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Mr. Alexander: I hope that I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. Only tomorrow, I will be meeting Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, to discuss how we can continue to make progress towards achieving the fairer trade rules
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that were promised by the global community, and anticipated back in 2001, but that, alas, have not yet reached a conclusion.

Mr. David S. Borrow (South Ribble) (Lab): For years, Cath Greenlees of Longton in my constituency has organised Fairtrade stalls at community events across South Ribble. Indeed, she met my right hon. Friend when he visited my constituency recently. Will he join me in paying tribute to the hundreds and thousands of Fairtrade activists who do so much work to promote that cause?

Mr. Alexander: I am unyielding in my admiration of the work that I saw for myself in South Ribble and of my hon. Friend, who has been a tireless campaigner for Fairtrade for many years in the House. His comments reflect a sentiment that is shared on both sides of the House-that we should applaud and pay due respect to those people who have advocated Fairtrade for many years and who are now directly benefiting many millions of producers across the developing world.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): May I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is a tribute to the people of these islands that such a high volume of Fairtrade products are now going through our major retailers, including the supermarkets? Will he take this opportunity to pay tribute to the pioneers, who are still needed in the independent third-sector outlets, who keep the flame burning and who keep pushing forward the case for Fairtrade in this country?

Mr. Alexander: Of course, I am happy to do so. I am something of a long marcher when it comes to Fairtrade produce-I remember when Campaign Coffee tasted nothing like coffee. In that sense, the success of the pioneers is now being seen in major multiples across the country. Were it not for the powerful voice of campaigners, advocates and consumers, we would not have seen the shift in recent years by the major supermarkets, so I am happy to pay tribute to those people.

Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): I am sure that the whole House will acknowledge the success of Fairtrade fortnight. The Secretary of State has highlighted the fact that his Department will spend £12 million on Fairtrade and helping farmers to work their way out of poverty, but how will that money be spent and how will he evaluate its impact and effectiveness?

Mr. Alexander: For all our expenditure, we consider both impact and effectiveness. The principal challenge that we have directed that money towards is both international and domestic. Domestically, we want to increase the range of products available that have the Fairtrade mark and the range of retailers that stock Fairtrade products. At the same time, we want to sustain the kind of growth that we have seen even in the teeth of recession-there has been a 12 per cent. rise in Fairtrade sales in the past year. We also want to replicate internationally the success that we have enjoyed in the UK. If we were to achieve nothing more than the replication of that success, it would transform the lives of farmers and communities across the developing world.


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Women's Education (Sub-Saharan Africa)

7. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): What steps the Government are taking to increase the number of girls in sub-Saharan Africa attending school; and if he will make a statement. [319870]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): The UK is committed to increasing aid for education in sub-Saharan Africa to help to ensure that all girls, as well as boys, benefit from good quality basic education. The numbers of girls enrolling in schools in sub-Saharan Africa increased by some £21 million between 1999 and 2007. That was in no small part due to the support provided by the UK.

Mr. Hoyle: I welcome my hon. Friend's reply. Does he agree that the best way of lifting people out of poverty is through the education of the country? I welcome that, but what more can we and other nations do to help?

Mr. Thomas: I agree with my hon. Friend that education is one very powerful route to helping developing countries and their citizens lift themselves out of poverty. We have made a series of commitments in terms of the financial resources that we will commit for education, particularly in Africa, to which we expect to adhere. We are also looking at what else we can do to work with developing country Governments to improve the quality of education, to increase the number of teachers and to improve the learning experience for the students in the schools.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Does the Minister accept that too many children all over Africa are still left out of school? That happens not because too little funding goes into general education, but because they cannot afford the school uniforms and the basic pens and pencils that are a prerequisite for being included in a school.

Mr. Thomas: I accept that a huge challenge still faces a series of countries and their citizens when it comes to getting children into school. In Zimbabwe, for example, children still have to pay user fees to go to school, even though our assistance is providing support. That is one reason why we are determined to protect the international development budget, going forward. It is a pity that 96 per cent. of Tory candidates do not share our commitment to that aim. [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. I am sure that the House wishes to hear Michael Connarty.

