My feed

to access all these features

WEBCHAT GUIDELINES: 1. One question per member plus one follow-up. 2. Keep your question brief. 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. 5. If one topic or question threatens to overwhelm the webchat, MNHQ will usually ask for people to stop repeating the same question or point.

MNHQ have commented on this thread

Mumsnet webchats

Live webchat with Douglas Alexander, secretary of state for international development, Tues 2 March, 1.15-2pm

86 replies

GeraldineMumsnet · 25/02/2010 13:23

We're very pleased that Douglas Alexander is joining us for a webchat on 2 March at 1.15pm.As it's Fairtrade Fortnight, he would like to discuss the importance of Fairtrade and how UK shoppers can help farmers in developing countries with their purchases. On Mon 22 Feb, the Dept for International Development launched the first-ever Fairtrade raisins from Afghanistan and coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the value of Fairtrade goods sold globally is set to triple to £9 billion a year by 2013.If you've got any questions you'd like to put to Douglas about Fairtrade or any other topics, please join us. Please note the chat will last for 45 mins, not an hour. Thanks, MNHQ.

OP posts:
DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:16

Its Douglas here - looking forward to the conversation this afternoon.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:19

I saw the raisins for the first time last week. They are not available in the UK yet, but they told me they should be available in the months ahead. I would check with the Fairtrade Foundation for the latest news

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:21

We have a policy of opposing forced privatisation - but some developing country governments are keen to get private investment in to their infrastructure. It should be their choice.

mrsbaldwin · 02/03/2010 13:22

Thanks re raisins.

swissarmycheese · 02/03/2010 13:22

Getting rid of CAP will do more than any amount of do-gooding or well-wishing to improve standards in the developing world.

Tony Blair gave up our rebate to the EU in order to reform the CAP, but the French stopped the process and in the end we gave it up for nothing.

Why did Labour get it so wrong?

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:23

Hi Manfrom - you’re right, reform of the CAP would make a real difference to farmers in the developing world. The UK continues to press actively for radical reform of the CAP. Removing the barriers CAP imposes on farmers in developing countries, as well as our own farmers, must be a priority.But this reform needs to be agreed by 27 member states of the EU – it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.So I don’t think it’s an ‘either/or’ situation – we will continue to push for long-term change to the CAP but we will also give active support to measures that are making a proven difference – already Fairtrade is helping more than 7.5m people across the developing world.on your serious point, isn't there a phrase about sticks and stones - sure, sometimes people try and patronise you, but in politics you just need to get on with it...and grow a thicker skin!

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:25

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:26

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:28

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

swissarmycheese · 02/03/2010 13:28

This isn't a second question - just a clarification of my first point after your answer to manfrom.

Of course reforming CAP requires 27 nations to agree. The point is we had leverage. We gave up our EU rebate for it!

Why didn't you use that leverage to demand reform instead of just wishing it would happen? Why didn't you ask for reform first before handing back the rebate?

No good talking about good intentions, when we can judge you by what you have actually done.

policywonk · 02/03/2010 13:29

Douglas, does DFID approach an issue like MNH on a country-by-country basis, or is there a general set of MNH principles that DFID aims to apply across the board? If the latter, can you tell us what they are? (Free healthcare at the point of use seems to be one, yes?)

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:30

Hi Maiakins, thanks for the praise for DFID, much appreciated.

And itÂ?s a good point on local v fairtrade, I know that this can be a bit of a vexed questionÂ?

The short answer is: buy both!

Obviously for some staple products, thereÂ?s an easy answer Â? things like tea, coffee and cocoa arenÂ?t produced 'locally' in the UK.
But for other goods, research has shown that shopping 'local' is not necessarily better for the planet. Driving six and a half miles to buy your shopping emits more carbon than flying a pack of Kenyan green beans to the UK.

Research from Cranfield University shows that the emissions produced by growing flowers in Kenya and flying them to the UK can be less than a fifth of those grown in heated and lighted greenhouses in Holland. An air-freight ban would do little to solve climate change Â? less than one tenth of 1% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from air-freighting fruit and vegetables to the UK from Africa.

In terms of reducing poverty, over 1 million livelihoods in Africa are supported by UK consumption of imported fresh fruit and vegetables.

So what do I do? Well, a bit of both Â? I do buy fairtrade but I also buy from the FarmersÂ? Market in Gilmour Square in Paisley.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:31

Onebatmother - what an active imagination you have ...

We looked at the research and thought hard about a line that communicated our sense that the election will not simply be about change (as the Conservatives keep telling us) but at a deeper level about what kind of future we want.

"A future fair for all" proved to be more interesting and conversational than "A fair future for all" and the grammar, or lack of it, has proved to be a talking point.

And as for "Vote for change"...what were they thinking?

robinhoody · 02/03/2010 13:32

Isn't refined sugar a highly addictive poison which can cause depression, irritability, lethargy, sleep problems and a whole host of other problems?

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:33

PreachyPreachyRantsALot ? great name by the way!

