International Development

Topical Debate – in the House of Commons at 2:07 pm on 15th November 2007.

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[Relevant documents: The First Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2007-08, on the Department for International Development Annual Report 2007, HC 64-I and -II, and the Department for International Development Annual Report 2007, HC 514.]

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development 2:10 pm, 15th November 2007

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of international development.

It is right that the House should concern itself with ending the injustice of global poverty, and that it should debate that issue today. I am grateful for the experience, expertise and scrutiny that many Members bring to the issue, not least my right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke. He has been, as I am sure the whole House will agree, a tireless campaigner against global poverty for many years, and the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006, which originally carried his name as a private Member's Bill, is and will prove an excellent contribution to my Department's reporting. That Act will help the British people to hold Government to account for promises made, and the Department for International Development's 2007 annual report, which we have tagged to today's debate, is the first to be produced according to the provisions of the Act.

Today the International Development Committee published its response to the Department for International Development's annual report, and I thank the members of the Committee for their detailed consideration of these issues. My Department will formally respond to the IDC's report in the coming months, but in the course of my remarks this afternoon I will highlight the recent comprehensive spending review settlement and its implications for my Department's work, highlight emerging challenges that I believe we must address in order to see progress towards the millennium development goals, and briefly touch on the main conclusions of the IDC's response to the Department's annual report.

Yet amid all those discussions of funding and financing, of policies and programmes, we must recognise the scale of the human suffering that we are called to address. In a world that is eight times richer than just 50 years ago, every three seconds a child still loses their life simply because they are poor. Every 11 seconds, a person still loses their life from AIDS, an illness that should no longer be a death sentence, for we have the medicine to manage it. Every minute, a woman dies because of complications during pregnancy or childbirth—500,000 women are losing their lives each year simply because they sought to give a life.

Although those figures reveal the scale of the challenge that we face, I suggest to the House that with courage, ingenuity and commitment, real progress can be achieved. In the past 40 years, life expectancy in developing countries has increased by a quarter. In the past 30 years, illiteracy rates have halved. In the past 20 years, 400 million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty. We are close to eradicating the disease of polio from the face of the earth.

Such work has been the mission of the Department for International Development for the past decade, since we brought international development from the periphery of Government to the Cabinet table. We again showed our commitment as a Government to global poverty eradication in last month's comprehensive spending review. Today marks the first opportunity for the House to discuss fully the implications of that comprehensive spending review settlement for development.

Through that settlement, the Government will provide more than £9 billion of aid a year by 2010, four times as much as back in 1997. That keeps us on track to meet our timetabled commitment—the first such commitment made by a UK Government—to spend 0.7 per cent. of gross national income on aid by 2013. This increase in aid will enable Britain to deliver on our promises to help developing countries make faster progress towards the millennium development goals.

We will double aid to Africa by 2010, as promised at Gleneagles. We will meet our pledge to spend £8.5 billion on education by 2015, providing enough resources to pay for 10 years of education for 15 million children. We will provide £1 billion for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to tackle three diseases that together account for 6 million deaths a year. Our contribution of £1.4 billion for the international finance facility for immunisation will help to save the lives of 5 million children by 2015.

The scale of the increase in official development assistance provides new opportunities to tackle disease, illiteracy and poverty, but with these enhanced opportunities come enhanced responsibilities. The IDC's report today raises the issue of ensuring aid effectiveness while my Department simultaneously reduces administrative costs. I believe that the British people would expect efficiency savings in a Department that received such a generous increase of resources in the comprehensive spending review. They have a right to know that their money is being well spent on their behalf, and the nature of DFID's work does not, and should not, exempt us from such scrutiny. Indeed, when the very pounds that we spend can mark the difference between life and death, between schooling and illiteracy, it is all the more urgent.

In recent years, while my Department's overall budget has increased, our overall staff numbers have decreased, yet the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's authoritative Development Assistance Committee review last year described the period as

"a golden age of growth and achievement" for the Department for International Development. The IDC says that our work in the poorest countries and in fragile states requires particular resources. I can assure the House that we keep such staffing under review. By way of example, I draw the House's attention to the fact that our staffing in the Democratic Republic of Congo has more than doubled in the past two years, from 18 to 39, and our staff in Sudan has increased from 15 to 27 in the past year.

As I hope my remarks at the Dispatch Box today have reflected, I am determined that the Government's aid, whether bilateral or multilateral, should aim to deliver maximum impact and represent value for money. So to provide further scrutiny of my Department's efforts, I am pleased to announce to the House today the appointment of David Peretz as chair of the new independent advisory committee on development impact. Mr. Peretz brings great experience to the committee from his work as an independent consultant and senior adviser to the International Monetary Fund independent evaluation office, the World Bank, and the Commonwealth Secretariat. I have placed details of the membership of the committee in the Commons Library, and Members of the House will note that it contains leading experts on development and evaluation. The committee will meet for the first time next month, and I am confident that it will provide effective scrutiny of DFID's evaluation, and in so doing help to ensure the continued quality of our aid spending.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

Will the Secretary of State kindly expand a little on what the committee will do? Is it to evaluate projects once they have been completed, rather like the National Audit Office, to see whether the money has been wisely spent and how effectively it has been spent, or will it simply confirm that the money that DFID says will go to particular projects has gone to those projects? The House would be greatly helped if the Secretary of State could explain in greater detail the methodology of the committee.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for seeking that clarification. The committee would in no way prejudice the ongoing scrutiny of the Department for International Development by the National Audit Office. Essentially, it has three purposes. It will determine which programmes and areas of UK development assistance will be evaluated. It will then identify any gaps in the planned programme of evaluations and make proposals for new areas or other priorities, as required. Finally, it will check that international standards are being applied and comment on the quality of the evaluation work.

In line with its role, the committee will operate in a transparent and independent way. The chair will report annually to me as Secretary of State on quality and independence of studies, what needs to be done to improve evaluations and how far the Department for International Development is following up on them. All findings will be published and the committee will have its own website to ensure that that information is made available to the widest possible group of people.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

What consideration has the Secretary of State given to greater parliamentary scrutiny of that body and the reports that it produces? Will the Select Committee have a particular role in examining those reports, rather than their going to the Secretary of State and potentially being delayed, not by him, but perhaps by other Secretaries of State?

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

I am grateful for that ringing endorsement of both my motives and the effects in respect of the receipt of those reports. Of course, it is a matter for the Select Committee to determine the scope of its inquiries, and, indeed, the time scale for its investigations. As I said, the fact that the findings will be published and that there will be a website, which can be accessed by all members of the Committee, means that we can be confident that if the IDC so chooses it can turn the gaze of its inquiry to that matter.

The future of those living in developing countries will not be determined solely by the work of evaluation. It will be affected, above all, by the choices made by the leaders, institutions and citizens in the developing countries themselves. While it is for each society to forge its own path to good governance, we can support them in that endeavour. That is why, under the terms of the comprehensive spending review, my Department will continue to use our aid to support good governance, as set out in last year's White Paper. In doing so, we will not only help to build more capable states that better serve the poor, as we will also secure our investment in aid as countries become increasingly transparent and accountable. We can help to build up the sustainable governance institutions, such as independent judiciaries, that are vital for long-term development success. We can also support efforts to tackle the corruption that we know harms countries' development prospects.

In July 2006, my predecessor announced a new £100 million governance and transparency fund to help civil society and the media to hold Governments to account. I can report that there has been an overwhelming interest in the fund and that we have received more than 250 applications from non-profit organisations around the world. In the light of that tremendous response, I am pleased to announce today that we will provide a further £20 million for the governance and transparency fund further to extend our work to increase accountability in developing countries.

Even where governance standards are at their worst, we will not abandon the poor, for that would be doubly cruel. Britain will continue to support the people of Zimbabwe with some £40 million of humanitarian assistance this year, delivered entirely through the UN and non-governmental organisations. I announced recently from this Dispatch Box that we will double our aid to the Burmese people from £9 million to £18 million a year by 2010-11. I am aware that some hon. Members believe that we should commit now to providing more over a longer period, but I do not consider the announcement to be the limit of our spending for Burma in the coming years.

There is no greater collapse of governance than when countries are embroiled in conflict.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods PPS (Rt Hon Des Browne, Secretary of State), Ministry of Defence

I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment to the good governance programme. I have witnessed it at first hand in Uganda, Kenya and, particularly, in Afghanistan. It is important to stress accountability in countries that are receiving a great deal of aid, so that everyone can see that it is being delivered on the ground to the people who need it. We also need to build the capacity of MPs in those countries themselves to scrutinise where the money is going.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's experience and expertise in this field. I travelled to Afghanistan in August—next week I will be in both Tanzania and Kenya—to see for myself the difference that British taxpayers' resources can make to the development efforts within those countries. We have shared peer-to-peer review and a whole system of accountability mechanisms directly with Governments, but little proves to be more effective than ensuring that there is a strong and effective Parliament capable of holding an Executive to account. In addition, the strong support of civil society can throw the torchlight of transparency on to expenditure in those countries. That is why I was pleased to announce that additional £20 million today to help assist the efforts of non-governmental organisations in countries such as those we have described.

To return for a moment to the issue of Darfur and Afghanistan, our aid is helping communities that are affected by conflict. Indeed, just last week, President Karzai announced that, thanks to improvements in health care supported by DFID and other donors, almost 90,000 children who would have died under Taliban rule will now survive. The new cross-government stabilisation aid fund, together with the conflict prevention pool set out in the comprehensive spending review, will provide nearly £600 million over the next three years to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. By doing so, we can create the conditions needed for effective state-building and economic development.

The comprehensive spending review will enable Britain to meet its promises on increasing aid for basic services, to improve governance—as we have just discussed— and to reduce conflict. But tackling global poverty of course requires more than simply more aid. I am determined that my Department will build on its successes in aid agency in recent years to tackle the challenges facing developing countries at the beginning of the 21st century. Two of those greatest challenges are how to increase growth and trade and how to tackle climate change. Let me deal with both those issues.

The importance of growth to development is clear. About 500 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 20 years alone and 80 per cent. of that poverty reduction has been due to increased economic growth. To increase growth, we must support poor people to maximise their economic activity. For seven out of 10 Africans, that activity remains agriculture. The IDC report today highlights the importance of agriculture to the developing world, to which I now turn my attention.

My Department has committed more than £200 million over the past five years to agricultural research. Our support for research to date has helped to identify drought-tolerant maize, which will help African farmers to increase their harvest by up to 50 per cent. We have helped to develop new rice varieties for Africa, which, in Nigeria, for example, have helped to reduce imports of rice by more than 800,000 tonnes in one year alone. In recent weeks, I have met Kofi Annan to discuss how we can best support his new alliance for a green revolution in Africa to produce further breakthroughs. My Department also provides support for the agricultural needs of rural communities through other programmes such as social protection, land reform and the provision of rural roads. In Malawi, our support for the Government's fertiliser and seed subsidy programme has contributed to a harvest surplus of 1 million tonnes. In Uganda, we have provided direct budget support to the Government, supporting reforms that have reduced rural poverty in the past 15 years from nearly two thirds of the population to just over one third.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Is the Secretary of State aware of any work to produce cotton seeds that need less water? Cotton is a tremendously thirsty plant. The Secretary of State mentioned a number of other crops, so can he tell us more about cotton?

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman will have to forgive me, as I cannot give a detailed exposition on cotton seeds. If my ministerial colleague cannot respond in the winding-up speech, I will write to the hon. Gentleman and ensure that he is provided with the information. In a recent discussion on the lead issue of agriculture, officials were keen to stress that we are not only providing £200 million of support for agricultural research, but are highly influential on international bodies that determine what agricultural research should be undertaken. That is consistent with the approach that we want, where we contribute to multilateral funding while also bringing influence to bear. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular concerns about new varieties of cotton seeds, I will ensure that they are passed on directly to officials.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

I am grateful for what the Secretary of State has said about the Department's commitment to agriculture, but does he acknowledge that we have a capacity in agricultural research because of our traditional links with Commonwealth countries, which could be tapped more effectively? When the Select Committee was in Afghanistan two weeks ago, we met farmers who had come out of poppy and were growing melons, maize and wheat, but who received no advice when they developed problems with yields or pests. There was no adequate extension service. Does the Secretary of State not think that DFID could help in training in extension service in a country such as Afghanistan?

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

The right hon. Gentleman brings his considerable expertise to bear on this question. I have reflected on the issue in recent months in the Department. In a previous era, the United Kingdom gave a great deal of direct support for agriculture through the provision of experts to developing countries. Since we have moved to a country ownership model of development, that has changed. DFID's work on agriculture and infrastructure has been given a re-emphasis and a redirection.

It is right to acknowledge the continuing priority given to basic services, whether in health, education or water and sanitation. Given the resource base that the Department has now secured, however, I am convinced that an opportunity exists for real thought leadership. That applies equally to growth, where we can provide growth diagnostics and assistance to countries to develop their own growth path, and to agriculture, given the expertise of the research base in the United Kingdom.

In recent months, in relation to agriculture, I have set a challenge to my officials not to seek to replicate in every country a provision that is now deemed outdated, given the country leadership approach. Instead, they should see what better links can be made between the quality of expertise that the United Kingdom still retains, the effective matrix of international research now undertaken in agriculture and the work continually undertaken by developing country Governments, given the overwhelming significance of agriculture in many of their economies. Therefore, the point is well taken.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

The Secretary of State is right to identify economic growth as the major driver in ending poverty, as it has delivered many people out of poverty. Is he not therefore concerned about the early introduction of the economic partnership agreements to the six African, Caribbean and Pacific regions, possibly against their best interests? Why the rush? Why the December deadline? Should not we wait to ensure that what we do is in the best interests of those countries, so that we do not destroy the economic growth that could bring more people out of poverty in Africa?

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman anticipates a point that I was going to make, but I will deal briefly with his substantive point. This week, I have had a long and detailed telephone conversation with Peter Mandelson, the Trade Commissioner, on the issue. Next week, I will travel to Brussels for the General Affairs and External Relations Council, at which economic partnership agreements will be one of the key issues. Also this week, with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, in his joint role as Minister with responsibility for trade, I had a discussion with non-governmental organisations from the Trade Justice Movement and related organisations. Economic partnership agreements are therefore very much at the forefront of our minds.

The hon. Gentleman posed a question to me about the urgency. Straightforwardly, the urgency is not set down by the European Commission per se, but the Cotonou agreement has been deemed World Trade Organisation-incompatible, and the deadline of 31 December is of long standing. Simply rolling forward the Cotonou provisions would be WTO-incompatible, and the deadline has been clear.

That being said, United Kingdom NGOs have expressed concerns to me that, notwithstanding the urgency of finding a way forward with each of the ACP countries, the British Government should not resile from our policy commitments of March 2005, when, in a previous incarnation as Minister with responsibility for trade, I was responsible for framing our policies on economic partnership agreements. This week, I have talked those issues through with the NGOs and the Trade Commissioner. I made it clear to him that we continue to want to see the type of economic partnership agreements for which we have long argued—those that can reasonably be understood as development-friendly and assisting developing countries.

It is important, however, to uphold the case, for which the evidence is now overwhelming, that trade, given the right support and context, is a hugely powerful driver of economic growth and poverty reduction. It is impossible to cite a country that has lifted itself out of poverty in the past 40 years without external trade. While I have great sympathy with those who campaign, as I have done, for a fairer set of trade rules, I have little sympathy for some in the anti-globalisation movement who suggest that the quickest way out of poverty is somehow not to see a greater degree of liberalisation and a reformulation of the world trade rules. The challenge is to make sure that we are in the room arguing not simply for free trade but for fair trade. Economic partnership agreements can contribute to that development-friendly goal that we share, and that is why I will make that case in Brussels early next week.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State laying emphasis on the importance of a private sector to growth. I hope that he shares the belief that it is important to develop in Africa an indigenous small business sector that lies between foreign investment by multinationals and micro-credit at the lower level. That is particularly important in relation to agriculture, because a lack of credit is one of the things that stops small farmers becoming bigger farmers. Will he talk with the African Development Bank, possibly with CDC, and possibly with, for example, the German bank ProCredit, to see whether more can be done to provide small and medium-sized African farmers with the credit that they need to increase production?

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend. The approach in relation to the African Development Bank, the principal regional development bank dealing with that continent's challenges, is consistent with the approach that I want DFID to take more broadly with the other multilateral institutions within the international system. Given that we have resources to deploy following the generous comprehensive spending review settlement that we have achieved, we should try to provide generous finance. In the coming weeks there will be a decision on the next round of funding for the African Development Bank, and we are giving serious consideration to that. However, as well as providing extra resources, we should aim to exert more influence over the policy choices made by institutions such as the development bank.

