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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered negotiation and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”
It is useful to reflect on those words as we discuss the negotiation and implementation of the sustainable development goals. I am pleased to see that Members from across the House are present. I hope there will be time for everyone who wants to speak to do so, and I look forward to the response from the Minister. I am grateful to the many organisations that have provided briefings in advance of the debate.
I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests: until the election I worked for the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, so I had a professional as well as a personal interest in international development issues. I was also the vice- chair of the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland and I sat on the Scottish working group on sustainable development goals, which I will refer to later.
The Make Poverty History rally that Nelson Mandela spoke at came five years after the United Nations agreed the millennium development goals—at that time, the most ambitious agenda for tackling world poverty in history. For 15 years, the MDGs have provided a framework on which national Governments, multilateral agencies, and even small local charities can base their international development efforts. Progress has been significant, if not complete.
The headline goal of halving the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day has been met, but not uniformly around the world. In some parts, notably sub-Saharan Africa, progress towards many of the goals has remained static or even gone into reverse. The framework was established with a 15-year timeframe, which is why global attention is now turning to what comes next.
Negotiations on the successor framework—the sustainable development goals—were notable for their inclusive and participatory nature, and particularly for the role played by global civil society and social movements, especially in the global south and the worldwide Beyond 2015 network. The SDGs will therefore begin life with considerably greater legitimacy than the MDG framework, but it is important in the final months of negotiation that civil society’s voice continues to be heard and respected. The last thing that should happen is diplomats and ministerial delegations locking themselves in a basement room at the UN to thrash out last-minute concessions.
The zero draft outcome document for the SDG summit in September was published on
“a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity that also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom.”
The zero draft sets out 17 goals and 169 targets, encompassing a broad range of economic, social and environmental objectives, including on issues traditionally associated with tackling poverty, such as health, education and nutrition; but it also tackles questions of equality, including gender equality, and climate change, and recognises the importance of infrastructure and sustainable consumption.
Most important is the universal aspect of the framework, and the concept of leaving no one behind. The goals and targets are to be met by all social and economic groupings. These concepts have been warmly welcomed by civil society and many other stakeholders, but the draft is not perfect; it is the basis for further negotiations by UN member states. I hope that in the months that remain, more can be done to reinforce the aims and objectives that it outlines.
Save the Children and others have suggested that the language on leaving no one behind could be strengthened, and others, such as Age International, have called for a stronger commitment to data monitoring and disaggregation. There are some broader concerns about the model of development implied by the language of the zero draft. Both the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and SCIAF call for the promotion of human dignity, rather than ideas of prosperity and economic growth, to be the driver of the development agenda. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General’s synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda earlier this year specifically talked of a
“Road to Dignity by 2030”.
I would be particularly interested to hear the Minister’s views on including that concept in the framework.
As the final negotiations proceed, I hope that Scotland’s voice will be heard at the top table. I referred earlier to the Scottish post-2015 working group on the SDGs, which has brought together civil society as well as officials from both the UK and Scottish Governments to share knowledge and information about the negotiation process and begin to look towards implementation. I hope that the Minister and Secretary of State will seriously consider inviting one of their Scottish Government counterparts—the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs or the Minister for Europe and International Development—to join the UK delegation to the SDG summit in New York in September.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate, and on securing a debate this early in his parliamentary career. I agree with him with regards to the Scottish Government, and I ask the Minister to consider the other devolved Administrations, where there is expertise in bilateral agreements between their nations and nations in Africa and other parts of the world.
That is a helpful point. I spoke briefly in my maiden speech about the ties between Scotland and Malawi; such reciprocal agreements and community links are to be found across the United Kingdom. The respect agenda, which we heard so much about during the independence referendum, means that this is a good opportunity for the voices of Scotland and the constituent parts of the UK to be heard on a world stage.
Once those negotiations are complete—indeed, before they are complete—we must consider how the new framework will be implemented. The universal nature of the goals is markedly different from the MDG framework. It places an obligation on all Governments—north and south, rich and poor—to work towards a world free of poverty. The Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in a few weeks’ time will be an important opportunity for world Governments and civil society to agree ways of making funds available to deliver the goals. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will give the summit the same priority that many of their global counterparts plan to.
Traditional aid flows are important, and I congratulate the UK Government on meeting the 0.7% target, but I question the measure of gross national income that they are using to calculate their 0.7% contribution. The Scottish National party will continue to ask hard questions about how that money is spent. Our official development assistance spend should not undermine public services in developing countries, nor should it be used for defence or securitisation purposes.
We must also move beyond aid. Many campaign groups, including Oxfam and Christian Aid, are rightly calling for a radical overhaul of international taxation. Corporate tax dodging is costing developing economies billions each year—money that could be spent on education, healthcare and other vital services. Initiatives such as the Robin Hood tax could generate further funds for tackling poverty and climate change, and we must remain alive to the question of unjust and unsustainable historical debt, which still burdens too many developing countries.
