of debate. For example, it is already clear that, in many countries and in many religious communities, practices have evolved over the centuries which are regarded by their practitioners as inalienable elements of their cultural identity. Yet in the modern globalised world, many of those practices are no longer regarded as acceptable. An extreme example of that is the fact that the Taliban's insistence that girls should not receive a modern education is almost universally condemned.
One of the defining moments of the new globalisation was the Beijing conference, at which almost every country on earth signed up to treating women in a way that flies in the face of many of the practices glorified with the name of culture and carried out in many places on earth.
In the United Kingdom, the practice of some immigrant families of coercing their daughters into marrying a man from their former home so as to preserve their traditional culture is repudiated both by the girls and by the vast majority of British citizens. Of course, those who cling to such practices are quick to cry "Racism" when they are rebuked, but it is vital for the world's health that we have a grown-up debate about such issues and are not paralysed by the fear of being automatically and wrongly branded as racist.
The mother tongue is another such global issue. The advantages to the world of having a lingua franca in which to transact business and international relations are clear, but there is are powerful arguments in the other direction about the advantages of diversity and the damage done to a people's diversity if their language is ignored.
Britain has enjoyed a huge advantage in speaking English, not least because it is the language of the most powerful and richest nation on earth, but that advantage is eroding fast. Already, English no longer commands more than half the internet transactions in the world. When China and India achieve internet access on the scale already enjoyed here, the position will change again.
In the USA, Spanish is growing faster than any other language. Unless we are to trust to technology to provide cheap, instantaneous translation, we shall need to have an international debate on this issue also. It matters to the poor because there is no doubt that many poor people will not be able to enjoy anything like equal opportunities if they are not taught in a language that commands international understanding, yet it is precisely the poor who need to have their cultural identity protected.
I am astonished at how little use is made of parliamentarians in international discourse. We can and must do better. For example, in the EU the scandal of the incompetent aid budget needs parliamentary attention at every level. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) instituted a meeting of the Chairs of International Development Committees. That is a start, but we should also be having regular dialogue with our opposite numbers in our fellow European Parliaments.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union should be taking a lead. There is no reason why international development should not feature much more prominently on their agendas. For example, there is no reason why parliamentary pressure should not be being applied in every country on a co-ordinated basis to encourage companies to assist their work forces to resist the ravages of AIDS or to deal with corruption, yet we do not do it.
In passing, I must confess to utter astonishment that when I asked the DFID if there were any opportunities for me to help with development education—on a part-time, voluntary, or even paid basis—once I had retired, it could think of only one, and that in two years' time. I do not suggest that I would be very good at it, but after four years on the International Development Committee, there might be an audience somewhere sufficiently ignorant to learn something even from me.
The global challenge of poverty is, above all, the challenge of children. Not all countries are like Cambodia, with 46 per cent. of their people under 15, but in Brazil, the Philippines, India and many other countries, the population is disproportionately young. If those children have no worthwhile education, no job and nowhere to live, they will steal, fight and emigrate, and we shall rue the day.
If we cannot hope to make globalisation work for the poor at nil or almost nil initial cost to ourselves, it will eventually cost us serious money. If we do not commit the resources, we shall fail the biggest moral test of the century. Moreover, we shall find ourselves paying out far more a little down the track as we try to contain global instability, global disease, global movements of population and, no doubt, a growing disenchantment with global capitalism and global democracy.
It is good to have an opportunity to debate the White Paper, especially as the previous international development White Paper was not discussed on the Floor of the House. I am especially pleased to take part in the debate because international development is one of the most important issues in my constituency. In Reading, East, only banning hunting has generated more letters. I do not know whether that is unusual. That interest was highlighted when the previous Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), visited Reading last autumn. We had one of the best—and best attended—public meetings for some time.
Each July, music, arts and food from around the world can be experienced in Reading at the famous world of music, arts and dance—WOMAD—festival. There is a standing invitation to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to join me and the world on the banks of Thames this July.
Reading's interest in the world is reflected in its many active voluntary groups, which campaign and work on international issues. I am pleased to have visited many of them in the four years that I have been a Member of Parliament. My views are informed by visits to such groups, including those of Reading Oxfam, Amnesty International and the World Development Movement. Two constituents in particular, John and Jackie Oversby, keep me informed about international development issues almost weekly. The people whom I have contacted have been delighted with the Government's and the Department's achievements so far, especially the leadership that we have shown on debt relief. However, they have anxieties about some other matters, which I shall outline shortly.
