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Westminster Hall

Thursday 4 July 2013

[Mr Dai Havard in the Chair]

Post-2015 Development Goals

[Relevant documents: Post-2015 Development Goals, Eighth Report of the International Development Committee, Session 2012-13, HC 657, and the Government response, Session 2012-13, HC 1065.]

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

1.30 pm

Sir Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): As you know, Mr Havard, we are having two debates this afternoon: this one, and then one on the Department for International Development’s engagement in Pakistan. They will be approximately equal in length, depending on hon. Members’ contributions.

The Select Committee on International Development took the view that it was important that we engage in the process of the post-2015 development goals, and we took evidence from a fairly wide variety of sources. We reflected first on the achievement of the millennium development goals for 2015, and thereafter on what we needed to take forward. When the MDGs were set up in 2001, they were rather slow in gathering momentum. Some people suggested that they were hatched in a basement of the United Nations, which is probably slightly unfair, but they certainly were not the product of wide consultation. Nevertheless, over time, the MDGs became a definite focus of development policy for the UK and many others. It is interesting that in its annual report, for example, our own DFID would put against the country programmes a series of traffic lights indicating how well a country was doing in relation to those goals. In time, a lot of developing countries took ownership of their responsibility for securing development goals.

However, we must also reflect that the goals were somewhat mixed in their intentions and expression, and slightly different in substance. Although they were helpful in driving the agenda, we clearly were not going to hit them, and many countries—particularly the weakest ones; the ones that the UK is most engaged in—are off course for achieving them. It would be unacceptable to arrive at 2015 and say, “Well, that was an interesting exercise. Here are the overall performance indicators of who got how far towards them,” and have that be the end of it. We recognised that we had to ensure that the job was not left unfinished and that we moved forward. The UN then appointed a high-level panel with our own Prime Minister as a co-chair, which reported a few weeks ago.

The first thing that we were concerned to address, whatever the new process did, was much wider ownership of it through thorough consultation and engagement. I think that we can honestly say that the process has been much more inclusive than the original one. However, we also wanted it to address some of the shortcomings of the original goals, such as the fact that a goal of halving absolute poverty by 2015 could leave the other half of

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people in absolute poverty. Also, if absolute poverty is $2 a day, it is much easier to raise somebody to that level from $1.90 than from $1, so there is a tendency to concentrate on lifting those people just below the margin. Ironically, that means that the poorest of the poor could be left further behind. That did not always happen, but it could be the consequence, and we were anxious to ensure that such unintended consequences were not incorporated into the next round of goals.

It is also important to recall that there are huge inequalities. The question of how well we have done globally on achieving various MDGs can disguise the fact that some countries are nowhere near, whereas countries such as China and India have made the biggest progress and account for the highest proportion of the success. Even within countries, it may be possible to show that targets have been broadly met, yet some communities may have fallen completely behind. Again, we were anxious to ensure that things were much more inclusive in the future and that the disparities within communities were addressed. We also thought that, ultimately, having a livelihood—perhaps a job, but some means of earning a living—is the best way out of poverty, and that that needed to be incorporated into the goals.

In that context, we were pleased that the high-level panel was appointed, and we were extremely pleased that our Prime Minister was given such a prominent role within it. That was testimony to the UK Government’s commitment to development; we will deliver 0.7% of gross national income this year, unlike many countries. The quality and focus of what we do is also highly respected. It is essential that we acknowledge that that has been achieved through strong cross-party support, and this is an achievement of which our country can be justifiably proud.

I make a side comment on the justification for that decision for those who choose to criticise it. Any of us who engage in countries where poverty is severe and endemic understand completely that however difficult our problems in the United Kingdom, they in no way compare with the absolute poverty that exists in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. We should be absolutely clear that as long as we have the capacity to work in partnership to help to lift those people out of absolute poverty, we should be unashamed in our commitment to doing so.

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): Is it not true that if we can help countries to lift themselves out of poverty, particularly through developing businesses that will pay tax as part of the formal sector, we can also benefit from trade opportunities, particularly in countries such as those in Africa?

Sir Malcolm Bruce: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In countries that have lifted themselves out of absolute poverty, whatever role aid has played—one likes to think that delivering health and education infrastructure contributes to that—ultimately it was their own economic uplift, taking people with it, that turned those countries around, although that has not solved all their problems. China still has 200 million people living in absolute poverty, while India has 400 million, but they have lifted huge numbers of people out of poverty, which is a fantastic achievement that has more

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to do with the dynamics of those countries’ economies than with aid, although I contend that aid certainly helped them achieve that, particularly when it was targeted and focused.

Good and valuable as the 2015 MDGs have been, they left many people behind, and in many cases, they did not deliver a clear and identifiable qualitative benefit. For example, the process of enrolling children in primary education says nothing about whether they actually learn anything, and we often found that enrolment did not lead to completion. Even when it did, the quality of the education was so poor in some cases that it was questionable whether much benefit was achieved. Nevertheless, having that driver meant that something was done that would not otherwise have happened. There was variation, because in some cases the quality of education did make a material difference and the children stuck at it.

We were anxious to contribute to the debate about what we should do next. We wanted to say first that we could not arrive at 2015 without moving forward to what happens next, and that the process had to be conducted in such a way that there was ownership around the globe right from the outset. Goals had to be drawn up together, not imposed from above.

Since we published our report, the high-level panel has reported, and I hope that it is appropriate for me to comment on the panel’s report because I hope that it reflects our contribution a little. It is a long report that includes a lot of information, but two specific aspects are the five “transformative shifts” and the 12 proposed goals, which have sub-goals attached. To be absolutely clear, the high-level panel has not sought to finish the job. Its objective was to set the framework and push out ideas about what the principles should be, and the second part of the process will turn that into clear, quantifiable, realistic goals that can take us forward for the next 15 years.

I welcome the five shifts, the first of which is to leave no one behind, which addresses one of the fundamental failings of the 2015 MDGs. The second shift—putting sustainable development at the core of things—which we also recommended, is absolutely essential. The dilemma is that we live in a rich part of the world—a very rich part of the world compared with where the poorest people live—but people in poorer parts of the world aspire to the kind of living standards that we enjoy. If they are to do that in the same way that we did, we are short of the resources of two planets.

We cannot turn around and say to those people, “Thank you very much. We are very rich, and we are sorry, but there are too many of you and you are too far behind. You can no longer have that aspiration.” That would be intolerable—indeed, it would not be accepted—so what we have to say is, “How do we work together to enable you to aspire towards our level of living standards in ways that are compatible with sustaining life on the planet?” It is therefore welcome that sustainable development is involved in one of the five transformative shifts.

A further shift, which is relevant to my hon. Friend’s intervention, is transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth, because ultimately that is fundamental to sustainable poverty elimination. Another shift is to

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build peace, and effective, open and accountable institutions for all. That is not just a pious declaration, because we know that the greatest poverty persists where there is conflict or in post-conflict situations. Ending conflict and moving people out of conflict are absolutely essential if we are to eliminate absolute poverty. The final shift is to forge a new global partnership, which I think means that every country should sign up to the new agenda, including those in the developed world, so that this is not an “us and them” scenario, but a global compact.

From those shifts, the high-level panel has proposed an outline of 12 goals, the first of which is to end poverty. The second is to empower girls and women, and achieve gender equality. As I have said on many platforms, I believe that that is one of the core necessities for poverty reduction and development. In too many poor countries, the exclusion of women, and indeed how they are treated, holds back their entire society. In my Committee’s recent report on violence against women and girls, we make the point that if women are treated as chattels, if they are beaten and mutilated and if they are denied rights to livelihood, legal representation and land, the whole society is denied the benefits of a proper partnership for growth and development. We feel strongly that that is an absolutely central issue.

The third goal is to provide quality education and lifelong learning in recognition of the fact that when primary and secondary systems have failed, people have to be given opportunities as adults. We must ensure that we deliver quality education. The fourth goal is to ensure healthy lives and basic health provision, while the fifth is to ensure food security and good nutrition. Again, a report that the Committee has just published identifies the changing patterns of what is needed if we are not just to feed the world, but to feed the world nutritiously. Too often we find that whole generations are stunted and blighted for life because of their poor diet.

The sixth goal—to achieve universal access to water and sanitation—is a huge challenge, but absolutely essential, while the seventh, which is to secure sustainable energy, has the potential for a great deal of global co-operation. I have already mentioned the aim of the eighth goal, which is to create jobs, sustainable livelihoods and equitable growth. The ninth goal is to manage natural resource assets sustainably, the 10th is to ensure good governance and effective institutions, and the 11th is to ensure stable and peaceful societies. The 12th goal is to create a global enabling environment and catalyse long-term finance. Those goals are just suggestions, because the point is that the process has to continue.

The Committee welcomes the fact that the high-level panel read our report. I am not suggesting that all members of the panel read it, but quite a few of them did. We know that for certain because two participants—or three, if the Prime Minister’s appearance before the Liaison Committee can be counted—gave evidence to us. I certainly hope that the Prime Minister and his advisers read the report, and I am sure that Michael Anderson, the distinguished and experienced civil servant who leads for us on these issues, has done so. We are pleased that a lot of the issues on which we tried to focus appear to have been taken forward, and we will continue to feed into the process.

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There is a danger that setting an objective to eliminate absolute poverty by 2030 would lead to the conclusion that, if we succeed in doing that, it is job done, meaning that aid and development are no longer required. Raising people out of poverty means that they have an income equivalent to $2 a day, which is hardly a dream of untold wealth—we are talking about people who are still extremely poor.

As an aside, because it is exercising the Committee in another inquiry, it is said that countries graduate from low income to middle income at about $1,200 or $1,300 per capita a year, but countries such as the UK are approaching income of $40,000 per capita a year. I am not sure that I would regard a country in which the per capita income is $1,500 or $2,000 a year as anything like a rich country, or one that can solve absolute poverty in its own territory without co-operation and partnership with outside agencies. It seems to me that we can continue to provide such assistance for as long as the need persists.

I am pleased to have had a couple of opportunities to talk to the president of the World Bank, Dr Kim, who has made two things clear: we really must work to try to eliminate absolute poverty; and we should recognise that we need to raise the game beyond that and look to improving living standards way above the basic minimum that defines absolute poverty. He is clear that that means that we must engage with those middle-income countries that may be out of the bottom level of poverty but still have huge pockets of very severe poverty that require global shared responsibility and cannot just be left to be dealt with by the country’s own resources. I am speaking with countries such as India in mind. I think that our Committee will return to that matter over the next few months, and I hope that we will make further recommendations on how the Government should change their relationship with India and countries of a comparable ilk.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to present the Committee’s report to the Chamber, and I hope that we have made a useful contribution on where we think the focus should be. We absolutely support the case for ensuring that we have replacement development goals as soon as possible after 2015—in other words, by no later than 2016—and that those goals are sufficiently developed and refined so as to avoid the pitfalls of the first goals. The goals should enable us to deliver a clear strategy to address the fundamental problems of poverty and hardship over 15 years.