Implementing the SDGs will require a whole-of-Government response. Every decision made by Government has some kind of impact overseas—not just tax and trade decisions, but decisions around procurement, energy, education and more all have a global footprint. Indeed, our own individual energy use and consumption habits have been, for too long, at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people in other parts of the world who are now being hit first and hardest by the impacts of climate change.
The other major summit this year, December’s United Nations framework convention on climate change in Paris, must also be part of the process of implementing the SDGs. The same is true of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul next year. Once again, I draw attention to the work of the Scottish Government, and their pioneering work in the areas of climate justice and policy coherence for development.
The universal nature of the SDGs means that implementation is an individual, national and global responsibility. It means that each of us should question our lifestyle choices and consumption habits. It also means that Governments of so-called rich or developed countries must look to their own backyards. What steps will Governments take finally to eradicate poverty here at home, to bring about gender equality, and to tackle the causes and effects of climate change? Perhaps we should also ask under what reading of the SDG framework a decision to spend £100 billion on the renewal of Trident can be justified.
In concluding, I would like to thank again the many organisations that took time to provide briefings. I have not been able to refer to all their points but, in addition to those I mentioned, I encourage the Minister to look at the points raised by UNICEF, the Royal Society, Health Poverty Action, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the World Wide Fund for Nature and World Vision UK.
During the 2005 Make Poverty History campaign, it was often said that we were the first generation with the knowledge, tools and resources finally to end poverty. Ten years on, the SDGs have the potential to provide a robust framework to put that knowledge, those tools and those resources into action. With the right political will, they can capture the imagination of not just Governments and civil society, but the wider public and communities around the world, because—to finish as I started—in the words of Nelson Mandela:
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Turner. I congratulate Patrick Grady on securing this very important and timely debate, providing an opportunity for Members of all parties to explore these issues and for the Minister to respond. The hon. Member for Glasgow North brings a wealth of experience from prior to his election. I refer people to my relevant entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I worked for five years, between 2005 and 2010, at the Foreign Policy Centre and for the Aegis Trust charity, which works in Rwanda.
As the hon. Member for Glasgow North said, Make Poverty History has been one of the most powerful social movements of this century so far. The impact that it had in mobilising a wide section of public opinion and its influence on our Government at the time was profound. It is good to have the opportunity to reflect on that and on the progress made since the millennium development goals were adopted. I do not want to repeat everything that the hon. Gentleman said, but he referred to various statistics. There is still a very big challenge on some of the basic issues that the millennium development goals were designed to address. About 1 billion people across the globe still live on less than $1.25 a day. That is the World Bank’s measure of poverty. The levels of hunger around the world are still far too high. Yes, things have got better, but more than 800 million people live without enough food to eat. Women are still fighting hard for their rights, and millions of women across the globe still die in childbirth. A great deal more needs to be done.
Like the hon. Gentleman, I welcome the progress that has been made in moving towards the summit in New York this September. The level of engagement and consultation with stakeholders, Governments and, most importantly, civil society offers the potential for a more holistic approach to development policy, which is welcome. It includes, for example, a renewed focus on climate change, the oceans, sustainable industrialisation and a strategy for modern and sustainable energy.
Focusing on the root causes of poverty is absolutely the right thing to do. The universal goals, about which the hon. Gentleman spoke, are most welcome. In particular, the aim of the focus on equality—one of the 17 proposed goals—is to reduce inequality both within and among countries. That, too, will secure a welcome. There is concern that with, as he said, 17 goals and 169 targets, this could all become somewhat unwieldy. It is right that the process is ambitious, but it must also be achievable. I echo what he said about the importance of listening to the voices of civil society as the process moves forward.
Taking an holistic approach domestically is also critical. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response to this point. The Select Committee on International Development in the previous Parliament said that the Department for International Development
“must do more to influence policy across all Government departments”.
Concern has been expressed that DFID is now not represented on some key committees—ministerial committees and, crucially, the National Security Council, which covers very important issues such as climate change, economic stability, counter-terrorism and money laundering. It is surely vital that the Secretary of State for International Development be represented on the National Security Council, as well as on key committees such as the economic affairs committee, which deals with the crucial question of international taxation, to which the hon. Member for Glasgow North referred in opening the debate.
Let me finish by echoing what was said by both my hon. Friend Albert Owen and the hon. Gentleman about the importance of our taking a UK-wide approach, engaging the devolved Administrations, welcoming the work that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have done with Malawi and listening to the voices from Wales and Northern Ireland as well as from Scotland and, indeed, to those at local government level in all parts of our country. The more that these issues engage not just central Government and Parliament, important as they are, but civil society, trade unions and business organisations, the more impact the sustainable development goals will surely have.
