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International Development Questions

Andrew Mitchell answers questions from MPs on subjects including funding to British charities working overseas, access to basic sanitation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

British Charities (Funding)

Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con): What funding his Department provides to British charities with international developmental goals operating overseas. [24338]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): In 2009-10, the Department for International Development provided £362 million to UK charities and civil society organisations to assist in poverty reduction overseas. The global poverty action fund, which will increasingly shape partnership with charities and non-governmental organisations, was launched on 27 October.

Dr Poulter: I am sure that the Secretary of State would agree that we need to get funding to the right place. On improving women's health overseas, does he agree that the focus should be on making interventions in the right place, which is during delivery and childbirth, which account for over 50% of deaths among women? That is where we should be focusing our resources when we fund overseas aid.

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Reproductive, maternal and newborn health care is the subject of a business plan discussion that is under way. With his expertise, I very much hope that he will contribute to our thinking on that. The plan will be published in January. As he said, we need to focus on the continuum of care, up to birth and beyond. We are quite clear about the importance of the issue, but he will know that placing women's choice over whether and when they have children is at the heart of all the overseas programmes that we run.

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): Let me declare an interest in that I recently went to Bangladesh as a guest of Oxfam. I am sure that I join the whole House in paying tribute to the excellent work of British development non-governmental organisations around the world. In Bangladesh, I saw Oxfam's work in raising awareness of the impact of climate change on some of the world's poorest. Although the Government's commitment to continue the work on development and climate change is welcome, the commitment of the international community still falls short. Ahead of Cancun, what steps will the Government take to push for a greater commitment on climate finance from other countries?

Mr Mitchell: I thank the hon. Lady for what she said about the quality of the programme and those who staff it in Bangladesh. I am glad that she was able to visit our programme last week. She has seen a country where climate change affects the everyday lives of millions of people, and she is quite right to underline the Government's commitment to ensuring new and additional mechanisms for raising international finance to tackle climate change. I will be making a speech on the subject tomorrow, and the Government will be pressing hard in the run-up to Cancun and beyond to see that we make significant progress in this area.

Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Con): British development NGOs are world class and do a fantastic job, but has my right hon. Friend noticed that they all have their own advocacy departments and produce their own glossy publications? Would it not be better if they co-ordinated themselves slightly more, so as to cut out unnecessary duplication and competition?

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend raises an important point. He will have noticed that the global poverty action fund that we launched is principally a matched fund, in order to enable the taxpayer to piggyback on the brilliant development outcomes that many of our NGOs produce. That is the right principle, whereby taxpayer support can focus on results, outputs and outcomes, and not on inputs.

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Access to Basic Sanitation

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of people in developing countries without access to basic sanitation. [24340]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): Reducing the number of people in developing countries without access to basic sanitation is a key priority of the coalition Government. The review of our aid programme will determine how we scale up our efforts and results in this area.

Fiona Bruce: I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. As Friday is world toilet day, what is his Department doing to raise the international agenda's priority to improve sanitation, particularly as 1.5 million children under five die every year from poor water hygiene and sanitation, which is more than die from malaria, AIDS and measles combined?

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue in those terms. Diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children in Africa. This is a core subject for the coalition Government, and we are looking at it in our bilateral aid review. Although I do not wish to pre-empt that review, I can tell the House that I am confident that we will be able to ensure that, over the next four years, tens of millions of people will be able to gain access to clean water and sanitation who are currently unable to do so.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State on his remarks at the millennium development goals summit earlier this year, in which he emphasised the importance of sanitation, but will he explain to the House why, when the United Nations passed an historic resolution on 30 September affirming that access to water and sanitation were human rights and that Governments had a legal responsibility to deliver that access, the United Kingdom voted against it?

