My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Amos.)
I begin this Committee stage by expressing the hope that the Government will concede on some of our amendments. However, that may well be a pious hope. The amendment seeks to allow the Secretary of State to provide development assistance to a country or countries provided he is satisfied that the action will lead directly or indirectly to a reduction in poverty. The amendment seeks to allow the Secretary of State to provide assistance to organisations or projects that seek to lay the foundations for poverty reduction--for example, the assistance for economic development or governance--but cannot be described as directly contributing to a reduction in poverty.
The Department for International Development has on numerous occasions declared that its mission statement is the elimination of poverty. But in its 1997 White Paper it said that DfID was also responsible for encouraging economic growth. The 1997 White Paper said that the Government would,
"Refocus our international development efforts on the elimination of poverty and encouragement of economic growth which benefits the poor. We will do this through support for international sustainable development targets and policies which create sustainable livelihoods for poor people, promote human development and conserve the environment".
The Government have also stated on numerous occasions that although poverty reduction is their main aim, it is not their sole aim. Clare Short has said:
"Our primary aim is poverty reduction".--[Official Report, Commons, 6/2/01; col. 443W.]
However, there seems to be a problem with definitions. For example, conservation has been ruled out for funding by DfID because it does not lead to poverty eradication. Clare Short stated that:
"DfID's purpose is poverty eradication, not conservation".--[Official Report, Commons, 9/7/01; col. 332W.]
But the department is involved in forest management and conservation.
"The Department for International Development's purpose is poverty elimination. Forests play a major role in providing livelihoods for poor people, and this is the starting point for our involvement in the sector."--[Official Report, Commons, 26 2 0l; col. 531W.]
The Government need to clarify that poverty reduction, while being the main aim of the department, should not prevent the department from funding projects or programmes that help to lay the foundations for poverty reduction, but which do not lead directly to poverty reduction. The Government have clearly ruled out some sectors for funding because they do not lead to poverty reduction.
"Our primary aim is poverty reduction", said Clare Short.
"We are not directly involved in ape protection projects".--[Official Report, Commons, 6/2/01; col. 443W.]
But the Government do fund several wildlife projects because, indirectly, they lead to poverty reduction.
We believe that the Bill should reflect the fact that many valuable projects can lay the foundations for sustainable development and poverty reduction. However, these projects cannot be said to lead directly to poverty reduction. That is why we believe that the funding of projects which lead indirectly to poverty reduction and lay the foundations for the reduction of poverty should be legitimate and be included on the face of the Bill. I look forward to the Government's response. I beg to move.
In speaking, I intend to try to deal with the various amendments which have been collected together for the suggested grouping. However, at the outset--I undertake not to bore the Committee by repeating this over and over again--I should declare an interest as having worked for most of my life both voluntarily and professionally in this sphere--indeed, I am still doing so. In particular, I should declare my position as a member of the Oxfam Association, a trustee of World Aware and of the Overseas Development Institute and my professional role as Senior Fellow of Saferworld.
I think that the amendment which has been suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, runs the danger of opening a Pandora's Box. I, too, seek closer definitions, but I suggest to the noble Baroness that the wording that she has chosen for her amendment might stretch the Act into every possible and conceivable interpretation.
I shall speak first to Amendment No. 2, and then to Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 9 and 10. In so doing, perhaps I may add a word or two of support for some of the other amendments in this grouping. Amendment No. 2 deals frankly with vision and purpose. I know why I sit on this side of the House. I do not sit here to seek to reduce poverty; I am on this side in order to fight for the elimination of poverty. For that reason, I am rather disappointed with the wording of the Bill.
Perhaps I may ask Members of the Committee to turn to the foreword written by the Secretary of State for International Development to the White Paper on international development published in 1997. In the second sentence, she states that:
"It is first, and most importantly, about the single greatest challenge which the world faces--eliminating poverty".
I ask noble Lords also to turn to the White Paper published more recently, in December 2000. In that paper there is a foreword by the Prime Minister. In his second sentence he states that:
"The new millennium offers a real opportunity to eliminate world poverty. This is the greatest moral challenge facing our generation".
That kind of wording sets my pulse racing with excitement a little--I say that unashamedly. But to talk of the reduction of world poverty does not begin to do so.
What is the yardstick by which "reduction" can be measured? Having worked all my life in this area, I hope that I am not open to the charge of naivety. I can see how difficult the elimination of poverty will be. I am probably dubious as to whether it can ever be achieved. However, if that is not our purpose, how do we measure the significance of the reduction? As the Bill is presently worded, we might achieve a reduction of something between 2 and 5 per cent and then pat ourselves on the back by saying that the purpose of the Bill had been fulfilled: poverty had been reduced. We must have a yardstick by which to measure progress on reduction, and for that reason, if for no other, I hope that the Minister and her colleagues will again be able to look at the wording of the Bill.
Amendment No. 3 deals with tied aid. I know that the argument put forward by my noble friend on the Front Bench is that the wording of the Bill as it stands sets up sufficient moral authority to resist any pressure which might amount to a drift back into tied aid. Perhaps I may say at this point that those of us who have worked at the front line on third world issues have seen all too frequently the waste, damage and counter-productivity of tied aid. I have a deep respect and genuine affection for my noble friend on the Front Bench, but I know that she is incapable of being devious. I suggest that she needs to look again at what she said in her contribution to the debate on Second Reading. At col. 748 she states that:
"Under that clause, the Secretary of State may provide development assistance only if he or she is satisfied that it is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty through furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of people".--[Official Report, 2/7/01; col. 748.]
I have now read and re-read the Bill. The word "only" does not appear in it. Rather, the Bill states that,
"The Secretary of State may provide any person or body with development assistance if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty".
But he might be able to do all kinds of other things as well. The word "only" was used by my noble friend in her contribution, but it has not been used on the face of the Bill.
Again, I suggest that we need to adopt a belt-and-braces approach in this area, and in this amendment I have attempted to show how that might be provided. But we certainly need to be told by the Minister why the word "only"--which she emphasised in the debate on Second Reading--is not included in the Bill.
Amendment No. 4 attempts to spell out what is poverty. It is a term which can be used very subjectively. Again, in the debate on Second Reading and in much of the comment surrounding the Bill, we have heard a great deal about the commitment of the Secretary of State. I should stress here that I take second place to no one in my admiration for the Secretary of State. I believe that we have in place a first class person, working with an excellent department. That is why, in some respects, I find this Bill a little disappointing.
There may be future Secretaries of State who have different purposes and may put forward other interpretations of poverty. That is why I have attempted, as I see it, to spell out one interpretation. If the Minister and her colleagues have a better interpretation, I am sure that we shall all give it sympathetic and careful consideration. But it is certainly not only a matter of a quantitative measure of income: it can be relative; it can involve human rights; it can involve the conditions of existence; indeed, it can involve spiritual dimensions. In this context, it is a shame that, where we are looking to the spirit of our Secretary of State and the fine department that she has working for her for a lead on what the Bill is all about, there is not a clarion call as to the nature of poverty and why we are combating it, rather than this dry, formalistic wording.
