The UK and Africa

– in Westminster Hall at 12:00 am on 24th March 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Jim Murphy.]

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office 2:30 pm, 24th March 2005

I shall start, if I may, with the good news, because what most people see of Africa is bad news. What we see on our television screens and read in the newspapers tends to be bad news, but the news from Africa is not all bad. The great event, the importance of which one can never overstate, was the transfer of power in South Africa 10 years ago from the apartheid regime to a democratic Government. There is now a peaceful democratic society in South Africa, a vibrant civil society, a free press, free elections and all the other things that we expect of a modern democracy.

The people of South Africa are not without their problems, as they would be the first to admit, but who, standing here 15 years ago, could have predicted a peaceful transfer of power from the odious apartheid regime to a democratic Government, and that, 10 years on, it would still be a peaceful democracy? Indeed, it grows in strength with every passing year. As South Africa is by far the largest economy on the continent, it is a rather large piece of good news that it has stable government and now plays an important part not only in the community of nations on the African continent, but in the world community.

Let us consider the holocaust that Rwanda went through 10 years ago. Who could have predicted then that today, under President Kagame and his colleagues, there would be stability in Rwanda and a degree of prosperity? The people of Rwanda have gone a long way—again, they would acknowledge that they still have a long way to go—to heal the wounds of that terrible atrocity. Which country in Europe or, indeed, anywhere else could have got over such horrors in such a relatively short period? So there is good news from Rwanda, too.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, I was in Rwanda recently and I endorse everything that he has said about Rwanda's development and overcoming the horrors of the genocide. However, does he have concerns about the possibility of Rwandan activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Can the British Government, who are a considerable donor to the Rwandan Government, exert pressure in that direction?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Yes, we have some concerns and we frequently exert what influence we have with the Government of Rwanda to impress on them that they must not become re-engaged in Congo. There have been accusations, but I am not aware of evidence that they have recently got re-involved in Congo, certainly not militarily. One must acknowledge, of course, that they have an interest. There are perhaps 10,000 ex-Forces Armées Rwandaises/Interhamwe still inside the Congo who from time to time make raids into Rwanda and Burundi. Many of those people are responsible for the atrocities that occurred 10 years ago, so Rwanda has a legitimate interest in resolving the matter, and we are trying to help with that, too.

Let us stick with good news for a moment and consider what has happened in Mozambique in the past few years. Starting from a very low base after a vicious civil war, partly fuelled by the apartheid regime in South Africa, Mozambique has established a fledgling democracy and a degree of development—prosperity is probably too strong a word—that one could not have predicted seven, eight or 10 years ago. Indeed, Mozambique has just had a second successful democratic election.

Let us move on to west Africa and consider Ghana. It, too, has come a long way in the past decade or so, having got off to a rocky start, certainly under Nkrumah and later under Jerry Rawlings. It, too, has stable democratic government and it plays a leading part in the affairs of west Africa.

Botswana, which has been well run since its independence, benefits enormously from mineral wealth, particularly diamonds. As we all know, mineral wealth can be a curse rather than a blessing in Africa, but it has been properly managed in Botswana, and a stable, modern democracy has been created, an example from which other countries in Africa would do well to learn.

Malawi and Tanzania are both extremely poor countries that have been through rocky periods but are moving in the right direction towards development. They both have Governments who care about the welfare of their people and are committed to sensible economic and social policies.

Togo was not an example of how to run an African country. It had had the same leader—a military man—from, I think, 1968 until this year, a record for the whole of Africa, if not a particularly glorious one. When he died suddenly, there was an attempt to impose a regime under his son to serve out the remainder of General Eyadema's term. However, the other regional powers in west Africa swiftly got together and made it clear to the Togolese that that was not acceptable in modern Africa. The coup—if that was what it was—was quickly "uncouped". That would probably not have happened a few years ago, and it is evidence, if evidence we seek, that the democratic ethic is becoming entrenched in new parts of Africa.

Not much good news has come from Sudan over the years, but there is one fairly large cause for hope. After years of painstaking negotiations, in which the international community has played a part, between the north and the south, a comprehensive peace agreement has been signed. It allows for the sharing of the mineral and oil wealth of the country, and for a coalition Government that will lead in due course to a democratically elected Government commanding the confidence of, if not all, most people in Sudan. That is an important development and a window of opportunity, but the jury is still out. I shall not make too much of it because 2 million people died in the civil war between the north and south in Sudan. If the comprehensive peace agreement between north and south works—it is still in its early stages— it will become a template for a settlement in Darfur where bad things are still happening.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

It saddens me to have to disagree with the Minister, having agreed with the earlier items on his list, but does he not accept that the difference between Darfur, where every kind of atrocity is being committed—not least by Government jets and armed helicopters—and the south of Sudan is simple? In the south, the rebels were sufficiently well armed to fight Government troops to a standstill so they had to negotiate, whereas the wretched people of Darfur have nothing to fight back with and are experiencing partial genocide.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I go along with most of what the hon. Gentleman said and I do not wish to overstate the latest development in Sudan, because it is good news only compared with what it follows; a civil war in which, over 20 years or more, 2 million people died. However, if the agreement is properly handled—it remains to be seen whether it will be, so I shall not make too much of it—it could form the basis for a settlement in Darfur and perhaps other regions in Sudan.

The hon. Gentleman will know that talks are being held in Abuja—they have been postponed for now but I expect them to resume in the not-too-distant future—aimed at bringing a political settlement to Darfur. Only a political settlement and some form of devolved administration that gives the people of Darfur a say in how their region is run will solve the problem.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

Will the Minister kindly clarify exactly what Her Majesty's Government are seeking for Darfur at the Security Council? The African Union has a very limited monitoring mandate and is grossly under strength. Everyone accepts the need to increase the strength of the African Union to a considerably larger force, but do the Government want the Security Council to give the African Union in Darfur a peacekeeping and peace-enforcing mandate, and are the Government willing to help to provide the financial means to ensure that that mandate can be delivered?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The British Government have already made a large contribution to the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur; we stand ready to increase it and to do more. If we were convinced that the mandate was the problem we would certainly be willing to consider extending it but there is a good deal of discretion within the existing mandate which, from time to time, the African Union forces are exercising. The key issue is to get African Union forces on the ground in sufficient numbers to make an impact, as they are beginning to do. There are just over 2,000 there now and that force will obviously have to be increased. With other members of the international community, we are managing some of the logistics. That is broadly our policy.

I think the hon. Gentleman understands that the African Union force is the only game in town and it must have a mandate robust enough to enable it to impose some order. We will be sympathetic to any proposals for change, but there is considerable discretion in the existing mandate. [Interruption.] I thought that Mr. Bercow was seeking to intervene, but it was just an involuntary twitch.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I was just adjusting my trousers. [Laughter.]

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

There are some countries on which the jury is still out: Sierra Leone—Britain has made a major investment in rebuilding that shattered county, but it remains in a very fragile state; Ethiopia, which for the first time in many years has a Government who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of their people—

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The danger of my referring to all these countries is that every time I mention one, someone will pop up like a jack-in-the-box and we will be sidetracked into a debate on a particular country.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Sierra Leone. I have asked questions in the House on the situation regarding the return of refugees from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia following the war. Does the Minister intend to mention the progress in returning refugees from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I was not planning to go into that matter, as the debate is about Africa as a whole; it is a rather big continent. Some day we will have a debate on Sierra Leone and we will go into that kind of detail. The hon. Gentleman is right to flag up the issue.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I am rather worried about the Minister, specifically about his Foreign Office timidity on the subject of Darfur. There is a marked difference between his response to my hon. Friend Mr. Brazier, in which he suggests that, broadly speaking, the mandate is adequate and that there is plenty of flexibility for its interpretation and implementation in Darfur, and the answers given by the Prime Minister a few minutes ago to the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Howard and to my hon. Friend Tony Baldry, in which the Prime Minister suggested that the British Government were indeed pushing for a much stronger mandate. I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong, but for him to be out of line with his own Prime Minister is a risky course, which he would do well to avoid.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The hon. Gentleman is right; it is an extremely risky course but I said—perhaps he did not hear me—that we would be sympathetic, should the need arise, to stiffening up the mandate and other aspects of the resolution. We take one of the tougher lines at the UN in relation to Sudan.

Sticking with the countries on which the jury is still out, I mentioned Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. In addition, after 24 years of pretty rotten government in Kenya there has been a peaceful transfer of power to an Opposition-led Government. There have been some disappointments of late, as hon. Members will be aware. I hope that they will not feel obliged to intervene to demonstrate their knowledge of those disappointments. There has also been a lot of progress, in particular the extension of primary education across the whole country and the sacking of quite a large number of corrupt officials, including about 40 judges in one sweep. However, more progress needs to be made.

I next turn to one of the most difficult countries of all, Nigeria. It has suffered decades of misgovernment mainly under military regimes. We now see, after an extremely bleak period, a window of opportunity. There is no doubt that the political will to make a difference exists at the top under President Obasanjo. He has an effective Finance Minister, a Nigerian lady who was brought in from the World Bank. Among other things, she has started publishing the federal revenues that are doled out to the 36 states. That has had a wondrous effect. People in the states are starting to ask what is happening to the money that comes to them from the centre. Only yesterday, President Obasanjo sacked his Education Minister for corruption. There appears to be renewed vigour. Nigeria has serious problems and I do not want to gloss over them in any way; nor do the Nigerians. But we see a window of opportunity now that did not exist before.

Thirty years ago in Africa, there were just three democratically elected heads of state. Today there are more than 30. The bad news remains; there is a wide and growing gulf between the standard of living and development in Africa and just about all of the rest of the world. As I said earlier, mineral wealth has so often proved to be a curse rather than a blessing and has fuelled civil wars and instability. Africa's problems are to some extent a colonial legacy, although that is fading.

The big issue is corruption and misgovernment on an awesome scale. Zimbabwe is only the latest and saddest example. It has led in some cases to the implosion of entire societies and we are presented with the relatively new phenomenon; the failed state. In the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is a failed state the size of western Europe. Somalia has seen a catastrophic failure, resulting in the exodus of almost the entire educated class, leaving the rest in chaos.

Liberia is now the subject of the largest current UN peace mission, on its third international intervention. I wish that I could say that I saw light at the end of that particular tunnel, but I do not. The problems are compounded by the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS, which threatens to engulf even well run societies. The result is that Africa today is in many respects going backwards. Hundreds of millions of people exist on less than $1 a day. Tens of thousands of children die every year before the age of five from preventable diseases. There is, as we see now in Darfur, the ever-present threat of implosion.

There is also the growth of the culture of impunity that says that however badly people behave and whatever atrocity they commit, there will be no consequences. We are determined to challenge that. An opportunity arises in the case of Darfur, where we have an opportunity to bring to justice those who have been responsible for the catastrophe that has occurred there.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a moment, I shall finish my point and then give way.

It is important to challenge the culture of impunity that has grown up in parts of Africa and in other parts of the world, just as we are challenging it in the Balkans. Increasingly, Africans are demanding that as well.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Minister said that those who are responsible for the atrocities in Darfur should be brought to justice. Can there be any doubt that the Government in Khartoum is responsible for sending helicopter gunships to strafe women and children?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

All sorts of people are responsible, but certainly some members of the Government in Khartoum, and many local tribal and militia leaders. There has been a United Nations investigation and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, some 51 people are alleged to be among those most responsible for what has happened. Although their names have not been disclosed, they have been recorded, with a recommendation that, eventually, they be tried by the International Criminal Court. We hope that that will happen.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I welcome the Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, subject to one rather important caveat. I did not much like his use of the word "eventually." Although I think that there would be a general acceptance that the immediate priority is effective peace enforcement, does he agree that it is imperative to bring the suspected culprits to trial before the International Criminal Court as soon as possible, and that the alternative of justice delayed, through some special tribunal, would be justice denied at great expense, as the painful and expensive experience in relation to Rwanda eloquently demonstrates?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I accept that those responsible need to be brought to justice as soon as possible, not least because we want to discourage others from carrying on down the same wicked road. As the hon. Gentleman also says, the first priority—the two are probably connected—is to restore some semblance of normality to the lives of the people in Darfur. Those are not necessarily contradictory ambitions.

What is to be done? I think that we all agree that we cannot stand idly by in the face of some of the terrible things that have happened in Africa; neither can we rush in and impose our own solutions without local consent. We have to work with those Africans, of whom there are many, who care about the condition of their people, and we have to help them to find African solutions to African problems. That is the basis of UK policy, and it is part of the rationale behind our Commission for Africa.