Parliament itself has a very important role to play. Opportunities such as today are, of course, welcome. There is also the role of the Select Committees—the International Development Committee and others—and groups such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which often provide a vehicle for focusing on some of these issues, country by country and region by region. Let us also use the opportunity of today’s debate—I hope that the Minister might have something to say about this—to emphasise what Government can do, because that is vital, and what civil society can do, which the hon. Gentleman rightly emphasised, but also the very important role that this Parliament can play in ensuring that we get the decisions right in September in New York. It is important not just that we have a good summit in New York in September, but that those decisions are built on beyond that, so that in 15 years’ time we can celebrate real achievements from the key goals that will be discussed in New York.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Turner, and to follow such an excellent speech from Stephen Twigg. We do not agree about very much, but I suspect that on this issue we are largely in agreement. I also congratulate Patrick Grady not only on securing the debate, but on securing his election. He is very welcome in the House, not least for the expertise that he brings in this area. Out of an abundance of caution, I will say, although this is not in my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and, I think, is one of the things that do not have to be, that my partner is currently employed by the Government of Sierra Leone, but that is not something that touches much on this debate.
The debate is incredibly welcome, in part because of the importance of the sustainable development goals but also because all of us in the House who are interested in these issues have, to some extent, had our eye taken off the ball, in what has been a long process, by our own electoral cycle. I think that this is the first opportunity that the House has had to consider this matter, which is extraordinarily important not just for the developing world but for the security of this country, since we returned to this place. That makes the debate very welcome. I hope that we will have the opportunity again, before the House rises for the summer recess, to discuss all the matters that arise and to inform the process through which DFID is passing as we move towards the important adoption of the goals in September of this year.
As the hon. Member for Glasgow North said, the millennium development goals have been extraordinarily successful in tackling the root causes of poverty in much of the developing world. Some of the statistics that he mentioned are extremely telling and important. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his figures from, but as I understand it, the number of people living in extreme poverty—on below $1.25 a day—has reduced by some 700 million since the previous Government adopted the goals as part of British policy. Efforts against disease and particularly against malaria and tuberculosis made great strides between 2000 and 2012. An estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria were averted because of the interventions resulting from the millennium development goals.
There has been access to improved drinking water across the developing world, and disparities in primary school enrolment between boys and girls have almost disappeared, although there is more work to be done in that area. The role of women—the political participation of women—has increased throughout the developing world. That is very much to be welcomed. I know that that agenda is important to all Members of this House.
None the less, there are major respects in which we have not achieved what the world community set out to achieve. Major threats to sustainability, particularly in the developing world, continue. I am thinking of the way in which resources are exploited by companies that are interested only in the bottom line and by countries that regard it as in their national interest to rape the natural resources of the poorest in the world, who have no means by which they can defend themselves against those companies and countries. That is something on which the world will have to concentrate.
Hunger continues to decline, but further efforts are needed. The proportion of undernourished people in developing regions has decreased, but progress on that has slowed considerably since the advent of the financial crisis. That issue is particularly important. We take it for granted in this country that we have enough food. If people travel in west Africa or east Africa, they will see that that is not the case there. People genuinely do not have enough food on which to live, and chronic undernutrition of children remains a very considerable problem, as does child mortality.
I want to speak briefly about HIV therapy. There has been progress since the millennium development goals were introduced, but there remains a pervasive culture, particularly in much of Africa, in which HIV is regarded as something that cannot or ought not to be treated, and which is certainly not spoken about. The world needs to tackle that. We will tackle it when we adopt the goals in September, but there is a considerable problem to which Members have already drawn attention.
One of the great successes of the millennium development goals was that they were brief. They were an organising framework for donors and developing country governance. They provided a consensus around which the world community could coalesce, but here we have 17 goals: an amorphous set of principles that we all want to see achieved, but there are so many of them that, as the Prime Minister has said, there are simply too many to communicate effectively and there is a real danger that they will simply end up on a bookshelf gathering dust. I know that that is also the view of the Secretary of State for International Development.
In the remaining stages of the negotiation, it would be good if the message could go out clearly from this House, through Government, that what needs to be done is to focus efforts so that the goals themselves are clear. In one sense, the SDG is a visionary document—how we all want to see the world in 2030—but the targets that have to be met must be measurable. We must have a set of aims and values that we can communicate to those who provide the funds that we rightly, although we often have to persuade people that it is right, deploy in the international aid budget. There are areas that are simply not tackled in the sustainable development goals, to which the hon. Member for Glasgow North alluded, such as climate change, because the attitude of the UN is that it is dealing with them by other means. Although the goals are welcome, more progress could be made as we move towards the meeting in September.
