21 Mar 2013 : Column 333WH

21 Mar 2013 : Column 333WH

Westminster Hall

Thursday 21 March 2013

[Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]

backbench business

Post-2015 Development Agenda

[Relevant documents: The Eighth Report from the International Development Committee, Post-2015 Development goals, HC 657, and the Government response, HC 1065.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Duncan.)

1.30 pm

Mr Charles Walker (in the Chair): Just so that everybody knows where they are at, let me say that we will start the wind-up speeches at 4 pm.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): That rather limits the time for me to say anything.

I start by thanking colleagues from many of the all-party groups that take an interest in international development for joining me, on behalf of the all-party group on Africa, in seeking the debate. I also thank the Backbench Business Committee for giving it to us, particularly in this important week. Next week the United Nations Secretary-General’s high-level panel, charged with producing a report recommending global development goals for the period after 2015—the end date of the millennium development goals—meets in Indonesia. That will be its last full meeting before it publishes its report.

I should also begin by paying tribute to the Government and what the Chancellor said in his Budget speech yesterday.

“We will also deliver in this coming year on this nation’s long-standing commitment to the world’s poorest to spend 0.7% of our national income on international development.”—[Official Report, 20 March 2013; Vol. 560, c. 935-6.]

That is a statement that I imagine everybody here will warmly endorse.

The Select Committee on International Development has made criticisms from time to time of the way in which the Department for International Development is moving towards that goal. We were concerned that instead of increasing the budget in three equal stages over three years from the 0.53% of gross national income inherited from the previous Government, the budget has flatlined for three years and will now rise steeply in this year from, I think, 0.52%, which is slightly below the level inherited from the previous Government as a proportion of GNI.

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Alan Duncan): If I may assist the hon. Gentleman, last year’s figure was 0.56%, so it has been rising gently but then will be steeper.

Hugh Bayley: I stand corrected and congratulate the Government on moving in the right direction. The concern from the International Development Committee was that it will mean a substantial increase in spend in this year. We were concerned about the absorptive

21 Mar 2013 : Column 334WH

capacity, particularly in countries where we have bilateral programmes. That is something that the Minister might address later.

The International Development Committee has also voiced concerns about the squeeze imposed by the Treasury on DFID’s administrative costs. Like all Members I want to see every Government Department lean and mean, but as DFID is unusual in having a sharply rising budget, we are concerned that reducing the number of people DFID has on the ground runs a risk of our aid spend being supervised and scrutinised less closely, and possibly being less efficient as a result. That needs some creative thinking.

On my visits with the International Development Committee to DFID offices in the field, it has occurred to me that it is now harder for DFID staff to spend time away from the capital, looking at what is happening in health clinics or schools. Perhaps DFID could contract out to non-governmental organisations some of that work of checking what is happening on the ground and delivering reports on whether the training programmes for teachers in rural schools are delivering trained teachers. That is just a thought.

Having said that, I acknowledge that in the current economic climate it is not an easy political decision for the Government to stick to the commitment. Those of us who think it is the right thing to do have a responsibility to make the case for international development, in church halls and local newspapers up and down the country. Although there is a strong constituency of support, often church or faith based, for international development, and support from many diaspora communities in Britain, there are also many people who ask why we are increasing our charity abroad when we are not able to increase spending on some essential services at home.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and to the Backbench Business Committee, for initiating the debate. Does he agree that among young people—schoolchildren and students—there is tremendous enthusiasm for this subject? Nearly every primary school I visit in my constituency has displays about links with schools in the developing world. They seem as keen, if not more so, as any part of the adult population on the importance of those links, perhaps because they see the impact of poverty on children.

Hugh Bayley: I agree strongly. If we can win the hearts and minds of young people, we have a future on our side. The bold but right decision made by the Prime Minister and Government to raise our aid spending to 0.7% this year gives the Prime Minister great moral authority when he is involved in discussions with leaders of other countries. If the UK commits increased support to the world’s poor, we are in a position to argue that others should do so as well.

I want the Prime Minister to use that moral authority in the same way that Tony Blair and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), the former Prime Ministers, used their authority. They decided to lead internationally the argument for debt write-offs, to increase aid substantially from 0.29% to 0.53% and to win commitments from other global leaders to do more for the world’s poor. It is particularly important for the Prime Minister to use that moral persuasion in his capacity as co-chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s high-level panel, and in the G8 summit that he chairs this summer.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 335WH

I want to talk a little more about the parallel I see with the last time the G8 was in the UK at the Gleneagles summit in 2005. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair put global development and climate change on the agenda. Many Members will recall the Make Poverty History campaign led by NGOs. It mobilised hundreds of thousands of members of the public in support of a demand to increase aid and make aid more effective. The Government’s determination, together with that support from civil society, led to a new partnership for Africa’s development.

On the one hand, donors such as the UK committed to double aid to Africa. That commitment was given by the G8 at Gleneagles and by the EU, which was under the UK presidency that same year, 2005. On the other hand, African leaders—led by Presidents Mkapa of Tanzania, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Obasanjo of Nigeria—gave commitments that, if the donors increased aid, leaders of African countries would do more to use that aid effectively. They established a number of peer review mechanisms—including the African Peer Review Mechanism—in which officials from one African country would audit the effectiveness of government expenditures and economic policies in other countries.

The single most important point I want to make this afternoon is that deals at international summits do not just happen. They do not happen because G8 leaders feel in a benevolent mood on the day and decide to put their hands in their pockets and double aid. It took two or three years of political mobilisation and preparation to deliver the results in the Gleneagles G8 and the British presidency of the European Union. That probably began in 2001—I remember the year well, because that was when Tony Blair sacked me from the Government. Rather nervously, he called me in afterwards to talk to him, and he asked what I intended to do. He had just made a speech about Africa and his commitment to do more to seek to reduce global poverty, and I said that I would like to do some work in that field. That was when, together with support from colleagues from other parties, we created the Africa all-party parliamentary group, and we worked closely with Downing street to identify what the UK could do in policy terms to build a better partnership with Africa.

About 18 months or so before the Gleneagles summit, Blair created the Commission for Africa—a team of eminent persons, the majority of whom were Africans—to write a proposal for improving development in the continent. They had a commission of some 36 people, headed by Myles Wickstead, who currently advises the Select Committee on International Development. They visited most countries in Africa and certainly met, as it says in the introduction to the report, representatives from 49 countries, as well as representatives from every G8 country and every country in the EU. I believe that the report was a turning point in the west’s relationship with Africa. It was soon out of print, because it was in great demand—in capitals—both in donor countries and in Africa, and Penguin Books printed a summary version in much greater quantities.

When the commission was doing its work, the all-party group on Africa sought to work with parliamentarians from other G8 and EU countries to explain what the UK Government intended to do, and to try and persuade

21 Mar 2013 : Column 336WH

our colleagues in the Bundestag, the Assemblée Nationale and Congress—the House of Representatives and the Senate—to ask questions of their Executive branch about how their country would respond to Blair’s proposals on increasing aid and improving the effectiveness of aid to Africa.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) on securing the debate. He is rightly talking about the importance of spending our aid budget effectively. As he knows, the Prime Minister, who is one of the three co-chairs of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda, has said that his approach in part will be to speak to the issues that poor people themselves think important.

No. 7 of the millennium development goals is to ensure environmental sustainability, and earlier this year, in Bali, the first biodiesel plant in Indonesia—manufactured and installed by the Gloucestershire-based company Green Fuels Ltd on behalf of the Swiss NGO, Caritas—was opened, employing low-skilled workers to reduce the amount of unhealthy and environmentally-unfriendly recycled cooking oil in hotels in Bali. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that would be a great project for the Secretary of State to visit on her trip to Bali shortly? Does he also agree that supporting companies such as Green Fuels would be a powerful way for DFID to help deliver the millennium development goals and help Britain’s environmental businesses?

Hugh Bayley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It is probably for the Minister, rather than me, to comment on what will be in the Secretary of State’s diary during her visit to Indonesia. I do not know about that particular project, but I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman e-mailed me some details. I know that there is controversy over whether land in developing countries should be used for producing food or for producing biofuels, and whether it should be used for producing food for export or food for domestic consumption. If the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) were to catch your eye at some point in the debate, Mr Walker, he might well wish to say a few things about that. We need to get the balance right.

The last thing I want to say about the period leading up to the publication of the Commission for Africa’s report is that on one of my lobbying forays I was in South Africa, and I spoke to a man called Abdul Minty, who I have known for many years through the work of the anti-apartheid movement—the London-based solidarity movement—that sought the overthrow of apartheid. By that stage, he had been appointed deputy director general—that is to say, deputy permanent secretary—of the South African Foreign Minister, and he was the foreign policy adviser and speechwriter on foreign affairs for the then President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.

Abdul Minty said to me, “You really must take this message back to Tony Blair. In order for the report to make a difference, simply publishing it and hoping that all will turn out okay on the day is not good enough. You have got to build a political campaign to win support from world leaders, north and south, to ensure that it changes international policy. You have got, for example, to get the Germans to pledge something on 1 February, so that you can go to the French and say, ‘Surely you can match that or top it.’ You have to

21 Mar 2013 : Column 337WH

programme a series of steps so that when you get to Gleneagles, people know what the issues are. They will have talked with their Finance Ministers, their Development Ministers—if they have them—or their Foreign Affairs Ministers and will be in a position to make the sort of commitment that you seek. Think of it like one of our anti-apartheid campaigns. You do not get Barclays to disinvest from South Africa by writing a good report suggesting that that is what they should do. You have to organise a series of steps at shareholder meetings or on the street, getting media coverage, in order to get the change of policy that you seek.”

I had a conversation with Blair afterwards, and I hope that that was one reason why there was a choreographed political process that sought to move global leaders in the G8 and in the EU from a position of lack of commitment to a position of commitment on doing more for Africa’s development.

I believe that the high-level panel has the potential to be a turning point in international development that is just as significant as the Gleneagles summit eight years ago. Whether that happens depends on whether the key leaders of the panel, including the three co-chairs—our Prime Minister, and the Presidents of Indonesia and Liberia—see their task not only as writing a brilliant report, like the Commission for Africa report, which I am sure they will do, but as ensuring that a political process is put in train to make sure that the report makes a difference. Many people can write good reports—people at the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme can, as can academics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics or Oxford university—but what politicians can do is change international policy.

I know that at next week’s meeting, the UK will be represented not by the Prime Minister, but by the Secretary of State for International Development. She will be a powerful representative and I have every confidence in her, but in delegating that task, the Prime Minister should not delegate the rest of the task. When it comes to getting on the phone to President Obama or François Hollande and saying, “What commitment are you going to make to the proposals in the high-level panel report?” there is no substitute for that being on the basis of national leader to national leader, President to President, or Prime Minister to Prime Minister. Of course, the Secretary of State will have to do most of the heavy lifting directly with the Foreign Affairs Ministries of the other countries, but the top-level talks will have to be led by the Prime Minister.

Because of time constraints, I shall not describe in detail the goals that the International Development Committee proposed in its recent report, to which the Government have just responded. We strongly support the Prime Minister’s proposal to eliminate extreme poverty as one of the goals; to incorporate issues of environmental sustainability, as the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) proposed; to set global goals but to accept that individual countries will need to adapt them and set national targets and indicators that are relevant to their own level of development; to ensure that there are robust processes for monitoring progress; to emphasise the importance of good governance, as our Prime Minister does with his argument about the “golden thread”; and to make job creation one of the development goals, because young people without work will not commit to and benefit from development.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 338WH

Whatever goals appear in the high-level panel’s report when it is published in May, the thing that will make the most difference is not the language of a report or even the choice of one goal over another; it is political will. Can the high-level panel win the hearts and minds of world leaders north and south? That depends more than anything else on the work that the co-chairs do after they publish their report. I am talking about their getting on the road, meeting other Presidents and Prime Ministers, calling them up on the telephone, badgering them and saying, “This is an issue that won’t go away.” I think that if our Prime Minister does that, he will find his place in history as someone who has created the paradigm for development for the decade ahead, much as Blair did 10 years ago. I want him to do that, and I hope that will be the message that goes out from this debate today.

