G8 Ministerial Meeting

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 26th January 2006.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:30 am, 26th January 2006

If he will make a statement on his proposed post-Gleneagles agenda to be presented at the meeting of G8 Ministers next month in Moscow; and what discussions he has had with G8 partners on this.

Photo of Judy Mallaber Judy Mallaber Labour, Amber Valley

If he will make a statement on his priorities for progress towards relieving international poverty and debt relief at the forthcoming international Finance Ministers meeting.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Our priorities for the G8 are to extend debt relief to further numbers of the poorest countries; to ensure that aid promises that have been made are delivered in free universal education and universal health care; to set up a $20 billion fund for the environment in the poorest countries; to build on the innovative $4 billion international finance facility with new advanced market mechanisms for the purchase of life-saving drugs; and the advance of the launch tomorrow of the global plan to stop tuberculosis, which even now kills 2 million people a year. The Secretary of State for International Development will announce this morning £41.7 million from Britain for anti-TB drugs for India.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Chancellor mentioned poorer countries. I think that the House will welcome many of the initiatives that resulted from the Gleneagles summit, but at the next summit in Moscow will the Chancellor take the opportunity to speak to his French and German counterparts and establish whether we can review the common agricultural policy? It is hurting those poorer countries, and hurting farmers in particular.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The answer is yes. The hon. Gentleman may know that only a few weeks ago the Treasury, together with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, published our proposals for the reform of agriculture policy, to be implemented over the next 10 years. We will submit them to the review of agriculture policy that is taking place.

I have already expressed my belief that a trade deal in the world will require movement from America and Europe on agriculture policy. I hope that there is unanimous support for the proposals in the House.

Photo of Judy Mallaber Judy Mallaber Labour, Amber Valley

Pupils from 21 Amber Valley schools filled Christmas boxes for children in Mozambique who were affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty. I have also engaged in talks in many schools about the 100 million children who are not being given an education. How can my right hon. Friend convince my young constituents that Finance Ministers talking about debt relief will have a concrete effect in meeting our millennium goals, getting children into school and tackling the AIDS epidemic in Africa?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I visited Mozambique, and I think that the children in my hon. Friend's local schools should be congratulated on what they have done. Only 6,000 people in Mozambique are being helped with retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS, when 600,000 are suffering from the disease. Until we can provide more money, either through the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria or through other measures, many people will not be able to obtain the treatment that they need.

Debt relief does help, however. I believe that £6 billion of Mozambique's debt has been written off as a result of the decisions that we made last year. Mozambique is one of the biggest beneficiaries from the £170 billion of debt that is to be written off as a result of the cumulative effect of all the decisions—and so it should be, because it is an economy that is trying to grow. It is eradicating corruption, taking action to improve the functioning of its economic policy, and deliberately putting more money into education and health. When I am in Davos tomorrow, I will meet the President of Mozambique, and will be able to tell him that we shall do more in the next few years to support the global fund.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Two days ago, I had the honour of meeting the recently appointed Bangladesh high commissioner here in London. He is immensely grateful for the aid and assistance that this country gives his country, which is one of the poorest in the world, but he was very disappointed by the outcome of the meeting in Hong Kong, and particularly by the lack of progress in the introduction of genuine fair trade by Europe. What can the Chancellor do to persuade Europe, and all the countries of Europe, to support a policy of genuine free trade so that countries such as Bangladesh can trade their way out of poverty?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken an interest in such issues, especially those associated with countries that have been part of the British Commonwealth or the British empire in the past. I think that the proposals from India and Brazil to break the deadlock in the trade negotiations should be taken seriously. I believe that a further meeting of major players will take place in Davos this week. I hope that we shall see further progress over the next few weeks, because the longer it takes us to reach a trade settlement the more not just our country and others that are part of the advanced industrial economies, but—most of all—the poorest countries in the world, particularly those in Africa and Asia, will lose out. I hope that during the next few weeks we shall see a further attempt to restore the momentum.

Photo of John McFall John McFall Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee

The Treasury Committee's report on the 2005 pre-Budget report, published this week, welcomed the doubling of aid to Africa, as well as the 100 per cent. multilateral debt write-off for the 38 highly indebted poor countries, but the documents issued at Gleneagles contained 212 separate commitments. Given that the G8 has no independent secretariat, will the Chancellor ensure that there are adequate mechanisms to monitor the commitments, so that we can deliver to those poor countries on the ground?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has taken a big interest in those matters over the years and has visited Africa on many occasions. The G8 Finance Ministers are meeting in Moscow in the middle of February, and I have asked that it be put on the agenda how we follow through the commitments made at Gleneagles. We will discuss education, debt relief, the health programmes and the follow-through from the commitments made on aid. I can assure him that we will do so.

I know that many people involved in the G8 summit, and some of the celebrities in particular, are following this through. Today, Bono is making proposals for enhancing the global fund, and I shall be meeting him tomorrow to discuss them. I know that another member of the Gleneagles delegation, Bob Geldof, is now on missionary work in relation to the Conservative party.