One of the main purposes of the commission is to drive Africa and African issues up the agenda of the G8 and the European Union, of which we will have the joint presidencies this year. It is early days, but I am glad to say that the report of the commission—on which the majority are African—has been well received. The proof will be in the eating, and we shall work vigorously to ensure that Africa is a priority for the G8 and the EU. In that context, I welcome yesterday's European Council statement, emphasising the EU's commitment to African development.

The issues are easy to enumerate and are set out clearly in the report of the Commission for Africa. First, the key issue is governance, besides which everything else pales. Unless proper democratic, transparent and accountable systems of government can be established, we cannot hope to deliver development for the people of Africa. I can put it no better than Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, did at the AU summit in Addis Ababa last year. I was present at that meeting at which he said, in the presence of a number of dictators, whom it was pleasant to watch squirming in their seats as he did so:

"This new spirit of democratic empowerment in Africa must find a home in every African country. For that to happen, politics must be inclusive, and a careful institutional balance must be preserved including regular free and fair elections, a credible opposition whose role is respected, an independent judiciary which upholds the rule of law, a free and independent press, effective civilian control over the military, and a vibrant civil society.

This institutional balance cannot be achieved without the peaceful and constitutional change of power. There is no truer wisdom, and no clearer mark of statesmanship, than knowing when to pass the torch to a new generation. And no government should manipulate or amend the constitution to hold on to office beyond prescribed term limits that they accepted when they took office."

Those remarks were made in the presence of just about all the leaders of Africa. When Kofi Annan sat down, the chair of the AU, former President Chissano of Mozambique, pointed at some of the biggest offenders and said, "And we all know who he was talking about, don't we?"

We sense that there is, in most parts of Africa, a renewed commitment to good governance and democracy. We are particularly encouraged by NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which is pioneering the concept of peer review, where countries voluntarily open their books and political systems for inspection by senior Africans. About 20 countries have volunteered so far, starting with Ghana, the report on which is not out yet but will be published shortly. The object is to try to drive up standards in the countries that are being inspected and set examples for other countries that still have a long way to travel.

Some time ago, the Prime Minister launched the extractive industries transparency initiative. Transparency is a vital component of good governance. A number of countries have signed up to that initiative and I encourage more to do so. The object of the initiative is that countries with mineral wealth should be open about what happens to the proceeds of that wealth and that the multinational companies with which they are dealing should be open about whom they are paying in respect of it. That would make a big difference in some of those countries that have been cursed, rather than blessed, with mineral wealth on their territory. The other big issue is that countries have to show resolve, as the best African leaders do increasingly, in tackling corruption.

Secondly, on conflict resolution, the long-term solution is not for the UN or Europe—former colonial powers—to send military missions to sort out problems that re-emerge as soon as they are off the scene. We are attempting to get to that position in Darfur, but I must be frank and say that this is a long, difficult and frustrating process. We want to build up African peacekeeping capacity through the African Union, because that is the only way forward in the long term. We are willing when asked, and we have been asked, to provide logistical and other support, which we do in Darfur. But the initiative has to come from the African Union, and that is generally accepted as the way forward.

Thirdly, debt relief should not be unconditional. In the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, so far 27 of the 42 that qualify for debt relief have had some debt relieved. They are expected to enjoy debt relief worth about £70 billion, a substantial amount. We all accept that many countries in Africa—not only in Africa—have in the past stored up debts that are completely unsustainable. They paid off the capital years ago, but the interest keeps mounting up indefinitely. They are spending more on repaying debts than they are on education, health and the welfare of their people. That is something that we all strive to avoid.

Beyond HIPC, which covers only the most heavily indebted, poorest countries, other countries have unsustainable debt. One is Nigeria, which has a national debt of £34 billion, most of it stored up during the years of military government. We think, although not all our international colleagues agree, that given the window of opportunity provided by the apparent political will that now exists in Nigeria to deal with some of their long-term problems, we need to look sympathetically at the problem of Nigerian debt. We intend to do that, but we have to take our colleagues in the Paris Club with us.

The fourth issue is trade justice. We are moving the barriers that undoubtedly exist to prevent African countries from exporting their goods into the developed world. There has been some progress in reducing or phasing out EU and World Trade Organisation agricultural subsidies, but we can and should do more. We intend to use our presidencies of the G8 and the EU to drive forward progress on fair terms of trade for developing countries.

At the same time, African countries could do rather more to remove internal barriers to trade. Trade between African countries accounts for only about 12 per cent. of the continent's trade at the moment compared with Europe, where trade between EU countries counts for 50 or 60 per cent. The East African Community is beginning to show the way with its proposed customs unions, and we hope that other areas of Africa will do likewise.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the great problems in Africa is the structure of transport and trade arrangements? Basically, the transport structures are all linked towards taking goods out of Africa, particularly raw materials, and exporting them to Europe or north America. The lack of transcontinental railways and roads is obviously a serious handicap. Should not the emphasis be on investment into some major infrastructure programmes to that effect?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Yes, that is a factor, but there are others—many of them bureaucratic. Many Governments interfere too much in what is a matter for the free market. It pains me to say it—I see that that brought a smile to the face of the hon. Member for Buckingham—but that is probably more of an obstacle than infrastructure. All over Africa, one can see the infrastructure decaying. Billions were spent on putting it in but it has not been maintained.

The big issue with infrastructure is ensuring that it is properly maintained. I remember travelling in 1976 on the Tanzam railway shortly after it was opened. Someone remarked that the railway would probably close after the last Chinese engineer left. It did not, not quite, but it went downhill considerably.

In Nigeria I was told of a steelworks in which £4 billion to £5 billion has been spent and which will never produce a single ingot of steel. Nigeria has quite a good network of railways, but no trains run on them. Although I have no doubt that there are infrastructure problems, and there is something in what my hon. Friend says about the colonial infrastructure being geared towards taking stuff out of Africa, I think that there are other, bigger problems.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Minister has touched on an extremely important point. Billions of pounds have been invested in trying to create an infrastructure throughout Africa, for various reasons, whether for the requirements of colonial powers or anything else. However, the real issue is the maintenance of that infrastructure. I speak with some knowledge, as the Minister knows. Is it not the issue that, with the agreement of our partners in Africa, we need to put in a place a system whereby we can produce the human resources with the skills to maintain and protect those huge investments? Without the human resources to look after them, it is almost a waste of time.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right. I am grateful for his support, because I know that it comes with a degree of personal knowledge from his past incarnation. He is right about capacity building; I intend to speak about that in a moment.

I turn now to the fifth element in the "what is to be done" aspect of my contribution; overseas aid. Some people put that at the top of the list, saying that much more money is needed. That is true, but it needs to be spent wisely and properly, and must be properly accounted for. However, it should not be at the top of the list; governance, without doubt, should be at the top. Without governance and transparency everything else fails.

We inherited an aid budget that was 0.27 per cent. of GDP and falling; it is now 0.36 per cent. and rising. The value of our aid to Africa has more than doubled in real terms over the past eight years and by next year will exceed £1 billion a year. These days—this brings me on to the point that Mr. Chidgey made—we tend to concentrate on capacity building rather than on projects or infrastructure. For example, we focus on training the police, the army and civil servants, and on setting up systems for revenue collection. The aim is to give Africans the capacity to address their own problems rather than to have someone else do that for them.

I often think that the most useful aid that we can offer a poor country is to help it to set up a customs and excise or revenue system to raise some money for the state, so that the state has money to spend on health, education and the welfare of its people. At the moment, in many countries in Africa that have no resources, the only function of the Government is to stop things happening. It is only when those countries have resources that they can do something for the welfare of their people. The state then gains respect and the democratic process becomes entrenched because instead of stopping things, the state can make things happen. That is, therefore, one of the most useful things that we can do.

For example, in Angola, Mozambique and one or two other places, Crown Agents help to run the customs and excise. That has greatly improved revenues, done wonders for getting rid of corruption and provided the state with some money that it can use for the welfare of its people.

In conclusion, I am under no illusions—no one who has any knowledge of Africa will be under any illusions—about the enormity of the task that we face. However, the one thing that I have learned in the nearly two years that I have done this job is that there is no shortage of good, capable, honest Africans of integrity at every level. Our role is to help the good guys and to discourage the bad guys. We have led the way on debt relief and on tariff reform, and these days our aid is targeted firmly at the poorest people in the poorest countries. I believe, without wishing to sound complacent, that we can hold our heads high.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:08 pm, 24th March 2005

I welcome this debate and the fact that the Minister started on some positive notes. However, I do not agree with his analysis on Sudan and will return to that point later. I shall echo one of his points and introduce another.

I join the Minister in welcoming the end of apartheid. I speak as someone whose relatives in South Africa have been involved in politics for three generations. Before the war, one of my great-grandfathers was engaged in fighting the rise of the nationalists in Parliament. One of my cousins was beaten up as a student by nationalist thugs and later, as a business man, led the first delegation to visit the African National Congress in exile. His company also sponsored the first black students into white universities.

One example that I hoped would be on the Minister's list was Zambia, another country with which I have a close family connection, and which, a few years ago, joined the club of countries that had passed the one really critical test of having made a peaceful transition from a Government to an Opposition as a result of a vote of the people. That is an important yardstick, one which many sub-Saharan countries still have to pass.

The Commission for Africa's report has been long in the making, and is much heralded. I welcome most of it. Its analysis is mostly very strong, reflecting the breadth of experience of most of the commissioners and of the excellent secretariat. Considering one or two of the commissioners chosen, one might say that it was a little on the bold side to have ensured such breadth. It is difficult to look into the causes of bad governance without considering the role of someone such as Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, or President Mkapa of Tanzania. The Minister mentioned Tanzania; let us remember President Mkapa's recent statement:

"I don't see Zimbabwe as an illustration of bad governance, I don't buy it".

Human Rights Watch commented on Zenawi's regime in Ethiopia:

"Police and security forces have harassed, illegally detained, tortured, and, killed members of the political opposition, demonstrators and suspected insurgents".

Nevertheless, despite our qualms about one or two members of the commission, the report was extremely detailed in its examination of the problem and provides a clear and grim analysis.

The problems of Africa are difficult to overstate. The Prime Minister is right to recognise it as a blemish on the entire globe that, while every other continent has been advancing, the four horsemen of the apocalypse have been loose in Africa for a whole generation. In terms of gross domestic product, Africa's share of trade has dropped from 6 per cent. to just 2 per cent. in the past generation. Average yearly income in a typical sub-Saharan country is about £86. Of course, those figures only concern people while they live, but to the millions of people who died in Congo, the 2 million who died in southern Sudan and those dying today in Darfur, they are irrelevant.

As for those not exposed to the dangers of war, the big three—HIV, tuberculosis and malaria—are carrying people away on a scale that makes the tsunami seem a sideshow. Overall life expectancy is falling fast. It is 38 in Mozambique; in Tanzania, it has fallen from 49 to 43 in a few years.

With the greatest respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, given the importance of the challenges faced, I wonder why we are debating the issue in Westminster Hall rather than the Chamber, and why we are doing so just as Parliament is packing up on the final day of term. But it is encouraging to see the number of colleagues from all parties who are here.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

There is usually something of a telepathic understanding between my hon. Friend and me, and today appears to be no exception to that general principle. Is my hon. Friend aware that, only an hour ago, I asked the Leader of the House why we could not have a debate on the Floor of the House about international development, instead of one of these periodic debates that convention dictates we must have, whether we need it or not, on defence in the UK? We ought to discuss the whole range of international development issues on the Floor of the House. They are incredibly important, especially in light of the publication of the Commission for Africa's report.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

On one point I do not join my hon. Friend; I think that the issue of defence is important, too. However, it is extremely sad that a day was not found on which to debate this subject on the Floor of the House. There is no point in over-egging the pudding, but the plain fact is that although the Prime Minister has told the world's media and his Ministers that the issue is vital, Parliament's involvement in it has been sidelined once again.

We endorse nearly all the recommendations of the commission. We do not need any persuading on debt relief; it was a Conservative Chancellor who started the worldwide campaign on it. We are committed to matching this Government's overseas development funding and the planned growth towards the 0.7 per cent. target, year by year, in relation to overseas development spending. We believe that could be spent better.

As a party committed to fair trade, we also need no persuading about the importance of opening up developed world markets to third-world countries. Along with putting in place infrastructure in those countries, that would be the single greatest thing that could be done to bring prosperity to them. The Minister mentioned assistance with tax-gathering, and we recognise that there may be a need for a transitional period of protectionism in certain key sectors, not least because it is much easier for a developing country to raise money through tariffs. After all, we had a customs system for centuries before we had income tax.