Overseas Aid

8. Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of progress towards the Government's target of spending 0.7 per cent. of gross national income on overseas aid. [319871]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The Government are on track to spend 0.7 per cent. of gross national income on official development assistance by 2013. The official estimate of the final 2009 ODA:GNI ratio will be
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released as a UK national statistic on 1 April. We have recently announced plans to enshrine this commitment in legislation to keep our promises to the world's poorest people and deliver on our Gleneagles commitment, going forward.

Michael Connarty: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, and commend the Government on their continued commitment to the target of devoting 0.7 of GNI to international development. Is my hon. Friend as impressed as me by the communities in my constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk? Despite being in a recession, people there are saying to me again and again that we must stand by our commitment to that target and also try and export it to other countries. While we are suffering, others in the world are suffering much more.

Mr. Alexander: I am happy to congratulate the communities of Linlithgow and East Falkirk today on their enduring commitment to the task of tackling global poverty. The recession has impacted on livelihoods in both west central and east central Scotland, and across the UK, but it is affecting the lives of many millions of citizens across the developing world.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Is money for developing countries to deal with climate change mitigation and adaptation going to come out of the DFID budget?

Mr. Alexander: We have made it clear that new and additional financing will be available from 2013, the period when we were anticipating a conclusion to the Copenhagen negotiations. Indeed, we will limit the contribution of overseas development assistance from 2013 to up to 10 per cent. of the UK's ODA budget. Alas, that commitment has not been matched by the Opposition. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now campaign for such a commitment to be made.

Zimbabwe

9. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. [319872]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): This year, around 2 million people will receive food aid, compared with more than 7 million last year. While the situation has therefore improved, a poor harvest could substantially increase the numbers of people in need.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Is the Minister convinced that the global political agreement in Zimbabwe is working? Gertrude Hambira, the leader of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe, has had to flee to South Africa in fear of her life, because the police have raided her office three times in seven days. Is that a sign that the humanitarian situation in that country is improving?

Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman cuts right to the heart of the challenges in respect of the global political agreement and the workings of the inclusive Government. He is right to highlight the fact that the inclusive Government have yet to achieve a series of political milestones, but we must recognise that Zimbabwe's economic situation has certainly stabilised and improved,
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which has undoubtedly contributed to the improving humanitarian situation there. As I have said, we continue to watch the country very carefully, as a considerable number of people still require food aid and a poor harvest has the potential to exacerbate the problems that still exist.

John Battle (Leeds, West) (Lab): The International Development Committee recently managed to visit Zimbabwe, where it met some women who had reclaimed land that had been destroyed. Those women are growing things on that land again, under a new system of collective agriculture. Can DFID's pioneering work in introducing new methods of agriculture at a local level be used elsewhere in Africa to demonstrate again that the Department is a top practitioner in tackling poverty?

Mr. Thomas: I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about our work on agriculture in Zimbabwe. There is a still a considerable amount that we need to ensure happens in Zimbabwe, but we certainly hope that the lessons that have contributed to the successes that he, like other members of the Select Committee, saw at first hand will be replicated in other country programmes with which we are obviously working.

Malaria

10. Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to control malaria in developing countries. [319873]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Michael Foster): The United Kingdom remains strongly committed to tackling malaria. That was why the Prime Minister committed in 2008 to providing more than 20 million bed nets by the end of 2010 and to helping to prevent 110,00 child deaths. Our 2009 White Paper committed to providing an additional 10 million bed nets each year to 2013.

Mr. O'Brien: Will the Minister take the opportunity to study the report-endorsed by Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO-by the all-party group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases that was given to his office last week? It includes recommendations that would cut short the process of getting to the strategic plan on malaria which my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) urged the Department to adopt and which I would support.

Mr. Foster: I have indeed read the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and I congratulate him on his work as chairman of the group. Let me tell the House what he wrote in his foreword to the document:

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked-

Engagements

Q1. [319879] Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 3 March.


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The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in attendance on Her Majesty the Queen welcoming President Zuma on his state visit to the United Kingdom.