I turn now to Amendments Nos. 9 and 10. Again, these concern the tightening-up of the Bill. No one could possibly take exception to what is in the Bill, but, as we have all learnt, the environment is a global issue, a global challenge. Under the Bill, it would be possible to support sustainable development projects in a particular country which did not contribute to the sustainable condition of the global environment. If such projects did not contribute to a sustainable continuance of the global environment, in the long run they would undermine anything that was being achieved in that particular country itself. The amendment seeks to spell out the relationship between a commitment to environmental concerns in a particular country and the inescapability of the environmental dimension internationally and globally. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to reassure the Committee in that respect.
I welcome Amendment No. 5 and its reference to human rights, which is highly relevant to what I have been trying to argue. I also welcome Amendment No. 12, which makes an important point about civil society. I very much look forward to hearing what the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, will say about this because I know of his deep interest in the issue, which is central to matters of development. It is a very helpful amendment.
In the excellent 1997 White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century, the Government pledged on page 70 that,
"The protection and promotion of human rights and the observance of international humanitarian law will be integral to all of our programmes of humanitarian assistance".
The amendment seeks to give substance to that pledge. It is intended to encourage the promotion and protection of human rights. It is not intended to limit the Secretary of State by requiring her to take account of a country's human rights record in determining whether to provide that assistance.
I believe wholly in the Government's commitment to human rights, but it is a commitment which needs to be stated explicitly to both receiving governments and development agencies so that it cannot be overlooked and forgotten amidst the enormous pressures presented by development issues. The Government's commitment to human rights cannot be taken as read. Like all essential truths, it needs to be written down. We know that we should not murder or steal, but still all of the world's major religions have found it essential to state that moral truth in their fundamental texts. The Bill will provide DfID with its basic text for the years to come.
The Government need to demonstrate their commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in black and white on the face of the Bill, in order, most of all, to provide a permanent reminder to all those who are not already committed to a rights agenda. Such a commitment is all the more important should a future government renege on human rights, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred.
The amendment seeks to provide an essential lever to those groups which are only too easily left out of the development process. Disabled people provide a glaring example of this. At Second Reading, I quoted Macline Twimukye, head of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda, who spoke at a recent conference on the need for a UN convention on the rights of disabled people. Although Uganda has made outstanding progress in this area, Macline pointed out that most African states are ignorant and dismissive of their disabled population. She said:
"There is a tendency by our governments to assume that we are too few to warrant specific considerations, hence our continued exclusion. It is not strange for many countries in Africa to have accurate data on the number and types of animals they have in the national parks, but they have never bothered to know the number of Disabled People they have. One wonders therefore how our services get planned for, if they do at all?...There is no doubt that we are unbelievably the largest and most discriminated minority group in the World, whose human rights are continuously violated".
Since 1999, the London-based organisation, Disability Awareness and Action, has been compiling a database of human rights violations against disabled people, and so far evidence affecting more than 2 million people has been collected. But these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. As Rachel Hurst, its director, points out, most disabled people will not talk about the abuse and violence that they have received for the same reasons as children were silent about their treatment and women about domestic violence: they know that they will not be believed or treated seriously.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important that the Government should make an explicit commitment to securing human rights in this Bill. It would provide the poorest of the poor--those who are literally discarded--with the leverage to persuade their governments and development agencies that they, too, should be included in the programmes and policies that are committed to the elimination of poverty.
The Government argue that the inclusion of a commitment to human rights in the Bill would limit the Secretary of State's room for manoeuvre in eradicating poverty. The wording of my amendment may, indeed, need alteration in order that it is not too blunt an instrument, but I would argue that a clear statement that the provisions made to eliminate poverty should be based on human rights must be made, otherwise they will turn out to be useless.
As the 1997 White Paper again stated on page 16:
"Sustainable development, as the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen agreed, is not possible unless human rights are protected for all, including the poorest and the most disadvantaged".
I hope that a way can be found for the Government to demonstrate explicitly the pledge to protect and promote human rights which they gave in that 1997 White Paper.
Amendment No. 12 seeks to add to the Bill the notion of civil society organisations taking part in development. I have been with non-governmental organisations most of my working life--Christian Aid, Save the Children, Care International, and so on--and so I would be likely to support any amendment which mentions those civil society organisations, which, as we all know, are active in development. But I shall try to demonstrate that it is not only a surface amendment designed to include the NGOs, but relates to a more fundamental aspect of the whole purpose of development aid.
Some Members of the Committee may remember that at Second Reading it was shown that the term "civil society" is now a part of the ordinary aid vocabulary. The reason for that is that civil society organisations are involved more than ever in development assistance. This is fundamental to the Government's strategy, and there is no argument about that. I know that the noble Baroness will underline that. There is a link here with good governance and the "add ons" mentioned by other noble Lords which would be desirable in the Bill. But of course, we cannot put everything into it.
I agree with the statement in the Explanatory Notes relating to Clause 1. There is a difficulty of definition in the Bill. The same is true of "sustainable development" and "environment". But "civil society" is not a concept of development; it is a means to a solution. I would argue that it is a clear part of the objective of assistance. Those of us who seek to provide assistance in various ways know that within the definition of "the poorest" is the fact that such people are the most helpless. They have no one to speak for them and no one to remove the practical obstacles that stand in their way. Such people are often the most articulate but are unable to advocate their own concerns and rights let alone meet their own needs.
Therefore, one of the central purposes of development assistance is to support those who enable the poor to sustain themselves and to articulate their needs more clearly. Indeed, to leave out civil society would be a form of hypocrisy. It would indicate that we can reach people directly; but that is the stuff of the promotional leaflets put out by aid agencies. In reality, no outside bodies can or should seek to deliver aid just as milkmen deliver milk on the doorstep.
The development of civil society is almost as important a task as meeting human needs. Surely that means that we must admit civil society organisations to the Bill in some form. I do not argue for precisely the form of wording that appears in my amendment, but I know that the noble Baroness will give the matter her fullest consideration.
I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 and 9 and 10 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I enjoy supporting amendments tabled by the noble Lord. He has spoken of "vision". It is always good to read amendments referring to the world as it should be rather than the compromises often imposed by the wording of Bills. I helped to write the Liberal Democrats' paper on poverty reduction, and I realise how many compromises people throw in at every stage.
Perhaps I may refer in detail to some of the amendments. Amendment No. 2 refers to the "elimination" of poverty. The title of the White Paper was Eliminating World Poverty, but the word used in the document itself was "reduction". I can understand the reason. The elimination of world poverty will be very difficult. In this House we often forget the limitations on DfID's budget. It is not endless. Even it were, the elimination of world poverty is unachievable. Once poverty had been "eliminated" to some degree, the boundaries would have to be extended and the level would be set higher.
