Company Law Reform Bill [HL]
Baroness Tonge (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I support the amendments tabled by my noble friends. Having been shadow Secretary of State for International Development in the other place for nearly eight years, I would like to commend to the House the work that the Government have done on international development. There is no question in my mind but that they have made huge progress and have been extremely committed to international development. More progress has been made on debt than any of us dreamt of, and the commitment to aid is one of the best for many decades.
One of the main engines for development nowadays must be industrialists and companies operating in developing countries. You only have to look at Britain in the 19th century to see what developed us. We did not just think off the top of our heads that education and public health were a good idea; the drive came from the needs of big companies and industrialists operating in our towns and cities to have a better-educated and healthier workforce.
It is terribly important when our companies—medium-sized as well as big—are operating in developing countries that they should be mindful of their huge responsibility in that country and of how much difference they can make. Sometimes I have read the brochures produced by the companies. They are admirable; the companies are well aware of the social and environmental consequences of their actions. However, when you go to those countries, sometimes what the companies say is not actually happening on the ground. Therefore, I think that it is very important that we tighten up a little bit how those companies operate.
The OFR was welcomed by everyone—by the NGOs and by the Opposition—so we were incredulous when it was suddenly withdrawn. It seemed so strange that the OFR should be withdrawn.