There are two areas on which I want the Minister to concentrate when he responds to my remarks. The first relates to health. The Ebola outbreak in west Africa showed that health systems in the developing world are not adequate to deal with large, widespread outbreaks of significant problems. When we get to the end of the outbreak—pray God that we now are; it seems as though we are—more people will have died of malaria in west Africa than will have died of Ebola for the simple reason that the healthcare systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and other affected countries such as Mali have not been able to cope with the appalling epidemic that the world has had to face and at the same time treat endemic diseases such as malaria. Such a discussion needs to be ongoing. What is the Minister going to do to make healthcare systems in the developing world more robust, and what is DFID’s view about the reform of the World Health Organisation, which, as everybody here knows, dropped the ball in relation to Ebola?
The Minister needs to concentrate on another issue that is not really mentioned in the sustainable development goals or the targets that surround it: corruption. Corruption in the developing world is endemic and takes money from the poorest people. The money being used to fund corruption, particularly in the civil services of developing countries, is money that would otherwise be used for public services and for the alleviation of poverty. That really needs to be tackled; it has not been tackled by the United Nations convention against corruption, because there are so many respects in which states are not monitored for compliance with it and so many respects in which, even if they are monitored, they fall down in relation to the common standards that ought to have been accepted. This has not been a priority for DFID and it ought to be, because economic growth is the one thing that we can probably all agree assists in the prevention of poverty.
The prevention of poverty in the developing world is important not only because it is the right thing to do, which is why we stand behind the 0.7% target, but because it secures the national security of this country and its citizens. Will the Minister say a little more about how DFID will influence the sustainable development goals and how it will drive them and ensure there is a robust healthcare system in the developing world? Will he also say more about the corruption that takes money from the poorest people in the world? If the Minister can reassure us on that, we will all know that the Government are moving in the right direction and that the world is moving in the right direction with regard to the goals.
I also would like to make a declaration. I am still a Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund ambassador for south-west Scotland, although I am not sure how long I will manage to do that along with this role. Through SCIAF, I had the opportunity to visit AIDS projects in Kenya and Tanzania in 2006. Others have referred to Make Poverty History, and I remember traipsing off to Edinburgh with my 11-year-old son, who is now a big 21-year-old man. Although some things have improved, they definitely have not improved enough. I commend the reference to the devolved Governments, where there is expertise. The issue is reserved, but certainly in Scotland we have been active and I would like to see Humza Yousaf, our Minister for Europe and International Development, included in the summit, because devolved Administrations have things to say.
How we deal with other people matters, as well as our understanding of aid for trade and aid for defence. We have been talking about TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, for the past couple of years, but we now have a TiSA, a trade in services agreement, that tries to ensure that developing countries, and indeed developed countries, are forced to have a more private basis of service provision, so they could not emulate the health provision that we have here. In developing countries it needs to be done in the simplest, cheapest way. Setting up private systems means the wealthy getting healthcare and illness lying at the bottom levels, so that we never eradicate polio, never control malaria and certainly never control Ebola.
I do not know where the hon. Lady got from my remarks that I was advocating private healthcare in the developing world. I am advocating a robust healthcare system supported by donor countries and non-governmental organisations.
I am sorry; I did not mean to imply that that was coming from the hon. and learned Gentleman’s comments. I was respecting his comment that such countries need help to have a robust health system. But TiSA is out there. It is not very much on our horizon, but within Europe people are already beginning to see it coming and seeing the impact it would have in Europe and developed countries and also in developing countries. We should look at the unsustainable debt and at the terms that are often laid down when a country has to borrow: we need to ensure that we are not, as it were, shackling both its ankles and one arm together and then sending it off to do things.
One important thing not within the sustainable goals is climate change. We must recognise the absolute disaster that is coming. We are currently dealing with refugees coming from north Africa and the near east because of conflict, but the Sahara is expanding. Current wars have been about oil; future wars will be about water. As the Sahara expands in both directions, populations will be driven into other territories. What we see in the Mediterranean at the moment will pale into insignificance compared with what we will see in future. That needs to come into our policies. It needs to come into everything we do; it must not just be the international development group, which is not included in anything else.
We absolutely need to look at our own behaviour, how we generate power, how we produce things and what we use. We take some weird approaches in looking at how we produce energy. We make the world price of food go up so that we can put it in cars and go on driving bigger cars. We say that nuclear is the solution to the carbon dioxide problem, despite the massive CO2 released in the production, building and commissioning of a nuclear power station. We must look at these things in the round. Individuals, and the Government that lead individuals, need to look at our obsession with consumerism. We think sticking in a low-energy light bulb lets us off the hook, yet we are obsessed with stuff. Do we really need more gadgets? Do we really need up-to-the-minute fashion? Unless we look at every level, led by and promoted by Government, we will not change quickly enough. It is poorer people who pay the price, through climate injustice, for our behaviour.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Turner. I welcome the Minister to his new appointment, and I congratulate Patrick Grady on securing the debate. A lot of what I wanted to say was said by the first few speakers and by Dr Whitford, but I will concentrate with a lot of optimism on some of the goals outlined on climate change, energy and sustainability.
