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Sue Doughty: Even DFID, of all Departments, cannot guarantee that it is using sustainable timber. There is a hell of a long way to go before we can hold up our heads. We have got tough challenges ahead. We want the Government to lead the country so that we do well. All hon. Members would support that view, but we must not fool ourselves.
It is a joke to talk about people using cleaner cars in the south-east, when they are sitting in traffic jams, going nowhere and public transport is being dismantled. Listening to people say that we need cleaner buses, when buses have been deregulated and are scarcely economic to run, will not do a lot about fuel emissions, which is an important issue. We wish the Government well; we will measure them on their performance, but we will support all that they do in their work in Johannesburg.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): This has been a very good debate, but, sadly, not nearly long enough. Many hon. Members still want to speak, and I hope that, between the Bali preparatory conference and Johannesburg, the Government will have a proper debate on sustainable development on the Floor of the House. There is so much to be said which has not been said this evening.
The Minister for the Environment, who said many good things and made a very interesting speech, was nevertheless very much on the defensive about the meeting at Bali. He told us that, amazingly, 65,000 people will be at Johannesburg. I do not know how many aeroplanes that will involve, but I do know that, in terms of CO 2 emissions, one flight to Johannesburg and back is the equivalent of one car driven for a whole year. I hope that Johannesburg is worthwhile because it will contribute hugely to global warming.
The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) gave her usual careful and meticulous analysis, and especially emphasised the amount of waste in the north and in developing countries. I have never lost my car keys in a black bag, but I did drop them down a street drain in Birmingham once. The street cleansing department became involved while my children bawled inside the car because they could not get at their mother. Looking back, it was quite fun.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) rightly said that there are too many conferences and too many pledges. The processes take place all over again, but who monitors our progress? That point was echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty), who said that we must monitor ourselves and look at where all the agreements and treaties are going, rather than just making more of them.
I am glad that renewable forms of energy were mentioned by many hon. Membersthe subject dominated the debate. The Minister for the Environment talked at length about renewable forms of energy, which were also mentioned by the hon. Members for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas)he always makes a good contribution, but, unfortunately, was not able to make a speech tonightand my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon, who mentioned the Greenpeace and Body Shop campaign for more renewable forms of energy in the third world, of which I hope that the House will take note. The issue was also mentioned by the hon. Members for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) and for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas).
The hon. Member for Nottingham, South mentioned problems with water, too, as did the Minister for the Environment. Getting clean water to the people of this world is crucial, and is as important as education. If we can rank factors in development in order of importance, clean water is certainly very high on the list.
Trade and the common agricultural policy were dealt with by many hon. Members, but particularly by the Minister for the Environment and the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who made a useful and thoughtful contribution.
One of the less publicised international development goals in all our documents and White Papers is the implementation of national strategies for sustainable development in all countries by 2005 to ensure that
As the right hon. Member for Wokingham said, people in third world countries want electricity, fridges, hot water and cars, just as we do. The lifestyle that they lead may sometimes look picturesque to us, but it is not much fun for them. If we point out the problems of sustainability, environmental damage and child labour to them, they will say, "You did all those things in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nobody preached to you about the damage you were doing to the world. We want what you have." If they are to get those thingswhich they deserve and should getwe must make sacrifices ourselves. We must give way and use less energy. Above all, we must lead by example on issues such as renewable sources of energy.
How many of us have seen examples of projects that have been supported by UK Government aid or by Export Credits Guarantee Department and World Bank loans and have not been sustainable? I remember that members of the Select Committee on International Development visited the Jinja dam in Uganda. It was a fine project, but the dam was crumbling because it had not been properly maintained. Only last week, I was studying the water supply system in Accra which, over the past 30 years, has been funded by the World Bank and the UK. The Ghanaian water authority is maintaining the system so badly that 52 per cent. of the water is wasted. No wonder the World Bank and the Department for International Development are talking about looking for private contractors.
However, as I have said, there are difficulties with privatisation. It is fine but we must remember the poor. There is no point in privatising if the poor cannot afford the commodity provided. That point must be borne constantly in mind. All future projects must be sustainable over the long term. The main aim should be sustainability and relief of poverty and not profit for companies in the north, although I appreciate that that is a factor.
We have not heard much about the behaviour of transnational companies and the multinationals. I want to touch on that point briefly, because some of them have a turnover that is much larger than that of many countries. Those companies have a huge responsibility on their shoulders for the future of the environment, global warming and the planet. Many guidelines, compacts and codes of conduct deal with their behaviour, but they must be made compulsory. In particular, the guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development must be enforceable. Could they not be incorporated into the criteria for licence applications considered by the ECGD? There must be some way of ensuring that large companies behave.
I thought that there was going to be no mention of forestry, but my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford referred to the subject just before I rose to speak. I thank her for that. I and other Members will remember the regions and rivers in Colombia where illegal logging and deforestation is going on apace. It is difficult to travel on the rivers in Colombia because they are silting up. Whole tracts of south America have become filthy marshland
The forests in that region are not sustainable. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford alluded to the wood used in the Cabinet Office and the Department for International Development. We do not wear furs, even though the animals are already dead, and we should not use wood from unsustainable forests even though the trees have already been cut down. That only encourages others to do likewise.
This has been a good debate, but I hope that we shall get some sense from the Government of the big idea. What lead will they take in Bali and Johannesburg? Let us not have another talking shop with nothing to show for it in five years' time. Let us have a treaty with firm commitments on water, energy, tourism and forestry. There are so many things to do if we are to save the planet. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us on all the points raised.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): Like my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, I congratulate the Liberal Democrats on initiating the debate even if part of the speech of the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) and the words in the motion have been rather churlish in not recognising the role that the Government have played in supporting the world summit for sustainable development. The views expressed did not square with the good report produced by the Environmental Audit Committee. It sets out clearly the facts about the leadership that the Government are providing. For instance, referring to the fact that the Prime Minister was the first major world leader to say that he would attend, the report said: