International Development Bill

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Mr. Rowe: It occurs to me that that would be an admirable role for the British Council—[Interruption.]

Mrs. Gillan: The Minister says from a sedentary position that my hon. Friend is pulling my leg.

Mr. Rowe: As if I would.

Mrs. Gillan: My hon. Friend knows that I have no sense of humour—[Laughter.]—and he tempts me to sing the praises of the British Council, but I shall resist. I know that he wants to speak, so I shall bring my remarks to a conclusion.

Amendment No. 6 is a probing amendment that is designed to reveal the Minister's thinking. It needs to be emphasised that the traffickers profit from potential migrants' lack of awareness of the dangers. Many victims of traffickers are misled about what awaits them, so potential migrants need to be warned of the risks. The International Organisation for Migration has shown that public awareness campaigns in countries of origin can do much to prevent traffickers from exploiting the limited knowledge of potential migrants.

The Minister knows that information can be transmitted in many ways, so I shall not list them. However, once I have heard his reply, I might want to explore the matter further. The activities proposed in the amendment are not directly poverty reduction, but are life-saving measures. As the amendment has not been accepted directly or indirectly, I must press the Minister on the subject because funding for such activities could be ruled out. Trafficking can have a pernicious effect: for instance, if those who are attracted to migration are from the middle classes or are educated people, their country of origin could be denied an opportunity to regenerate or to make progress.

I reiterate that amendment No. 6 is a probing amendment that will enable us to discover whether such expenditure will continue, or whether it falls outwith the parameters of the Bill.

Mr. Rowe: I am slightly ambivalent about the amendment. The Opposition have tabled many useful and important amendments, but I have slightly less enthusiasm for amendment No. 6. To tell people in developing countries about the conditions of schools in Hackney or about the incidence of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus in British hospitals might help to anchor them there. Indeed, many of the teachers who are immorally recruited from countries that need them much more than we do can be discovered hurrying home again once they find out what it is like to teach in a British school. An education programme might therefore be useful. However, that raises two serious questions. The first concerns the colonising of the professions in countries that need them more than we do.

The Minister knows that I have raised that subject with his colleagues in the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Employment more than once. The Government are trying to behave scrupulously in the matter, but they are being totally undermined by the fact that no health trust in this country would, in extremis, turn first to the national health service registers; they would turn instantly to a private agency to provide them with weekend cover or emergency support. Those private agencies are not inhibited by Government guidelines. They go round the world, recruiting professionals who are sucked into the public system in a rather indirect way.

That is a lamentable outcome when we consider that the number of teachers dying in Malawi each year is greater than the number being trained. The idea that we should further remove some of them to teach in our schools is shocking and runs against our development philosophy and intentions. We need to have an education campaign not merely in developing countries, but in our own country, where we should be discussing development issues on a wider scale than we currently do. There is much to be said for increasing public understanding of development issues, including whether it is proper to recruit from overseas.

I am ambivalent about the amendment for another reason. If we could create the kind of conditions in the countries that need our help in which professionals could study and exercise their skills, and we could provide them with economic and military stability that would enable them to live in peace, their desire to stay where they are would be enormously increased. None of us would want to leave our friends and family, customs and culture and fly overseas—unless we are members of the International Development Committee—to live elsewhere, unless we really felt that the gains would be so much greater. It is not a matter of encouraging people from overseas; it is more a matter of putting our resources into education and other issues. If, in the process, people realise that life in this country is not entirely a bed of roses, that is fine. I am not sure that I am entirely in favour of the Bill creating a demand for an education programme that is designed to show people that it is not worth coming to live here.

Dr. Tonge: When I first saw the amendment, I was shocked and horrified. The official Opposition should be wary, lest it be misconstrued. Perhaps they wanted it to be misconstrued. On the face of it, it looks as if they are up to their old tricks— this is fortress Great Britain; we must not let people come in, as they are bogus asylum seekers, and so on. All that language comes to mind. I warn Opposition Members that that is what they are risking by supporting this amendment.

After hearing the arguments of the official Opposition, I am prepared to believe that that is not their intention. I am extremely concerned about trafficking in people. I have been talking to one of the inspectors of the Metropolitan police about the sex slave trade in Britain, which is growing rapidly. Young women and girls from eastern Europe and elsewhere are being used as sex slaves. That is not a matter for the Department for International Development, but for Customs and Excise, the Home Office and the Foreign Office. We must do something about it. DFID's budget is for the relief of poverty, and we must stick to our guns.

In any case, if the Opposition are to be believed, we are to say to developing countries, ``Instead of spending this money on aid we will spend it on big posters and radio broadcasts explaining that, in fact, we are poor''. Try telling the people of southern Sudan that we are poor. Alternatively, we are supposed to say, ``Don't come to Britain, we are overcrowded,'' but it is the people of Rwanda and Burundi who understand the true meaning of overcrowding .

