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Mr. Paice: With respect, I am not quite sure of the point of the Secretary of State's intervention. I do not dissent from her argument, as I said that there are not many countries with natural disadvantages such as climate and soil that would prevent them from becoming largely self-sufficient. However, I shall come on to the many other reasons that may stop them.
It is misguided to think that there may be simple solutions. All these countries face the dilemma of whether their priority should be to produce food for their own consumption and make sure that their own people have the necessary nutrition, or whether to earn money from exports, which go much wider than agriculture alone. That has been a dilemma for decades. Some of us are old enough to remember the abortive groundnut scheme which created a furore because it was aimed at exports rather than self-sufficiency.
There is huge potential in Zambia and many adjoining sub-Saharan countries. Several hon. Members referred to Zimbabwe as a prime example of self-inflicted problems. Having once been a major producer of food, the country is now in dire straits. However, protection and protectionism are not the right way to proceed. There are a lot of siren voices and there is a superficial attraction in a protectionist attitude that allows a country's agriculture to develop free from cheap imports. That attraction, however, is short term and stifles initiative and progress. As the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) said, it smacks of preventing any development or advancement for people. There is no long-term future in peasant agriculture, and increasing affluence will lead people away from it of their own volition.
On agricultural policies, as other hon. Members have said, the CAP is a major part of the problem, but it has changed and is changing. However, that change needs to go much further, as it does in agricultural policies in other parts of the world. I wholly support the need to eliminate export subsidies, which do much damage to indigenous agriculture. There is no dispute among hon. Members about that. There is no justification for any tariff barrier imposed directly on food products and I strongly support eliminating production subsidies. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon rightly said, the Doha agreement refers to reductions in support that distorts trade, rather than reductions in all support. I share the concerns of many people about the hypocrisy of the United States in supporting the Cairns group in WTO talks for moving towards free trade on the one hand and on the other introducing the Farm Bill, which was rightly condemned by many hon. Members this evening.
However, to pick up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden, I have a major concern about fair trade, which should operate in two directions. There should be fair trade to developing countries and for our own businesses, which raises two distinct issues in food and farming.
The first is the safety of imported food products for human, plant and animal health. If we impose controls on our own producers, it is self-evident that the same controls should apply to any imported food. Those controls are provided, at least in theory, by Codex Alimentarius, the international plant protection convention, the Office of International Epizootics and the sanitary and phyto-sanitary agreement in the Uruguay round, but they should not be used as an excuse to adopt high levels of protection as a barrier against trade. In practice, there are grave doubts as to whether those controls are rigorously enforced.
The second issue is production systems. Should we expect our own producers to compete with food produced using systems that are not allowed here? I am not referring, as my right hon. Friend did, to matters such as pay levels, on which we cannot pretend to compete, nor to climatic issues or other things that we cannot do anything about in this country. If we impose constraintsI am talking about agriculture, but this applies more widelyon animal welfare, it is not fair to expect our producers to compete with countries that do not have the same level of regulation. I used to advocate preventing those food products from coming in. I was wrong. The way forwardthis is part of the reform of the CAP that I wantis translating production support, which is wrong, into direct support to compensate for the controls that we impose on our own producers and do not apply to the overseas producers who are entering our markets.
It is no comfort to a battery hen to know that she will no longer have to stay in a battery cage in Britain if far more hens are kept in battery cages somewhere in the third world in far worse conditions. That is not in the interests of animal welfare nor of this country or the developing world. Our reforms should be directed at the public good and compensate for the controls that we impose on our own producers. That proposal was submitted to the WTO in 2000 and would have put payments in the green box, and thus outside the issue of production subsidies. I commend that strongly to Her Majesty's Government as part of the liberalising of trade that we support.
Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): Today has been unique, as people from all over the United Kingdom have come to the Commons to lobby Members. They are from various backgrounds and different age groups but every Member who has met them must have been struck by the number of young people who feel strongly about the issue.
In the past, we have heard in debates in the House about young people's apathy and lack of involvement. Today, that argument was demolished, as those young people care deeply about this issue and want us to do something about it collectively. We must recognise that they do not want extensive speeches, articles and soundbites but progress and a proper response to their calls for action. In today's heat, the lobby was a breath of fresh air. People spoke with a passion that is sometimes missing in political debate. That was not a one-off just for today, but something for every day for a long time. We must try to ensure that we take on board the points that they are making.
Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to the Chancellor talk about globalisation, trade and poverty. As a Labour Member, of course I was going to be happy with what he said, but it was interesting that people of no political persuasion were delighted by the progress that is being made. However, they did not think that that was the end of the storythey wanted more progress. They wanted the Government to push even further and more strongly at every international level. The lobby is important and timely, given that the Seville European council and the G8 summit in Canada are coming up. Those conferences will be major platforms for the agenda of the people who lobbied us today. We need to find ways of ensuring that something concrete comes out of those conferencesnot just a lot of talk, but developments that will enable people to say that, for a change, politicians have made genuine advances and improvements, or at least that they have an agenda that will build on the objectives of today's lobby.
I find a common thread as I speak to people from various parts of the country, including my constituency. They call out for a new and different approach to replace the patched-up arrangements of the pastsomething more radical. They want an approach to food and farming that protects poor farmers. They want a reconsideration of plans to liberalise vital services such as water. That point was made strongly today. For third-world countries, water is an issue that can be dealt with very simply. I say that as an engineer. Desalination plants can be built in almost any European country and used to convert salt water into fresh drinking water for the third world. It is not a major problem, but we do not confront it and deal with it, and people will die as a result.
We need to make progress on these issues as a House, not only as a Government, because broad support is required. We want to go to the conferences to argue for a position that will take matters forward, but we cannot avoid the fact that we need other countriesin Europe and in other parts of the world, such as Canada and Americato say and do the same thing, giving proper constructive support to our objectives. We do not want to be seen as having a different, broader agenda that will move forward fasterthat would be a waste of time, because it will not move forward at all if we do not have a collective approach that takes people with us.
It would also be a waste of time to have a debate about what went wrong in the past. We need to move on to talk about where we are now. People want us to continue to do what we are doing, but they want more of itmore aid and more practical support. The issue will not go away. The people who lobbied us today are nothing more than a representative group of the millions of people who feel the same. We feel that in our constituencies. I particularly salute the work of the Churches, which have played an outstanding role. Not long ago, a local church asked me to get involved in a sponsored day of famine. I said, "No problem: I can do that for 24 hours."
All across the countryage group and political background do not mattermillions of people want us to do something constructive. We need to do that across party lines by agreeing on the agenda and saying, "This is what we are after." It is not a matter of the UK acting alone, but of the UK leading the world and bringing in other countries to support our cause. If we do that, people will at last feel less distrust. They will be happier with politicians who are on board walking the walk and talking the talk, and will give us the proper recognition that is important to us.