We should consider the White Paper against a background of positive progress on international development issues. Development assistance is 0.31 per cent. of gross domestic product and is moving back up to the target of 0.7 per cent. The previous Labour Government achieved 0.5 per cent., but the previous Conservative Government almost halved that figure, which dipped to 0.26 per cent. in 1997. We all welcome ending the practice of tying aid to trade.
The impact of economic growth on poverty is shown in the change in the number of poor people who live on a dollar a day. In east Asia and the Pacific, it fell from 452 million in 1990 to 257 million in 1998. It is expected to fall much further and that decline is most welcome. However, I am worried that the pattern has not been repeated elsewhere. Other hon. Members have also drawn attention to that. The average per capita income in African countries has fallen by more than half in relative terms since 1965. Not so many decades ago, many African countries were among the richer countries; that is no longer the case.
Reports from the World Bank show that the world is dividing into those who benefit from globalisation and those who do not. I should like to know the Department's plans for assessments to identify the impact of growth, trade and investment on poverty. I know that the Department has given some consideration to the problem of the increasing inequality in and between regions. Globalisation seems to have exacerbated those problems, and I am especially keen to know what thought has been given to them.
Growth offers a great chance to lift people out of poverty, and we need to ensure that everyone benefits from it. However, conflict is a great generator of poverty and inhibitor of growth. For example, Sudan has been in conflict for decades. The presence of oil reserves literally fuels the conflict.
Two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Bangladesh with Population Concern, and I witnessed the difference in affluence that can occur in regions. In Bangladesh, a woman in the wealthiest fifth of the population is 16 times as likely to have trained assistance in child birth as a woman in the poorest fifth.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to assure me that the question of institutional reform will be addressed when we look at development assistance. European Union institutions have been far too slow in disbursing their funds. The Committee referred recently to the slow release of funds which meant that, for example, a director of an NGO working in Pakistan had to take out a personal loan to prevent a project from foundering because of the slow release of funds. That is unacceptable; we must have a payment code for the EU.
We must find ways to encourage the use of unspent funds—funds that are unspent because, for example, the conditions for disbursement are not there, as in Sudan. We must encourage the use of those funds, which may be just sitting in accounts, to benefit highly indebted poor countries.
Does my right hon. Friend support the World Wide Fund for Nature's call for land tenure reform to minimise poverty? There are suggestions about that subject in the White Paper. The WWF has also highlighted the devastating reduction in species diversity in many countries, which has been exacerbated by conflict and by unsustainable over-consumption by impoverished populations who have little choice in the matter. Does she agree that reduction in species diversity is a time bomb that could destroy the future of stable food supplies for the world's poor?
In my constituency, we have the BBC monitoring service at Caversham Park, where we listen to and, I hope, help to inform the entire world. I thank the House for listening to me and I thoroughly welcome the White Paper. I invite my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to visit my constituency, where she will be assured of a warm welcome and a listening ear.
This is a very important debate on a vital issue, and it is a wake-up call. If we in the west do not take more interest at the highest political level, we will reap the whirlwind in the next century.
I have been reading a lot about the Spanish civil war and I have been struck by the divisions in European society in the early part of the previous century and by the huge cruelty engendered by civil wars within Europe as a result of grotesque inequalities of opportunity and wealth. In Europe, we have created a real consensus—there has also been a consensus in the debate—based on the belief that we should allow free enterprise to flourish and have effective social security, health and education systems for everybody. As we have been so successful, we have created far calmer societies where the enormous hatreds that spawned fascism, communism and civil wars have declined.
It is often said that the public are disillusioned with politics, but part of that disillusionment is because we are so successful. But while we have been successful within our own societies, the general political system has overlooked the massive divide between the developed and the developing world. If we do not take action soon, we could face enormous conflict throughout the next century.
Everybody here takes a great interest in the subject, and I do not need to remind the House of the enormous well of misery and despair; 1 billion people live on a dollar a day and 5,000 Africans have died from AIDS over the past few days. These facts are familiar to us.
Despite the tremendous consensus among those on the Front Benches, how much interest in the issue is there outside? We have had a splendid speech from the Secretary of State, but a lot of her natural supporters are falling away from her and support many of the sentiments expressed by the anti-globalisation activists. I am not referring to the rioters, whom only a tiny minority would support. There is no point in Members on both sides of the Chamber agreeing if support is being lost outside, so I am speaking to alert people of a conservative disposition—a right-wing disposition, even—to the fact that we have to handle the issue correctly.
