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Millennium Development Goals

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 10th May 2007.

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Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac PPS (Caroline Flint, Minister of State), Department of Health 10:30 am, 10th May 2007

What recent discussions he has had with international counterparts on the provision of funding for the millennium development goals.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Since 2004, there has been an increase of 25 per cent. in real terms in aid. The UK has contributed £1.3 billion over 20 years to the international finance facility for immunisation to vaccinate 500 million children. We are one of six donors to a £1.5 billion fund to prevent more than 5 million childhood deaths from pneumococcal disease by 2030.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac PPS (Caroline Flint, Minister of State), Department of Health

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on all that the Government have done to tackle global poverty, especially in Africa? I recently visited John Harrison school in my constituency to see the marvellous work that the children were doing as part of the "Send my friend to school" and "Every child needs a teacher" initiatives. Will my right hon. Friend send a message to those children about what the Government will do to secure free primary education for all?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Our aim is that the 80 million children who do not go to school at the moment will get the chance to do so. One of the ways in which that can be progressed is linking schools in our country with schools in Africa, so that teachers undertake exchanges with teachers in Africa. We thus build up the links that consolidate public opinion not only in Britain but in other countries, so that we can support the education for all initiative. [Interruption.] I am sorry that Opposition Members have lost interest in such issues over the past few months. I am sorry that they are not prepared to match us on overseas development aid. I am also sorry that, although the shadow Chancellor was asked on 1 March, and promised to tell us, whether he would match our spending programme, he has refused to do so—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I must say gently to the Prime Minister [Laughter.] I am getting into practice for the Wednesday. Let me say to the Chancellor that I have given him a great deal of leeway, but we must stop now. He has done well.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

What assessment has the Chancellor made of the number of millennium development goals that will be met by 2015?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

It was precisely because we were worried that we would not meet the millennium development goals by 2015 that we held the education conference in Brussels last Wednesday. We received promises from a whole range of countries that they would step up to ensure that we meet the educational goal by 2015. As far as health is concerned, we are trying to bring together the international community to work together to eliminate diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which will also require additional funds over the next few years. It is precisely because the rest of the international community has not done what we have already done, which is to raise development aid substantially, that we will continue to press the international community to do so—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join us in doing that.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

As a member of the all-party group that recently visited India, can I assure my right hon. Friend that we were very much focused on millennium development goal 6, particularly when 1,000 people a day die of tuberculosis in India and the country has other problems such as HIV/AIDS? The other side of the picture is that the growing economy in India offers hope that if resources are widely shared for the many and not the few, we can indeed achieve the millennium development goals. Will my right hon. Friend continue to support that strategy?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has taken a long-standing interest in these issues and who, like me, recently visited India. He has seen that there is a long way to go in India, with 10 million children still not in school. There is also a long way to go, even as that country develops its wealth, to solve the health problems that my right hon. Friend mentioned. We will continue to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is not simply for HIV/AIDS, but for tuberculosis and other diseases. We will support all the necessary research to provide a preventive cure for malaria and other diseases where new inventions and innovations are needed, and we will continue to build the capacity of health care systems in the poorest countries in the world and work with those countries to do so. I see emerging partnerships between trusts and foundations such as the Gates Foundation and private sector companies, as well as Governments, in doing exactly that. I hope that we will gain all-party support when we do so.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

The Chancellor has just highlighted the importance of education in achieving the millennium development goals, particularly in Africa—something with which I and, I am sure, all Members agree. Why is it, then, that a British-based charity, Book Aid International, which has a 40-year track record of providing books to schools in Africa—indeed, to 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa—last month had its annual long-standing grant terminated by the Chancellor?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that that was not a decision by the Treasury, if it was a decision by the Government at all. I shall look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises with me. I also have to say that I have had talks with many educational publishers and foundations about how to increase the supply of books to Africa. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that we have doubled the amount of money invested in schools, teachers, books and education generally in classrooms in Africa. I hope that, whatever has happened to that individual charity, the hon. Gentleman will not deny the basic fact that we have doubled expenditure on education, made £8.5 billion available for the next 10 years and done more than any other country to make such finance available, and are calling on the rest of the international community to join us.