The report is nevertheless thin on implementation. Almost all its thrust is directed towards what donor countries should do and takes only a facile look at the issues to be addressed by the African countries themselves. Of course the right words are there—accountability, transparency, democracy—but there is little assessment of how the countries will be helped to achieve those goals. The report rightly states:

"Effective states—those that can promote and protect human rights and can deliver services to their people and a climate for entrepreneurship and growth—are the foundation of development. Without progress in governance, all other reforms will have limited impact."

However, the report's proposals are weak. It suggests that we should leave the answers to such problems to the people of Africa themselves. The Secretary of State for International Development said that

"it is the peoples of Africa who will hold their Governments to account, who will ask questions about where the resources have gone and who will provide the pressure on Governments to crack down on corruption."—[Hansard, 14 March 2005; Vol. 432, c. 25.]

In some cases, of course, that is happening. The Minister was right to mention some encouraging examples and to quote Kofi Annan's speech. However, it is absurdly optimistic to think that that is the whole answer, or even part of the answer in some countries. Does anyone seriously believe that the terrorised, brutalised and half-starved people of Zimbabwe can possibly hold Robert Mugabe peacefully to account?

Actually, some people do believe that. Thabo Mbeki, who sadly has not brought to bear the same brilliant mind and communicating skills as his illustrious predecessor, said recently:

"I have no reason to think that anybody in Zimbabwe will act in a way that will militate against elections being free and fair".

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

More chance of pigs flying.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My hon. Friend is quite right. We all know what happened. Mugabe's thugs were guarding the ballot boxes, there was mass intimidation of opposition candidates, food was distributed only in the areas where his supporters lived, and the Movement for Democratic Change regions were deliberately starved. Yet the regional power declared that the elections were likely to be free and fair, and has not denied it since.

If it is not the people, who should judge such countries? The Minister mentioned the peer-review mechanism in the New Partnership for Africa's Development. There are one or two hopeful signs from that, but the membership of the panel includes a number of people who are themselves part of the problem.

Yesterday there was a most touching series of presentations by delegates from Darfur, organised under the chairmanship of Clare Short. My hon. Friend Mr. Bercow and I, along with hon. Members from other parties, attended those presentations. The message of those delegates was that the monitoring force in their area was not impartial; not only that, but it was far too small to do much about the problem anyway.

I do not pretend to have an easy answer to Darfur, but I was deeply depressed to hear the Minister's comments on it. Let us review the facts about Sudan as a whole. For a generation, the Khartoum Government carried out a programme of genocide—that is not too strong a word when 2 million people have been killed—in southern Sudan.

My father-in-law worked for Kofi Annan when he was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was responsible for establishing the de-mining desk at the United Nations and he once told me that he took a personal decision to campaign for the abolition of anti-personnel mines only, not anti-vehicle mines, largely because he had visited southern Sudan and heard the testimony of the very brave people there. They were desperately resisting the Khartoum Government, and they told him that people like them had no chance at all against the Khartoum regime without anti-tank mines. Such mines are the only way of stopping an enemy who has all the kit.

Of course, we must all make the right noises about the decision of the Khartoum Government to go to the table. However, the fact is that they failed to beat the rebels in southern Sudan, and completely failed to achieve their military objectives. They had finally to accept the negotiations. In Darfur, there is no parallel at all. The people of Darfur have virtually no weapons or means of protecting themselves. They are getting very little protection from the monitoring force, which has a very limited mandate.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The hon. Gentleman is over-egging the pudding. The various rebel movements in Darfur have been responsible for quite a number of the ceasefire breaches. They were responsible for attacks on eight convoys, including those on the Save the Children people, who were killed. I do not wish in any way to condone the activities of the Sudanese Government, but the situation in Darfur is a little more complicated than the hon. Gentleman is letting on.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

Before my hon. Friend replies, will he and the Minister take it that when we took evidence directly—many hon. Members here today were present—from the leaders of the AU monitoring force, they told us, in terms that will appear in the Select Committee's report, that 80 per cent. of violations of the ceasefire were by the forces of the Government of Sudan?

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. He could not make the point more clearly.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

If the hon. Gentleman reads the report of Mr. Pronk, the UN Secretary-General's representative, he will find that in the latter months of last year, he was reporting that most of the ceasefire breaches were coming from the rebels.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury has more recent information. We can move from the complexities of what is happening on the ground to a simple, single point. When the Minister talks about identifying 51 people as potential war criminals, as though there were a single group of bad people out there—

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Minister mentions the UN's list of 51 people. Let us be clear about the matter. One can argue either way about whether a particular group of gunmen is funded by the Government, or is working under direct orders from the Government. However, when a Government use their air force to bomb women and children, there can be no doubt at all that the Government as a whole are guilty, not one or two people. It is simply ridiculous to pretend otherwise. It is the doing of the Khartoum Government. I have no doubt that there is plenty of freelance brutality too, as there is in so many conflicts, but the Government in Sudan are the main players.

Let me come back to the issue of governance. Developed countries should be offering a clear way forward on governance, helping developing countries out of decades of corruption and dictatorship, but a couple of the choices of commissioners whom I mentioned earlier make me think that, in trying to clear out the Augean stables, Hercules has turned to King Augeas himself for advice on the task. There is nothing neo-colonial about saying that the downtrodden people of Africa cannot be expected to hold their Governments to account in every case. In some cases, where there are developing democratic structures, they can be expected to do so; but in many other cases, they cannot. I am happy to go along with the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, by implication, suggested that it was time that we stopped apologising for our colonial history. He recently said:

"We should talk, and rightly so, about British values that are enduring, because they stand for some of the greatest ideas in history: tolerance, liberty, civic duty, that grew in Britain and influenced the rest of the world."

If the use of aid as a lever to achieve good governance—in some cases, bypassing the Government of a country where we do not think that the money is being spent properly—is neo-colonial, then I make no apologies at all for being regarded as neo-colonial.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Should not the hon. Gentleman give some regard to the massive wealth that every European country has made out of Africa since colonisation started, from the slave trade onwards? Do we not owe the African people as a whole some kind of debt for the wealth that we enjoy which was stolen from them?

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I do not accept the parallel with the rest of Europe; for example, I make no defence at all of the record of the Belgians in the Congo, which was indescribably bad. I am proud of the fact that our country abolished the slave trade, and put considerable blood and treasure into the exercise of abolishing it. I am also proud that many countries in which Britain had an involvement wanted to maintain close links with our country; for example, many of them enjoy being members of the Commonwealth and their parliamentary procedures are modelled on those of Westminster. We should be proud of those things. Everybody accepts that some atrocities were committed in imperial times, but I think we can be proud of the British record in many respects—it is certainly head and shoulders above that of most of our European counterparts.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Wilberforce was a good Conservative.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My hon. Friend reminds me that Wilberforce was a good Conservative.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman is right; however, I will not pursue his point, as I am conscious of the fact that a lot of other people want to speak.

A donor country can sometimes be of use in pushing perspectives on which the recipient country might require advice. Last week, we had an excellent debate in this Chamber on a Science and Technology Committee report on the use of science in international development. It was extremely critical of the Government. During that debate, we had an interesting discussion about how much pressure donor countries should put on their developing counterparts to make more use of technology, and it is telling that that all-party Committee takes a very different view on that from the Government.

I do not want to go over the same ground again, but I do want to give one example from the report. It quoted the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene as saying that satellite-based monitoring of rainfall could be used

"to feed into flood and famine warning systems and crop yield modelling. However little emphasis is placed on this research, as it is not of direct use to individual farmers".

The Select Committee report made the point that the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene had evidence that, because the Department for International Development had relatively few people with scientific training on the ground, a recipient country might not recognise the value of the research being offered to them. There is no point in saying that it is patronising to claim that we do have a role to play in showing them that that can be of value to them.

As we are unable to ensure good governance, we have to ask how we are able to ensure that the extra £13 billion in aid—that is the sum that will be distributed under a Government of either complexion over the next few years—will be disbursed properly and well, and will bring real benefits to the people concerned. It would be a tragedy if much of this aid were to be found in the bank accounts of corrupt elites.

One of Africa's most respected independent columnists, Uganda's Andrew Mwenda, puts the problem very succinctly. If in 2015 we look back on the African commission and see another doomed venture,

"After so many failed high profile initiatives, people in the west are going to write Africa off as a continent where even God's intervention cannot save the black person from misery".

That was his concern.

The report has generated great optimism, but it would be tragic if the worthy plans that come out of it do not achieve everything that they should. If they are to achieve what we all want to achieve—if they are to reverse the trend on that continent and to get it moving in the same direction as the rest of the world—we must find ways of bringing better governance to the many countries from which it is still absent.

Oxfam expressed its concern thus:

"Without really creative and energetic thinking about what happens next, the Commission's final report could too easily end up being another worthy analysis that does not translate into real action for Africa."

It is incumbent on us all to ensure that that is not the case.

Prosperity will come from developing the structures necessary for good governance, free and fair trade and the rule of law in the many African countries where they barely exist today. The Minister ended with an excellent quote from Kofi Annan, but it is not the UN—great organisation though it is—but we, as the donors of aid, who can use aid as a lever to achieve good governance where it is needed. Kofi Annan is absolutely right, but it is the Governments of countries such as Britain who must press for change. The African people themselves, who want to see an improvement in their way of life, will get the opportunity to play their part as those democratic structures develop.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie 3:32 pm, 24th March 2005

I very much congratulate the Government on their initiative in setting up the Commission for Africa. I also congratulate that body on having produced a quite superb report, and I shall talk about three areas of it.

The report is incredibly useful; indeed, I think that it is the best analysis that I have ever seen of the problem. It is presented in a penetrating way and although it is long, it is incisive. It shows us what can be done, and there is no doubt that it can be done—it is simply a question of political will. Above all, the report demonstrates the interlinking of the developed and the developing worlds. We talk about aid to Africa, but we have been a burden on Africa as a result of several policies: our present trade policy, our failed promises on aid and our quite unrealistically niggardly attitude to debt. All those things have to be put right, and the report is right on that.

The three areas that I want to talk about are HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, agriculture, and governance and Parliaments' role in it. First, I unconditionally praise the section in the report on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. For much of the past year or so, I have been involved with our all-party group on population, development and reproductive health, and we have been concerned about the divorcing of HIV/AIDS from reproductive health. In its policies, the United States deliberately distances reproductive health from HIV/AIDS so that there is a scandalous inhibition on the provision of condoms. HIV/AIDS is overwhelmingly a sexually transmitted disease, which means that it is an issue in reproductive health. It is simply impossible to deal with issues such as the transmission of the virus from mother to child without seeing them in a reproductive health context.

I am delighted that, partly because of the work of the all-party group, the Department for International Development has recognised the importance of that link. It costs lives. HIV/AIDS has tended to compete for the money that would otherwise go to reproductive health. DFID has recognised that they should be integrated. That suggestion has been made in what will be the lead document for world policy. I am delighted about that. The document states:

"African governments must prioritise sexual and reproductive health within their vision of health systems and integrate HIV and AIDS treatment and care into it as set out in the UN's New York Call to Commitment."

I am pleased that I was in New York when that policy was formulated by the joint work of UNAIDS and UNFPA. Such guidelines are now in black and white.

I praise the section on agriculture. It shows that, for the first time, we are listening to what Africa says about agriculture. The Africans whom I have met have always regarded agriculture and its under-performance as top priority matters. Several quotes have already been attributed to Kofi Annan and no doubt there will be more. In 2004, he said that his top priority was the appliance of science and technology to agriculture. In the meantime, however, this country has been running down our science-based agricultural resource services. Mr. Brazier alluded to that when he referred to what the Science and Technology Committee said.

We must now start building up resource services again in response to the huge need in Africa. If I have to fault the millennium development goals, which are a major step forward, it is that we have interpreted them mainly as social services. But what do we do about education? What do we do about health? Those are important issues, but sufficient emphasis is not placed on wealth creation and directly cutting poverty by, for example, ensuring that people have enough to eat. If DFID Ministers are asked what they have done to meet the millennium development goals, their replies rarely mention their action in agricultural matters. That is hard to understand. It has been said frequently—and in the report—that the major economic driver in Asia and south America was an agricultural revolution that has not occurred in Africa. The report puts that right, not only in the specific section on agriculture, which starts on page 237. The matter is infused in the report in, for example, references to improving the infrastructure of roads, irrigation and access to markets.

At last we are listening to Africa. Through the African Union, NEPAD and the regional economic communities, heads of state and Ministers have expressed their recognition of the crucial role played by agriculture. President Obasanjo of Nigeria, the chair of NEPAD, believes that agriculture will provide the engine for growth in Africa. He has said that improving agricultural performance is at the heart of improved economic development and growth. Its role in poverty reduction and in the restoration of human dignity can never be over-emphasised. In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture contributes at least 40 per cent. of exports, 30 per cent. of GDP, up to 30 per cent. of foreign exchange earnings, and 70 to 80 per cent. of employment. Accelerating growth in agriculture is therefore critical to sustaining growth.