1.52 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) on securing this important debate and his contribution to the whole issue, which I and many of our other colleagues on the International Development Committee value. I am still a newish member of that Committee, so I am on a learning curve with regard to these issues, which I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind as I make my contribution.

I shall concentrate on one of the points that the hon. Gentleman raised: job creation. MDG target 1.B was:

“Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people”.

However, in evidence to the Select Committee, Michael Anderson, the special envoy to the Prime Minister on the UN development goals, said that one of the points that the Prime Minister had made was that

“that goal has probably not captured the collective imagination. Part of the task is to get the goals right, but also to get a narrative so that the world mobilises around that with the same passion that they mobilise around maternal mortality and infant mortality.”

I think that the whole Committee would agree with that.

We took evidence on the subject and were informed that employment, whether salaried employment or self-employment, is critical for development. The issue is of fundamental importance to poor people. After they have a road, a school, a health centre and, of course, sufficient to eat, a job is what people want. That is based on household survey data from sub-Saharan Africa, east Asia and Latin America that were reported to us by the organisation ONE.

One of the International Development Committee’s recommendations was therefore:

“Job creation is one of the most crucial of all development challenges. Whilst the issue of employment was included in the original MDG framework, it was insufficiently prominent and failed to capture the public imagination. In the post-2015 framework, the task will be to design an employment ‘goal’ which captures the imagination of people around the world.”

That is critical, difficult as it is. If we are to facilitate developing countries to get out of, or at least to reduce, their donor dependency, as so many of them aspire to do, the only way we can do so is to help them to develop their own private sectors, and we must do that in a way that enables them to move from micro to SME—and then even larger—from informal to formal sectors, and

21 Mar 2013 : Column 339WH

from individuals who are self-employed to those who employ people in their local community. All those businesses can then contribute to not only their local communities, but the revenues of their national Governments through tax receipts.

It is essential that we prioritise working with the private sector in these countries, and that we involve our private sector and the expertise of the private sector in those developing nations in doing so. I know that that might not be a familiar relationship for many of those in the aid community—it is not one that they are used to—but I congratulate DFID on now being a pioneer in this. There are now individuals working in DFID who have a private sector background. I think that we have started, just within the last week, a DFID private sector project in Ethiopia that will examine how to strengthen certain sectors in that country, such as textiles, horticulture and leather, and try to unlock the problems to ensure that businesses there can strengthen and develop. We need to look at such projects.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): May I utterly reinforce what my hon. Friend says? My wife, who, as an International Committee of the Red Cross delegate, started a camp for 100,000 people in South Sudan—and ran it from scratch—has told me repeatedly that the biggest problem arises if we give aid and thus just make a problem, because people are attracted to it. She pleaded with me, saying, “If you are a Member of Parliament, ask repeatedly for us to set up businesses so that people can get the means for employment, rather than setting up camps, which attract people, and then there is nothing for them to do but exist on aid from outside, because that is an appalling model.”

Fiona Bruce: I entirely agree, and I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention.

One of the first things that I think we need to do—I reiterate that I am very much feeling my way here—is to ensure that there is joined-up thinking on the other millennium development goals. For example, I have been involved with a school in Tanzania for some 10 years. At the start, there were five primary school children, but today there are 400 children in the school, which now has both a primary and a secondary element. The real challenge now is that it is saying, “We have spent years educating these young people, but where are they going to work? What employment will they go into?” We must consider tertiary education in developing nations and work so that there is a progression from the education that we are providing. I totally applaud the support that DFID is giving in many countries, such as through teachers’ salaries, but unless we consider what will happen when young people come out of their school environments, we will be failing them and, indeed, the communities in which they live.

These children have aspirations. During our recent trip to Ethiopia, we found that many young children in remote villages wanted to be doctors—they wanted to contribute to their communities and they had ambition. Many of the young people I have met, for example in Rwanda, are aspiring entrepreneurs. They want to develop businesses, but we need to give them the tools to do that so that they can run with the idea. At the moment, only

21 Mar 2013 : Column 340WH

5% of Africans are educated at tertiary level, although the global average is 25%, so we need to consider, in the post-2015 MDG framework, the importance of tertiary education.

Also with regard to Rwanda, I would like to talk about building entrepreneurs’ capacity to do business. I shall relay an experience that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and I had when we first went to Rwanda in 2010, under the Conservative party’s Umubano project, to teach entrepreneurs how to run their businesses. We went for a week: on Monday, we taught how to write a business plan; on Tuesday, we taught how to write a marketing plan; on Wednesday, we taught how to set a budget; on Thursday, we taught how to recruit and interview staff; and on Friday, we taught how to review it all. No self-respecting management consultant would have entertained doing that in a week. We taught 14 businesses, and after day one, we thought, “If they’re interested, they’ll come back.” They all came back day after day.

At the end of the week, the head of the Rwandan chamber of commerce came to see us and said, “This has really been of interest. Could you come back next year to teach some more businesses?” We said, “How many more would be interested?” She looked at us and said, “About 74,000.” They could not get basic help in Rwanda about how to develop businesses, so there is real potential for people in this country’s private sector to help to build business capacity. People with experience of developing businesses—perhaps those who are semi-retired or have taken early retirement—could be matched with businesses in developing countries and give them mentoring and support. Perhaps they could use technology so that they do not need to go out there to visit. There is a hunger for that kind of help, however.

Businesses that want to create jobs in the developing world have problems accessing finance. For example, on the International Development Committee’s recent visit to Ethiopia, we met the Nile Edible Oil Manufacturing Industry plc, which is a co-operative of about 32 small companies that produce edible cooking oil, often in little more than backstreet shacks. The group got together with some support from the UN. It produced an action plan, formed a business association and found a site where it wanted to build a business park, which would have involved individual units and a central processing plant. The plan was very exciting. Through the co-operative, the farmers had been helped to produce better crop yields and the producers were enhancing their productivity with better machinery and better technological support, and they were all delivering to markets at a better price. The group has a site for a business park and a plan, but it cannot get funding. I am sure that that situation is typical of many companies, organisations and associations in the developing world that cannot access finance. We think that accessing finance it is difficult here, but imagine how much harder it is there. As part of our job creation aspiration and prioritisation for the developing world, can we look at access to finance?

I wish to make a few additional points before I conclude. It is right that there are many aspects to enabling businesses to work. For example, there needs to be better land registration and security of land tenure for businesses. If someone is setting up a business, they want to feel secure, and we can help with that. Good community governance is also important, because when

21 Mar 2013 : Column 341WH

a local community understands that if local businesses flourish, local rates will improve, it is a win-win for the community’s support for local businesses. That understanding still needs to be developed.

Aid conditionality with regard to transparency, such as tax transparency and so forth, would be helpful, as would support for developing a “Companies House” in some developing countries. Businesses could then be registered and they would deliver annual accounts, which would lead to some sort of recognition in the business community to help them to move from an informal to a formal footing. Businesses should be given incentives to do that—whether through advice, or access to funding or grants—to ensure that the business community in developing countries has structural support.

I was encouraged when I read a communication from the European Commission—I do not often say that—to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions about the post-2015 discussions. The communication was called “A Decent Life for All”, and I shall read some brief excerpts to hon. Members because they articulate what I have been talking about better than I can. The document refers to the need for an “overarching framework” for millennium development goals, which would cover, among other things

“drivers for sustainable and inclusive growth and development that are necessary for structural transformation of the economy, needed to ensure the creation of productive capacities and employment”

It goes on to say:

“Goals should provide incentives for cooperation and partnerships among governments, civil society, including the private sector, and the global community at large”

Implementing the framework would involve “domestic resource mobilisation” within each country,

“legal and fiscal regulations and institutions supporting the development of the private sector, investment, decent job creation and export competitiveness”,

which are essential to making the ambition of developing strong economies achievable for all countries. Interestingly, that is true of all countries at all levels of development.

The Commission held a public consultation in summer 2012 to which around 120 organisations and individuals contributed. There was a consensus that although the MDGs had rallied many and different actors behind the same development objectives, there needed to be common views on future priorities. There are six views, and it is interesting that several highlight the importance of sustainable economic development. In particular, one says that priorities must

“Foster the drivers for economic growth and job creation including by engaging with the private sector”.

I hope that I have contributed to highlighting the hunger for, and opportunities to support, economic development in developing countries, particularly through the involvement of the private sector.

2.7 pm

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): This afternoon’s debate is timely and I congratulate the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) on securing it. It is right that we are considering development now and looking forward at the post-2015 agenda, ahead of the upcoming high-level summit and the G8 later this year.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 342WH

As I am sure some Members present will be aware, yesterday the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, was here in Westminster addressing Members of both Houses, as part of a visit to mark the bicentenary of David Livingstone’s birth. I spent some time in Malawi, in a previous professional incarnation, and I represent a constituency with strong historical links to Ekwendeni, in the north of Malawi, through the Church of Scotland, so I was particularly interested in what President Banda had to say about development progress in her country and her reflections on future priorities post 2015.

Malawi is one of the less developed countries in southern Africa, and although the millennium development goals have helped to focus attention on access to basic services, President Banda made it clear that too little progress has been made on tackling maternal mortality. A few years ago, I visited health care facilities in Malawi. They were understaffed and under-resourced. With nurses’ and midwives’ representatives, I discussed the immense challenges they face in managing complications in pregnancy and childbirth that in this country would be routinely dealt with—infections, high blood pressure and conditions that should not still be killing women and can be treated cheaply and effectively, but which nevertheless cause unnecessary maternal deaths.

I also remember visiting schools in rural areas that had grass roofs, mud floors and one textbook for a class of 100 children. During the rainy season, lessons just have to stop, and the lack of toilet facilities means that many girls are taken out of school as soon as they hit puberty. President Banda touched on those issues yesterday too, when she talked about the importance of ensuring that girls as well as boys go to secondary school, and about her Government’s efforts to ensure that girls are recruited in equal numbers to boys and are able to return to school even if they have had children. There is a lot of evidence that education helps to reduce the incidence of early marriage and childbirth, and significantly boosts a family’s long-term prospects, but we must look beyond counting the children in the classrooms and emphasise the quality of the education, the length of time during which kids receive it, and the equality of both access and outcomes for girls.

All of that highlights a key issue for us as we look beyond 2015, which is that whatever the merits of the millennium development goals in providing a focus for global political action, they have had serious limitations as measures of poverty reduction and have, perhaps, not reflected national and regional priorities in different parts of the planet. They have also masked inequality in ways that can distort our assessment of their impact, and that is particularly true in relation to the women and girls who are often left behind when we measure progress.

That point was brought home forcefully at a meeting I recently chaired, of the all-party group on international development and the environment and the all-party group on water and sanitation in the third world, where a high-level panel of experts raised similar concerns about the patterns that emerge when we look at the millions of people around the world who still do not have access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Those left out of the tremendous progress that has been made are predominantly women and girls in low-income households, and disabled people, and it was pointed out that they

21 Mar 2013 : Column 343WH

are often the same individuals who have missed out on the progress made towards other millennium development goals. They are the same women, girls and disabled people who are missing out on access to education, and the same people who are missing out on access to basic health care. Given that 70% of the world’s poorest people now live in middle-income countries, it is more important than ever that development assistance addresses structural inequalities and recognises human rights at the heart of the agenda.

In the past couple of weeks, I have pressed the Secretary of State for International Development on the importance of addressing persistent gender inequalities, because that is absolutely key to eradicating poverty. I have been heartened by her recognition that gender-disaggregated impact assessment is crucial to ensuring that the benefits of development are shared by women and men, and that is something practical that her Department can do to strengthen its work. Today, however, I want to go a bit further and emphasise the importance of universal access to basic health care, water and sanitation as a precondition for the kind of economic development that the Government want to promote—as other Members have mentioned—and that people in developing countries want to see. If poor women and the poorest people in rural—or urban—areas do not get access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, do not get access to basic health care and do not get a decent education, they will not get the jobs we are talking about and their poverty will become more entrenched, even as their countries enjoy unprecedented economic growth. That is not a recipe for political stability or effective governance.

The other set of challenges many countries face is in establishing a stable political environment in which the state can function, investors can have confidence and people can build sustainable livelihoods. My last plea, therefore, is for accountability, and for support for elected Governments in developing countries to build the institutions and the infrastructure they need to function effectively. It is also necessary to strengthen the ability of citizens to hold their Governments and the international corporations that operate in their countries to account for the impact they have on their lives.