My hon. Friend has made a good point about the need for credit to enable small businesses to develop in Africa, but I do not think we should limit our ambitions to the livelihoods of small farmers and traders, vital though that is. We should reflect on the business achievements of Mo Ibrahim, who has been much in the newspapers in recent months following the establishment of the Mo Ibrahim international prize. It is a powerful illustration of the transforming economic effect of Africa-based organisations such as Celtel. The use of mobile phones in Kenya is an example. Celtel has radically transformed not just the connectivity of the continent of Africa, but its opportunities for economic development. Interesting statistics are emerging about the effect on economic growth in the immediate community when Africans are given mobile phones.

Certainly we want to support the livelihoods of small traders and farmers, and certainly we want more provision of credit to allow businesses to be started. However, we should also support the work of multinational enterprises in Africa as well as the development of major international players out of Africa. In recent days I have met representatives of Business Action for Africa, a combination of multinationals working on the continent. Where they comply with the best standards and the international guidelines, many of which we have been central in devising, we strongly welcome their engagement as a means of providing the people of Africa with additional support, investment and opportunities.

In the last month alone I have met Pascal Lamy, Kamal Nath and Susan Schwab, the United States trade representative, and have engaged in conversations with the Kenyan and South African Trade Ministers. In each of those conversations, I made clear that the United Kingdom's No. 1 trade policy is to deliver the promise of a development round in the Doha development talks. There is little be gained and much to be lost from further delay.

As I have said, we will participate in discussions on economic partnership agreements with the Commission next week through the General Affairs and External Relations Council. We will reiterate our concern to ensure that such agreements benefit African, Pacific and Caribbean countries. However, all the benefits of growth that we have discussed this afternoon, and the opportunity for trade to contribute to that growth, are imperilled unless we also recognise the threat posed to development by climate change, whose effects—feared by many in developed countries—are already being felt in the poorest regions of the world. Lake Chad is no longer a lake but a dust bowl, malaria is spreading to the highlands of Kenya owing to temperature rises, and declining rainfall in Darfur has turned millions of hectares of grazing land into desert.

Today's report from the International Development Committee rightly raises concerns about the impact of climate change on development. My Department has committed £74 million for research and improving adaptation in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It has also conducted climate risk assessments in countries as diverse as China, India and Kenya, and we are helping to build the capacity of developing country Governments to tackle climate change in the years to come.

Since 2004, the Department has been working in Bangladesh with the country's Government on a number of climate change projects, including helping communities to prepare for disasters such as flooding which afflict the country all too often, particularly in coastal areas. The new environmental transformation fund, valued at £800 million, will provide further help for developing countries, enabling them to adapt, safeguard their environments and fund low-carbon paths towards growth and economic prosperity. We are also working across Government to press for global post-Kyoto agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Bali conference next month will be a vital next staging post on the journey.

Another issue raised in the IDC's report is the central importance of helping women to achieve the millennium development goals. Only last month, at the World Bank annual meetings, I worked with my Dutch, German and Nordic counterparts to secure language in the communiqué to highlight the fact

"that gender equality and women's rights are crucial for sustainable poverty reduction".

My Department set out its commitment in a gender equality action plan earlier this year, in last year's White Paper, in the new public service agreement and in the 2006 White Paper.

We have underlined our commitment with action. Last month I announced that we would give an additional £100 million to the United Nations Population Fund to support its work on maternal health. The Department has long championed girls' education. Our support for Afghanistan has helped to get 2 million girls in school, where under the Taliban there were none. My Department has been at the forefront of research into microbicides to give women control over their right to safe sex.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that the world is facing a development emergency that requires emergency action. The terrible figures that I cited earlier underline that assessment. At the beginning of the 21st century, we find ourselves in a world that remains too unsafe, too unequal and too unsustainable, but we also have the technology to tackle disease and the resources to fight hunger and illiteracy. We have seen progress on all those fronts in recent years. The proportion of the world's population living in extreme poverty has fallen from a third in 1990 to less than a fifth today. Aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to put 40 million more African children into school in just the past seven years. My Department has provided more than 40 million insecticide-treated bed nets since 2001, saving well over 600,000 lives.

It is not inevitable that 1 billion of our neighbours should live in extreme poverty. The era of globalisation has brought international communication, international travel and international trade. We must now strive together for international justice. We must extend opportunity to the world's poorest to be educated, to be healthy and to fulfil their potential. The challenge in doing so is great and cannot be met by Britain alone, but this Government will ensure that Britain continues to lead in the fight against poverty, as we have done for the past decade.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 2:41 pm, 15th November 2007

The Secretary of State has made a most interesting speech today and we welcome the debate. Indeed, we believe that there should be more debates in this House on international development, not least to reflect the huge interest among our constituents in these matters.

It is about a year since the House unanimously supported the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Bill proposed by Mr. Clarke. It was my understanding, and that, I think, of most hon. Members, that we would have a debate each year specifically on the annual report to which the Bill referred. I know that the Secretary of State has said that the report is tagged to the debate, but, for the future, I hope that the Minister will confirm explicitly that we will have an annual debate on his Department's annual report.

As virtually everyone in Britain accepts, the imperatives of international development are not Labour or Conservative but part of a British agenda to make sure that our generation's determination to see definitive progress in the eradication of global poverty is fulfilled. I want at the outset to pay tribute to the work of DFID and the dedication of so many who work in this field in taking forward this British agenda and national commitment.

The comprehensive spending review last month rightly outlined a big increase in aid spending. The aid budget will increase from £5.4 billion to nearly £8 billion in 2010-11. As the Select Committee has pointed out, the impact of climate change will be earlier and more severe for poor countries. I saw this most starkly recently in Bangladesh, where a tiny rise in the water level will destroy the homes and livelihoods of millions of people. We see the effects of climate change even in the conflict in Darfur. It would be helpful if the Secretary of State, on another occasion, set out directly and in some detail the steps he is taking with his increased budget to assist with adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The scale of the increase in aid funding is both colossal and welcome, but it throws into even starker relief the key question that confronts all of us who are passionate about international development: how to spend this money as effectively as possible. As fiscal tightness bites in other areas, taxpayers will demand tangible evidence of results of this spending. That is why the Conservative party, making clear our absolute commitment to reaching the 0.7 per cent. target by 2013, has also made it clear that, in government, we will introduce a powerful and independent aid watchdog to ensure that poor people get the maximum benefit from every penny of British aid.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

When John Major was Prime Minister I introduced a Bill to ensure that the sole focus of the British aid programme would be poverty reduction. The Conservative party Whips at that time—I seem to remember that the hon. Gentleman was one of them—made sure that that did not became law, until we got a Labour Government. Will the hon. Gentleman give a commitment that if the Conservatives ever get back into office they will never move away from the poverty focus that is now a legal requirement for the aid programme—that they will not, for instance, return to the aid for trade provision?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I can give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking he seeks—and in doing so I am not making any great news, as the leader of my party has consistently and explicitly made that point.

British taxpayers need to know that their money is directly and incontrovertibly delivering the biggest reduction in poverty and suffering around the world. After months of Conservative pressure, the Government announced that they would establish an independent advisory committee on development impact for the Department for International Development, but on close inspection their proposal is a half-hearted and watered-down version of what we propose. It will merely issue polite reflections on how well DFID is evaluating itself. I sense that Sir Humphrey has been on the case. The Secretary of State might have secured some outstanding people to serve on his committee, but it is not the people but the remit with which we are concerned. I urge Ministers to re-examine the issue and establish a powerful and independent aid watchdog along the lines proposed in the Conservative party policy group report.

We have long argued that the Government are over-preoccupied with inputs and insufficiently concerned with outputs—and outcomes—and I was pleased to see that the International Development Committee, on page 3 of its most recent report, states:

"We are concerned that DFID continues to emphasise inputs rather than outcomes".

The commitment we all share to increase spending must be a means to an end, not an end in itself.

A growing budget means that there is an even greater need for rigorous independent scrutiny and constant active pressure to raise performance. It is in that context that we share the Select Committee's concern about staff numbers being cut at the very time when the Department's budget is set to increase so significantly. Spending more money with fewer people means that there is likely to be direct budgetary support and more multilateral spending regardless of their desirability. It is clearly ridiculous that DFID's staffing requirements should be determined by a general Treasury diktat rather than the specific needs of DFID's rapidly expanding budget. The level of staffing in DFID should be determined by the job that we require the Department to do, rather than the other way round. The Conservative priority is clear: effectiveness.

It is vital that the Secretary of State's decisions on how to divide our scarce resources between the myriad different multilateral agencies is based on thorough, empirical analysis of the effectiveness of institutions in reducing poverty. I am therefore rather concerned that the multilateral effectiveness summaries promised for September 2007 have yet to be published. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us in his wind-up speech when these important documents are to be made public.

The Secretary of State will shortly visit Tanzania. The country is something of a darling of the aid industry, as I discovered when I visited it in September. It is the recipient of the largest British direct budget support, with approximately £105 million paid directly into the Government's coffers this year. That is a colossal sum, and we must receive an absolute assurance that the money is delivering real results and value for money.

When the Secretary of State arrives, he will no doubt see the twin towers of the Bank of Tanzania rising high above the Dar es Salaam skyline. He will hear the allegations of corruption that have been levelled in relation to the construction of those towers and in regard to senior public figures. He will no doubt be aware of the Tanzania radar deal that his decent and honourable predecessor was forced to defend, with palpable embarrassment, in the House earlier this year.

So I hope that in Tanzania, the Secretary of State will examine direct budgetary support with a critical eye. We all know the powerful arguments in favour of such support—the promoting of country ownership and the strengthening of Government systems—but he must satisfy himself that such money is properly spent, that his officials maintain their objectivity, and that they do not become in-country advocates of direct budgetary support while overlooking the problems with that policy.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

We did not hear very much in the Secretary of State's speech about good governance— [ Interruption. ] Well, we did not. What happened to the New Partnership for Africa's Development? It seemed to me that part of the deal with African countries was our giving them large amounts of development assistance in exchange for this new economic partnership involving peer review. That does not seem to be happening in places such as Zimbabwe. What are my hon. Friend's views on that?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

My hon. Friend is of course absolutely right. It is precisely in pursuit of those matters that the Secretary of State is visiting Tanzania next week. We will all listen with great interest to what he has discovered when he returns.

When the Secretary of State is in Tanzania, I hope that he will emphasise that Britain will be clear and assertive in demanding real increases in the quantity and quality of Government spending in priority sectors such as health and education. There can be no concession to doubt and uncertainty in this matter. We owe it to the people of Tanzania and to our own taxpayers to secure clear results from this immense sum of money.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods PPS (Rt Hon Des Browne, Secretary of State), Ministry of Defence

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm whether it is the policy of his Government to support— [ Interruption. ] I meant to say, is it his party's policy to provide support to Governments in developing countries? It is incredibly important that we build the capacity of those Governments and their scrutiny mechanisms, so that they can spend the money wisely and account for it. That is the clear way forward. Does his party support it?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The hon. Lady referred to my Government, and I am sure that she is wrong merely on a matter of timing. I can assure her that we fully understand the importance of using direct budgetary support where we can—indeed, I was making that very case—and where we can, the next Conservative Government will certainly do so.

I know that the Secretary of State has studied with interest the proposal that I announced at the Conservative party conference to boost the ability of British doctors and health professionals to work, train and teach in developing countries. Our plans have been backed by leading non-governmental organisations, including Voluntary Service Overseas, the Tropical Health and Education Trust, and Merlin. The Secretary of State will know that working abroad is a particularly intensive and demanding form of training for our doctors, but they return with an expanded set of skills and are better doctors for British patients as a result.

Every doctor I have ever met who has worked in a developing country speaks of the huge benefits, personal and professional, that they have gained, but too often doctors and nurses in Britain face serious obstacles to achieving their aim of making a contribution in poor countries. Time spent abroad is often not accredited and does not help doctors to progress in their careers. Sadly, the Government's modernising medical careers initiative has made things significantly worse. We Conservatives want to reduce the barriers that British health professionals face when they want to work in poor countries. A Conservative Government will establish a new health systems partnership fund—worth £5 million a year to begin with—that would pay for VSO to organise year-long placements for up to 250 British health workers to work in developing countries. It would pay toward the pension contributions of these long-term volunteers, pay for THET to expand its efforts to link British health care institutions with those in developing countries, and match pound for pound money raised by health care institutions to fund international links and visits, up to a maximum of £10,000 per institution. It would also help to fund an electronic health exchange called HealthBay, where requests for help from the developing world would be matched against offers from developed countries. I hope that the Government will make it a priority to introduce proposals in this area in the near future.

I turn to trade, and the role of the private sector in particular. The Government need to work harder to secure a successful outcome to the Doha round. As the Secretary of State acknowledged, this trade round was always meant to be about development, and much more needs to be done. Conservative proposals for a real trade campaign, set out by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the Rwandan Parliament in July, called on world leaders to open their markets to goods from poor countries and to invest in aid for trade to help countries, particularly those in Africa, to tap into the potential of the global market. We believe that the proposals command genuine cross-party support and hope that the Government will embrace them.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what he and his Ministers are doing to rescue the Doha trade round from the deadlock that prevails? Does he agree that a deal was tantalisingly close earlier this year? What steps is he taking to progress this important agenda?

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

On the specific question that was put, I can confirm that within the past 48 hours I have spoken to the Prime Minister. He had just had a telephone call with President Lula of Brazil. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that whether it is at Heads of Government level or through the Trade Commissioner, such discussions continue.

With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, may I push him on this issue of his so-called real trade campaign? What would be real about a campaign that implicitly acknowledges that the European Union continues to be the body that is competent to represent the United Kingdom's interest in the World Trade Organisation, but comes from a party that simultaneously seeks to marginalise its own influence within the European Union? How can one be influential if one is out of the room, as opposed to being influential in it?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The right hon. Gentleman is demeaning his position by indulging in such pathetic party political point scoring. We agree about the importance of boosting free and fair trade, so instead of making these rather silly points, he should focus on the case that I am trying to make.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I ask the hon. Gentleman to address the question that the Secretary of State has raised. It is not a demeaning point, because we all recognise that breaking the deadlock in the Doha round can be achieved only if there is a shift in European Union trade policy. How would such a shift be achieved by a party that does not play a major part in Europe and is not one of the major party blocs in the European Union? That question needs to be answered.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I knew that it was a mistake for me to give way to the hon. Gentleman for a second time. First, he knows that there are a number of different blockages on the Doha round; the position of the European Union was a particular difficulty, but it is now much less so. Secondly, he knows that the support for Commissioner Mandelson's views—the position of all the parties in this House—is considerable. Britain negotiates these matters through the European Union, rather than bilaterally, and the point that the hon. Gentleman makes is, as I suggested to the Secretary of State, a ridiculous one.

I wish to address the important matter of European partnership agreements. As has been stated, the deadline for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to sign them is rapidly approaching. My hon. Friend Mr. Clifton-Brown, the shadow Minister for international development and trade, has just returned from a visit to ACP countries, where he met Ministers and senior officials to discuss these important issues. He will have a number of points to raise if he catches your eye later in the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall be visiting Guyana next week to discuss these matters with Ministers there. It is most important that these agreements open markets and facilitate real benefits to ACP countries, whose determination to lift their people out of poverty must be matched by support and partnership from the wealthy countries of Europe.

Further to the earlier more sensible comments from Hugh Bayley about the private sector, over recent weeks there appears to have been a welcome recognition by Ministers that economic growth needs to move sharply up the development agenda. I have enjoyed reading the speeches of Baroness Vadera. She argues strongly that growth is essential for poverty reduction, saying that

"without growth, sustainable human development is a largely theoretical proposition. We also sometimes lose sight of the fact that the purpose of aid is to no longer require it. Unchanging long term aid dependency should be a measure of our failure."

That shift of emphasis may well herald a determination by Ministers to inject more private sector DNA into DFID. If so, that would be a good thing.

I draw the Secretary of State's attention to the stimulating report of the Canadian Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, published in February, which makes a passionate call for private sector-led development. It argues that Governments must lower the cost of doing business and create environments that are attractive for private sector growth and investment. Those are important arguments. If the Secretary of State's change of emphasis promotes them, we will strongly support him.

I come now to the subject of agriculture and the support given by DFID. The Secretary of State defended the Department's record, and that is fair enough, but I also draw his attention to the excellent passage in the report from the Conservative party's globalisation and global poverty group that deals with productivity and agriculture. Similarly, I draw his attention to the wise comments in the Select Committee on International Development report published today, which argues that DFID has shifted its focus in recent years away from agriculture. The Committee believes that DFID's thinking needs to be rebalanced in that respect, and so do we.