Many people who share my prejudices and political instincts are worried about asylum seekers. We can have all the controls in the world—indeed, we can do whatever we like—but nature abhors a vacuum. If there are huge inequalities of wealth, the strength of a system does not matter, because no matter how many times people are thrown out of a country, they will come back again, and can we blame them? Many people of my disposition care passionately about defence, but we shall have to spend a lot more on it in the next century if we do not take the issue of inequality seriously.
I want to alert conservative-minded people so that they wake up to their responsibilities. It is easy for us to lecture people about paying more tax and my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) showed just how derisory is our contribution to development—0.3 per cent. of gross national product. However, will any of us tell our electorate in the next three weeks, "We're spending too much on the national health service and the pupil:teacher ratio"? No, we will not. Will we tell people that we will increase taxation? No, we will not. That is the reality of the situation.
We face an appalling dilemma, which has a moral aspect. From a Christian or any other perspective, how can we allow such a large proportion of the world to live in such abject poverty? Those who are not interested in morals should be interested in the threat to freedom, the defence threat or any other threat posed by allowing people to live in such dire poverty. However, none of us has the moral courage to ask our electorate to pay more tax.
I do not know what the solution is, but I must deal with three points, the first of which I made during interventions: there is a lot of scope for encouraging charitable giving. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) began the process with gift aid and I pay tribute to the Chancellor, who has widened its scope considerably, but we must ask ourselves why American society is so much more generous.
Charitable donations come off the tax bill of American citizens, which is a tremendous incentive, so they can say, "I do not believe in a lot of what the Government do, but if I give to charities I can decide which good causes my money goes to."
That is important. Americans are generous individually, but America is very mean in its contributions to international development. The richest country in the world is also the meanest, as it contributes only 0.1 per cent. of gross national product, so we do not want to imitate that. Charitable giving by individuals is good, but Governments must fulfil certain obligations, because some things only Governments can do.
Of course, I accept that and I am not suggesting for a moment that Governments are not important. I want contributions to increase towards the level recommended by the United Nations, but I am trying to be realistic about how quickly we can convince our electorate that we can deal with the problem through taxation. We can learn from the United States model; it encourages charitable giving and we should consider it. Furthermore, the Government have made progress on payroll giving.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) put the second point again and again, and it is an important one. This country leapt forward when it introduced good governance, whereby it began to pay judges and civil servants properly and started to root out corruption. That is achievable today elsewhere, and if we divert more resources in that direction, we will do much.
The third point is set out in the White Paper in the excellent chapter 4, which is entitled "Harnessing Private Finance". I refer hon. Members to paragraph 159 on page 51, which states:
Domestic tax policy is crucial. In recent years, many developing countries have offered investment subsidies, including tax incentives, to attract transnational firms. Such subsidies are intended to generate new employment. But in practice they often fail to alter the investment decisions of firms … The experience of Uganda and other countries suggests that simplification of a country's tax regime may be a more effective way to encourage companies to invest.
Those three measures—harnessing private finance, encouraging charitable giving and promoting good governance—are the means by which we can take forward this debate. If we do not do so, we could be in serious trouble. This is the most important issue facing this Parliament. It could unite right and left, and I hope that this debate will help that process.
There has been a lot of talk about consensus from the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) and others. I suspect that part of the consensus in the Chamber is due to the fact that there is a great deal of admiration felt between the Select Committee and the Department for International Development, and that they often see eye to eye. Indeed, the Select Committee agreed on 32 items out of 42 in one departmental report. The consensus goes beyond that in many respects, but I suspect that there is no overriding consensus. This could be a bit like those Venn diagrams that interlink: the area in the middle represents the part where everyone agrees. To a great extent, that is the area that we have been discussing. However, the contents of the other areas of that diagram might enliven our understanding.
I am not going to cause discontent by discussing the issues on which I have a difference of opinion. I want to use this opportunity to concentrate on one item, although I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the House will not think that I am just a single-issue campaigner with no other ideas, or that I do not want to link my remarks to a wider analysis of the subject.
Paragraph 36 of the report that the International Development Committee recently produced on the globalisation White Paper referred to the Tobin tax. It pointed out that a number of submissions had been made
about a tax relating to international currency speculation, and that the Secretary of State had been attracted to the idea but was
not optimistic about it being implemented in the near future.