In leading the debate, the hon. Member for York Central talked about the last G8 meeting in the UK and the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005. I have no doubt whatever that the political will that was created at the time of that meeting was very much driven by civil society action around the world, and here also. It was that action that created the pressure on Governments, and the space for them to do the right thing and pursue a development agenda. I was one of the 250,000 people walking down the streets of Edinburgh that day, and it was a great lesson in how peaceful civil society action can transform the world. If that is good enough for us, it is good enough for developing countries, and perhaps it is even more necessary in developing countries where governance has historically been less embedded or robust, or is more nascent, than in others. I therefore urge Ministers to put their weight behind that issue in the talks that are coming up in the next few weeks and months.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 344WH

2.15 pm

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, particularly in respect of a number of all-party groups and my interests in working in Tanzania over many years.

Along with many Members, I welcome the commitment announced yesterday that the people of the UK will meet the 0.7% target that was pledged at Gleneagles and which, as the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) rightly said, has been worked for over a number of years by the previous and current Governments. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and the Backbench Business Committee on providing the time for today’s debate.

I want particularly to mention—I am glad he is here—my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), under whom I served when he led the Conservative party’s policy review on international development back in 2006-07. He was committed to that particular target, and he produced an extremely thoughtful and detailed report, much of which, I am glad to say, this Government have put into practice. At the same time, I commend the noble Lord Howard who, as the first leader of the Conservative party to sign up to the 0.7% target, helped the party on its way to yesterday’s announcement. I ask the Minister if the Government will take the challenge to countries that have not yet met the target and which, at the moment, regrettably show no signs of doing so.

We heard just a few weeks ago that in the United States the 5% across-the-board cut to public spending applies to international development as much as to anything else—and it was only 0.2% anyway. We should encourage Germany and France, and indeed all other members of the European Union that do not do so at the moment, to match what the United Kingdom is doing. There are many honourable exceptions, particularly among the Nordic countries, and also the Netherlands, and we should be grateful to them for showing us the way.

We are talking today about the post-2015 millennium development goals. The MDGs were successful because they were simple and measurable and countries were able to take responsibility for them. They were things that people could understand, and there were not that many of them, and it is crucial, as the International Development Committee’s report states, that that should remain the case post-2015. We should not end up with 15 or 20 MDGs; we suggest a maximum of 10, but that is obviously open to negotiation. Nevertheless, however many we have, they should again be simple, clear and measurable, and be ones that people can buy into and take responsibility for. We should remember that it is because they are simple and measurable that they have been so successful. Let us not forget that 10,000 fewer under-fives die each day than in 1990, 33 million more children go to school than 10 years ago, and 12 times as many people have access to HIV/AIDS treatment as in 2003.

I have had the pleasure of going to a couple of meetings organised by the Africa all-party group and the Royal African Society over the past few weeks, including the one this morning, which the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) mentioned, with

21 Mar 2013 : Column 345WH

Her Excellency Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi. We can see what the previous regime there was able to do to food security, simply by introducing subsidies for seeds and fertiliser. I remember clearly the famine in Malawi in 2006-07, because we had to send maize down from Tanzania as aid, to support people who were running short of food. Now the country is food-secure, and that is down to its Government’s development policy and the support of the UK’s Department for International Development and others, through the subsidy on fertiliser and seeds.

The president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, was here last week. He has changed it from being a bit of a laughing stock of development banks to perhaps the leading one or one of the most respected in the world. He and his colleagues are doing tremendous work in funding private sector infrastructure and so on throughout the area for which they have a remit.

The Committee’s report makes it clear that no fragile state has yet achieved any of the millennium development goals, which is why Her Majesty’s Government’s commitment to spend a substantial amount of the aid budget in fragile states is so important. It would be so easy to get quick wins—to spend the money where the results can be seen. It is much harder to do good work, as DFID is doing with its partners, in fragile states and to get results, but it is the right thing to do as it helps some of the poorest people in the world. People in fragile states have the least chance of getting out of poverty. Post-2015, we must not scrap the MDGs or design completely new ones, but build on their success, improve them where necessary and maintain what has been shown to succeed.

I want to concentrate on jobs and health. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) covered the subject of jobs so well that I will cut down my prepared remarks and avoid duplicating hers. Jobs, whether in employment or self-employment, are absolutely key to getting out of poverty and they link our economy with those of developing countries: if those countries create jobs, we will, because if they create jobs, people will be in work and will spend money, creating markets for our goods.

I made the point in the House last week that I am not in favour of tied aid. Tanzania is one of our biggest aid partners: we are possibly its biggest contributor of bilateral aid—we are certainly its biggest investor, and we are its second biggest if not the biggest trader.

Three things go together—our support for the Tanzanian Government in the health, education and private sectors; our investment; and our trade, which also helps people in this country. This is win-win. If we help to create jobs and support those who are creating jobs, we support the creation of jobs in our country, which is just as vital. Development is not just something we do overseas and that has no relationship here; the two are absolutely connected.

The Chancellor highlighted trade figures in his Budget yesterday. Since 2009, our volume of trade with the European Union has risen by 5%, but with the rest of the world by 30%. Six of the top 10 fastest-growing countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, and most of the others are developing countries.

How can we help those who are trying to create jobs in the developing world? I want to concentrate on an

21 Mar 2013 : Column 346WH

area highlighted by my hon. Friend—I shall so describe him, as I have huge respect for his work over many years—the Member for York Central: agriculture. We have tended to view agriculture as somehow being different, or rural development as being something apart, with agriculture fitting into rural development. Agriculture is business. Those involved in small-scale agriculture are business women and men and should be viewed as such. SMEs is the “buzz word” for small-scale farmers, entrepreneurs who do fantastic things on almost no budget. We must help them or their Governments to assist with the creation of markets, improvements in productivity—irrigation, new seeds and fertilizer have already been mentioned—and processing.

Let us not forget that the Netherlands, one of the most successful economies in the world, was built on agriculture. Over the years, it went from being a producer to being a producer and processor, and then to being a producer, processor and trader and became the world hub for flowers, which it used to grow but now mainly trades. A substantial part of the Dutch economy is based on agriculture, yet it is not viewed as backward. Indeed, one of its financial institutions, the Rabobank, a co-operative agriculture bank, is one of the few banks to retain top status with all credit rating agencies. Many institutions in our country grew out of the agricultural sector and, unless I am mistaken, the United Kingdom’s biggest single manufacturing sector remains food and drink processing, based on the raw materials produced by our farmers. We should not move away from agriculture, but build on it as development occurs, which is so important in job creation, whether in employment or self-employment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton mentioned finance. DFID has rightly begun to focus on different ways of achieving financial innovation in the developing world. The financial deepening challenge fund, with which I was involved some years ago, looked at different means of offering finance, whether through micro-finance or investment in small and medium-sized businesses. Sometimes, the problem is what we in the UK refer to as the “financing gap”. Funds are often available for micro-businesses and for large businesses, but the problem is in the middle, where the costs of finance are substantial—professionals need to be involved—and the cost per transaction is too high to make the transaction viable. Existing micro-businesses cannot grow into small businesses and then into medium businesses, because they come up against that brick wall. They can get the first $5,000 or $10,000, but the problem arises when they encounter the big gap and need $50,000 or $100,000 to employ substantial numbers of people. They are told to go to the banks, which require security that they do not have, and the venture capital or investment funds say, “$100,000 is too little for us”.

We are trying to crack the problem, but we have not done so yet. I believe that solutions are available—for example, leasing, because often a business needs equipment to create jobs, for which, although it can provide the working capital, it requires capital investment. I encourage DFID to consider that further.

Let us not forget that when we are discussing jobs, we are talking mainly about young people. There are 3.5 billion people under 30 in the world, 1.7 billion of whom are aged between 15 and 24, and they must be at the forefront of our mind. They can go through their

21 Mar 2013 : Column 347WH

education and find that there is nothing at the end, which is very dangerous. I urge that young people are placed at the forefront of consideration of the post-2015 MDGs.

I was talking yesterday to the chief executive of Y Care International, an international development organisation associated with YMCAs in Britain and overseas. It and many other youth organisations around the world are highly focused on the risk of leaving young people out of discussions, which are all conducted at a high level. It is great that the Prime Minister chairs a UN high-level panel on young people, but we must ensure that that results in action, not just in words.

Poor health is clearly both a cause and an effect of poverty, so it is crucial that we tackle it. Malaria can cost households 25% of their income, not necessarily through mortality, but through morbidity, the inability to work or lower productivity. The millennium development goals have led to substantial improvements in the treatment of diseases such as TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS. There have been improvements, too, in child and maternal mortality, both of which are very much affected by all those diseases. Malaria deaths have gone down by a third since 2000, but there are still far too many and the Prime Minister is focused on the UK helping to cut that rate still further. We must not forget that these are strong diseases, and they have a habit of returning. In the 1960s malaria was almost eliminated from Zanzibar, but people took their foot off the pedal and it came back with a vengeance. Work had to start all over again, which is why the MDGs, post-2015, must not lose their focus on those diseases, which can come back to strike us very quickly.

There are roughly 17 of the so-called neglected tropical diseases and they affect up to 2 billion of the world’s poorest. They are not necessarily killers, although they can be, but they are disablers. They strike the poorest and deprive them of their ability to earn a livelihood. There are simple ways of tackling them; the drugs exist. It is the distribution of those drugs that is the problem. We have seen fantastic co-operation between pharmaceutical companies, which have given many drugs for free, and Governments, as they tackle not just one disease but three or four at a time.

I went to Tanzania with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), over the new year, and we saw a fantastic programme run by the Tanzanian Government in which four neglected tropical diseases were being tackled together. We saw people with lymphatic filariasis who were disabled but able to lead pretty much normal lives thanks to the integrated programme. When we come to discuss how the MDGs, post 2015, deal with health, we must balance what our report calls an overall health goal with not losing the focus on those diseases against which there has been so much success over the past 10 to 15 years.

In conclusion, I welcome this debate and the tremendous work that DFID has done over many years on so many of these issues. We should celebrate what has happened over the past 13 years since the MDGs first came in, but recognise that that is just the start. This is something that we should not let go of but build on. We must

21 Mar 2013 : Column 348WH

maintain the simplicity and the measurability of our aims. I am talking about the fact that developing countries must buy into the goals; they should be not imposed on them, but developed in co-operation with them.

2.32 pm

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): It is, as ever, a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) on securing the debate and on corralling the all-party parliamentary groups with a strong interest in this matter to make the important case for the British Parliament to have influence on the Prime Minister’s work in this area.

I chair the all-party group on Nigeria and, with Lord Crisp, I co-chair the APG on global health, so I have a strong interest in the area. I am proud to be a Co-op MP as well as a Labour MP, and a strong supporter of work that has been done on loans to small businesses and co-operatives in developing parts of the world.

Thirteen years ago, we set up the first millennium development goals, which were, as my hon. Friend said, a great triumph. They created huge momentum to tackle poverty, and I am delighted that the Prime Minister has such a key lead role in ensuring that we focus on the next development goals from 2015. It is his chance to make a place in history, and I wish him all the best in doing that. Let me add, too, my congratulations to the Government on delivering their 0.7% development aid target.

While I am on this roll of congratulations, let me also congratulate the Secretary of State on her commitment and business-like approach on the matter. She made it clear that part of her job, and the job of her team and the Government, is to secure good value for money for every single pound of aid spent. Taxpayers’ money is a valuable resource and we need to ensure that we provide value for money. I speak as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which has looked into the matter, and the Committee will continue to challenge the Department to ensure that it achieves that aim.

The momentum to tackle poverty has made a big difference. In 2000, official development assistance was $72 billion. Between then and 2009, it rose to $128 billion. Although such rises cannot be put down to the MDGs alone, they have helped to focus our efforts. The figures have dropped in the last two years as a result of the global recession, so it is particularly welcome that our Government are showing the way and that the UK Parliament has backed them to send a signal to other developed countries that such assistance is important to global health, well-being and security.

