Sustainable Development Goals

Part of Opposition Day — [15th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:38 pm on 28th January 2015.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Shadow Minister (International Development) 6:38 pm, 28th January 2015

Well, we should also highlight the fact that more Labour MPs voted in favour of the Bill than MPs from every other party combined.

With crucial negotiations and agreements coming up, I want the next Government to be drivers, not passengers. The new sustainable development goals must go faster to eliminate extreme poverty and focus on tackling inequality, as mentioned by my hon. Friend Joan Walley. To add to that, we would prioritise universal health coverage, human rights for all, including women, children and the disabled, and the effects of climate change.

Access to health care should be based on a person’s need, not their ability to pay. It should be a right, not a privilege. That is why, unlike the Government, we will support a stand-alone goal on universal health coverage. Universal health coverage does not just help improve health outcomes, it would help reduce inequality and stop 100 million people a year from falling into poverty. I pay tribute to two Conservative Members who spoke passionately about causes that are dear to them. Nick Herbert has shown a tremendous commitment to the fight against tuberculosis and raised the important point of multi-drug resistance. Universal health coverage could be an important element of that fight in the future. I had the privilege of serving on the International Development Committee with Jeremy Lefroy for almost 18 months, and he spoke of his commitment to the issue of malaria, and the work done by the last Government and this to tackle it. I know first hand, from our conversations and from serving on the Committee, of the good work that he does. I am sure that that will have the support of both sides of the House and, I hope, the next Labour Government.

Negotiations on universal health coverage are also about resilience to humanitarian disasters or outbreaks of disease, and we have already heard about the difference that can make. Nigeria, which has invested strongly in building its health systems, was able to contain and beat the Ebola virus, but Sierra Leone—let us remember that the Government cut support for that country—has struggled to cope, resulting in loss of life and the need for even greater support from the Government and the international community.

On the issue of Ebola, I wish to put on record again, on behalf of both sides of the House, our thanks to and appreciation of Pauline Cafferkey and all those from the United Kingdom who volunteer to go and help in the fight against Ebola. Pauline is an example of a real hero in our community, and I am sure that we all want to send her our best wishes as she recovers from Ebola and returns home to Rutherglen in Scotland.

I echo the comments made by my right hon. Friend Mr Clarke, who rightly paid tribute to our tremendous staff at the Department for International Development. They are heroes in their own right, struggling and fighting to make a difference to people’s lives across the world.