I visit schools up and down the country in this job and I find it really heartening that children are so aware of these sort of issues. I think children have a good sense of what's 'fair' and 'unfair' and this gives them quite a clear perspective on Fairtrade.

In fact the Fairtrade Foundation has been really successful in schools; there are 4,000 schools registered with them.

I think the next generation is very aware we're living in a world which is smaller and more interconnected than ever, and so yes, I hope they will use this knowledge to make fairtrade choices.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:34

Swissarmycheese, I was his Europe Minister at the time and we did secure a review of the whole EU budget. I do think it's fair to say we've been the most long-standing and committed advocates of the full-scale reform of the CAP. Indeed, I even went to Paris to make the case in front of a pretty sceptical audience and I can assure you we continue to make that case, as it's the right thing to do.

Maiakins · 02/03/2010 13:35

Hi again,

Thanks for your answer - I didn't know that about carbon emmissions and the Cranfield research. Hmmm ... maybe there needs to be a sticker on the packaging saying how carbon friendly it is!

IÂ?ve got a further question (or two) if thatÂ?s ok ...

Of all the places you have been to in your role as secretary of state for international development, which is your favourite?

And ... when you get back from being overseas, do your children run straight for your suitcase to see what souvenir youÂ?ve brought back for them? If so, what was the best gift you got for them?

champagnesupernova · 02/03/2010 13:36

Hello Douglas
Glad you liked our names - what would yours be? That's not my question HQ!

What I'd like to know is if the UK government supports a 'Robin Hood Tax' - a tiny tax on financial transactions that would raise billions to tackle poverty and climate change both at home and abroad.

If so, how does the govenrment intend to turn this idea into a reality (and what can we do to persuade you /the Govt to do it?)

AgEngineer · 02/03/2010 13:36

I'd like to see Development Aid be more conditional. Like, yes we will help to develop businesses and services in Afghanistan if their government gets out of the business of producing and smuggling opium.

I've worked in Southern Afghanistan and walked through large opium plantations. The biggest issue was that most of the government were cahing in on the trade.

In Kandahar its easy to pick out the drug barons, they live in massive gaudy houses. Why are they still in business?

policywonk · 02/03/2010 13:37

'And as for "Vote for change"...what were they thinking?'

Apparently, they were thinking 'Let's steal the tag line from a popular constitutional reform campaign'

oricella · 02/03/2010 13:38

Can I come back to privatisation of services? I don't think that private investment in infrastructure is necessarily a bad thing & I do believe that recognising the poor as a customer base is the way to go in reaching WatSan targets. BUT - and this was what I was trying to ask, and what policywonk also pointed out - I am concerned that there seem to be lots of cases where contracts between government & multinationals are heavily favoured towards the multinationals, who have no accountability to the people in developing countries, but are only accountable to shareholders in the end.

Is there a way that western governments can make companies based there accountable for the way they act in developing countries & would a Fair Trade / Fair Services approach be a way to do so?

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:40

Ottavia - sure the Conservatives have money. Lots of money. Yet I have a sense that it will ber people and not posters that will win this election.
They spent almost £500,000 on posters in January which I think shows they're trying to have a broadcast campaign in a networked age. Politics at its best should be a convesration, and that is what we are trying to have in this campaign, whether on mumsnet, at the school gte, or on the doorstep.
On the stories about Gordon. Listen, these headlines come and go. My sense is that people are more interested in the bigger issues like jobs, childcare, and the NHS than the swirl of rumours and unsourced stories about Westminster, and that explains the reaction of recent days.

duffy · 02/03/2010 13:40

Are you saying that the bullying/ ranting stories are all fabrication then? Surely not?
Not even a hint of truth?

robinhoody · 02/03/2010 13:41

are you a fan of coincidence theory?

On July 7, 2005 Peter Power was running a drill simulating explosions at the same stations and times. The chances of this are more than all the grains of sand in the world.
In the government narrative the train the alleged bombers caught from Luton was actually CANCELLED. This error was announced a year later.
The explosive used was supposedly TATP, which is very volatile. This makes it extremely unlikely that the alleged bombers could have caught the later train from Luton and still made it to their final destination with the devices intact.
Eye witnesses say the damage to the train indicated the bombs were underneath.
With all the CCTV and staff, officials were saying it was 'power-surges' for at least an hour.
At first, officials were saying the bombs were up to 30mins apart, then they said they were almost simultaneous, except the bus.
Rudolph Guliani was in london on July 7.
Bob Kiley, head of TFL at the time, is ex-CIA.
Benjamin Netanyahu was warned by Scotland Yard not to travel in london on July 7. (source:Israeli army radio). It turns out the original warning came from Mossad.
CCTV on the trains wasn't working again, just like Diana, and JC De Menezes. What's the point of having it?

greeneyeshadow · 02/03/2010 13:42

Feels sure the answer will be a "fairtrade" one but do you have a favourite VARIETY of biscuit?

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.