DFID (FRONT BENCH) – AIDS – 12 November 2003

Dr Julian Lewis: Now that progress has been made on gaining a supply of cheaper anti-AIDS drugs, will the Secretary of State tell us what the Government are doing to ensure that there is improved distribution among the target countries? Does he accept that the scale of the health problem probably compares with that which faced the allies when they liberated the concentration camps, and does he agree that it really requires effort on an international scale? What steps are the Government taking, and what will be the role of international organisations, especially the United Nations, in ensuring that the cheaper drugs are distributed to the people who desperately need them?

[The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box in his new capacity.* In saying that he puts his finger on the real challenge, the answer to the question is that we should work with all international agencies and companies, including organisations such as the accelerating access initiative, which already has 150 arrangements in place in 56 countries. Donors, those who are concerned and those who provide money have to channel efforts in support of country-owned and country-led programmes. We do not want a multiplicity of people trying to do good. We want to focus our energy on supporting country Governments, one AIDS commission and one AIDS programme so that we can ensure that we get the maximum benefit from the changes that he described.]

*  [NOTE: Although reappointed as an Opposition Defence Spokesman by Michael Howard in November 2003, as one of seven Shadow Junior Ministers dealing with International Affairs Julian was participating from the Front Bench for the Shadow DFID Team on this occasion.]