We need joined-up thinking between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for International Development. We need to work together. In the past, Departments have tended to work in silos. That is why I mentioned in my intervention the need to co-operate with the devolved Administrations. I have seen some very good practice in Wales, such as the bilateral agreement between Wales and Lesotho, with links between the schools. They are going out to educate young people there. Link-ups through modern technology are also easy to do. Many primary schools in my constituency of Ynys Môn have live link-ups to see exactly what life is like there.
I must make a declaration: I have never done anything in the conventional way. I left school at 15 and went into the merchant navy. I saw with my own eyes some of the extreme poverty and extreme wealth across the world, and it shaped my life and my politics in many ways. It is important in this modern 21st century that young people have those links with the developing world.
I congratulate the Government on some of their work, particularly on Ebola. There has been a great coming together of the world’s health organisations and this country’s national health service to provide essential skills to help eradicate that disease. Good work is being done. I am proud that the United Kingdom has a Department for International Development, and I was proud when it was set up. I am also proud of the Climate Change Act 2008. The theme of my speech is that we need to link those two together. We need to understand, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire said, the importance of weaning countries that have developed on fossil fuels off them.
This is a golden opportunity for countries that do not have the infrastructure or the legacy from oil and gas and that can adapt many of the new technologies being developed across the world. Solar energy, for example, can go into villages in isolated locations around the world. We can have new schools and clean water because we will have the electricity to provide the pumps in those areas. That is a great opportunity.
Goal 7 talks about ensuring
“access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy”.
One problem in industrialised countries such as the United Kingdom is that our energy facilities are ancient and need to be rebuilt and retrofitted in many ways. Newer, underdeveloped countries have the opportunity to start from day one, but we have to learn and do it by example. We are doing well with our goals on renewable energy. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire and I will not agree on nuclear power, but I believe that it will help us to reduce our carbon emissions. We in the United Kingdom have 1% of the world’s population but produce 2% of carbon emissions. We need to reduce that. Nuclear technology can help us to do that, but we have to lead on it.
With these two big conferences coming up in New York and Paris, I hope that the Minister will assure me that he, the Secretary of State for International Development and his Department are talking with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change so that we have joined-up thinking. We can then go on to the world stage, lead by example and use our expertise in a positive way to combat climate change and its impact on lesser developed countries.
I have a few final things to say about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before the hon. Member for Glasgow North replies—is that how it works? The Department for International Development needs to get out more, to be absolutely frank. It needs to go to East Kilbride, where the Department has an office. It needs to go to the Welsh Assembly and Belfast to see the good practice in the devolved Administrations, as well as to the regions of England. Rather than talking to ourselves here in the UK Parliament, we need to go out and learn from the best examples. We can then hopefully go to these summits, speaking and working with the devolved Administrations, to put the case for all parts of the United Kingdom and show leadership across the world. These are important summits. We want to be present and we want to make a difference.
Finally, I will talk about the Make Poverty History campaign. Although I indicated that I did not do things in the conventional way and went to sea at 16, the Make Poverty History movement really excited me because it brought together the Churches, non-governmental organisations and real people across this country. That was the important thing about that movement, and it left us with these development goals. We are now going into round 2, and we must ensure that the goals are meaningful and that they work.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Turner, and to be back in Parliament for this important debate. I congratulate Patrick Grady on an excellent opening speech that set the tone for the rest of the debate. I offer my extended congratulations for the first time to the Minister and welcome him to his role. He will already know from the short time he has been there that the Department for International Development is a fantastic Department to work in and alongside. It works on tackling many of these issues. We already share something in common, which is a very similar name. I have learned that over my five years in Parliament, because the postman here does not always deliver with 100% accuracy. I have noticed that the Minister’s invites are often printed on considerably thicker card than mine. Now that I am shadowing him in this position, I hope we will tackle that inequality as well.
We live in a global society, yet every 10 seconds a child dies from hunger and malnutrition. Even after the millennium development goals come to an end this year, nearly 1 billion people will still be living in extreme poverty. Hundreds of thousands of women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, and a population of more than three times the size of Birmingham dies each year purely from water-related diseases. To stand aside and allow that to continue when we may take action is to perpetuate a great injustice. Ours is the generation that could see the end to extreme poverty, reduce inequality and tackle climate change. It would be easy in the current climate to turn away from tackling some of the world’s most intractable problems.