The neglect of agriculture has had some grim consequences. In Africa, food dependence on outside sources has grown. Conditions in the countryside have led to urbanisation on a scale that developing countries cannot cope with.

The figures for Lagos are unbelievable. Lagos is increasing by 10 to 15 per cent. a year. Many members of the International Development Committee will have visited it, and the thought of that metropolis growing by 10 to 15 per cent. a year is simply horrifying. It is growing at that rate because of the neglect of agriculture, attention to which would keep people working on the land.

The report also recognises that irrigation has been neglected. People turned away from large-scale dams. Perhaps they were right to do so, but that does not mean turning away from community-based irrigation. The report shows just how much sensible irrigation could achieve.

The report also refers to the depletion of the soil, and to the fact that no expertise has been applied to reverse it. It also highlights the huge damage done by war and conflict.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful point, but I urge him to think back to the Science and Technology Committee report, which we debated last week. It made it clear that part of the reason why we are not being as effective as we should is that DFID employs far too few scientists and technologists, and far too little of its work points in that direction.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

I agree. Some of those with a scientific background are no longer employed in posts where they can use that background. Something very strange has occurred: agriculture has become very unsexy for DFID, northern development agencies and non-governmental organisations. There has been a decline in investment in agriculture and in the natural sciences. African agriculture is now in crisis, as the Commission for Africa recognises, partly as a result of that. We must put that right, but first we must reverse the decline.

I am delighted by the appointment of Gordon Conway as DFID's chief scientific adviser. Mr. Conway used to be director of the Rockefeller Foundation, and he has a first-rate background in agriculture. He must urge DFID to reverse the decline in the number of agricultural personnel employed at DFID that the hon. Member for Canterbury mentioned.

It simply makes no sense to say that the most important issue for Africa is climate change, when the most important thing for wealth creation in Africa is agriculture. It therefore makes no sense to deplete our agricultural research institutes. The list of closures is long: East Malling, Wellesbourne, Kirton, Rothamsted, and Silsoe, which is likely to be closed this year. We are simply losing science-based jobs through those closures. The number of staff employed at the Natural Resources Institute, which is now based partly at Greenwich university, has been reduced from about 550 some 20 years ago to 107 at the end of last year. The age profile is rising all the time, and we are losing in a field in which we have been in the lead. We should be tackling that.

Another reason why we should take a lead in agriculture is the approach taken by other nations, particularly the United States, in helping African agriculture. The United States increases dependence on it through the style of farming that it encourages, the sale of seeds, and dependence on fertiliser and so on. We have the right attitude in putting the interests of smallholders first. I hope that the Minister will reassure me that what the Commission for Africa report states is policy becomes DFID's policy and that we will reverse this decline.

Finally, I draw hon. Members' attention to page 155 of the report and the issue of governance. I believe that the UK Parliament and hon. Members present in the Chamber can take credit for this. It says:

"Parliaments in both developed and other developing countries should establish partnerships to strengthen parliaments in Africa, including the pan-African parliament."

For years, analyses of Africa have emphasised that governance is key, but they have then gone on to talk about the Government themselves or the lack of capacity in ministries. It beats me how one can talk about governance without looking at how the Parliaments function. Parliaments are at the apex of civil society. If they are not working—and in many cases in Africa they are not working very well—forget about governance. The question of Parliaments working effectively has been the missing ingredient, and we have to do something about that. We, personally, can do something about it.

Following the announcement of the Commission for Africa, the parliamentary Labour party international development committee, which is chaired by my hon. Friend Hugh Bayley, set up a sub-committee to consider how Parliaments and parliamentarians in the developed world could help development in Africa. We produced a document on that, which we submitted as evidence to the Commission for Africa, explaining how Parliaments could assist in the developing world.

We then went a little further and asked what were the next steps that should be taken. Reference has been made to this already; the Prime Minister said that the most important things in the world are Africa and climate change. Where are the debates on those in the House? How much time do we devote to international development? That was mentioned by Mr. Bercow. It is a little incongruous to say, "This is the most important thing in the world and we shall lead the world on this", when our Parliament does not tackle the issues.

We produced two pieces of evidence for the Commission for Africa. One concerned what Parliaments could do, and the other concerned the next steps we should take to alter our Parliament in order to be more effective in contributing to development. I am delighted that the Commission for Africa has picked up on that:

"Parliaments in both developed and other developing countries should establish partnerships to strengthen parliaments in Africa, including the Pan-African Parliament. For maximum value, these should go beyond short exchanges, conferences and study visits to become longer term, practically focused partnerships, based on mutual learning, for example in areas such as consultation with all their constituents".

That is what we should be about in this place, and some all-party groups are already doing that.

When I look back over the 18 years I have been here, I note that some of the best work done has been done recently by all-party groups, such as the one dealing with Africa through its report on AIDS, and the all-party group on heavily indebted countries. I referred to what we have been doing on the relationship between reproductive health and AIDS, which is very valuable work, but there is no encouragement for it. It is something that people do in their spare time, as it were; there is no support for that sort of activity.

In our Back-Bench group, we have said that we should look at the way we conduct ourselves in our support for development. I am delighted to say that the Leader of the House saw the work that we were doing, valued it and has now set up a working party, which will take those ideas forward so that we can change the shape of this Parliament and its relationship with the developing world. I am delighted to say that my hon. Friend the Member for City of York will take over that group and chair it during the next Parliament, so that it does not fall away. Those are issues of very great importance. There will be a body in our Parliament that is dedicated to implementing that part of the Commission for Africa report.

I want to talk about an area where I hope that there will be partnerships: the issue of corruption. That presents a real challenge, which needs work in this country as well as elsewhere. I was in Nigeria last week and I was delighted to hear that President Obasanjo is leading the way on accepting the extractive industries transparency initiative—I think that those involved should have stuck with "publish what you pay", which was a snappier title. It will now be backed by oil companies such as BP and Shell. We knew that, but I was delighted to hear that it is thought that Chevron will back it as well. If at last the people of Nigeria can know how much revenue is coming from the oil industry into their country, they can start tackling that issue. That is one kind of partnership: Government to Government. However, corruption is so endemic in Nigeria that other partnerships will need to be set up with parliamentarians so that we can identify ways of ridding Nigeria and other countries of corruption.

I shall give some examples of how corruption affects Nigerian politics. As the Minister said, many of the parliamentarians are very good people who could do much to bring the benefits of democracy to Nigeria, but they are utterly trapped in a system that breeds corruption. It is no use simply blaming the politicians. It is a question of working with them to help them break free of corruption. Let me give some examples. One of the things that we forget about African parliamentarians is just how much it costs them to stand for election and carry on in office. The parties have no ideologies or distinctive philosophies. If someone asks the People's Democratic Party, "What do you stand for? What kind of education do you want?", they get a blank response. If they ask the Alliance for Democracy, "What kind of education do you want? What kind of philosophies are driving you?", they get a blank response. The other party is the same.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I agree absolutely with what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the lack of ideology. It is not currency in African culture—or it has not been in the first generation of the post-colonial era. However, is not one of the problems for African politicians the existence of an expectation among the people who support them—a family, tribal and village concept—that the big man who is elected is there to look after them? They expect to be looked after and the politician needs the resources to do that.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

That is absolutely right. The politicians are known as walking wallets. They are seen as opportunities to gain resources. One politician that I talked to last week boasted to me that he had just provided 1,000 scholarships for people to learn IT skills, because that is what the firms wanted. He was aiming to get 5,000 scholarships, which he would personally pay for. Where does that lead in the end? It certainly excludes anyone who is poor. It is totally unsustainable. He said that in the context of a woman who had come up to him and asked, "What have you done for me since you were elected? Don't tell me about your 1,000 IT scholarships." Politicians are trapped. I asked one politician how much it had cost him to stand for election and get elected. He said $500,000. One either brings that to the party oneself or one needs a godfather. There is a spectacular case in Nigeria involving one of the state governors who has reneged on his godfather and is not delivering the contracts as he was supposed to. People are trapped.

The Minister himself referred to perhaps the most spectacular example. The Minister of Education has been sacked after he was caught by the anti-corruption commission. He was bribing other parliamentarians to pass his education budget. He was alleged to have distributed $462,000 to pay the people on the committee to pass his budget. I do not think that any of us have ever received such an offer, but that is what one gets when there is a political system with no values and in which no issues are debated. It means that one's Parliament is run on the basis of money and access to money. Those are the issues that we should be working with in partnerships, in whatever form we can, to try to create little islands of transparency to start driving corruption back. I do not think that those parliamentarians can do that alone.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Would my hon. Friend not accept that the transparency that he talks of should also apply to foreign-owned companies, which engage in those practices in many African countries and, because they gain so much from it, fuel a great deal of the corruption?

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

That is what I was referring to. One of the major ways in which we can tackle corruption is by the "publish what you pay" initiative. It is a criminal offence to bribe a foreign official; we have taken that step forward. But it is difficult to see how we can get good governance without paying much more attention to the issue of transparency and building partnerships of parliamentarians that will tackle those issues. Once again, I am delighted with the Commission for Africa report. It will be the bible for development in Africa for years to come. The Government set up the Commission for Africa; they must work with us to make sure that the report is implemented.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:57 pm, 24th March 2005

I begin my contribution on a personal note. Unless we have all got it terribly wrong, it is very likely that this will be the last occasion on which I have an opportunity to speak in this Chamber, as I am standing down at the next general election. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] I am pleased to hear those comments of appreciation, even though they are somewhat muted. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] However, it is appropriate that, on this occasion, I am speaking on Africa from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, because it is almost exactly a quarter of a century since I was brought face to face with the reality of the plight of Africa. That helped to motivate me to seek a place in Parliament to give voice to my concerns. Almost exactly a quarter of a century ago, I lived in the rainforests of west Africa for long periods, directing teams of engineers, surveyors, geologists and the like. We were building things such as 300 km long trans-national highways connecting the hinterlands of four or five countries to coastal ports.

In that part of Africa a quarter of a century ago, one came face to face daily with the despotic rule by terror of the indigenous Governments. The opponents of those Governments were regularly cast into jail and allowed to starve to death. One was working in countries in which there had been a buoyant cash-crop export surplus and the usual things—soft fruits, cereals, coffee, tea—were sent to the markets of Europe, yet the people were starving and the children dying from disease and malnutrition. Those countries contained about a third of the world's bauxite resources, huge supplies of iron ore and huge riches in diamonds, gold and other precious metals, which, as the Minister alluded to, had become a curse in the development of those countries.

Yet with all that wealth, people were so poor that empty Coca-Cola tins and plastic water bottles were used as currency rather than the currency of the country. There was no problem with litter. Everything that was produced in the west had a purpose, use and value. We were working in countries in which the economies had collapsed to the extent that the shadow exchange rate against the US dollar was 1,000 per cent. higher than the official exchange rate for that currency, hospitals had no running water or electricity, doctors had no drugs, schools had no books and shops had nothing to sell. Hardly a week went by without one of my African workers asking me for the day off so that he could bury a dead child.

The plight of those people and the tragedy of Africa would have left a scar on anyone's soul, let alone their conscience. The real tragedy is that it has taken a quarter of a century for the west to wake up to the tragedy of Africa. Having said that, I see signs of change and I welcome the initiative of the Government in producing the report, although I have some comments to make about it. I also very much welcome the initiative of NEPAD, to which the Minister alluded, and the founding of the African Union. The Commission for Africa report is in many ways a response to those African initiatives.

Governance and Governments in Africa are changing. Those despotic rulers, the so-called big men of Africa, who created tribal power bases and ruled through patronage, corruption and fear are literally dying out. Old age is taking its toll. There is a new generation, and as the Minister noted, many more countries are trying out—it is only trying out at the moment—the democratic process. In the second generation of post-colonial governance, Governments are much more likely to be founded on democratic principles, if not quite democratic practice just yet.

However, the process is moving forward and there is encouragement, particularly in the south. I had the opportunity to visit South Africa a while ago, and in the post-apartheid era it is amazing how that country has blossomed. It has become a powerhouse in the region, with a burgeoning economy. One might say that they have more freedom of speech than our country, as in South Africa civil society is vibrant, flourishing, blooming, and exciting. That is tempered, however, by the great tragedy of AIDS in that country.

