HC Deb 16 April 2002 vol 383 cc454-6
10. Hugh Bayley (City of York)

What recent discussions he has had with African leaders about the New Partnership for Africa's Development. [45525]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)

The New Partnership for Africa's Development is a subject of frequent discussion with Africa's leaders. It was discussed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary during his visit to Africa in January, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and by Baroness Amos, the Minister for Africa, in her capacity as the Prime Minister's personal representative for the G8 Africa plan.

Hugh Bayley

I congratulate the Government on supporting that initiative right from the start. Does my hon. Friend agree that unless we increase the volume of trade between Africa and the Quad countries—the United States, Canada, Japan and the EU—there is no prospect whatever of NEPAD delivering what is needed? Is he aware that the value of agricultural subsidies in the Quad countries is greater than the entire gross domestic product of sub-Saharan Africa? Unless we cut those subsidies, the region has no real prospect of exporting the one commodity it has to export—agricultural produce. Will my hon. Friend tell me what the Government are doing both in this country and in the EU Council of Ministers to cut agricultural subsidies in Europe?

Mr. MacShane

Not only is my hon. Friend right, but even before becoming a Member of this place he had one of the most distinguished records on this issue. Subsidies of $1 billion a day are paid to protect the northern markets, mainly of the European Union and the United States. The Prime Minister has taken a lead, criticising subsidies on both sides of the Atlantic. My hon. Friend is right: no amount of aid, however much we increase it, can remotely match the need for increased trade and commerce and more open borders, both in the EU, and in the US and the other leading northern countries that he mentioned.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

Given the lack of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, what role does the hon. Gentleman perceive for both NEPAD and countries such as ours in ensuring that, by contrast, the impending elections in two extremely fractured African countries—Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—are indeed free and fair? What mechanisms will be put in place to help to ensure that?

Mr. MacShane

The hon. Gentleman raises important points, although I should be reluctant to ask NEPAD to shoulder all the problems of Africa. Its discussions are principally about economic development. We firmly believe that the more that trade and commerce are open, the richer countries will become and the more their political processes will be stable and democratic. We shall continue to insist on the tightest monitoring of the elections in the two countries to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, last night, the meeting of the all-party great lakes region and genocide prevention group, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), heard very disturbing evidence, especially from Church people, about genocide in the Congo? Will my hon. Friend assure us that the Government are watching that carefully and are using their influence to the full?

Mr. MacShane

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited the DRC and the great lakes region in January with his French counterpart. We are working closely, especially with the French, who have a greater colonial heritage in that area than us, to put an end to the massacres—I think that is the correct word—that are causing such damage and anguish there. It is a constant preoccupation and we need active policy engagement with Africa—a political policy to try to secure the international rule of law as well as an aid policy.

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the events in Afghanistan, one of the reasons why the G8 should make a bigger engagement with Africa, with serious resource implications, is that two failed states—the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia—pose a big threat to the African continent?

Mr. MacShane

My hon. Friend is right. That is why, at the G8 meeting in Canada later this spring, the issue of Africa will be addressed. It has been very much put on the agenda owing to the active support of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We want to improve the quality and the quantity of aid to Africa, but above all we want to allow Africa to trade and to become more attractive to direct foreign investment. It is through economic growth that the people of Africa can build a better future.