The thread that connects the key issues we face of climate change, economic crises, disease and conflict is their global and interdependent nature. This year is a unique opportunity for the world to see a realignment and a new settlement of institutions and shared action that can tackle those threats. The agreement to be secured in September on the replacement of the millennium development goals will take place at one of the two crucial summits this year. As Members have said, we will also hopefully agree a framework in Paris in December to tackle climate change into the next generation. The Labour party stood on a manifesto that promised to prioritise those global accords, as well as twin and related ones. We are determined to hold the Government to account throughout this Parliament to ensure that Britain’s reputation as a leader in international development —a reputation hard-fought and hard-won by the previous Labour Government—endures.
There have been valuable contributions in today’s debate. My hon. Friend Stephen Twigg went right to the heart of what our focus needs to be in the coming months in his comments about inequality. Stephen Phillips made a powerful contribution. Some of his most interesting comments were about the disconnect between the 17 goals and 169-odd targets currently in the zero draft, as well as the desire that I am sure we all share for those goals to be clearly explained. That probably means having fewer of them. Dr Whitford, in speaking about her own experiences, brought home how powerful it can be to confront the reality of extreme poverty and inequality, as well as the hope that many people hold not just for their own lives but for their whole community. My hon. Friend Albert Owen spoke not just about co-operation at UK level, in which I believe passionately, but about the experiences that we can garner from devolved Administrations, such as the Government in Wales, which I know from my own experience has been hugely inspiring in tackling these issues at community level as well.
Some specific concerns were also raised, and I will go through them one after the other. We have discussed the fact that the sustainable development goals are there not just to eradicate extreme poverty but to tackle growing inequality. We put particular emphasis on that in our manifesto. Gender, caste, race, community, disability, religion, age and ethnicity all too often determine people’s life chances. Health, education, jobs and participation are increasingly determined at birth, so we promised to prioritise human rights, climate change and universal healthcare in a bid to tackle that growing concern.
Health inequality is one of the most debilitating inequalities that someone can experience. As the party of the NHS, we want everyone to enjoy the protections that we in this country take for granted, and we are committed to providing the global partnerships, support and encouragement needed to countries that want to provide healthcare for their own citizens. Therefore, it was welcome to hear the Secretary of State say two weeks ago at the Dispatch Box that the Government
“have advocated very strongly for universal health coverage that truly makes a difference to people and puts them in a position to be able to play a role in helping to develop their country.” —[Hansard, 3 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 575.]
That is particularly welcome because it stands in stark contrast to the previous Secretary of State—who also happens to be the current Secretary of State—who failed to provide before the election for universal health coverage in the post-2015 agenda and refused to support a stand-alone goal on universal health coverage. Most devastatingly, she cut her Department’s direct support to health systems year by year, creating the conditions in which Ebola went unchecked for too long. Can the Minister outline what steps the UK Government will take in the light of their new position on the crucial agenda of universal healthcare? Will they push for universal healthcare, in the language of the goal on healthcare, in the room in September?
Last week in the Chamber, I spoke about how climate change will be seen as development in reverse. The world’s poorest face rising sea levels, droughts and storms. When one’s very survival is under threat from natural disasters, thriving diseases and conflict over resources, economic development can often become a romantic ideal. We remain concerned that, despite those clear links, the zero draft of the outcome document is still unambitious on that agenda, allowing goal 13 to remain essentially a holding text for an agreement that has not yet happened, and whose start date and implementation is five years from now.
That is why I urge the Secretary of State and the Minister to ensure in September that climate change remains a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 SDGs, with a 2º global temperature rise embedded in the language of the goal. That may seem dry, but the lesson of the millennium development goals was that their language was hugely important for focusing minds and measuring progress. Will the Minister say a few words on that issue as well?
This debate is about more than just negotiating the language of the sustainable development goals; it also needs to be about their implementation. We particularly welcome the opportunity to hear what the new Government see as their priorities within that expansive agenda. As the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham said, it might be difficult to galvanise political will around 17 goals and 169 targets. Is it the UK Government’s position to have fewer goals and greater focus on each of them? If so, what will those goals be?
There are questions about this Government’s global leadership. When the Prime Minister was appointed co-chair of the high-level panel, we were disappointed to see that he attended only half the meetings. In that context, how does the Prime Minister mean to go about negotiating the SDGs, especially given that key issues such as climate change have fallen off the agenda in meetings that he has chaired in the past? It took Germany’s Chancellor to put climate back on the agenda in the most recent G7 discussions.