I am sure that the House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the five British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan: Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate from 2 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment; Rifleman Martin Kinggett from 4th Battalion The Rifles, attached to 3rd Battalion The Rifles; Sergeant Paul Fox from 28 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, attached to the Brigade Reconnaissance Force; Rifleman Carlo Apolis from 4th Battalion The Rifles, attached to 3rd Battalion The Rifles; and the soldier from 3rd Battalion The Rifles who died yesterday. They demonstrated outstanding courage and skill, and they died serving their country, their comrades and the people of Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with their families and their loved ones; their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

I am sure that the whole House will also join me in sending our sincere condolences to the people of Chile following the terrible earthquake at the weekend.

Mrs. Laing: The whole House will wish to join the right hon. and learned Lady in paying tribute to those brave men who have given their lives for our freedom, and of course in what she said about the people of Chile.

Will the right hon. and learned Lady please tell the House why manufacturing has declined faster under this Labour Government than under any other Administration ever?

Ms Harman: Indeed, this is just typical of the Conservatives talking the country down. British manufacturing is strong and it has a great future, especially with advanced manufacturing and that supporting the digital and creative industries. The Conservatives constantly describe Britain as heading towards an age of austerity. We do not share that pessimism; we are optimistic for Britain's future, including in manufacturing.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): AstraZeneca in my constituency has decided to relocate its research and development facilities to Cheshire, which will cause 1,200 jobs to be lost to the local economy in 2011. Overall, pharmaceuticals are strong in the United Kingdom, and the Office for Life Sciences has ensured that many such jobs remain in the UK. However, that is no consolation to the 1,200 people who will have to relocate from my constituency, so will my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that the Government will give every assistance to the taskforce that we will set up this week to address the situation and ensure that there is economic and development help for the constituency of Loughborough and the people who will be affected?

Ms Harman: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. We do not believe in standing by, letting people fend for themselves, letting recession take it course, or that unemployment is a price worth paying. We have an active interventionist policy to support industry, including in the regions, which would suffer if the regional development agencies were abolished, as proposed by the Conservatives.


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Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): May I join the Leader of the House in sending our thoughts to the people of Chile, and in the sad tributes that we pay so often to the British servicemen killed in Afghanistan-in the past week, Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, Rifleman Martin Kinggett, Sergeant Paul Fox, Rifleman Carlo Apolis and the as yet unnamed soldier from 3rd Battalion The Rifles. Let us hope, as the right hon. and learned Lady says, that they are not forgotten and that their sacrifice is not in vain.

I begin by asking the Leader of the House about a matter directly relating to the armed forces, because now we know from the Chilcot inquiry that the Ministry of Defence felt, in the words of its permanent secretary, that it was running "a crisis budget" rather than being able to plan coherently. Is it not time to recognise that it was a mistake of the Prime Minister to insist on cutting the helicopter budget at a time when our country was in the middle of two wars, and with thousands of British troops deployed?

Ms Harman: We have maintained a second to none commitment to our armed forces. It would be wrong for the shadow Foreign Secretary to imply that we in the Government are anything less than fully committed to our armed forces. When it comes to procurement of equipment and financial support for the forces, we will make sure that that commitment is honoured. I am sure that he will be pleased with the increase in helicopters that has recently been announced.

Mr. Hague: I am not saying that the Government are not committed, simply that they made an enormous mistake in 2004 that let our armed forces down. The former Defence Secretary, the right hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) said at the Chilcot inquiry that

Is it not a lesson for everyone that such an error was made? Will the Prime Minister recognise that when he gives evidence to the Chilcot inquiry on Friday this week?

Ms Harman: If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know what the Prime Minister is going to say to the Chilcot inquiry, he will have to wait until he says it. It is fatuous for the Foreign Secretary to ask me- [Interruption.] what the Prime Minister is going to answer in evidence to the Chilcot inquiry on Friday. To return to the insinuation that lies behind the right hon. Gentleman's point, I want to assure the House and everybody in this country who so values the work of our troops that we stand four-square behind them.

Mr. Hague: That is the second time that the right hon. and learned Lady has called me the Foreign Secretary. She must think that we have had the election already. Turning to the UK economy and this week's economic news, why does the Leader of the House think that UK Government bonds are priced by the market as almost twice as risky as the bonds of Pepsi or McDonald's?


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