G7 Presidency

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 10th March 2005.

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Photo of Claire Ward Claire Ward PPS (Rt Hon John Hutton, Minister of State), Department of Health 11:30 am, 10th March 2005

If he will make a statement on the steps he plans to take during the UK's presidency of the G7 to make further progress towards the millennium development goals.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

In September, the UN millennium declaration review summit will acknowledge that progress has been too slow. Only two of the 18 goals are on course to be met, so as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has already said this morning, we will be working in our presidency for an international finance facility to increase aid, for 100 per cent. multilateral debt relief and for a freer and fairer global trade system.

Photo of Claire Ward Claire Ward PPS (Rt Hon John Hutton, Minister of State), Department of Health

I was due to speak to the Watford Oxfam and World Development Movement meeting this evening, but owing to the likelihood of business this afternoon, I probably will not get there. I wanted to give them an assurance that we would be working towards achieving those millennium development goals. Can he give me an assurance that I can pass on to them at another time that we will be doing all that we can to ensure that we erase debt and that we can truly make poverty history?

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, and I pay tribute the work of Oxfam and the World Development Movement in her constituency, her work with those organisations and those organisations' work across the country. The campaigning on the issue has been extremely important in bringing about the progress that we are seeing. We need to double total aid flows from $50 billion to $100 billion a year to deliver the millennium goals. That is what the IFF will allow. Alongside that, we have also announced our timetable to meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product going to aid by 2013. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has already said today, the publication of the Commission for Africa report tomorrow will also be a very important step in our developing world leadership in this area.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth UUP, Belfast South

May I congratulate the Minister on the work that is being done, but can we have an assurance that, in a world where we are seeking to help people, we will not encourage Governments to continue to oppress their people and abuse their liberties? On a day when we commemorate the low interest rates of 300 years ago, I should like to think that the liberty and democracy that was brought to our country then will be brought to Africa—to Eritrea, Zimbabwe and, in particular, Sudan and Darfur.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I completely agree, and I think the hon. Gentleman will welcome the proposals set out in the Commission for Africa report when it is published tomorrow.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire

Is my hon. Friend aware that emails to Members are flooding in from young people who are galvanised by the "Make Poverty History" campaign? That is probably what led to the incredible number of Members—412—signing early-day motion 9. What can we do as a package during our presidency of the G7 to ensure that serious advances are made towards the objectives of that campaign, which means so much to so many people throughout the world? Thankfully, it means something to the younger generation in this country; they are often said to be uninterested in politics, but they are certainly interested in improving the world.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the enthusiasm, especially, as he rightly says, of young people. When Nelson Mandela spoke in Trafalgar square the other week, I noticed how excited young people from my constituency and throughout the country were about that event and what it signified.

We are absolutely determined to make progress through our presidency in the three areas that I identified: first, the IFF; secondly, 100 per cent. debt relief on the part of the multilateral organisations; and thirdly, a freer and fairer global trade system. I pay tribute to the work of all those who are campaigning, in particular the faith groups, which have provided a large share of the individual energy that is going into the campaign. "Make Poverty History" is doing a terrific job, and it needs to be continued throughout this year to maintain pressure on all the G7 countries.