My only plea is regarding whether even 12 goals represents too many. We certainly do not want to have so many targets that people can pick and choose, or lose sight of them. One of the reasons why I like the five fundamental shifts is because, right at the core, they cover several fundamental issues on which we all agree, while the details are slightly more negotiable. In that context, the broad approach of the high-level panel is highly welcome, and we very much look forward to seeing how the process works.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): At the beginning of my right hon. Friend’s speech, I think he said that there has been a lack of progress in a number of the countries with which the UK is most engaged. Will he give us a few details on why that might be the case?

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Sir Malcolm Bruce: It is somewhat due to our decision to concentrate a high proportion of our bilateral aid programmes on countries that have emerged from conflict. The objective analysis shows that countries that have recently been in conflict, or are still in conflict, have the highest rates of poverty and the greatest resistance to poverty reduction, partly because they have dysfunctional Governments, corruption and a lack of law and order. I stress that that does not lead to the conclusion that it is too difficult to go there. We have taken a conscious decision of saying, “It is very difficult, but we will go there. It will be harder, but we believe that our engagement will ultimately help them to get out of this bind.” For example, Professor Paul Collier makes the point that the effects of preventing a war are difficult to quantify. He is clear, however, that the consequences for poverty and hardship of failing to prevent a war will be phenomenal and set back a country for a whole generation, so it is a reverse process.

We have gone to the most difficult places with a view to helping them to get out of conflict situations and to build up their capacity to function. That is difficult, however, because we are talking about countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Afghanistan—those are the countries on our list. I make no apology about saying that it is right that we are there and it is good that we address those problems. We are making progress, but we have to be honest with people, because things are a darn sight more difficult in such countries. We could much more easily spend all our aid in India and China, where we know it would have transformative results, but that would leave the others out of the equation, and that is what we must not do and it is what the post-MDG settlement must not do. Instead, we must say that no one should be in absolute poverty by the end of the next phase in 2030.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Dai Havard (in the Chair): I call Ms Bruce, because you are a member of the Select Committee, I believe.

1.50 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I am indeed, Mr Havard. Thank you for calling me, and I thank our Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), who referred to cross-party work on the issue, which is exemplified on our Committee.

Mr Dai Havard (in the Chair): I wonder whether the Bruce clan are supporting each other.

Fiona Bruce: My support for my Chairman is purely professional. My right hon. Friend touched on the importance of job creation, which the Committee considered a crucial development challenge. Employment was included in the original MDG framework, but it was perhaps not sufficiently prominent and it failed to capture the public’s imagination in a way that people in the poorest and most vulnerable circumstances in developing countries say that it should have done. For them, it is an absolute priority: once they have food, water and, interestingly enough, roads, they really want jobs. They want roads so that they can get access to market.

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Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I apologise for arriving in the Chamber a bit late. On the subject of roads, does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most important things that the Department for International Development is doing in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo is supporting rural road infrastructure? As we saw in, I think, 2011, a road was built to a place that had been cut off for 20 years. Rather than it taking five days for people to get to market, only 60 km of new road meant that they could do so in two hours, which enabled them to bring their produce in, sell it and enjoy their livelihoods.

Fiona Bruce: That is an excellent example of the importance of roads. Another relates to Ethiopia, which the Committee also visited. Roads have been built into areas that were originally little more than bush, and, as a result, a health centre and a school can then be built. There is a degree of “villagisation”, whereby families who had perhaps been eking out a living separately in the bush can come together, form a community and support one another. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: roads are essential.

Jobs, too, are essential. Africa is a young continent, but one where, unless we focus on job creation, we will face an increasing employment challenge for youngsters aged up to 25, as the generations, which are now often in school, develop from childhood. One challenge is that we have focused so much—quite rightly—on primary education: there are now probably millions of children with some form of primary education, but with very limited opportunities for secondary and, certainly, tertiary education.

As we develop the new goals, we must consider how we can provide high-quality, targeted tertiary education, vocational skills and professional training, so that we can ensure that there are the business leaders, the technical skills and the young people to run with the vision of developing industries in their communities. If we do not get those skills and do not focus on developing them, we will miss a massive opportunity to help the people in those communities—young people with massive aspirations—to help themselves.

We should consider how to transport some of our skills and strategic understanding of how to develop business and build technical skills. We have to harness those things and consider also how we can harness the energies of people who have perhaps not thought of being involved in development work before. I cite my personal experience of doing business training in Rwanda; I hope to do the same this summer in Burundi.

I do not have a medical or teaching background, but I have a business background, so I went to do some business training. That showed me that every individual who is interested in supporting the developing world has something to offer—people might be interested in going out there to help to support countries that are, as our Chairman said, far less well off than ours. In further education and business development, we need to consider how people who might have taken early retirement but want to give something back can have the opportunity to do so.

I digress slightly, but may I mention the global poverty action fund? We need to re-examine whether it is focused correctly. A minimum of £250,000 is a huge amount of

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money—for example, an aspiring group of people in this country seeking to help to build a medical or teaching centre may not need to raise such a sum—so will the Minister look at that again? Furthermore, the fund is open for applications for an extremely limited time, often only several weeks—I believe that the current window closes on 9 July, after only a few weeks—but we want to encourage people who might have run businesses in this country to consider applying to the fund to see how they can share skills.

Returning to jobs as a means to end aid dependency, one thing that we need to do is ensure that local authorities in developing countries can maximise any opportunities for inward investment from countries throughout the world. The BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China—are looking to invest in Africa, and we must ensure that, when new factories and developments are built, the indigenous population and their local authorities have an opportunity to benefit. Local councils should be able to negotiate with contractors, developers and industrialists to ensure that the local community benefits properly. Those are sophisticated skills, but the UK can support them and we need to ensure that the new MDGs are focused on them.

We also need to consider a more holistic approach to job creation, ensuring that there is a suitable environment for business development in those countries. Thus, water is necessary not only for the development of individual, family and village life, but for businesses. Water and sanitation are critical, and unless people have access to sanitation they cannot run a decent business. Land title is essential, as is access to finance and the ability to run a business strategically. There is a huge opportunity for us to examine how local authorities in those countries can work with local business people, so that we in turn can support them and maximise the opportunities for local job creation.

We must look at the issue holistically. We start young people here considering jobs and job opportunities between the ages of 12 and 14, before they start to study for their GCSEs, and we need to do the same for children in Africa and other countries, and consider secondary and early-years education to see what education, skills and training can be invested in those young people to link directly into job opportunities in their countries and local communities. We need an holistic approach to job creation and the reduction of aid dependency through new jobs in the developing world.

2 pm

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): It is a pleasure, Mr Havard, to serve under your chairmanship. I want to declare a non-declarable interest. I am chairman of the all-party group on Ethiopia, which keeps me very busy and is extremely rewarding. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) and congratulate him on how he introduced the debate. I pay tribute to him and the Select Committee on their report. I am not a member of the Committee, but I chair the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs so I know how much work goes into inquiries and putting reports together. Select Committee reports are often influential and I have absolutely no doubt that this one will be.

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It is probably fair to say that when I was elected to this place 16 years ago, international development, overseas aid or whatever it was called at the time had a profile largely because of the work of Baroness Chalker, who was Linda Chalker at the time. It is also fair to say that it has taken off during the past 16 years and its profile has increased. I am happy to pay tribute to the work carried out by Tony Blair in that respect, and by Clare Short, who worked with him and with whom I recently shared a platform .

It is a pleasure that the Government, under the Prime Minister’s particular leadership, have taken forward the international development agenda and, as my right hon. Friend said, taken on co-chairmanship of the new panel that is responsible for delivering achievement of the millennium development goals beyond 2015. The issue is talked about throughout the world. It has its own place in Parliaments and is extremely important. The G8 always discusses the matter and I am pleased that it has been recognised as one of the most important issues in the world today. I would put it up there with the environment as the two most important issues facing the world today.

I am pleased that the Government have at last moved us to a figure of 0.7% of GDP on aid, although I am the first to say that it is outcomes rather than what one spends that matters. I have in the past been a little sceptical about setting targets, and the Conservative party went into the last election saying that it would get rid of many targets. They can be manipulated, as my right hon. Friend said—he did not use the word “manipulate”—and may take us down a path that is easy but does not achieve much.

I approve of the setting of millennium development goals because that focuses the Government and the world on what we should start to achieve. The 0.7% figure is a target that we have achieved, but we must measure properly. As my right hon. Friend highlighted, it is easy to make important the things that we can measure while forgetting things that are not easy to measure, but are more important.

No one who has been to Africa—that is the area I focus on most—and seen how people live there can come back and complain about the fact that we are trying to help those people and those countries. It is devastating to see the effect of starvation, disease, poverty and, linked to them, lack of education and health care. People tell me that pensioners in this country suffer fuel poverty—indeed they do and they need help—but our country is rich enough to do both things. A lot of Government spending is wasted, and we could channel more money into helping people such as our own pensioners who often live in fuel poverty, while also helping people who live in third-world countries.

There was an example of that just last week. We spend £11 billion or £11.5 billion in aid, but in one day last week the potential cost of HS2 went up by almost that amount. That is what I mean when I talk about being able to help our own people who need it and people abroad who are dying of diseases and malnutrition. A world of plenty that throws food away as we do should be ashamed of that, and I am pleased that we are, at last, tackling the problem as seriously as we should.

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I support emergency aid and relief, and I have seen examples of such provision being necessary in Ethiopia, where, every year, about 6 million people rely on food donations.

Sir Malcolm Bruce: I commend my hon. Friend on his work as chair of the all-party group on Ethiopia. Does he accept that the crisis that brought the world’s attention to starvation was in Ethiopia more than 25 years ago, and that in more recent years it has had the resources as a result of partnership to tackle its own food problems, partly by building roads and partly through better planning? That is a demonstrable manifestation of how aid works. It works well when Governments have the will and partners have the resources to put it together to make it happen.

Mr Robertson: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was talking to Bob Geldof at the Irish embassy a while ago and when he asked me what got me interested in Ethiopia I said, “You did.” He did an enormous and unbelievable amount of work and if any one person put the issue on the agenda it was him. I should have mentioned him earlier. Some people say that that work set Ethiopia back because it is a wonderful place for tourists to visit but they will not do so because of the poverty—there is probably something in that—but we cannot ignore what goes on there and that people were starving to death. Although things have moved on considerably in Ethiopia, each and every year about 6 million people there still do not have food security and are dependent on assistance. I am certainly in favour of emergency relief and of development aid, which is important in helping countries develop infrastructure, irrigation systems and other things that will help them move towards self-sufficiency over a period of time.

My right hon. Friend is also right to talk about trade and employment, which will enable people to become better off. Over the last few years, each time I have gone to Ethiopia I have noticed renewed confidence in its economy and in business, which appear to have moved on a little since each previous visit. That is encouraging, but I do not want to overstate the situation and an awful lot remains to be done. To move forward properly, Ethiopia must free up its telecoms business, its banking and financial services sector and the ownership of land. An awful lot needs to be done, but there is progress.

Many countries need confidence in democracy and the private sector to enable them to move forward a little quicker, but many of them have brief histories. Ethiopia has a long history of about 2,000 years that we know about, but it does not have a long history of democracy and that is how we must view it in some ways. Everything is relative. We still get elections wrong in this country, even today, so we should not be too judgmental about other countries.

