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Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I agree with everything that the Secretary of State has said, something that I cannot always say, and I congratulate her on her speech. Will she say something about the need to encourage greater charitable giving in the west? I know that progress has been made with the gift aid scheme and other measures. There is a limit to what the taxpayer in the developed world will pay, yet we would all like to spend much more on international development.
Clare Short: People in this country are very generous. That is also true of the USA, which is not always as governmentally committed to development and often thinks, perhaps because it is such a big country, that it can secure all that it needs unilaterally. In the United Kingdom, people provide £400 million a year to development NGOs and the taxpayer tops that up with another £195 million or so a year. Dues paid into the international system have come to just over £3 billion this year, and at 0.7 per cent. of GDP, that figure would be roughly £7 billion.
People are generous when it comes to charitable giving, but we also want to make a contribution to countries, and there are some things that charities cannot do. Some countries have rotten financial systems and need better management of their public finances. A charity cannot put that right. We are working to educate public opinion in this country; there is no question that people, especially the young, who will inherit the future, care about the poor of the world. However, when asked what can be done, they say "Give to charity." That is honourable and I admire it, but we need to call for fairer trade rules and international environment agreements along with stronger UN peacekeeping capacity so that citizens can use their democratic power to achieve the conditions necessary to make the progress that we want to see.
I have three final points. First, it is increasingly clear that no matter what one's economic, political or geographic perspective, in a globalising world, eliminating poverty is more important than ever. We live in a world in which great wealth and great squalor exist side by side. The immorality of that is clear, but in a globalising world we also need to focus more actively on poverty elimination to secure future stability and prosperity for all. The dangers for the future are environmental degradation, conflict and diseases for which we have no cure, such as HIV/AIDS and multi-drug-resistant TB. Some 20 per cent. of the population in our neighbouring continent, Africa, live under conditions of conflict. That causes enormous suffering. Refugee movement is a barrier to development, and the issue of asylum seekers will affect Europe.
This is about our safety and more justice in the world. It is a priority; we know what to do. We live in a time of unprecedented knowledge, technology and capital. We know the conditions that produce development; we must be intelligent in applying them more broadly and collaborating internationally. In that way, we can make massive progress.
Secondly, we are living in a time of profound change. There is intellectual and political mind-lag in the world. Some institutions are attending to the agenda of 50 years ago. We must move our political institutions and thinking forward so that these issues are regarded as a priority for the safety of the future. We must do everything that we can to get more people to involve more people. The White Paper is designed to help in that way.
Finally, I believe that there is more cynicism and negativism in the media and in much political commentary than there has been in my lifetime. Everyone is supposed to have an ulterior motive. There is no room for decent and honest disagreement--we must all carp and sneer. I do not like that--it is not a pleasant way of proceeding politically, and it is also dangerous. We could achieve massive historical change, but for that, people need to work together and believe that it is possible to collaborate. If cynicism takes over, we will not achieve that.
This is a wonderful role for Britain; we can make an important contribution to the world. However, people must raise their sights to see where the need is and what is possible. If they work together to achieve that, we could have a world in which the extremes of poverty that existed in this country in the 1850s have gone from the world. Every child would be educated, and the world would be safer and more decent. All of us who have been able to contribute to that in any way can be proud of our part in political life.
Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): I am very glad to follow the Secretary of State. I hope to make a speech in a similar vein. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), I agree with everything that the right hon. Lady said--to my concern and, probably, her distress. The silent one on our Front Bench is now scribbling furiously in a little blue book.
I share the Secretary of State's vision about the contribution that this country can make to international development, peacekeeping, diplomacy and bringing people together. We are uniquely qualified to do those things. We are not a superpower; we have lost our empire and have, for some years, been in search of a role, and I think this is it. We can punch above our weight, bring people together and seek to make real inroads into abject poverty. I agree with the right hon. Lady that we are at a crossroads in terms of globalisation. The international community and Governments throughout the world need to make the right choice. We must ensure that we encourage them to do so.
As has been said, the British people have repeatedly shown their concern for the world's poorest through their generous response to recent crises in Kosovo, central America, Mozambique and Gujarat, the inspirational Jubilee 2000 campaign and their consistent support, year in, year out, for excellent British aid agencies. Many of our constituents have already sent us a clear signal: they
At this point in my speech, I had intended to make some sneaky and sneering party political points about the absence of debate, but I have decided not to make them--[Hon. Members: "Go on, go on!"] No, I am overwhelmed by the spirit of consensus and am reluctant to break out of its orbit.
The Conservatives broadly welcome the thrust of the Government's White Paper. We certainly pay tribute to the Department for International Development for all its excellent work on behalf of the whole House and of the country. I want briefly to explore the working title of the White Paper. I do not want to consider its chapters in detail, because we have all grown familiar with the contents over the past few months; I want to look more closely at its excellent title--"Making Globalisation Work for the Poor". That is much more than a title; it is the very essence of what we have to achieve as we go forward in the next 20 or 30 years.
One of the key points about development is that there must be a long-term view. As politicians, our focus is usually on the next general election, which is probably in about four weeks--not much time to achieve anything significant--while international institutions and multinational corporations are worried about their next shareholders' meeting and so on. However, if we are really to make progress, we have to act on a much longer-term basis than that.
