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Clare Short: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support for the White Paper. I agree that the Select Committee's announcement that it intends to scrutinise it is welcome to everyone, because we want the broadest possible agreement about how to take this matter forward.

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that the targets were set by the previous Government. I have paid my tributes, and they were genuine, to Lynda Chalker, but the Conservative Government cut her aid programme and restricted many of the things that she wanted to do. The Conservatives make her a saint when she is no longer the Minister, which I am not sure she would appreciate. The targets were set by the UN conferences and drawn together in the OECD's development committee report. That is the beauty of them: they are already agreed internationally, so we can all co-operate in implementing them.

On the aid and trade provision, the best of British business agrees that business does not want subsidies to bring forward programmes which do not help development that eradicates poverty. The ATP took us into countries and into projects that were not the highest priority--it took us to Pergau. The right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed to bring that up. His Government put forward that programme, which was found to breach our law by the British courts. That is why we are getting rid of the ATP--it has not been effective in supporting poverty eradication and it brought Britain's development programme into disrepute.

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There are no figures for future mixed credit. We have said that if the private sector can come in behind a country's strategies, bringing in investment that helps to benefit that country and to eradicate poverty, the leverage that can properly come out of the aid budget will be made available. The aim is not to distort priorities, as the ATP did, but to help development that helps the poor.

On the CDC, details will, of course, be brought to the House. The reforms require legislation, so there will be full scrutiny in the House. I have an idea of what the sale might raise, but I would not dream of putting that before the House now. However, we shall report fully and the House will have a full chance to scrutinise the proposals. The purpose is not only to keep the CDC as a development organisation--the Government stake and golden share will secure that--but to increase private sector flows into the CDC, so that there is more private sector investment in the poorest countries. There is no uncertainty in the CDC: it is absolutely delighted with the proposals and keen to take them forward, working closely with me and my Department.

There has been much misunderstanding about tied aid--the World Development Movement got itself in a muddle on that. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, traditionally, all programmes coming out of countries' aid budgets have involved firms in this country and the OECD has said that that sometimes leads to inefficiency. We in Britain are saying that our tied aid is down to 20 per cent. We want increasingly to source in developing countries, because that helps their international development, and we want multilateral untying because that increases efficiency. Unilateral untying would mean just that French, German or Dutch firms could come in to fill the gap, which would not benefit developing countries in any way.

We certainly admire the work--particularly that of the Churches--on the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which highlights the problem of debt, which is a barrier to development in some of the poorest countries. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced to the Commonwealth Finance Ministers' meeting, we are keen to do everything in our power--we have put in more resources and more effort--to speed up the implementation of the heavily indebted poor countries initiative. We want every country that is heavily indebted to be on track by 2000, which is in tune with the aspirations of the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

I cannot off the top of my head tell the right hon. Gentleman how much is already committed of the £132 million that I have made available for the cancellation of Commonwealth debt. We have already reached agreement with six or seven countries and talks are taking place with some others. I shall certainly let him have the information immediately.

On the right hon. Gentleman's point about corruption, there is no doubt that this is a time when we can make great advances. Corruption hurts the poor. Both developed and developing countries have been implicated, so the OECD is now calling for all countries to make the offering of a bribe to a public official in a foreign country a criminal offence and also to cease making bribes tax deductible--which they were in this country until two years ago. To his credit, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), stopped that. Britain has put its house in order, and every other country must also do so.

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Together, we must bear down on corruption. At the annual meeting of the IMF and the World bank, there was a new statement on dealing with corruption. There is the possibility of a real advance. It is the poor whom corruption hurts and we must all do what we can to eliminate it.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to endorse the praise for British aid administration. Let there be no doubt that my Department is second to none. We have high-quality civil servants and the quality of the administration of our aid programme is admired internationally. It is sad that the programme was halved under the previous Administration--[Interruption.] It was; it was halved from 0.51 per cent. of gross national product to 0.27 per cent. It was halved in terms of the international target of 0.7 per cent. The Opposition know that and should not try to hide behind Jesuitical points.

My Department and I are working together to develop the White Paper and then to implement it. My officials are the best--and now they will be able to do their best with a Government who are committed to their endeavours, instead of holding them back from what they can achieve.

The right hon. Gentleman was right to say that one of our targets for our presidency of the European Union--apart from getting the mandate for the Lome renegotiation right and incorporating the international development targets in that--will be to improve the quality of the EU performance. It could be much better. A great deal of our spend goes that way, so we must improve its performance.

The news on Montserrat is bad indeed. The volcano is erupting and, even worse, the levels of ash are very serious. There is great worry about the health and safety of the people on the island. Conservative Members should be careful not to think of this as a cheap party political issue, as most of the present arrangements were put in place under the previous Administration. It is an enormously difficult emergency because the behaviour of the volcano has kept changing.

I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman about housing on Montserrat. In fact, 50 of the houses that I authorised in July are now ready. Unfortunately, they are not occupied because of the strike by electricity workers on the island, which is not helpful. My view is that some of the larger projects must be pulled together into a sustainable development plan. I am under pressure to build an expensive prison on Montserrat. I really think that that should come later. First, we should make people safe and see how many of them want to stay on the island; the prison can wait. Some people think that big projects are the answer, when in fact current services for some people are just not good enough. It is a serious difficulty.

The right hon. Gentleman called for an increase in our aid contribution, which was a great cheek. He then rightly said that public and private investment was needed, but at the moment private flows go only to the 10 most developed of the developing countries. If we rely only on that, the poorest countries will never take off. That is why we need overseas development assistance as an investment in the take-off of those countries' human development and the sort of economic arrangements that will enable them to create economic growth that will benefit the poor.

The right hon. Gentleman's last point was that he wanted efforts to be bipartisan. I welcome that. As I have said to him before, this is the most noble and most

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pressing imperative for humanity. Not only is it morally pressing, but the world will be unsafe in 25 to 30 years' time for everyone, no matter how privileged now, unless we make progress. I hope that both sides of the House will unite in seeking to do that.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): I am glad to be the first Labour Member to welcome warmly my right hon. Friend's White Paper. Does it not paint a significant contrast between this Government and the previous Government? Whereas we did not see such a White Paper in the 18 years of the previous Administration, it has taken this Government only six months to produce one. Will she comment further on her plans for women? I know that she is particularly interested in that aspect of the issue. Women in impoverished countries often suffer doubly, because they are oppressed by political and cultural outlooks that make a poor life even worse for them. I look forward to hearing her plans.

Clare Short: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks. She is absolutely right. The fact is that 70 per cent. of the world's poor are women and children, and that we cannot make progress without strengthening women's position. It is now absolutely proven that educating girls is transformatory. In the poorest countries, however, girls are excluded from education. We will not succeed in development unless we achieve as a priority the objective of universal primary education. Strengthening the position and confidence of women who care for children, and increasing their access to credit, so that they can increase family income will also be absolutely key to making progress.


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