In response to my intervention, my right hon. Friend put his finger on the difficult problem of measuring and chasing certain aspects of progress. Often the poorest people—those who are most desperate—live in the sort of countries that it is difficult to get aid to in one form or another, and where it is difficult to help them towards development, with Somalia being the most obvious example. However, we have to work and do our best—almost by going under the radar—to get aid, assistance and help to people who we do not know or have contact

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with, but who are the most desperate of all. Doing so is difficult, but anything worth doing is never easy. I hope that we will continue trying to help such people and continue trying to work with countries in Africa and the heads of those countries, as we are doing, to take them towards peace. Again, as my Friend the right hon. Member for Gordon said, we cannot measure this, but I hope we can help them to avoid conflict in the first place. That is far better than going in to sort it out, which is not always possible.

I do not want to speak for much longer; I know that another debate is coming up. Again, I congratulate the Members involved on compiling the report. To me, this area is one of the main reasons that I entered politics in the first place. I will be in the House tomorrow, supporting the European Union (Referendum) Bill, and I am a complete free marketeer. I am considered to sit on the right wing of the Conservative party, even though such terms are nonsense, because most people would follow me in what I will say and do tomorrow. However, when it comes to international development, we have a moral duty to do what needs to be done. In addition, we should not forget that the better off we can make countries throughout the world, the more secure that makes this country, and the more opportunities it gives us in this country. From a purely selfish point of view, there is a benefit to what we are doing. To my mind, however, that is not the main reason for doing it; the main reason is that it is humane, and it is the right thing to do.

Mr Dai Havard (in the Chair): Points for effort, Mr Robertson—HS2 and the European referendum all in one speech. Amazing.

2.11 pm

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Havard. You will be glad to hear that I will not speak about HS2—not this week anyway. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), and to be in the same room as him and the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr Duncan). They will not remember this, but I certainly do: they were the two Members of Parliament who interviewed me for the candidates’ list about 12 years ago. They may regret their decision, but I do not.

This is an incredibly important debate, and it is a pleasure that the Minister with responsibility for the millennium development goals and post-2015 MDGs will respond. The goals represent one of the best things to come out of the United Nations and the world community in the past 30 or 40 years. They are probably the most significant thing since the declaration, back in 1970 or 1971 after the Pearson report, that developed countries should aim to give 0.5% of GNI as development assistance. I am glad to say that this country will achieve that for the first time this year.

The MDGs have been important because they have been accessible and achievable. Not all have been achieved, and certainly not in all countries, but many of them have been achieved in some of the countries to which they apply. Without going through them all, I want to

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mention the drastic falls that we have seen, for instance, in malaria, in deaths from malaria, and in maternal and child mortality.

It is important that the post-2015 MDGs build on the success of the MDGs. They should not pretend to be hugely different, and they should learn from areas in which there was not quite so much success.

I shall concentrate on four issues. The first is young people and, particularly, job creation, although my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) spoke eloquently about that, so I shall not spend too long on the subject. It is estimated that 150 million people are unemployed in the world outside the developed countries, and 60 million of those are young. Women are particularly affected, and some 1.49 billion people are in vulnerable employment. I suggest that those are underestimates, frankly, but they are the figures that we have. It is vital that the new post-2015 MDGs take that situation fully into account.

Although there was an MDG concentrating on that issue, it was probably the least successful one. Over the past 10 or 15 years, vast numbers of people have been pulled out of poverty in countries such as China, but that has not been seen as much in other countries that suffer from acute poverty. The main reason was the lack of job creation, which is why we have to concentrate on that. It is all very well to say that some of those countries will now have great opportunities, because mineral wealth or oil and gas are being discovered, but those industries do not create huge numbers of jobs. The key is that revenue from that natural wealth is put into real investment that creates jobs. Agriculture in particular, and especially small-scale agriculture, has a huge role in creating jobs.

Before I talk about the World Bank, I must declare an interest, as I have just been elected chairman of the parliamentary network on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) was once the chairman of that network, and he played a great role in setting it up a few years ago. The World Bank has two goals: first, to eliminate absolute poverty by 2030—by which it means people on $1.25 a day or less—and, secondly, to concentrate on the bottom 40% of the income range. That is vital, because this is all about reducing income inequality while increasing the incomes of those who need the most. That is where employment and job creation comes in and, in that area, we must take account of the role and potential of young people. As Nik Hartley, the chief executive of Restless Development, said:

“We should take the lead in ensuring young people are not bit players but central to the leadership of and governance of the new development framework. They will be the job creators or the unemployed, the new democratic leaders or drivers of revolution and rebellion”.

The task of the present generation is to meet development challenges without compromising the interests of future generations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton mentioned many drivers of job creation, such as land title and access to finance. It is good that DFID is heavily involved in both those areas. I have mentioned this issue before in the House, but I will do so again today, because through an excellent programme in Rwanda, which I believe is coming to an end, DFID financed the creation of title deeds into pretty much every single part

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of the country. There are 10 million individual plots at a cost of about £40 million. It is one of the best development projects I have seen funded by DFID—in fact, it is one of the best of all, so I congratulate the Department. I encourage it to look at other countries in which that particular programme could be rolled out. I am glad to say that the software used was created in the UK and that the implementation was done by a company from the United Kingdom. I know that DFID takes access to finance very seriously and is involved in work on that in many countries throughout the world.

My second point is about maintaining the gains. I am chair of the all-party group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, and we are delighted at the progress that has been made on tackling malaria. Over a decade, the number of deaths has come down from about 1 million a year to probably no more than 600,000 a year through the mass introduction and distribution of long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets, through rapid diagnostic tests, and, of course, through the latest drugs that are based on combination therapies with artemisinin.

However, malaria can rapidly come back if we do not continue to control it, as we are doing, for instance, with indoor residual spray. We saw in Zanzibar in the 1960s that malaria had almost been eliminated, but the foot was taken off the pedal, so within 10 or 20 years, it was a scourge again right across the islands of Unguja and Pemba. We have seen that in other countries as well, including, even more recently, in Zambia, where malaria staged a bit of a comeback two or three years ago. It is therefore vital that we continue programmes tackling malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases. In the case of neglected tropical diseases, the mass drug distribution programmes that have been so successful have been financed by a public-private partnership between the pharmaceutical companies, which have provided the drugs free of charge, and aid agencies, such as DFID together with the Gates Foundation.

That brings me on to my third subject—health systems. We often, and rightly, want to tackle individual diseases, be that polio, pneumonia, malaria, HIV/AIDS or TB, but this is actually often about tackling many of those things together through health systems. On a recent visit to Tanzania, I was delighted to see that rather than there being a silo mentality on individual diseases, that country, with support from DFID through the London school of hygiene and tropical medicine and the Liverpool school of tropical medicine, was taking the approach of working on things together—as a system—to tackle these diseases at once.

Finally, I would like to talk about the environment and environmental sustainability. I understand that there was a great deal of discussion about whether to have separate environmental goals and developmental goals. We in the Committee believed that it was not possible to separate the two. We cannot go for tackling the problems of development but ignore the environment or put it in another box, as the two go together.

Fiona Bruce: I am very much enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech, which I know comes from a great deal of first-hand knowledge. I can offer an example of first-hand understanding of where development has affected a local environment very seriously: the introduction of large-scale fishing in Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The introduction of the Nile perch, and factory farming of

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the fish in Lake Victoria, has resulted in the eradication of smaller fish that all the families living around the shores of the lake ate—and survived on. That has created a difficult sustainability challenge for the whole area.

Jeremy Lefroy: I am most grateful for that intervention, because that point is absolutely true. While we are on the subject of fish, there has also been a problem in recent years of very large trawlers of European Union origin—I will not mention the particular country—coming down the east coast of Africa and, under arrangements agreed by the European Union at the highest level, hoovering up large quantities of fish, but without much benefit going to the individual countries off whose shores they are fishing.

In tackling these vital environmental challenges, we must not overburden developing countries with global environmental issues that they had no real part in causing in the first place. To a large extent, it is up to us to take the lead on that, so I am glad to say that the UK Government are doing so.

It is vital that the four areas that I have set out—there are many others, which I am sure the Minister and the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) will address—are covered by the post-2015 MDGs. They are: job creation, particularly for young people; ensuring that we preserve the gains that have been so painstakingly achieved in the past decade and a half; ensuring the environmental sustainability of those gains, so that we do not achieve short-term gains that cannot be maintained in the long term because they are simply not environmentally sustainable; and the development of health systems. This week, we are proud of the 65th anniversary of our national health service, which has led to great improvements in public and general health in this country. That is the kind of system that we should want to provide such gains in health in developing countries.

2.24 pm

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Havard. I thank the Chair of the International Development Committee, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), for opening the debate and for making, as ever, a powerful speech on the need for our continued commitment to tackling poverty and inequality in developing countries. I welcome his comments on the contribution of successive Governments, particularly the previous Labour Government, and thank him for his contribution and for working with us on this very important issue.

The millennium development goals, when they were established, provided huge momentum in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing developing countries. Admirable progress has been made. Examples of that are the significant reductions in extreme poverty and infant mortality; access to primary education for children; improvements in the living conditions of slum dwellers; and major advances in the fight against disease, including HIV and others. Although we are often restless about the fact that more progress has not been made, it is important to take stock and recognise that the starting point was not a great one. We should be proud of those achievements that have been made, but we should remain

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restless about the setbacks. That is the context in which the Select Committee report has been written—it is vital.

The critical gap in what we are doing—the area where we fall behind—is inequalities between and within countries, which are growing, particularly following the financial crisis, as budgets come under pressure. The brunt of that has been borne, and the pressure has been faced, by some of the most vulnerable people, particularly women and those living in conflict-affected areas, as hon. Members mentioned.

We must ensure that the post-2015 goals respond to the challenges in developing countries that we can observe and predict—those that are already occurring, but which we believe will grow in the decades to come. As the report asserts, the new framework should be ambitious and be aimed at eliminating extreme poverty, but I hope that the high-level panel will also have, as has been referenced already, a strong focus on tackling inequality. As the right hon. Member for Gordon said, we cannot accept that tackling extreme poverty is good enough. In the 21st century, we cannot live in a world where it is acceptable for people to live on just over a few dollars a day or where a few thousand dollars per capita a year gives a country middle-income status.

I therefore hope that the Prime Minister, with the support of his Ministers and coalition partners, will be ambitious and bold in his role, showing international leadership, which is desperately needed at a time of growing challenges and conflicts in many parts of the world, including middle-income countries.

Lessons need to be learned from what we could have done differently in the past. In particular, we need to understand the drivers of conflict, such as injustice and inequality, but also the failure—referred to by the hon. Members for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for Congleton (Fiona Bruce)—to respond to the aspirations of young people who want jobs. They also want skills and not only primary education, but tertiary education, to enable them to make their own contribution to their countries.

We should consider what has happened in the Arab spring. Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme has pointed out that if there had been more understanding and closer measurement of inequality, we might have been better placed to predict that some of those other, earlier conflicts were likely to arise. I hope that we can learn some of the lessons from that.

Jeremy Lefroy: I fully agree with everything that the hon. Lady is saying. Does she agree that it is vital that the post-2015 goals refer to a major role for secondary and tertiary education? The original MDGs concentrated, rightly, on primary education, but we need to move beyond that.