The report also stated that the Secretary of State had promised to forward to the Select Committee a note on the Government's policy on the Tobin tax. I do not know whether that has been made available yet, as the report came out only recently. The note has certainly not yet been produced by the Select Committee, so perhaps it is still on its way. I would be interested to see it. I am not arguing that investigating the case for the Tobin tax—or even producing such a measure, in the end—would be a panacea for all the problems that we have discussed today. However, it would be a significant advance.
International currency speculation involves exchanges of money worth up to $1.5 trillion a day, mainly unrelated to trade in real goods and services. Instead, it involves the advantage to be gained from trading in other people's currencies. Many of the problems of disruption in the third world have often been associated with earlier occurrences of currency speculation. In fact, the economic causes of the break-up of Yugoslavia should also be examined in terms of its then currency problems. Such problems can create social disruption and allow people with extremist ideas to find a ready market for their particular approach.
Those speculative currency flows undermine the powers of national Governments and regional blocs, and create massive instability. Tobin suggested that a small levy of 0.25 per cent. on those speculative transactions would dampen down the scale and scope of speculation, and raise a substantial revenue of $250 billion a year. Those revenues could be used for the very purposes that we have discussed today: they could be devoted to health care, environmental protection and other forms of development. I suppose that this is a bit like the tax on smoking: the tax does not end smoking, but it raises revenue. As long as globalisation produces the gains that it is currently producing—for that is the reality—there will clearly be a huge opportunity for the raising of funds.
The levy would have to be universal, or nearly universal, and safeguards would be required to minimise diversion. At present the proposal is backed by the Canadian Parliament, the Belgian. Parliament, the Finnish Government, the Indian Prime Minister and the Swedish deputy Prime Minister, as well as George Soros. The campaign in this country is led by War on Want, and 144 Members of Parliament—on a cross-party basis—have signed an early-day motion supporting the measure.
I should like the Government to take the lead on the Tobin tax in the way they took the lead on debt relief. That strategy is not operating fully yet, but we played a large role in connection with it. We have led the argument internationally, and have made some distinct achievements.
The Secretary of State's responses to the Select Committee suggest that the Department for International Development is rather more sympathetic to the issue that we are discussing than the Treasury. Perhaps it is just as well that I am now pushing at a half-open door. One of the Treasury's many objections is that speculation would go offshore, and that evasion would result from the refusal of certain areas to agree to provisions that might operate in some major dealing countries.
About 12 countries could be linked with the proposal, which might tie down a great deal of world development. It would limit scope for evasion, and onshore organisations could be registered so that guarantee payments were legally protected. Electronic processes relating to trade would make the taxing of currency transactions relatively easy to administer, and would reduce the possibilities of tax evasion. Stock exchanges themselves could refuse to trade or quote with those dealers or rogue areas.
The Treasury has produced another set of objections, which were presented to me following a meeting during which, along with the director of War on Want and others, I visited the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. It was suggested that four of our proposals were already being dealt with, which, in my view, did not rule out the principles involved in the Tobin tax.
Alternatives were offered. The Government emphasised the existence of codes and standards which could deliver transparency and accountability, and which covered fiscal policy, financial and monetary policy, corporate governance, best practice for financial institutions and the surveillance machinery that should be associated with that, on an international scale. If the Government can advocate such policies, there is surely no reason why they should not accept our argument about the Tobin tax.
The Government propose bringing together the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and key regulatory authorities in a financial stability forum, which would tackle many problems relating to instability in world markets. They have stressed two points that are very third way and new Labour: partnership needs to exist between the public and private sectors on an international scale and there needs to be agreement with the G7. I might not be into the mixed economy or an advocate of it, but I am realistic enough to realise that we must operate in the world as we find it, rather than as we would like to find it, although sometimes, as well as making concessions to reality, we should mention what we are after.
The Government have also said that new social principles should come to the fore of the work of the World Bank and the United Nations. That is equivalent to the principles on freedom of the market and social justice which are also advocated by the third way. They are now projected on an international scale.
Those principles are relevant to the argument about the Tobin tax. We are approaching a general election. I believe that those parties that agreed to advocate that measure would win enthusiastic support. I note that what we consider to be our sister party in Northern Ireland, the Social Democratic and Labour party, has adopted the Tobin tax provisions.