Mr Mitchell: The hon. Gentleman needs to look carefully at the words that I used at the summit, about which he has just made his nice remarks. The fact is that 2.5 million deaths are caused by a lack of sanitation and 39% of people in our world do not have any access to a basic hygienic latrine. That is why we are focusing not on rhetoric but on results in trying to achieve specific outcomes in this very important area.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): In the last Parliament, the Department for International Development acknowledged that it had refocused its priority on sanitation in the wake of the report by the International Development Committee. Given that, according to figures from the "Water, Sanitation and Health 2008" report, 79% of rural homes in India have no access to sanitation, what will the Secretary of State do within the programme for India to ensure that sanitation is a key priority?

Mr Mitchell: The Chairman of the Select Committee is absolutely right to say that my predecessor admitted that the Government had taken their eye off the ball on this important matter. We are looking carefully at the Indian programme as part of the bilateral aid review and, as part of our examination of the programme, we will be looking specifically at our support for sanitation.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): The sanitation situation in Haiti remains critical after the earthquake in January this year. Following that earthquake, many of our constituents sent donations to support relief efforts there, and they are now very concerned about the outbreak of cholera, which is having a devastating impact. Will the Secretary of State update the House on the delivery of aid in Haiti, and on how the help is getting through to those who need it most?

Mr Mitchell: The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important subject. Britain has helped to bring clean water-the specific point that he raised, I think-to 380,000 people in Haiti. I sent a senior humanitarian expert last week to look at the situation on the ground, and to help specifically with co-ordination there. We are working with other United Nations agencies to ensure that this is prioritised and we are of course considering the recent appeal that the UN put out in that respect.

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Global Fund Projects

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the outcomes of projects under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. [24342]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): The global fund is assessed annually against key performance indicators. The programmes of the global fund have saved 5.7 million lives since 2000. The review of all our multilateral spending, including on the global fund, is designed to ensure maximum impact and value for money.

Grahame M. Morris: Does the Minister recognise that other countries look to the United Kingdom for leadership on HIV strategy? If so, does he agree that a strong UK contribution to the global fund will encourage other countries that have not yet made their financial contributions to step up to the plate? [ Interruption. ]

Mr Speaker: Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. That is very unfair to the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State and unimpressive to those following our proceedings. The Secretary of State is champing at the bit; let us hear him.

Mr Mitchell: The hon. Gentleman is right to underline the importance and success of what the global fund has achieved. This includes circulating 2.8 million people with antiretrovirals, diagnosing and treating 7 million people with tuberculosis and distributing more than 122 million bed nets to help to prevent malaria. We have sent a clear signal to the global fund of strong support in this replenishment round. The precise level of that support will be dictated by the multilateral aid review.

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G20 Summit (Seoul)

Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): What the development outcomes were of the G20 summit in Seoul; and if he will make a statement. [24345]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): G20 leaders endorsed the Seoul development consensus on shared growth and agreed to a multi-year plan to tackle the obstacles to growth in poor countries. As part of this plan, leaders also agreed to take measures to increase trade within Africa.

Mr Ruffley: At the summit, the Government rightly stressed the need for a free trade area for Africa. At present, only 10% of trade in Africa is between African countries. Does the Secretary of State agree that knocking down the trade walls between African countries will deliver economic benefits far outstripping the amount of aid that developed countries can give?

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to make the point about the importance of having a pan-African free trade area-one of the four specific areas championed by the Prime Minister at the G20 summit in Seoul. Knocking down those trade walls, having one-stop border posts and promoting trade within Africa is the key area in helping people to lift themselves out of poverty throughout Africa.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): What meetings did the Prime Minister have with other G8 leaders in Seoul to persuade them to reinstate the commitments to increase aid, which they made at Gleneagles?

Mr Mitchell: My right hon. Friend raised the matter not only in private but specifically at the table. He pointed out that it was hard to expect leaders in the developing world to stand by their commitments to their people if leaders in the G8 and others did not stand by the commitments that they had solemnly made at Gleneagles and beyond on the importance of increasing our support for the poorest in the world.

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