The final points that I wish to raise relate to resolving conflict and to fragile states. In today's report, the International Development Committee argues that DFID does not yet have

"the measures in place to achieve its aim of promoting gender equality across its programmes."

As I said in the debate more than a year ago on the 2006 White Paper, the Government—notwithstanding the defence that the Secretary of State has given today—still fail to address gender inequality. Women bear the greatest cost of poverty and too many girls do not go to school. Women bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, of course, they most directly bear the brunt of conflict.

We cannot escape the absolute and direct link between poverty on the one hand and conflict on the other, and therefore the prime importance of resolving conflict if international development is to succeed. The Government are making progress in how they address that inevitably cross-departmental issue, just as the UN is beginning to make some very modest progress in promoting its responsibility to protect. In Sudan, we need to see rapid progress on humanitarian relief, progress towards a political solution and an effective African Union-UN hybrid force.

I have suggested previously that there is much more to be done to promote regional security arrangements and the use of NATO air power, not least in the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Darfur. It is no good the world solemnly embracing a responsibility to protect and thereby winning easy plaudits and headlines in New York, which mean precisely nothing in the camps of Darfur and to the displaced people in Zimbabwe and Burma.

On that note, I am particularly surprised that the Government have yet to accept in full the powerfully argued recommendation of the International Development Committee that aid to Burma should be quadrupled by 2013. The Conservatives have been making that argument now for nearly two years. As I said in the debate on Burma on Monday 29 October, we will honour the recommendation in full as soon as we have the opportunity in government. I invite the Secretary of State, who is not unreasonable on the matter, to reflect further on the proposal.

I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Mr. Thomas, winds up, he will update us on progress on the international arms trade treaty. That is a proposal that, as he will know, enjoys the full support of the Conservative Party.

I believe that the fight against global poverty, disease and malnutrition is a cause that unites all parties. We are fortunate to be the generations that have both an extraordinary opportunity and the wherewithal to make a huge difference at this time.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a lot of work to be done. He will obviously be aware of the international aid scheme that the Scottish Government are currently operating, particularly in Malawi, which has been resolutely opposed by the Conservatives down here, especially Mr. Wallace, who has been vociferous in his campaign against the Scottish Government being involved in international aid work. Will the hon. Gentleman support the Scottish Conservatives in welcoming this work and acknowledge that there is enough work to go round for us all to be involved in?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that the Conservatives at Westminster have opposed the policy that he describes. I speak from the Front Bench for the party, and I assure him that it has not made the statements that he ascribes to us.

I have no doubt that in the years to come we in this House will marvel that for so long the international community has put up with leaders such as General Than Shwe, General Bashir and President Mugabe. These are people unfit to exercise leadership over their countries and their rightful place is behind bars in The Hague.

The commitment of those whom we represent in this place is stronger now than ever before. It is up to all of us to ensure that aid effectiveness, good governance and an end to the era of impunity are turned from ambitious aims and theories into the practical realities and the delivery of international development.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. May I remind all right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 10-minute limit on all Back-Bench speeches.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 3:06 pm, 15th November 2007

I welcome the debate, especially on the eve of the important events tomorrow involving Children in Need. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his kind reference at the start of his speech and Mr. Mitchell for the things he had to say.

For the benefit of clarity, may I say that look forward to a debate on the report in response to the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006? I say that because the Government have a very good story to tell. It is important, particularly in the light of the exchanges—if time allows, I will deal with them—between the Front-Bench spokesmen on devoting 0.7 per cent. of national income to overseas aid. It is extremely important that all Governments are monitored—that the Executive are held to account. I hope that I will not be accused of making party points when I say that the steep decline in the 1980s and 1990s in our progress towards achieving 0.7 per cent. of gross national income is another reason for this House to hold all Governments to account on that objective.

I welcome the Select Committee response, published today, to the Department's annual report. As we have already heard, it made some interesting contributions. I believe that the Department for International Development is one of the finest Departments of Government. The annual report highlights that fact. I welcome the fact that in the past decade the focus in the House on international development and issues that relate to it has improved immensely. We have seen that the public awareness that that has influenced has itself led to a greater focus on the kind of policies that we have debated this afternoon and will continue to discuss, but also on the achievements on the big issues of aid, trade and debt. There are still problems to be addressed, but there are achievements to be noted, and I believe that the British public have played their part.

One example lies in Bangladesh, which has already been discussed. Once famously described by an official in Henry Kissinger's department as an international basket case, today the country enjoys an annual growth rate of around 5 per cent. Child mortality has fallen from 133 per 1,000 in the early '90s to about 75 per 1,000 today. Funding provided by DFID has helped to lift more than 500,000 people out of extreme poverty. That represents progress indeed.

I also want to applaud not only DFID's clear endorsement of the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNI, to which the report responds, but Government's strong commitment—repeated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I am delighted to say—to achieving it by 2013. The Government are entitled to be congratulated on where we are, because Britain is the second largest contributor of overseas aid in real terms. Indeed, if the current American trends continue, we will find ourselves in first place.

I hope later to talk about the role of other nations in dealing with world poverty. However—I say this to all parts of the House—I hope that when the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNI is reached, it will be seen not as an end in itself but as a platform upon which the House can collectively build. I hope that the consensus that is emerging, certainly in this debate, will continue. I hope, too, that the Opposition parties—the Conservative party, the Liberal Democrats and others—will take the opportunity to underline what the Government have made clear: namely, that if and when we reach that figure, we will not go back on it. I hope that we will not see the kind of scenario we saw in the past, with reductions in the figure—in this case restored by us in 2006 to 0.52 per cent., which was the rate in 1979.

It is right that there should be that commitment. For example, HIV/AIDS is still a big problem. To look at the broader picture, 270,000 people in Botswana are HIV-positive. That is in a country of just 1.75 million people, meaning an infection rate of 15 per cent. In the UK, where around 70,000 people are currently infected, that would be the equivalent of 9 million people. HIV/AIDS remains a huge problem in sub-Saharan Africa. We know that 60 per cent. of the global problem of HIV/AIDS applies in those countries. Statistics are not readily available, but it is obvious that we will not achieve millennium development goal 6 in that respect. That remains a challenge to us all.

I welcome the positive aspects of the report and what my right hon. Friend has said this afternoon. For example, Nigeria will receive £52 million for reproductive health and other issues. That might be regarded as a bilateral commitment. Multilaterally, £15 million will go to UNITAID, to help poor countries to benefit from new drugs to treat AIDS and other preventable diseases.

We must take seriously the demographic evidence presented in the report—I refer to page 326 in particular—of the impact of HIV/AIDS on young women. A positive approach to maternal health is clearly of the essence. We cannot continue with a programme that means, for example, that we will not achieve millennium development goal 3, as it does, especially if that creates an impediment to reaching other millennium development goals.

The challenges remain. We must ensure that we are addressing health care problems, that we are providing clean water, that we are taking education—particularly the education of girls—as seriously as we should, and that we are seeking to ensure that the wealth of nations is fairly shared.

The Government are on course with regard to addressing effective governance. For example, they have deplored again and again the fact that so much money—about 60 per cent. of the GNI—is being spent in Darfur on armaments and on what amounts to warfare against a country's own people.

Today of all days, as we sit here on the anniversary of the birth of Aneurin Bevan, we are entitled, on the basis of our own record, to appeal to other countries to join us in challenging the obscene image of world poverty that we see on our television screens. To those who are unconvinced of the relevance of this argument, perhaps we should suggest that enlightened self-interest might have its own appeal.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 3:16 pm, 15th November 2007

The Liberal Democrats very much welcome the opportunity presented by today's debate. I should like to put on record our congratulations to the Department for International Development on the work that it does. I never cease to be amazed by the scope and range of need in this world, and addressing that is a monumental task. DFID does a good job in that regard. I would also like to thank the International Development Committee for its work in scrutinising the Department. I shall try not to cover any ground that has already been covered today.

As we enter the first full parliamentary Session under the new Prime Minister, who has rightly prided himself on his work on debt relief and international aid, this is an opportune moment to consider the wider performance on development, not just within DFID. I suppose that I expected a bit more of a revolution in the Government's approach to international development with the advent of the new Prime Minister. He has rightly lectured us on redoubling our efforts to make poverty history. Before he became Prime Minister, he promised that Britain would meet its international obligations in full. In New York earlier this year, he sternly wagged his finger at the world and told the United Nations that the pace of progress on the millennium development goals was too slow. The Liberal Democrats agree with him on that.

Poverty was, however, reduced to a single line in the Queen's Speech:

"Reducing global poverty will be a high priority for my Government, with renewed efforts to achieve the millennium development goals."

I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will support that laudable sentiment. But let us consider what the Government's contribution to the millennium development goals could be, and how it could be better. The lack of clarity and consistency in their approach to development not only inhibits development projects but results in the ineffective use of taxpayers' money, as Conservative Members have already pointed out.

We can do little about some of the natural disasters, such as tsunamis and earthquakes, that befall the world, but we can do something about what I term the three Cs—corruption, conflict and climate change—if there is the political will and, most importantly, joined-up thinking between the Departments. Those are three areas in which the means to bring about change lie close to hand and close to home.

Corruption adds heavily to the cost of development aid. We should not underestimate the extent of local corruption, which needs local solutions. I was pleased that the Government announced more money for the governance programme, but Britain appears far too closely entwined in far too much corruption. I shall not go into the al-Yamamah deal—the billions of pounds of arms sales to Saudi and the money in Swiss bank accounts. For national security reasons, the Serious Fraud Office investigation was dropped although, thankfully, that decision is to be investigated by the High Court, and BAE's dealings are being investigated in several countries. We should fully support the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention against bribery. We should be seen to support it, rather than trying to wriggle out of its strictures when it suits us.

We were comprehensively compromised by dropping that investigation, at the request of the Saudis. How does that square with our efforts on the millennium goal to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women? I noted with concern the Committee's findings that DFID has problems in practically implementing the gender equality policy, and it is not alone. At what point did the Prime Minister raise the issue of women's rights with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Was it when he apologised for the SFO getting as far as it did with the investigation? Was it when he was touting for business for arms deals? Was it during the King's state visit—the highest honour that can be bestowed on a country?

I very much appreciate the idea that we should work constructively with countries where there are fundamental human rights failings. Indeed, our role in the west should not be constantly to hector and castigate developing nations. That would be to risk alienation and push them further away from the values that have brought us relative peace and prosperity; but rolling out the red carpet to give the absolute ruler of a country that is so far from achieving gender equality—

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Lady that we are dealing with countries where we are involved in terms of international development, rather than Saudi Arabia.

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Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

I apologise if I strayed too far from the track, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Al-Yamamah is not the only problem. I fully concur with the Committee's support for DFID's new strategic objectives, especially the promotion of good governance, but I have to return to a consideration of how we operate in the UK. When the Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, was looting billions from Nigeria, $1.3 billion ended up in 23 London banks, making them a profit at the expense of the neediest people in Nigeria. Much that is honourable and good is done in the City, not least the creation of jobs and wealth, but there is a dark, rotten secret—complicity in financial crime and its concealment.

Offshore tax havens play a key role in corruption, and the vast majority are based in countries closely connected with the UK, because they are Crown dependencies or overseas territories. Many of those financial operations are run by the subsidiaries of major international banks operating in the UK. The tax havens may not be within immediate reach of a memo from No. 10, but there is no doubt that the British Prime Minister wields huge influence. The UK Government must do more to put pressure on our companies, our financial systems and our dependencies and overseas territories.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

The hon. Lady is right to focus on corruption. May I ask her to read the report, "The other side of the coin", published by the all-party group on Africa about 18 months ago? We pointed out that although it was important for the UK to do its part in undermining collaboration with the corrupt misuse of money in Africa, the problem is overwhelmingly an African one. If we create excuses for Africans not to improve their governance, the problem will never go away.

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Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

I welcome that intervention and I agree. Nevertheless, it is very hard for us to lecture Africa on corruption when we have some issues to clear up ourselves. I wish that the Government would turn their attention to one of the financial methods that has raised its ugly head and appears to be making a mockery of our own efforts on debt relief: the vulture fund. There has been no shortage of warm words on this subject. As far back as 2002, the Prime Minister, the then Chancellor, told the International Monetary Fund in Washington that

"we need radical reform of the contractual arrangements for debt."

He was right.

Vulture funds do not tell us who they really are or pay our taxes, but they are happy to use British courts to extract money from heavily indebted countries. I am sure that hon. Members will be as horrified as I was to discover, when I finally obtained the figures from the World Bank, that more than £230 million has recently been reclaimed fully or in part through British courts from developing countries by vulture funds.

Surely, British courts, in the same way as they afford rights and responsibilities to consumer debtors, should act to protect the rights of the poorest nations. We should tell those funds that if they want to use British courts they ought to play by our rules, and then we need to make those rules. We can no longer turn a blind eye, and as legislators we should move to outlaw that practice. I ask the Government to explore ways of negotiating an internationally binding agreement—not a voluntary code, because that is not working—to ensure that companies cannot prey on heavily indebted poor countries.

In the interim, because binding international agreements cannot be created overnight, I would love the Government to start looking at how our national laws can be changed to bar vulture funds from using Britain as a tool to milk heavily indebted poor countries. We need to draw a legal line in the sand between legitimate secondary debt and what is happening in those areas. Perhaps sovereign debt could be held in non-tradeable securities. The Government have many legal advisers and I do not have any, so I suggest that the Secretary of State for International Development and the Prime Minister put their great minds to work on this. We cannot go on being a country that purports to have high standards of ethical behaviour while seeming to condone bribery, corruption and greed. That plea for joined-up thinking and action extends across almost all that we do.

If we turn to the International Development Committee's findings, we find worrying reports that DFID is, as has been mentioned already, often focused on inputs, not on outcomes. That problem is made even worse by conflicting inputs from other Departments. If we consider the millennium development goal to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, which is the baseline for all the millennium development goals, we see that a worrying global trend has been undermining what we seek to achieve.

Some hon. Members might recall the Mexican tortilla protests in June, following the reported 400 per cent. rise in the price of corn. The rise was linked to the increasing demand for corn from America, as the Americans increase their bioethanol content for vehicle fuel. There is no doubt that biofuel, when it becomes a mature technology, will have a crucial and significant part to play in the urgent fight against climate change. Parties on both sides of the House are making climate change central to the fight for international development. As soon as bioethanol can be made efficiently from non-foodstuffs and is proved to use less carbon dioxide than it takes to make, biofuel will be at the forefront of the next generation of energy supply. However, given the current state of biofuel technology, foodstuffs are being diverted from human consumption to produce biofuel.

We must question the logic of taking food out of the mouths of the poorest communities on our planet, so that Americans can fill up their sports utility vehicles. I am concerned about the Government's response to that development conundrum. It seems that we are busily signing the UK up to the EU targets on biofuels, without considering the disastrous consequences that those targets might have in driving up food prices. The Government have said that they are committed, quite rightly, to reducing the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, but what is the use of even a dollar a day when it is not enough to feed a family because of astronomical food price rises? So the evidence of the Government being focused on an input without regard for the outcome is rightly identified by the Select Committee.

The second of the three Cs, climate change, is rapidly becoming the greatest threat, not only to us, but to the developing world, as the reports note. The parts of the globe that have done the least to bring about climate change will suffer the most. As the world's resources become scarcer, energy and water supplies will become the battlegrounds of the future and will give rise to more conflicts. We have to face up to our complicity in hurting the developing world. I concur with the Committee that mitigation is an urgent task, but we should not give up the game on prevention yet. That means radically and drastically cutting our impact on the globe, and it means developing countries playing their part in terms of their own emissions. We need a powerful climate change Bill with real teeth—I am a bit concerned that the one we are getting has dentures.

I come now to education. The Prime Minister is committed to educating the children of the developing world, but more than half of the 77 million children of school age around the world who are not in school are from conflict-affected fragile states. That damage to education will last for generations. The skills and education to recover from the devastation of years of conflict just will not be there. Some 80 per cent. of the 20 poorest countries have endured major conflict in the past 15 years. Conflict completely wrecks development progress—all that work and funding—almost overnight, leaving a terrible, long and painful legacy.

I was pleased when the then Chancellor said that he would support a special teaching emergency force to go into conflict areas to ensure that children whose family, home and life are torn away by war have the interim support of schooling and teachers. Coincidentally, that was almost identical to my idea for an education version of the Red Cross. I can only assume that great minds think alike, because we do not nick policies in this House. But where is that force? Have the Government delivered on that? Perhaps the Secretary of State will be able to confirm the reports I have heard that, one year into a five-year programme, only £2.5 million of the £50 million promised for the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been delivered. That does not seem enough.

