HC Deb 28 February 2002 vol 380 cc821-2
5. Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

What steps he is taking to encourage his counterparts in other countries to provide funding to ensure that all children worldwide receive primary education by 2015. [35746]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

On 12 March, the Government will launch the Commonwealth education fund. It is shocking that 113 million children still do not have the chance to go to primary school. Two thirds of those are girls and in the Commonwealth more than 70 million children are still denied education. By helping civil society to strengthen the quality of national education plans, the fund will support the achievement of universal primary education in the poorest Commonwealth countries. That is also supported by £600 million in education funding from the Department for International Development. Our proposals for a new international trust fund would mean $10 billion to $12 billion extra a year from the international community to promote universal primary education.

Valerie Davey

I thank my right hon. Friend for the positive response. Many of my constituents write regularly about global inequalities and their concerns about that. They would want me to take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend for his international leadership. Are the G8 educational task force and the World Bank committed in their support of primary international education to ensuring that it is provided equally for girls?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the issue. I applaud her work as a constituency MP in raising it locally and her work internationally, as she worked in Africa for some time. Our proposals would help most of all the two thirds of girls who are denied primary education. They form 80 million of the total denied primary education at the moment.

It is worth pointing out that there has been some progress in recent years, which is a signal for us to want to do more. In Uganda, primary education numbers will double as a result of the debt relief provided. In Malawi, enrolment has increased by 60 per cent. since 1995. It is moving forward in many other African countries, too, but it is still too little, and we will not meet the target of every child receiving primary education by 2015 unless we put more funds in now.

The G8 initiative taken at the Canadian summit will be important to that, but at the end of the day, each donor country must be prepared to put more resources into overseas aid development. We will do that, and we hope by our actions to persuade others to do so. I am grateful for the chance during these questions for the House of Commons to debate these important issues.

John Cryer (Hornchurch)

I also welcome everything that the Chancellor has said this morning. However, does he accept that primary and secondary education and other public services have been deeply damaged by the IMF structural adjustment programme, particularly in Rwanda, where there was a direct link between the IMF's intervention and the destruction of education and the massacres that followed? Will he assure the House that he will bring maximum pressure to bear on discussions with the IMF and other international bodies to ensure that such measures are not repeated?

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He should know that the operation of the structural adjustment facility by the IMF has been abolished as a result of a decision that it took over the past period. We now have poverty and growth facilities, and plans have been drawn up that involve the communities as well as the Governments of individual countries. More money is being put into education and health as a result. Our target is a far higher proportion of each country's budget going into education and health. As a result of pressure from my hon. Friend and many others, the old structural adjustment policy has been abolished, and the IMF and the World Bank are working together under the new proposal to tackle poverty.

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