G8 Summit

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 16th July 2008.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 11:30 am, 16th July 2008

What the outcome for development policy of the G8 summit was.

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

Last week's summit, as the Prime Minister made clear in his statement to the House, reiterated G8 commitments to delivering $50 billion in extra aid by 2010, with $25 billion going to Africa, and $4 billion in aid for trade and universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. The G8 has also pledged more than $10 billion for food security, $60 billion over five years for health, 1.5 million more health workers, 100 million bed nets by 2010, and $1 billion for the education fast track initiative.

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

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply but, given the recent statement by the president of the World Bank that soaring food prices have put more than 100 million people back into extreme poverty, and the world into a danger zone, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if we are to deliver in Africa, tackling the drag-anchor problem of Zimbabwe is absolutely imperative? Given the failure of the UN Security Council resolution, will he make it clear that we now expect the southern African countries to unite in solving that problem, so that the aid and development that we are rightly contributing will be effective?

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

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware, our Foreign Secretary was in southern Africa only last week, and he took the opportunity to have discussions with the Government of South Africa. Of course it is to be regretted that there were those who chose not to support the Security Council resolution, although we were encouraged by the terms of the G8 communiqué, which did make some progress. The opportunity now is twofold. First, we want to see further action through the Mbeki process that is being taken forward on behalf of the Southern African Development Community. Secondly, there will be a further opportunity in the days to come at the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union, where we will press for further European sanctions. I can assure the House that we will continue to be unstinting in our efforts to support the initiatives being taken within Africa—not only in SADC but in the African Union as well—and that we will not miss any further opportunities, not least at the upcoming General Affairs and External Relations Council, to press the case and to say that we want to see real progress so that the voice of the Zimbabwean people can be reflected in their Government.

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

At the summit, were the Government in a position to reaffirm their commitment, made at Gleneagles, to achieving the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income? If so, that would take us ahead of most European Union countries.

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

I am able to give my right hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. We are continuing to pursue our goal of 0.7 per cent., and the spending review settlement that we secured only last July reflects the determination across the whole of the British Government to pursue that goal. Some countries, however, are not as determined as we are to achieve that goal in the time scale that we have set out, which is why we continue to use international forums to push other countries to accept their responsibilities as well.

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Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Conservative, Croydon South

The Secretary of State will be well aware that much of the development debate at the G8 focused on poverty. Is he also aware that no country has got itself out of poverty without first stabilising its level of population growth? In those circumstances, to what extent is that factor being put into his own policies?

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

Of course there is a challenge—as we are witnessing in the present food crisis—to ensure that all the mouths that are here now and in the future receive adequate food and adequate support. Equally, however, even countries with rising populations can grow enough to feed their own populations if they put in place the fundamentals, including good governance, effective macro-economic stability, improved agricultural productivity and effective trade. That is why we take a broad-minded approach in saying that we need to tackle poverty in a range of different ways. Of course, discussions on population and family planning are one aspect of that, but we recognise that there are many dimensions to this challenge.

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Photo of Andy Reed Andy Reed Labour, Loughborough

As my right hon. Friend is aware, water and sanitation made it back into the G8 communiqué after a five-year absence. Is he also aware that a cross-party group of MPs has just returned from a slum survivor event, at which we tried to highlight the fact that one in six people in the world live in slums? Water and sanitation will make an enormous difference to those people. Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that what was said in the communiqué about a report being produced in a year is not enough? What we need is action now. Will he urge his international colleagues to put water and sanitation right at the heart of meeting our millennium development goals?

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

Yes, and let me also pay tribute to the efforts that my hon. Friend has made on this issue for some time. Of course we welcome the fact that the G8 communiqué once again referenced water and sanitation, and recognised their centrality and importance not only for slum dwellers but for poor people right around the world. We are looking ahead to the high-level UN meeting on 25 September as the next opportunity to focus global attention on water and sanitation. We will have had the first annual global monitoring report by that time, as it is due to be launched in early September. I sincerely hope that the meeting will offer many others, and not just the United Kingdom Government, an opportunity to take forward the efforts to tackle this issue.

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

Although the G8 did, as the Secretary of State said, make some progress on development, may I return to the point made somewhat opaquely by his right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke and ask whether the Secretary of State is dismayed that Canada, France and Japan actually cut their aid to Africa last year? Is it not rather difficult to promote good governance in the developing world when developing countries see some leaders of the G8 countries going back on promises made in front of the world's television cameras three years ago at Gleneagles?

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

I accept that more progress needs to be made in achieving the Gleneagles commitment, but it is with genuine pride that I reflect on the fact that at Gleneagles in 2005 it was a Labour Government from the United Kingdom who said that development in Africa should be the top priority. Real progress is being made with 41 million more children in school, 3 million more children surviving every year and more than 2 million people receiving AIDS treatment as a consequence of the action taken by G8 countries. I fully recognise that more work needs to be done, which is why I applaud the global leadership taken by our Prime Minister in urging all G8 countries to recognise their responsibilities and to put poverty so high up on the agenda in Japan.

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