In relation to Amendment No. 3, the noble Lord gave a very pure description of the removal of the dirty hands of commercialism from the Bill. I support the idea behind the amendment and have therefore added my name to it. However, the vast development potential in private capital flow might make such an amendment unacceptable. Another reason for adding my name to the amendment relates to the very problem exemplified by private capital flows. In some countries vast amounts of capital flow in from overseas. However, as has happened in sub-Saharan Africa, the returns expected and the associated risk mean that the region has attracted the least amount of private capital. In that case, development assistance may be necessary in terms of acting on behalf of private capital.
Amendment No. 4 is extremely thought-provoking. I examined the issue of cultural rights. The area is in one degree indefinable. It can incorporate everything. Let us take, for example, the building of the dam in Turkey. When it is flooded, 1,000 years of history will be destroyed. The project is under review; but if it were to go ahead, should we be destroying the cultural rights of a whole people?
Amendment No. 10 refers to "essential global environmental strategies". While I support the amendment, I find it just as provoking in its suggestion that we there can be a global strategy, given the tatters of the Kyoto agreement as a result of self-interest on the part of some of the big players. The department should examine closely, right down to the micro-level of various schemes, the ecological consequences of any action that is taken.
I did not put my name to the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, but I strongly support his reference to "civil society". However, we should not merely support local NGOs which are helping to rebuild civil society. I have changed my view considerably over the years in relation to one area of the Bill. Perhaps now, especially with the emphasis on good governance, we should consider rebuilding local governmental institutions rather than sidelining some of the aspects of the work of local government. Only through sustained, dependable local government will local civil society really benefit in the long run.
In speaking to this set of amendments perhaps we can finish our Second Reading speeches and then get down to the detailed business. On the one hand, the amendments seek to make precise what the Secretary of State can do; on the other, they seek to set out vast, general ambitions. Conflict between the two approaches is bound to arise.
Perhaps I may speak first to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Judd, to which, as always, he spoke eloquently. I have one or two difficulties with the amendment. It would be nice to eliminate poverty, but it would be nice also to be modest in our ambitions. We have been unable to eliminate poverty in rich countries. Even now, after 200 years of growth, we are still struggling to do so. That is partly because, as basic poverty is eliminated, we rightly become more ambitious. What we seek is a steady, constant reduction in poverty. Perhaps I am becoming modest in my ambitions in what is not quite my old age.
I should like to see a steady reduction in poverty on a variety of fronts rather than a commitment on the face of the Bill to eliminate poverty, which is not easy to achieve--whether it be a commitment on the part of the Secretary of State or in terms of resources. The elimination of poverty requires a great deal of self-organisation on the part of the poor. Governments can enable, but it is not up to law-makers to say, "I hereby agree to eliminate poverty and therefore I shall do so". The White Paper refers to the elimination of poverty. I am happier with the idea of a "reduction" in poverty. If I write a book about poverty, as I have done, I may talk in grandiose tones, but on the face of the Bill I want to be fairly cautious.
Taken seriously, Amendment No. 4 defines poverty in such a way that there is no chance of it ever being eliminated anywhere. It is rightly an ambitious amendment, but if we worry about,
"the inadequate protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights",
I know of no country on earth in which there is not some violation of human or cultural rights. The French think that not protecting their ghastly films is an invasion of their cultural rights, and they want protection for their cultural freedoms. Anyone can define matters in that way. Although such a definition may be very good in a textbook, we ought to avoid it on the face of the Bill. If we adopt it, we can never eliminate poverty; we cannot even reduce it. As soon as you are providing clean water, good healthcare and higher employment, you may find that people will begin to complain about civil, political and cultural rights; and quite rightly so. For example, are not such rights violated in Northern Ireland? Therefore, what are we doing about the elimination of poverty in the Province, and so on? There is a contradiction between Amendments Nos. 2 and 4. I prefer to stick to modest amendments.
However, I like Amendment No. 5 because it is fairly succinct. My noble friend Lady Wilkins, who made a very good speech on Second Reading, has succeeded in putting forward a good formulation. At some stage we shall have to expand the definition of "welfare" or that of "poverty" so as to include the dimension of human rights, because the latter is essential to the elimination of poverty.
Perhaps I may comment on Amendment No. 12, tabled in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I know what the noble Earl is trying to achieve. However, if he reads the sentence as reformulated in the light of his amendment, he will see that it would state that the Secretary of State must include the welfare of the civil society--by which he means "civil society organisations". It is right to recognise the importance of civil society organisations in the elimination of poverty, but to seek to improve their welfare is, I believe, something more than I should like the Secretary of State to be required to do. Again, that is partly because people think of civil society as encompassing all the nice and cuddly things that they like; but it is more than that.
We may believe that "civil society" is something nice, but the Mafia is also part of it. What are we to do about that? We have to be very tight and exact when dealing with the wording on the face of a Bill. If you are writing articles, making speeches or, indeed, writing books, you can say what you like. It is very important to be exact when proposing such amendments.
I turn, finally, to Amendment No. 3. When Mr Milosevic was recently handed over, as it were, by the Serbian Government, aid worth a billion dollars was given to that country. Let us make no mistake about it: it was a straightforward political deal. The political purposes behind such moves are sometimes good. You could perhaps believe that no political purpose should be allowed, but you may want to promote peace in Sri Lanka, for example, between the Tamils and others and say to those concerned, "If you have peace, we will give you money". Is that possibility to be forbidden by Amendment No. 3?
I know what my noble friend Lord Judd wants to do: he wants to eliminate profit making. He wants a tied element, and that is absolutely fine and correct. But, as it is, the amendment is far too broadly formulated to be helpful.
I should like to make a few comments before my noble friend sits down. I always enjoy the academic and scholastic interventions that he brings us from the LSE, of which I have the privilege to be a governor. Indeed, I always listen to his profound analysis with great pleasure because it is stimulating. However, does my noble friend agree that perhaps one of the reasons why we must be modest about what we have achieved towards the elimination of poverty is that we have never set ourselves firmly and vigorously the target of eliminating poverty? We have settled for a kind of well-meaning and very generous philanthropic approach as regards dealing with some of the symptoms. This has eased a little of the problem where it exists, but we have never got down to the discipline of saying that we should be eliminating poverty; we have not asked ourselves how we should go about it. I should be interested to hear my noble friend's reflections on that point.
Before my noble friend comments, perhaps he could clarify the following point. As always, I took his strictures most seriously about my definition of "poverty". I said that it was just one suggestion and that I should be most willing to consider others. With all his academic background, I wonder whether my noble friend is saying that "poverty" can be defined--
I still believe that the elimination of poverty is practically impossible but that its reduction is possible. Over the past 100 or 200 years we have considerably reduced poverty, but it has returned time and again. When scrutinising legislation, we ought to be considering achievable, operationally meaningful ambitions. The role that DfID or any government can play in the elimination of poverty is fairly limited because, eventually, it is a task for the poor. Only they can eliminate their poverty: we cannot do very much about it. However, we can be helpful. We can take the obstacles out of the way; we can remove the trade barriers and other protectionist devices that have been put in place; and we can help with education, healthcare, the provision of water, and so on. But it is really a matter for the poor, who will, by their own efforts, eliminate poverty. Therefore, although elimination is something that I would talk about in an academic environment, I would not speak about it in a legislative context. That is an important point.
