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Westminster Hall Debate on SDGs

Mike Kane, Wythenshawe and Sale East

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett)—as a northern English MP, I have been looking forward for quite some time to addressing the hon. Member for Bath, because we know that there are no stray r’s in the name of his constituency. I say well done to him for securing the debate and focusing on holding Governments to account, because that is the job of all of us, no matter which party we represent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) made an extraordinarily powerful speech, as he has done on a number of occasions, and reiterated the consensus across nearly all parties about the 0.7%, but it is interesting that, as the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) said, goal 17 refers to strong ​institutions. That is also about collecting tax. In the week of the Panama tax release, we know that we need to be doing more, because we know that three times the global aid budget is held in developing countries, in offshore tax havens. We all have to work harder to ensure that we get more transparency, because we would not need international development aid budgets if companies at source paid their taxes in those developing countries.

The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) made a very powerful speech. I commend her work and her leadership as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable development goals. I sort of say that with a smile on my face, because I think she has her work cut out over the next few years, if she does not mind my saying so. We have made a start, but we have a long way to go.

Data are massively important, as the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) stated and as the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said in an intervention. As a clinical psychologist, the hon. Lady will know that mental health is an absolute Cinderella service in developing nations. We try for parity in this country, but it is almost nowhere to be seen in developing countries. We will have to work much harder and do much better on that.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) talked, as he does every time, about the big three: HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis. I do not think there has been a debate to which he has not contributed. I commend him for his campaign work.

It was great to visit the jungle in Calais with the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) recently. Both of us, as former primary school teachers, felt the passion for education coming through.

The goals set out ambitions not just for the UK Government, but for all nations. The UK and DFID need to take a leading role in promoting the SDGs and implementation of the goals, as they did for the MDGs under Labour and the coalition. Realisation of these goals by 2030 is a significant challenge. That is why regular updates and scrutiny must accompany them—in order to hold all Governments to account.

What has come through in this debate is that the Government need to outline a clear strategy on how we implement the goals as soon as possible. It is important for the credibility and reputation of the UK as an international leader, especially in the light of the high-level political forum meeting in July, that we get that strategy out there. The point I want to press the Minister on is that I think the UK should be represented at that meeting at Secretary of State level. I hope that he can answer that point.

The implementation strategy should include a detailed review of what is required of the UK to achieve each goal. That could be achieved through a gap analysis. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow went on about data and the hon. Member for Foyle talked about data aggregation. We need to know the baseline and how we are moving forward. DFID and the leadership, through the Cabinet Office, need to show that.

Furthermore, the UK must commit to implementing the goals in their entirety, not picking them off one by one. Although it is recognised that political and economic ​developments might necessitate a greater focus on certain goals at a given time, I urge the Government to ensure that the SDGs are continually maintained on the policy agenda as a whole—a commitment in line with the pledge to “leave no one behind”, as already mentioned. That and sustainability are the two key ideas that the public and civil society must be encouraged to engage with, as the hon. Members for Bath and for Aldridge-Brownhills pointed out.

I want to make a point about local government representation. My political party in Manchester will achieve 50% representation in May, if the results go our way. It is not just us, as national politicians, but civil society that is engaging.

The SDGs are an integrated and indivisible package of targets that should be delivered for all people, in all countries, with all institutions of civil society being engaged. We have an enormous opportunity before us to shape our planet as we take this journey to 2030. We must grasp that opportunity with both hands.


read the full debate here

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