In 2015, there will still be almost 1 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day. Moreover, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by less than 1% since 2000, so while the MDGs have made a difference, there is still a lot to be done. What should we be asking from the Prime Minister in his role on the high-level panel, and what should the focus be? One of the interesting issues is around inequalities, because while the millennium development goals focused rather a lot on averages, those averages can mask inequalities. An average reduction can mask a lack of progress among the very poorest people, and that needs to be in the panel’s minds when it makes recommendations.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 349WH

There also needs to be thought about how measurement is conducted. It can be easy to go for goals that are seemingly easy to measure, but that measurement must be achievable at a local level. When measuring progress on development goals, there must be some understanding of the local challenges. I will touch a little later on some of my experiences in Nigeria, because even within one single nation, various states face different challenges. Moreover, the goals and indicators cannot be vague. We need to be clear about outcomes and what the new goals achieve.

Several hon. Members have discussed the key matter of local participation and empowerment. Development must involve working in partnership with countries, rather than being something that is done to countries. The all-party group on global health produced an interesting report about empowering health workers. It is important that, as well as passing on useful lessons to other countries, we learn lessons for our own national health service. In Malawi, for example, we see a desire, with strong political leadership, to increase the number of midwives and reduce maternal mortality. Wherever we are in the world, we can all learn from that driving political force. Many countries produce policies out of necessity. Lower level health workers are therefore empowered, trained and supported to provide early interventions that can save lives, whereas we tend to follow a more hierarchical model, notwithstanding some of changes that have been made in recent years to empower our nurses. We must learn from each other and not be seen to be doing things to other countries.

Agriculture is important—I will touch on that in a bit more detail in a moment—and integrating climate change policies into the development goals is critical. In Nigeria, for instance, the Government are parcelling up areas for private companies to deliver to the grid, which will provide a welcome boost to the power sector, but if that is not done in a green way, we will be shooting ourselves in the foot as we try to maintain our commitment to international climate change obligations. The Prime Minister must consider such matters as he leads the high-level panel. The panel is meeting soon, so this debate is timely and will, hopefully, help the Prime Minister to realise that he has support from Britain, as well as giving him some ideas.

I am heartened that 60 lower and middle-income countries have run national and regional consultations in an attempt to achieve a more meaningful input and to buy into the process. That will hopefully lead to a joint method of working, rather the goals being imposed on them.

A separate process is under way to agree global sustainable development goals. There will be a report on those goals at some point between this September and September next year, but there is no firm date for it yet. Those goals may significantly overlap with the post-millennium development goals, so it would make sense to bring the two sets of targets together at some point. I hope that when the two sets are being drawn up, each group will be thinking about the other group’s work.

I want to focus on health. The process of developing post-2015 goals is ongoing, as I said, but there seems to be reasonable agreement about what the overall list of goals should contain. However, there is not yet a clear consensus on what their hierarchy should be, and

21 Mar 2013 : Column 350WH

on what the headline goals and sub-targets will be. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) said that the International Development Committee’s report recommended not having too many goals.

The all-party group on global health hosted a fruitful session with a lot of development agencies and others with an interest in this area. The event was standing room only in one of the larger Committee Rooms in the main House, and we heard a long list of suggestions for new MDGs. The Prime Minister’s challenge is to ensure that the list of new MDGs is not so long that it becomes meaningless, thus allowing people to hide behind what they are doing rather than what they ought to be doing. That will be the political challenge, but it is not an easy one to face.

I fear that health issues are unlikely to be as prominent in the headline priorities of the new MDGs as was the case with the original MDGs, when of course they constituted three of the eight goals—on child mortality, maternal health, and HIV/AIDs and malaria. It is vital that people continue to make the case that global health issues should not be neglected in the future list of priorities, which is partly why I am speaking in the debate.

We need a joined-up approach to improve health. The many single disease-specific goals in the MDGs were successful at focusing global attention on critical areas that might otherwise have been neglected, such as malaria. However, they also were in danger of creating silos of activity that were a barrier to building strong overall health systems, so the post-2015 agenda should correct that by emphasising the need for joined-up, holistic health services, in addition to placing a stress on the importance of programmes to prevent people from becoming ill in the first place.

Of course, those aims are also important for reducing poverty, because those in poor health will be poorer. For instance, if we look at just the impact of polio alone, a disabled child in Africa is a burden on their family as they will be unable to work and support themselves, and that of course affects their life expectancy considerably.

Health must be central to development. Good health is critical to achieving the other development goals, so it must not be neglected. Healthy populations are more productive, not only because people can go out to work, but because ill health is a cause as well as a consequence of poverty. The World Health Organisation estimates that catastrophic health costs push 100 million people into poverty every year. We cannot make development progress in any sphere without addressing health needs.

Many believe that we will end up with one stand-alone post-2015 goal for health, and some consensus is forming behind the idea that it will involve universal access to health care. It came out strongly from the meeting of the all-party group on global health that was held before Christmas that that goal would suffer from focusing on a process rather than an outcome, and would be in danger of diverting attention towards addressing the financial barriers that stop people from receiving health services, rather than the quality of those services. In addition, it could ignore the wider determinants of health in society.

Arguably a better goal would be on improving the life expectancy of the bottom 25% relative to the rest of the population, because that would focus on those in greatest

21 Mar 2013 : Column 351WH

need and ensure that we did not water down the aims on which there is a fairly strong consensus—certainly in this House and among a lot of the groups that came to the all-party group’s meeting and submitted their thoughts. That goal would have the advantage of focusing on outcomes, addressing the critical issue of health inequalities, and being equally relevant—this is a very important point for the post-2015 agenda—for high, middle and low-income countries. It could be applied across the board, and it is important that we look at the post-2015 MDGs in that context.

That goal would also be flexible by allowing each nation to decide what aspects of health are the greatest priority for improvement. We can consider the Malawi situation in that context, and there are interesting challenges in different parts of Nigeria, which is, of course, a federal country in which there are big differences between states. For instance, the transmission of HIV and AIDS is affected by the multiple marriages in parts of the country. Sadly, other parts of the country are still affected by polio. I visited Niger state about a year ago and met the governor, who has determined that every child in the state will receive a polio vaccination. However, not every governor in the country takes the same approach. Indeed, such a policy is a challenge for governors in many states, including Niger state, because of their rural districts.

I will not detain Members by talking about just Nigeria, but I saw in Niger state and other parts of Nigeria that strong political leadership can make a big difference. When the new MDGs and the post-2015 agenda are developed, we need to ensure that we allow room for local political leadership to work within the framework, It is about not emasculating that local leadership, but empowering it and the people to whom it is accountable, at federal as well as national level. We must remember, as I have said, that states in countries such as Nigeria can face different challenges.

I will touch on the issue of education. I have had the opportunity to visit the Minna teacher training college in Nigeria. In parts of Nigeria—not all parts, because it is such a diverse country—not enough girls are going to school. In recognition of that fact, with support from Save the Children and other NGOs, girls are being educated to become teachers, because in some rural areas, girls were not going to school because there were not enough female teachers. I met a number of young women at the college, many of them mothers themselves, and in many cases with their babies, who were training as teachers. They were in a separate compound from the rest of the college with barbed wire to protect them so that their fathers, brothers and husbands could be sure that they were safe and in an acceptable environment for a young Muslim woman. Having gained that education themselves, the idea was that they would go back to their villages and then more girls would go to school there.

I then had the privilege of visiting a village school. Parents had formed a committee to run the school, and part of their focus was to ensure that they were aware of any children not in school so that they would get into school, because education is highly prized in Nigeria.

That local school committee had been empowered and it was very interesting to talk to its members. In some ways, it was a bit like talking to a parent teacher

21 Mar 2013 : Column 352WH

association in Hackney, because the parents in Nigeria were equally focused on and proud of their three-year-old who could count, or equally determined that their under-five would receive some support or that their teenage girl would go on to do something. Those are the same sorts of aspirations that the parents I speak to every day in Hackney have for their children, so there is no particular difference.

The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) made a number of sensible points about jobs, because where do those young people in that village near Minna go on to? One of the really interesting issues in Nigeria, as in other parts of Africa, is agribusiness. I am delighted that our Prime Minister and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria have signed a bilateral agreement to double trade from its level a couple of years ago by 2015. That is a very big challenge, but it is also a important issue, partly for this country—we need to create jobs and opportunities for our own businesses—and also because there is a very young population in Nigeria that needs work and opportunity. We already have interesting bilateral arrangements for skills development. Highbury college, Portsmouth, has a relationship under which people in Lagos are trained to certain levels of skills.

Agribusiness is an underdeveloped area, certainly in Nigeria and, judging from what the hon. Lady said, also in other parts of Africa. I am not entirely convinced—perhaps the Minister will comment on this—that the British Government have “got it” on the issue. Do we have the skill base to export as a business, in terms of food processing, development and so on? In one state in Nigeria, Zimbabwean farmers were brought in to help to improve the agricultural process and build it up. There are some excellent resources in Nigeria—land, people and produce—that could be developed, yet Nigeria is importing rice and coffee, whereas in the past it was a net exporter of those products. Big improvements could be made through bilateral trade links as well as through aid.

Jeremy Lefroy: The hon. Lady is making a very strong case on this issue. Indeed, when I and other colleagues were in Afghanistan, we saw great opportunities for the Afghan people to carry out their own food processing. At the moment, the raw materials go outside that country to be processed in other countries, and then they come back as commodities, which reduces job opportunities and increases prices in Afghanistan.

Meg Hillier: Of course, that process it is not very green, either. To go back to my comments about climate change, we should be shortening the food chain when it is sensible to do so.

DFID has done some good since it was established, but we need more joined-up government. The post-2015 agenda must not just be regarded as just DFID’s responsibility. The whole of the Government needs to engage in it—whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on agribusiness, or the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Bob Stewart: I am listening carefully to the hon. Lady. It seems to me that DFID almost has to be a mini skills agency for all Departments. Rather than just distributing things, as in the past, and checking that

21 Mar 2013 : Column 353WH

things have happened, DFID now has to illustrate the skills of the whole of the Government, which of course the Minister ably does.

Meg Hillier: I will leave it to the Minister to take up that challenge.

Even the Home Office could have a role, because immigration policy has an impact on all sorts of development issues. We want people to come to this country with skills that they can contribute. That is part of the development agenda.

On that controversial note, I shall conclude my remarks. I once again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for York Central on securing this debate, and I wish the Prime Minister the best of luck in his negotiations.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Charles Walker (in the Chair): Order. We have five speakers remaining, and we will start the wind-ups a little early—at 3.56 pm—to allow Mr Bayley to come in at the end. Members therefore have about 12 and a half minutes each, if they wish to help each other.

2.51 pm

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. I will not take 12 minutes and will avoid repetition, because there have been some strong messages from hon. Members of all parties, often tempered by our own experiences in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Nigeria, for example. I will mention Nigeria as well. I co-chair the all-party group on global education for all, and part of that work took me to Nigeria a year ago, focusing on education. We were delighted to see other projects, including in schools in urban and rural settings, near Abuja, the capital, and Lagos. I shall talk about education, although not exclusively.

The second millennium development goal called for all children to be able to complete a full—I emphasise “full”—course of primary education. Yes, there is great cause for celebration in what has been achieved so far, as we have heard, in the past 13 years. None of us, wherever we come from, are under any illusion. There is much work to be done. Some 61 million primary schoolchildren remain out of school and 250 million children are unable to read and write by the time they should be reaching stage 4 at school. If we are to reach the goal, we require another 1.7 million teachers, 1 million in Africa alone. Some 775 million adults are illiterate, two thirds of those being women.

Education is widely recognised as one of the most effective development interventions. Equal access to education for all reduces inequality and poverty and increases empowerment. I was struck by the case for community empowerment made by the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), in terms of business and enterprise and getting community engagement in projects. The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) mentioned community empowerment in schools.

We visited a school-based management committee in Lagos. It was particularly inspiring to see people who have not been engaged in education in any way at all—traders and local people from various backgrounds—

21 Mar 2013 : Column 354WH

coming together on a committee to demand the rights that are enshrined in Nigerian law at federal level, right the way through to provincial level, although often ignored by governors. The school I visited lacked a tin roof and the school-based management committee got together and, by weight of numbers, forced the governor to invest the money that was required. That is real empowerment, and also, critically, it is educating parents about the value of education as well. It is not just about the practicalities.