The all-embracing nature of the zero draft risks prevarication and duplicity, potentially enabling Governments to address selectively those goals and targets most aligned to their existing agenda while failing to challenge the more complex and formidable issues that we face.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is also the difficulty that unless there is effective monitoring, there may be differences within regions and indeed countries? The sustainable development goals might be properly implemented in some areas, or efforts might be made to do so, but rural areas in particular in the developing world might simply be left behind because everybody is concentrating on the capital cities.
I agree completely with that well-put point. I add that one challenge that everyone in our generation must face following the negotiation of the first millennium development goals is increasing urbanisation, which could leave some people even more disconnected. On issues such as universal healthcare, the problem becomes obvious: how can a healthcare system reach out across all communities? Monitoring will be key, which is why we have called for the disaggregation of data in the results produced through the process.
We believe that we have been clear about our priorities, and we ask the Government to be equally clear in their negotiating position in order to tackle inequality, ensure the attainment of the human rights—including the fundamental rights of women and girls—that remain at the heart of the agreements and combat climate change. Not just now but in Paris in December, I hope that the Minister is willing to match our ambitions in the field.
It is fantastic to see you back in the Chair, Mr Turner, and a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate Patrick Grady on securing this debate, right up front at the beginning of this Parliament, on an issue about which I know he is passionate and has a great deal of knowledge and expertise through the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and through the incredible Scotland-Malawi partnership, which runs incredibly deep. As Dr Whitford also mentioned, it is threaded through everything that goes on in international development in Scotland.
I was in East Kilbride only last week and, as Albert Owen will be pleased to hear, I will no doubt be going to the Welsh Assembly soon. One thing that I discovered there was that—I think I have these numbers right—some 157 primary schools in Scotland have direct links with Malawi, as do more than 900 different non-governmental and similar organisations and 47% of Scots. That is absolutely extraordinary, impressive and commendable, and we will seek to replicate it in other important areas of development during this Parliament.
This is a fantastic debate to have, and it has been good-natured, with some extremely important points raised. I will pick up on some of them. The hon. Member for Glasgow North mentioned the principle of dignity on behalf of some NGOs. The UK Government support the concept of dignity in development; it is absolutely right, and we welcome the Secretary-General’s report on dignity. He makes the intelligent point that prosperity and dignity, while allied, are not exactly the same thing.
As the new guy to this subject, I know this is the most fascinating topic that the Government have to deal with—perhaps only we in this Chamber know that. As Stephen Twigg said, the number of people living on $1.25 a day, although it is falling, is not yet down where we need it. However, it is interesting that people are now living for a decade longer than they were in the 1960s, even though their income is not necessarily higher. Also, more children are going to school now. Whereas in the 1960s, only half the kids of primary age went to school, now 90% of children in the world go to school. The world is somehow getting better without prosperity necessarily rising, although we want to see that, too. However, dignity is absolutely key to this process and the hon. Member for Glasgow North is right to raise it as an issue.
The hon. Gentleman asked a direct question about the representation at the summit on sustainable development goals; the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire also referred to that. I assure both hon. Members that although the summit is in September—so still a little way away—and the exact composition of the delegations is still being worked through, I heard what they said and I will reflect on it.
There was a rather transient comment, which is none the less important to respond to, about what on earth having Trident does for supporting development goals. The answer is, quite simply, that it has prevented the world from getting into all sorts of trouble in the last 60 or so years. I will say no more about that now, but I believe that being on the Earth is an important objective in itself, rather than our being entirely wiped out.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby made some excellent points, including about the cross-governmental nature of the Department for International Development’s position. I can reassure him by saying that I absolutely know for certain that the Secretary of State for International Development regularly attends the National Security Council; I can put his mind at rest on that. Indeed, one or two people touched on cross-Government working. The level of cross-Government working at DFID is the most impressive of any Department that I have been involved or been a Minister in, or have seen operating.
I think the hon. Member for Ynys Môn asked about DFID working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the climate change agenda for international development. Again, the Secretaries of State for both those Departments, and the Ministers in them, including me, all work incredibly closely across Government on that agenda.
DFID is different from other Departments. It does not have a role in writing to the Home Affairs Committee to seek collective agreement on policy in the same way that the Home Office, or another domestic Department, has. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that that absolute tie-in with other Departments, many of which have a strong role in and relationship with international development—indeed, they spend some of their budget on international development—is not missing. They include DECC, the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and so on. There is a very close tie-in between Departments and international development.
My hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips made an excellent speech, which included the absolutely correct observation about the extraordinary fact that there are 17 goals and 169 targets. Those numbers are rather unwieldy, but the zero base document starts to get to grips with them. I think the document comes up with nine principles, which will be easier for people to understand. However, we are where we are with this whole process, and I do not think that anyone believes that we should go back to square one and start again; it is important that we push forward. However, our goals need to have a sense of clarity, and some of the suggestions made in this debate can play an important role in achieving that.