As far as concerns the definition, I already know that "poverty" is a multi-faceted concept; indeed, I have probably said so myself. However, if you are going to talk about the reduction or elimination of poverty, you must have a reasonably quantitative definition that will enable you to monitor the situation and thereby ascertain whether it is decreasing year by year. If you have 37 dimensions of poverty, you can never be sure whether or not it is decreasing; but with just one or two dimensions you can make that assessment. Of course, you will not capture the whole of poverty but you will have introduced a provision that is operationally meaningful and helpful. That is the conflict. When you are dealing with the law, you have to be fairly precise in what you propose. You must not set impossible tasks.
The interesting debate between the noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Judd, is one that gets to the very heart of how we perceive legislation--whether it is about the technical objectives of a department or a broad, sweeping statement of intent. In some ways, we must try to combine the best of both arguments. I am tempted to recall to the Committee the story of two Pre-Raphaelite painters; namely, Rossetti and Morris. Whenever Rossetti saw a poor man, he would empty his pockets and give every penny that he possessed to him. He would then go away and think no further about the poor man. However, Morris would never give a penny to any poor man in the street; but he went forward to build a world in which there would be no more poor men. Therefore, one was all heart and the other was all head. I believe that the policy we follow must be a combination of both those considerations.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, is right to remind us that we regularly fall short of the objectives that he, as one of the most hard-headed Ministers--and, indeed, one of the best--to hold office in the department, set for himself. In office, he worked for targets and recognised the need to have an overall objective. In a later amendment, he rightly reminds us of the United Nations' target figure of 0.7 per cent set in 1970 under Resolution 2626. The figure at present is around 0.3 per cent, but 0.7 per cent is itself an attainable target.
We probably cannot eliminate or eradicate poverty as such. Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is right to remind us that as an objective in itself it is a target that we can put up front and work towards. Nevertheless, we must also be realistic and douse ourselves with some cold water in recognition of the fact that it will probably not come about. The World Bank currently estimates the level of poverty in the world as affecting about 800 million people who are said to be racked by starvation or despair, or, indeed, living below any rational definition of human decency.
I broadly welcome the Bill but believe that Amendment No. 2 would add to it in terms of the commitment that it proposes. I also support the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, as regards Amendment No. 5. She is absolutely right to remind us of the importance of attaching to our objectives certain criteria for which our aid programme should not be used. It is quite clear that abuses have taken place in the past--whether it be a matter of human rights or a neglect of people in particular categories and groups. We shall return to the human rights issue when we deal with later amendments. I am glad that the noble Baroness has flagged this point so early in our Committee debates. I very much support it.
Finally, I turn to Amendment No. 12. My noble friend Lord Sandwich reminded the Committee of the importance of civil society and of civil organisations. I know that many noble Lords have been involved in the building of civil society in places such as South Africa, Rwanda and Burma. Indeed, I know about the work carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, in supporting the development of civil society--judicial institutions--in Burma by way of encouraging those dissident groups who have been actively working for such objectives. There are some encouraging signs that organisations such as the NLD are currently in some kind of negotiation with the military dictatorship. I visited refugee camps on the Burma/Thai border. In those refugee camps Karen organisations are preparing for the day when, hopefully, there will be a democratic society in that country once more. That would be a worthwhile objective for us to tie our aid to. We should have regard to organisations which seek to build civil society.
One of the lessons to be learnt from eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union post 1989 is that of the problems caused by not having in place sufficient groups and organisations to rebuild a fractured civil society, as was the case in the aftermath of the collapse of communism in those countries. It is right for us to try to find the appropriate words. If the proposed words are not quite right, we have between now and Report to fulfil what I believe are the proper objectives of all the amendments we are discussing.
I support Amendment No. 12, spoken to by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I cannot follow the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on civil society. However, there is a case for including the term "civil society organisations" on the face of the Bill, although I understand the Bill to be both inclusive and generous in its approach and its definitions in many respects. I make a plea for considering good governance and the critical role that civil society organisations have played in many regimes in facilitating the transition to democracy. I think, for example, of Latin America where the hope of democracy was kept alive in many instances by human rights organisations, political organisations and children's and women's organisations.
Democracy is now regarded as a condition of development aid. We find in many of the European aid arrangements a condition that societies promote and work towards democracy. That seems to me to be absolutely right and proper. If the term "civil society organisations" were included on the face of the Bill, it would enable those proposing the Bill and responding to it to pick up the positive signal that democratic growth and economic development are closely connected, if not completely symbiotic.
A year in your Lordships' House has taught me the legislative limitations on political and personal vision. That is not, however, the reason that I disagree with the thrust of the amendments we are discussing. I am not standing before the Committee a victim of political and spiritual fatigue, but rather because these amendments, heartily though I agree with their sentiment, do not meet the objective at which the Bill should be directed. It is not a piece of legislation in which we as representatives of the nation should proclaim our values which we think should instil any form of international aid. That is not the purpose of the Bill. Neither is this an occasion to attach to it concepts that we have ratified in human rights conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and so on. Such sentiment, praiseworthy though it is, has no practical effect on a donee country, nor on NGOs.
Like many Members of the Committee I have travelled extensively in connection with work to address poverty. Those involved in such work are exhausted with workshops. They are fed up with textual frenzy. The distance between word and deed is too great. They want action. If any of those donees were to consider the Bill and determine what it might do for them, they would not, I submit, consider the form of amendment which we are presently debating. They would ask whether the measure gives development assistance. The answer is yes. They would ask whether it provides for sustainable development. The answer is yes. They would ask whether it improves the welfare of their people. The answer is yes. They would ask whether such assistance is designed to have lasting benefit. The answer is yes. They would ask whether the government providing all that have full powers to do so. Under the terms of Clause 4 they certainly do.
Practically speaking, even though I agree with the sentiment we are discussing, I want in the future, along with others in the Chamber, to say to the government of the day, "There were your powers--minimum in terminology, maximum in effect. Did you achieve the objective we set for you when we passed the Bill?" Few of us have the wealth of Rossetti and even fewer of us have the single-mindedness of William Morris, but in the year 2001 the poor people of the world want action, not words. I support the Bill as it stands.
I declare an interest as the chair of Oxfam and a number of other development agencies. My purpose in supporting all the amendments in this first group, other than Amendment No. 1, is to improve what is already a very good Bill which includes a principle of fundamental importance to development.
My concern with Amendment No. 1, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, is that by adding the word "indirectly", a potential loophole in the Bill would be widened. I am sure that that was not the objective of the noble Baroness. However, it is possible to envisage a future Secretary of State using the word "indirect" as a basis for reintroducing tied aid on the ground that tied aid indirectly contributes towards the reduction of poverty, as indeed it does.