There is concern as we head towards 2015. As UNESCO reported in its 2012 global monitoring report,

“the world is not on track”

to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Yes, we are right to celebrate, but as the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) said in terms of health, we have to reaffirm our commitment to the simple, clear, concise goals. But the education goal must be at the forefront. Inequalities in education are a huge barrier. We have heard about the gender issues. Although education for girls is being addressed, it still remains a fundamental issue for many countries.

We visited a school in Nigeria with a sound DFID-sponsored scheme, promoting girls’ clubs in schools. Challenges, such as parents being unwilling to send their children to school, and issues to do with sanitation, water supply and hygiene, could be tackled by the girls and talked about with them, in a spirit of solidarity, and sometimes those issues were taken to the schools’ management.

There is a huge disparity in some countries between rich and poor. Globally, in the poorest fifth of households, less than two thirds of all school-aged children enrol in school, compared to 90% of children from the richest families. In Nigeria, there could not be a starker contrast between the rich families who have benefited from Nigeria’s economic prosperity, in some urban areas in particular, and those in rural areas.

[Mr Graham Brady in the Chair]

Children in rural areas who live in informal settlements also face difficulties in accessing education and if they do so it is of poor quality. We heard an encouraging story from the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch about a teacher training college. But when we were there we heard that the majority of children in Nigerian primary schools are being taught by teachers with fewer qualifications than the children aspire to. That was a real worry. I used to be a primary school teacher in this country and it was a joy to go back to a classroom and teach in a Nigerian school, I hope with some experience and knowledge to impart. The teachers were enthusiastic and they have strong teaching unions behind them that are enthusiastic on their behalf, to get proper recognition for the teaching profession. Hearing that some teachers in some states in Nigeria had not been paid for several weeks, if not months, hardly inspires people to enter the teaching profession.

Disabled children and those with learning difficulties in many countries that we are talking about face huge barriers to accessing education. Being disabled more than doubles a child’s chance of never enrolling in school, in some countries, and primary school completion and literacy rates for disabled children are consistently below those of non-disabled children. Certainly, in the

21 Mar 2013 : Column 355WH

schools we visited there was no evidence of differentiation in what was taught, to use teacher speak—what teachers are delivering—or what was learnt and little recognition of the facilities required for children with special educational needs.

What should those goals be and how should we reaffirm them, post 2015? Of course, all countries need urgently to try to achieve MDG 2 by 2015—all children having access to primary education, a basic necessity. The UK plays a key role as a world leader and provides aid for education. Like everybody, whatever our backgrounds, we hon. Members welcome what was said yesterday. We wish the Prime Minister well in the leadership role that he will be pursuing on our behalf.

Some would argue that MDG 2’s scope had too narrow a focus, compared with the education for all girls scheme, agreed in Dakar in 2000. This has led us to focus on access rather than completion; on getting children into primary schools, in particular, rather than keeping them there. We have heard about the transition to secondary school and then on to tertiary education. That needs to be dealt with. The primary education that we are striving to get for each child needs to be completed and needs to be worth completing.

We need to focus on quality as well as quantity and look at provision of teacher training across the board. We must also concentrate on teaching materials. We need more teachers to deliver a better quality of education. It would be fair to characterise most Nigerian education as “chalk and talk,” with someone standing in front of a blackboard and addressing the class. We got rid of that in this country in the 1960s, but whether that was a good thing or a bad thing is for another debate. I am a former teacher, and I would like to think that I was progressive. Chalk and talk does not always get the best results from children, and it needs to be addressed.

As every previous speaker has said, we need to aim for a more interconnected set of goals. We need to recognise that nutrition and hunger affect education. Children must be nourished to concentrate on learning. When I was a teacher, this country debated whether children should have plastic bottles of water on their desk to avoid being dehydrated so that they could concentrate better and gain more from lessons. At the school I visited near Abuja, the bore hole had long since dried up, so there were 600 children with no water supply whatever.

We must ensure that both boys and girls are able to access education, and significant progress has been made on that through MDG 3. Skills and employment have already been mentioned, but fundamentally we need to consider equality so that wealth, location and disability are not an impediment to accessing education.

Measurement of those goals is important. Groups such as Results UK, ADD International and others have called on DFID to ensure either that separate indicators are included in future development goals or that standalone goals are established for things such as disability. The Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) met representatives at an early stage to discuss those matters, which is important.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 356WH

I am conscious of time, and I know that more distinguished speakers than I wish to speak. The hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) talked at the start about political leadership, and he talked about this country using polite muscle and friendly dialogue with other countries. From my Nigerian experience I am conscious that those countries have a responsibility to feed through policies from the centre. Words written on great sheaves of documentation at federal level must permeate through to provincial and village levels with the appropriate resources.

Taxpayers in this country are conscious of where their money is going, where it is being spent and whether it is being utilised properly, so the Government should continue to do everything they can to ensure that the aid directed by this country delivers results on the ground. My simple plea is that the Government reaffirm that “education, education, education” is at the top of the post-2015 agenda.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): Order. Before I call the next speaker, it may be helpful to note that only three hon. Members now wish to participate before the wind-ups begin at 3.56 pm. The time pressure has abated a little, but Members should not feel obliged to fill the available time.

3.2 pm

Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I thank the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) and the Backbench Business Committee for finding time for this debate, which is timely given where we are with the high-level panel.

I start by reflecting on some of the positive stuff that has happened, partly through the millennium development goals. According to the World Bank, the poverty target will be met, with the population share of extremely poor people in developing countries falling from 29% in the baseline year 1990 to 12% in 2015. The target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved water sources has been met, and parity between girls and boys has been achieved in primary education.

In other spheres, life expectancy in Africa has risen by a tenth over the past decade, and there has been remarkable progress on child mortality, which The Economist recently called

“the best story in development”.

That story has barely been recognised. Real income per person has increased by more than 30% over the same period. Secondary school enrolment grew by almost half between 2000 and 2008, and the average number of children per mother is projected to fall from about 5 in 2008 to 3.9 in 2020.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) rightly pointed out that the simplicity and focus of the millennium development goals has been instrumental in helping to forge a shared vision and in mobilising the world around those goals. Obviously, in formulating the next set of objectives, the world collectively needs to learn from that, but I am afraid it will be quite a challenge when we consider all the different bids that people have made for things that should be focused on. Of course, I will add my own bid in a moment.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 357WH

The panel has already made great progress on the key points, such as poverty reduction, inclusive growth and sustainable development. The panel is clearly right that the first objective must be to finish the job on the existing millennium development goals, including on income, poverty, education—my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) talked about education—and health, which the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) addressed in detail. And there is equality for girls and women, which we know is fundamental to so many other things. The new agenda must address the underlying causes of poverty, such as strong institutions and the rule of law, which the panel refers to as

“the building blocks for sustained prosperity”.

In all such discussions the different levels of aspiration are often conflated. At the top level are the ultimate aspirations, such as eradicating acute poverty, getting rid of preventable child and maternal mortality, ensuring personal safety for all and the self-fulfilment and realisation of the potential of entire populations.

A level down are the fundamentals of a good, effective society and economy, which are the things that facilitate those ultimate aspirations. In that group are the creation of liberal democracy, the rule of law, a market economy and social security. A further level down are the deliverable programmes, which build towards those fundamentals of a good, effective society and economy. Those programmes include land reform and agricultural productivity—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford alluded—access to micro-finance, roads and bicycles. There are also the fundamentals of infrastructure, health care and immunisation, and essential goods. Critically, of course, that includes education and entry-level jobs.

In the current millennium development goals, and in most of the material I have seen from NGOs and others—I am not an expert on this, unlike so many of the Select Committee members who are here—those different levels of aspiration get grouped together. People need ideas for where they are going at each level, but in a sense, it is mentally useful to separate the levels and know where the real focal point is. I suggest that the real focal point should be at the middle level—in other words, the essentials of building a good, effective society and economy. When the Prime Minister talks about the golden thread of development, I think he is talking about the middle level. We need to do that in parallel with programmes that are focused on the essentials of life, which are health, education and nutrition.

We are talking about human life, and it is difficult to talk in such terms, but one of the great things about the involvement of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett is that they bring an analytical approach to finding the things on which the limited amount of money we have to spend can have the most effect.

The danger is that, most of the time, debates such as this are between people who agree on the most important aspects of the subject. I am sure that everyone in Westminster Hall today agrees that although charity might begin at home, it certainly does not end there. We have a shared humanity and a moral obligation to the poorest people in the world. However bad things might ever be in Britain, they will not be as bad as they are in Bangladesh or Burundi. The second thing that everyone participating in this debate probably believes is that

21 Mar 2013 : Column 358WH

official development assistance plays a key part in addressing the entrenched problems of poor parts of the world, but it is clearly not true that everyone else believes in those two things, too.

Doubters ask three questions that have to be addressed. First, why do this at all? Secondly, why do it through their taxes? Thirdly, why have this 0.7% target, why now and why should this country be in the lead? There are answers to all of those questions, but if we are to carry people with us through the agenda, they are not questions to which we can assume an answer; we have to take the questions head on.

On the question of why do it at all, to some extent the agenda is just something that we feel, rather than something we can argue, debate or explain. However, we need to spend more time explaining to the public some of the successes in development. In the public street and the pub, the conversation is often about the hopelessness of Africa and the idea that however much money we throw at the problems, things will not materially improve. However, that is clearly not true, given some of the statistics that I and other Members have given. I would also argue—this is perhaps slightly more controversial—that we can tie our explanation a little more to the national interests of this country, the United States, France, Germany, the European Union and all wealthy nations, and I will return to that in a moment.

The second thing someone might say is, “Okay, you’ve persuaded me that we should spend money on helping the poorest people in the world. That’s fine, but go and do that with your own money. Why do it out of general taxation?” Answering that question is a harder sell, not least because the British public are extraordinarily generous off their own bat. We have to explain that official development assistance can do things that private charity cannot, particularly by leveraging what other countries do. From the point of view of the recipient nations, there is also the predictability and long-term nature of such development and aid.

The most fundamental issue, however, is the free rider problem, which we do not talk about enough. If the 0.7% target was working perfectly and everyone was meeting it, it would be precisely the vehicle to help us get around the free rider problem. The free rider problem is this: if I, as a country, spend a load of money helping poor countries to develop their economies and societies, that will benefit the world to some extent, but I will never notice the benefit that I get as a nation; but if everybody does the same, I will get a big benefit. As long as everyone else is pulling their weight, therefore, it is perfectly rational to spend quite a lot of money on overseas development; but if I am going to be the only one spending a lot and nobody else is going to, it is not. That is why I said that if the 0.7% target works well, it is in everybody’s interests. However, we need to demonstrate to the public that even though most countries have not, sadly, reached that target, they are making progress towards it. While it is right for us to be proud of our leadership position and of reaching that target first, some of our constituents would, in many ways, rather prefer that we were joint first and that there was more progress from others.

Meg Hillier: We should be proud of what we have achieved in leading the way. Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that many of our constituents provide

21 Mar 2013 : Column 359WH

a lot of money through remittances, which are often under-counted? Those remittances are very much an example of charity beginning at home.

Damian Hinds: The hon. Lady makes an extremely good point. Another reason why I am particularly proud about Britain being in the lead on this is that it gives our Prime Minister and our Government extra authority in international discussions. That gives this country more influence over what happens in terms of world policy on overseas development.

Key to all this is the need to emphasise the ways in which foreign aid is in our interests too. When I say “our”, I mean not just the United Kingdom, but all wealthy nations, although this happens to be the British Parliament, so we will focus on ourselves. To maintain support for what the Government do on overseas development, at least a subset of the goals focused on after 2015 should talk about the world’s shared interests. Of course it is right that the headline focus must be on the poorest people and the poorest nations, but there is some value in explaining these other issues to people and showing the progress being made on things that will also benefit people in the wealthier parts of the world.

There are four groups of key development deliverables—things that happen as developing nations get somewhat less poor and, eventually, a little richer. Things happen that benefit them, but there is also a direct benefit to the rest of the world. The first area is the most obvious: economic growth, specialisation and trade. As long as those things happen in a properly inclusive way, they will benefit the country itself through rising incomes. However, that also grows the world economy, leading to a higher world GDP and new export markets for countries such as ours.

