HC Deb 15 July 2004 vol 423 cc1537-9
7. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab)

What recent discussions he has had with African Finance Ministers on debt and the millennium development goals. [184076]

12. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on recent progress in attaining the objectives of the millennium development goals. [184083]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

On current proposals, the majority of countries will fail to meet most of the millennium development goals by 2015. That is why the UK has proposed an international finance facility.

Mr. Chapman

Is not debt incurred in a concessionary way and responsibly managed a good thing in developmental terms? Is not the problem debt that is not well used, not well spent, and badly managed by the Governments responsible? If we are to help African countries to reach their millennium development goals, and to help them in particular to tackle HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, do we not need to ensure that rich countries fulfil the obligations entered into at Monterrey? What pressure is my right hon. Friend putting on other nations in that regard, particularly on the United States, whose developmental assistance at this time is only 0.2 per cent. of GDP?

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken an interest in these matters. Tuberculosis kills 2 million people a year, but to be able to protect people against it would cost very little if proper inoculation and vaccination were available. Equally, malaria carries off more than 1 million people a year, yet with expenditure on nets costing a few dollars, we could prevent avoidable deaths. That is why the global health fund and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation are important. That is why it is necessary to honour the Monterrey consensus, whereby the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe would provide an extra $9 billion in aid by 2006, and the US would provide $7 billion.

Contrary to what my hon. Friend said, the United States is moving ahead to make that money available, although its debt-to-GDP ratio is low. The question is whether we can use those additions in aid to borrow on capital markets and to have an international finance facility, which, with repayment over 30 years, could put up extra funds that would enable us to meet the millennium development targets over 10 years.

Mr. Griffiths

I thank my right hon. Friend for his great focus on the millennium development goals while in office. Given the problems of war in many parts of Africa, to what extent does he collaborate and co-operate with his colleagues in the Foreign Office and in the Department for International Development to focus on getting peace in those areas, to make it much easier for those goals to be attained?

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been involved in these matters over many years. Twenty-seven countries now have debt relief, but there would be at least 37 if the 10 countries or more that are engaged in conflict were out of conflict and able to be in a position to claim debt relief. As I said about Sudan, as long as there is not peace, we cannot get resources to the people who need them. If there were peace, and if we could broker a peace deal, in which Britain was involved, £150 million that we have allocated could be spent on helping people who are in grave difficulty in Sudan. We must therefore work closely: the Africa Commission set up by the Prime Minister is considering aid, peacekeeping and economic development, and a combination of measures in those three areas will bring new hope to Africa.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con)

During his discussions with African Finance Ministers, does the Chancellor ever raise the question of how much aid reaches the people for whom it is intended? Will he now answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) about the statement made by one of his colleagues about perceived corruption in Kenya? What does he propose to do about that?

Mr. Brown

Where there is corruption, it must be dealt with. Funds should not go to regimes in which we cannot guarantee that the money will go where it is intended to go—in most cases, to education and health programmes designed to help the poorest people of the country involved.

Let me repeat that even if all these things are done, more resources will be needed for both Africa and developing countries. The Conservative party cannot escape its responsibilities to the poorest countries of the world by saying that there is no need for more aid if corruption is dealt with. There will be a need for more aid—and how can the Conservative party support more aid when they are cutting the aid budget?

Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

In his discussions with African Finance Ministers and his colleagues in the World Bank, could the Chancellor make it a condition of the poverty reduction strategy papers and the debate about the millennium development goals that African Parliaments are fully involved in dialogue about those papers? We may talk of country ownership, but that means nothing if the Parliaments themselves have not built up the skills necessary for them to be involved.

Mr. Brown

It is proposed that the poverty reduction strategies should be not just country-owned, but owned by civil society. My hon. Friend, who has taken a huge interest in these matters and has been an International Development Minister, is trying to build links with African parliamentarians to bring about a strong civil-society presence and pressure for change. That is why his work is so important.

In the Africa Commission, we want to consult and listen to the Parliaments and the civil societies of African countries. I believe that we will achieve progress in Africa not just by talking to Governments, but by talking to people who were elected but are not members of Governments and to pressure groups and community organisations. There is, however, still the need for us to offer more aid as part of the process.