Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, – drawing on his experience working on Aid and Development projects in Africa for several years before he became an MP ? called for western countries to open their markets to African produce. While supporting calls for writing off Africa?s debts and for better Aid he chided Make Poverty History activists for omitting from their manifesto demands to open western markets and instead encouraging African countries to indulge in protectionism themselves. He warned against taking a patronising attitude to Africa verging on racialism. He was confident from his experience that, given access to western markets and freedom from conflict and corruption in their own countries, Africans would generate prosperity and growth. Peter Lilley was speaking in Parliament in a debate on Helping Africa out of Poverty.

    Peter Lilley said: “I devoted several years before becoming an MP to working on aid and development projects, mostly in Africa, and no-one is more passionately committed than me to seeing poverty made history and to seeing the goals of the Make Poverty History campaign achieved.

    “However, the Make Poverty History campaign, while it supports many genuine and desirable objectives, could become, I believe, a vehicle for anti-free trade and anti-free market attitudes and policies and that, if pursued, would be damaging to Africa. I was astonished on reading the manifesto to find that it contains no call to open up access to the markets of the EU or other developed countries. It rightly calls for an end to export subsidies, but rather than attacking the protectionism of western markets, calls for the right of African counties to protect their own agriculture and farmers.

    “Obviously, those countries are free to take their own decisions, but there is hardly anything less designed to be helpful to the elimination of poverty in developing counties than raising the price of food for poor people. Our aim and r?le should be to open up our markets and remove the obstacles to African countries trading in our markets, to lift the burden of debt that hampers them and to help with their humanitarian needs.

    “If we do that, I have faith and confidence that, given good governance, the people of Africa will move from poverty to prosperity.?