Tuberculosis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:31 pm on 7th June 2018.

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Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 1:31 pm, 7th June 2018

My right hon. Friend asks a very pertinent question. Last month, 100 Members of this House and the other place wrote to the Prime Minister to ask if she would attend the meeting. The motion before the House specifically requests that the Prime Minister attend, as the UN General Assembly has asked. So far—understandably, I believe—the Prime Minister is not committing to attend.

In the time remaining to me, I would like to make the case for the Prime Minister to attend this meeting. It would be completely consistent with UK Government policy. We have made that major investment in the global fund. We are world leaders in international development. We set the agenda on antimicrobial resistance. We have a leadership position, and we should take it on this issue. TB is now the world’s deadliest infectious disease. This needs the support and attention of the world’s leaders. The UK is in a very powerful position to show that leadership and to give that support. Indeed, it is very difficult to see what would be the downside of the Prime Minister attending. I believe it would be all upside, and it would send a very powerful message to other world leaders. It is completely consistent with the ambition for a global Britain. Indeed, it is worth noting that TB is an issue in 19 Commonwealth countries, and 17 of the Department for International Development’s priority countries are high-burden.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The high-level meeting is the chance, at last, for this disease to get the attention that it needs. It is an easily and cheaply curable disease. Frankly, it is a global scandal that so many people are losing their lives completely unnecessarily when since the 1940s they need not have done so. We can act and we should act. The UK can play a major role in this respect. Speaking at the UN on Monday, I was asked what was the single message that I would want to send to the world’s leaders about whether or not they should attend. I simply said this: if 1.7 million deaths a year is not enough to encourage the world’s leaders to attend, what is?