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Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce PPS (Rt Hon John Hutton, Secretary of State), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform

It is worth while reflecting that, when we give aid to a country, it has to be able to use the aid properly. The Congo is a very large country with a very low capacity to deliver anything at the moment. I was just reflecting on the effect that the Government have had on Africa as a whole. Does the hon. Lady agree that the Government have played a pivotal role in the universal provision of education in Rwanda, and other central African states such as Uganda?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

Yes, of course I do. I have already congratulated the Department on that and on the genuine commitment to education in the developing world. That is absolutely pivotal.

Nevertheless, I would still like the Secretary of State to come back to me on the point I just made. I understand the difficulties of the spend in the Congo, but that is a very small proportion of what was promised. If we divide £50 million by five, we are looking at £10 million a year. Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain whether we are talking about a capacity-building exercise, or what the issue is in relation to that seemingly slow start.

Education aid can directly intervene and raise the fortunes of people in the too many corners of the world that are blighted by poverty. It comes down to a question of cold, hard cash, and how much we give. We would have expected the first full comprehensive spending review from the new Prime Minister to honour, if not exceed, previous commitments on Britain's overseas development assistance. It is therefore astounding that, according to my reading—I stand ready to be corrected—there seems to be a bit of backtracking on a previous spending commitment. In the 2004 spending review, DFID proudly announced that the United Kingdom would spend 0.47 per cent. more of gross national income on overseas development assistance in the 2007-08 period. However, in the most recent comprehensive spending review, this figure—on the website at least—appears quietly to have dropped to 0.37 per cent. I am happy to give the Secretary of State the links to the Treasury web pages that show that differential of 0.1 per cent.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

Does the hon. Lady accept that of course there is variation because of the specific deals on debt relief, for which she praised the Prime Minister? An example is Nigerian debt relief, which is factored into the figures. Does she further accept that with an average annual increase of 11 per cent. in real terms, our budget will rise to £7.9 billion in 2010-11, and, overall, the official development assistance to gross national income ratio will rise to 0.56 per cent. in 2010? That meets our share of our European commitment, meets our Gleneagles commitment, and puts us on a straight line to 0.7 per cent. of gross national income by 2013.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

I thank the Secretary of State for that intervention, because I was about to say that if there was a 0.1 per cent. difference—perhaps he can still explain that to me, as the figure appears on the website—it would put things slightly off track. Perhaps we could examine that later.

Liberal Democrat Members would welcome a renewed sense of urgency in the Government on development. The Committee rightly pointed to the urgent work that is needed at the heart of the Department for International Development to drive efficiency, and I agree on that point, but we need to go one step further. Development can no longer be seen as a silo, and as a foreign affairs accessory that can be trotted out, and sometimes used as a fig-leaf to hide some of the Government's more contradictory actions.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

The Secretary of State says that that is ridiculous, but I point once again to the selling of a military air traffic control system to Tanzania for about £28 million, while we were giving it aid worth the same amount. That is contradictory.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's generosity. She seems to be suggesting, perhaps inadvertently, that the aid that is provided is tied. It is already a matter of record in this debate that British aid is now untied. It would be unfortunate if the House were left with the impression that she was suggesting that the significant uplift, which should be a cause of celebration on both sides of the House, will be used for anything other than poverty reduction. Will she take the opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister on honouring the commitments made at Gleneagles, and on ensuring that the money that is committed and available to DFID and other Departments will be spent on poverty reduction?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

I accept that. I was simply talking about joined-up thinking, because when issues such as the situation in Tanzania come to light, they seem to fly in the face of the evidence that the Secretary of State just put before me.

Consideration of what is good or bad for the world's poorest must be at the heart of the Government's foreign affairs policy if the Prime Minister is to make good his promise that Britain will meet its international obligations in full. We cannot go on saying one thing and doing another—I am talking specifically about corruption, in the terms that I used earlier. For the sake of the hundreds of millions of people for whom the millennium goals are still a faraway dream, I hope that the Prime Minister—the clunking fist—will, without further delay, turn yet further towards the development cause.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North 3:38 pm, 15th November 2007

I commend the Department for International Development for its work. As a Member of the Select Committee, and having seen its work first-hand on a number of occasions, I feel that we should be proud of the palpable dedication of many of its staff, particularly abroad. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke for his International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006, because it helps us to focus our attention on our work on international development, and to hold our Government to account for what they do. That is a strong message to send, not only to people in the UK, but to our partners.

As a number of speakers have pointed out, and as the Select Committee stressed in its report, we need to concentrate more on the outcomes of our interventions, and not simply on the inputs. Since the Gleneagles summit in 2005, a false argument has sometimes been put forward on quantity of aid versus its quality. For the world's poorest it is not an either/or debate: we need both. As the Prime Minister rightly pointed out in his speech to the United Nations on 31 July regarding the millennium development goal targets, the pace of change is

"too slow; our direction too uncertain; our vision at risk."

I shall focus on a few areas where the pace and direction of our interventions, as a bilateral donor and as part of the wider international donor community, needs to change. The first area is gender. Time and again the Select Committee has returned to the topic in its various reports as a matter of concern, and I am happy to say that that view is shared by all my colleagues on the Committee, all of whom, by coincidence, are male. The reason for concern is blindingly obvious. Over 60 per cent. of those in absolute poverty are women, and many of them are young girls, but too often gender in development is treated as an added-on issue, rather than core to the way in which we tackle poverty. In aspects of development such as security or private sector development, the issue of gender is rarely mentioned and when it is, there is a tendency to tack it on at the end or just to say that it is very difficult.

We need to view gender in the context of basic human rights, rather than merely as an awkward problem. Girls in particular face a raw deal. They face double discrimination due to their gender and their age, and as a result in many societies they remain at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. They face discrimination even before they are born. It is estimated that 100 million girls and women are missing because of the growing practice of female foeticide in some parts of the world. Girls are less likely to be educated, are more likely to suffer malnutrition, and are more at risk of gender-based violence and forced marriages at an early age.

We need to take a whole-of-life perspective if we are to get to grips with the scale of these problems. DFID has rightly focused attention on schooling and health care, but discrimination takes many forms. Lack of formal birth registration processes entrenches girls' invisibility. Local and national traditions of lower minimum ages of marriage for girls and the use of child domestic workers effectively lock out their voice from the wider community. Lack of equal rights of inheritance and the creation of status offences discriminate against girls in legal systems and entrench their low economic status.

As an international donor we need to support work that challenges the status quo, creates a space for women's voices to be heard and supports a strong, consistent call for their rights to be upheld. The need for this is never greater than in so-called fragile states. I am aware that my hon. Friend Mr. Joyce hopes to speak later on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the UK is the largest bilateral donor, but I, too, want to add my voice to the call for us to redouble our efforts in that region.

Members may have read reports in The Guardian this Monday about the increase in violence in the eastern DRC in recent months and the shocking statistics in relation to women who live there. Médecins sans Frontières was reported as stating that over 75 per cent. of the rape cases that it dealt with worldwide emanated from this region. We can justly claim that in the DRC rape and sexual slavery have reached epidemic proportions. It is the main form of attack. The many, many stories of absolute barbarity are truly shocking. It is perpetrated by all the various military groups in the region and also by civilians, as society has effectively broken down in many areas after years of the most intense conflict witnessed on this planet. It is believed that 4 million people have been killed since 1998. More than any other conflict, this has become a war against women, yet where is their voice in the current discussions about how we achieve peace?

I recently received correspondence from the platform of Congolese women in the UK, outlining their concerns at the current crisis and calling on the Government, together with members of the international community, to implement a national action plan based on Security Council resolution 1325, seek to restore security and effective demilitarisation, and start to address the causes of the conflict to ensure that a dangerous vacuum does not emerge again. Most importantly, we need to end the total impunity that exists for serious violations of national and international humanitarian law. I hope that the voices of Congolese women will be raised by our Government consistently, and I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would address these points in his closing remarks today.

The issue of security was also uppermost in our discussions when the Committee visited Afghanistan two weeks ago. Again, although there is a recognition that Security Council resolution 1325 is important, there appears to be little practical implementation. The Ministry of Women remains weak and largely ineffective.

It is of deep concern to me that in respect of the women's prisons of Afghanistan, we found countless references to women being imprisoned because they did not want to marry the person chosen by their family, because they ran away from home or because they had sex outside marriage. That is an issue that we will address further in next year's report, but I flag it up today as another example of the challenges that DFID needs to face—and face urgently.

As we work in fragile states, we often find a dearth of functioning civic society for ordinary working women. When we speak about the need to bolster governance, we also need to see how women's voices can be heard not only at parliamentary level, but at grass-roots level. We need to bolster capacity and representation for women in local councils and allow the space for women's organisations to grow and develop.

The second issue that I want to raise today is that of environment. It has been the subject of a great deal of debate, and the Government's commitment to the World Bank fund and to the area of research is welcome. Some people airily declare that it is perfectly feasible to plant solar panels and wind turbines in health clinics and schools throughout remote rural communities as a means of combating the problem. However, we need research and policy development to see how to manufacture renewable technology in the regions themselves at sufficiently low cost to be affordable and to have the reliability and easy maintenance required to meet the environments in which they will be located. That is no easy task and, by definition, it means developing a whole range of skills that could be picked up by large numbers of people. I sometimes think that that is more of a challenge than the inventions themselves. We also need to help low-income countries to retain their low-carbon status, while at the same time being able to invest in areas that will achieve greater economic growth. The capacity for such long-term strategic planning is currently low, and I believe that the UK and other major donors can contribute significantly to this field.

There have been concerns that the funding required for adaptation over the next decade will swamp the existing Overseas Development Administration commitments, so we need to consider now the innovative solutions required to bring in this extra finance. In his report, Sir Nicholas Stern estimated that we need an extra 10 per cent. on top of existing estimates for aid requirement. The UK has been a world leader in innovative funding through the international finance facility and UNITAID.

May I take this opportunity to recommend that Ministers look at the report, launched last week, of the all-party group on debt, aid and trade, of which I am the Chair? The report looked into the possibility of having a sterling stamp duty on all sterling foreign exchange transactions. At a rate of only 0.005 per cent. it would generate £2.4 billion a year. I would like the Government to consider that report and undertake research into whether it could be used as part of a new funding mechanism. As I said, it is not just the quality of aid that is important; we also need more on quantity as well.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 3:47 pm, 15th November 2007

I greatly welcome the opportunity to engage in this debate. In the short time available, I thought that I would comment on some countries in which we have been engaged recently as well as on the general thrust of today's report. I should like to place on the record my thanks to the staff of the International Development Committee for ensuring that the report was available today; that required a degree of effort but has added to the value of our debate.

We have been concerned with a number of countries in the past year. The Secretary of State referred in his opening statement to Burma, and we recently published a report on that country. I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman first for his very prompt response in announcing the doubling of aid and secondly for his indication to the House today that that does not limit the aspirations. After all, we can always talk about money, but the ultimate point is always effectiveness. We all agree that there is a greater capacity for more aid to reach poor people in Burma than has been delivered. We greatly welcome the Secretary of State's commitment to achieve that.

The Committee was concerned, however, although we understood the reasoning, about the basing of the entire Burma DFID staff in Rangoon. Many of the expatriate organisations supporting the Burmese people in a whole variety of ways are perforce operating out of Thailand. The suggestion that a quarterly meeting with those groups is sufficient and that Thailand is only a plane ride away does not fulfil the need for regular contact. I therefore hope that the Secretary of State will think again about whether a permanent DFID presence in Bangkok might still be necessary and justified, as the Committee recommended.

The Committee visited Pakistan some time ago in the wake of the earthquake. Obviously, more recent events in that country are a considerable cause for concern. Will the Under-Secretary say whether consideration is being given to the way in which aid might be delivered in Pakistan in the changed circumstances? Put simply and starkly, it would be wrong for DFID money to go directly to a President who has suspended the democratic process. The people of Pakistan must not, however, be denied the effective aid that is needed to deal with issues of poverty and development.

My colleague Ann McKechin has alluded to the fact that the Committee returned two weeks ago from a week-long visit to Afghanistan, where we had the opportunity to visit not only Government agencies, NGOs and our representatives in Kabul, but the field around Kabul—part of the Committee went to Helmand and part of it to Mazar-e-Sharif—to get some idea of the scale and diversity of the challenges facing all the agencies in Afghanistan, from the Government to the people and the international community. The Committee will produce a detailed report, but I do not think that I am anticipating that unreasonably by saying that, difficult and challenging as the situation is, we all recognise that we should be in Afghanistan and that it is a long-term commitment. It is a poor country and our objective must be to give it a chance to develop. The balance between military and civil development activity will probably need to be reassessed, but we will write shortly to the Secretary of State with our interim views, and then publish a detailed report in the new year.

The Committee remains somewhat unhappy about the Government's policy towards the Palestinian occupied territories. Some of that is history, on which it is probably not appropriate to dwell too long. A huge opportunity was missed, however, when there was a Government of national unity, to provide some kind of continuing support. The Palestinian community is now very divided, and the international community has taken sides, supporting one half and isolating the other. Let me make it absolutely clear that I hold no brief whatever for Hamas, but it was elected by the Palestinian people. If we are trying to build a viable Palestinian state, there is a danger of being part of the process of increasing the wedge and division within and among the Palestinian people.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

Let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman. As he will be aware, when the Prime Minister spoke on foreign affairs on Monday evening he indicated his intention that I travel to the Palestinian territories and Israel in the coming weeks. Obviously, we are looking ahead to the Annapolis meeting. As was indicated in Prime Minister's questions, there is a willingness for financial resources to be committed in support not simply of the peace and reconciliation efforts, but of the economic development needs of those communities. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the matter is receiving urgent attention from the Government and Ministers.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

I am grateful for that. Perhaps this is a subject for a another debate, but I remain concerned that, as things stand, the international community has added to, rather than solved, the problems of the people of Palestine.

Having made those specific comments about countries where we have a direct engagement, one positive story was our visit to Vietnam in the summer. The Committee was impressed by DFID's contribution and the value that it added to the programme there. Given that we are contributing £50 million a year—a substantial amount—to a country in which we do not have a long-standing record, part of the reason for the visit was to determine whether we were adding value that other donors could not provide. We were persuaded that we were doing that. It is worth placing on the record that Vietnam has the look of a success story in development terms: it has every prospect of making the transition from a low-income country to a middle-income country in short order.

That brings me on to the wider issues of how DFID can deliver effectively the 0.7 per cent., to reach the largest number of poor people in the largest number of countries. Mr. Clarke rightly made much of our collective aspiration to reach that target. As our report stated, however, simply saying that we will spend more money to achieve an aspiration is, as I am sure that the Secretary of State will acknowledge, unique to his Department. If any other Minister were to talk in such terms, he or she would almost certainly have his or her knuckles rapped by both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, saying "What I want to know is not how much money you will spend, but what you are going to achieve—what the outcomes will be." I am not suggesting that DFID does not concern itself with outcomes, but I think it reasonable to say that in these unique circumstances it is important for us to persuade the British taxpayer not just that we are meeting United Nations aspirations, but that we are determined to ensure that the money is spent as effectively as possible to deliver poverty reduction.

Although the Committee has made it clear that it understands and accepts the staffing constraints, we are concerned about what the implications may be, and there may come a time when we take a different view. Providing budget support, advice and the detailed range of practical measures that is required is people-intensive. In evidence to the Committee, DFID staff have acknowledged that the present constraints may lead to consequences that are not driven by policy: we may be forced to invest more than we would otherwise have invested in multilateral agencies over which we have less direct control, give more to consultants than would otherwise be appropriate, or reduce the number and range of programmes that we commit to and the number of countries in which we operate. If that happened, the Committee would want to think again about whether the Department should be under such constraints.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

I am sympathetic to the case that the right hon. Gentleman makes about the need to review staffing levels constantly, but given that—notwithstanding the success that has been enjoyed—DFID accounts for approximately 8 per cent. of global aid flows, is it not reasonable to seek to increase our commitment to the multilateral institutions, not just because they are currently capable of contributing to poverty reduction but because they are the means by which we can secure influence over institutions which themselves have considerable influence over the effectiveness of aid globally?

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

Absolutely. Indeed, the Committee is heading for Washington in two weeks for detailed discussions with, in particular, the World Bank to try to ensure that that happens. However, we want DFID and the United Kingdom to exert their influence, which is substantial in the World Bank, to ensure that there is congruence between our Government's policy objectives and those of the international agencies. If we are satisfied of that, it is clearly appropriate for more resources to go in their direction.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I am extremely grateful.