The proof of that is that, over the past five years, 28% of the growth in UK exports came from countries classed as low and middle-income, excluding countries such as India, large parts of whose population are very poor. Government projections show that, over the next 10 years, today’s major aid recipients will contribute about £3 trillion to the global economy, accounting for 11% of global growth. If we look at a bar chart showing where global growth comes from today compared with in the 1990s, we see that the pattern has changed substantially, from being focused on richer countries in the 1990s to being focused on middle and lower-income countries today. Eventually, of course, low-income countries become middle-income countries and then contribute even more to the world economy.

The second area is population. We talk a lot these days about food security, about oil and energy more generally and about the resulting strains. While a growing world population is only one of the pressures on food—people who move into the middle classes and who have higher incomes tend to demand different sorts of food—the sheer number of people has an obvious effect on the demand for world resources. It is clearly in the interests of all of us that world population is at a sustainable level.

There are obvious ways in which aspects of development programmes directly impact on population, and the accessibility of family planning is one. Less obvious—this relates to child mortality—is the fact that the more

21 Mar 2013 : Column 360WH

likely a mum is to see her children grow into adulthood, the less likely she is to have more children. Another clear, although even more indirect, relationship relates to the fact that, as nations get richer, mothers tend towards having two children in the very long term, and it has been said many times that development is the best contraceptive. Regardless of one’s view of family planning programmes per se, the overall effort on international development contributes to having a sustainable world population.

The third area is self-sufficiency against disasters and in defence. Ultimately, that means countries making fewer emergency calls on the wealthier parts of the world. We hope that those countries will eventually be able to contribute to the security and defence of the world. The fourth area relates to making places safer, with fewer opportunities for radicalisation, less lawlessness and, ultimately, we hope, fewer wars for countries such as ours to have to intervene in.

My argument is that, somewhere in the 2015 goals, the world—this is not just down to our country—should find space to demonstrate to donor nations how the development and progress I have described is in their interests too. I am proud that this country is a world leader on development, and I hope we will remain one. However, we need to carry others with us, so we should see development goals not only as ends in themselves but, in the way we use them and demonstrate progress, as means to those ends.

3.18 pm

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady, and to follow the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), who made some excellent points. In particular, he talked about the fact that support for sustainable development is not just a human imperative, but in our long-term economic interests. This has been a well-informed and wide-ranging debate, and it is a pleasure to take part in it.

This debate reminds me of one we held as recently as October in this same Chamber, when we also discussed the post-2015 agenda. Quite a lot has happened since then. Several Members have mentioned yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor that we will hit our target of 0.7% of national wealth going to overseas development assistance during this coming year—that is what I think he said. The phraseology last year was “from 2013”—

Mr Duncan: This year.

Martin Horwood: The Minister confirms that it is the 2013 calendar year, which is very reassuring. Our original commitment in the coalition agreement was that we would introduce legislation in the first term of this Parliament. Although it is far more important to hit the target than to legislate for it, we should manage in what will now have to be the last two Sessions of this Parliament to put our commitment into legislation. It is a very proud thing to have hit the target. People have challenged me about why the figure is 0.7%, and the hon. Member for East Hampshire made similar points in his speech. It is to some extent an arbitrary figure—there is no denying that; but I think it was chosen because it was an achievable, and therefore realistic, goal for countries to

21 Mar 2013 : Column 361WH

share, but was also ambitious. It pushed the quantum of overseas development assistance beyond what was being achieved 30 or 40 years ago, when the target was set. Most importantly—the hon. Member for East Hampshire made this point too—it was a benchmark. It was something that enabled countries at whatever level to measure and compare each others’ performance. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) made the point that now that we are achieving the benchmark we are beginning to turn the pressure on to those countries that can afford to do it but have not yet.

The final meeting of the high-level panel, in Bali, is imminent and the Secretary of State for International Development will stand in for the Prime Minister. It is perhaps a little disappointing that the Prime Minister will not have made it to all the meetings, but the Secretary of State will do a fine job; she has been a strong supporter of the high-level panel process. The UN General Assembly’s open working group met recently for the first time, and I gather that a high-level event is planned for September. Apparently everything is still in train for a decision in 2015, which we all expect. In the meantime one more initiative requires comment, and although it is not the most significant it is a rather good one: the Secretary of State last month launched a competition in which UK schoolchildren are invited to submit ideas to the Prime Minister; 150 schools have already signed up. I am a little disappointed that I discovered that only while researching for the debate, so perhaps we need to publicise it more widely; but part of the way in which we shall garner support for the 0.7% figure and the development agenda generally is by engaging with young people. The initiative is a good way of going forward.

The original millennium development goals, as many hon. Members have said, have widely been regarded as successful and effective. That is not because every one has been achieved; rather it is because quite a lot of the targets within the MDGs have been achieved by some countries. Also they have helped to highlight some of the failings in development—particularly the way in which conflict has resulted in many fragile states achieving none of the goals. The MDGs have contributed to the amount of direct aid towards social spending, and to the significant rise in spending at national level by developing Governments. That, among other things, has meant that each day 10,000 fewer children under five die than in 1990; 33 million more children go to school than a decade ago; and more than 12 times more people are now getting AIDS treatment than in 2003.

It is true that those changes cannot all be attributed to the millennium development goals, nor, certainly, to aid and overseas development assistance—but then the MDGs were not just about those things. Perhaps I may gently rebuke the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), who is no longer in his place: I do not think that DFID, the United Nations or international agencies—including voluntary ones—that support development have ever really said that aid was all that people should rely on to make progress with development. That has always been about trade, tackling issues such as debt reduction, and encouraging private sector investment and activity and economic growth. A strength of the MDGs was the fact that they related to a wide range of topics.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 362WH

The Secretary of State recently got a little bit of stick from Labour Members for referring to the importance of the private sector in development. I thought that was unfair, because she was not saying that overseas development assistance should be diverted to the private sector; she was simply underlining the importance of the sector. I come from a development agency background, where that has always been understood. The impact of aid is dwarfed by the impact, for good or ill, of the private sector and business decisions. For instance, mining companies’ ability to go into an area and act insensitively, or to wreck the environment and impoverish future generations by not behaving properly, is of massive significance. A good company that does the right thing—British extractive industries have a good record on that generally, although occasionally some companies, such as Vedanta Resources, have been picked up not doing the right thing—helps empowerment and wealth creation. That can be a very positive thing.

The hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) referred earlier to Green Fuels, and the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) raised the question whether biofuels were always a good, sustainable thing to invest in. He was right: if business does the wrong thing in relation to biofuels, that can increase demand for land, leading to more incursions on rain forest, and can damage the environment. Green Fuels is a Gloucestershire company and I know it well; it uses surplus waste cooking oil. That is what it is encouraging in Indonesia. It takes surplus cooking oil from hotels, which would otherwise be poured into watercourses, polluting them, or go to waste; or, possibly worse still, be sold to street vendors to be put into their cooking oil and used for street food. If cooking oil is overused it can be carcinogenic, so Green Fuels is investing in a good, sustainable project in Indonesia. That shows how business, used in the right way, can support development goals.

The wider context includes organisations such as the International Finance Corporation, which has made an enormous contribution to development, leveraging and investing billions in developing countries and paying attention particularly to what it rather euphemistically calls frontier markets. I think that phrase is used in a bid to make them sound exciting and not just dangerous. The idea is to take investment and leverage business in places where at other times investors might fear, slightly, to tread. If there is a plea to be made to the high-level panel about the post-2015 millennium development goals agenda, I would ask that that agenda be inclusive, and spread beyond aid to include the private sector and international agencies such as the IFC.

Some weaknesses in the MDGs have been highlighted. Those include the way in which they hid inequality; the fact that they perhaps neglected issues such as joblessness, which is an acute contributor to poverty; and the fact that they may have missed the very poorest people in some countries. By using averages and country totals they perhaps did not spot some pockets of extreme poverty. That is among the things being discussed at the high-level panel. It has also been suggested that the goals did not, in addressing environmental sustainability, give it the centrality that they could have. When we debated that in October I made a plea for the importance, among all the various issues such as health, education, social justice and disability that might be included in

21 Mar 2013 : Column 363WH

any future set of sustainable development goals, of the central idea that growth and development should come within planetary boundaries. I reiterate that.

We also talked in October about whether the next set of goals should be global and include all countries, not just the poorest, so that some developing countries might have the toughest targets for jobs, agriculture and gender equality, whereas for countries such as ours there would be quite a lesson, and a set of targets to be met, on resource waste and unsustainable consumption. We talked about the ambitiousness of the goals and the idea that, as with the UN framework convention on climate change, they should impose common but differentiated responsibilities, and be sensitive to different countries’ circumstances. DFID’s latest report on the high-level panel’s progress says that it is considering a single post-2015 development agenda, which I assume means bringing together the continuing progress on the MDGs with the new sustainable development goals. If so, that is welcome. It is focused on poverty reduction and inclusive growth, “embedded” in the “principles of sustainable development”—I have never seen anything embedded in a principle before, but there is always a first time. I hope that sustainability will therefore be central to the development process.

DFID also reports a clear focus on eradicating extreme poverty, with a strong human development emphasis, which is obviously welcome. The new framework should also include income, poverty, health, education and equality for girls and women—all welcome as well—although I am again a little concerned that resources and the environment are not included in the list. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me that sustainability in environmental terms will remain central to the process. DFID further reports that the high-level panel has talked about the building blocks being tackled, including strong institutions and the rule of law, and I am sure that is right.

The process, however, should not be simplistically about economic growth, so I will draw attention to three areas that I want the Minister to take on board and comment on, all of which were highlighted by an excellent organisation, Development Initiatives, which is one of the best sources of data and information about development that I have come across. First, responsibility: who is responsible for delivering the goals? That might seem rather obvious, but it has never been spelt out, and the debate about whether the private sector should play a role is relevant here. As I said, the private sector’s role in delivering development is crucial, and international actors such as the IFC and the World Bank should have specific responsibilities in the process, as should national Governments, not only the ones meeting the 0.7% target but the ones that are not yet meeting it; they should be given a responsibility to step up to the plate. People involved in remittances, who are acting privately, as individuals, also play a part, because “private” refers not only to big companies and investors but to private individuals. Some of them are very rich private individuals, the Warren Buffetts and Bill Gateses of this world, who are making a valuable contribution, but Development Initiatives spelt out to me that if we look at the overall resource flows into developing countries, overseas development assistance is only a small part of those flows. ODA is

21 Mar 2013 : Column 364WH

dwarfed by remittances and by foreign direct investment, as well as by debt, which the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) termed better as “finance”. A great deal of the resource going into developing countries is way beyond and above ODA.

My second point, therefore, is that it would be good if resource flows were brought into the framework. We should measure and look at resource flows into developing countries and perhaps consider setting specific development goal targets to do with reducing barriers to things such as foreign direct investment, or limiting or tackling outflows of illicit finance, which is a serious problem for some of the developing countries in the greatest poverty.

My third point is about reporting and measurement, which should be open, transparent and as complete as possible. The way in which data are being used in our information age is enormously advanced. I can look at an app on my iPhone and tell Members that 7% of our energy in this country comes from wind power—as of now, because I have a live app that tells me the exact amount of energy coming from that source. I could look at other sources and know that 2% is coming from the Dutch interconnector and so on. If I can have such information at my fingertips, we ought to be able to look at the development goals and see exactly the flows of resource into a particular developing country—how much from the private sector, how much from ODA—and any mismatches between the levels of poverty and of resource going in. Such imaginative but open and transparent information is important, and organisations such as Oxfam make the point that it increases the power of people on the ground to know how much money should be coming into their country and where it should be spent and to hold individuals accountable for the spending.

In summary, the new sustainable development goals should be global, including all countries. Sustainability is absolutely key, because climate change will ultimately impoverish us all, even in developing countries. The goals should be transparent, and measurement should be as complete and timely as possible. They should include some attention to overall resource flows, and not focus only on development assistance. Above all, who is responsible for delivering the goals should be clear, and we should welcome the private sector into the process while emphasising the specific responsibilities of international agencies, Governments and others, whom we can hold accountable.

3.35 pm

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I too congratulate the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) on securing the debate and giving us the opportunity to consider what should replace the MDGs, which mature in 2015. He has played a central part in development policy ever since Tony Blair made the almost incomprehensible decision to try and run his Government without the hon. Gentleman. Providentially, that has enabled us to benefit from his contribution in this area.

