CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DFID – AIDS IN THE THIRD WORLD – 8 July 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: If I understand the hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) correctly, bilateral assistance rather than assistance provided through the medium of EU institutions would be more profitable. I do not want to put words into his mouth, but I suspect that his view is based on other forms of aid given directly by the Department for International Development compared with aid channelled through European institutions. Is she [Sally Keeble] confident that regulations proposed to tackle the AIDS pandemic, in which 3 million people are reported to have died last year, can be carried out most profitably with the limited resources available through that route?

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Dr Lewis: With regard to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, does the Minister [Sally Keeble] agree that it is important to recognise that very different meanings attach to the term ''sustainable development'', depending on whether one looks at it from the point of view of an industrialised country, or a non-industrialised country? For example, it has been suggested that wealthy nations regard sustainable development policies as having to do with recycling, energy efficiency, conservation, and the rehabilitation of damaged landscapes, whereas for poorer nations they mean policies for equity, fairness, respect for the law, redistribution of wealth, and wealth creation. Does the Minister think that such widely divergent viewpoints create a danger that people will be talking on different wavelengths in the forthcoming summit?

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Dr Lewis: The Minister will see from the paperwork that the European Scrutiny Committee listed three conclusions of its own when it agreed to the report on the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The second conclusion states:

 ''The depressing fact that the Conclusions highlight is that, despite a string of international conferences since Rio, the list of serious problems which need to be dealt with, urgently, seems to get longer and effective solutions are proving elusive.''

What priority should be given to the various urgent problems? It is obvious that up to 3 million people dying every year should be given an overwhelming priority over almost everything else on the agenda combined. If she agrees, why does it not have that priority? If she does not agree, will she say why?

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Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend [Nick Hawkins] said that there are at least two relevant pharmaceutical firms in his constituency. Now that an agreement has, I believe, been reached on differential pricing for drugs going to stricken third-world countries, have those firms said how they regard the options? Would they rather their drugs be supplied as a result of arrangements made Government-to-Government, or are they happy for the arrangements to be made through EU institutions?

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Dr Lewis: Before the hon. Gentleman [Kelvin Hopkins] leaves the earlier part of his speech too far behind, let me make a point. I am interested that one agency that he did not mention was the United Nations. The UN has a grave concern about the pandemic and I would have thought that for the quasi-military campaign of supply of drugs that he has in mind, it would be the appropriate relief organisation, as it was after previous forms of holocaust.

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Dr Lewis: The Minister's [Sally Keeble's] point about distribution is well made, although it was originally put by the hon. Member for Broxtowe [Dr Nick Palmer]. Will she please address the central point made by hon. Member for Luton, North [Kelvin Hopkins], which is that we will get a better result if the aid is channelled in the form of drugs rather than as simple financial assistance?