Rushanara Ali: I agree. Of the MDGs, the education goal has the best prospect of being achieved, so it is important that we continue the push to lift people out of poverty and also into secondary and tertiary education, as well as primary. As the hon. Gentleman knows, our previous Prime Minister—I will not name him, because

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everyone knows who he is due to his great contribution to the MDG agenda—has been leading the way on the global campaign for education.

The hon. Gentleman’s point about tertiary and secondary education and skills is critical. We could learn a lot ourselves about investing in young people’s skills, as well as in developing countries. Innovations are coming from developing countries, and we could learn a thing or two from the successes, which could not have happened without investment and the support of our taxpayers over 15 to 20 years. It is critical to continue to help countries and focus on education. In the end, economic development will be driven by decent education and decent opportunities, not to mention other indicators such as health care and so on.

I want to highlight some of the achievements, of which we as a country can be proud, produced by the investment over a couple of decades: 3 million people have been lifted out of poverty. Britain has led the way on debt relief, and people, particularly those in Jubilee 2000, campaigned to ensure that Labour Government had the impetus and the backing to make it happen. Campaigners, international and domestic NGOs, UK community organisations and faith-based organisations are critical not only in applying pressure to our Government and other Governments to ensure that they do not lose sight of what is at stake in failing to continue to work towards achieving the MDGs, but in ensuring that the next round of discussions, as right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned, builds on what we have achieved, and that where there have been setbacks, lessons are learned.

Critically, developing countries should be partners in coming up with goals over the next period, so that they are at the heart of the decision-making process and do not feel that goals are being imposed on them. They and their populations have a far better understanding of how to tackle poverty and reduce inequality. We must be humble in recognising the many national NGOs in developing countries across the world, whether we are talking about the role of technology and innovation in tackling development and health challenges in South Africa, or the role of microfinance, led by Professor Yunus, Fazle Abed and many others, in India, Bangladesh and other countries.

There are innovators and great thinkers and doers in developing countries, who need to be in the driving seat of helping to set the future goals. International leadership is needed not only from western leaders, but from the leaders of developing countries and the emerging economies that increasingly call the shots on some major issues. They can and must play a vital role in tackling poverty and inequality, and in dealing with the major challenge of climate change, which could undermine the achievements of which we are proud, not to mention set back the progress we seek to make through future investments.

I shall briefly focus on some of the challenges we face. The key challenge has been well documented in this and previous reports. We need to think about the fact that there will be more poverty in middle-income countries than in developing countries. The high-level panel needs to put that at the heart of the debate about where we go in future. Any attempt to tackle the challenges of poverty must come up with an approach, a narrative and a response that find a way to get to the poorest in the growing economies of middle-income countries such as India, China and Indonesia, as well as Africa, which is also growing economically.

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Sir Malcolm Bruce: I wholly endorse what the hon. Lady has just said. The International Development Committee is conducting an inquiry on precisely how we can alter the mechanisms by which we deliver. Although it is right to focus on the poorest people in the poorest countries, we should not leave behind equally poor people in less poor countries. That probably requires some change in the DFID model from what we have been doing perfectly correctly over the past 15 years.

Rushanara Ali: I look forward to the next instalment from the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman and his team. We need to settle the question of how we respond to some of the domestic criticisms on giving aid to big emerging economies, such as India, where hundreds of millions of people still face deep poverty. Many other nations are in that position. We need a political response and an approach that explains why such aid matters. We must also look at how the international community brings in nations that are doing well, such as India and China, to be genuine partners in development, so that we can contribute together to tackle poverty in middle-income countries. Only then will we be able to address the political criticisms and critiques that we face in our country—that also happens in other countries—and settle the question of how we should respond to the challenges.

If we do not address poverty in middle-income countries, we will set ourselves up for future problems—and even very wealthy countries have recently faced conflict. It is far better to anticipate difficulties and consider how we might respond as part of the development agenda process, so I hope the Minister will shed more light on her ideas about how we might do that.

In the remaining time, I shall focus on economic growth and development. Right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned the importance of employment, economic growth and the role of the private sector. Opposition Members very much support building self-sufficiency and creating opportunities for people to become independent and be able to look after themselves, which is at the heart of what people want. We need to ensure that the allocation of DFID resources through private sector programmes is transparent and properly monitored, just as we would expect with NGOs, and that public money is not used in an ideological manner. We must look at where the impact is, whether the outcomes are those that we sought—creating opportunity, jobs and economic development—and whether the programmes are pro-poor.

Fiona Bruce: The hon. Lady is right to raise that pertinent point. The Committee is examining different ways to advance funds—not purely through grants, but perhaps repayable loans or joint investments—in ways that ensure that an appropriate return for our taxpayers, which can then be reinvested, is gleaned from the funds invested.

Rushanara Ali: I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, and I hope that the Committee will interrogate the CDC about its role in de-risking investment opportunities for companies, because that is one reason it was set up. Too often, people have been concerned that it replicates what the private sector can do and does not act as much of a catalyst to enable innovative finance to go into

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those countries. I hope, therefore, that that will be looked into, as well as some of the private sector funds that DFID has recently set up. The Opposition want any investments that are made to create genuine economic opportunities and taxpayers’ money to be properly spent.

I have two other points to make. The first is about the impact of conflict on women in particular, and on children. We see all too well that that is another major issue that risks setting back any progress made on development. For example, in the Burmese state of Rakhine, which I visited recently, progress is being made, but the treatment of certain minorities and of women in those groups is setting back progress. We need to ensure that human rights and women’s empowerment are at the heart of development, and I welcome the references made to that by the high-level panel and by the Committee.

Secondly, we need to recognise that world demographics are rapidly changing. Increasing populations, and a growing middle class in India, China, Indonesia and many other countries, present major opportunities, but also pose major challenges due to the pressures on natural resources. As is pointed out in the report, the high-level panel discussion must integrate sustainable development goals into the post-millennium development goals framework. Segmented, siloed approaches will not do for the next phase of what we are trying to achieve and for what we need the international community to work towards addressing.

I have a series of questions to pose to the Minister. In focusing on what happens with the post-2015 goals, what will the Government do to drive home the message of economic opportunity through job creation, apprenticeships and tertiary education?

The Minister will be aware that a major additional support for developing countries is remittance income, which eclipses development aid from the whole world put together. Recent changes, led from the US, are affecting the UK, with banking facilities to remittance companies and money transfer companies being removed by Barclays bank. Therefore, hundreds of billions of pounds are at risk of not getting to developing countries, and the cost of sending that money might increase. In countries such as Somalia, which is a post-conflict state, family members are not getting money into their loved ones’ pockets. We are talking about very poor people who do not receive development aid, and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response on that point.

The UK Government need to work with the US Government, and the high-level panel ought to look at additional income sources going into developing countries. If the route by which the income gets to its destination is damaged, an even greater challenge is posed to international development budgets, in addition to the tasks at hand of reducing poverty, improving health incomes and tackling educational inequalities. What is the Minister going to do about that issue, which will affect hundreds of thousands of people just in the UK, never mind in other countries? I would be happy to brief her after the debate, if she would like that.

I shall conclude, because I am conscious that we have another debate coming up. I very much hope that the post-2015 development goals have an ambitious focus on working with developing countries, NGOs, and local organisations and populations, both here and in developing

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countries. The Opposition believe that we must put social justice, tackling inequality, and promoting human rights and labour standards at the heart of the post-2015 goals. If we do not do that, the international community should not be surprised, for example, that in countries such as Bangladesh we witness more than 1,100 people unnecessarily losing their lives in industrial accidents that could have been prevented had labour standards and human rights standards been properly applied. The high-level panel and the international community must ensure that human rights, labour standards and women’s rights are at the heart of everything that is proposed, alongside the economic and social goals.

I hope that our Government—DFID Ministers working with other Ministers and the Prime Minister—will include the rights framework in those proposals, as well as social justice and inclusive pro-poor economic growth. That would address the points that have been made about creating opportunities and building self-sufficiency and independence in people’s lives, so that over time our assistance will be less necessary. Our assistance will always be necessary when there are humanitarian challenges, but development assistance will be less needed over time if we get our act together and ensure that we genuinely help to lift people out of poverty, and give them the opportunity to generate income, set up businesses and create a way of life that builds self-sufficiency.

That is what people in countries where we provide assistance want. We, as taxpayers, want to ensure that we do not put on our televisions and see images of poverty and inequality—year in, year out. We want results. I hope that is what will be focused on, building on the MDGs and the contributions already made to developing countries by the international community.

2.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Lynne Featherstone): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Havard.

I once again thank the International Development Committee for its report, to which the Government replied on 14 March. I congratulate the Committee on securing a debate on this important topic, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) on an excellent pre-emptor to the high-level panel discussions. We have heard many excellent contributions from Members this afternoon, and I will try to get through as many points as I can, but my time is somewhat limited.

Since the International Development Committee’s report and the Government’s response, we have seen the high-level panel’s report on post-2015 development. I hope that all those who have seen the report will join me in saying that the Prime Minister and the panel have set the bar high for the next two years of discussion. They have laid out a truly ambitious vision for eradicating extreme poverty within a generation, tackling the difficult but necessary issues head on.

I want to take a moment to talk about the high-level panel’s report, because I believe, and the Government believe, that the vision it sets out for what the new agenda might look like marks a step change. I hope that

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the International Development Committee is pleased that many of its recommendations are reflected in the report.

The five transformative shifts that drive the new development framework are key. First and foremost is the commitment to leave no one behind, which goes to the heart of the issue that many Members raised, and to keep faith with the original promise of the millennium development goals and finish the job by eradicating extreme poverty in a generation.

A number of Members raised issues of equity and equality, and there is a commitment to ensuring that every single goal is achieved for everyone, in every social and income group, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, where someone lives, what religion they practise, or whether they are in extreme poverty. That is a radical departure from the previous MDGs, and is the shift that will make the most significant difference, because countries will not score unless they have done hard work for the hardest to reach, the most marginalised, the most difficult and the poorest extremes.

Secondly, the panel called for sustainable development to be at the core of the new framework. Several Members have raised the issue of integrating the millennium development goals with the sustainable development goals. Although the streams are separate—the open working group is working on the sustainable development goals—that second transformative shift will put sustainable development clearly at the core of the new framework.

That recognises the fundamental link between the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainable development. For example, we can deliver food security for all only if there is an efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. It is absolutely clear that we need to bring together the review of the millennium development goals and the Rio+20 follow-up to deliver a single development framework, as the Committee recommended in its report.

Thirdly, we need to transform economies to provide jobs and inclusive growth, which was mentioned by several hon. Members. Clearly, we need to lift people out of poverty through economic development and growth, to unleash the dynamism that gives everyone economic opportunities, and to harness investment and the private sector as the drivers of development. As has been said, we need inclusive and pro-poor growth, and it is important that those things are interwoven. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) raised some concerns about the involvement of organisations and companies, such as CDC or ones in the private sector. It is vital that all who work in or profit from such organisations, share those profits and ensure that everyone benefits from such growth.

Fourthly, although this has been less mentioned in the debate, we need to build peace and to build effective, open and accountable institutions for all. As the Prime Minister has said,

“Freedom from fear, conflict and violence is the most fundamental human right”.