Through my connection with Africa, one salutary experience in recent years was my visit to the HIV/AIDS hospice in Soweto. We all know about Soweto; we know the unique way in which Soweto as a community has developed and is governed. The inhabitants are coming to terms with the pandemic of HIV/AIDS among their community, and they are training their own care workers with resources so limited that it is unbelievable, but doing so with great dignity, passion and a sense of community. They are helping themselves to care for their sick and dying family members, community members, neighbours or whoever. That will stay with me. The dignity of humanity knows no bounds, and we can learn a lot in different situations.

In the north of Africa, another beacon of hope is the political process in Senegal and its development in the past decade or so. It is a country that I knew well in my previous aberration. The democratic transfer of power to President Wade in the presidential elections was a great signal of hope for that part of Africa. In a complete break with tradition, and probably for the first time since independence, the defeated Government party—defeated by President Wade—was not demonised; instead, the President set up a state-funded office for the Leader of the Opposition. That is probably unique in African politics, but then I have a great deal of regard for President Wade and his vision. We should pay him further tribute, because he was one of the founding fathers of NEPAD, although President Obasanjo of Nigeria is the chairman. I am proud that President Wade has occasionally called me his friend, because he has set forth a beacon of light for the development of democracy in Africa that I hope many will follow.

In many ways, the Commission for Africa and its report are a response to the African initiative to develop a partnership with the west through NEPAD. I welcome it, and I do not take anything away from the commission for what I view as a response rather than blue-skies thinking, but it is a great pity that while this country has grasped the nettle, has decided to work with Africa, has recognised its responsibilities and has accepted that we must work in partnership through NEPAD, our colleagues in the United States Administration view the matter differently. It is a great pity that the United States does not support NEPAD but instead has, I believe, put all its weight and influence behind the millennium challenge, which is in fact an investment vehicle linked to American commercial interests and overseen by the Heritage Foundation, which many Members know is somewhat right of centre. Some might say that it is right of Attila the Hun, but perhaps that is an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it is founded on neo-conservative principles—hardly what we mean when we talk about partnership with Africa. It seems more a return to past colonial periods of exploitation and extracting wealth from African resources. That is not a sign of partnership.

So the question for us is, is the Commission for Africa report an adequate or realistic response to the challenge that Africa offers? It is worth assessing how well it has been received. Other Members have mentioned some of the responses. I shall quote from the responses of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement and Adrian Lovett of Oxfam.

In response to the report, President Mbeki stated:

"It must translate not into a lot of paper, but into a firm, serious programme of action . . . There is a lot of work contained in here . . . My own sense is that everybody is very keen to achieve actual, measurable progress."

How true that is.

Peter Hardstaff, who is the policy director for the aid group World Development Movement, with which I am sure we are all familiar, stated:

"This has been said many times before . . . The UK government and other rich countries have to actually start taking action on these issues of trade, increasing aid, cancelling debt."

My final quote comes from Oxfam's Adrian Lovett, whose name was mentioned earlier. He stated:

"In the long term, history will judge this report not just by its content but by its capacity to deliver genuine change . . . This report can be a rallying call for a generation that will no longer tolerate the obscenity of extreme poverty in Africa—or it could end up gathering dust. It's now up to world leaders to make that choice."

In that context, it is reasonable to ask our Government for a commitment to set out the process by which they propose to use the presidency of the G8, and of the European Union, to get western leaders to sign up to the process and start an action programme to implement this valuable and well constructed report. I am far from convinced that the proposed small secretariat of just two people in an office that will probably be somewhere in London will have anything like the muscle that will be needed to push through the progress that we all want.

I shall now deal with three specific areas. I wish to speak briefly about the problems of money laundering, the arms trade and aid tied to privatisation, which I do not believe that other Members have commented on yet.

On money laundering, no one would argue that corruption is not a curse for Africa or that Africa does not need to take a lead in its eradication—with help from us. In that context, the United Kingdom has a definite role to play. We must recognise that our financial institutions have been a magnet for stolen wealth deposited by corrupt African dictators for more years than we can count. I shall give a couple of examples.

The late Sani Abacha, the dictator-ruler of Nigeria from 1993 to 1998, apparently stole more than $1.3 billion from his country. That money found its way into British bank accounts, but only $30 million of it has been frozen. I understand that requests from the Nigerian Government for help in obtaining the return of related financial documents—and of the money, which clearly belongs to the people of Nigeria—have been constantly frustrated. We have a role to play and the Government have a responsibility, if we mean what we say in the report—that we should put into practice the actions necessary to help restore financial probity on that level to the Government of Nigeria.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I entirely agree that we have a duty to assist African Governments to recover assets looted by former rulers. However, it depends on the production of evidence, and I am sorry to say that such evidence is not always forthcoming. Much rhetoric surrounds the sums alleged to be in this country, but evidence to demonstrate it does not always exist. Some of Abacha's money has been found here, and has been taken. More than $100 million has been found in the Channel Islands, and about $500 million has been found in Switzerland. Action is being taken to return that money, but it requires evidence; and it requires the country's institutions—in this case, those of Nigeria—to co-operate with ours.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention. I do not disagree; it is not a straightforward, easy exercise. However, because of the scope, the power and the sheer size of the financial institutions in the City, the United Kingdom needs to take the lead. I accept that we need to go through the process, but we cannot preach good governance to African countries—which needs transparency, openness and honesty—when our financial institutions exercise opaqueness as a skilled art.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Minister nods. He knows what I mean. If we want to be taken seriously by the African Governments that we are dealing with, we must take the lead in Europe by showing that we are no longer prepared to be complicit in helping dictators to steal the resources of the countries that they are supposed to be governing.

Most people realise that the global arms trade has a massive human impact. It fuels and sustains conflict, destroys lives and impedes trade and the delivery of aid. I understand that in 2003, 15 African countries were affected by conflict, which resulted in millions of people being killed. In that year, UK arms sales to Africa totalled some £200 million. Weapons exported from the United Kingdom in 2003 and since are now in use in conflicts in 10 African countries.

It is time that we started to respond to the call that Members are making for an end to subsidies for arms sales. We should take the lead in establishing an international arms trade treaty, and start to think seriously about setting up strongly binding end-use undertakings for arms exported by the United Kingdom. I find it frankly embarrassing that my country should be selling arms to 10 of the 13 countries engaged in conflict in Africa. We must be able to do more than that.

Finally, I raise the subject of aid that is tied to privatisation. As other hon. Members have mentioned, one of the great scourges of Africa is the lack of clean water and sanitation, particularly among the impoverished millions in urban and rural communities. Water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid carried in unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation, and malaria spread by inadequate drainage, together kill tens of millions of Africans every year.

How can it be right for so much of the UK's aid for projects to improve water supply, sanitation and drainage to be tied to a requirement to privatise existing public utility providers? It is not as if privatisation has been a resounding success in sophisticated economies such as that of the United Kingdom, let alone those of developing countries. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which tying aid for water supply and drainage projects to privatisation could do anything but severely impact on programmes for poverty alleviation. I cannot see how privatising a public utility in a developing country will ever help alleviate poverty. I will give one example. In 1997, a British firm and a French consortium were engaged through aid to privatise Jakarta's water supply system. As a net result, water prices increased by 82 per cent.. How did that help the millions of the poor, who already had a desperate need for access to clean water?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

There are parts of developing countries, clearly, where there is no capacity for water to be provided by a private supplier. If one waited until aid became available to provide public sector water schemes throughout the developing world, one would wait 200 to 300 years before people got clean water. Just as there is a bad example in Jakarta, there have been good examples where private water suppliers have dramatically reduced the cost of water to poor urban slum dwellers and have improved the quality of water. Such suppliers have reduced the cost in relation to the private water sellers who had come along with a donkey and a barrel, and produced water that is more accessible for women, cleaner, safer and much cheaper.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

That is an interesting point. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, in my experience, where public water supplies have already been established—dating back perhaps 50 years—and the growth in population in urban areas has far surpassed the capacity, the requirement of international funding institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for a cost-benefit return on the investment to be shown, particularly in relation to sanitation, has precluded the development of safe water supply and safe sanitation. That is because people cannot afford the connections that they would have to such systems.

There are other sides to the coin and that is why I raise the matter. I have been to such places and I have seen that happen; people have disconnected, because they cannot afford the cost. We are talking about people on very low incomes, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I think we agree that in some cases a private supplier is appropriate and in others it is inappropriate. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that provided people in the country concerned make the decision whether to use a public or a private supplier, we should leave them free to do so—as long as it is their decision, not ours?

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I think that we have a meeting of minds. There is great strength in the argument that the hon. Gentleman puts forward. Such people should be responsible for how they fund—and attract funding—for the basic assets that they need. My strong concern is about their having projects and funding mechanisms forced upon them.

It is time for the United Kingdom to start considering how we can couple the aspirations set out in the Commission for Africa report with the visions set out in NEPAD. We need to work in partnership for the future. It is particularly important that we concentrate on trying to create capacity in the developing world. The infrastructure is one thing, but, as we have commented earlier in this debate, creating capacity of skilled, educated and employed populations is the key to future economic growth. If we can help developing countries do that, they can start, with their skilled populations, to contribute through the tax base to economic growth, rather than have the majority of the population eking out a living through the shadow economy. That is all too often the case at present—and has been for too many decades.

Photo of Mr Tony Colman Mr Tony Colman Labour, Putney 4:19 pm, 24th March 2005

Before I make my brief contribution on the UK and Africa, I hope that you will allow me a point of personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A number of hon. Members have approached me in recent days, saying that they were sorry that I was standing down at the next general election. I hasten to say that I am not. It is subject to the decision of the electors of Putney, but I hope to be returned as the Member for Putney in the next Parliament.

The reason for that thought is that my hon. Friend Mr. Coleman, whose constituency is the neighbouring one to mine, and who has a name similar to mine, is stepping down, sadly, after many years of experience in local government, in which he was leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, and worked in local government not just in London but around the UK. He had a serious car accident in 1997, fully recovered from it, and had severe health problems in June last year. Sadly, he will not stand at the general election, but I, subject to the wishes of the electors of Putney, will return here after the election, whenever it happens.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

We all admire the hon. Gentleman's doughty, fighting spirit, but unless I am much mistaken the admirable Justine Greening, the prospective Conservative party parliamentary candidate in the constituency, might have something to say on the matter.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

Order. I think that hon. Members are lapsing into electioneering.

Photo of Mr Tony Colman Mr Tony Colman Labour, Putney

I think that we are; it was not meant to be that way, as I was trying to pay tribute, as I should hope hon. Members of all parties would, to an hon. Member who has had severe problems with illness in the past eight years and who will be retiring from the House. I see hon. Members nodding, as they share my concern that he must leave before his wide experience has been used.

I shall now talk about Africa and the United Kingdom. It has been a great privilege to serve on the International Development Committee in this Parliament, and I particularly thank Tony Baldry, who has chaired the Committee so well for four years. We have done tremendous work to keep the Department for International Development and other Departments that have involvement with Africa with their feet held to the fire, if I may phrase it in that way.

My personal peak in the extraordinary experience of learning about Africa was landing at Hargeisa airport in Somaliland in February 2004 and being welcomed almost as conquering heroes. It was even more amazing to walk down Hargeisa high street and meet some of my constituents, who greeted me and pointed out how well they thought I was doing as an MP. However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may feel that I am electioneering in saying that, too.

What was remarkable was the $400 million that had gone into Somaliland since 1992 through the hawala remittance system. I am pleased to see—I received the information today—that the Department for International Development is launching its UK remittance products survey next Thursday, to follow up the work that it has done on that important way in which Africa helps itself, through migrants who have left. Like other hon. Members I worked in Africa in the 1960s, and, as the Minister has said, Africa has gone backwards, not forwards.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of Somalia, may I ask whether he has an opinion on recognition or otherwise of the Government in Hargeisa? What does he think are the chances of reunification of Somalia?

Photo of Mr Tony Colman Mr Tony Colman Labour, Putney

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. My hon. Friend Tony Worthington led a debate here, which was apparently the most viewed debate ever in parliamentary history, on the future of Somaliland. I hope—I have made this clear many times—that the good governance that is represented in Somaliland will be taken into account, in whatever way the overall Somalia Government proceed. I hope that the Minister for Africa, who is in his place, will ensure that that view, which was expressed by hon. Members of all parties on the International Development Committee, is supported.

My reason for participating in the debate was to provide a new element to it. Others have spoken about the Make Poverty History campaign and the issues of governance, increased aid, debt relief and trade justice. I should like to support those concepts and I noticed the words used by the Prime Minister, at the Dispatch Box at lunchtime, when he said that 2005 should be Africa's year.