I ask the Secretary of State to explain the situation in the UN. Kofi Annan helped to set up a panel to investigate the Tobin tax, but it is beginning to look as if it has been pushed to one side. Some of us believe that the decision that the panel will make on that tax is not that which we feel that it should adopt.
I appeal to the Government to take the matter on board. They cannot produce a tax on international currency speculation by themselves; it must be a matter of massive international agreement. The Secretary of State said that it might be something for our grandchildren to consider. I realise that it will not be introduced tomorrow, but I hope that we may make progress on it in my lifetime. The Government are in an ideal position to get it up and running because of their achievements in international development, so I hope that the matter will be taken on board and seriously considered.
It is a privilege to contribute to this interesting debate. I have been an hon. Member for four years and I think that it has been one of the best debates that I have heard on an important issue. The quality of the speeches has been superb. The issue on which we all seem to agree is that self-interest and the common good are two sides of the same coin, and that to survive as a sustainable planet we must not only create wealth, develop skill and talent, but ensure that no one is left behind.
I should say that I am a member of the board of CAFOD—the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development—the development agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. I am delighted that, this week, my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Dobbin) has sponsored a display of CAFOD's work in the Upper Waiting Hall. I am also delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to visit CAFOD next Tuesday to sign the programme partnership agreement between her Department and the organisation.
The display upstairs carries a short extract from a speech by a woman from Zambia, Mulima Kufekisa Akapelway, in St. Chad's cathedral, Birmingham during the G8 summit in May 1998. My right hon. Friend may remember that—not only is the cathedral in her constituency, but she was in it when the speech was made. It is worth recalling Mulima's words:
Calling from Africa, standing by ourselves, we have to beg for debt relief. But standing alongside you … we are in a position to demand justice.
I think that that statement encapsulates not only the work of non-governmental organisations such as CAFOD, but what we as politicians, and everyone else who is concerned about the issue, are trying to do—forge a new solidarity between rich and poor and powerful and powerless people, to work together for a more just world order.
I think that the Secretary of State is right to say that, of itself, globalisation is neither good nor bad, but that it is how we shape it and what we make of it that really matters. What is clearly undeniable is the fact that globalisation is here, changing our world profoundly and rapidly. Every day there are 3 million international travellers and $1.5 trillion travels round world markets. I was astounded to learn that, in 2000, there were more than 100 billion minutes of international telephone calls. That is a staggering statistic.
Whether we like it or not, we are all caught up in globalisation. Food and clothes, telecommunications and manufacturing industries are all part of the global market. For me, one of the great ironies of Tuesday's demonstrations was the fact that, in Wednesday morning's newspapers, every photograph of the events showed people who wanted an end to global capitalism wearing Levi jeans, Adidas track suits and Nike trainers—
One of the problems that we face in trying to gain a better understanding of globalisation is the fact that globalisation is very hard to measure. I was interested recently to read about the work of A. T. Kearney and Foreign Policy magazine, who tried to draw up a globalisation index in which they analysed 50 developing countries and some key emerging markets around the world. Although I would not say that their findings are the gospel, they are certainly worth some consideration.
One of the findings was that globalisation is not uniform and that some of its aspects work faster than others. In the late 1990s, for example, when there were some trade difficulties in other sectors, the telecommunications industry grew apace. Moreover, some of the global gaps are not only between rich and poor. The digital divide, for example, distinguishes the United States, Canada and Scandinavian countries, where almost half the people have access to the internet. There is therefore a gap not only between those countries and developing countries, but between them and other developed countries.
Perhaps the most interesting claim made in the study was that there is a link between globalisation and income equality, which is quite the reverse of the usual arguments with which we are familiar. The study said that the link was particularly distinct in some of the emerging-market countries. Using the index, the study highlighted Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as countries that are both more globalised and more equal than other countries, such as Russia, China and Argentina, which tended to be less globalised and more unequal. As I said, although I am sure that the study is far from perfect, it gives us at least a start or handle to measure the impacts of globalisation.
The international development targets are clearly crucial in attempting to ensure that globalisation makes the world a fairer place. They include halving world poverty, providing universal primary education and reducing mortality rates for under fives by two thirds, all by 2015. In trying to achieve those goals, it has been absolutely essential to get the support of the IMF and the World Bank. I certainly applaud the Secretary of State's efforts in striving also to obtain the commitment of the World Trade Organisation to those international development targets. Targets are often dull and meaningless things, but I think that those targets can inspire and energise us. As many hon. Members have said today, it is also possible to achieve them.