Human rights have been mentioned in the debate. Without accountable Governments, safety, freedom of speech, free political choice, the rule of law and all the elements of good governance and peace, how can we eradicate poverty?

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Fiona Bruce: Will the Minister give way?

Lynne Featherstone: I am really short of time, but I will briefly give way.

Fiona Bruce: We often forget that freedom of belief—freedom of thought and belief, to hold a religion or not to hold any religion—goes alongside freedom of speech. That is not always remembered, but it should be.

Lynne Featherstone: Well, it is remembered by the Government. We hold that dear, and we work closely not just with people in terms of respecting their religions in their countries, but with our own faith groups and faith NGOs throughout the world. We cannot really do development, if we do not work in partnership with the faiths of the countries in which we work. That is the only way forward.

The issues of women, and of women in conflict, have been raised. In relation to providing peace and stability, DFID—the UK Government—have put women and girls right at the heart of all our development work. With respect to lifting families out of poverty, if a woman is empowered with education, has children later, has some power over her own life and has economic empowerment, her children and the community will be better off. As the international champion in the fight against violence against women and girls, our fight is obviously against violence against women—how can we have development when half the population basically cannot go outside their own door?—but there are also campaigns on female genital mutilation, which is a symbol of women’s oppression.

Finally, the panel has called for a new global partnership and has set out the principles of that new partnership and the spirit of co-operation needed between Governments, civil society, businesses, international agencies and people living in poverty themselves to make the post-2015 vision a reality. We have all learned that there is no one answer and that no one body or person can deliver across all the areas that are needed in this world, which we will achieve only through genuine and sincere partnership.

One big jump made by the high-level panel report is its use of illustrative examples of how the transformative shifts could be made into goals themselves. I am obviously biased: I am very keen on the stand-alone gender goal, which I think is imperative. However, there could be goals on poverty, hunger, education, equality, jobs, economic growth, good governance, peace and stability. Hon. Members have spoken compellingly about the importance of all those issues, and I hope they are happy with the concrete, measurable and compelling goals and targets that have been suggested.

The report was a remarkable piece of work. I did not expect it to be as good and succinct as it is. This is the beginning of the process, and the next two years will demand a huge amount of work if we are to bring that seminal piece of work to a concrete conclusion that we can all deliver. As has been said, the early MDGs were phenomenal drivers for good, but they did not always achieve what they set out to do. Like other Members, I have visited schools, including one in Zambia that has 100% attendance, but a 96% failure rate. We have learned from the first MDGs, so I am very hopeful that we will do better with the post-2015 ones.

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I want to highlight three of the Committee’s recommendations that are particularly important. The first is on the rights of women, which I have already touched on. The more times that that can be raised by more bodies, the more capital it will gain until we reach universal agreement that part of, if not all, the answer is the empowerment of women. The second recommendation is that the post-2015 development agenda reflects the needs of the poorest, about which I could not agree more. As has been said, we need to listen to the voices of the poorest, and that is what the high-level panel did. For the first time, from surveys such as the My World survey, and mobiles, the internet and old-fashioned clipboards and pencils, schoolgirls in Rwanda and urban workers in Brazil have all been heard. The third recommendation highlighted the importance of keeping up the hard work, and I absolutely concur with it.

[Mr James Gray in the Chair]

I want to touch on some of the points raised in the debate. I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon that we should take the MDGs as a starting point for the post-2015 goals. He highlighted the important lesson that halving poverty sometimes has the perverse incentive whereby we do not try to reach the very poorest. It is because that is important that the high-level panel has called for disaggregated data for all groups to ensure that the most vulnerable people are not left behind.

My right hon. Friend raised the issue of fragile states. He rightly identified the real issue that countries emerging from, or still in, conflict can be left behind in relation to development. The high-level panel report recognised that conflict plays a critical role in relation to security. It has addressed that through the stand-alone illustrative goal of ensuring stable and peaceful societies, for which targets in the framework include those on violent deaths, access to justice and the behaviour of security forces. The Government will work hard to ensure that that important recommendation is reflected in the final framework.

Several hon. Members raised the issue of young people and mentioned the burgeoning number of young people in some countries. The panel has called for a jobs target with a specific indicator for youth employment.

Secondary and tertiary education has also been raised. We have found from the evidence that the most benefit for economic development comes through primary and lower secondary education, but as countries develop, people need to stay in secondary and tertiary education and, even more importantly, to have jobs at the end, so that those who have been through tertiary education are not left with nothing and with nowhere to go, except to leave those countries that so greatly need them.

Everyone has praised the 0.7% level, about which there is cross-party consensus. My hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) spoke about his experience in Ethiopia. I have felt the same when I have been there. Each time I go, I see that it has opened itself to the world a little more. I also admire its control over its own development, because it has its own best interests at heart. As I have said, growth should be inclusive and pro-poor.

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I could not agree more with my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) when he spoke about strengthening health systems. In the nine months that I have been in post, I have found that if Government public health systems are not there and everyone—whether an NGO, a non-state actor or whoever—does their separate bit, however well-intentioned, it is very piecemeal. It is only with the stability of a national health system, as it were, that services can be combined, as I have seen in the very poor state of Marsabit, where the Government of Kenya have done so in relation to nutrition programmes, vaccination programmes, transition of HIV, and so on.

I am running out of time, but I want to thank my hon. Friend for his kind words about DFID’s work on titles in Rwanda. Land ownership and land titling is hugely important.

Lastly, let me reassure the House that the Government’s commitment to this vital agenda will go on. The agenda, which will shape the UK’s work on development in the coming decades, will continue over the next two years of discussions and negotiations. Thank you, Mr Gray, for the opportunity to speak on this important topic. I thank all Members who have spoken.

Mr James Gray (in the Chair): Order. Before we move on to the next debate on Pakistan, it is perfectly in order for the right hon. Member for Gordon to wind up this debate.

3 pm

Sir Malcolm Bruce: I will be very brief indeed. I thank everybody who has contributed; it has been a good debate. I wish that more people had taken part, because this is a very important issue. I am grateful to the shadow Minister for her constructive and inclusive comments, and that is the way we have to work on this particular agenda. She is right to say that we must explain to those critics in this country why what we are doing is in our national interest as well as—in the words of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson)—our moral responsibility. The high-level panel has made an extremely good start, but there is obviously a process that continues from here.

I say to the Prime Minister what I said to him in the Liaison Committee and in our own evidence that I hope he will maintain ownership of this process, even though the work of the high-level panel has finished. It is absolutely right that he was a co-chair, but we urge him to continue to take an interest in the matter, because his interest will help to drive it to the right conclusions. I thank everyone who has participated, and I thank the Minister for her comments. I can assure the Chamber that we as a Committee will continue, I hope, to feed in useful suggestions based on the evidence that we receive.

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[Relevant documents: Tenth Report of the International Development Committee, Session 2012-13, HC 725, and the Government response, Session 2012-13, HC 325.]

3.1 pm

Sir Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): I think it is fair to say that the International Development Committee was a little bit more controversial in some of our comments and recommendations on Pakistan than we were on post-2015 development goals. The Committee wants to make it clear that we have absolutely no hesitation in asserting the fact that the relationship between Britain and Pakistan is fundamental and indissoluble. It is absolutely essential to both countries as a force of history and a current reality. We have more than 1 million people of Pakistani origin living in the United Kingdom, and we have a shared interest in ensuring that Pakistan is a successful country that manages to overcome the challenges that it faces. Secondly, we want to make it clear that, more than anything else, we believe that the United Kingdom should stand with the poorest people of Pakistan and that our objective is to engage in helping them to achieve a better quality of life. That might mean that we will be a candid friend of Pakistan rather than a sycophantic one.

The population of Pakistan is projected to rise from 180 million to 205 million by 2020, and the simple challenge that the country faces is that population growth is faster than economic growth. One does not have to be a top mathematician to calculate that as the population rises, unless something fundamental changes, the numbers of people in poverty will increase. That is one of the more depressing analyses for our development and aid programme across our bilateral partners.

In that context, the Government have a perfectly understandable ambition to raise the aid programme—the bilateral funding to Pakistan—from £267 million to £446 million by the end of this Parliament. We completely understand that, but we have some grave reservations about doing it if nothing changes, and that was an essential aspect of our report.

Obviously, we looked at the areas in which the Department for International Development was engaged, which were predominantly health, education and governance. In all cases, they were the right areas on which to be focused. Will the Minister update us on some of the specific points regarding those areas about which we raised concerns?

There is a big programme of commitment to improve maternal help, which we support, and it is absolutely essential that that is delivered. Two health support mechanisms are in place. One, the lady health workers, is longer established, while the other, to which DFID has given substantial support, is community midwives. A practical thing we discovered was that where those mechanisms should be complementary and working together, they were operating dysfunctionally as two separate institutions. One reason for that was how people were paid. As we understand it, lady health workers get a flat salary to provide help on maternal health, child health and general health issues, which is what our own community nurses do. Community midwives, on the other hand, are specifically there to support

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women through childbirth. They are paid a much smaller flat rate plus so much per delivery, so that has created two classes of health workers in the same area.

We actually saw a particularly good example of co-operation between a lady health worker and a community midwife, but that had more to do with the fact that they were sisters-in-law than that the system itself was working fundamentally as we would like. I do not know whether the Minister can give us any information about whether that situation has been addressed and improved. I want to make it clear that they are both good basic concepts, but how they were functioning was not serving the interests of the people as well as might have been the case.

Obviously, the biggest part of the Government’s programme is support for education, especially, but not exclusively, in Punjab. It is worth reporting that when we were meeting the then Prime Minister, he spontaneously raised the issue of Malala, who was sadly shot and is now living in this country, before any member of the Committee raised it with him. That incident was an indication to us, and a wake-up call among people in Pakistan, that there really had to be clarity about the right of girls to have an education and the Government’s full-square backing for that principle. None the less, it was satisfying to hear that statement from the Prime Minister, but it does not remove the fact that the challenges are very real. As we know, Malala’s colleague who was shot at the same time has now come to the UK because she says that her ability to pursue her education in Pakistan has been totally compromised.

The scheme in Punjab that we looked at, which has been developed by Michael Barber, is doing extremely good work and is working closely with the Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of the new Prime Minister. The good news is that he is staying in post, because there was some concern that if he moved, that might compromise the relationship. Good relationships that deliver good results are clearly totally satisfactory. The problem is that if the relationship breaks down, there is not the infrastructure to fall back on, so one hopes that that good relationship will continue.

A number of things have been said to us about that programme suggesting some aspects are good, but some questionable. The fundamental objective is to ensure that teachers are appointed on merit, that they turn up and teach, and that their pupils also have an attendance record. Michael Barber has acknowledged that that is the sum total of what has been achieved at this stage, which means that the quality of the education still has a way to go. At one particular school we visited, we were shown a demonstration lesson. When we sat down at the back of the class and flicked through the exercise book, we found that the pages before and after that particular lesson were blank. The lesson had been a show piece; the fundamentals were not there. Clearly, that is a real concern.

