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Tony Baldry (Banbury): I am glad that Government business managers have made time for a debate on international development. Immediately after the publication of the departmental report is obviously a good time for such a debate. The Select Committee on International Development will study the report with care.
This week has also seen the publication of the Select Committee's report on the effectiveness of European development assistance. Eight members of the Select Committee are present for this debate. Two of them have already spoken: the hon. Members for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) and for Putney (Mr. Colman) both made excellent speeches, and I agree with everything they said. I hope that outside and inside the House it will be felt that Select Committee members can collectively make useful judgments, and can individually bring useful experience to bear. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) will describe his recent experiences in Sudan, and the Select Committee yesterday heard about the moving experiences of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) in Jenin. I hope that that collective experience is of value to the House.
An enormous amount is happening in international development, any part of which could justifiably form the substance of a full day's debate. The year 2000 saw the publication of the United Nations millennium goals, which set some clear and unambiguous targets that we have to achieve between now and 2015, including halving the number of those who live on less than $1 a day, ensuring that children everywhere are able to complete a universal primary education, and halting, and hopefully reversing, the spread of HIV and AIDS. There is a total of 18 straightforward targets for the international community to achieve.
We must recognise that the pace of progress towards reaching the millennium goals is different in different parts of the world. As the Secretary of State said, China, with an annual growth rate of something like 9 per cent., will comfortably meet those targets. However, I note that the Department for International Development and the Treasury, in their recently published joint report "The Case for Aid for the Poorest Countries", acknowledge that on current trends sub-Saharan Africa will fail to meet the 2015 goals.
Chapter 4 of the departmental annual report helpfully shows how we are doing in meeting the millennium development goals, and illustrates each goal with a useful, clear graph showing progress to date and the rate of progress needed to meet the targets. Everyone can look at those diagrams, but by my calculations, on two of the targets we are well on track, on two of them we are well ahead, but on the other 14 there is still a substantial distance to go, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, as shown by the graphs on page 59.
This year, there will be three important development- related conferences. We have already had the WTO conference at Doha. It is important to recognise that Doha was not the finish but the start of what will almost certainly be a number of years of painstaking and detailed negotiations on reforming the system of world trade. It is vital that poorer nations obtain fair access to developed markets, and that the fine words and good intentions of WTO members at the outset are not overwhelmed by mercantilist self-interests in the detailed negotiations.
I should like to make two points about the Doha and world trade negotiations. Agribusiness, which means maximising the return on agriculture and primary production, is the foremost activity for many poorer countries. If they do not get greater access to developed markets for their agricultural produce, there is little prospect of their improving their standard of living.
At present, the common agricultural policy is one of the most protectionist trade regimes in the world. Indeed, not only does it make it very difficult for agricultural produce from poorer countries often to make it on to the shelves of our shops, but it encourages agricultural practices that lead to the dumping of surplus European produce in poorer countries, further undermining their farmers' ability to earn a living. When the International Development Committee was recently in Ghana, it was very noticeable that the supermarket shelves were stacked with tins of tomatoes from Italy. That is hardly necessary in a country such as Ghana, which produces excellent tomatoes of its own but which all too often lacks the investment and infrastructure to process them. However, I suspect that so many Italian tomatoes were in Ghana because, in effect, they had been dumped there by the European Union.
European Union spending on agricultural export subsidies dwarfs EU development assistance. Access to European markets, including those for key agricultural products such as sugar, rice and beef, continues to be restricted. In this week's Select Committee report on EC development assistance, we said we agree with Chris Patten that
I hope that there will be a positive response to two measures introduced in the Budget: the new tax credit to encourage companies to increase research into vaccines and medicines for the prevention of malaria, TB and AIDS; and the new tax relief to encourage donations of medical supplies and equipment to developing countries. Hopefully, the new tax credit will be a further incentive for the UK pharmaceutical industry to focus its attention on this important work.
Doha was followed by Monterrey, and the good news at the financing for development conference was that the United States did come forward with substantial extra moneyup to $5 billion extra each year. However, I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, West that there is still more that the United States can do. We need collectively to engage with colleagues in the US Congress, and with non-governmental organisations and other development organisations in America.
However, I suspect that a much clearer commitment needs to be made at Monterrey on meeting pledges to the global health fund so that progress on health can be made. An assurance needs to be given that no developing country's national strategy for meeting the 2015 education target will fail through lack of the funding that would enable them to move forward on education.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer frequently mentions the UK's objective of meeting the 0.7 per cent. target, but, importantly, we have no timetable. That is perhaps understandable, as to meet the target the Chancellor would have to double current funding to DFID, but it is surely possible to establish a process and to find a form of words that demonstrate a clear commitment. For example, we could aggressively seek to meet our target of 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product for overseas development by, say, 2012.
Rather than setting up a new mechanism such as an international development trust fund, about which people seem to have heard little, why not seek to achieve the 0.7 per cent. commitment sooner, rather than later? I draw the attention of the Secretary of State and the Minister to early-day motion 386, which was initiated by the hon. Member for Leeds, West, and which has attracted signatures from 232 Members. It simply calls on the Government to make a firm commitment to achieving the 0.7 per cent. target by 2012, and the 0.4 per cent. target by 2006. That is surely achievable, and perhaps such a straightforward commitment would be easier for everyone to understand than the setting up of yet another fund.