Questions to the Secretary of State for International Development

Mr. Andrew Robathan: How much funding his Department has provided to the Trades Union Congress for international development purposes since 2003; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The Department for International Development has provided £2.58 million to the Trades Union Congress in the period from 2002-03 to date in support of its work on international development. The TUC's work in spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS in Ugandan workplaces, for example, has helped to save countless lives.

Mr. Robathan: The International Policy Network recently published a report that suggests that the trade unions, which provide the majority of Labour party funding, receive several million pounds from the TUC for international development. Most of that money is spent in the United Kingdom and is not accounted for in any way. Will the Minister pledge to have a short, inexpensive and quite normal audit of that money, so that we can discover what has been spent on international development and what has not?

Mr. Thomas: Like every other NGO to which we give funding, the TUC has to spend the money in accordance with the requirements of the International Development Act 2002, which, as I recall, had the support of all parties. I gently encourage the hon. Gentleman to look at the work of the TUC in supporting local trade unions in Iraq and Zimbabwe, for example. Although I recognise that he relishes the role of an unreconstructed member of the Conservative party, he might want to be careful about associating himself with a position that is more extreme than any taken by the last three Conservative Foreign Secretaries. Indeed, the last Conservative Government, from 1989 to 1997, paid the TUC to do work on international development.

John Battle: I welcome the Government's recognition that trade unions are part of civil society and active partners in development both here in Britain and internationally. May I urge my hon. Friend to get DFID to work more closely with trade unions, particularly in southern African countries and countries in Asia, where we are working to ensure that their voice is included in that development work?

Mr. Thomas: My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point about the excellent contribution that trade unions can make. I gave the example from sub- Saharan Africa of the very important work that is taking place in Uganda. Trade unions also played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle in South Africa, and they are playing a particularly important role at the moment in Zimbabwe.