My concern is what I believe to be the missing chapter in the Commission for Africa document, about the role of the private sector, which is to deliver. It is in paragraphs 129 to 142—"What business should do". That is three pages out of 461. It largely ignores the role of venture capital and private equity in delivering for Africa.

My guru on this issue is Alan Patricof, who is a co-founder of Apax Partners. He was vice-chairman of the commission on capital flows to Africa and a member of the United Nations Development Programme commission on the private sector and development. In a recent Financial Times article, he said that there needs to be

"a pool of semi-permanent capital for investment in African businesses that does not have to be serviced or amortised regularly from the start."

The problem is, according to Alan Patricof:

"Equity capital for growing small businesses is not available today in Africa; only loans are."

We need new instruments.

May I introduce the House to the work of the African Venture Capital Association? It consists of 35 venture capital funds that work in Africa, one of which is Commonwealth Development Corporation/Actis. The AVCA managing director is Barbara James, working from London; the chair is Mark Jennings, from South Africa; the vice-chair is Aziz Mebarek from Tunisia; and Rotimi Oyekanmi from Nigeria is AVCA director. That group seeks to ensure that there is a way forward in dealing with the need for the money to be there. The views that I am expressing are my own, not from that association, but it is important to take it into account. It intends to make a major submission to the Commission for Africa before the 31 May deadline.

The association points out in particular that only $750 million of the $25 billion a year that is recommended by the commission is clearly earmarked for the private sector. For the investment climate facility, the sum is $550 million over seven years and for the Africa enterprise fund it is $100 million. For political risk insurance provided by Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency the figure is $80 million, and for the UNDP growing sustainable business initiative it is only $20 million over five years. I say "only"; these are new funds, but the needs are great. I strongly believe that, as we saw as a Committee in India and China, if we want to deliver on the millennium development goals, business must be a key partner. The goals cannot be delivered on simply through Government.

I was very concerned that one particular recommendation was not covered. Perhaps that is because it relates primarily to a UK matter. I am talking about the concept of tax incentives for investors—particularly African diaspora investors—in African businesses and in private equity in particular. Such incentives would be similar to tax incentives given to UK taxpayers who invest in UK venture capital trusts and community development finance institutions, and similar to tax incentives given to individuals who give charitable donations to African causes. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and it is a shame that that recommendation was left out of the overall view of how we go forward.

The key is what happens between now and the Gleneagles summit. Last week, I spoke to the excellent director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, and he was concerned that the private sector should be able to be brought into the discussion in early June. He is putting a proposal to the Foreign Office and to DFID for a conference to be held in early June, at which we could get entrepreneurs and business people from Africa to take the report to pieces and expand the three pages into something more substantial that can go to the Gleneagles summit in early June.

May I add my other four points? Obviously, Mr. Chidgey made his. Mine are more about things that I would have liked to see in the Commission for Africa report, but which were not there. First, I am surprised that there is no supermarket code of practice for the supply of farm products from Africa to UK supermarkets. A lot of effort goes in to ensure that UK farmers are subsidised—all the way up to the hilt, as we know. I read today that Oliver Walston is receiving almost £200,000. That is quite legal, but the subsidies are enormous. Nothing is being subsidised in Africa. It would be rather nice to have a commitment that 50 per cent. of the raw foodstuffs sold in UK supermarkets should come from Africa by 2015, and perhaps the goal for processed food could be 2025. Such a commitment from the UK retail supermarket industry could be achieved, if the NGOs decide to take this on alongside the Government, and would revolutionise agriculture, feeding both Africa and Europe.

Secondly, the extractive industries transparency initiative has been mentioned again and again. Why not encourage resource extraction out of Africa to a level significantly higher than at present, but ensure that the royalties from that larger amount are earmarked for achieving the millennium development goals? We could track the new money.

Thirdly, if we are building our schools, hospitals and infrastructure in the UK through public-private partnership and they will be fit for purpose for the next 30 years, why cannot that be done for African countries if they wish it? It could be guaranteed by World Bank loans and the Export Credits Guarantee Department, with local companies doing the construction and local people running the schools and hospitals that are built.

Lastly, this is United Nations year of microcredit. I pay tribute to the all-party group on this and to Phyllis SantaMaria of PlaNet Finance plc, who has acted as our key adviser. Commercial banking systems need to be available in all African countries, operating, of course, under local regulatory controls. However, as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said at a meeting that the Minister and I attended last night, we need to ensure that Governments get off the back of private companies wherever possible to enable entrepreneurialism to take place.

My experience of the African economy at market level is that it can take off. I close my remarks by returning to Alan Patricof. He says:

"With help from rich countries in building up the support systems for small and medium-sized enterprises . . . these enterprises could grow rapidly and provide the employment . . . the efficient products and services and the tax revenues to support sustainable, non-aid dependent economies in Africa."

I believe that we need to have more aid. We need to have trade justice and we need to have debt relief. Alongside that, we need to unleash the entrepreneurialism that is available in Africa and could deliver the employment and the future for it to achieve the millennium development goals.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

Order. We have reached the last hour of debate and four hon. Members still wish to speak. I understand that the Minister may seek leave to have the last five minutes in which to respond.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham 4:32 pm, 24th March 2005

It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Colman, with many of whose remarks I agree. Being conscious of the pressure on time, I will do my best to break the habit of a lifetime and be relatively brief.

The observation has been made that there is an important role for private sector funding. I agree. Nevertheless, it falls to me to put the other side of the equation. It is incredibly important that there is a substantial additional infusion of Government funds in the form of development assistance. I am delighted that after some considerable effort on my part, and highly effective efforts on the parts of my hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), those on the Opposition Front Bench have matched the Government's commitment to seeking to meet the 0.7 per cent. UN target.

It is right that both the major parties agree at least on the extent of the commitment required. We may differ about the detail of how it should be channelled and the role of the NGOs, but I genuinely believe that it is a healthy state of affairs that we can agree on the need for such extra resources. It is part of what I call the mixed economy of support for the poor in the developing world. If we are to have any chance of achieving the millennium development goals, there can be no doubt that more funds are needed.

We are well over a century behind the target date for realising those goals. If memory serves me correctly, they are supposed to be achieved by 2015. On the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal access to primary education, the reduction of child mortality and the improvement of maternal health—to name but a few—we are a long way behind, as the International Development Committee pointed out as long ago as November 2003. The thought that it might be 2150, and in some cases 2165, before those goals are met is frankly unacceptable; it is a betrayal of the people who need our help on a bigger scale and require it without delay. I hope, on a non-partisan note, that I have made that point sufficiently clear.

It is imperative that our trade policy reinforces rather than detracts from our aid policy. It is an oft-commented on scandal, but it can scarcely be said often enough that the trade polices pursued by the European Union and the United States are morally wrong, economically counter-productive and, ultimately, politically dangerous. When I say politically dangerous, I am not suggesting that weapons of mass destruction will be unleashed upon us by poor developing nations resentful of the behaviour of Britain, the EU and the US. However, one does not have to be a socialist—I am proud to be a Conservative—to recognise that if poor countries find their condition exacerbated not by accident or policy error but by the knowing, deliberate and calculated trade policies of the richest countries on earth, that is bound to spawn a reaction of terrible resentment and hostility that not only is their condition not being eased, but their plight is being deliberately worsened.

We have to change our policies. In 2003, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development agricultural subsidies totalled $312 billion. That is a huge sum, and 15 times greater than OECD aid to Africa. That puts the situation in perspective. For any significant sum that we in the rich world contribute in the form of development assistance, we take vastly more away.

It is sometimes suggested that the west is practising policies of forced liberalisation. My objection to the policies of the EU and the US is that they are not fair. We preach free enterprise but practise protectionism on a grotesque scale. In terms that are not remotely justified by market economics, we want to export our goods at knock-down prices to the struggling local markets of developing nations, but we are not prepared to take their goods into our markets. That is the equivalent of playing a game of football and insisting that one side is entitled to 11 players, including a healthy goalkeeper, but the other team is allowed only five players and is banned from having a goalkeeper. That is how I would most graphically illustrate the point.

Action is needed in the dairy, sugar and cotton sectors. I am suspicious when I am told that there is a commitment to the elimination of export subsidies. I will believe it when I see it. The evidence over the years is that, in terms of EU and US trade policy, one has to read the subtext and the get-out clauses; their commitments tend to contain caveats inserted deliberately to suit the interests of those countries and, in the process, to damage those of the developing world. [Interruption.] Does Hugh Bayley want to intervene?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I entirely agree with the case about trade injustice that the hon. Gentleman is making. However, I wonder whether talking about African football teams with only five members is the best analogy, because one thing that Africa excels at—and we should celebrate it—is producing footballers. An African team of five would probably beat a British team with 11 members.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I am always happy to be educated by the hon. Gentleman. I will go away and, together with my indefatigable research assistance, devise a superior way of illustrating what is nevertheless a valid point.

There is also an issue about the economic partnership agreements between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. The International Development Committee is studying that subject at the moment. We can see that an argument can be made for such agreements and a number of us felt that Commissioner Mandelson intended, and will go on intending, that they should be development tools. The problem is that some of us are not so far convinced that those economic partnership agreements will have the necessary development focus and priority. So far, there does not appear to be any clear alternative for ACP countries to opt for if they are not entirely persuaded of the merits of those agreements. It is incredibly important that the bodies concerned do not repeat the process of opening up the markets of the countries concerned to subsidise western products, without giving a proper opportunity for those poor countries to trade their way out of poverty and build their domestic capacity.

On governance, I strongly endorse what Tony Worthington said. Parliamentary involvement in development has been a continuing theme in his work in the House. We should do all that we can to support reform movements and to bolster civil society in developing countries. We should also try to find a way—whichever party is in office—of using the talents of senior former parliamentarians. I have often floated the idea that we should establish a panel of ex-parliamentarians with an interest in international development, who are willing to make available their talents, campaigning skills and use of advocacy to assist freedom-loving opposition forces faced with bestial Governments, to try to propel those opposition forces into a stronger position than they inhabit at present.

I think that I can make that point without being accused of indulging in any special pleading or self-interest. I certainly do not have myself in mind for any such role, partly because, like the hon. Member for Putney, I am seeking re-election, and partly for the relevant reason that I am too young and cannot possibly afford to retire. I certainly do not envisage a role for myself in that context. I have in mind great parliamentarians from all parties, ranging from the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie and the former Member for Chesterfield, Tony Benn, to people from my party who have left the service of the House and have an interest in international development. Together, such people could bring considerable skill to bear on the problems faced by opposition forces in developing countries.

I am sceptical about the African peer review mechanism, but one does not want to damn it completely. I can see that an argument can be made that it is at least a start, but it struck me, and I think it struck others, on a recent visit to South Africa by the International Development Committee, that the fatal flaw of the peer review mechanism is its voluntary character. Some 20 countries have been put forward for review, and it is heartening to hear that there will shortly be a report on Ghana. Is it not, however, a damning indictment of the mechanism that the countries that most need its scrutiny will not be subjected to it, because they will not consent to be candidates? There is the absurd situation in which Ghana is reviewed and examined, but Sudan and Zimbabwe are not. Surely we can find a better way to address the issue.

On conflict, the Minister will not be surprised to know that although I greatly respect him, I do not much like the balance of his remarks on Darfur. I have always felt that he errs on the side of suggesting at least a broad moral equivalence between the two sides of the conflict. If the Minister tells me that that is unfair to him—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I am sorry that the Minister says that it is unfair to him, but I have to judge in the round and too often I have heard him saying, "On one hand—and on the other hand," and continually drawing attention to breaches by the rebel forces. However, the rebels are simply not starting from the same position as the Government forces. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury powerfully enunciated the argument earlier. The rebels do not have helicopter gunships and Antonov planes at their disposal, and they do not have the allied forces of the Janjaweed militia to do some of their dirty work. Pincer movements take place on a regular basis between the Government forces on the one hand and the Janjaweed militia on the other. The rebel forces' violence is to be deprecated, but it comes from a much lower base and it is obscene that the Government of Sudan are not subject to an arms embargo. The arms embargo impacts only on the rebels, and damagingly so.

The people of Darfur have suffered too much for too long and too little has been done about it. In that context, I would like greater clarity at the heart of Government on securing peace. I am concerned that the terms peacekeeping and peace enforcement are used as though they were interchangeable; they are not. There can be a peacekeeping force only if there is a peace agreement to enforce. At the moment in Darfur, none such exists. There has been a rather tenuous ceasefire, but there is not a peace agreement, so the concept of peacekeeping is not appropriate. What is required is a peace-enforcement mandate and an African Union force that is sufficient in terms of numbers of troops and logistical capacity to ensure that the peace sticks. There is not yet sufficient focus within the Government on that important requirement, and that needs to change.

