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Mr. Cook: This is an issue on which the House has held a full debate on a number of occasions. There has been an even larger number of statements, including one from the Secretary of State for International Development. We shall obviously keep under review the question of when it will be appropriate to provide another similar opportunity.
On the substance of the issue, I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no shortage of money to fund the actions that we need to take to support the refugees who are outside the country and those in Afghanistan who are in need. The United Kingdom has been both early and generous in providing its support. I am pleased to tell the House that the volume of food entering Afghanistan has increased markedly. I am told that over the past week it has averaged over 2,000 tonnes, which is a substantial improvement on the position a month ago. If we can maintain that rate of supply, we will be able to ensure that we have sufficient stocks in Afghanistan. I shall only say
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): The Leader of the House will be aware of my interest in Railtrack, First Group and Eurotunnel. Will he advise me on the powers of Select Committees not only to compel witnesses to appear before them but to answer questions put to them?
I do not know whether he has had an opportunity to read the transcript of evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions in that Select Committee yesterday. Having admitted that he met the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, the right hon. Gentleman would not tell us when, and having admitted that he had prepared draft emergency legislation to remove the rail regulator's capacity for independent action, he would not tell us when he had done so. Will the Leader of the House compel the Secretary of State to come to the Dispatch Box early next week and answer the questions that he refused to answer in the Select Committee?
Mr. Cook: I do not think that a single member of the Cabinet has appeared here or elsewhere more often to answer the entirely bogus allegations thrown at him by Opposition Members. We had a debate on the matter last Tuesday. Given the way in which my right hon. Friend trounced the points put to him by the Opposition, they would be wise not to attempt to repeat that experiment or to ask me to arrange it.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the availability of digital hearing aids on the NHS? Many Members have received correspondence on the subject, but so far we have had only a half-hour debate in Westminster Hall. Can he arrange a longer debate so that we can raise an issue that is important to the 2 million people who do not have access to the digital hearing aids that would vastly improve their quality of life? Many hon. Members from all parties have signed the relevant early-day motion on the subject, and we would be grateful for a debate.
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman makes his request with clarity and courtesy. I shall bear it in mind along with the many other requests that I have received this afternoon, but not everyone is going to be happy. In the meantime, he will be aware that we are to debate the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Bill next week. I am sure that the Speaker will allow him to make a glancing reference to that issue.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): I want to consider the number of places allocated on the Liaison Committee to the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions. The Leader of the House will be aware that the Government slipped through in the small print of the Order Paper earlier this week a measure that will result in the hon. Members for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) or for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) losing their place on the Liaison Committee. Why has the right hon. Gentleman decided to downgrade the Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Mr. Cook: For once, I find the hon. Gentleman's question almost breathtaking. He suggests that we slipped the measure through, but we debated it in prime time. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and I took part in the debate. The Order Paper was in front of us. There was no question of it being slipped through. Not a single Member in that debate made the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised, and he did not turn up to raise it.
As for the treatment of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, it will be entitled to precisely the same representation as any other Select Committee. It is for it to decide who shall go on the Liaison Committee. Indeed, the terms of the motion before the House do not specify which Committee member will serve on the Liaison Committee. It is entirely possible for my hon. Friends the Members for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) or for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) to represent the Committee. The matter rests in the hands of the Committee. It is for its members to decide who they want on the Liaison Committee, and I would not presume to offer them advice.
Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Trade and IndustryI see her on the Bench beside himto come to the House to make a statement on the growing disarray of the postal service in my constituency, especially in Bexhill? Since the problem was first raised some three weeks ago by the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, the problem has snowballed. More than 40 streets in Bexhill are now subject to an appalling postal service and countless letters are going astray, including this week a cheque for more than £50,000 to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which was misdelivered. Given that we stand on the threshold of the busiest time of year for the Post Office, my constituents are rightly extremely concerned and angry at the lack of postal service in our area. Will the right hon. Gentleman please arrange for a statement on that matter?
Mr. Cook: I regret to inform the House that the postal service has never delivered a cheque for £50,000 to me by error. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is with me and heard what the hon. Gentleman said. I am sure that she will pursue it.
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the fourth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation in Doha, which concluded yesterday. I was joined in the delegation by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Minister for the Environment and my noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment.