Many hon. Members have also already made the point that growth alone is not sufficient. The World Bank has estimated that, if we keep growth at current levels and remain as unequal as we are now, the proportion of the world's population living in poverty would decrease from 24 per cent. to 22 per cent. by 2015. Clearly, therefore, growth is essential—but so is redistribution. I am talking not about old-fashioned redistribution in which money is taken from one group and given to another, but about a much more dynamic process in which we have real investment, real opportunity and skills and real development that really connect those who live in the poorest parts of the world with the rest of us.
I should conclude my remarks now. However, as I said, this has been a tremendous debate on a very important topic.
I echo the closing words of the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins). I, too, think that this has been an extremely valuable debate. I am very pleased and privileged to be here to wind it up. This is a rare opportunity for a decent debate on international development. I do not want to labour the point, because the Secretary of State and the Minister know that, however often we clash across the Chamber, we have a commonality of purpose. Conservative Members have been genuinely distressed that she has not had as many opportunities as we would wish to come to the Dispatch Box to discuss what is an extremely important topic.
In the spirit of the debate, I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State, as we approach what may be a general election—this may be one of the last occasions on which I stand at the Dispatch Box on this side of the Chamber—on her tenure in the Department. The final White Paper that she has produced covers a large number of topics under the umbrella of globalisation and represents a significant contribution to the debate both at home and abroad, which is much to be praised. To have carved out the new Department, and to have had the complementary Select Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), has been another noteworthy achievement.
The Secretary of State has made great personal efforts, and I hope that, by paying her this handsome tribute, I make up for the witchy comments that I sometimes make from this side of the Chamber, which needs must be made, because we cannot always agree and it is only right that we should challenge the Government, as she did so ably when she was in this position.
The Secretary of State made an excellent speech in which she condemned the violence of the demonstrators at Seattle and elsewhere. She and many other speakers showed up the double standards often displayed by such people. She did not even mention what she was up to in Seattle, but I happen to know, because I took part in a Standing Committee debate on a statutory instrument earlier this week, connected with the fact that she signed up, in the margins of Seattle, to the WTO advisory centre on law, which will give the poorest countries access to legal advice in trade disputes. As I said in that Committee, I thoroughly commend that. I supported the approval of the statutory instrument and asked some questions that the Minister answered satisfactorily.
1 was very interested to hear what the Secretary of State said about the downloading of the White Paper. I wonder whether the systems can identify the people who access the information, because it is all very well knowing the number of people who clock in to receive the words of wisdom but we would also like to know the qualitative element, and whether technology will be developed quickly enough to enable us to identify those people with whom we are communicating.
The Secretary of State outlined a vision that is not dissimilar to our own and made some valid points on the international situation. We all agree that we are at a crossroads in relation to international organisations and we all hope to see the reform of the relevant institutions, not least the United Nations and the European Union. For once, the EU did not come in for much criticism in this debate. I suppose we take it as read now. We certainly hope that the path to reform will be trodden at a much quicker pace than heretofore. That is common ground between us. It should not be impossible in this new millennium to ensure that people throughout the world achieve basic standards. With correctly targeted programmes and the identification of the key elements for each area—because they all have different requirements—it should not be outwith the wit of man to make progress.
I shall come to the role of women shortly.
The Secretary of State kindly took an intervention on the pyrethrum issue, and I have had my file copied for her. A marvellous company in Penn in my constituency, Agropharm Ltd, produces that alternative to organophosphate and organochiorine-based insecticides, made out of chrysanthemums. I wrote to the Secretary of State on the issue on 5 March, but I understand that she has had other things to do. She has undertaken to consider the issue, and we would be grateful for her comments on it.
The Secretary of State mentioned some relevant institutions. I hope that the absence of mention of the British Council and scant reference to the Commonwealth does not mean that we have forgotten those institutions. I wish to take this opportunity to praise the work that is done by the British Council and to point out that the Commonwealth should be a great force for good in the future.
The right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) was the first Member I met when I came into the House, and I think that he was the Opposition spokesman on the subject at the time. He has an impressive track record and made a wide-ranging contribution. He touched on Kyoto and the environment, praised Oxfam for its advocacy and briefings, and discussed debt relief under the HIPC initiative and the role of education in the third world. He was also generous enough to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) for his creation of the safe havens in Iraq, and he also referred to Nelson Mandela's inspiration, which is an inspiration to us all. I was pleased to see Nelson Mandela at the concert on Sunday celebrating South Africa, and I am also grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his contribution to this debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) was elected Chairman of the Select Committee on 16 July 1997. He is truly the Frank Sinatra of politics, but he is really going away this time and we will miss him. In fact, I do not know what we will do without him. He spoke passionately about the empowerment of women, and I agree that if we can reach the women of a society and ensure that they are enabled and empowered, we can improve that society's hopes and aspirations.
