HC Deb 12 May 2004 vol 421 cc342-3
4. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth) (Lab)

When he next plans to meet Sir Bob Geldof to discuss poverty relief in Africa. [172238]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn)

The next scheduled meeting I have with Sir Bob Geldof will be the second meeting of the Commission for Africa planned for the autumn this year.

I would like to express my thanks to Sir Bob Geldof for his tireless dedication to Africa over the past 20 years, and for his persistence in focusing our attention on Africa.

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will join me in acknowledging the dogged determination that Sir Bob Geldof has shown and his impatience with the world's rich countries. While he cites the figures of 6,000 people a day dying of AIDS in Africa and only one in 400 having access to anti-retroviral drugs, what assurance can my right hon. Friend give that, when the G8 countries meet next year, the needs of Africa will be at the centre of the discussions?

Hilary Benn

The G8 countries will have the report of the Commission for Africa before them when they meet next year. It is partly intended to ensure that the world continues to pay attention to the condition of that continent. If we, as a world community, do not tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which affects sub-Saharan Africa more than anywhere else, the prospects for development are bleak. Last year, just under 2.5 million Africans died of AIDS. Increased resources and the falling price of anti-retrovirals mean that we have the opportunity to do more to treat people in Africa. As well as providing the resources, the international community must ensure that our money, effort and enthusiasm are deployed to support the developing country Governments rather than add to their burdens. The more we can pool our money, the greater effect it can have.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con)

In seeking to relieve debt in Africa, especially in communities where there is an interface between Islam and Christianity, is there any evidence to show that the damaged reputation of the United States of America and the United Kingdom in Iraq is making it harder to act to relieve debt?

Hilary Benn

No, there is no such evidence because the obstacle to further relief of debt in Africa for those countries that have not yet been able to access the heavily indebted poor countries scheme is the fact that they have been emerging from conflict or that they do not qualify for the debt relief programme. So far, 23 countries have reached decision point. I am anxious that the other countries should be able to access the scheme. When they have done that, the second task is to ensure that they leave the scheme with a sustainable amount of debt. In that respect, I am sure that the recent decision to award topping up to Niger and Ethiopia will be widely welcomed.

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