HC Deb 18 December 2003 vol 415 cc1717-8
16. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab)

If he will make a further statement on progress towards achieving the millennium development goals. [144731]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

In addition to our regular meetings at G7 and with African Finance Ministers, we are calling a conference on the millennium development goals and on the international finance facility that we have proposed with China, India, Brazil and South Africa. We are also hosting at the Treasury a conference of Church leaders, faith groups and business to advance our proposals for the international finance facility. We are grateful for all-party support for this new proposal.

Mr. Griffiths

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. At the conference, will he use his good offices to impress on South Africa, India and China the need to make sure that all those extremely poor parts of the world that are war-riven are brought back to the table of peace, to make sure that there is the right context for the millennium goals to be achieved more quickly?

Mr. Brown

I know how much work my hon. Friend does in this area and how active he has been in promoting the cause of peace and debt relief round the world. The Government are involved in trying to resolve many conflicts, in particular those that afflict areas of Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have proposed for countries that are coming out of conflict a far speedier process of debt relief so that, as they restructure their country, they can also restructure their economy free from the burden of debt. I hope that he and others will support us in what we are doing.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/C-op)

Nobody doubts the Chancellor's commitment to ensuring that the millennium development goals are met, but I am sure that he is aware that we are falling well short of the targets that we set ourselves on the way. Does he agree that they could be speeded up in two ways: by the World Trade Organisation talks getting back on track and, specifically—I speak as a member of the all-party group on heavily indebted poorest countries—by him looking again at the debt levels and sustainability of the HIPC initiative for a number of those countries, particularly in Africa, in the light of the reduction in the price of consumer products such as coffee?

Mr. Brown

We continue to look at how we can advance debt relief. Twenty-seven countries are getting debt relief. Some of the countries mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) could get debt relief if they were out of conflict. We continue to look at how we can persuade other countries to come up with more funds. My hon. Friend is right that the WTO talks are important to this and that public opinion matters in this. It is 20 years this Christmas since Bob Geldof's Band Aid raised public awareness of the problems of poverty in Africa. All parties and all good-minded people could combine and public opinion could be alerted to the blatant need to take further action to deal with world poverty.

Mr. Speaker

I call question 17. Norman Lamb is not here; the question has been withdrawn.

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