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CDC Capital Partners

4. Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale): What proportion of the investment of CDC Capital Partners last year was in poor countries. [37318]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): All of CDC's investment last year was in developing countries and 73 per cent. in poorer developing countries. CDC also met the investment policy targets in 2001. I remain strongly convinced that the conversion of CDC to a partnership dedicated to mobilising more private sector investment in developing countries is the right way forward and I strongly support the work of Alan Gillespie and his leadership team. This policy was of course fully endorsed by Parliament when the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 was passed with all-party support, although The Times journalist did not appear to know that the matter had been endorsed by Parliament and therefore put it on his front page.

Mr. Duncan: The Secretary of State will recall that the Opposition said that investment in the poorest countries would decline and it gives us no pleasure to point out that, sadly, that has borne fruit. What will she say to the poor and vulnerable farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who see investment programmes in agriculture cancelled and replaced by investment in shopping malls and mobile telephone companies?

Clare Short: I visit Africa frequently and I have many discussions with poor communities and villages as well as elected Ministers, and they are all anxious to attract inward investment that will bring about the transfer of technology in telecommunications, electricity, sanitation,

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water and transport that is needed for improved economic performance. The purpose of CDC's restructuring was to encourage more private sector investment of that kind and to show that there can be returns on responsible and beneficial investment in Africa which will attract the private sector. Some agricultural investments with low rates of returns have been sold on to their African managers, and that is the right policy and we intend to continue with it. [Interruption.]

It is incredibly noisy, Mr. Speaker and difficult to hear the questions from the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker: I agree with the right hon. Lady. It is only fair to the Minister and to those asking questions that hon. Members should be silent.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Despite the Secretary of State's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan), does she not recognise that there is great concern in many countries in southern Africa that the result of the Government's policy, ignoring the warnings of Opposition Members, has been significantly to reduce investment in countries such as Malawi? What has been the specific effect on countries such as Malawi and others in southern Africa?

While we are on the subject of southern Africa, have the right hon. Lady's Department and other parts of the Government any contingency plans in case there has to be a mass evacuation following the Zimbabwean election?

Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman might not have noticed, but my Department is not responsible for any such evacuation. Obviously, the Government have plans for such matters. The hon. Gentleman can take that as read. On this question, as on so many others since his new appointment, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Africa desperately needs increased investment in electricity and sanitation. Half of humanity has no sanitation, and the lack of clean water causes constant illness, ill health and the death of children. Electricity and telecommunications are needed so that the people can be part of the internet and the knowledge economy. The restructuring of CDC to encourage more of such investment is welcomed by all who take a serious interest in improving investment in Africa.


5. Ms Candy Atherton (Falmouth and Camborne): What recent representations she has made to the Government of Botswana regarding access to water by the San bushmen of the central Kalahari. [37319]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): The policy of the Government of Botswana is that the San bushmen should move from their traditional settlements in the Central Kalahari game reserve to locations where the Government feel that they will have better economic opportunities and access to services. We have made representations about the need to maintain water supplies

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for those San remaining in the reserve, but our high commissioner in Botswana has today reported that water supplies have now been withdrawn.

Ms Atherton: What action will the Government take now that the Government of Botswana have dismantled the water pumps and drained the water tanks of the San bushmen in order to force them out of the central Kalahari? Is not that a form of ethnic cleansing?

Hilary Benn: I understand my hon. Friend's concern because I know that she has taken a close interest in the welfare of the San bushmen for a number of years. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Once again, the House is far too noisy.

Hilary Benn: It is precisely for that reason that we have made representations about the decision to stop funding water supplies. Those San remaining—the estimates vary from between 20 to 100 people—now have to obtain water supplies either from those that they have conserved, or from those that have been brought into the reserve, or from the mine site at Gope. A legal case against the Government, arguing that the withdrawal of water supplies is unlawful, is scheduled to be heard next Wednesday and we should await the outcome.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): The Minister will be aware that elections will take place in Botswana's neighbour, Zimbabwe, next weekend. Whatever the result, refugees may try to cross the border into Botswana, thus affecting the welfare of the bushmen of the central Kalahari. What discussion has he had with Botswana and other countries that may be affected to ensure that the borders stay open and that adequate financial help is given for food, water and shelter for the refugees?

Hilary Benn: I have not had such discussions with the Government of Botswana. If those problems were to arise, they would have to be dealt with at the time. The one thing on which the whole House would agree is our wish that the elections in Zimbabwe should be free and fair so that the people of that country can choose the Government for their future.

Universal Primary Education

6. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): What steps she is taking in pursuit of the goal of free universal primary education in developing countries by 2015. [37320]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): We are working hard to mobilise the international development system to focus more sharply on the delivery of the commitment to universal primary education by 2015. We have made clear in all forums our view that this goal can be achieved only if primary education is free. We are also working in 29 countries to support delivery of this policy and, since 1997, we have committed £650 million to that work. We will do more.

Mr. Blizzard: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Poorer countries are supposed to have developed education-for-all plans by September, and richer countries

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have pledged that those plans will not fail through lack of financial support. What is the international position in relation to the deadline and the pledge, which are very important if we are to overcome the problem of charging for basic education in developing countries?

Clare Short: My hon. Friend is right. Through UNESCO and the high-level group co-ordinating implementation, we are trying to drive a country- by-country review across the world to make sure that reformers are helped and backed up. Tanzania has double the number of children entering primary school this year because charging has been dropped. Despite moves forward across the world, some countries are not making progress, and more pressure must be put on them. Money alone cannot achieve our aim—Governments must be committed to the objective and willing to put in place the reforms and then the international financial support will follow. We have made some progress but more is needed. We are trying to focus the international effort so that countries that are failing to make progress feel that they are under more pressure to do so.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): The Secretary of State is absolutely right to say that money alone will not do the job. She will be aware of huge corruption in some of the countries in the third world and in developing nations. What steps are she and her colleagues taking to try to stamp out such corruption and ensure that money directed at education goes to the very people that she and her Government are trying to help?

Clare Short: I have said to the hon. Gentleman before that something comes over him when he puts on his red tie—he starts talking sense. He is right that aid is useful and powerful in driving reform and advance where there are a lot of poor people and where there are reformers. It can speed up economic development and health and education provision, which in turn moves countries forward. Corruption, which wastes those resources and blocks progress, has been neglected in the past as an embarrassing question, but no more. We now focus with others on cleaning up financial management systems, on making sure that public finances are run transparently, on proper procurement and on strong anti-corruption authorities. That is the only way to ensure economic development. We are driving that policy as hard as we can.

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