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2.47 pm

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): I welcome this debate and the publication of the report. May I tell my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the report represents an encouraging year of leadership, vision and action? After 15 years as a Member of Parliament, I am delighted that international development is being debated more on the Floor and in Westminster Hall. Moreover, more of our constituents are interested in and concerned about international development, so there has been a shift. I also welcome the remarks on agricultural reform made by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) and hope that they can be taken forward.

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I want to give some practical examples of joined-up Government. I was delighted to see that page 107 of the Red Book includes a significant paragraph on financing development. The Department for International Development also publishes a bulletin with the Treasury, but I suggest that that should be a tripartite report by this time next year. I should like the Department of Trade and Industry to be included in the heading as well as DFID and the Treasury. Let us take trade matters further forward with that interconnection of development.

The Secretary of State said that we need to drive forward implementation. As my journeys with the Select Committee have shown me, we need to be careful that we are not lulled into a sense that we are making inroads when we are not. I am terrified—this is one of those great illusions—that people are running up a down escalator. They think that they are moving up, but they are really being pushed down. We must be sure that we are making deep inroads in reducing poverty.

The poverty of many regions of the world is still unimaginable. The figures hide the reality that millions of people have to bury their children prematurely. I shall give some practical examples. One in five people live in abject poverty, and one in three in relative poverty. A whole continent of countries—Africa—is mostly locked out of the global economy. As is recognised in the DFID report, on current trends sub-Saharan Africa will fail to meet the millennium development goals. Much more needs to be done.

On a Select Committee visit to northern Nigeria, I saw the sheer scale of rural poverty as the desert sands blow in and take over the land. There is a crisis of water provision, food production and rural agricultural sustainability. People in villages eke out a living by growing and drying tomatoes on a tiny scale, without access to processing, markets or real trade. There were thousands of villagers living in what I would describe as pre-Biblical conditions but, sadly, lacking Jacob's well. So the millennium development goal of halving poverty by 2015 is a tough target. We are rising to that challenge, but internationally much more needs to be done for individual countries, particularly the rural poor in Africa.

At Monterrey, the European Union and the United States made additional commitments to increase development assistance by $12 billion. The new American money, the $5 billion, will not arrive until 2004. It is not yet clear how it will be used or what the nature of the new fund is. Financing for development has a long way to go.

The campaign to cancel debt must be continued. What is more we must ensure that promises are delivered. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) raised that point. If I may, I shall put in a plug for my early-day motion 386, calling for Members to support that target of 0.7 per cent. We must keep up the pressure, and not just here in Britain, because it sends a signal to Europe and the wider world.

We need to work with America. I say that as a parliamentarian. We need to work with non-governmental organisations, Church and faith groups, Congressmen and women and Senators. We must make contacts with all people of goodwill to encourage America not unilaterally to isolate itself from international development strategies.

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Yes, America gives an immense amount of humanitarian aid—often it makes its surplus grain available—but it needs to engage much more positively with progressive development strategies and assistance to Africa, and to get behind the New Partnership for Africa's Development as the most hopeful vehicle for action for the future.

Arguments are shifting. We need to understand the role of trade as well as of aid in future. Trade rather than aid will be the long-term key to the global inclusion of the poor, so it is crucial to make the international trading system fairer to poorer countries and people. I welcome the Speak Out for Trade Justice lobby that will take place on 19 June. I hope that it will be a catalyst for Members of this House and spark off a debate in constituencies about the relationship between trade and aid, and our international obligations.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was working on these matters there were debates on trade policies: the EU policy on textiles and the notorious multifibre agreement. I remember being lobbied hard to say that we in the Yorkshire area where we have textiles should work to keep out textiles from third-world countries. Someone came to me and said that we must keep out textiles from Mauritius to protect jobs in textiles. I remember checking the import penetration of textiles from Mauritius into the Leeds market and it was 0.03 per cent. What happened? The lobbying was effective and worked. Mauritius was blocked off. Import controls were put on.