Is it not the case that what the Secretary of State says is absolutely right, as long as he makes the decision because that is the right thing to do rather than because he has not enough staff to do anything else?

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

Of course that is true. It is partly why I think we should have a full-time director of the World Bank to ensure that Britain's influence is given full measure. I believe that we should use consultants and multilateral agencies, but for the right reasons. We should do it because it is the best option, not because we are constrained.

Another important issue that the Committee is about to examine in detail is the role of donor co-ordination, which is becoming increasingly critical. There is a proliferation of agencies, both multinational agencies such as the United Nations and those in individual countries, all trying to do their own thing. If there is no co-ordination, it is impossible for the Government of a developing country to deal with receipts of aid and development on such a scale. At a recent seminar, Louis Michael said that in Tanzania there were more than 600 health projects worth less than €1 million, emanating from a variety of organisations in the European Union. He may have his own empire to build, and when he says that he would prefer a single project worth $600 million he probably intends it to be under his direction, but his point is valid. How on earth can Tanzania deal with 600 agencies rather than one? The same applies even to national donors.

We certainly believe that greater co-ordination is necessary. Afghanistan is a clear case in point. The British Government, including DFID, play a very constructive role in trying to promote that degree of co-ordination, and to encourage the development of a simpler and more transparent route for the delivery of aid. I personally commend the Department for doing that and urge it to do more. It may be that as our aid budget rises and our influence and clout as a development provider increases, we have more success. The Committee will explore the extent to which there are potential partners for that kind of co-operation and co-ordination.

I conclude by saying that it is fair to say that the Department for International Development may well turn out to be the greatest achievement of the Labour Government. The untying of aid began in principle under a Conservative Government, but it was certainly not completed. Even if it was not universally agreed at the time, the clear separation into two Departments, with poverty reduction as the overwhelming strategy, is certainly universally accepted now and is the right way forward. It creates tensions and debate as to how we deliver effective aid and whether we can still advise middle-income countries, but it is the right model. It is important to ensure that aid and development are delivered for their own sake, not as an instrument of foreign policy. As long as that is the case, I am sure that it will carry the widespread support of the British people and of their tax budgets.

Photo of Chris McCafferty Chris McCafferty Labour, Calder Valley 4:01 pm, 15th November 2007

I want to begin by congratulating the previous and current Secretaries of State for International Development, and indeed the Prime Minister, on the immense progress made on debt relief and poverty eradication through pro-poor policies and increased overseas development assistance.

I especially welcome the additional £100 million for the United Nations Population Fund announced at the recent Women Deliver conference. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke on successfully promoting the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006, which makes an important requirement: that the Secretary of State report annually on expenditure and on the breakdown of international aid and, in particular, on the progress towards the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. I agree with my hon. Friend Ann McKechin that that sends a strong message of our commitment, as well as setting a good example.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that among the major causes of poverty in developing countries are poor maternal and child health, the status of women and HIV/AIDS. It is widely recognised that reproductive illness and unintended pregnancies detract from economic development, whether by weakening or killing adults, by disrupting or cutting short the lives of their children or by placing heavy financial burdens on their families.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights also deal with poverty and development in a much wider context. The ability to exercise the rights and freedoms of choice brings self-determination, which in turn has a direct impact on an individual's ability to emerge from poverty. Poor reproductive health accounts for over 40 per cent of diseases suffered by women. One in 20 women in Africa die from pregnancy-related causes. Unsafe abortion accounts for 13 per cent. of maternal deaths.

Fertility is highest in the poorest countries as well as among the poorest people in the developing world. It should be no surprise that countries with the highest levels of unmet need for family planning and reproductive health services have not only the highest maternal mortality but the highest population growth. According to the environmental sustainability task force, unmet family planning and sexual and reproductive health needs, together with health education and gender equality issues, must be addressed with policies and programmes that slow population growth and realise synergistic improvements.

At a national level, fertility reduction and improved maternal health may enable accelerated social and economic development. Conversely, the absence of sexual and reproductive health and rights undermines social and economic development. Yet it is well known that if all the available condoms in Africa were evenly distributed, each man in Africa would receive only three or four per year. There is a huge gap between the demand for condoms and other contraceptives and the funding available. The recent report on population growth and its impact on the millennium development goals by the all-party group on population, development and reproductive health concludes that the MDGs are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with current levels of population growth in the least developed countries and regions.

Gender equality is a great catalyst for development. Empowering people to exercise their rights over fertility and to choose the number of, and spacing between, their children is a powerful tool in the fight to reduce poverty. The gender and education taskforce has identified seven priorities for action to achieve gender equality. One of them is ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

One African in two is under the age of 20. More than 40 million of Africa's children are not in school, and two thirds of those are girls. Families with fewer children spaced further apart can invest much more in each child's education. Children in large families are likely to have reduced health care, and unwanted children are much more likely to die than wanted ones. When mothers live, their children are much more likely to live. When mothers are healthy, their children have a much better chance of being, and staying, healthy.

I am sure that all Members would agree that the empowerment of women is a development end in itself. Removing the obstacles to women exercising economic and political power is also one of the most important ways to end poverty. Reproductive health is part of an essential package of health care and education. It is a means of attaining the goal of women's empowerment, but it is also a basic human right.

Our approach to HIV/AIDS should be based on an integrated model of sexual and reproductive health care to reduce maternal mortality and to combat HIV and AIDS. The millennium project's HIV taskforce has stated:

"The fight against HIV/AIDS, and the broader struggle for reproductive health, should be mutually reinforcing."

It follows that national Governments should incorporate universal access to reproductive and sexual health services and information as an integral part of their AIDS responses.

Last month, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the text of the new millennium development target on universal access to reproductive health and related indicators under MDG 5. That outcome is a huge success for millions of women, men and young people throughout the world, but we must ensure that the new target is fully integrated into the future implementation and monitoring of the MDGs. I hope the Minister will be able to tell the House how DFID will ensure that recipient Governments incorporate the new target and indicators within their national development plans.

DFID bilateral expenditure on sexual and reproductive health and rights is a little difficult to track. That is, in part, due to budget support and SWAps—sector-wide approaches. In terms of general budget support, DFID estimates that 5 per cent. of the budget will be spent on HIV and AIDS. However, there is no similar sexual and reproductive health estimate. Is DFID planning to make an estimate of what percentage of general budget support will be spent on sexual and reproductive health and rights—and if not, why not?

Details of DFID's funding to UNFPA and other sexual and reproductive health organisations, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International and Interact Worldwide, are readily available, and the additional £100 million over five years to UNFPA will help to prevent many unwanted pregnancies and make childbirth much safer. That money will enable UNFPA to provide support to Governments in Africa and south Asia, and to provide more condoms, contraceptive pills and advice on better sexual health to many poor women, girls and men. I understand that the final stages of the five-year agreement between DFID and the IPPF will be completed this week.

DFID is in the process of updating its HIV/AIDS strategy, which I hope will further strengthen the links between sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS. I am looking for reassurances from the Minister that if a new spending target is agreed for HIV/AIDS, a target for sexual and reproductive health and rights will also be agreed. DFID's 2006-07 direct bilateral expenditure targeting reproductive health—some £24.1 million—is not insignificant, but it is rather discouraging compared with the direct bilateral expenditure targeting HIV/AIDS, which is £104.2 million. Perhaps a spending target on both HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health and rights would ensure equilibrium and increased support for system strengthening.

In finishing, I want to remind the House that the hardest millennium development goal to reach is MDG 5—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady's time is up.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East 4:11 pm, 15th November 2007

I congratulate Chris McCafferty, who I am sure would have a lot more to say if time permitted. I was particularly impressed with her comments on millennium development goals 4 and 5, and I look forward to the Minister's response.

I am passionate about international development largely through an accident of history. I was appointed to a job in Africa in the early 1990s and stayed in several different African countries for a number of years. I also have the privilege of serving on the International Development Committee. Despite an increase in the number of postcard campaigns, the general public still do not connect with international development. I do not want to appear to be trivialising this debate, but recent programmes such as "Long Way Down" with Ewan McGregor present a more human view of Africa. All too often, people think back to the 1980s and to images of a starving, pot-bellied Ethiopian, rather than seeing countries and a continent that are much more entrepreneurial now, and which have a lot stronger future and will develop and grow over time. Aid and the good work that DFID does are really only a precursor to countries standing on their own two feet.

All too often, politicians have to deal with very big numbers and £6 billion is a mind-bogglingly big number, but the figure that focuses my attention is 250,000. This June, I went to Rwanda with Christian Aid and Oxfam. As I looked out across what appeared to be a normal, average African capital city—I do not mean that in a pejorative sense—I was standing on the site of what was a mass grave of 250,000 people. That highlights graphically the need for that £6 billion and for a commitment to the figure of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income, on which there is now a strong cross-party consensus.

Now that we have that consensus, we need to move away from talking about big numbers. As the Select Committee said, we need to go beyond talking about inputs and outputs in the financial sense, and talk about outcomes. I am glad that the Secretary of State talked about inputs in the sense of meeting the Gleneagles targets in Africa, but we need to go beyond that. We need to go beyond visits to other countries by the Select Committee and saying, "Look—this is what DFID money has done; it is has provided this well and this school." We need to go beyond outputs and to look toward the long-term outcomes for such countries.

I am critical of the fact that DFID and the Foreign Office look at the short and medium term in such countries, rather than at the long term and the generation of growth. I must admit that when Baroness Vadera was appointed to her role, I was a little sceptical, given press reports of her involvement in the transport and rail sectors. However, my hon. Friend Mr. Mitchell read out a very interesting quotation that filled me with optimism. If that is the direction that the Government are taking, I have a little more cause for optimism that I did before I entered the Chamber.

I turn to the structure and performance of DFID. The previous Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, was fabulous in the role, and I also have great respect for the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Mr. Thomas. When the new Secretary of State came on board, I was concerned, although I was pleased that he had the Prime Minister's ear. Now that we have moved beyond the period of a possible general election, DFID is getting the single focus that it needs and deserves from the Secretary of State.

I am pleased to hear that the Secretary of State meets his counterparts in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, without civil servants, on a regular basis. That is essential for international development. We cannot go back to the bad old days when the Foreign Office was not even talking to DFID at Secretary of State level. The relationship between those two Departments is essential, as is the relationship with the Ministry of Defence, which the Select Committee saw in Afghanistan.

On the role of business in development, it is essential that aid is seen only as short term, and we need a greater degree of focus. While DFID as an independent Department is right in giving that greater focus, greater integration with other Departments is needed to encourage business. Despite what Ministers have said, I am disappointed about the international progress on economic partnership agreements and the slow progress on the Doha round. This is not the western world saying that it believes in free trade; all too often it is the Americans who do not deliver and who are incredibly protectionist. In fact, some sources indicate that subsidies provided to western farmers cancel out entirely the aid budget from elsewhere around the world. That is a truly shocking comparison. While we say that we care and that we are giving money, we are effectively taking it away with the other hand.

I commend the work of a number of non-governmental organisations, particularly management accounting for non-governmental organisations—MANGO. All too often, we look at NGOs that provide direct support, but sometimes the nitty-gritty of supply-chain management is much more important. It is slightly less sexy than putting a doctor in-country, and does not provide as good a photograph as a retired bank manager or retired accountant working in Malawi or Ethiopia, but it can be incredibly effective.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

I shall give way to my hon. Friend, who has had great experience in Rwanda.

Photo of Brooks Newmark Brooks Newmark Opposition Whip (Commons)

I appreciate that comment. Does my hon. Friend recognise the good works of groups such as the Portland Trust, which supports small businesses through microfinance? Does he acknowledge the important role that the voluntary sector plays in such provision to support developing communities?

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

I fully support that. Indeed, I would extend such an approach and encourage the Secretary of State to examine ways of providing assistance and tax arrangements that make it easier for business people and civil servants to take a career break and spend a year, or slightly longer, volunteering. I am talking not just about the typical periods of volunteering at the beginning and end of people's careers, but about people sharing their unique experiences in the middle of their careers.

Aid is a widely abused term. It covers the short-term and humanitarian aid, which addresses basic survival, and the medium-term aid of building basic infrastructure and institutions. One area where DFID does not perform well is long-term aid—the hand-holding for democracies and for basic institutions. All too often we say to countries, "Tick your boxes. You have got your elections, and some form of democracy and constitution. You can get on with it now that you have the basic infrastructure to continue developing and growing." All too often, it is not that simple.

Moreover, we have still not done enough on the Paris declaration on aid. Professor Mick Moore, a fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, has written:

"The average bilateral aid donor gives aid to more than a hundred countries, and therefore distributes it in tiny scattered packets. Would you entrust your business to a lawyer known to be handling a hundred cases in any one week?"

A strong case can be made that we should specialise, so that we can do more with fewer countries. In theory, the EU should be good at that but, in reality, it is probably one of the least co-ordinated or efficient donors. The UK and other international donors are directing more money to poor countries, but the EU, under the auspices of aid, is spending more on middle-income nations. The EU's aid budget was not signed off this week—again—so the UK, through the good offices of DFID, needs to do more. The Department is widely praised for its expertise in-country, and it is farcical for our Government to impose a manpower restriction on it simply because of a head-count requirement dreamed up by some Treasury bean-counter or politician.

That is wholly inappropriate but, even so, the DFID motto of "doing more with less" is somewhat disingenuous. The Department is trying to do more with more—more outcomes and outputs achieved through more inputs of money, but with fewer staff at head office.

Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce PPS (Rt Hon John Hutton, Secretary of State), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform

I wonder whether I have spotted an inconsistency in the arguments presented by the hon. Gentleman, and earlier by Mr. Mitchell. The proposition appears to be that a sceptical approach should be adopted to increased expenditure that is not matched by definable outputs and outcomes. I do not disagree, but the argument for more manpower at DFID does not seem to be attached to any particular outcome.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

I am grateful to be able to clarify that I am not arguing for extra manpower. I am simply saying that it should be a possibility, given that the overall administrative costs of delivering good outcomes are likely to increase. For instance, Paul Collier has said that our overall administration costs will rise as we put more money into difficult development schemes. I do not want DFID to be constrained unnecessarily by imposing budgetary support requirements or making it resort to multilateral organisations, when it could employ extra people. One option would be to take on staff from other agencies, but I should much prefer European countries to be able to pool resources in-country.

For example, when the Select Committee visited Ethiopia we found that the European agencies represented there could not say how much the EU as a whole was spending on the development of water resources. All the agencies were supposed to share that task, but each one was willing to talk only about its individual responsibilities.

I turn now to the question of conflict. What should happen after conflicts have ended is talked about a lot in development circles, and DFID's post-conflict resolution unit is top-notch. I have been very impressed with the members of that unit whom I have met, but the unit's work is rather like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. How about setting up a pre-conflict unit, and placing greater focus on conflicts as they take place? A pre-conflict unit would make it easier to spot which countries are at risk, and enable assistance to be spread more widely. It would also mean that interventions to try to undo the damage being done would not have to be made while a conflict was ongoing, as has happened with the provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan.

Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce PPS (Rt Hon John Hutton, Secretary of State), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform 4:23 pm, 15th November 2007

I am almost reluctant to give credit to Opposition Members, but those who have contributed to the debate have made some good points.

I want to concentrate on the eastern Congo region. Members of the all-party group on the Great Lakes often visit central Africa, including all parts of the Congo, the Great Lakes, Rwanda, Burundi and northern Uganda. I should like to make a few points about the situation in eastern Congo. The Minister may be able to make a few comments on it, and in particular tell us what comments he may be able to make at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda.

I shall not deliver a history lesson—many hon. Members know more about it than me—but eastern Congo is a crucible of activity that has been affected by what has happened in the surrounding countries, notably the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More recently, we have had an election in eastern Congo. The DRC Government do not have the capacity at this stage—far from it—to ensure that their writ is applied across the Congo. There is a particular difficulty with a general called Laurent Nkunda, who was supposed to have integrated into the DRC army, but has chosen not to. About 360,000 people, by some estimates, have been displaced by the current difficulties in northern Kivu. Charles Murigande, the Rwandan Foreign Minister, has rightly drawn attention to the fact that there are issues for the Tutsis across in the east, and Nkunda sees himself as their guardian angel. There are issues that we should recognise in that department, notwithstanding the importance of recognising the right of the—remarkably, in many ways—democratically elected Government in the DRC to ensure that their writ runs. General Nkunda has chosen for the moment to set himself up as a rival power in the land. He has the kit and the people to enable him to do that. I understand—the Minister may have other news—that there is a possibility that Nkunda might be encouraged to take a sabbatical, if I can put it that way, and go off perhaps to South Africa for a year or two so that his absence could enable a solution to be reached with his followers. That is a major issue.

