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Tony Cunningham: I said in Committee that perhaps the single most important issue was that of the education of girls, which would take millions of people in developing countries out of poverty. The new clause would prevent that from happening in some countries, because it does not constitute humanitarian aid.
Glenda Jackson: That is a central point. We must move away from the idea that I think the world generally has at present, and accept that aid given directly to Governments is often non-productive. Aid to repressive Governments is absolutely non-productive.
The hon. Member for Castle Point would condemn the very people whom he purports to want to help to being stuck for ever in a situation that it would be virtually impossible for them to escapeunless those who are willing to exploit the desperation of others intervened.
Bob Spink: Either the hon. Lady is intellectually challenged, or she is purposely mischaracterising what I seek to do. I do not seek to condemn anyone; I seek to give people hope for the future. I want the possibility of real, sustainable, long-term development, rather than the counsel of despair that we have heard from Labour Members who propose short-termism in the extreme. How would they change the world for the better? How would they eradicate poverty, and ensure that those little girls received an education? What action do they propose, other than that suggested in the new clause?
Glenda Jackson: With the best will in the world, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that he will have to live a long time before he intellectually challenges me. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Oh yes: if you ask for it, you get it.
The hon. Gentleman has clearly lost the thread of his own argument, quite apart from not understanding ours. The new clause would deny aid to those who need it most desperately. I also consider the idea that some of the most entrenched and abusive Governments necessarily change their attitude to their people because of the threat of possible withdrawal of international aid to be a fallacy. In many instances, they exploit that very factor to make their position of power even stronger.
We all know of the most obvious example in the world today. Even as we speak, an attempt is being made to pursue that argument in Zimbabwe. It would be entirely wrong to punish people yet again for the sins of Governments whom, in nine cases out of 10, they have had no say in putting into power. That would drive international aid back from a position that I consider to be quite good at present, and would send entirely the wrong messages to those whom we want to move forward into a democratic life. It would be a recruiting sergeant for all who are only too willing to exploit human misery to secure and develop their own power bases.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): At first I had a great deal of sympathy with what I thought the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) was trying to say, and I was prepared to listen to him. By the end of his speech, however, I was quite horrified. The amount of almost anti-Islamic rant made me extremely depressed.
Dr. Tonge: I am a Christian, and I hate the thought of preventing aid from going to a country where some sort of religious persecution is going on, whatever religion is involved. It is appalling to think that that could be deemed a reason for withholding aid.
I thought that the idea of a list of countries was rather fun. It is wonderful, is it not? Think of the countries that could be listed as violating human rights. Subsection (2)(a) of the new clause refers to countries that have
Mr. Hawkins: Perhaps I have missed something. Was the hon. Lady talking about the deeply devout Muslims in Guantanamo Bay just now? If soand that is how it seemedshe should bear in mind the fact that we are talking about some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, who are happy to murder Christians, atheists, agnostics and anyone else with no compunction.
Dr. Tonge: We are indeed talking about some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. I am merely saying that we must not violate their right to practise their religion: they must have that freedom. I do not question their guilt or otherwise. I simply say that what was done constituted a violation of their religious freedom.
The list would be endless if we catalogued all the countries suggested in the new clause, and the proposal by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) that the Indonesian Government should be held responsible for all that goes on in the massive number of islands that call themselves the country of Indonesia is incredible. Moreover, as we have signally failed to stop religious groups persecuting each other in Northern Ireland, I think it would be very difficult to criticise other countries.
Mr. Robathan: The hon. Lady and I agree on many of these issues, but may I make a factual point about the Muslims in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba? I understand that an executive order from President Bush states that they will have freedom to pray and freedom of religion. I also understandI am not an expert on the Koran, or indeed on Islam, but I have visited many Islamic countriesthat growing hair and beards is not required by the Koran. Those who have been on a haj tend to grow long beards, but I do not think that it is compulsory.
Dr. Tonge: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. What the individual feels about his religion is the important thing. Many Sikhs are happy to shave off their beards and not wear turbans but other Sikhs want to maintain that tradition and would consider it a violation if they were not able to. We have seen examples of that in this country with policemen's helmets and motor cycle safety helmets. It is a violation of their freedom to tell
I accept that the hon. Member for Castle Point proposed the new clause with the best of intentions, but we must always remember that in those countries where human rights are being abused live the people who most need aid of every kind, whether humanitarian or development aid. There is an important distinction. At times, he did not appreciate the difference between humanitarian and development aid.
I am passionate about education; many hon. Members are. I want humanitarian aid to southern Sudanwe give only humanitarian aid to Sudanto include education. The civil war in that country, where human rights are violated daily, has meant that its people receive only humanitarian aid. Two or three generations have not received any education.
That is surely wrong. If the new clause provides only for humanitarian aid and excludes education, it will deny those people a chance to learn what their human rights should be. It is only by educating people that they will ever learn about human rights and ever know what to do about the Government who are violating them. On that count alone, the new clause should be thrown out.
The point about Afghanistan has been well made. Some hon. Members may remember that before 11 September many people, including me, were seriously worried about the famine that had developed in central Asiain Afghanistan and all the surrounding countriesbecause of three years of drought. In Afghanistan, it was made worse by a terrible Government called the Taliban. I called for Afghanistan to be bombed with food and aid.
The "bomb" word was unfortunate, when I think of what followed, but if Afghanistan over the past 10 years had been flooded with food, aid and development, al-Qaeda might not have found a base there, 11 September might not have happened and we might not be having to pour reconstruction aid back into that country.