There is no question but that the abject poverty we see in the world is wholly unacceptable. As the Secretary of State said, we know that throughout history a significant proportion of the world's population has always been extremely poor. Perhaps the difference nowadays is that we are much more aware of that fact and that if we have the will and if we get our act together, we have the wherewithal to do much, much more about it.
In the developed world, we do not have to look back far to find a time when in this country, other western European countries and the United States of America, there was rampant poverty, with disease, child labour, sweatshops and urban squalor. In this country, not long ago, the poor were completely disfranchised, but through trial and error, and by pursuing sound social and economic policies during several generations, we and other countries have established the rule of law. Usually, benign governance, free markets and private enterprise produce material comforts and security for all.
As the Secretary of State said, our challenge is to ensure that the same progress is made throughout the entire world. The good news is that it can be much quicker for developing countries which choose the right way than it was for us. They can learn from our mistakes and our experience. Despite some of the mindless chanting and banners of the protesters in London on May day, the truth is that globalisation, if correctly harnessed, is not the enemy of the poor but the very vehicle whereby the world's poorest can be lifted out of poverty.
It is worth reminding ourselves why our goal should be to seek the eradication of abject global poverty. I am sure that everyone in the House at present--although perhaps not everyone in the country--agrees that it is morally
First, global poverty leads to global instability, conflict and disease. One way of minimising the risk that future wars will affect our own country is to help to improve living standards and to establish proper democratic frameworks in developing countries. This is a passion of mine: even in greater Europe, the one way to ensure that our children do not have to engage in a 21st century European war is to make sure that the former Soviet countries in central and eastern Europe are welcomed into the European Union as soon as is reasonably practicable. Momentum towards the EU will underpin the rule of law, market economies and fragile democracies in the states that suffered so much under communism. There is a price for us in taking on board those new members, who will need much support for many years. However, the cost of the alternative is immeasurably higher.
Secondly, as living standards improve and market- based economies begin to flourish in more and more places, so the trading and investment opportunities for our businesses will increase, underpinning our own economic prosperity in the north. Thus, for the person who is not minded to go down the route of moral acceptability, there are two reasons why compassion and self-interest combine to motivate our attack on global poverty.
I am convinced that globalisation is the key to unlocking global poverty, and it need not take the many generations that it took us to figure it all out. A stable political framework, the rule of law, open economies, free trade, competition and a strong private sector are all part of the conditions necessary to produce economic growth, jobs and prosperity. A real consensus is growing among politicians, economists, financiers, commentators and some leading NGOs about the true benefits of globalisation, and about the key political and economic policies that will bring benefits to the countries that pursue them. The evidence is clear: countries with more open economies, and which have implemented policies to support and attract inward investment and trade, have recorded the best growth performance.
Not many years ago, Asia was poorer than Africa. However, because many Asian countries embraced strategies and policies that transformed many of them, they have made significant advances, while Africa, in most cases, sadly has not. Those Asian countries encouraged savings, investment, education and the rule of law and many of them have reaped the benefits.
The great irony, however, is that while that consensus has been growing among politicians, commentators, experts and economists, another consensus has been building to the contrary--as the Secretary of State mentioned. More and more people see globalisation and global capitalism not as the vehicles to defeat abject poverty, but as problems in themselves. That opposition has been growing for several years among people who profess to care for the world's poorest--and I am sure they do care. So we have had the Seattle riots and our own May day protests--egged on by such books as the best-selling "No Logo", by Naomi Klein, which takes a pot shot at globalisation.
That situation should concern us and I want to make several points about it--I did not know that those protesters were called the MobGlob, but the expression is apt. As we know from our own surgeries and postbags and from the public meetings we sometimes attend, there seems to be a growing belief that there would be no global poverty if multinational corporations did not exist, if the World Bank and the IMF stopped imposing conditions on their financial support, and if debt everywhere was cancelled. That simplistic approach is mobilising more and more support against the very policies and organisations which most of us believe contain the long-term solutions.
Many decent, caring, well-intentioned people are beginning to hold those views. I am sure that I cannot be the only Member to be receiving more letters and more visits to my surgery from people who express those views and who want us to take that simplistic approach. Does that matter? I think it does, because if those views spread in people's minds, they become a distraction from solutions that might work. It does matter if a lot of well-intentioned people put their energies into ideas and solutions that are likely to make things worse for the world's poorest. Those protesters need to be told that they are fighting to keep people poor. Rather than breaking windows in McDonald's, would not it be a better idea to set up businesses that employ people in the developing world and so create prosperity?
I agree with the Secretary of State that if such opinions grow and take root, they could easily pull us back into a protectionist world that would be very serious and dangerous for us all. It is interesting that commentators acknowledge that just before the first world war, the world was extremely integrated--possibly even more so than today, given the lack of technology. It took shifts in public opinion, increased protectionism and global conflict to drive a wedge into that growing integration.
The onus is on us consistently to make the case for the free trade economic growth model and not to allow ourselves to be distracted. I congratulate the Secretary of State as I believe that she has done that; she has been brave in some of her speeches. I encourage her to continue doing that for the next three or four weeks while she remains in her position--[Interruption.] I did not say where she would be after that.
We must pose the question: what is the alternative? Now that centrally planned economies have failed the world over and modern technologies have rendered untenable an exclusively local and protectionist approach, what is the alternative to globalisation harnessed in the right way?