I also share my right hon. Friend's complaint about timetabling. He echoed a theme that has become common in this debate, which is the need for better co-operation between the Departments, including the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry. We all know that cross-departmental issues are the most difficult to solve for Ministers and Secretaries of State, and many hon. Members explored that theme during the debate. I am sure that the Secretary of State will take those points on board.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar) welcomed the White Paper and spoke about his constituency. When he said that India and Pakistan had wasted money on nuclear proliferation at the expense of their people, a murmur of assent ran around the House. He also championed women and children, and their education, and that was another common theme of the contributions from hon. Members today. The hon. Gentleman spoke about shipbuilding in his constituency—rightly so—and about GM crops. We all know that GM crops will not solve all the food shortages in the developing world. GM technology may be of benefit in the future but, before large-scale planting begins, we need to ensure that proper trials are undertaken and that crops are safe. We should not threaten the poorest nations with crops that could reduce fertile land to desert.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) allowed her frustration to show a little at the beginning of her contribution. She gave a poetic glimpse into the history of the black country, and managed to talk about a song from the film "Mange Tout" that mentioned Tesco. However, she named some companies—Rolls Royce, BP, Shell, Nestlé, Cadbury, Thornton, Rio Tinto, Balfour Beatty, Tesco and Sainsbury's—and I should be keen to see the examples of alleged wrongdoing to which she referred. I should like the hon. Lady to write to each of those companies so that they can provide an explanation.
I am glad that she has done that already. I should be interested to look at her correspondence, to see exactly what the complaints were and how the companies responded. We should not always rail against multinationals and tell them to keep away from development, as their foreign direct investment is often most important to the countries that receive it.
The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) as usual made an excellent contribution. He made four points—on AIDS, mobility of labour, money laundering and trade—and they were well expressed.
What can I say about my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe)? Once again, his outstanding contribution made us all think. I hope that the Secretary of State will find something for him when he retires—although he should not be allowed to retire, as he has a wealth of experience and education to offer.
The hon. Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths) spoke briefly. I believe that people in Reading, East are more interested in foxes than in international development, but the hon. Lady spoke with fervour about the slow release of funds.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) spoke in his usual thoughtful and thought-provoking way. He issued a wake-up call.
The hon. Members for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) and for Wythenshawe and Sale, East also made excellent contributions—especially the latter, who is a member of the CAFOD board.
I reserve my final praise for my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), who has led me in this brief for some three years. He has led the shadow team on international development from the front. He gave a reflective speech, in which he spoke of our three aims—good governance, working with the NGOs, and reforming the multilateral organisations. My hon. Friend has moved the discussion on and has given a blueprint for the future in the work that he has put into "First Things First".
Finally, I thank the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, who will answer the debate. I, too, have enjoyed this debate and I feel that, at least in the past four years and thanks to the Secretary of State, the debate on international development has been moved forward.
As all hon. Members I think agree, we have had a very good debate. I am only sorry that more hon. Members could not take part, but some have been tied up in Committee duties upstairs. I hope that debates on international development will become a regular feature of the parliamentary calendar, and it may be a better test of demand if they are not always surrounded by one-line Whips.
I want to add my tribute to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who has made yet another final appearance—although I think that this one was positively his last. He and the Select Committee on International Development, which he chairs, have played an important part in the sea change that has taken place in our attitude to overseas development over the past few years. We are grateful for the constructive, positive and rigorous oversight of the work of the Department that the Select Committee has offered under his wise stewardship.
We shall miss the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford, and the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), not least because they belong to that dwindling band of one-nation Tories that is so fast becoming an extinct species in the modern Conservative party. Whatever their next incarnations, I wish them well.
The hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) made a constructive and thoughtful speech which rose to the spirit of the occasion. In his final point, he talked about withdrawing from some of the multilateral institutions with which he was not happy. I hope that that will be a last resort. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) said, it is generally better to stay and fight one's corner than to take the ball and play elsewhere.