I refer to the flexibility given to future Secretaries of State to interpret the Bill in a way which suits the policies and strategies they may have which may not accord with the policies and strategies of the present Secretary of State. We all know that there is no danger that the present Secretary of State would stray from the intention of the Bill as it represents exactly what she has proclaimed and done during the period she has held office. However, there is undoubtedly flexibility here as regards interpretations which future Secretaries of State might take advantage of.
The amendments support the principles of the Bill while ensuring that it is implemented in accordance with those principles. That seems to me to be of critical importance. I, too, have travelled abroad and I know that those involved in development work in those countries care about the wording of measures although their main concern is, of course, with the implementation of aid and the elimination of poverty. Much of the wording that is proposed accords with the wording used by those involved in development in the developing world.
I refer to two amendments which I believe are of specific importance. As I say, I support all the amendments in the group with the exception of Amendment No. 1. Amendment No. 4 seeks to widen the definition of "poverty" to extend well beyond deprivation of material needs. It is very much accepted development policy that one needs to consider poverty in a much wider framework than simply material deprivation. The amendment embodies exactly the current approach to development which is widely recognised as the way forward by most experts in development.
The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, adds the words "human rights" to the Bill. The noble Baroness illustrated the importance of protecting the human rights of people suffering from disability against the violations they endure all the time. It is essential that the words "human rights"--it is what development is about--should appear in a Bill which defines our approach to development.
I add my support, in particular to Amendment No. 10, which inserts,
"and to its compatibility with essential global environmental strategies".
I support the fact that poverty reduction in international development is seen in the context of sustainable development. It is worth reminding ourselves that the words "sustainable development" mean many things to many people and organisations. One hears of sustainable buildings or sustainable communities. I believe that the Bill refers to sustainable development in the spirit of the UNCED conference in Rio in 1992--a global consideration. It is also worth recalling that the DfID is the lead department involved in the global environmental fund, an important international development which emerged from the UNCED conference in Rio.
The amendment underlines the fact that sustainable development must involve a broader, almost global and certainly continental, view. Many environmental problems involving dams and rivers can take place in one country but have an adverse effect on another country. There is an extraordinary lack of communication of information between different countries. It is important that sustainable developments are seen in a broad context.
The DfID now has its officers working in-country. It is important, therefore, to ensure that such local activities are undertaken within a global strategy. I have to declare an interest. I am chairman of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea. It takes a view on global environmental matters.
Clause 1 sets out the core power in the Bill. It constrains a Secretary of State to provide development assistance only where she is satisfied that it will contribute to the reduction of poverty either through furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of the people. Amendments Nos. 1 to 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12 seek to amend the scope and operation of that core power.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, was concerned that the Bill might not allow the Secretary of State to support activities which provide the foundation for the reduction of poverty. Amendment No. 1 would make explicit that the Secretary of State could provide assistance for activities that were likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty either directly or indirectly.
As Clause 1 is presently drafted, the Secretary of State can support activities which contribute to the reduction of poverty either directly or indirectly and which impact on poverty either immediately or over a longer term. But in every case there must be a demonstrable causal link between the giving of assistance and the contribution to a reduction in poverty. I can reassure the noble Baroness, therefore, that the Bill already reflects the sense of Amendment No. 1.
Not only is the amendment unnecessary, it is also undesirable. If we make a point of saying that the contribution may be indirect, as the amendment provides, we risk enabling the Secretary of State to provide assistance even if the extent of the contribution to the reduction of poverty is incidental--a mere probable knock-on effect. So, for example, the amendment might allow the use of aid for commercial or political ends so long as there was some contribution to the reduction of poverty. I recognise that that is not the noble Baroness's intention but I offer it as an example of the potential and, I believe, undesirable impact of the amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, propose that the core power be amended so that the overarching aim of development assistance becomes the elimination rather than the reduction of poverty. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Judd and others that the Government remain committed to the elimination of poverty. The 1997 and 2000 White Papers on international development make clear that commitment. That is why we have a commitment to the achievement of the international development targets.
However, we have been advised--here I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai--that the elimination of poverty is too tough a test to embed in legislation directed to the sanctioning of individual spending decisions. If we were to adopt the elimination of poverty as our overarching aim there is a risk that the Secretary of State would be able to support nothing, as she could not be satisfied that any single initiative or activity was likely to contribute to the elimination of poverty.
I believe that it has been recognised in this House that the process towards the elimination of poverty will be gradual and can be achieved only through continuing efforts to reduce poverty. We have adopted, therefore, the reduction of poverty as our aim in the Bill and as the test for the legitimacy of the Secretary of State's decision.
Amendment No. 3 makes explicit that the Secretary of State cannot provide development assistance for purposes of a commercial, political or otherwise non-developmental nature. This is the negative image of Clause 1 as it is currently drafted. The clause sets down the overarching aim and two purposes for development assistance. It is determinative. By that I mean that the clause does not allow the Secretary of State to act for any purpose which is not compatible and consistent with the overarching aim and the two purposes set down. It is not necessary to state the aims and purposes for which the Secretary of State is not able to provide assistance.
Indeed, in doing so we weaken the test set down in Clause 1. Refining the powers in this way casts doubt on the primacy of the overarching aim of the reduction of poverty and the two purposes of furthering sustainable development and promoting the welfare of the people. If we must specify that they do not allow for commercial and political purposes, the inference must be that they do not stand as a complete definition of our aims and purposes.
My noble friend Lord Judd pressed me on the fact that I used the word "only" in my reply at Second Reading and that it is not included on the face of the Bill. Clause 1 spells out the circumstances in which the Secretary of State may spend public money. In doing so, it implies that her authority to do so is limited by the terms of the clause. The word "only" is therefore implicit in the power and does not need expression.
I hope that I have reassured the Committee that Amendment No. 3 is not necessary in that the Bill provides no scope for the Secretary of State to provide assistance for any aim or purpose other than those set down in Clause 1. In fact, such an amendment would weaken the powers in Clause 1.
Amendment No. 4 would insert a definition of poverty. The Bill does not currently define poverty. The concept is both relative and complex, yet there is a common ability to recognise poverty when it presents itself. Attempts to capture the range of its manifestations in legal language would on the one hand expose the Secretary of State to the constant risk of technical legal challenge over whether the aspects of poverty that she had identified fell within the definition, and on the other hand give rise to the possibility that actions could be justified because the definition appeared to embrace them even though poverty as we naturally understand it was not present.
Numerous questions could be asked and would require answers. For example, could we assist those who were poor, but not the poorest? How poor would an individual or community have to be to merit assistance? How should we assess the depth of poverty of an individual or a community when poverty has many different aspects?
By relying on the natural understanding of poverty, we allow the Secretary of State to offer assistance across the spectrum of its manifestations. She is constrained in the way in which she can do so: it must be through furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of people. She is accountable to Parliament and to the courts on the use of her powers.
Amendment No. 5, tabled by my noble friend Lady Wilkins, would insert a reference to "securing human rights". As my noble friend said, the Department for International Development has adopted a rights-based approach to development. The policy is set out in detail in the target strategy paper, Realising Human Rights for Poor People.