Other hon. Members want to speak, so I shall finish with an observation about human rights in Africa. The hon. Members for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and for City of York took part in a debate that I initiated on the reform of the United Nations on 19 January. I remember the date for the good and personal reason that it was my birthday. Among other things, I focused in that debate on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which has become an abysmal laughing stock.

In what was otherwise a thoughtful and interesting report by the UN high-level panel on reform of the United Nations system, I was disappointed by the floated suggestion that membership of the commission should perhaps be made universal: everyone would be allowed to be a member. That seemed to be ducking the issue. There is an important challenge: membership of a human rights body within the UN should be determined not on the basis of automaticity, or on the strength of geography, but as a result of behaviour. Countries that behave properly should qualify for membership. If the most bestial oppressors are represented on a human rights body, their main goal will be to criticise others and to protect themselves from criticism. That is not acceptable.

I welcome instead the United Nations Secretary-General's suggestion that what should be established is a smaller and leaner human rights council, perhaps as a principal organ of the United Nations. We must improve governance and expose human rights abuses and ensure that developing countries, with assistance from us as necessary, respect the human rights of their citizens and observe democratic values. That is right in itself and crucial to the long-term and sustainable development that all hon. Members present want.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 4:49 pm, 24th March 2005

I shall restrict myself to 10 minutes so that the Chair of the Select Committee and my hon. Friend Hugh Bayley can speak before the Minister replies.

I welcome the debate. I also welcome a great deal of the Commission for Africa's report. Its analysis is interesting and I am disappointed that the media have not picked it up in more detail since its publication about a week ago. The general, fairly obsessive response was that the situation is all down to governance in Africa. That is certainly one aspect, but not the only one.

It is important when taking part in any debate on Africa to have some understanding of the history of the continent—I intervened on the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman on that point. Africa has given the world a great deal of wealth and knowledge. Indeed, all human activity probably descends from the Rift valley in Africa. We should have some regard to the fact that African civilisations were there long before the Europeans arrived, and that the impact of Europeans on Africa has been one of brutality, with the slave trade, colonialism and the distortion of all the indigenous economies and agricultural systems that were there.

I shall not talk at great length about African history or anthropology; I am not qualified to do that, but I think that we should have some respect for the history of the place with which we are dealing. Too often, when dealing with anything to do with Africa, there is the western arrogance that it is up to us to sort it out, when really it is up to us to repair our relationships with Africa and to put them on a fair and equitable footing. We should not act as colonial or neo-colonial masters, and I see that the Minister agrees. That is promising, indeed.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

That is all right.

The issues facing African people are enormous. I shall not quote all the figures because that would take too long, but the stark reality is that there is an enormous infant mortality rate. I find it frightening that several million children a year could probably be saved by the expenditure of no more than $1 a head on anti-malarial drugs and other basic medicines. In a world in which education and the development of the whole person is so important, as many as 40 million African children are without adequate schooling or, in some cases, have no school whatever to attend. Illiteracy rates are not falling; indeed, they are probably rising in a considerable number of African countries.

I do not excuse the corruption, bad governance or inefficiency of the Governments of Africa, but one must look at the big picture, which is that Africa had no control in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s over the price it paid for the oil that most countries had to import. There are not many oil-producing countries in Africa. The vast increase in oil prices in the 1970s had a big effect on all African economies, most of which had had a period of sustained growth since independence, which collapsed in the 1970s. Then in the late 1970s and 1980s, the collapse of commodity prices—cotton prices went down 70 per cent., cocoa prices 80 per cent. and coffee prices 70-odd per cent.—meant that every African country was faced with the loss of income from its primary exports and had to pay a great deal more to import basic requirements such as oil and manufactured goods. It is hardly surprising that a debt crisis ensued.

I absolutely support the campaign for a programme of complete debt write-off for sub-Saharan Africa, but one must be cautious of two things. First, unless we consider the conditions under which the debt was engaged, it will simply come back in five, 10 or 15 years. Secondly, we must consider whose debt we are writing off; we will subsidise some people who have a lot of ill-gotten gains. Debt write-off must be more targeted and scientific. I know that that is used as a headline feature, but one must consider it carefully.

I could talk about a lot of individual countries and issues, but there is not time for that, so I shall be brief because I want the Minister either to reply or, in the immortal words of all Ministers, to "write to the hon. Member at some point in the near future". That will keep him busy over Easter.

As the Minister knows, I had the good fortune to go on an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Angola last year, which was a salutary and fascinating experience. The country has been through 30 years of war, with 4 million people—more than a quarter of the population—displaced. It has low life expectancy, high infant mortality, and an education system that can barely cope. I met teachers who worked three shifts a day in primary schools to try to provide some kind of basic education. I absolutely admire those teachers, especially if one thinks of our own primary schools and education system. Pupils there get three hours a day in a bookless school without desks or chairs, and that is the sum total of their education. It is surprising that those kids manage to learn anything at all, and it is a tribute to their teachers that they do. We must be realistic.

I welcome and support a lot of what is going on in Rwanda, and endorse the DFID Rwanda urban poverty programme, which I hope the Minister can assure me will continue. Although Angola will be a wealthy country in future, I hope that the current discussions about restructuring its finances are going well. I should like to hear from the Government that they will stay with Angola and support it in its development, so that it ends up with great improvements in future.

I shall be brief, because there is no particular order to my points. The great lakes region of Africa has seen death rates and genocide about which we could only have nightmares. Three million people have died in the recent war in Congo, and about 1 million died in the genocide in Rwanda. Others died in Burundi and neighbouring regions. It is an horrific situation, by any stretch of the imagination. Although some of the grist to the mill—the fuel for the war—is the world's thirst for oil, manganese, gold, tin, copper and the coltan for mobile phones, the corruption that goes with those interests leads to the support of rebel armies and militias. It is a very dangerous situation.

We should also be aware that all the countries neighbouring Demoractic Republic of the Congo have, at various times, happily sent large numbers of forces into Congo, and we must consider the trading arrangements of those countries. They have no gold, coltan, tin or other minerals, but they export those materials. We must therefore ask questions about how they get out of Congo, and who benefits from the ghastly war that is going on in eastern Congo.

I was in Rwanda with Peace Brigades International last month, and talked to civil society representatives. I admire them and support what they are doing. I feel for the people, and the genocide that they have suffered. I admire the size of the DFID aid programme for Rwanda, and the commitment towards its redevelopment. I intervened on the Minister earlier, and say to him again that we should be slightly cautious about giving large amounts of budgetary aid, rather than programme aid. We must ask how much of such budgetary aid might end up being spent on arms, and foreign wars and adventures such as the ghastly conflict in eastern Congo. I know that my hon. Friend probably agrees with me on that, but I want to emphasise the point.

The other country that I want to mention is Uganda, which is part of the great lakes region. Uganda has been a byword for genocide since Idi Amin, and the west often looked away when he was doing the most disgraceful things in Uganda. He went, after the Tanzanian intervention, and there was a brief period of elected Government under Milton Obote, but since then, there has been a long period of rule by President Museveni. He is a popular figure, whom all the international financial institutions appear to love. Everybody appears to love him, and says that everything is going well in Uganda.

I have had discussions with people from Uganda, and have been reading the Human Rights Watch report on the situation there. It is concerned about a number of things, particularly the 2002 anti-terrorist Act, which allows the state to define terrorists as "opponents of the state". On that basis, considerable numbers of people have been detained or treated very badly. They should not be in that position. The President proudly claims that in the last 10 years, 2 million fighters have been trained in a country that is not that big.

I again raise the question of the very large amount of budgetary assistance that we give to Uganda. I have no problem with support for health, education, housing, social progress, employment or training—none of us would have problems with that, because that is surely what DFID and international development is all about. However, I do have a problem with that money being used to purchase arms from this country or from anywhere else, which are then used in internal control, internal oppression or in adventures elsewhere.

In this debate on Africa, we must be aware of what history has done to Africa, and what we can do to try to assist at present. One obvious step is to write off debt, and another other is for there to be a very large increase in aid for Africa. However, I want to make one further and final point. Unless we go down the road of trade justice with the farmers and producers of Africa, all the problems that exist now will continue to exist. If it is completely untenable for those farmers to produce coffee, cocoa or sustainable foods locally because either food from the United States is dumped on the market—which is actually a subsidy to US farmers—or people cannot buy any processed goods from Africa because they are too expensive due to the trade barriers, we will continue to consign poor people in Africa to a life of poverty. Moreover, instead of living in rural poverty, they will live in shanty-town poverty, with all the violence, corruption, drugs and everything else that that such a society breeds.

We have a big responsibility for what happened in Africa in the past, but I do not condone any of the corruption that occurs. The current emphasis on Africa is wholly welcome; perhaps it will be the beginning of a corner being turned and things will start to improve for the poor people of Africa.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 5:01 pm, 24th March 2005

Mr. Colman was kind enough to make reference to my chairmanship of the International Development Committee, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank him, Tony Worthington, my hon. Friend Mr. Bercow, Hugh Bayley and the other six members of the Committee for all their phenomenally hard work during this Parliament. I hope that we have done our duty by the House and produced reports of some intellectual rigour. I warn the Minister that our report on Darfur—a unanimous report—will be published this Wednesday and that it will make sobering reading.

Today, like yesterday and tomorrow, 8,000 people in Africa will die from HIV/AIDS, 7,000 people in Africa will die of hunger, and 6,000 children will die from water-borne diseases. Their lives will be lost today, and similar lives will be lost tomorrow. Our television and newspapers try to report the immediacy of big events, but it is far harder to describe and communicate the persistent, unremitting daily grind of the raw, chronic poverty that one sees in Africa.

Some 20 years ago, shortly after being elected to the House, I went to Ethiopia, along with the hon. Members for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) and for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Sir Archy Kirkwood). We were a small all-party team that was got together by Oxfam, concerned that the world was not taking sufficiently seriously the famine of biblical proportions that was then raging in northern Ethiopia.

In this Parliament, 20 years later, I returned to Ethiopia twice—once with the International Development Committee and once with the British Red Cross on a trek across the Simian mountains to raise money for the Ethiopian Red Cross and to help fund water-borne projects for schools. In some ways the country has greatly improved. Mengistu and his thugs have gone and Prime Minister Meles is trying hard to deliver. However, there are still the same grinding poverty, huge numbers of children not in school, rapidly increasing infection rates of HIV/AIDS—thins disease—and farmers desperately trying to eke a living from ever-poorer soil and coffee prices that are decimated.

The original Commission for Africa report is a somewhat shiny book. I submit that it is our collective responsibility to seek to translate its conclusions into a glowing reality. At the core of the report is the concept of "obuntu"—of our interconnectedness each with each other and nation with nation. In response to the tsunami disaster, the people of Britain clearly demonstrated their sense of that interconnectedness. Every year, the thousands who help organise events for Comic Relief, which this year raised some £70 million, show their commitment to others.

Following the commission's report, no one can feign ignorance of the full facts. The analysis, statistics, shortcomings and needs are all there. There is page after page of analysis. Africa does not need any more analysis; it needs action. To act is our clear moral duty, and not to act would be intolerable. For far too long the symbol of Africa has been an African child dying on our television screens. The needs are undisputed. As the report says:

"What Africa requires is clear. It needs better governance and the building of the capacity of African states to deliver. It needs peace. It needs political and economic stability to create a climate for growth—and a growth in which poor people can participate. It needs investment in infrastructure and in the health and education systems which will produce a healthy and skilled workforce as well as a happy and fulfilled people. It needs to trade more, and on fairer terms than the rich world has allowed to date. It needs more debt-relief. It needs aid of a better quality than at present. And it needs a doubling of aid to pay for this."

The report also makes it clear that there can be no more piecemeal approaches to Africa. It is clear that Africa needs the lot now—on debt, trade and aid. If it does not get that, it will be a disaster. The report puts it rather more elegantly:

"The actions proposed by the Commission constitute a coherent package for Africa. The problems they address are interlocking. They are vicious circles which reinforce one another. They must be tackled together. To do that Africa requires a comprehensive 'big push' on many fronts at once. Partners must work together to implement this package with commitment, perseverance and speed, each focusing on how they can make the most effective contribution."