The existing millennium development goals focus primarily but not exclusively on health, education and related matters, and rightly so. The goals have not all been met, but we are undoubtedly much nearer to meeting them than we were when they were established,

21 Mar 2013 : Column 365WH

and very much because they were established. We should not abandon the objectives, which will remain important to ensuring our further progress on those fronts; we should, however, now be looking beyond 2015 to set goals that will help countries to achieve self-sustaining growth, so that they will in the long run be able to finance their own health and education endeavours for the future.

As co-chair of the all-party group on trade out of poverty, I argue for the replacement goals therefore to centre their focus on creation of the opportunities for developing countries, the least developed and poorest in particular, to trade out of poverty. That should be a central focus of the goals, which should apply as much to the developed world, to create those opportunities, as to the developing world, to seize the opportunities as they become available. Aid and debt relief can and have helped to relieve poverty, but only trade can enable countries to leave poverty behind. Virtually all the development success stories, from Korea and China to Mauritius and Vietnam, have involved countries trading out of poverty, orientating their economies towards trade with their neighbours and countries overseas. By contrast, most of the remaining, poorest countries are the least orientated towards trade. The poorest countries contain a fifth of the world’s poor people and of its population, but they only account for one 50th of world trade, so they are hugely under-represented in trade.

By taking advantage of extremely low labour costs, the early starters such as the Chinas or Korea, which decided to develop through trade, were able to break into the markets of developed countries such as those in Europe and America. The late starters, the countries that have not yet taken off, are finding it harder to do so because although they have extremely low labour costs, they are competing not only with the high labour costs of the indigenous population in Europe and America but with the still quite low labour costs of the Chinas and so on, which are now able to deploy a considerable agglomeration of industrial wealth and capacity as well. It is all the more important, therefore, to give priority access to our markets to those from the least developed and poorest countries. The good news is that countries that some people had rather patronisingly written off as being incapable of starting the process of self-sustaining development are doing so. Six of the world’s fastest-growing economies in the past decade are in Africa.

When I started my career or, as my mother still says, when I had a proper job, it was as a development economist working on aid and development programmes in Asia and Africa. I used to get angry with people who assumed that those countries were incapable of development. Everything I saw taught me that people in the poorest countries have the same number of grey cells as those in the richest countries, the same desire to improve the lot of themselves and their families, and the same capacity for enterprise and so on. They started from a different point, but I was sure that, given the opportunity, they would be able to develop. It has taken a long time, but perhaps that is because they did not always have the opportunities they should have had. It is important that we give them those opportunities.

How do we do that, and what should be the components of the targets that the world should set itself post-2015? First, we should aim to have duty-free, quota-free access for goods from not just the least developed countries,

21 Mar 2013 : Column 366WH

but all the low-income countries of the world, to the markets of certainly all OECD countries if not more widely. That should be unconditional. We should not insist that they reciprocate, open their markets and remove all their obstacles and tariffs on our goods. It is for them to make the decision. If they think it appropriate to pursue the free trading route, let them do so; if they want tariffs and protection for infant industries, let them try that. The least bad argument for protection is the infant industry protection rule and we should not deprive them of that opportunity if they want it, but we should open our markets to them.

Most tariffs have come down during my lifetime, but the highest remaining in international trade are those on the sort of goods that the least developed countries are most likely to produce, such as labour-intensive and agricultural products. For example, the average European Union tariff on agricultural products is 14%. On textiles and apparel, it is more than 5%, and those are typically products that countries produce in the first stage of development. On other manufactured goods, the European Union tariff averages less than 2%. Tariffs in Japan are even worse. They are nearly 30% on agricultural products, 9% on textiles and apparel, but less than 0.5% on other manufactured goods. Bizarrely, the tariffs we retain are most discriminating against the sort of products that are most likely to be produced by countries to which we should be giving opportunities to trade out of poverty.

America has some very good policies, but they are narrowly focused on Africa. It levies seven times as much tariff on imports from Bangladesh and Cambodia as it gives to them in aid. It even levies more tariffs on imports from Cambodia and Bangladesh than those from France and the United Kingdom despite the fact that we export six times as much to the United States as those countries. The tariff structure in the world is absurd and it should be the objective of future world development policy to right that wrong.

Whenever I mention such facts in Brussels, EU officials preen themselves and say that we offer tariff-free, quota-free access to Cambodia, Bangladesh and the least developed countries through the Everything but Arms agreement. Fine; good; but we established that agreement at the same time as America established its African Growth and Opportunity Act, since when our imports of apparel and garments have declined slightly and they have increased dramatically in America. America’s imports from those countries were slightly higher than ours, but are now twice as high. Why? Because of the second thing we should focus on: the rules of origin. It is not a sexy subject, but extremely important. Countries that may have no tariffs on imports from least developed countries, none the less have rules of origin saying that goods will be defined as imports only if they have a certain amount of value added. If they are buying textiles from China and converting them into apparel it will not be allowed in tariff-free unless there is some value added.

The Commission for Africa calculated that the very process of complying with those rules of origin, even if they can be complied with, is roughly equivalent to the cost of a 10% tariff. We have created a system that is still hindering the growth of imports from developing countries. As world trade becomes increasingly complex value chains, it is all the more important to liberalise and make more generous the rules of origin that we apply to imports from developing countries.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 367WH

A third area that we must look at closely is export subsidies. To the extent that Europe and other developed countries subsidise their export of agricultural surpluses, they damage developing countries’ potential to trade in agriculture, which in their initial phases they can most readily do. It is scandalous that America spends about $2.5 billion a year subsidising cotton produced by about 25,000 people in the States when it could be more economically imported from countries in west Africa where millions of people directly or indirectly depend on the cotton trade. I hope to go to America one day to persuade them to spend that $2.5 billion on paying off the farmers with lifetime annuities, so that they can move to more productive activities for their own economy while giving opportunities to those in Africa.

An outline agreement was pencilled in during the Doha round, which even the EU had signed up to, to abolish all export subsidies by the then distant target date of 2013. Unfortunately, as the Doha round got more and more mired in the mud, that was withdrawn, but clearly there would be a genuine possibility of reaching agreement if we had the collective world will and the political will to head in that direction, even without reviving the whole Doha round.

The worst barriers facing many developing countries are not imposed by the developed world, onerous and unjustifiable as they are, but by their equally impoverished neighbours. South-south trade barriers are often much higher than north-south barriers. In Africa, exports of agricultural products to neighbours bear a tariff of about 34%, and the tariff is 21% on other products. The reason is easy to understand. Import duty is one of the easiest taxes for a developing country to impose. The oldest tax authority in this country is Customs and Excise, and we used to rely heavily on it. Such duty obviously inhibits the growth of trade, and we should help countries as much as possible to wean themselves off over-reliance on high tariffs by developing domestic and internal revenue sources.

All sorts of obstacles to trade develop between neighbouring countries on the back of high tariffs, such as rent-seeking, corruption, delays at borders and so on. The result has been that whereas 75% of exports from European countries typically go to neighbouring European countries, only 10% or less of exports from African countries go to neighbouring African countries. If we can help southern countries remove the barriers between each other, the scope for growth of trade is enormous. Already south-south trade is growing rapidly, but so far 80% of south-south trade is internal to Asia, 10% to Latin America and only 6% to Africa. The scope for improvement and growth there is enormous.

The final area where we need to refocus our aid and development effort is the way in which the aid budget is deployed. Over the past couple of decades, the proportion of aid that has gone to financing infrastructure and economic development in developing countries has declined by about three quarters. Yet, if they do not have the infrastructure—both physical and institutional—to get exports to market, they are not going to be able to take advantage of opportunities that may open up in neighbouring or more distant markets. It is essential that we help developing countries through a refocusing of a proportion of the aid budget to build up suitable infrastructure.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 368WH

One specific area that we need to look at, because time is running out, is the treatment of medicines. There has been agreement under the TRIPS regime for advantageous access of medicines and drugs to developing countries. It is important that that is perpetuated, so that developing countries have access to the cheapest and, where possible, generically priced medicines, while leaving incentives for the pharmaceutical industry in the developed world to develop patented medicines, primarily getting rewards in their own developed markets.

We also need to look at the availability of trade finance—whether it can be made more accessible and lower cost for those countries. We also need to focus on corruption and rent-seeking, and the extent to which that inhibits trade and development. I hope all those areas will be considered very seriously by those looking at the pattern of development goals that should be set for the future. I know the Prime Minister is very seized by the importance of trade as part of development strategy, as is the Minister who will respond to the debate.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for York Central for giving us an opportunity to raise these very important issues. We look forward to the Front-Bench contributions.

3.53 pm

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I will be as brief as possible so that we can hear from the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley), who I congratulate on securing the debate.

The millennium development goals have provided huge momentum in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing developing countries. As many hon. Members have said, admirable progress has been made. There has been a significant reduction in extreme poverty and infant mortality, and there is access to primary education for children. There are improvements in the living conditions of slum dwellers, as well as major advances in the fight against disease, which was highlighted by the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier).

While progress has been made, most of the current MDGs sadly will not be met. We know that, despite the achievements, inequalities between and within countries have continued to grow. There needs to be renewed focus on inequality as well as poverty, as hon. Members have highlighted. Critically, we need to ensure that we redouble our efforts on tackling issues affecting women, such as violence against women, as has been highlighted by the One Billion Rising campaign, which has cross-party support. We also need to focus on the continued plight of people in conflict-affected and fragile states, as the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) mentioned. There has been a failure to meet the goals in those countries, and it is critical that we focus on them as we move forward to build on the MDGs, if we are to see progress.

I want to highlight some of the points mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for York Central, including the achievements under the previous Labour Government. I am pleased that the current Government have stuck to

21 Mar 2013 : Column 369WH

the 0.7% of GDP commitment, and we support them in increasing the aid budget to that amount. I am glad to hear that the target will be met this year.

My hon. Friend mentioned the important international leadership role played by former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). The current Prime Minister also has an important role to play. My hon. Friend the Member for York Central highlighted the fact that this is a great opportunity for Britain to lead the way, as it has done in the past, and to show the world that we are with developing countries and some of the poorest people in the world through the tough times, as we were in the good economic times when we made great strides to reduce poverty in those countries.

Between 1990 and 2005, the poverty rate fell from 46% to 27%, which represented 400 million people lifted out of extreme poverty. We know that recent economic difficulties have affected people in developing countries, as millions have fallen back below the poverty line. We have an important role to play by continuing our focus and being resolute in working with the international community to ensure that countries do not give in to pressure from sections of the media by reneging on the promise to increase aid to some of the poorest countries in the world.

We face huge challenges, particularly in relation to how economic development is taking place in middle-income countries. As hon. Members have mentioned, such development is, of course, vital to lifting people out of poverty, as we have seen in countries such as China. The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) highlighted the importance of economic trade and growth for lifting people out of poverty but, on its own, that is not enough, as we see in countries such as India. We need to ensure that our aid effort supports the poorest in middle-income countries. We need a clear narrative that is sharply targeting our aid efforts to lift people out of poverty in middle-income countries. We should work with those countries’ Governments, as well as those in the poorest and fragile countries.

I welcome the “Enough food for everyone IF” campaign, which has cross-party support, that highlights the fact that almost 1 billion people still go hungry in the 21st century. That is why it is so important that the international community looks at post-2015 development goals. We need to recognise that much more has to be achieved if we are to protect people in the poorest countries.

We must also address climate change and the need for sustainable development goals. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) and others pointed out, it is important that the sustainable development goals are closely linked to the millennium development goals and that they sit together, because as we look to the future, climate change and development will become ever more interconnected. We need to ensure that the goals are working in sync to address future challenges. Urbanisation is a major issue around the world, and we need to ensure that there is a continued focus on that.

I quickly want to pick up on several points that have been made. Economic opportunities are vital, particularly with regard to jobs and growth, and the point has been made about ensuring that people have opportunities when there is growth. The hon. Member for Stafford highlighted the importance of the private sector. We

21 Mar 2013 : Column 370WH

welcome the private sector’s role in generating self-sufficiency, and trade and job opportunities, but that has to be done transparently. We need to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent appropriately. Just as we would expect transparency in the way in which NGOs spend British taxpayers’ money, we need to ensure that the same happens when we release funding through the private sector. The roles of the private sector and foreign direct investment will be vital, as we see in many countries. Good governance will be critical, and such issues need to be at the centre of debates as we move forward the post-2015 agenda.

