[Mr Charles Walker in the Chair] — backbench business — Sudan

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:13 pm on 28th April 2011.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 5:13 pm, 28th April 2011

I am not for one second introducing aggro that I do not feel by saying that I enjoyed the 43 minutes for which the Minister spoke. I assure him that I, like others, will carefully consider the many points that he made. We appreciate the thought that he has given to the various issues that were raised, and we will have an opportunity to read what he said. My immediate response before reading his speech is that what he said on CPA, Abyei, the Mbeki group, south Kordofan, the Blue Nile and so on was very helpful, if only because these issues have scarcely been reported in recent times. We all appreciate that there have been huge issues throughout the world in Tunisia, Egypt, Japan and elsewhere, and we understand that they should be fully reported, but the great merit of this excellent debate is that in this Parliament, which is representative of the people of the United Kingdom, we have put Darfur on the agenda again.

I welcome the Minister’s comments, and I welcome DFID’s role in these important matters. Numerous points were made in the debate. Did I agree with all of them? It would be less than honest if I said yes, but there was a remarkable measure of agreement throughout the Chamber. The points on which we agree—in a few moments I want to turn to the future of Sudan—and the debate have offered hope to many people, including those who have followed the debate, and those outside who hear about our discussion. That, too, is long overdue.

I thank Tony Baldry for his contribution. I am glad that I have time to say that he has focused on these issues, particularly Sudan, in his role as Chair of the Select Committee on International Development, and in so many other ways. I believe that on these issues his constituents should be proud of him, and I am sure that they are. If the debate had any purpose at all, it was met in his wonderful message in the statement from the Anglican bishops, and I hope that he will feel free to tell them that we reciprocate their objectives and hopes for the future of Sudan, and the prayers that they have no doubt expressed. I thank him for his contribution.

Mr Ellwood travelled from Bournemouth for the debate, and I thank him for that. He referred to the complexities in north and south Sudan, such as the 200 ethnic groups. I was very pleased that he mentioned, as others did later, the humanitarian crisis and how the United Nations sees it. He also referred to the problems of fundamentalism.

If I have one regret when it comes to disagreement, it has to be with Daniel Kawczynski. Until the last five minutes or so of his speech, I thought he was doing remarkably well, and that is still my view. That said, he was a brave man willingly to take on Clare Short and China in one speech. Clare Short and I had our disagreements and, sadly, she is not now even a member of my party, but she re-established international development as a Department. It been on the fringes. I mean no disrespect, but when I came to Parliament it was led by a Minister of State in the House of Lords with 10 minutes’ Question Time at the end of Foreign Affairs questions. Clare Short re-established the role of international development and reminded the people of Britain that there are poor people in a rich world.

In 1982, when I came to Parliament, the Brandt report was published and reminded us that although we have responsibilities to the poor south, there is some interdependence. The point about looking to the future, and to trade, exports and interdependence was made well by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham and others. That is something I welcome and for which Clare ought to be remembered.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned mineral extraction—that point was taken up by other hon. Members and I will come to it later if time allows. Jo Swinson made a positive speech. She dealt with violence after the referendum and rightly drew our attention again to Darfur, which she thought had been overshadowed. She was not the only hon. Member who mentioned gender, and she was absolutely right to raise that subject and speak about the lack of rights for women in Sudan. Although there may have been a few improvements on the fringes, her comments were a reflection of what is going on in both north and south Sudan, directed from Khartoum.

I regard Geoffrey Clifton-Brown as a personal friend. He and I visited Australia together as part of a CPA delegation. I was not surprised that his speech was so beautifully well informed and comprehensive or that it contained a great deal of clarity to help our understanding of this complex situation. Without being too hard on the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, whom I respect very much, I felt that his description of the poverty, lack of clean water and health care, malnutrition and the poor priority given to education in that part of the world contrasted greatly with his attitude to debt that we heard towards the end of his speech.

Perhaps I should deal with the issue of debt before the clock ticks on much longer. I will set aside the domestic debate about the banks and so on because you would rightly remind me that that is not part of this debate, Mr Walker. I do not believe that in this wealthy, modern world of ours, the most impoverished and destitute people should be those who repay all the debt, base and interest. Every three seconds one of them has died as we have been debating this afternoon. Let me draw to the attention of the Chamber to the view of the Jubilee Debt Campaign; I assume from what the Minister has said that the Department for International Development will take these views on board. On Darfur it stated:

“Almost 60 per cent. ($20 billion) of Sudan’s debt is interest.”

That is money added to the sum that was borrowed, but it was not borrowed in the interests of those poor, hapless people who have been described so well by the hon. Member for The Cotswolds and others. I listen to opinions expressed by British taxpayers, and I do not believe that they are so mean-minded as to say that we who benefited from colonialism, not only in Sudan and Africa but elsewhere, and who also benefited from the Marshall plan after the second world war, without which we could never have thrived, would wish to deny the same things to countries as hapless and difficult as both sections of Sudan.

Having—I hope—put the issue of debt to bed, I will mention some of the other speeches. Mike Weatherley mentioned the Sudanese diaspora, which was an important contribution to the debate. I wish him well in the visit he is due to undertake, and I look forward to hearing his views on it afterwards. My hon. Friend Stephen Pound made a powerful and well-informed intervention that was witty, classical—