Indeed, we have had a follow-up visit from one of our witnesses, Dr Matthew Nelson of the school of oriental and African studies, and he raised further points of concern. He does not deny that appointing teachers on merit is the right objective or that the Chief Minister and his officials entirely buy into it, but he says that there is plenty of evidence that merit is available to be bought, and is being bought on a large scale. He says that it is a good idea to appoint people on merit rather

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than because they have a political connection, and that is absolutely right. The point he makes, however, is that exam marks, which are the test of merit, are subject to endemic corruption; effectively, people can buy exam results and present themselves as having merit when they have absolutely no capacity to be a competent teacher. I will not read them out, but Dr Nelson gives examples of how the process works.

That is obviously a concern, but we recognise that the approach taken by Michael Barber and the commitment of the Chief Minister are real and are having results, although the two of them are probably facing more challenges than they would like. If the Minister can address those challenges now, that would be good; if not, perhaps he can write to us saying what proposals are being taken forward. We should certainly not abandon the programme, but we must make sure that it works effectively and delivers the right results.

The Committee’s concern was not so much that DFID was not tackling the right issues or not approaching things in the right way—I have indicated some of the challenges that need to be overcome—but that an awful lot of development assistance has not achieved substantial results. One slightly disturbing thing we were told was that the education programme being pursued by DFID was quite similar to one pursued by the United States Agency for International Development some years ago. When that programme finished, the benefits fell away completely, and we obviously hope that DFID will find a way of ensuring that that does not happen again.

In our report, the Committee says:

“In the past, donor money has not been spent effectively in Pakistan for a variety of reasons. Corruption is rife in a social order based on patronage and kinship networks. Pakistan’s rich do not pay taxes and exhibit little interest in improving conditions and opportunities for Pakistan’s poor.”

That was the most striking and controversial element of our report, but I certainly stand by it, as I think all members of the Committee do. However, we compiled and published our report during the election in Pakistan—the previous Government had demitted office, and a caretaker Government were in place—and a new Government have now come into office. We therefore hope that they will take these issues as both a challenge and an opportunity to show they mean to take action.

Taxes are not just a matter of morality and justice—I will come back to that—but essential to Pakistan’s survival. If Pakistan cannot raise its tax base from below 10%, it will not be able to support its people by providing the basic services they not only have the right to expect, but absolutely need. No aid programme from outside can make up that shortfall; if Pakistan does not find the resources from within its own, admittedly weak, economy, it will not be able to sustain services—certainly not with the population growth it faces.

The British Government, aid partners and the IMF must look Pakistan’s rulers in the eye and ask them bluntly and frankly why they do not pay taxes in their own country and when they will start doing so. It is completely intolerable that British taxpayers should be funding health and education in Pakistan when the richest people there contribute absolutely nothing towards those services and do not use them, because they buy private education and private health. That is not only a moral issue, but a fundamental issue of financial survival for Pakistan.

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This is the first time in the country’s history that a Government have completed their term and a new democratic Government have been elected to step up and accept their responsibilities. Therefore, unless there is clear evidence of a commitment on the part of Pakistan’s leadership to contribute to their own development agenda, the British Government should not nearly double our aid—there is no suggestion that we should cut it—and make Pakistan the biggest single recipient.

I have seen a series of e-mails. In the past few weeks, the IMF has been engaged in Pakistan. The country is looking for further funding, despite the fact that there is a substantial amount—$10 billion or $12 billion—of surplus deposits in Pakistani banks, which is about equivalent to the loan Pakistan is looking for from the IMF. In other words, there is some sovereign resource available in Pakistan. Again, we are not suggesting that the IMF should not engage, but it should make it absolutely clear that increasing the tax contribution is part and parcel of the package of agreements. I understand that IMF officials have maintained a fairly resolute stance, but I am slightly concerned to hear that the Pakistani Government’s response has been to journey to Saudi Arabia to see whether they can get funding from that source so that they do not have to meet the IMF’s conditions.

That is a sensitive issue, but it must be confronted. It is made somewhat more difficult by what was, on the face of it, not a bad change in the Pakistani Government’s approach to government. The 18th amendment to the constitution devolved the delivery of services to the four provincial governments. I am a believer in devolution, and it is probably better to have local government delivering more services, because it is accountable to the distinctive provinces of Pakistan. However, if the money is not raised at either level, devolution is an abdication of responsibility; it is basically giving the provinces responsibility without the means to deliver services. If a formula is not developed to ensure that the money flows, one can imagine what the consequences are likely to be.

There is a significant number of members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK, so we thought it was important to engage with them. I completely recognise that their perspective of the country they or their parents came from tends to be slightly different from that of the people who live there. However, they also have a clear interest, and many make regular visits and have many connections and family ties. The people we met were outspoken in saying that they could play a much more useful role in ensuring that aid and development spending reached the people it was meant to. Most of them will work with only a limited number of partners they feel they can trust. If anything, members of the diaspora are more outspoken critics of Pakistan than donors or others because, as they say, they see what is happening.

The essence of all this is that Pakistan’s stability is crucial to Pakistan, to the region and to Britain’s substantial interests there. At a time when we are gradually disengaging from Afghanistan militarily, although not in terms of development assistance, we do not need Pakistan to become a bigger problem than Afghanistan. We need to hold on to our shared interest.

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Pakistan must face the reality that unless something changes, India’s GDP per capita is likely to move way ahead its own, and even Afghanistan might move into a better position. We must therefore maintain our engagement—that is not negotiable. The Committee approves fundamentally of the priorities that the British Government have set, but Ministers must try harder to ensure that they get the outcomes they want on health and education. They should be robust in ensuring that our further commitment and increased engagement is matched by an increase in the tax base.

In a sense, we are giving the elite of Pakistan a moral eyeballing and telling them to demonstrate their willingness to participate in the process. The outgoing Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority that it did not believe its Members should pay taxes. I wonder what the British public would think if we passed such a motion here. It is done with a completely innocent face, but the people in question are much richer than any of us—or certainly than most of us—and they stand as political leaders, seeking to lead their country presumably to a better place. I cannot think of any politicians who stand in democratic elections and do not offer at least a vision and prospects. However, for that to happen, they must play their part and be partners with the people—particularly the poor people—of Pakistan.

I want to make one qualification to what I have said, which I think that the Minister will understand. The small number of people in Pakistan who do pay their taxes should not be screwed with an increase so that the people at the other end of the scale need not pay. Nothing should be done, either, to increase the burden on the poorest of the poor. The target is clearly the wealthy elite, who have a contribution to make and must make it.

I do not apologise for dwelling on those issues, because they represent a watershed in our relationship with Pakistan. I want the country to succeed and its people to have the prospects that they want for themselves. I am happy to have met many Pakistanis here and in Pakistan who share that vision, but also share the frustration that for decades they have been stuck in a situation in which their world does not improve, and in which, because of corruption and a lack of commitment and financial base, they do not get the growth, poverty reduction and development that they need and deserve. I am thrilled that the British Government understand the commitment, but I hope that they will agree with the Committee that to get results we need a robust relationship.

3.21 pm

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray, and to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), who as usual has given the speech that we would all want to give, but cannot. I have found the past three years as a member of the Committee, under his chairmanship, to be a delight. I had not been to Pakistan before our visit, and my right hon. Friend led the group expertly; such things are particularly important when one is going to a country such as Pakistan for the first time. We all got back in one piece and in reasonable good humour, which I gather may not always have happened on such visits in the past.

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The visit, as well as being my first, was an eye-opener to the tremendous country that Pakistan is. It is the sixth most populous country in the world, with a population of 180 million—it could go well over 200 million by 2020—nearly 40% of whom are aged 10 to 29. Of course, Pakistan has huge challenges, which it is trying to meet, and we must review its condition in the light of them. One is terrorism. Tens of thousands of ordinary Pakistanis have died in terrorist attacks in the past 10 or 15 years. Members of the International Development Committee must always remember when we visit such countries—I am sure that this applies to the Minister too—that although we may be working with the country’s Government or its members of Parliament, we are working for the people who, day in, day out, suffer terrible problems such as terrorism and the challenges of low income. I remind the House that as many as one in three Pakistanis live on 30p a day, or less; one in 11 children in Pakistan die before their fifth birthday; and half of all the country’s adults—two thirds of its women—are illiterate, with 12 million children out of school. Those are the people for whom the UK’s international development programme is designed. It is true that members of Parliament in Pakistan do not pay their taxes, but ultimately our role under the International Development Act 2002 is to tackle poverty through international development. I am glad to say that that is fundamentally what DFID does through its programmes in Pakistan. We saw some excellent work.

I want first to dwell on positive areas of international development work in Pakistan. Most of that, of course, is carried out by Pakistani citizens; we just support them in that work. It is often forgotten what huge humanitarian challenges Pakistan has faced in the past decade. In 2005 the Kashmir earthquake affected approximately 3.5 million people. In 2008-09, internal displacement affected approximately 3 million people, and the 2010 floods affected 20 million—a third of the population of Britain. Imagine if even that proportion—say, a tenth—of our population, which would be 6 million people, were affected by floods. How would we cope? We find it a struggle to cope with snow on the railway tracks. They had to cope with 20 million people affected by floods. In 2011, as an afterthought, 9 million were also affected by floods, and in 2012, the year when we visited, monsoon floods meant that 3 million people needed external support. Often people grow almost weary of hearing such figures, yet the Pakistan Government at national and regional level must deal with such challenges year in, year out. Ultimately it is the Pakistani people who must deal with them, and I am in awe of how they do so.

Secondly, I want to give what I might call a little vignette—although it would not be a vignette to the people who suffered from the problem in question. The Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, who has been re-elected, impressed us with his grasp of matters. We heard that he had personally undertaken 17 Ministries himself, perhaps showing a lack of confidence in his colleagues. He clearly has tremendous energy and abilities. In 2011, the year before we were in Pakistan, there was an outbreak of dengue fever, which killed 300 people in Lahore alone. He was determined that that should not happen again, and initiated a substantial public health programme, getting rid of standing water to remove the breeding grounds of the flies that carry dengue fever.

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As a result, in 2012, when there was an outbreak, no one died, as far as we know—if they did, the number was very small. A challenge was met and tackled.

Thirdly, I was encouraged—with the caveats that my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon mentioned—about education. Sir Michael Barber, as I believe the Prime Minister mentioned in the House of Commons on Tuesday following his visit to Pakistan, has done excellent work in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa education programmes. We visited a new school, a little like one of our new free schools, which was set up on the voucher system supported by DFID, I am glad to say. The children who attended that school were almost exclusively the children of workers at a nearby brick factory. Indeed, some of them had worked at the brick factory before coming to the school. An enterprising, wonderful Pakistani woman set up the school using the voucher system and was enabling a couple of hundred children to be educated, albeit at a basic level, at low cost in the community, instead of having to provide labour—often, I am afraid, indentured labour—at the local brick factory. That was possibly the most encouraging thing I saw on our visit to Pakistan, and the work of DFID enabled it to happen.

There was therefore a lot to be encouraged about, and to give confidence in the future. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon has also mentioned the things that give us cause for concern. The first is the very low level of tax revenue, at less than 10% of GDP, and the failure of the wealthiest to pay their share—or, even, anything—towards public services. As my right hon. Friend said, they do not use those services, but that is not an excuse. There is also financial mismanagement. We heard about the amount of money that the Pakistan Government have in various funds and bank accounts. Apparently they have not yet adopted the policy of consolidating funds in a few accounts or one account, as is normal in public financial management. As a result, there was not as much grip on the public finances as there might have been. Can the Minister say whether that issue, and indeed the issue of tax revenues, has been raised with the Pakistani Government?

