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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:52 pm, 30th March 2009

You have brought joy to many colleagues, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should begin by saying that my right hon. Friend Mr. Hague sends his apologies. He is in Paris for meetings with the French Foreign Minister and members of President Sarkozy's team.

This is a landmark— [ Interruption. ] I wish that the people in the cheap seats on the Labour Benches could contain themselves just for a little while here in the palace of varieties. This is a landmark debate as well as an overdue one. The House has debated Africa as a whole only once since 1992, in 2005, when the then Secretary of State for International Development led a debate on poverty in Africa. We on the Conservative Benches therefore welcome the fact that the Government initiated today's debate and hope that it signals their intention to pursue a comprehensive Foreign Office-led approach to the continent, which is simultaneously the source of much conflict and suffering, as well as opportunity and hope in equal measure. We also urge the Government to hold such debates more regularly in future. The interest shown by hon. Members in all parts of the House demonstrates that doing so would be welcome.

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