The amendment is a complete nonsense. We are the fourth biggest economy in the world, and the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants whom we have so far accepted constitutes a tiny proportion of our population. I shall repeat what I have said many times: the fuss that we are making about unfortunate people who are merely seeking a better life for their families is pathetic. Generations of British people did the same, and so would I in their position.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): The hon. Lady is perhaps being a little too charitable. I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham said and I can find no charitable interpretation of the Opposition's intentions. Is there not a consistency in what the Opposition have been saying for many weeks, which was demonstrated not least in the Leader of the Opposition's recent ``foreigners'' speech in Harrogate? The amendment is simply an extension of that point of view.

Dr. Tonge: I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman. I was indeed trying to be charitable, but in fact ``disgraceful'' was the first word that I wrote on my notepaper. The Opposition should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for continuing to push out that message. When I go abroad, I am ashamed to call myself British because I know that such attitudes and messages are getting across.

The answer lies in making the countries from which people migrate as prosperous as we are, and the only way to do that is to consider all the factors that contribute to poverty. I shall not rehearse this morning's debate, but there is a very long list of issues that we must address. As I have said in the House, I can remember when people in this country used to deplore the Irish economic migrants to this country who rightly wanted a better life for their families. Yet as a result of aid, development and the backing of the European Union the reverse is now true and people are migrating to Ireland because life there is good. I shall not begin a debate on Europe because that would upset the official Opposition and keep them here till well past midnight.

The Chairman: It would upset me too.

Dr. Tonge: That is a good example of how the right policies and the right help can turn a country round.

Mr. Robathan: The hon. Lady should perhaps read the amendment, rather than getting excited about matters that she described as disgraceful. She can let one or two things make her ashamed of being British if she likes—perhaps she should say as much to her constituents—but in fact she was referring to a matter with which a large part of the EU programme in north Africa is concerned. We discussed precisely that issue in our submissions on the EU aid programme, and neither this Government nor previous Governments have taken account of it.

The points made by my hon. Friends the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent and for Chesham and Amersham are entirely correct, but I should like put a slightly different interpretation—I nearly said ``spin'', which would have been something of a mistake—on matters. There has been, and will always be, economic migration, which can be of tremendous benefit to the individuals and countries concerned. For example, countries that are over-populated need part of their population to move on.

However, we are discussing the exploitation of economic migration by others, and although DFID should not be forced to contribute to preventing exploitation, it seems entirely fair that it should be able to do so. For some reason, the hon. Member for Richmond Park referred constantly to Britain, but in Vietnam and Cambodia, which the Select Committee visited recently, there is a lot of economic trafficking and migration. It usually involves children and young girls who think that they are heading for a better life somewhere else, but who end up as prostitutes. That has been particularly prevalent in and around Thailand. It is organised crime perpetuated by organised gangs. Those who run and work in those ghastly brothels are not necessarily poor, but they are hardly rich either.

This is an important issue that is not just about poor people who, understandably, see a way to better themselves by coming to the United Kingdom or other European countries. Throughout the world, gangs are trafficking in people's economic aspirations and thereby damaging them dramatically. Given his personal knowledge of the region, the Minister will know that the problem is particularly bad in Cambodia and Vietnam. The people there are so grindingly poor that they sell or give their children in the hope that they will have a better future in some glorified role as, say, a maid. We hear that many leave to work in bars, but the work turns out to be prostitution. DFID should be able to contribute to efforts to stop the ghastly trade of prostitution, and the amendment attempts to achieve no more than that.

6.30 pm

To come closer to home, last week a report was published on Nigerian children—again, it is children—whose arrival in this country as asylum seekers proves in fact to have been organised by a gang that makes a great deal of money out of them. They are subsequently taken to Italy, where they work as prostitutes. I have driven around Italy and seen young African women standing in laybys. They leave their country for economic reasons, but I bet that they would rather be well off at home.

The Bill as it stands will not reduce poverty, which is why we have tabled the amendment. We are talking about a crime that is as organised as drug running; indeed, the same people are often involved. We should consider the potential impact of DFID money on a problem that in no way constitutes a benign trafficking. Be they illegal immigrants, child labourers or prostitutes, such people are often dumped in the sea, abused, murdered, or have their throats slit. It is a truly ghastly trade.

To the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent I want to add one about the morality of the western world's taking qualified professional personnel from the developing world. Although that certainly is an issue, I am not quite sure how one comes to grips with it. Of course, such people want the money that comes with a job in the western world. I am thinking not of the teachers to whom my hon. Friend referred, but those who work in silicon valley, in California, which is ``where it's at'' in terms of rapid development. Such development is valuable in India, but I understand that about half the young professionals in silicon valley—I will doubtless be corrected if my figure is wrong—are Indian. California does not have a poverty problem, but India does. This issue, which is a difficult one to address, reflects a selfishness on the part of the west, which does not contribute to the development of poorer countries.

 
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