I know that the Government are not in a position to wave a magic wand and sort this out, but helpful comments can be made by the UK Government. Certainly, the Governments of the region listen. I guess that it is also important to reflect on the relationship between DFID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. That was mentioned earlier. The man in the news at the moment, Lord Malloch-Brown, has been in the news for all sorts of reasons, but he is seized of the issue in eastern Congo. We had a meeting with him just last week. His expertise in international development, as applied through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is a positive benefit. Indeed, Baroness Vadera was in eastern Congo only last month.

Another issue for eastern Congo security is a chap called Joseph Kony, who runs a brutal, horrid organisation called the Lord's Resistance Army. His organisation has effectively been displaced from northern Uganda by President Museveni, but it remains a considerable problem. I have met, and many colleagues here no doubt have met, members of the Achole people, who come to the Commons from time to time to lobby. They live in northern Uganda and have benefited from a ceasefire that has applied there for some time. They are the ones who would suffer most if that ceasefire were to cease. It is important that the right messages are sent to President Museveni at CHOGM.

There are things that we can do to move towards resolving the situation, not least dealing with the five International Criminal Court indictees. One is dead and one may recently have died. It seems that Vincent Otti, the second in command of the Lord's Resistance Army, may have been killed a couple of weeks ago. There is some dispute. Joseph Kony is certainly disputing it. Perhaps that is one way to solve the problem of the indictees. They are perhaps down to three; perhaps they could sort the problem out for themselves.

In the meantime, the fact is that the writ of the ICC has to run. There can be no question of cancelling indictments, but it may well be that some local justice solution within Uganda, which President Museveni is keener to find now, can be arrived at. Of course it has to be up to the local parties, but there is a desperate need to sort the situation out. It overspills into eastern Congo.

On security, my hon. Friend Ann McKechin mentioned gender and violence against women in the eastern Congo, which is of course the most hideous thing—more hideous than anyone can really imagine without experiencing it. DFID funds a hospital called the Panzi hospital, which many hon. Members have visited, which exclusively treats the female victims of violence in the eastern Congo. It is a marvellous institution and a good example of an outcome on the ground that is the result of considerable investment by DFID, and the people there certainly benefit enormously from it.

The one other issue that I want to mention briefly is transparency. I am an enormous fan of any country that wants to put many billions into African economies, particularly into what we might call more viable economies, such as Rwanda's—James Duddridge mentioned Kigali, and he has more expertise then me—which is beginning to develop industries such as the communications industry. One can imagine investment going into those industries and delivering returns in due course, which must be the ultimate objective of aid. The Chinese Government are investing in a big way throughout the African continent. They are giving a loan of $5 billion to the Congolese Government, which is very welcome. Right hon. and hon. Members will know that some of that aid will return to China, because the recipients will use Chinese labour and Chinese materials, but that is a moot point. We should see the glass as half full rather than half empty.

I have been in contact with a number of mining and other companies over the past few years that do a lot of business in Africa, although not necessarily in the DRC at this stage, because of the security situation. Large international corporations increasingly have a responsible approach to dealing with countries in Africa, not least because if they did not have sensible corporate social responsibility strategies, they would suffer in public affairs terms, they would not do as much business and their share prices would fall.

However, although I welcome without hesitation the large investment that the Chinese Government are making—I understand that the UK Government are in close liaison with them about the good work that they are doing in Africa—a concern remains, justifiably or otherwise, that some of China's large-scale investment is not of the most transparent nature. Hon. Members have talked today about DFID's correct instinct to examine outcomes and measure outputs, but we can see the effects that we are having. We have a considerable number of devices to ensure that we achieve a fair degree of transparency and that the money does not go to all the wrong places, as it used to. Presidents Kabila and Kagame are a new breed; they are not the same as the Mobutus of old. At the same time, if there is a lack of transparency in the large-scale aid packages going to developing countries such as the DRC, the whole system is naturally brought into question in the public mind.

To conclude, although we all recognise a considerable commitment among our constituents to development aid, it seems to me—I could well be wrong; I am wrong on lots of things—that the reality is that there is no enormous political benefit to be had from ramping up DFID expenditure. We do it, and we are supported by the Opposition, because we think that it is the right thing to do. Broadly speaking, my constituents support it, but they will also say that charity begins at home. It is therefore important that ramping up DFID expenditure to at least 0.7 per cent. is seen as exactly the right thing to do, regardless of who is in power.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 4:34 pm, 15th November 2007

I begin by paying tribute to the numerous groups in my constituency that regularly beat a path to my surgery door to impress upon me the need to go further and faster in matters of international development. It is a source of pride to me that the largest town in my constituency, Leighton Buzzard, recently became a Fairtrade town. I am pleased to have played a small part in helping to achieve that status. I should also like to pay tribute to groups such as Dunstable Churches Together and the St. Mary's justice and peace group, who have come to see me about these issues on a regular basis in recent years. I have not always agreed with their every policy proposal, but I am in complete agreement on the objective that we all share, namely the reduction of global poverty.

This afternoon, I want to be quite laser-like in focusing on the worldwide cotton industry. I want to do that because 99 per cent. of the world's cotton farmers are smallholders based in the countryside in the poor, developing world. Cotton still provides about half of the world's fibre requirements, and it is an enormous pity that the United States last year provided some $4 billion in subsidies to its own cotton producers, the result of which was severely to restrict access to the US market for cotton growers in the developing world and significantly to push down the global price of cotton. This has had a devastating impact on cotton growers in those countries.

There are other, more serious, issues that I want to draw to the attention of the House today. The next one is that of forced child labour in the production of cotton. It is particularly poignant that we should focus on that subject today, given that this year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's abolition of the African slave trade. In Andhra Pradesh in India, about 100,000 children are documented as having been forced to work for up to 13 hours a day for no more than 50 US cents a day. In west Africa, where 40 per cent. of the value of the exports relates to cotton, there is evidence of considerable child trafficking in relation to the picking of cotton.

In Uzbekistan, about which I am particularly concerned, there are reports that between 200,000 and 450,000 children, many as young as seven, are being forcibly taken out of schools, bussed into the cotton growing areas, made to sleep on mattresses, often at the side of the road, and forced to pick cotton, for which they are paid no more than 2p a kilo. I am not making this up; I have seen evidence of it with my own eyes. Hon. Members might have watched the BBC "Newsnight" report on 30 October. I pay tribute to the courageous journalist who went into Uzbekistan under cover. I am not sure whether the Under-Secretary saw it.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

He will have seen the pictures of soldiers with rifles standing by the children getting on to buses outside empty schools. What has this got to do with us? Quite a lot, really, because Uzbekistan is the world's second largest exporter of cotton, and about one in four garments in the United Kingdom will have some Uzbek cotton in them. So we are probably all involved in some way.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need to find a way of protecting the traditional weaving and spinning industries that have been severely damaged by the international trade agreements on cotton? Those agreements are another aspect of the issue that he is describing.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The hon. Lady is right, and I will come on to that in a moment.

In Uzbekistan, there is also evidence that teachers have been forcibly taken from the schools to pick cotton. There is even evidence that this has happened to doctors.

What can we do about this? The European Union buys one third of the entire Uzbek cotton crop. It is not good enough for the European Union, the British Government or anyone else to say that the Uzbek Government have signed the International Labour Organisation's forced labour conventions Nos. 29 and 105. What is the EU-Uzbekistan human rights dialogue doing about that situation? Is the EU just accepting the word of the Uzbek Government? I probably do not need to remind Members that as recently as May 2005 that Government brutally butchered large numbers of their people, including women and children, when they went out on the streets to protest. It is no good the EU having the power as a trading bloc to negotiate on our behalf if it does not take up such serious issues, and when the Minister replies I would be grateful if he would address that point. If we are doing such a large amount of trade in cotton produced by the forced labour of children taken out of school it is a subject that I and other Members will take very seriously indeed.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

I think I am correct in saying that technically Uzbekistan is a middle-income country. There is an increasingly large number of very poor people in middle-income countries—indeed, soon many of the poorest will be in such countries—but because we have pro-poor budget policies we do not always engage much in development programmes in those areas. Does my hon. Friend think there is an issue about how we connect with poor people in countries whose commodities and minerals mean that they are technically middle-income countries?

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who has raised a valid point that I hope will not be lost on DFID. In international development, I hope we are concerned with poor people all over the world, whatever their situation; just because there are some extremely rich people in the Uzbek Government, due to their oil assets, we should not lose sight of the rural poor and the children who are forced to pick cotton, as I described earlier.

The solution lies not just in the trading policies of Governments, or with the EU or the United Nations; it lies with us as individuals, too. I was delighted when a little while ago my hon. Friend Mr. Mitchell wrote to every Conservative Member encouraging us to use fair trade products, such as tea and coffee, in our offices. I already do so in my offices in my constituency and the Commons and in my home.

We tend to think of fair trade only in terms of products such as tea, coffee, bananas and chocolate, but there is an embryonic market in fair trade cotton. It is less than 1 per cent. of the entire UK cotton market at present, but the fair trade organisation is optimistic because the figure is rising fast. I understand that fair trade coffee is 7 per cent. of the total UK market, so there is clearly more that can be done.

If people were fully aware of the way that cotton is produced and of the consequences for those who pick it, there would be more concern to put pressure on suppliers. Overall, the consumer is king, so it would be a powerful way to do something about the appalling conditions that I described.

In international development terms, it is true that a sustainable environmental policy is key to sustainable economic development. As I said in an intervention earlier, cotton is an extremely thirsty crop, and the cotton industry in Uzbekistan has brought about one of the world's greatest environmental disasters—the virtual drying up of the Aral sea, which is only 15 per cent. of its former size. That has had a devastating impact on people and industries in the surrounding area. We need the turquoise revolution to which my right hon. Friend Mr. Lilley referred in his report; we should use harvested rainwater and drip-fed irrigation to grow more drought-resistant and faster-maturing crop varieties that are suitable for semi-arid areas.

All over the world, a tremendous amount of pesticide is required to grow cotton. That matters; figures show that about 20,000 people in the developing world die every year from the $2 billion-worth of pesticide used to grow cotton. About 1 million people require hospitalisation as a result of pesticide use, and there are perhaps up to 5 million cases of people's health being adversely affected.

I have seen a small piece of good news in the International Development Committee's report, which says that DFID was involved in a project in India that halved the amount of pesticide use, while leading to an increase in production—so there is some hope there. However, some of the chemicals used are extremely strong. Aldicarb is the second most common cotton pesticide. It is, in fact, a powerful nerve agent and a teaspoonful would be enough to kill an adult. In 1995, in Alabama, endosulfan was responsible for killing about 250,000 fish when it got into the local freshwater supply.

The use of chemicals does not stop there. Coming back to the point made by Ms Keeble in her intervention on me, there is an issue with the further use of chemicals in the rotor spinning machines that are used to turn cotton into yarn that can be used for material. Many extra chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are used to turn cotton into a soft enough material, and the organic cotton campaign is keen to do something about that issue.

I should be grateful to the Minister if he particularly addressed in his response what the UK Government intend to do in respect of our trading relationships in the EU and the action that the ILO and the UN are taking to ensure that we are not all complicit in the use of child labour in the clothes that we wear.

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Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall 4:46 pm, 15th November 2007

I rise to speak in this debate immensely proud of the record of this Labour Government in international development. As a new Member, my political philosophy and political motivation have always been to fight against injustice and poverty wherever they are found throughout the world. I therefore feel a very personal commitment to support the work of DFID and the Government in this respect. Having been born in and lived my early life in India, I know first hand the challenges that poverty and the lack of economic development bring.

I want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the Government on their achievements over the past 10 years. They have taken the lead in international efforts to tackle global poverty, with the historic aid package agreed at Gleneagles being of huge significance, following the high-profile Make Poverty History campaign. The setting up of the international finance facility for immunisation, which could help save 10 million lives by 2015, is another tangible achievement. The recent comprehensive spending review demonstrated that the Labour Government are delivering on their overseas aid promises and that we are on course to deliver the UN gold standard of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income to be spent on overseas development assistance by 2013. By 2010, this Labour Government will have trebled the aid budget in real terms since 1997, by increasing aid from £2.1 billion in 1997 to £7.93 billion in 2010.

DFID is internationally recognised as the world's leading development organisation and has played a key role in progress on the millennium development goals. It has assisted in writing off 100 per cent. of the debt owed by the world's most heavily indebted countries, and DFID's programmes have contributed to significant results on the ground, by lifting 3 million people permanently out of poverty each year.

I should also like to congratulate the Government on their work in Africa, which the Secretary of State mentioned in his opening remarks. Through its global leadership, the UK has put the issue of Africa centre stage. Under the UK's presidency, the G8 agreed an increase in aid of $50 billion a year by 2010, 100 per cent. debt cancellation, and free education for all. Obviously, the challenge now is for all G8 partners to fulfil those commitments and get Africa back on track to meet the millennium development goals. The UK has now prioritised Africa in its development aid and DFID aid to Africa is significant and growing. That is the right decision, and I welcome it.

As a Member who represents a constituency in which about 50 per cent. of the constituents were either born in the Indian subcontinent, or have parents or grandparents from there, I—like my constituents—am particularly interested in the DFID work in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Again, I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Department on the fantastic work that has been done in the last decade in these areas.

In Bangladesh, DFID's aid contributes to more than 1,300 people escaping from poverty every day. The £100 million committed to the Bangladesh primary education programme will give 17 million children a year a good quality primary schooling. DFID is also providing clean water to 7.5 million people in Bangladesh and almost 2 million people in India. In health spending, DFID is financing more than 20 per cent.—£100 million—of the Indian national polio vaccination campaign. In India, the UK is helping girls go to school through support for a midday meal scheme, free textbooks, free notebooks and pencils, and, more recently, free school uniforms for girls.

Following the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which killed 73,500 people, many of whom—because of poorly constructed schools—were children, the UK committed 10 per cent. of the £53 million humanitarian response budget to longer-term disaster risk reduction, which has helped to strengthen early warning systems and to support Governments in establishing and monitoring effective building codes. I applaud all those efforts and initiatives—and others that I have not mentioned.

I would like to make a couple of cautionary points, which I know the Government are aware of and working on. First, on human rights, it is vital that recipient Governments are under no illusions about the need to meet their responsibilities in relation to the human rights and good governance criteria that are part of development agreements with the UK. I am referring to Pakistan and Burma. The balance is tough to get right—in terms of withdrawing development assistance from recipient Governments who transgress in this regard, without removing support and thus harming the very poorest people in those countries—but I know that the Government are very sensitive to these challenges.

Secondly, it is vital that all development projects look to the long term and endeavour to support independence and self-sufficiency in the recipient nations, Governments and people.

Finally, from my own experience, I would like to comment on the targeting of aid. In India, there are some areas that are perceived as being affluent, but which still contain severe pockets of deprivation. In my own state of Punjab, there are still areas where significant work needs to be done to provide clean water, improved education and agricultural reforms. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Department will look into this matter and I commit myself to work closely with the Department, using my personal knowledge and contacts to assist in targeting resources to the poor areas.

It is important that DFID has close working relationships with groups and people in the UK who are originally from the Indian subcontinent, so that it can engage their support and knowledge, and so that we can all fight together against the evils of society on the subcontinent. There is economic growth there, but we need to consider the social aspects of society, particularly in India. My hon. Friend Ann McKechin mentioned gender problems; there are the issues of child labour, forced marriages and poor education for women to consider. It is our responsibility to look into those issues, to support projects, and to work closely with groups in this country that are working independently from the Indian subcontinent. We must work together to eliminate those problems. Finally, I commend the work of the Secretary of State and the Department to the House, and pledge my wholehearted support to their efforts to eradicate injustice and poverty throughout the world.

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L

This was the last time that Virendra Sharma uttered a word in parliament - in November 2007, over five months ago!

The average MP speaks around 30 times a year - Virendra has managed 3 utterances all year.

We might as well abolish the post of MP for Ealing Southall as keep Virendra Sharma as MP.

Submitted by Liz H

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury 4:55 pm, 15th November 2007

It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Sharma. His predecessor, Piara Khabra, was a member of the Select Committee on International Development in the last Parliament. Piara was always one of the most assiduous members of the Committee, and often asked the most pertinent questions when we travelled overseas.

The hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about India; it will soon be a middle-income country, but as we all know from travelling through India, there are huge areas of deep poverty. The issue of how best to respond to India in the coming years will be quite a challenge for DFID and other donors. At the moment, DFID supports four development programmes in four states. It will be interesting to see how we all respond to an ever growing number of very poor people in what are technically middle-income countries.

It is DFID's 10th anniversary; I am not sure whether there has been a party to which we were not invited. It is worth taking stock. DFID and the Government deserve to be congratulated on what DFID has achieved in the past 10 years. If one reads Alastair Campbell's diaries—compulsive bedtime reading for most of us—it is clear that it was thought reasonably risky to set up DFID, and to make Clare Short the first Secretary of State. Actually, those of us who worked with her think that she did incredibly well, and it is a pity that although she is still a member of the House, she rarely contributes to our debates. She managed to get DFID respected in Whitehall as a lead, main Department, pari passu with other Departments in Whitewall.

It is much to Tony Blair's credit that he achieved so much in the build up to, and at, Gleneagles. It is to the current Prime Minister's credit that, following the comprehensive spending review, DFID is projected to spend almost £8 billion annually in the developing world—a phenomenal achievement. There is now consensus in the House on 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic income going toward development assistance, and on the timetable for that; that, too, is a great achievement.

Frustrations in the past 10 years include the failure on trade policy. The World Trade Organisation negotiations failed at Hong Kong. In fact, they failed so badly that no WTO ministerial conference has been convened on Doha since 2005, notwithstanding the obligation to hold a ministerial conference every two years. The achievements in the past 10 years are therefore tempered by some frustration.

There are several reasons why the commitments made at Gleneagles may be squandered. The first two are the responsibility of developing countries, especially in Africa. The first is good governance, a theme to which we keep returning. It slightly does one's head in, really. We have gone through various initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The whole point of NEPAD was that there should be peer pressure to try to encourage countries to have good governance. But while Zimbabwe continues to disintegrate into an abyss of misery and chaos, with countries around Zimbabwe standing silent, it is difficult to see what impact NEPAD is having. We must continue to champion the need for good governance, particularly in Africa.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

With reference to Zimbabwe, I am interested to know what my hon. Friend thinks would be the appropriate response from the United Nations in terms of the responsibility to protect.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

There is a whole speech to be made on what we do about the responsibility to protect. As we have seen in the case of Darfur, it often comes down to the difficulty of finding peacekeepers, peace monitors, lift capacity and so on. It is frustrating that we are no further forward on Darfur than we were a year ago. Indeed, things are getting worse.

Under the NEPAD agreement, there is a responsibility on African countries to bring peer pressure. That was part of the deal, and we would give greater development assistance. However, the problems are not just in Africa. There are real concerns about what is happening in Pakistan.

We in Banbury are building a secondary school in the earthquake-stricken area of Kashmir, and not long ago I went with leading members of the Kashmiri community in Banbury to meet the head of the education department in Islamabad. We were talking about madrassahs, and he made the point that because so many parents in Pakistan are so poor and cannot get their children to school because the schools do not exist, sending them to madrassahs is better than nothing.

If we do not invest in literacy in countries such as Pakistan, we will obviously create problems for the future, but if Pakistan continues to undermine democracy there is no incentive for foreign direct investment in Pakistan. Sorting out conflict is therefore as important as sorting out good governance.

Another set of threats to delivery of the Gleneagles aims are failures on the part of donors—not the UK Government, but on aid commitments Italy, for example, is woefully off target. Since 2005 overall overseas development aid through the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee—system, has marginally but astonishingly gone down. We should ensure that countries that make great commitments at summits such as Gleneagles deliver on them.

There is a consensus about the need to secure a genuine pro-poor trade deal at the World Trade Organisation. As I have repeatedly said during the debate, we need to think about what to do about middle- income countries. The benefits of reducing tariffs and liberalising rules of origin would be phenomenal. According to Oxfam, just a 1 per cent. increase in Africa's share of world trade would generate the equivalent of seven times the aid that Africa receives.

We must make sure that in the aid system there is accountability to both taxpayers and developing countries. This annual debate is bound to include discussion about the machinery of government. In the debate on Burma a little while ago, I raised with the Secretary of State the issue of budget support. The committee that the Secretary of State announced today is fine. It is an interesting step in the right direction, but it is slightly circular to have a committee to evaluate whether DFID's evaluation of its own aid programme is of value. What is needed is some process whereby the outcomes of DFID's programmes are measured and evaluated.

The time limit in the debate does not allow me to set that out, but I am happy to write to the Secretary of State. Since his castigation of me during the Burma speech, I have been doing quite a lot of research, and I could bore the House to tears with comments by the former Secretary of State and so on. When it came to offering direct budget support to countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, all that happened was that DFID officials had to monitor the Government's concern for how the money was spent. If, however, one is to spend money through multilateral agencies or project support, one needs a completely different mix of officials within DFID. All the officials I ever met in DFID were very high calibre: the Department probably has more fast-stream officials in Whitehall than practically any other Department, which is very good news, but one requires a different mix of them.

The constituency of people contributing to debate in the House is a constituency within Parliament as a whole. Colleagues in Westminster and the wider world in our constituencies are important in persuading the country and our constituents that investing in overseas development is worth doing. It must be possible to reach some consensus about how outcomes of DFID programmes can be measured and evaluated. If DFID could achieve that, we would not run into difficulties down the line, with people saying that money was wasted on this or that development programme, as we could have demonstrated that aid and assisting people works.

My final point is that we need to place more emphasis on jobs and enterprise in developing countries. Whenever one goes overseas—I know that members of the Select Committee, chaired by Malcolm Bruce, often go overseas—the question is always where the jobs are going to come from. As the Secretary of State said, we need to think about how we can help with enterprise and development business. He told us about the Department's agricultural initiatives, which are crucial and worthwhile.

On DFID's 10th anniversary—I hope that at some stage we will have the opportunity to present the Department with a birthday cake, which it deserves—there remain some areas of concern, not least how we are going to measure outcomes in the future.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 5:07 pm, 15th November 2007

I agree with those who think that the ending of world poverty depends on economic growth. However, there is a difference between economic growth and development. The problem with the growth approach is that, without proper mechanisms for redistribution, the trickle-down effect simply does not reach some people. We acknowledge that in this country, which is why we have child benefit, school meals programmes, fruit in school programmes and school milk programmes.

The people not reached by pure economic growth are always the same people—especially vulnerable children—and it will come as no surprise to the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend Mr. Thomas, when I say that that is the group I want to talk about, particularly in the context of DFID developing its HIV/AIDS strategy. Does the Department recognise the need for a strategy for HIV/AIDS orphans? In particular, will the Minister commit to ensuring that funds continue to be earmarked for those children? Unless we do that, all the economic growth in the world will not result in any improved conditions or circumstances for those children.

I want to raise a couple of points, the first of which is about scale. In this country, we do not remotely recognise the scale of the problem of orphans and vulnerable children resulting from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We are talking about 14 million children, almost all in sub-Saharan Africa. Just think about what that means in some countries. In Zimbabwe, the population is now down to about 11 or 12 million. I know from discussions with UNICEF people that estimates range from between 900,000 to 1.25 million orphans and vulnerable children in that country. That means that roughly one in eight Zimbabweans is now an orphan, which is a staggering problem for such a failed state to cope with. Once there is a change of regime there, the world will have to pick up that problem, because those orphans and vulnerable children will still need support.

The services needed by those children involve major complexity. They need food. We hear a lot of talk about sustainable development, and about feeding programmes having to be sustainable from within the community, but children are not sustainable unless they are fed. I have been to many projects whose store rooms have had no food in them. For one reason or another, they cannot get it from the World Food Programme, and they have to scratch around for bits of money. I have told my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of instances when I have paid their grocery bills and so on with my small change, because they simply did not have food. I have seen that in country after country.

Such children need maintained shelter, social care and legal rights—if a group of orphans are left after the parents have died, the family will come and take the hut from them, and sometimes simply leave them. They need school fees and bus fares paid, if there are buses, and the cost of uniforms, pencils and so on paid for. They need protection, particularly if they are street children. And they need antiretrovirals, which is a whole other issue.

By and large, the departments that deal with children's issues in most developing countries are quite weak—they are across and down from the centre of power, much as they were in this country before children's issues were properly recognised in the Department for Children, Schools and Families. A dedicated strategy and earmarked funds are therefore needed. If money goes into the general kitty, it will disappear into spending on those parts of government that make the biggest demands—usually the big institutions.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows, over the past four years I have built up a small charity that provides support for orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania. That has given me some insight into what happens to those children when they do not get care.

Let me briefly recite one story of a little girl called Beatrice. In the year I first saw her, her mother had just had a little baby. She also had an older sister and brother. The mother was HIV-positive, but they were all on antiretrovirals and all managing. The next year, the mother had died; the baby had died; the eldest girl, who was not HIV-positive, had been taken away by relatives up-country; and the boy, who was HIV-positive but quite well, had been taken into an orphanage. I saw the little girl in an emergency shelter in Nairobi, with no organisation that had funds to protect her. I visited the orphanage where the little boy was, and it did not even have the bed nets that DFID has sent all around Kenya. I know that the bed nets were delivered to that area, but they did not reach the orphanage. They had gone to the district commissioners, and goodness knows where after that. Unless we do careful work on tracking and have the determination to help those children, they will not be helped.

What is needed? I point my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the excellent work coming from the working group on orphans and vulnerable children of the UK Consortium on Aids and International Development. Earmarked money for orphans and vulnerable children is needed—10 per cent. of the money spent on HIV/AIDS. More work on tracking is also needed. There have been difficulties, and while some of the money is starting to come through, unless the funding stream is maintained and given a bigger push, those children will suffer. More work is needed on prevention of mother-to-child transmission, on diagnostics and particularly on the infant formula.

We sometimes do not realise this, because perhaps we do not see people on ARVs, but they have a transformative effect. I remember going to Zimbabwe and seeing a little child who appeared to be at death's door. When I went back a year later I asked what had happened to her, expecting to be told when she had died. The man who ran the orphanage said "Blessing? There she is, over there"—and there was the little girl, running around. They had managed to put her on antiretrovirals, and although for some unknown reason she was left with some disability in her legs, she was healthy and, as long as she remained on antiretrovirals, would have a reasonable life. However, more infant formulas are needed so that people who have built up resistance to one can go on to another.

The money must go to where the children are. It needs to go to the organisations that are working with them most closely, especially the community-based organisations that provide networking and care in the community at the most basic level. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister, when considering DFID's strategy for HIV and AIDS, to pay serious attention to the orphans and vulnerable children whom many describe as the "third wave" of the epidemic. The first wave is the infection, the second is death, and the third is those orphans and vulnerable children.

Even after the new infections stop—and in some countries, fortunately, the rate is falling—the people who are infected will die and the orphans and vulnerable children will remain. They will need protections and safeguards for generations to come, particularly in Zimbabwe and other countries that are emerging from collapse, conflict and chaos. Once the curtain has rolled back in Zimbabwe, we will see the terrible toll of HIV and AIDS. We will see a whole generation of children who have been voiceless in what has happened, who have suffered some of the cruellest losses, and whose shattered lives will need to be rebuilt—but we can only do that if we have the committed 10 per cent. of funds, along with tracking mechanisms to ensure that it reaches the children.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 5:17 pm, 15th November 2007

It is a huge privilege to wind up the debate for the Opposition. It has been a sober and highly constructive debate. I think it a great pity that the public do not see more such examples of the House's work, rather than the more flamboyant occasions.

We have heard 13 excellent speeches, and I hope that Members will show me some forbearance if I do not mention them all. The Secretary of State gave us two particularly good pieces of news in what was a very good speech. First, he confirmed that his Department was giving an extra £100 million to the United Nations Population Fund, which I am sure Chris McCafferty was very pleased to hear. As the hon. Lady will know but others may not recall, I am going back to my roots: I used to be chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on population, development and reproductive health—a position in which she succeeded me. She mentioned her excellent report, and the devastating effect of problems of this kind on women in Africa, producing the horrific statistic that one woman in 20 dies from maternity-related problems. The group dealt with precisely the same issues when I was its chairman, and it is sad that there has been so little improvement in the intervening period.

The other good news in the Secretary of State's speech was the additional £20 million for the Governance and Transparency Fund. Many Members have mentioned the desperate need to find a way of improving governance, particularly in the countries of Africa. I shall return to that subject if I have time.

I pay tribute to Mr. Clarke—if I do not mention all the people in his constituency, they will be upset—who always makes a very sound speech. He must be congratulated on producing what is now an Act. As he said, this should become an annual debate, and I hope that the Secretary of State has taken that on board. He also made the very good point that we need to encourage all other nations that signed up to Gleneagles commitments to meet the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. It is now a widely accepted United Nations target, but in the last speech or two we heard that one or two countries are falling short, and we must do all that we can to encourage them to meet their commitments. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the 0.7 per cent target is not the end of the matter. We hope that our GNI will continue to grow considerably so the budget will not be set in absolute terms but will grow in real terms as well. We hope that other countries' budgets for international development will grow in the same way. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the relationship between aid, trade and debt. I will come back to that issue if I have time.

We heard an excellent speech from Malcolm Bruce, the Chairman of the Select Committee; in fact we heard excellent speeches from several members of the Committee. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and his staff on producing the report for the debate today. As he said, the report has added hugely to the quality of the debate. I congratulate him also on what his Committee is doing in going to some of the most difficult troublespots in the world. I, too, have visited Afghanistan and it is a very difficult country to get around in. It is not safe and I congratulate the Committee on going there, as one of the biggest jobs in the world is in Afghanistan. Will the Secretary of State consider having a powerful international co-ordinator so that all agencies—including USAID, which has a tendency to go round the country doing its own thing—are tied in together, along with all military efforts from NATO and the Americans?

I shall give the House an example of where that is not happening at the moment. USAID suddenly announced that it wanted to spend many billions of dollars on the Kajaki dam project to produce hydroelectricity without first checking that the security situation would be good enough to get the heavy rotary pumps into place by road.

I commend the proposal in the globalisation and poverty report produced by my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron for demonstrating how keenly important trade is to ensuring that we sustainably lift out of poverty some of the countries of the world. My hon. Friend Andrew Selous said that we needed to make sure that aid was seen as a tool for getting middle-income countries out of poverty and towards developed country status.

I have just come back from looking at economic partnership agreements in Uganda, as well as in the Caribbean and Pacific. Many of those Caribbean countries that are currently middle-income countries, with a little extra help, could be turned into developed countries and would not need any aid at all.

Will the Minister be very kind and answer one or two questions about one of the most pressing issues of the day, economic partnership agreements? There is an absolute deadline of 31 December because of the EU's requirement to be WTO-compatible. In view of the Cotonou agreement, will he let the House know the current progress? Are we likely to have any or all of the six agreements signed by 31 December? I know that there is a critical meeting of the Commission and Ministers next week, so it may be slightly premature to ask the question. However, when I was in the Caribbean last week, the issue was very much in the balance and I met several Trade Ministers who were very unhappy. I hope that an agreement can be made that is satisfactory to all parties.

The Cotonou agreement envisaged that if an EPA were signed, there would be a satisfactory package of development aid. The Trade Ministers were unhappy that at present—the Minister may be able to update us—no such package of aid has been agreed to help what in some of the smaller islands will be a difficult and painful transition.

Let me give an example of the sort of thing that could happen under these economic partnership agreements. I recently met some Seychelles MPs. The Seychelles has a population of about 88,000. One major industry is tuna canning, which employs several hundred people, and the MPs were fearful that if the EPA goes through in its current form that entire industry would go to Thailand as it would not be cost-competitive. That would be a difficult transition, and we must bear such situations in mind. Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient impact assessments have been conducted in respect of such countries so that we know what effect the EPAs will have in the short to medium term?

My final question in terms of the EPAs is on the interpretation of the WTO rules. One important element is the interpretation of what counts as the substantial opening up of markets. It has in the past been perceived that that would mean that the EU would open up 100 per cent. of its markets to some of the smaller African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, but in return they would open up 80 per cent. of their markets. It seems, however, that the ground has shifted in the past week or two—that the 80 per cent. figure has increased to 90 per cent. That would make a huge difference, and if the ground has shifted we must look carefully at whether the EU is operating double standards. It was asking for at least 8 per cent. of sensitive industries, mainly agriculture, to be excluded from the WTO arrangements—which is one of the reasons why the Hong Kong round has so far not succeeded—but on the other hand it seems to be pushing the ACP countries down from 20 per cent. to below 8 per cent. That would have an even more difficult effect on such countries. The EU cannot have it both ways.