In considering whether and how to reflect that approach in the Bill, we need to bear in mind two issues: whether the Secretary of State is bound to respect human rights when she exercises her powers; and whether she can or should be required to make human rights an issue in the decision-making process under the Bill. I assure my noble friend that we do not take our commitment to human rights as read. Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 makes it unlawful for any public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a convention right. It would be unnecessary and inappropriate to repeat such a requirement in the Bill.
The issue of whether the Bill could or should require the Secretary of State to take account of a country's human rights record when determining whether to provide assistance is important. We believe that, under the Bill, the Secretary of State could continue to take account of a country's human rights record in determining whether to provide assistance. For example, she could determine not to assist a government but to work through other agencies if she thought that the purpose of promoting welfare might be compromised by that government's disregard for human rights. However, I do not agree that the Bill should include a requirement for the Secretary of State to take account of a government's human rights record in determining the nature and scale of assistance for their people. That would cut across the primacy of the overarching requirement of poverty reduction and the welfare purpose. The Government strongly believe that the needs of people in developing countries must be the driving force behind the choice of form of assistance.
There are also practical difficulties in adopting an explicit human rights focus in the Bill. Any requirement set down in legislation would be likely to prove a blunt instrument in dealing with the wide range of countries and circumstances that we face. For example, we would risk constraining the Secretary of State to withhold assistance from a government who were making substantial progress in reducing poverty and achieving human rights, while perhaps failing to meet international human rights standards in a single area.
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 would require "sustainable development" to be interpreted as development that was compatible with "essential global environmental strategies". That hits on an interesting point. Although the term "sustainable development" is used in the Bill, it is not defined. The reference is made in Clause 1(3) to prevent the hijacking of the term, not to define it. We have taken that approach because we recognise that sustainable development can be an emotive term for some people. While we feel that it must be on the face of the Bill, as we believe that poverty can be eliminated permanently only through sustainable development, we wish to protect the Secretary of State from being forced to adopt an overly economic or environment-oriented interpretation of the term. We believe that sustainable development comprises economic, social and environmental factors. The balance between those factors must be determined by the needs of poor people, not by reference to any wider conceptual considerations.
Amendment No. 12 would ensure that the Secretary of State could provide support for civil society organisations engaged in work that promotes the welfare of the people. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others who have spoken to the amendment that, under the provisions of the Bill, the Secretary of State will be able to support such organisations where their activities would contribute to the reduction of poverty.
The amendment is also undesirable. We have to work within the legal convention that nothing is said in legislation that does not need to be said. Such an explicit reference to one or more narrow activities or purposes--in this instance support for civil society organisations that are engaged in work that promotes the welfare of the people--might lead a court to conclude that it was appropriate to interpret the powers set down in subsection (2)(b) narrowly to exclude support for activities or purposes that were not explicitly mentioned. Such a constraint would severely limit the effectiveness of our development effort and is clearly unacceptable.
We have stressed our commitment to working in partnership with civil society organisations in the United Kingdom and in developing countries. I hope that the noble Earl will be reassured that the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to support organisations engaged in the activities that he described.
In the light of those arguments, I ask that Amendment No. 1 be withdrawn and that the others in the group be not moved.
We, too, have some sympathy with the concerns and views expressed on Amendment No. 4 about the wider terms of poverty and with the human rights concerns so clearly put by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, on Amendment No. 5. We also have sympathy with the views of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, on the importance of civil society, as referred to in Amendment No. 12. However, I beg to differ with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, on the opening of a Pandora's Box, as DfID already funds so many projects of the kind that I mentioned. I refer the Committee to the Commons Hansard Written Answer on 9th July 2001, at col. 332W. We also support the usual clear thinking and reasonable, pragmatic approach of the noble Lord, Lord Desai.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, for her clear explanation. It was not in our mind for commercial and political aims to be included in the Bill. However, we feel that the Bill should be able to go wider. We may yet explore the issue further on Report. I have pleasure in thanking the noble Baroness and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I should like to add a word of appreciation to the Minister for her comments in reply to the helpful debate that we have had. I am sure that the words that will be recorded in Hansard will help in the future interpretation of government intentions.
However, I want to emphasise two points. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, said, a great deal in this matter concerns our good faith towards the present Secretary of State. There is still much anxiety about how a large part of this legislation could be used or interpreted by a successor to that post.
Secondly, I would argue that overseas international development requires inspired leadership. I also argue that we have just emerged from a general election which shows that a massive crisis is developing in our democracy based on the gap between the people and the politicians. There are many reasons for that; it is a highly complex issue. But I believe that it is partly because the body politic is becoming totally preoccupied with management as an end in itself. It is no longer spelling out clearly the goals and aspirations for which we should be aiming and against which we should measure the effectiveness of our management.
In that context, I ask my noble friend to consider seriously some of the points that have been raised in this debate. Perhaps on Report he will examine not whether there is a way of moving away from the disciplines to which my noble friend Lord Desai drew attention--I am sorry that he has had to return to a seminar at LSE; I should have liked to refer to him in his presence--but whether it would be possible for the Government to relate those disciplines to an aspiration against which progress can be measured and which is expressed on the face of the Bill.
I am still slightly worried about the notion of "implied only" in terms of Amendment No. 3. That is a new notion. The phrase "implied only" appears to be rather tough and I believe that it should be explicit rather than implied.
Amendment No. 6 goes to the heart of the Bill. In speaking to it, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 7 but I should like to take Amendment No. 8 separately.
As mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, Amendment No. 6 seeks to stress the importance of good governance in developing countries as a key to poverty reduction. It would allow the Secretary of State to provide assistance to projects or programmes which focus on good governance, or to seek to lay the foundations for good governance where the programmes could not be described as contributing to a reduction in poverty.
Encouraging good governance is an indispensable and crucial part of British aid programmes. A number of agencies have stressed the major impact that good governance has on poverty reduction. The UN Development Programme report stated:
"There is a missing link between anti-poverty efforts and poverty reduction governance. Not only does that highlight governance as the missing link in the development chain; it also shows that anti-poverty efforts are useless without responsible and effective governance".
The UNDP poverty report 2000 executive summary states that:
"For many countries it is in improving governance that external assistance is needed".
That is why good governance needs to be at the very heart of the Government's aid and development policy. The World Bank development report 2000, Reforming Public Institution and Strengthening Government, states on page 11:
"Poorly functioning public sector institutions and weak governance are major constraints to growth and extra development in many developing countries".
The world development report sets out the importance of good governance for poverty reduction. The World Bank has said that it,
"needs to focus even more than it has done in the past on helping governments develop the process and incentives to design and implement good policies themselves. Only through such institution building will countries achieve the ultimate goal of poverty reduction".
That is found on page 12 of Reforming Public Institution and Strengthening Government.
In their 1997 White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty, the Government said that some countries will make more rapid progress towards international poverty targets than will others. The paper states that the most likely to succeed will have effective government, enlightened legislation, prudent budgeting and efficient administration.