The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford gave us a long list of the countries in which the number of people living in poverty has been halved during the last generation or two. That was a worthwhile point, because we need to remind ourselves from time to time that we are not up against impossible odds. It can be done and it has been done, and we must get used to publicising successes. He also asked about the Proceeds of Crime Bill, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). The Bill was published last March and will be introduced in the next Session. I agree that it is an important and necessary piece of legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar) mentioned the outrageous attempt by a number of multinationals to claim patents on things such as basmati rice. I was delighted to hear that they have been seen off this time around. I understand that patent offices around the world have cancellation procedures, so it is worth bearing it in mind that once a patent has been granted, it can be retracted if sufficient evidence exists to suggest that it should not have been granted in the first place. Perhaps we should look at a few more of the patents that have wrongly been granted, as my hon. Friend outlined.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) rightly reminded us of the misbehaviour of some multinationals. I think that she would agree that there are good ones and bad ones. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, many of them operate higher standards than local employers, so we should not lump them all together. One of the most effective ways of mitigating misbehaviour by multinational companies is to empower the consumer. Many of those companies want to be loved, and they can be embarrassed into changing their behaviour—witness the outcome of the recent court case in South Africa over the HIV/AIDS drugs. There have been other examples in which the power of the consumer has faced down mighty corporations when sometimes not even Governments have been successful in doing so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, quite rightly, that prevention of AIDS is more important than a cure. We had a very good debate on this in Westminster Hall the other day, which I think that most right hon. and hon. Members who are here today attended. The point was repeatedly made that even if the drugs were available at a relatively low price, most of those who are most affected are beyond the reach of effective health systems. Therefore, the most useful things that we can do are to encourage prevention and help establish effective health systems.
The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) made an interesting speech, and a good one. He said that we ignore at our peril the scale of the crisis that is growing, and that if we continue to ignore it we will reap the whirlwind. He was right to make that point, and we shall bear it in mind when we talk about what prompts asylum seekers to come to this country and the desperation that exists. One has only to look at some of the perilous ways in which they make their way here. Would we put ourselves and our children in a truck or send them to a destination, without adults, unaccompanied, as some people do? They know that they will never see their children again, but hope that they will at least lead a better life. Such desperation lies behind any rational discussion of asylum seeking.
The hon. Gentleman expressed the hope that he would alert Conservative-minded people to that problem. I share his hope and trust that his voice will be heard in those parts of middle England that my right hon. Friend and I cannot reach. I look forward to the day when the main political parties compete for votes through an appeal to the best instincts of middle England rather than the worst.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) asked about the Tobin tax and the response to the Select Committee report. The response will be issued tomorrow and a note on the Tobin tax will be attached. I am sorry that it was not possible to provide the House with the response in time for today's debate. As hon. Members may know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been attending the spring meeting of the World Bank in Washington. She returned only yesterday and has thus only recently been able to approve the text; that is the reason for the delay.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire is well aware that the great difficulty with the Tobin tax is that to make it effective we have to persuade everyone to sign up to it. It is rather like the proposal to tax aviation fuel. It is another desirable objective but unless we can persuade everyone to sign up, some countries could drive a coach and horses through the plan.
That may be so. I am sorry that I do not have time to reply to all the points made in the debate. During the few minutes that remain, I should like to make one or two points of my own. I am happy to repeat to the House what a good fellow the hon. Gentleman is and how useful his contributions have been over the years—[Interruption.] I cannot promise him a job.
We have a good story to tell. Thanks in no small measure to the robust leadership provided by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, there has been a sea change in the way that we manage overseas development. DFID is an independent Department with its own seat at the Cabinet table. Overseas aid is no longer a tool of foreign policy, still less a tool of trade policy. As a share of gross national product, it is rising year by year, although it is still far too low. Furthermore, our aid is now firmly targeted on the poorest people in the poorest countries.
We are setting an example that other countries and, more important, international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, are beginning to follow. What is most heartening is that both sides of the House have signed up to our approach. Indeed, I hope that it is about to be enshrined in law.
As many hon. Members have remarked, however, there are no grounds for complacency. As many of the speeches have shown, no one is under any illusions as to the scale of the task that we face. However, at least we can move forward in the knowledge that there is a fair measure of agreement about where we need to arrive and how to get there. We can take heart, too, from the fact that the international community is increasingly pulling in the same direction. What matters is the political will to achieve what we all know must be done, and I assure the House that there is no lack of political will on the part of the Government.