Many other issues have been raised. I agreed so much with most of what my hon. Friend James Duddridge said that I was almost leaping up at every moment to intervene. He made some very important points. I know from a former role of mine how important it is for the different Departments to co-operate—for example, the Foreign Office, DFID, the Ministry of Defence and the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. That is especially the case in terms of some of the most difficult human rights issues in the world—those in Darfur and Zimbabwe, for example. The international community must try to put in place packages so that we can stop such countries collapsing into absolute chaos and causing extreme misery to their populations. Last week, I met Zimbabwean representatives of an excellent charity called ZANE. It is doing very good work in Zimbabwe, but it was harrowing to learn that because of the regime's measures forcing goods to be sold at the same price as two years ago there are no goods in most of the shops and children in particular are beginning to get into a very parlous state. We in the international community must find a mechanism whereby we can stop countries getting into such difficulties and causing such misery to their people.

In an intervention on my hon. Friend's speech, my hon. Friend Mr. Newmark mentioned the Portland Trust and microfinance. I travelled to Nigeria last year and witnessed one of DFID's microfinance projects. It was wonderful to see how some of the poorest people in the world in Kano were being encouraged to make rugs and thereby provide a little bit of money for themselves and their children. It is amazing how very small sums of money—guaranteed loans or even grants from DFID—can make such a huge difference.

My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire was right to say that we need to look at some of the farming practices in the third world and the developed world—I say that coming from my background as a farmer, which I declare now. My hon. Friend is right that we must make sure that the developed world is not adopting practices that put some of the poorest farmers on the planet out of business. That is, of course, one of the reasons why the WTO round has so far failed. He mentioned the US subsidy to cotton of $4 billion, which is one of the principal reasons why it has failed to date.

My hon. Friend was right about other things, too. I support the Fairtrade initiatives. While I was in the Caribbean I heard of the considerable effect in St. Lucia of the banana Fairtrade initiative. Sainsbury's now stocks only organic bananas, principally from St. Lucia, which has had a hugely beneficial effect on that country.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

As the hon. Lady was one of the last to speak I might not quite get to her contribution, so I will happily give way when I have finished this point. The Fairtrade initiative's time is coming, and one or two of the supermarkets are beginning to adopt a fair trade regime for cotton, which is extremely welcome. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire referred to the 300,000 to 400,000 children who are seized and taken out of school to work in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan for a matter of 2p a kilogram. That is an absolute disgrace and as he said, the BBC did a fantastic job in exposing that under extremely dangerous conditions. I will now happily give way to Ms Keeble.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. On farming, is he aware that our clampdown on tobacco products has resulted in a 15 per cent. drop in the tobacco harvest in Malawi? Does he think that wealthy countries such as ours that institute such bans should provide support for Malawian farmers and others, so that they can grow alternative crops and are not pitched into poverty?

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I entirely agree. We saw in Afghanistan the great difficulty in persuading farmers not to grow narcotics and to grow alternative crops. The hon. Lady is absolutely right: we should help farmers in Malawi and in many other countries to diversify into crops that are more environmentally friendly, or more human-friendly.

I have just two minutes left and in that time, I want again to congratulate the Government on moving towards the 2013 UN target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. However, in moving towards it they need to consider two critical things, the first of which is the level of staffing. If they reduce the staff dealing with such projects in-country, they will inevitably have to direct more of their budget to the direct budget funding of the individual country concerned, or through multilateral agencies. Those are both good things in themselves, but as Mr. Sharma rightly said, DFID has the best reputation in the world as an aid and international development provider, and we want to make sure that that is maintained. We should bask in its glory and congratulate all its staff on what they do, but as my hon. Friend Mr. Mitchell rightly said, we need to ensure that that money is being spent wisely. I suspect that the Government's independent watchdog will become merely a puppet of the Department, and I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that it is more independent. If it is critical in one or two areas, it is doing a thoroughly good job.

I come back to the theme that the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill started, and which the hon. Member for Northampton, North finished with. Many of our constituents might be critical of the huge amount of money going into international development. I say to them that if they had come with me to Haiti last week, they would have seen the abject squalor and filth, the absolute poverty and the number of children just wandering around the streets with no education, and no education available to them. There are many other countries like that. A country such as ours, which has so much, should be well and truly prepared to provide its full share to those who have so little, and it should expect other countries to live up to their Gleneagles commitments and do the same.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Parliamentary Under-Secretary(Department for International Development) (Trade Policy) (also Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Trade and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for International Development), Party Chair, Co-operative Party 5:33 pm, 15th November 2007

I join Mr. Clifton-Brown in welcoming this extremely interesting debate. As he rightly said, there have been some very thoughtful contributions from Members in all parts of the House. I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and of the shadow Secretary of State in paying tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke in taking the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Bill through the House last year. As the Minister in the Department for International Development who had the pleasure of responding to debates on his Bill, I should tell the House that he was ferociously polite, always assiduous in pressing his case and extremely careful to take into account opinions from all parts of the House. I know that he consulted civil society thoroughly during the passage of the Bill, and its enactment continues to be a tribute to his skill in navigating the complexities of this House.

One area that my right hon. Friend particularly focused on throughout his contributions in the House, and in all the private discussions that we had, was his insistence that the Bill must ensure that there was year-on-year reporting on our progress to meet the UN goal of 0.7 per cent. of national income being spent on development assistance. I therefore welcome his comments about the outcome of the comprehensive spending review. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear, the Government will provide more than £9 billion of overseas aid a year by 2010, keeping us on track to meet the Prime Minister's commitment to achieve the 0.7 per cent. target by 2013.

Mr. Mitchell made a number of comments and asked a series of questions, to which I shall return. I welcome his opening general praise, and the comments of several other hon. Members praising the Department and those who work outside it in the area of development. There are many highly committed people in civil society, in international institutions and in our Department, who often work in very dangerous places, and I join the House in paying tribute to their courage and passion.

My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin) and for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) asked a series of questions. Before I come to some of the specifics that they raised, may I take the opportunity to pay tribute to their work as the respective chairs of the all-party group on debt, aid and trade and the all-party group on population, development and reproductive health?

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North, asked, among other things, about the need for further innovative sources of finance to help tackle both international poverty and the adaptation needs flowing from the climate change challenges that we face. I reassure her that we are looking at exactly that issue, in part because of the run-up to the Bali considerations, and we will, of course, carefully examine what her all-party group has just published.

The all-party group that my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley chairs has been a bright and shining star in the fight to get safe abortion facilities and the access to the sexual and reproductive health commodities that women across the developing world deserve. I hope that she will recognise and continue to champion my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's announcement of £100 million of further assistance to the United Nations Population Fund as an example of this Government's continuing commitment in the area of interest to her all-party group.

I say gently to Lynne Featherstone that I cannot echo such positive comments in respect of her speech. I thought that it was disappointing. If she mentioned the millennium development goals at all, I for one missed it. Her speech certainly did not dwell on the plight of the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 a day or on the possible solutions to help tackle that poverty.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Parliamentary Under-Secretary(Department for International Development) (Trade Policy) (also Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Trade and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for International Development), Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I say to the hon. Lady that merely mentioning those MDGs is simply not good enough. Her speech seemed to be more about Saudi Arabia than about development. I suspect that that reflects, with some notable exceptions, the lack of priority that her party has given international development. In the time that I have been a Minister in the Department for International Development, the Liberal Democrats have changed their international development spokespeople on an almost annual basis.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

The mention of Saudi Arabia was with regard to corruption and asking: how can we lecture the Africans? In fact, Hugh Bayley has just given me a very good report, "The Other Side of the Coin", which goes into how much corruption robs from development aid. That was the point that I was making. How can we lecture Africa?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Parliamentary Under-Secretary(Department for International Development) (Trade Policy) (also Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Trade and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for International Development), Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I am glad that the hon. Lady has been given help by others in the House: on the basis of her speech, I think that she needs it.

A number of hon. Members, including James Duddridge, entirely fairly highlighted the need to step up work on developing the private sector. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Baroness Vadera are exploring the scope for further work by the Department in that area. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming the Prime Minister's commitment to spend some £750 million on aid for trade, which I will air next week at the first ever global meeting on aid for trade, convened by the World Trade Organisation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will see that as a particularly positive development.

My hon. Friend Mr. Sharma and Tony Baldry mentioned the importance of India in achieving the millennium development goals. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his long-standing interest in India and poverty there. He was right to draw attention to the fact that some 350 million poor people in India still live on less than $1 a day—more than the number of poor people who live in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. I assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to work for a reduction in poverty in India.

My hon. Friend Mr. Joyce highlighted the huge tensions in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. We continue to press for a political solution rather than a military one, for reasons that the House will understand. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North highlighted the terrible suffering of women in the DRC. In the time available, I cannot do justice to the scale of their suffering or to the full range of our response, but let me highlight one small example of the way in which we are trying to help. Through our aid for reproductive health care, some 500,000 women in the DRC are benefiting from much better access to such health care. I hope that that gives the House some reassurance about our continuing focus on that matter.

My hon. Friend Ms Keeble praised the contribution of a series of NGOs that work to support orphans and vulnerable children. In turn, I praise her long-standing interest in that subject, her continuing questioning and her appetite to ensure that the Department makes more progress. Our commitment of 10 per cent. of our funding for aid spending on orphans and vulnerable children three years ago was designed to galvanise interest in the matter across the international donor spectrum and, crucially, in developing countries too. More donors have become interested and taken action, and more developing countries are prioritising and responding to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. We will continue to keep the matter in view.

I turn now to the particular questions asked by Mr. Clifton-Brown that relate to my ministerial responsibilities. As he said, considerable attention is paid in civil society and in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to economic partnership agreements. Although his questions were entirely understandable, he was right, I am afraid, that they are a little premature in light of the General Affairs and External Relations Council that will take place next week, at which the Trade Commissioner will report back on progress. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps not be surprised to hear that there has been considerable progress in those negotiations—more than we have seen before—in the past three weeks. The process is fluid, and a series of further negotiating meetings have taken place this week.

A debate is due to take place in this House purely on the subject of economic partnership agreements, and it will enable us to delve into the detail of where progress has been made. Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to focus on the development dimension of economic partnership agreements. That is one reason why—from as far back as March 2005, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was Trade Minister—we have championed the offer of 100 per cent. duty and quota-free access to the European Union for developing countries. We were delighted when, as a result of our pressure and the Trade Commissioner's appetite for the idea, a 100 per cent. duty and quota-free access offer was proposed back in April, albeit with transitional periods for just two products. I will of course continue to keep the House updated.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I should be grateful if the Minister would refer to the subject of forced child labour. It may not be his specific responsibility, but perhaps he could give me some assurance that he will speak to his colleagues in other Departments if he thinks that they are more directly concerned with that matter.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Parliamentary Under-Secretary(Department for International Development) (Trade Policy) (also Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Trade and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for International Development), Party Chair, Co-operative Party

I was going to come to the hon. Gentleman's point, but let me do so now. He referred to the excellent investigation by "Newsnight" journalists. He may have had the chance to see the whole piece, in which he will have seen me make a commitment to talk to EU colleagues. We will continue to do so, as I indicated on the programme. I should, however, add one thing. He is right to say that there is more that we can do here in the UK. We do not have to rely on the EU. We have asked a series of retailers to look at their supply chains in even more detail. It is one of the reasons why we want those firms that are not part of the ethical trading initiative to sign up. The experience in Uzbekistan should be a powerful demonstration of the need for all British retailers, and indeed European retailers, to look to their supply chains.

The hon. Member for Banbury has followed the Doha round of talks particularly closely, given his past role. Indeed, I know that all Members of the House are interested in it. We are at a critical moment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State alluded to the work that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been doing. Indeed, a series of Ministers across Government have been using meetings with interlocutors not only in the EU but in the US, India, Brazil and other developing countries, including crucially the least developed countries, which ultimately have most to gain from a successful conclusion to the Doha round.

The G4 will need to show more flexibility. We in the EU will need to show more flexibility. I believe that the Trade Commissioner is willing to do that. We will also need our allies in America to show more flexibility and we will need India and Brazil to show flexibility in the areas where they can do so. That will continue to be a priority for the House.

The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and the one bright spot of the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, as well as, indeed, the report of the International Development Committee, referred to the importance of climate change. It is certainly not a low priority for the Department for International Development. The last White Paper identified tackling climate change as one of the top priorities for the Department going forward, and that was reflected in March this year when the then Chancellor, now the Prime Minister, announced a joint DFID-DEFRA £800 million environmental transformation fund, which will provide aid for clean energy, avoided deforestation and adaptation.

We are taking forward the implementation of that fund through the World Bank, working with a range of other organisations. We are seeking to secure other donors to put similar sums into a World Bank trust fund to help us take forward work on adaptation in the way that I have described. Crucially, we are also working with colleagues across Government to ensure a globally just post-2012 agreement. We are building analysis on what a fair outcome would mean and what the contribution of developing countries should be. We are also steadily increasing our work on climate change in our focal countries. I give the House just one example. We have committed to spend some £50 million to help improve the livelihoods of 32,000 families in Bangladesh by raising their homes above the one-in-100-years flood level. We are also spending £5 million on improving climate change information in Africa.

I acknowledge the Select Committee's point that there is much more that we need to do in this area. There has been a significant scaling up of staff in DFID working on it; there will be more to come. I was disappointed by the shadow Secretary of State's rather low-key reaction to the appointment of the excellent David Peretz as chair of the new independent advisory committee on development impact. Once again, the shadow Secretary of State failed to acknowledge not only the talents of Mr. Peretz, but the plethora of other bodies that already monitor our spending directly or indirectly. There was no mention in the hon. Gentleman's speech of the powerful role that the National Audit Office plays in monitoring our spending, or of the Public Accounts Committee.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

Just to nail that point, the people whom the Secretary of State has managed to collect for the committee are of the highest possible calibre and I recognise the important contribution that they can make. However, the remit of the toothless watchdog that has come forth from the Department needs to be massively beefed up to make it effective, for the reasons that many hon. Members have set out. Will the Minister and his colleagues have another look to see how they can make the body more effective?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Parliamentary Under-Secretary(Department for International Development) (Trade Policy) (also Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Trade and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for International Development), Party Chair, Co-operative Party

The hon. Gentleman rightly identified the considerable talents of the people who have been approached to serve on the committee, but I say gently to him that he should give credit to them by recognising that they would not want to serve on such a committee if they did not think that they had a powerful role to play.

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman, again gently, that some may wonder whether he keeps raising questions about aid effectiveness in order to draw a veil over his party's dismal record on the issue. The House has debated before the Pergau dam affair under the previous Government, which left a terrible legacy for this country's reputation in developing countries. It was an entirely preventable fiasco, completely opposed by those in the development community and utterly illegal. The Pergau dam affair also exposed a broader record when the Opposition were in government of aid money being used for all sorts of purposes other than poverty reduction. Under the hon. Gentleman's party, aid money was used to pay for helicopters, for example, to be sent to India—helicopters that it was never clear the Indians wanted. The hon. Gentleman has also still not acknowledged his party's terrible failure in development funding, with steady cuts to the 0.5 per cent. of national income going to development in 1979, which was down to 0.26 per cent. by the time his party left office in 1997.

The hon. Gentleman perhaps began to lose his characteristic joie de vivre when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intervened on him to highlight his party's lack of engagement in Europe. I say to the hon. Gentleman, again gently, that one cannot be both pro-trade and anti-Europe. He and his party cannot hope to have influence over any aspect of trade while they remain as virulently anti-European as they are.

Malcolm Bruce gave a much more considered commentary on the inputs-outputs debate. He acknowledged that the level of spending is important, but I of course accept that we should focus further on outputs. I accept that we can do more to demonstrate the effectiveness of our work, but I should like to draw his and the whole House's attention to our work on education in India, for example, where more than 10 million children are now in primary school, in part as a result of our aid. In Malawi our aid has helped to reverse the haemorrhaging of nurses from the Malwian health service.

The right hon. Gentleman and others raised a series of other questions. Time does not allow me to answer all of them, so I end by answering his point about Pakistan. Of course I understand the concerns of the whole House about the situation in Pakistan and about our aid programme to that country. I welcome President Musharraf's recent comments about the timing of elections. Of course there are concerns about how those elections will be conducted, and those concerns are being taken forward by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. We are giving urgent attention to how our aid programme should go forward.

I have tried to answer as many of the comments and interventions made by hon. Members in all parts of the House as I can. I welcome this opportunity to debate these issues again, and I hope that the whole House will welcome the comprehensive spending review outcome for the Department for International Development. I look forward to having the opportunity to debate these issues again shortly.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the House has considered the matter of international development.