I am delighted to report a successful outcome. The Doha development agenda combines the launch of a broad new round of trade negotiations with a package of measures specifically focused on the needs of developing countries. At the same time, we welcomed two important new members, China and Chinese Taipei, into the WTO. Those are landmark achievements and we cannot overstate their economic and political importance. Launching a new world trade round has always been a key priority for the United Kingdom and our European partners. As I told the House last week, it was an outcome that we were even more determined to achieve following the atrocities of 11 September.
In the past few days we have seen significant progress in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. At the same time, nations have come together in Doha to agree a major step forward in the war on poverty, demonstrating that the nations of the world are determined to strengthen security by sharing prosperity. By stimulating economic growth, a development-focused trade round offers the best opportunity to billions of people in developing countries to escape from poverty. With the downturn in the world economy, this historic deal gives a badly needed boost to economic confidence.
The package that we have agreed brings real and in some cases immediate benefits to developing countriesbenefits for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has long been working. We have opened the way to greater access to the medicines that developing countries need to deal with HIV/AIDS and other serious health crises, by clarifying the existing WTO rules without compromising the incentives required to ensure that new drugs are developed for the future.
We have ensured that the European Union will continue to give preferential treatment to imports from African, Caribbean and Pacific countriesan issue that is of enormous concern to more than 50 of our WTO colleagues, including some of the poorest countries in the world.
We agreed on stepsboth immediately and in the next yearthat address developing countries' concerns over the implementation of previous WTO agreements. We reaffirmed the importance of building developing countries' capacity to participate in the global trading system and we emphasised the need for further capacity building to be an integral part of the new negotiations.
A new round opens the prospect of increased trade in agriculture, in other goods and in services. Such trade is the most secure path to economic progress for developing countries. If we could just halve the trade protection in both developing and developed countries the wealth of
For developed as well as developing countries, the Doha agreement will provide a significant new push in a number of areas of great importance to the UK. The new trade round, for instance, gives a real boost to reform of the common agricultural policy. In particular, we have agreed to negotiate on reductions of export subsidies with a view to phasing them out. This adds to the pressure that the EU already faces from the prospect of enlargement and strengthens our hand in moving ahead with CAP reforma long-standing UK objective, now within our sights.
We reaffirmed the importance of sustainable development and for the first time agreed to negotiate within the WTO on environmental issues, in particular the relationship between multilateral environmental agreements and WTO rules. That was a key objective for the UK and all our European colleagues.
We agreed important first steps towards negotiations to help investment flow more freely between countries, and to tackle cartels and other anti-competitive business practices. We reaffirmed the importance of internationally recognised core labour standards, a matter on which the International Labour Organisation leads. However, it is essential that the WTO contributes to the ILO's work on the social dimensions of globalisation. We also agreed negotiations on a number of other important areas including market access and industrial tariffs, transparency of government procurement and trade facilitation, aimed in particular at cutting customs procedures red tape.
The new trade negotiations will be good for British business and good for British consumers. We are the world's fifth largest trader and we stand to benefit directly from further trade liberalisation. Again, if we could halve trade protection around the world the average income of every household in Britain would be boosted by nearly £500 a year.
What was most striking about discussions in Doha this week was the growing confidence of developing countries, with African, Latin American and the poorest countries working together increasingly effectively. At the same time, and in striking contrast to the disaster in Seattle, we saw a growing trust between developed and developing countries.
The new Doha development agenda has involved great willingness from all countries to work together flexibly and constructively to overcome considerable differences in key areas. The result is a tribute to all those involved. Certainly, all of us in the European Union owe a particular debt of gratitude to the skill and persistence of our chief negotiator, Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
I pay tribute, in particular, to the state of Qatar for hosting the conference and for its excellent organisation and chairmanship. Conference chairman Kamal and the seven facilitators worked tirelessly for several daysa little longer than originally intendedto ensure that all member countries, including small and developing nations, had the opportunity to be fully involved and that proceedings were as transparent as possible. I also pay
I want to thank the tremendous team of civil servants from six different Departments. They worked tirelessly as a team and with Ministers to help to secure our objectives. I also thank the three additional delegation membersDigby Jones of the Confederation of British Industry, Ed Sweeney of the Trades Union Congress and Penny Fowler of the UK non-governmental organisation trade network. They made an invaluable contribution.
The UK and the EU have long sought the launch of a new trade round. We went to Doha seeking a round that would open up free, fair and sustainable trade. I am delighted today to present exactly that result to the House. However, this is just the beginning of the process. We now have to translate the agenda that we have agreed into real results for people all round the world. With more than 140 WTO members, we have taken the vital first steps. We will now work with them to complete the journey.