Then, of course, there is the issue of corruption, which comes up time and again. It is something that is very difficult to deal with and to speak of. I hope that the newly elected Government of Pakistan will tackle corruption, because corruption is anathema to development. If a country has a corrupt Government, it will not develop. It might get some form of development, but that development will be wasted, it will be inefficient and the country will not get the kind of development that it needs to bring all its people out of poverty.

In conclusion, our report on Pakistan was an opportunity—certainly for me—to see for the first time a country that faces huge challenges but that also has huge opportunities, and one in which Britain has a vital interest. That interest is not just a strategic one, but much, much more than that. It is a human interest, not only because of the Pakistani diaspora who make such a wonderful contribution to our country—there are well over a million of them in the UK—but because of the 180 million Pakistanis, and rising, who are looking to their Government and to those other Governments, such as the UK’s, who support their Government, to give them the chance to fulfil their talent and to seize the opportunities that a country such as Pakistan must rightfully seize.

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Mr James Gray (in the Chair): While the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) collects his thoughts, I will point out that he has given his apologies in advance to me, having been stuck in the main Chamber proposing his own debate. We have plenty of time, so, rather unusually and despite the fact that he was not here in Westminster Hall for the early part of the debate, I call him to speak.

3.31 pm

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): I am most grateful to you, Mr Gray, for calling me to speak.

I will not trouble the Members here in Westminster Hall with a long peroration about the wise and thoughtful main recommendations made in the report, which I know the Chairman of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), and other members of the Committee will have spoken about. However, there are two particular issues that, as a member of the Committee who participated in the visit to Pakistan—I have moved on from a debate in the main Chamber about another part of the world—I feel very strongly about and that I am glad to have the opportunity to raise.

It is quite clear to me why the UK has such an important development partnership with Pakistan; it is because of our history and because of the need for us to work with the Government of Pakistan to resolve security problems that threaten both Pakistan and neighbouring countries. Integral to that development process is empowering women to get an education, play a full role in society and have their human rights defended.

Shortly before we went to Pakistan, we heard about the dreadful shooting in that country of Malala, a schoolgirl who was shot simply because she had the effrontery to wish to have an education. That event stunned people around the world and, interestingly, changed attitudes in Pakistan considerably. I went with some other members of the Committee—a sub-group—on a field visit to Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where we went to a school. It was a Government girls’ secondary school, where the girls re-enacted a piece of drama, asserting, as a consequence of Malala’s shooting, the right of girls, like boys, to have an education, enter the labour force and have professional standing. It was extremely moving. When I talked to parents and teachers after the performance—there is a parent-teacher association at the school—they were very clear about the fact that the shooting of Malala had to change the nature of politics and society in Pakistan.

Following that visit, it struck me that, although the UK is a major aid donor, we do not always listen enough to the voices of women in the countries where we are working. It also struck me that, at the very least in respect of Pakistan, we ought to establish an advisory panel of women to work with our Department for International Development office to ensure that all our programmes address the women’s dimension of the issues that they aim to address, whether it be education or health care.

When we were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we also met representatives of a number of Pakistani non-governmental organisations, including a quite inspirational woman, Maryam Bibi, who leads a women’s self-help organisation called Khwendo Kor. I have known Maryam Bibi for a

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number of years. She did a postgraduate degree at York university and then returned to the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where women’s rights are often threatened. She has done some remarkable things, such as establishing schools for girls and then standing up to men who threatened to kill her for doing so. She has a very persuasive manner. When we met her on this visit, she told us that she had been running a campaign to try to persuade Pakistani society in these conservative tribal areas to recognise that women should have rights of inheritance. She did that not by demanding those rights as a woman, but by seeking to find male community leaders who would make the argument. She had been talking for many weeks with a mullah, who appeared intellectually persuaded that women should have a right to inherit, but was unwilling to make a statement to that effect in Friday prayers, which was what she was urging him to do. That went on for many weeks and then, eventually, he made the statement. Maryam Bibi asked him what had finally changed his attitude, and he said, “Well, you persuaded me early on, but it took a long time for me to get my will changed, so that my wife could inherit.” He did not want to call on others to do something that he had not done himself.

Maryam is an extraordinary woman. I hope that she is the sort of person that DFID would consider using as an adviser. It is not for me to determine whom DFID selects, but it would be a mistake to think that we can get to the heart of the problems that Pakistani women face without Pakistani women advising us—not only on what the problems are, but on how to tackle them. I hope very much that the Government will consider that.

The second issue in Pakistan that I want to discuss, which struck me like a bolt out of the blue, was the gross—indeed, grotesque—violation of human rights that comes from debt bondage. One of our field trips, involving the whole Committee on this occasion, was to a low-cost private school. Doubtless, there will have been discussion earlier in the debate about the role that those institutions play.

After meeting the head teacher and some of the other teachers as we visited the classrooms, we had the opportunity to meet some parents. Those parents were brick kiln workers. They were very, very low paid and looked down upon by various members of society, and were living on the margins of a city in an area where the state had not deigned to provide a school, which was why a small private initiative had been set up to provide an education of sorts for their children. A state school would not have done any good anyway, because the children also had to work in the brick kiln. Consequently, the private school was arranged so that the children could come rather earlier in the morning than they would to a state school and so they could leave after lunch to do their share of labour in the brick kiln.

Those women told me that every one of them—every one of those parents—was indebted to the brick kiln owner and that debts ranged from 100,000 rupees to 300,000 rupees. Sometimes, they had taken out loans for things such as weddings, but more often because of injury and because they needed medical treatment. The typical earnings for people working in the brick kiln were 350 rupees per week per family—for husband, wife and two children. Those people owed perhaps up to two years’ wages. Such a debt for people on such a low,

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subsistence income is one they will never repay. Indeed, one woman told me that she had inherited her debt from her husband when he died.

Once someone gets into that kind of debt, there is no escape. Those people are illiterate, so even if they wanted to challenge the brick kiln owner over their debt, they would not have the skills to do so. One huge value of providing education for their children is perhaps that, in the next generation, it will be less possible for usurious moneylenders to pull the wool over those people’s eyes.

We raised that problem with the Chief Minister of Punjab. He told us that the law prevents debt bondage. His adviser, Zakia Shahnawaz, said that the intention was to introduce a Bill to establish a minimum wage of 600 rupees and to reinforce the law that ended bonded labour. I hope that that happens; it is desperately needed. If each wife and husband each earned 600 rupees a week, the children would perhaps not need to work in the brick kilns as well and could go to school in the normal way like other children. The debts of those people should be written off. Such debts should not exist in any civilised society anywhere in the world, but for that to happen we need not just UN resolutions and outrage expressed in this Palace of Westminster, but practical action to work with such people—the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low—to give them the ability to go to court to challenge what is being done to them, crushing them and their children.

Although the issue exists not only in Pakistan, I would like a start to be made there with our Government putting together a programme of work to provide a citizens advice service to enable people such as those I have talked about to gain their freedom, which is their birthright, but which they are denied.

3.43 pm

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. Once again, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), the Chair of the International Development Committee, and his team. May I say how moving I found the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley)? Such speeches and the work of the Committee say it all about why we need to continue to speak up for the most vulnerable people in the world and those who are powerless to act. It is a credit to hon. Members on both sides of the House who are passionate advocates of the development, aid and support that go to people in countries such as Pakistan that we continue our resolute support for those nations.

As we all know, and the Select Committee report highlights this, Pakistan is making progress, especially on the political side. It has successfully transitioned from one democratically elected Government to another. Of course there are challenges, but that is still to be welcomed. Now is a unique opportunity to see continued progress and to work with Pakistan to ensure that economic and social development, and the need for stability, are at the forefront of all our minds and interests.

As the report highlights, and as the right hon. Member for Gordon and other hon. Members have said, according to the World Bank, Pakistan saw a decline in poverty levels between 2008 and 2010 from just under 35% to

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17.2%, which is obviously welcome. That represents progress, but there are still major concerns. The testimony of my hon. Friend the Member for York Central about the effects on the very poor, particularly women, sums it up. Some 12 million children are still out of school, which is the second highest population in the world. Pakistan also has one of the lowest levels of female participation in the labour market. Some 12,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth each year, which is completely scandalous in a country that could be doing more.

The right hon. Member for Gordon talked out the failure of the wealthiest in Pakistan to make a contribution through taxation to build their own nation, and that issue needs to be raised constantly. Addressing it should, rightly, be a challenge to those people as we challenge ourselves to continue to support countries such as Pakistan. There is mutual responsibility.

As hon. Members are well aware, Pakistan also faces environmental challenges. Humanitarian disasters in 2005, in Kashmir, and in 2010 have cost billions, displaced some 20 million people and undermined economic growth. We need to build resilience through our efforts to ensure that there is proper adaptation and preparation so that any such future disasters will not cause as much chaos and disruption.

The report makes a good point about the demographic challenge. There are threats from security challenges arising from counter-terrorism and the long conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan. There are major questions about what will happen following withdrawal from Afghanistan, and about its relationship with Pakistan.

I welcome the points in the report about the role of the British Pakistani community. As we all know, the community has more than 1 million people who can channel significant influence and resources to their country of origin through trade and investment, and who have insights and knowledge that could be shared by our Government to play a more constructive and positive role than they have been allowed to do. Similar practices could happen with other communities in the UK.

As I said in the previous debate, such communities make a massive contribution through remittances. In the case of Pakistan, £627 million was sent in 2010 alone. That significant amount of assistance goes directly to families to supplement the very small amount of money that they have, even with international aid efforts. We must ensure that any change to what banks do does not undermine that effort, because that would force millions of people in countries such as Pakistan into poverty.

The challenges for Pakistan on corruption and tax collection have been well described. The Opposition feel strongly that we must look into building strong mechanisms through budget support. Support for tax authorities will be critical. I hope that the Minister will respond to some of the points made about specific measures to build a sustainable process for taxation and revenue, and to prevent avoidance and evasion. Our efforts must be conditional on effective governance, as that is what our taxpayers expect from us.

We talked a lot in the previous debate about the need to improve health and education, and Pakistan is a case in point. As hon. Members including my hon. Friend

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the Member for York Central mentioned, the major challenge for a country such as Pakistan is protecting the needs of women and minorities. Pakistan’s human rights challenge is massive. The treatment of particular groups, notably women, and incidents such as the high-profile case of Malala Yousafzai, who sought her basic right to an education, are unacceptable. They also do not speak for Pakistan’s proud history as a nation. Women played a formative role in the anti-colonial movements of 1947 and subsequently, and Pakistan has human rights lawyers—strong feminists and powerful women—who are working hard to ensure that their country is not hijacked by a small minority of extremists. We must shore up those women and the male human rights activists who are speaking up for all the population of their country, including minorities such as Christians and Hindus.

The British Pakistani community has a critical role to play in supporting Pakistan and working with our Government to ensure that Pakistan can be a beacon of economic and social development, and that it can stand up for human rights, democracy and the things that people fought for when seeking independence from colonial rule. People in Pakistan, like those in the rest of south Asia, have a proud history that needs to be tapped into. I believe that Britain, with its unique yet often troubling historical role, has a part to play by being a critical friend and supporter of Pakistan as it progresses towards further development.