My hon. and learned Friend was particularly exercised by the healthcare systems in countries such as Sierra Leone, and by their inability to respond to the Ebola outbreak and its consequences. I want to reassure him by saying that the UK’s chief medical officer will now work with the World Health Organisation—as my hon. and learned Friend said, WHO’s difficulties, given the tools that it had available to it, were rightly pointed out by all who saw its performance—to develop a new and more advanced system to share data on disease spread on the ground. The CMO will also work with health agencies, doctors and nurses on the front line. We, as a Government, absolutely intend to make certain that the lessons are learned from what happened in Sierra Leone and elsewhere, so that we do not allow the shortcomings that existed to become problems in any future outbreak of a different disease.
My hon. and learned Friend also zeroed in on corruption and he was absolutely right to do so. Anyone who has listened to the Prime Minister talking passionately about what he calls the “golden threads” will know that having secure institutions that work on behalf of a population, rather than against it, is absolutely critical to any sense of international development. We will simply make no progress without those institutions. Anyone who has read the book, “Why Nations Fail”, will know that it is one of the inspirations for the “golden threads”. I think that those “golden threads” are absolutely embedded in target 3.8—no, sorry that is on universal health care, so I will have to find the exact target for my hon. and learned Friend. It is actually goal 16, which is to:
“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
I hope that will reassure him.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact produced a report in November 2014 that stressed that this area of corruption was one that DFID was not concentrating on and needed to; the report raised a number of red flags. Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to the House that he will go and look at that report, to see whether those issues are now being dealt with?
Yes, I am pleased to give my hon. and learned Friend that undertaking.
I will quickly move on to the energy questions that were put by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire. She made very sensible points. I am absolutely amazed that 1.2 billion people in the world do not have any energy in their own homes. In a world where the price of solar is tumbling, batteries are becoming more available and micropayments are available in developing countries, for example through the British-inspired M-Pesa system, there is no reason to allow that situation to continue. I intend to spend my time in DFID particularly focusing on bringing energy to domestic housing situations, and I hope that hon. Members from all parties will join me in that work.
In Tanzania, I met a woman called Elizabeth who can now power three light-bulbs and charge her mobile phone from a tiny solar panel on her roof that is no bigger than a sheet of A4. That has changed her life; it saves her money on kerosene, and we should spread that practice to all the 1.2 billion people in the world who do not have such energy.
I disagreed with the hon. Lady when she said that somehow consumerism in the west is to blame for the situation. I do not think that is the case, but I fear that, because time is running out, I will not be able to have a longer and more interesting debate about that point.
The hon. Member for Ynys Môn talked about joined-up thinking, which I think I have covered, in addition to the visits that I have made to East Kilbride.
The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Members for Glasgow North and for Central Ayrshire will be interested to hear that I am going to Malawi next week, where I will do everything I can to push our relationship with Malawi and indeed learn from it.
Finally, I thank Mr Shuker for welcoming me to my position. I can tell him that we have very strong plans. On inequality, for example, the UK is committed to an agenda that will end extreme poverty and build on prosperity for all. I can reassure him on that, as indeed I can on the language about climate change, where the goal is to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, as a crucial part of our framework.
I would like to spend more time satisfying the hon. Gentleman about the issues he raised, but I know that there are only a couple of minutes left for the hon. Member for Glasgow North to respond to the debate.
Thank you, Mr Turner, for giving me the opportunity to respond to the debate, and I also thank the Minister for his comments. I, too, welcome him to his post and I look forward to many exchanges with him in the coming years. He touched on a number of areas that we will probably revisit in the Chamber in the weeks and months to come.
I will respond briefly to three main points that were made during the debate. First, I chose the original title—Negotiation and Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals—quite deliberately, because the window for negotiation is closing, and the time has passed for getting into a debate about the number of goals and so on. The opportunity now is to make the language as robust as possible, and the negotiations need to focus on collecting data and monitoring the impact of the SDGs.
The link with climate change, which was touched on, is also vital. It is mentioned; there needs to be a synthesis, and we have to respect the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process. However, the language about climate change needs to be as robust as possible in the SDGs.
I am grateful to the Minister for his comments about the role of the Scottish Government. I look forward to hearing the outcome of his reflection on the question of Scottish representation at the summit on SDGs. No doubt we will continue to press him to find out when that reflection has been completed.
The contributions today recognise the importance of this issue. I am aware that in another place this evening there is a debate on exactly the same topic, which will be led by the former First Minister of Scotland, Lord McConnell, who is a champion of Scotland’s links with Malawi. Perhaps when the Minister comes back from Malawi we will have an opportunity to discuss his experiences there in detail, either formally or informally. Indeed, if he wants to speak to me—
Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (