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The Secretary of State said that charities are really about handouts and that she was talking about sustainable development. Of course we want sustainable development, but I visited a project in south-west Rwanda--I could list several dozen and I am sure the Secretary of State could, too--where a few years ago people were hungry. World Vision was sponsoring a project there whereby an agricultural expert from Ghana was teaching farmers how to increase massively the yield on their hilltop farms, partly by terracing and partly by better husbandry. After the three-year project, the yields were significantly increased and the people were no longer hungry. Indeed, they had surplus to sell, with which they bought cows. I was introduced to the cows, of which they were so very proud.
Mr. Streeter: I hope that those dear cows to which I was introduced do not have foot and mouth. They were of the "Phoenix the calf" variety: extremely desirable--I do not mean to eat. As I was saying, the farmers were no longer hungry and they could sell their surplus crops. Most significantly, they were passing on their new skills to other farmers in the region. I think that that is sustainable development and I know that the Secretary of State does too. That was achieved through a long-term relationship established by a charity that was doing the right thing. I could cite many other examples. That is absolutely at the heart of international development.
Mr. Streeter: That is the direction in which we want to go. Government cannot do it all. The British people are very compassionate and give generously and often in response to humanitarian crises, but they do not have much confidence in our public development schemes--or at least that is what the recent survey indicated.
We must do more to encourage the charitable sector. We want to encourage people to give more and we want the charitable sector to do the right thing in terms of a strategy that we agree with it. We Conservatives have thus pledged ourselves to double the amount that the DFID spends through NGOs and charities over the lifetime of a Government. We want to make sure that money is available to large and small NGOs and that we work more closely with the charitable sector in making a real long-term difference.
We will set up a web-based, one-stop-shop information and advice service. As I have said before, I really believe in this; I ought to as it is my idea. I offered this idea, called aid direct, to the Secretary of State and I hope that she has looked at it. The idea is to provide up-to-the-minute information about the situation in each developing country, with inputs from embassies, NGOs and major corporations working there. It is so often the case that people who want to make a contribution and a difference do not know how to start or what to do for the best in a particular country. As a result, we get overlap and duplication and people get frustrated and turn away. More information and up-to-the-minute advice, matching needs and resources, is what we have in mind. It could be a very effective facility for encouraging an even better performance from the charitable sector.
Clare Short: I know that the hon. Gentleman is keen on this. In the course of my life, I have found that most good ideas have already been thought of by someone. The Royal Bank is in the process of trying to do that for the whole international development system, so that in any given country everybody knows what everybody else is doing and they all have access to the information. The idea is a good one, but it is in hand.
Mr. Streeter: The Secretary of State said that the idea is in hand, but it is not yet in existence. We have checked carefully but there is nothing in the whole world or on the world wide web along the lines that I am suggesting. It would be great if it were put in place. We do not mind our best ideas being pinched. Indeed, in this party we are used to that--it has been happening for at least 10 years and we were getting pretty cheesed off with it. However, we want this to happen because it will provide a real service to people who want to make a difference.
Finally, in government we propose to make sure that globalisation is harnessed for good, and not for ill, by reviewing the performance of all multilateral organisations. We recognise that although the nation state remains dominant, there is a need for multilateral agencies and combined resources. We accept that, but we want them to perform well and to offer value for money. We have often spoken about the European Union aid programme. Our policy on that is well known: unless the recent reforms produce vast improvements, we will work for a treaty change to allow member states to opt out of much of the EU aid contribution, and so spend the same money much more effectively.
We are unhappy about the lack of true accountability of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and about the performance of the UN. The UN should do less, better. We want to champion the cause for reform of the important organisations which, sadly, have too often been under-achievers. We want the World Trade Organisation to concentrate on smoothing the path of global free trade.
Mr. Robathan: I hate to disagree with the profound consensus that has built up in the Chamber this afternoon, but does my hon. Friend share my unease from the White Paper that Britain will be channelling more money through multilaterals and the UN family than we have
Mr. Streeter: My hon. Friend is right. When I launched our well-received policy documents, I said that on the day we came to power--on my first day as Secretary of State for International Development--I would seek an urgent review of all our contributions to all multilateral agencies, particularly UN agencies, to make sure that we were getting value for money and doing the right thing in spending British taxpayers' money in that way. We can use the threat of withdrawal of that money to push for more reform.
Clare Short: The House might like to know the figures. As a Government, of our £3 billion we give £195 million through British NGOs, £172 million through the World Bank and £152 million through UN development agencies, some of which is compulsory as a member of the UN. People think that the UN is massive, but the British NGOs take more of British taxpayers' money than the UN development system or, indeed, the World Bank.
Mr. Streeter: Is the Secretary of State right on that point? My recollection is that £1.4 billion is spent through multilateral agencies--half through the EU and half largely through the UN and various organisations which are part of it--but we can take this offline. We need to make sure that whatever is spent through the UN represents value for money and that British taxpayers are getting the best possible bang for their buck.
In conclusion, I pay tribute to two colleagues who are retiring at the general election. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has been a champion of many causes throughout the developing world. Of course, I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells). I think that this is the fifth such tribute that has been paid to him. He has retired several times already. [Interruption.] Yes, he is doing an impersonation of Frank Sinatra. He has been an outstanding Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development and is respected on both sides of the House. We will miss him very much and hope that he will find new life in the development sector after 7 June, if that is when we leave this place.
In conclusion, globalisation is happening and is part of the world in which we live. As all of us have said, we are at a point where there is a historic opportunity to make a genuine difference for the world's poorest people. The choices that we make will determine whether we seize that moment. The next Conservative Government will seek to harness the forces of globalisation by helping countries to strengthen their Governments, bearing down on corruption, entering into a new partnership with British charities and championing reform of global financial architecture. All that we need now is an early opportunity to put our ideas into practice.