The Secretary of State has also said that:
"World Bank research shows that if aid is focused where the poor are and where the national Governments are committed to reform, the effectiveness of the US $50 billion or so in the international development system is increased by 50 per cent".--[Official Report, Commons, 6/3/02; col. 159.]
If the Government truly believe that good governance is key to the battle against poverty, they should say so in the Bill. If those countries make the most rapid progress towards poverty elimination, surely government resources should be ploughed into good governance. That focus should be reflected in the Bill by stressing the importance of good governance.
The Government said on page 23 of their White Paper on globalisation that:
"Effective governments ... are ... essential if developing countries are to reap the benefits of globalisation and to make that process work for poor people".
If that is what the Government truly believe, they should ensure that references to good governance appear in the Bill. I beg to move.
I have some difficulties with Amendment No. 6 while being very much in favour of good governance and very much in agreement with the account by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, of its value. The amendment proposes good governance as an alternative purpose; that is, it could be an objective of development assistance even if welfare were not improved or sustainable development not furthered. That is one difficulty.
Moreover, good governance is implicit in the Bill. It is an element of poverty reduction. Surely we do not want to rule out the possibility of working with governments who are making good progress with governance but have not yet reached the acme. I do not think we can decide what good governance is for all countries for all time. We might not get it right.
In summary, the core purpose of the Bill, I think, should remain undiluted. Poverty reduction, sustainable development and improved welfare cannot in fact be achieved without effective governance. I think it would work better if we left it at that.
It was heartening to hear the authoritative voice of the Conservative Party on the theme of good governance, especially in a week that is particularly difficult for that party. I was most encouraged by that. Good governance unites both political parties, so the proposal should not be contentious. I have already spoken on the relevance of good governance to civil society and I do not want to repeat my belief that we should refer to civil society or, if not to that, to something involving the wider philosophy of aid that we have been discussing.
I thank the Minister for her earlier rather technical answer, which was a little disappointing. I hope that we can return to this matter in Committee.
I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, that we in this part of the world cannot lay down for other parts of the world what good governance is. Different societies have different mores, rules and ways of operating.
Without good governance in a country there is much less chance of that nation's businessmen starting or maintaining businesses that could provide an income for people and assist in the reduction of poverty. That would also mean that far fewer businessmen from other parts of the world would be willing to invest money in that country to expand or start businesses, which, again, would reduce opportunities for work. In the developing world, work helps to reduce poverty. We have our own ideas on work--we object to children working--but in some parts of the world they are the only people who can get work and provide an income for the family. If they do not work, the family will starve. Good governance is important.
If the Minister is not willing to agree to the amendment or a similar provision, will she tell the Committee which legislation allows the United Kingdom to help to provide and advise on good governance in a developing nation?
I apologise to the Committee. In dealing with Amendment No. 6, I forgot to speak to Amendment No. 7, which is grouped with the lead amendment. If I may, I shall say a few words on Amendment No. 7.
The amendment would allow the Secretary of State to provide assistance for measures designed to attract "foreign direct investment". That is based on the assumption that attracting foreign direct investment and private investment is a major purpose of development aid and that they help to provide more tax revenue for government, boost the local economy, create jobs and bear the risk if the election fails.
The background to the proposal appears in the 1997 White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century. The first line of section 1 of the White Paper states that the Government would:
"Refocus our international development efforts on the elimination of poverty and encouragement of economic growth which benefits the poor".
"The experience of recent years in the most successful developing countries has clearly demonstrated the value of maintaining a sound fiscal balance and low inflation. Equally, it has shown the value of promoting more open and less regulated domestic and foreign trade. This increases the scope for higher savings which can help to finance investment. Such a framework will encourage the private sector, which provides the main impetus for economic growth".
That paragraph, which appears in section 1.18 of the White Paper, shows that the Government believe that attracting foreign direct investment into developing countries is an essential element of poverty reduction.
In the latest White Paper, on globalisation, the Government say that economic growth is indispensable. The White Paper states that,
"the progress which has been made over the last few decades in reducing the proportion of people living in poverty has been largely the result of economic growth: raising incomes generally, including those of poor people. Economic growth is an indispensable requirement for poverty reduction".
That appears in chapter 1 on pages 17 to 18. Foreign direct investment by multinational companies in developing countries can boost the local economy, create jobs and help alleviate poverty. Foreign direct investment is far more important to developing countries in the long term than small increases in overseas aid. Foreign direct investment helps to take away some of the financial risks that developing country governments face if they borrow money from banks. Companies bear the risk if their investment fails. If the investment is successful, the host government benefit from increased tax revenue and the investor benefits from the resulting profits.
The Government stress the importance of foreign investment in the globalisation White Paper of 2000. They say that the attraction of capital inflows is an essential element of a strategy to speed up sustainable development and poverty reduction. They also say:
"A central feature of globalisation has been the substantial increase in movement of capital around the world. Foreign direct investment ... to developing countries increased from US$36 billion in 1992 to US$155 billion in 1999, more than three times the level of development aid".
That appears in chapter 4 of the White Paper.
The Government therefore believe that attracting foreign direct investment is vital for economic growth and that economic growth is vital to development. However, much of the work needed to attract foreign direct investment cannot be said to lead directly to a reduction in poverty. It may involve assisting reforms in the law and the judiciary of developing countries or working with developing countries to alter taxation law to encourage more investment. It may involve assisting in the break-up of state-owned enterprises.
The World Bank has amassed a great deal of empirical evidence about foreign investment through its business environment work. It says that the right kind of investment promotion is important to increased growth and poverty reduction. It also says:
"Experience suggests that much can be done to remove barriers, distinctiveness and distortions that may discourage investment or divert it from efficient usage. Investment promotion should not be about tax holidays or special deals but rather about getting the fundamentals right. Once a country has good investment conditions, it can market those to investors".
That appeared in the World Bank business environment theme, Encouraging Investment.
Given the central importance of economic growth and investment to developing countries, and the need for investment promotion and marketing, what cannot really be described as "poverty focused"? The Government should add a commitment to the encouragement of foreign direct investment to the face of the Bill.
A number of amendments, both in the previous group and this, point out various means by which the Government can do their work. Given the fact that the reduction of poverty is a fairly complicated process, good governance is important, foreign direct investment is important and a civil society is important, as is the avoidance of conflict.
In a sense one understands the complexity of the process, but we are legislating in a Bill and I am not sure that we want a Bill which spreads out the entire complex model of development and poverty reduction. I could easily add another 32 amendments if I thought about it.
What is important is the present formulation in Clause 1(3) and the way "sustainable development" is defined. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that even things like improving the legal structure and so forth can be described as generating lasting benefits for the population of the country. That is a broad enough formulation to include all these points. It is not that they are not important; but it is important that they do not appear on the face of the Bill.
Clause 1 sets down the overarching aim of development assistance and the two purposes of development assistance; namely, the furthering of sustainable development and the promoting of the welfare of the people. In our previous discussion my noble friend Lord Brennan endorsed the flexibility we are seeking to achieve, as did my noble friend Lord Desai.