Jeremy Lefroy: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Rushanara Ali: I know that the Minister wants us to press on, but I will, quickly.

Jeremy Lefroy: I am most grateful and I shall be brief. The hon. Lady makes an extremely powerful point about the importance of protecting minorities. I come from Huguenot stock, and at one point the Huguenots were minorities in this country. She will know about the huge contribution that minorities make to a country’s economic development, and that a country that does not cherish its minorities is shooting itself in the foot.

Rushanara Ali: I could not agree more. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my constituency is the home of the Huguenot population that came to Britain, which has a proud history. Perhaps he will go to the Huguenot festival—or perhaps he has. I am pleased to have discovered that connection.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the role of minorities. The British Pakistani community and minorities make a vital contribution to this country. We have our own challenges, as we saw with the backlash following the terrible murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

We must constantly work to protect minorities in this country, Pakistan and other parts of the world, and that is why we must ensure that in the post-millennium development goals discussions on the high-level panel, we all place human rights, and the rights of women and minorities, at the heart of debates about the future of development. If we do not, all our efforts and attempts to invest will be undermined.

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I hope that the Government take this issue seriously. I worry that they do not always feel at ease with the language of empowerment and rights. I hope that when the testimonies are heard and explored, and considered alongside the risks to development when there is not a proper rights and empowerment agenda—a genuine one, as opposed to rhetoric—people will make a stronger case for putting human rights at the heart of the development agenda, rather than treating it as an add-on. I have faith that the Minister will push his Prime Minister to do so in his role in the high-level panel. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) made the case clearly that the issue of minority rights affects all societies, especially societies coping with massive development, economic and security challenges.

I conclude with two additional points. Pakistan is the country with the fourth highest number of deaths of children under five. Additionally, in the UN’s report on the global gender gap, Pakistan ranks 133rd out of 135, so it is very much at the bottom, although there is no reason why it should be there. Pakistan has incredible people, and especially women, who could be in the driving seat to advance the cause against those issues that affect women so badly and hold its society back.

We support the report and tireless work of the members of the International Development Committee. Its timely report comes at an opportune moment, given the new Government in Pakistan. As aid budgets increase, we must ensure that our investment in Pakistan genuinely supports those in need, helps to build people’s resilience, protects them from exploitation and abuse, and creates hope and opportunity in a country that could be at the heart of economic and social development in Asia.

Given the huge markets and economic opportunities in China, India, Indonesia and across the region, and the economic growth to which we can only aspire, Pakistan has a unique opportunity to advance and to lift millions of people out of poverty, but that requires leadership, support from us and the international community, and a genuine focus on tackling corruption and the other issues raised in the report. It also involves ensuring that the public interest is put at the heart of Pakistan’s development, not the interest of an elite minority, some of whom do not even bother to pay their taxes.

4 pm

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Alan Duncan): DFID warmly welcomes the Committee’s report on Pakistan. It has made some helpful recommendations, and I am pleased to say that, as our reply makes clear, we agree with pretty much all of them.

As the Committee recognises, the need for our development support is clear. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, with an estimated population of 180 million, and it is growing fast. The population is likely to increase by half as much again by 2050. One in three Pakistanis live on 30p a day or less, and as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) has just made clear, one in 11 children die before their fifth birthday. Half of all adults and two thirds of women are illiterate, and 12 million children are out of school. Internal instability and sectarian violence have seen more than 30,000 Pakistani civilians killed since 2001, with many more left injured.

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Those enormous challenges are not entirely insurmountable, and there is some reason to be optimistic for the future. Pakistan has just witnessed historic elections, which mark the first time a democratically elected civilian Government in Pakistan have served their full term and then handed over to another through credible elections. In the face of sustained extremist violence, the people sent a clear message that they expected change. They wanted improved security, better services, more jobs and better economic prospects. Both federal and provincial government have made ambitious commitments to deliver against those expectations.

The UK’s development programme is well placed to help. Since the Government made the decision to increase support to Pakistan in 2010, UK aid has helped 1.9 million children in school, provided cash transfers to more than 2.5 million people and provided life-saving support to millions of people during the devastating floods in 2010 and 2011. Ultimately, though, only the Government of Pakistan have the responsibility and wherewithal to solve Pakistan’s problems.

As the Committee set out, our development support must be dependent on policy reform that fosters increased economic and social development. That is why UK development programmes with the Government of Pakistan proceed only on the condition: that the Government of Pakistan provide the bulk of the funding and commit to increase their spending; that they deliver on agreed results and reforms; and that UK public money is protected from corruption. Those benchmarks are at the heart of all our joint programmes with both the federal and provincial government.

I think that approach is working. Through our education programme, we have helped the government of Punjab appoint 81,000 new teachers based on their ability to teach, not on their connections. Measures to increase both student and teacher attendance have led to 1 million more children and 35,000 more teachers attending school every day. We have helped the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province adopt new budgeting procedures, which have reduced the cost of building a classroom by more than 40%. I appreciate what the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) says about merit, attendance and standards overall. If he would like more information on the detail of what we are doing, we would of course be very pleased to oblige.

At national level, we have helped to generate significant increases and improvements in the Government’s income support programme, which is a financial safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable. The new Government have announced a 25% increase in the programme’s budget, which is a commitment of almost £500 million in the coming year. The risk of corruption has also been reduced—thus trying to ensure that the programme reaches those who need it most. Over the coming months, we will hold formal talks with the new federal and provincial governments as soon as we can to agree joint priorities. Central to those discussions will be economic reform, particularly on tax.

The Committee urged us to do all we can to encourage an increase in tax revenue, which is exactly what we are doing. We agree that, without more revenue, the Pakistani Government cannot meet the needs of their growing population. We have had initial discussions with the new Government on tax issues at both ministerial and

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official level, and we are clear on what needs to happen. Pakistan has one of the lowest tax takes in the world, which has to change.

Early signs from the new Government are positive. In their recent budget, they committed to increase their tax-to-GDP ratio, which is currently less than 10%, to 15% by 2018, and they took some initial steps towards that. I assure hon. Members that our Prime Minister raised that matter forcefully during his visit to Pakistan last week. We are already providing advice on how they can deliver that commitment, and we will continue to push for early, bold action, starting from the top. The richest must pay their fair share. Our Prime Minister had positive conversations with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on that issue during his visit, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has also raised it in her early discussions.

As the Committee recommended, we are actively engaged with the IMF and other international finance institutions to ensure that any future IMF support is predicated on meaningful economic reforms, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) said, must include a firm grip on public finances. As negotiations with the IMF proceed, we are exploring how best the UK can provide assistance alongside other international partners. That includes considering the possibility of offering Pakistan expertise and advice from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, but we are clear that co-ordinated action through an IMF programme, rather than individual donors setting their own reform conditions, offers the best long-term prospect for securing reform.

It is absolutely essential that the new Government take steps to address corruption, because corruption limits economic growth and erodes confidence in the state. Our governance work already focuses on such corruption. In Punjab, for example, we are supporting the Government to curb low-level corruption by officials, and to improve service delivery as a result. Every day, 30,000 people are providing feedback on government services, via their mobile phones for instance, and action is being taken against those accused of corruption. We look forward to discussing what more we can do with the new Government as they develop their own priorities in that area.

Central to addressing corruption is effective governance that ensures the rule of law and empowers citizens—what our Prime Minister calls the “golden thread.” The Committee suggests that that is lacking in governance work, and I want to make it clear that it runs through our portfolio. Our new sub-national governance programmes will operate across two provinces and benefit more than 7.5 million people, thereby improving the ability of government to deliver key services, including security and justice. Now the new Government are in place, we will review our approach with them to identify opportunities where more can be done.

We are supporting civil society to ensure it is able to hold the Government to account and to demand change, most recently through our support for the elections, which helped to increase voter turnout significantly and to provide election monitoring. As the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) mentioned, supporting women will also remain, and must remain, a fundamental element of our work. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. To improve

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our efforts, we will take up the Committee’s recommendation to establish a gender advisory group, and will look to include Pakistan in the wider girls and women advisory group being established by DFID.

The right hon. Member for Gordon mentioned the health sector. In recent years, service provision has changed significantly through the devolution of responsibilities from federal to provincial government, as both the Committee and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact have noted. In response to that change, we have significantly redesigned our support for health. Let me assure the House that the redesign has addressed the concerns expressed by ICAI and the Committee, and has taken on board the lessons from the previous federal approach. DFID’s new provincial health and nutrition programme supports local governments to manage both community midwives and lady health workers, so ensuring that their remits are complementary. Our funding will also only be provided when there is clear evidence that results are being achieved. In a period of substantial political change, we will continue to review and adapt our programmes, in the light of the new Government’s priorities and the reforms that they implement.

I have taken on board the impassioned plea made by the hon. Member for York Central for the need to address the scourge of debt bondage among Pakistan’s helpless and ultra-impoverished people. Similarly, I have taken on board the important comment made by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow about empowerment, especially of women and girls—something that is always incorporated from the start in our programmes, not only in Pakistan but elsewhere.

To summarise, at last count DFID and the Government agreed with 16 out of the 17 recommendations made by the Committee, and we only partially disagreed with the 17th. We also agree that UK development support must be predicated on the commitment of the Pakistani authorities to implement policy changes that will foster economic and social development. I am pleased to see that the new federal and provincial governments have already made positive commitments to deliver economic, tax and social sector reforms. They have a real opportunity to set Pakistan on a path towards stability and prosperity.

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We will continue to do all we can to ensure that they take decisions that will lead to a brighter future for their people.

4.11 pm

Sir Malcolm Bruce: I thank the Minister for a succinct and positive response to the debate, which shed a clear light on the Government’s determination to take the opportunity to turn things around. It is important that the new, democratically elected Government—the first to secure the transition—have the responsibility and an opportunity to make the changes. My only caution is that, while I welcome their commitment to increase the tax take to 15%, such commitments have been made in the past and not delivered. We clearly need positive measures for that to happen.

I completely agree with the Minister that the most effective way to achieve things is through donor co-ordination, because all the donors working together and singing from the same hymn sheet is more likely to get a co-ordinated response. I welcome what he said about bringing together lady health workers and community midwives, which seems to be something that could be done, so it is great to hear that it is being done. We can do it ourselves as well, but I hope that the Minister will convey to Sir Michael Barber that he is doing an excellent job of work, although there are some concerns about merit meaning what it says—perhaps something could be done about that.

Overall, we want to share with the people of Pakistan an absolutely joint commitment saying that they deserve a future that is a lot better than the recent past. We have to ensure that the aid community can find the partners—partners in Pakistan—to achieve that. As the Minister rightly says, without a functioning partner outside agencies ultimately cannot deliver. The reason why we put the caveat that we did in the report is that, willing as we may be to support the poor people of Pakistan, the effort will only work if their leaders want it to work and are prepared to work with us. I am, however, encouraged by what the Minister has had to say. I hope that the next few months in particular will see some positive progress in that direction.

Question put and agreed to.

4.13 pm

Sitting adjourned.