HC Deb 12 May 1999 vol 331 cc302-3
4. Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)

If she will make a statement on the recent meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development. [82950]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, with my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment, attended the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York last month. The meeting discussed oceans and seas, tourism, sustainable consumption and production, and preparations for the United Nations General Assembly special session on small island developing states. The United Kingdom emphasised the need to drive forward environmental and developmental issues together and was re-elected to the commission.

Mr. Savidge

As one of the major themes of the meeting was tourism, can the Secretary of State inform the House about the discussions on it and say how it can both benefit communities and contribute to environmentally friendly sustainable development?

Clare Short

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world and is growing faster than most other sectors. It is concentrated in some of the poorest countries, but tends to be organised in a way that brings investment from outside and that means that food and produce are sourced from outside. Few local people are employed and the environment is often damaged. We are now attending to those questions to get tourism to source locally, to train local people and to be more environmentally sensitive. That can bring big benefits to poor countries.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

As a senior member of a new Labour Government, will the Secretary of State confirm her belief that sustainable development must be set in the context of a free market economy?

Clare Short

Labour has always believed in a mixed economy. The communist bloc demonstrated that a completely statist economy was a disastrous model. The Government whom the hon. Gentleman supported demonstrated the error of believing only in markets, minimising the state and allowing inequality to flourish. We believe in a mixed economy that uses the strength of the state to provide for all and regulate properly, and the creativity of the market to produce economic benefit for all. That is the right way forward. We are trying to correct the mistakes of the hon. Gentleman's Government.

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