Countries such as Brazil highlight important examples of how economic growth has gone hand in hand with social development and Government intervention. We need to ensure that lessons are learned from countries in which poverty alleviation has been achieved alongside economic growth. I hope that that the UK Government will prioritise ensuring that we stand up for social justice and responsible trade and capitalism, and that we take a strong line against companies that are evading or avoiding tax. I welcome the commitment of the Government—and particularly the Prime Minister and the Chancellor—to take action to tackle tax avoidance, and I hope that there will be substantial attempts to change how poor business practices are denying tax revenue to developing countries, as well as our own country. While we welcome the statements that have been made, people will rightly say that they want action, not rhetoric, so I hope that that will happen.

In conclusion—I am sticking to the time that the Minister has informally suggested I should take, and I look forward to hearing his answers—I hope that the post-2015 framework will genuinely be about partnership between developing and developed countries, and between civil society organisations and Government. I also hope that civil society organisations, charities and NGOs will, as they rightly should, play an important role in keeping the pressure up on our Government—as the IF campaign and others are doing—as well as on other international agencies, multilateral agencies and other Governments.

Labour has called for a new social contract without borders. That is rooted in three key elements, one of which is social justice. That is about tackling inequality as well as poverty, and about having a strong focus on human rights. I hope that the Government will emphasise that, not only in developing countries, but at the European level, and through how we practise empowerment, human rights and women’s rights in our country. We have a lot to learn, as well as a lot of expertise to share. In that spirit, I hope that we will work together with our partners in developing countries to come up with a new framework about not only inclusive growth, human rights, empowerment and tackling poverty, but good governance and tackling corruption. That applies not only in developing countries, as we would expect that when we give money to those countries, but to the way in which companies behave. It is also important that there is transparency around how NGOs operate, as is ensuring that power relationships are firmly based on empowering the citizens we seek to help, not the institutions that are meant to help. Sometimes that debate tends to be missed, and there is too often a tendency to do development to people rather than with people. We need to learn that important lesson from our previous experience.

21 Mar 2013 : Column 371WH

I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. We will, of course, support the Government in areas in which we will be able to work together on this important agenda. As my hon. Friend the Member for York Central stated at the start of his speech, this is a unique opportunity for the Prime Minister to lead the way on tackling global poverty and inequality. It is vital that he uses his influence on other international leaders, as his predecessors did, to ensure that we genuinely achieve the aim of ending poverty over the coming decades so that we can, in the years to come, be proud of the fact that both this and the previous Government took the lead in the international community on ending global poverty and inequality.

4.5 pm

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Alan Duncan): I thank the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) for securing the debate. The post-2015 agenda is a priority for the whole of the Government. Ensuring that we have an ambitious, poverty-focused post-2015 agenda is a top priority for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, for all of us in DFID, for much of the House of Commons, and for the development community as a whole. We all welcome parliamentary engagement on the issue.

I have spoken in previous Adjournment debates on this fast-moving agenda, but now is a good time to take up the topic again, because the high-level panel will meet once again next week in Bali. The debate is also timely given the recent inquiry into the post-2015 development agenda by the International Development Committee. The Government’s response to that was published yesterday, in which we welcomed the constructive contribution from the Committee and explained our thinking so far.

Let me start by saying that the post-2015 process should absolutely not be at the expense of continuing to work to deliver the existing MDGs between now and 2015. The UK will continue to lead the way on supporting developing countries to attain those goals. We have seen remarkable progress around the world since 2000. The proportion of people living on $1.25 a day since 1990 has been halved, as has the proportion of people without access to drinking water. Primary school enrolment has increased by 89%. Those are just a few of the successes, but there are many areas in which progress has been weak, such as on maternal mortality and the quality of children’s education. Additionally, more than 1 billion people are still living in extreme poverty. We still have a world in which people die unnecessarily every day. They go without education and go to bed hungry at night. That is why the Government are upholding their commitment to delivering 0.7% of our national income in aid, but that is only part of the answer, and it is in that context that we will look ahead to the period after 2015. We need the new development agenda to reflect the fact that the world has changed greatly since 2000. Indeed, in the period since I last spoke in an Adjournment debate on this subject, a lot has changed. The discussion has moved forward in leaps and bounds, but a lot remains to be agreed.

When we last discussed the post-2015 agenda in such a debate, the ambition for the new framework was not really clear. Would we, for instance, tweak the current

21 Mar 2013 : Column 372WH

MDGs to update and adjust them a bit, or would we revamp the whole framework and address completely new challenges and issues? Now, five months on, let me be clear about the ambition of the high-level panel, which my right hon. friend the Prime Minister co-chairs. The new framework should maintain a resolute focus on eradicating poverty, but to do that, it will not be enough to address human development issues such as health and education. Addressing the symptoms of poverty will also not be enough. We need to address the root causes of poverty, and that means going further than just a tweak to the old framework. Alongside dealing with issues such as education and health, we need to include the building blocks of sustainable prosperity, such as open, accountable governance, jobs—the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) referred to that in detail—and the sustainable use of natural resources, all of which were mentioned in this debate.

Those are all challenging issues, and the discussion about how the global community should work together to achieve the mammoth task of eradicating poverty for ever is full of intellectual and conceptual challenges. Various countries and organisations, such as businesses and civil society, have different views about what our priorities should be and how we should achieve our aims, so let me lay out a few of the core challenges that we will be working to resolve.

One lively topic of debate has been whether a focus on poverty eradication can be married with the need to promote global sustainable development in the post-2015 agenda that we are trying to design, or whether a wider view on sustainable development would dilute the focus on poverty? Should the post-2015 framework tackle issues such as climate change, or should they be separated into a distinct set of goals? In our view, the case for integration is clear. Integrating social, economic and environmental issues in a framework focused on poverty is the only way to make the ending of poverty irreversible. If we do not manage to do that, resource scarcity and environmental degradation have the potential to unpick years of economic progress, so the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole are committed to securing a single set of goals for the period after 2015.

Another conceptual challenge facing us as we look to 2015 is the role for the vital conditions for eradicating poverty and pursuing prosperity. Accountable institutions —we have heard about accountability today—transparent governance, the rule of law and the absence of conflict are just some of the building blocks of sustained prosperity that the Prime Minister calls the “golden thread” of development. Only when people can get a job and a voice can they take control of their own destiny and build a future for themselves that is free from poverty.

Not everyone agrees with the view that I have just outlined, however. Some believe that actively promoting good governance and the rule of law is going too far. They say that those things are sovereign—that no one is entitled to impose them on someone else—and anyway they do not believe that it is possible to quantify or measure something such as the rule of law or an effective judicial system. However, we believe that they can be measured. Indeed, we have done a lot of work on just that, and we are not alone in our belief.

Poor people themselves regularly identify honest and responsive governance as one of their top priorities for

21 Mar 2013 : Column 373WH

the new framework. That is what we seem to be hearing from the MY World global survey that we have been supporting. Fragile, conflict-stricken countries also agree. For instance, Emilia Pires, East Timor’s Minister of Finance, has been vocal on the panel about the need to establish robust institutions as part of tackling conflict and insecurity. Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela’s wife, has been another influential advocate. As the debate continues in the international community, we will be working with partners to make that a priority for the new framework.

Let me talk about “universality”. That is the current buzzword defining the debate, yet various people are giving very different meanings to that word. To some people, universality means that the new framework must reach people regardless of whether they have disabilities, whether they are male or female, whether they live in a city or a village and whether they are old or young, and whatever religion and ethnicity they are. In the MDGs, we said that we would halve poverty, so for some people, universality means that this time we must reach everyone and get to zero poverty—that we must reach the poorest and most marginalised, which is the approach urged on us by the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) and for Hackney South and Shoreditch. It is, in essence, the issue of reach, in as much as the average is an inadequate measure of the depth of progress that we want to see.

However, some people mean that the framework should apply, as they put it, as much in East Anglia as in east Africa. They believe that all targets should apply to all countries, which is something that we have heard about in the debate. It is an interesting suggestion, but what would it mean in practice for the UK? Would targets on getting kids into schools or access to clean water have any meaning here? Perhaps not, although any targets relating to boosting the numbers of women CEOs or MPs might. We probably need to be cautious about losing the focus on eradicating poverty by casting our net too wide and rendering the sharp focus of intended action dangerously meaningless. The framework needs to deal with real fundamentals. Frankly, countries in which only half of all kids go to school, or in which corruption is rife and blocking growth and prosperity, need to be the priorities for a set of global development goals.

Some use the word “universality” to mean that we need firm commitments from donors. We agree with that, which is why the Prime Minister has been using the G8 to deliver a strong message on the obligations of richer countries. However, national Governments in developing countries will also have to act if we are to deliver real results.

Overall, the success of any post-2015 framework will rest on its simplicity. It should be short, compelling and easy to understand. That was the great strength of the millennium development goals. What we cannot have is a long shopping list of issues designed to satisfy everyone. A lot of development issues have been raised during today’s debate and I recognise the importance of many of them, but a new framework with hundreds of goals addressing every single point would be useless. The core challenge ahead of us is how to distil them into a few really fundamental issues. That will mean that not everyone is happy—some people will not see their

21 Mar 2013 : Column 374WH

favoured issues reflected—but we need to aim for our highest common ambition, not the lowest common denominator.

As we know, the Prime Minister, along with the Presidents of Indonesia and Liberia, is a co-chair of the high-level panel on what we will do after 2015. It has met three times and, at the fourth meeting next week, needs to continue to make progress. That meeting will focus on global partnerships, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be demonstrating the clear vision and leadership for which the UK has become known on the panel.

The panel is only the first stage, because UN negotiations will follow, but the panel has a fantastic opportunity to provide leadership at the start of the process and make ambitious proposals, setting a high standard for the UN negotiations that follow. The UK is a well-respected intellectual leader in the field of development, and we will be using our influence and expertise to lead the political and technical debate that is all part of the process.

Transparency is vital for the post-2015 agenda. That is one of the reasons why I welcome today’s discussion. I am glad that it has attracted such widespread interest—from Parliament, NGOs, businesses, local and national Governments and, we hope, through what we have arranged, from our schools as well. Only this morning, the Prime Minister’s special envoy for post-2015 development, Michael Anderson, a senior DFID official, updated the all-party group on the United Nations on the panel’s progress. At this very moment, a seminar is taking place in the House of Lords, bringing together NGOs, academics and parliamentarians to discuss the shape of the agenda that they want to see.

As I said, the voices of poor people themselves must be at the heart of any new framework. That will be crucial to developing a framework that ends poverty, for ever, in our generation. DFID has been supporting a number of initiatives to drive engagement with marginalised groups. One of those is MY World—an online, offline and SMS survey to ask people all over the world what they would like to see reflected in the framework. I expect that many of our constituents will be keen to get involved and will be filling that out online. Today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sent a letter to all MPs that outlines our thoughts and actions so far on the post-2015 agenda. A point it makes forcefully is that women and girls must be included in the framework, which must also include an aim to eliminate violence against women.

I sense that the hon. Member for York Central, who initiated the debate, might want five or 10 minutes to respond, so I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I do not comment on everybody who has spoken, except to canter through some of the points made. We recognise the importance of jobs, but what gives us jobs? A vibrant private sector from the agricultural sector up. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) was right to say that when Lord Howard was leader he committed the Conservative party to 0.7%; he might also wish to reflect on who was the shadow Secretary of State at the time who persuaded him to do that. I note that education is a high priority for the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams).

On the question of population, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) that prosperity is indeed the best contraceptive. Richer

21 Mar 2013 : Column 375WH

countries have lower population growth; it is the poor ones that have exploding populations. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) made a sensible defence of the development potency of the private sector. He is right about accountability and responsibility, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) has been for many years on the potency of trade. It is a pleasure to see such unity among parliamentarians on the issue. I hope that it can be converted to hard and productive work to ensure that Britain can be in the lead in seeking global agreement on how the post-2015 framework for poverty eradication should look.