I recall going to a social club in Bradford to talk about these matters with textile workers. I talked to a man who was playing snooker. He said, "You realise it's a bad day. I have been in here all day because I lost my job." I asked why. He said, "I used to work as an engineer making textile machinery, but the order for my machine came from Mauritius and because people in this same room campaigned against Mauritius I have lost my job." Think of the snooker table. The job will go across the table, hit the cushion and come back into the pocket of the person next to you. That is interdependency. That is the global economy. We should recall that the economic interlock on our globe is much tighter than we realise. Trade is the key to tackling poverty.

We are learning that globalisation promises unity, but it cannot achieve that because of the lack of justice. Globalisation divides as much as it unites. What appears as globalisation for some is localisation for others. What is a new freedom for some descends as an uninvited and cruel fate for others. Some of us can be globally mobile; others become fixed in their localities. Being on the move for some means travelling on a jet; for others it means a refugee truck. Localities in a globalised world can lose their meaning and their negotiating capacities. That great visionary of environmental initiatives, Schumacher, urged us to "Think Global and Act Local", but that is no longer adequate. The world is more interdependent, interconnected and vulnerable. We need to be more subtle and to think and act globally and locally at the same time. The structures of poverty north and south are interlocked.

I close with two themes for the future that are not covered in the report, but which we should take more seriously. The first concerns the whole notion of migration, refugees and asylum seekers. I should like to see them included in the development debate internationally. In 1975, about 80 million people—about 1.5 per cent. of the world's population—lived outside their country of birth. According to the world migration

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report the number of migrants has now risen to 150 million people, who are mostly legal residents of their new country. No problem with that.

The banker from Seattle who signs a five-year contract for a post in Berlin is a migrant and so is the labourer from Indonesia or Thailand who is subcontracted to a building site in Brunei. Refugees, too, are migrants with that well-founded fear of persecution in their home state. There are now 7 million refugees in Africa alone. Most refugees do not travel thousands of miles away to a new continent but move across the border to the country next door. How often are the refugee camps that we may visit increasingly seen as permanent new townships? If they are, we should face that reality and include them properly in development strategies.

We need to shift the thinking from the static model that refugees live in a temporary camp site and will go back to the place they left, and recognise that increasingly that is not the case. Refugee action and international development strategies must be threaded together. Refugees should be seen as part of development, as valuable human resources and as part of the international solution. That could change the debate.

Secondly, I compliment the Department for International Development sincerely for supporting the development of poverty reduction strategies which put developing countries into the leadership with donors working to support development efforts. I will go further. The work of DFID field workers, for example in Ghana and northern Nigeria, in developing participation strategies, including building from the base up and genuinely working with and including the poor, is radical, innovative and tremendously encouraging. Too often, top-down models have prevailed, even under the cover of language of empowerment, good governance and participation.

An academic, Bill Cooke, who works at the Institute for Development Policy at Manchester university wrote a set of brilliant essays called "Participation: The New Tyranny". He warns us that:

We need to bear that in mind when we consider the whole approach. We need to be aware of the need for more subtle and more complex power analyses at local, national and international level. Moreover, we in the north, in our large cities, can learn from those participatory strategies and basic community development how to work with people and engage them in popular powerful management of their local economy, culture and life.

If scarcity is the discipline of economics, solidarity should be the inspiration of politics. When I first entered the House, I used to joke that I had to raise five issues in Armley, Bramley, Wortley, Kirkstall and Burley before daring to raise the question of international development, otherwise I would be regarded as straying too far from home base. I put my neck out today and say that it is now one for one; for every question I ask about my locality I can ask an international one because the debate has shifted. We should maintain that pressure to show people in inner cities that they are linked to people in rural Nigeria and that their futures are bound together.

The challenge is not just economic, but about developing genuine international solidarity. The universality of globalisation is not about the unity of capital alone; it is not

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about the unity of the haves but about the true universality of humanity. I close with a quotation from George Bernanos, who said:

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that international development is the key moral, political and economic challenge of our time; we in the House and people elsewhere must all rise to it.

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