How can people born in debt die owing more than on the day that they were born? For poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the objective must be 100 per cent. debt cancellation as soon as possible. A pathetic 2 per cent. of world trade emerges from Africa. What Africans need is the power to decide and an end to dumping. They need an end to export subsidies by 2010 to be agreed by the WTO at the meeting in Hong Kong later this year and an immediate end to cotton and sugar export subsidies. We need common agricultural policy reform in all that is just. The Commission for Africa observes:

"Agriculture is the activity from which the vast majority of the poorest Africans make their living; by contrast agriculture is not of great economic importance to most developed countries, accounting for a few per cent of national incomes, or less. Yet the agricultural sectors of many G8 and EU countries are the most heavily subsidised and protected in the economies of the industrialised world. Rich countries spend around US$350 billion a year on agricultural protection and subsidies—which is 16 times their aid to Africa. The European Union is responsible for 35 per cent of this, the United States for 27 per cent. and Japan for 22 per cent.

These policies have a harmful effect in both the poor and rich worlds. Taxpayers and consumers pay heavily to support their farmers—though, ironically, it is not small farmers in the EU and US who benefit: they get only four per cent of the subsidy, with more than 70 per cent going to the 25 per cent richest farmers, landowners and agribusiness companies. The result is that the EU subsidises sugar beet at such high levels that it is grown in Europe in places where it is economically irrational and inefficient to do so. And in the US subsidies to just 25,000 US farmers, who are paid twice the world market price for cotton, threaten the livelihoods of more than 10 million people in West Africa who produce the crop for a third of the price."

Can that situation be right?

We should extend the "everything but arms"-type access to all low-income African countries, and there should be greater regional integration. Europe should take the lead on that. I am glad to say that, at a conference held in the Guildhall last week, the Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said that Europe should start taking the lead. On the international finance facility, he said:

"If the United States, Japan and others do not want to take part in the International Finance Facility, I hope Europe will take a lead".

I also hope that Europe will take a lead, but I also hope that Europe will take a lead in trade reform.

That leads on to volumes of aid. The reality is that the most vulnerable and poorest receive the least help on the planet: $25 million, which is the proposed increase in aid from the world's seven richest countries, equates to 0.01 per cent. of our GDP. For any citizen of the G7, that is the equivalent of paying for half a stick of chewing gum a day. That is hardly a great sacrifice, particularly when we remember that every cow in Europe receives twice as much in daily subsidies as the overwhelming majority of people in Africa live on each day.

Of course improving governance and enhancing capacity is crucial. As the report observes:

"The issue of good governance and capacity-building is what we believe lies at the core of all of Africa's problems. Until that is in place Africa will be doomed to continue its economic stagnation."

The report has to be translated into action at the G8, however. It will be no good if we just receive a motherhood and apple pie communiqué from the G8 at Gleneagles. Between now and then, it behoves us all to use whatever contacts we have with other G8 countries to generate momentum behind the will to put the commission's proposals into action.

I make my final point, so that the hon. Member for City of York has ample time to get in. What we have seen from the US recently, with its proposal for the World Bank, does not encourage me. I draw hon. Members' attention to an answer that the Committee received from DFID last November:

"The UK considers it important that any new World Bank President should have a strong background in development issues and command respect and support from the membership. The UK favours a more open and consultative process than has occurred in the past for the selection of the President, whereby Bank membership are consulted on possible candidates with the Board the making final decision."

We would all say hallelujah to that. It behoves the US and other G8 members to see that they too enjoy some interconnectedness with the rest of the world. We should all play as one team, rather than having one country seeking to impose its agenda on the rest.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 5:12 pm, 24th March 2005

Africa's destiny lies in the hands of Africans, especially African leaders. If they do not end corruption, deal with conflict in their continent and establish better standards of governance, Africa's development will continue to falter. However, if African leaders rise to that challenge, as some most certainly are doing, it will be essential that the west works with them, so that they can deliver the development that their countries so desperately need.

We have heard a number of good speeches this afternoon about the policy issues. However, I should like to pick up where Tony Baldry left off and talk not about policy, but about the process. I want to talk about what we do as politicians between now and the summer to try to ensure that the G8 and, later in the year, the EU under the UK presidency deliver by way of commitments from rich world Governments as much as possible on the excellent policies outlined in the Commission for Africa's report.

When the Prime Minister launched the report at the British Museum on 11 March, he was asked by Mike Wooldridge from the BBC whether the Government would implement all its recommendations. Journalists are a fairly cynical bunch, especially about our Prime Minister, but many of them were taken aback by the simplicity and clarity of his answer. He replied with one word, "Yes". Yes, Britain would implement all the recommendations in the Commission for Africa's report.

That commitment from our Prime Minister simplifies the political challenge that we face. We have a commitment that our Government are behind the commission's recommendations. The challenge that we face is to move public opinion, politicians' opinions in other G8 and EU states and the opinions of the leaders of Government in those counties behind the report's recommendations.

As chair of the all-party Africa group I suggested in February to my colleagues who chair and lead a number of international committees in Parliament—including the hon. Member for Banbury, who chairs the International Development Committee, my hon. Friend Tony Worthington, who chairs the all-party overseas development group, my hon. Friend Tony Lloyd, who chairs our delegation to the Council of Europe, my hon. Friend Mr. Marshall, who chairs the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK branch and a number of others—to write to the Prime Minister to set out what we believed the UK Government should commit to in response to the Commission for Africa's report.

I have circulated the letter to a number of friends in Parliaments in other countries. I know that a number of my co-signatories have done the same. I have had an encouraging response. Charles Rangel, a leading member of the US Congress, a veteran representing Harlem in New York state and leader of a black caucus, has written back in supportive terms. André Rouvière, a French Socialist, and Jérôme Rivière, a French deputé from President Chirac's party, are both keen to work on the agenda, as is Axel Berg, a Social Democrat in the German Bundestag.

I have raised the commission's work at meetings of Socialist International, the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. One of the commissioners, Tidjane Thiam, came along to speak to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly about the commission's work. I raised it also at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

Politicians in other G8 and EU countries are now beginning to cotton on that Britain is absolutely serious about making Africa the foreign policy priority during the G8 and EU presidencies. Between now and the summer, all of us—the Minister, the Government, we politicians and our colleagues in other Parliaments—need to continue to work to seek to tease out from other rich world Governments how they will respond to the commission's proposals.

France is generally supportive. It is increasing its aid and backed the UK proposal for an international finance facility. It has floated some proposals for innovative financing mechanisms for development, such as a levy on airline fuel. We need to reciprocate and look seriously at that proposal. It has the merit of being reciprocal; if two countries agree to it, planes that fly from one country to another also fly on the return route, and the burden would be shared equally by countries that were to agree to such a proposal. We need to move France on the subject of trade policy, particularly trade in agriculture.

Germany is not so strongly on board on the Africa agenda. It has concerns about the cost of increasing aid. Chancellor Schröder, for the first time, made some important commitments about supporting the international finance facility in his speech in Davos. We should build on that. Germany is probably the key to shifting France on trade policy and the common agricultural policy. Italy is a poor aid donor, and is not committed to meeting the EU target of 0.3 per cent. of GNI by 2006. However, the Italians are enthusiastic Europeans, and we ought to set the European Commission to work on them, and they do support us on the international finance facility.

In President Bush's first term, the United States agreed a large increase in aid. As Mr. Chidgey said, there is a big problem in how it is directing that aid through the millennium challenge fund, which offers a bilateral approach to aid. There needs to be more multilateral co-operation with the United States, as well as trade reform on cotton and agriculture more generally.

Like France, Canada is supportive in principle of the international finance facility, and a strong supporter of 100 per cent. multilateral debt relief; it said so at the G7 Finance Ministers' meeting. It is committed to doubling its aid by 2010; although, I have to say, from a low base. There is a problem in that it says that the 0.7 per cent. UN target is a pipedream; pressure needs to be applied on that.

Unfortunately, although Japan is a big aid donor, it does not see Africa as a priority. Only 8.6 per cent. of its official development assistance goes to Africa, and its overall aid budget is declining. However, it has an interesting proposal for a new fund at the African Development Bank to support self-sufficiency in agriculture. We also need to have conversations with Japan about trade in agriculture, and the reduction of food subsidies.

Russia is not a major donor, but it will chair the G8 meeting next year, and we need to talk to it about how its agenda will address Africa, so that the decisions made this year are followed up. I do not have time to talk about our presidency of the EU, but I will say that we need to work in a similar way with the European Commission and individual member states.

Let me finish by saying that if the UK is going to be persuasive, we need to show that we are implementing the policies that we are proposing, and which we are urging on others. I was therefore pleased by the Prime Minister's unambiguous statement at the launch of the commission. Earlier this year, the all-party group on Africa wrote to all Cabinet Ministers to ask what their Departments were contributing to the Government's overall strategy on Africa in 2005. We received a lot of very detailed and informative replies, which we will publish in full. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will, of course, be heavily involved, as will DFID; but, interestingly, so, too, will many Departments that one would not necessarily think would have a clear and strong interest in Africa.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport sponsors important research through the Natural History museum with partners in Africa on the disease vectors for river blindness, bilharzia, malaria and other tropical diseases. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is doing important work on illegal logging and supports the renewable energy and energy efficiency partnership, which was set up after the Johannesburg sustainable development summit in 2002. The Ministry of Defence supports a number of peace-training operations in Kenya and Ghana.

I thank each of the Secretaries of State for giving time to provide a full account of the work of their Departments. What we learned overall is that UK policy is more joined up than I had expected. I would like to thank the Prime Minister's foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, for explaining how officials and Ministers work together on a cross-departmental basis. There is a high degree of co-ordination in the three priority areas of trade, aid and debt, but there are still problems in some areas, particularly corruption and financial crime, and unemployment of health professionals, which we will highlight when we publish our report after Easter.

A number of African development plans have been launched to the sound of trumpets and with great optimism, but they have failed. They failed in part because of failures of leadership in Africa, but also because of a loss of concentration by the west. If the Commission for Africa is to deliver real change for the continent, we must maintain our concentration over the coming decade, so that we can ensure that what is recommended is delivered.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office 5:24 pm, 24th March 2005

We have had a good debate, which has been enriched by the fact that just about everybody present has personal experience of Africa and a long-term commitment to Africa and African issues.

I pay tribute to Mr. Chidgey and my hon. Friend Tony Worthington who are departing this place for another life in the near future. Both of them, but especially my hon. Friend, have taken a long-term interest in international development. They will both be missed. I wish them well in their next incarnation.

I especially welcome the commitment from Mr. Brazier that a future Tory Government would sign up to increasing our overseas aid to 0.7 per cent. of GNP. It always warms my heart to hear Conservative spokesmen promising to increase public spending. We are grateful to hear that there is consensus on that most important issue.

I welcome the almost wholly positive comments about the report from the Commission for Africa. Everybody understands that there is more to reports than just the words on the paper: there has to be a connection between words and action, and those hon. Members who made that point were right to do so.

Obviously, we have taken the initiative, but we are not acting entirely on our own, and we have to take others with us. In our different ways, we have to do everything that we can to galvanise our partners in the EU and especially the United States to ensure that there is delivery. That is also true of our partners in Africa, who have a big part to play.

I shall draw all the comments that have been made about the work of the commission to its attention, and particularly the comments of my hon. Friend Mr. Colman, who said that insufficient attention had been given to the potential role of the private sector.

I may have misunderstood him, but I think that the hon. Member for Eastleigh said that there would be only two secretariat staff—

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

In fact, there are 20 staff, and the commissioners, too, will be vigorously promoting the report. The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that they will not all fold up their deckchairs and go home.

The hon. Gentleman implied that we were selling a lot of arms to Africa; we are not. All arms sales are strictly regulated. I am sorry to say that most of the arms in Africa come from the ex-Soviet bloc countries, and efforts are being made to reduce the number. Such British arms sales as there are tend to involve equipment for United Nations peacekeeping missions and the like. On money laundering, the hon. Gentleman was right to say that we must be more proactive than we have been. I certainly accept that, and so we will.

On Darfur, the difference between us is not as great as one might imagine. I accept that what has happened is overwhelmingly the responsibility of the Government of Sudan—a point that we have repeatedly made clear to them. However, I repeat that there are two parties to the dispute. It was the rebel attack on Al Fashir in April 2003 that triggered the latest catastrophe. The rebels—in recent months, although not before—have been the main offenders in keeping the conflict boiling. They have not been negotiating seriously at Abuja. When I saw them the other day—they may be the same people whom hon. Members met—we impressed on them the need to negotiate seriously.

My hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn mentioned budgetary support for Rwanda and Uganda, and we certainly make large contributions to both. He said that we had to watch carefully to ensure that money was not misused for military spending and on military adventures in the Congo. I can assure him that we take a close interest in the military spending of both countries and we have, on occasion, withheld or delayed payments to underline the point.

As I said in my opening remarks, we have a good story to tell. We have commitment at the highest level from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We shall ensure that Africa and African issues remain high on the agenda of the EU and of the G8 during our presidency.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at half-past Five o'clock.