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 add to the purposes for which development assistance can be provided and make explicit that the Secretary of State is able to support activities which promote good governance, establish the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment and reduce conflict or the potential for conflict.
I can confirm that under the provisions of the Bill the Secretary of State will be able to support activities in all those areas, where such activities contribute to the reduction of poverty, through furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of the people. The Bill will, for example, allow us to support anti-corruption initiatives where the impact of such initiatives is likely to benefit the poor. It will allow us to enhance the investment environment where we believe that the poor will benefit from the resulting economic growth. The Bill will also allow us to continue to support security sector reform, where such support is likely to prevent violent conflict and increase stability, thereby decreasing suffering and poverty. To specify those areas as separate purposes for development assistance is therefore unnecessary. It is also undesirable.
There are two significant risks to inserting into the Bill references to the particular activities that the Secretary of State can support. First, the explicit references to good governance, establishing the framework necessary for private investment and conflict reduction in the Bill might lead a court to conclude that, were it not for those references, activities in those areas could not be undertaken. Following that line of reasoning, the court might conclude that it was appropriate to interpret the core power set down in Clause 1 very narrowly. That in turn would place a question mark over the Secretary of State's ability to support activities in areas that were not expressly mentioned in the Bill--areas which have often been debated in this Chamber and which are seen as important, such as health, education, water and the environment, human rights, and the empowerment of women. It cannot be in the interests of development assistance to foster a situation in which such doubts could arise.
The second element of risk relates to the need to develop comprehensive and workable definitions of "good governance", "private and foreign direct investment", and "conflict reduction".
I shall repeat the arguments when we come to Amendment No. 8, but they are exactly the same arguments as I make now.
Inserting any definition into the Bill creates the risk that the Secretary of State would not be able to support an activity which was in itself worthwhile and likely to contribute to the reduction in poverty because it fell outside our definitions.
When this Bill was debated in the other place earlier this year, similar concerns were expressed that the expression "good governance" should appear as a purpose on the face of the Bill. Given the commitment of the Government to tackle issues around good governance, the Government responded to those concerns by asking parliamentary counsel to advise as to the merits and demerits of making such an amendment. The advice we received confirmed our view that such an amendment was not necessary to allow progress towards good governance to be supported and that to include a specific provision to that effect risked constraining the Secretary of State's powers, just as I described. The Government accept that advice.
Even if those risks could be overcome, I believe that inserting such references would misrepresent our development effort. The quality of governance is important but so are the other issues I have mentioned: health, education, water and the environment, human rights, the empowerment of women, and so on. All those aspects of development are inter-dependent. To mention one without the others would give a distorted perspective on development.
I hope I have been able to give assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, who asked specifically about our ability to be able to provide advice on good governance. It exists within the context of the Bill. I could repeat the noble Lord's arguments, but I hope that he accepts that broad response. For those reasons, I would ask the noble Baroness to withdraw Amendment No. 6.
Amendment No. 8 seeks to give the Secretary of State the power to provide assistance, whether financial or technical, to reduce the potential for conflict in developing countries. That could include the provision of assistance to countries in central and eastern Europe, to assist with the controlling of the supply of small arms from those countries to areas of conflict.
It is vitally important that no measures to prevent the potential for violent conflict in developing countries are made illegal by the narrow terms of "poverty reduction" within the Bill. We believe that explicit reference needs to be made to conflict as it is so often one of the root causes of poverty and political instability. The Government agree with that. They have said that the promotion of peace and stability is indispensable if countries are to attract investment and trade and promote pro-poor development.
Violent conflict is one of the biggest barriers to development in many of the world's poorest countries, according to the globalisation White Paper.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that countries will struggle to make the necessary commitment to poverty reduction and economic growth if they are affected by conflict. That appeared in the Herald of 8th July 2000. Action to prevent the proliferation of small arms in developing countries could legitimately mean British aid money being used to help strengthen customs and excise activity or economic diversification in countries where the arms originate. Those tend to be countries of central and eastern Europe and Russia. We have concerns that the poverty focus of the Bill may render such assistance illegal. The Government have already reduced schemes to eastern Europe such as the Know-How Fund. That is a great shame. The Know-How Fund did marvellous work, especially in stabilising eastern and central Europe, which is so important for these accession countries.
The Government are also pressing the European Union to take such action by 2006. Seventy per cent of EU spend is to be used on low-income countries. In the light of reduced commitments to eastern Europe, it is important that the Government can ensure that arms programmes aimed at reducing small arms flows from eastern Europe to conflict situations in Africa can continue to be funded by DfID.
I support the aims of the amendment. However, I believe that it would place a great deal of strain on the Secretary of State. I am not sure whether reducing conflict is quantifiable. If implemented, the Export Control Bill, which is to be introduced, should stop the flow of small arms which will do a great deal to reduce conflict. However, I am not certain that the amendment would help this Bill.
Amendment No. 8 would add to the purposes for which development assistance can be provided and make explicit that the Secretary of State is able to support activities which reduce conflict or the potential for conflict.
I can confirm that under the provisions of the Bill the Secretary of State will be able to support activities in this area. The Bill will allow us to continue to support security sector reform where such support is likely to prevent violent conflict and increase stability, thereby decreasing suffering and poverty. To specify that area as a separate purpose for development assistance is therefore unnecessary.
I can also confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that the Government are committed to tackling and reducing conflict. We have established a conflict prevention fund and, as part of the process of ensuring that government departments work together to achieve and secure the same objective, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development are working together on that issue. A good example of that is the work being done in Sierra Leone.
The noble Baroness may also be aware of the initiative on conflict Diamonds. One of our concerns is that resources such as diamonds, where available, fuel conflict in particular parts of the world. The noble Baroness will also be aware of the considerable amount of work we are doing in the Balkans. I assure the noble Baroness that her amendment is unnecessary. In the light of that explanation, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw it.
The purpose of this amendment is to link more closely the activities of government with clearly defined and measurable targets. Currently, the Government publish their Annual Report and Public Service Agreement and progress towards achievement, but that is often too vague with not enough evidence to back up the claims. Sometimes the projections have been lacking in accuracy.
Some of these agreements have already been discussed in the other place, but we believe that they are so important that they need to be aired once again. Unfortunately, as the guillotine seems more and more prevalent in the other place, debate is stifled and your Lordships' House is the only place left for proper scrutiny.
The background to the amendment is that the World Bank stated in its publication, Understanding Poverty:
"To know what helps alleviate poverty, what works and does not, what changes over time, poverty has to be defined, measured and studied".
"the great majority of the agencies lack monitoring systems to hold themselves accountable to their declared poverty objectives. They can present no convincing evidence on how their interventions have benefited the poor".
We are concerned that there is nothing in the Bill to set down how the Government's progress towards these targets will be met or how progress will be effectively measured. If there is very little evidence and accountability concerning the use of aid money and no effective measure of its success, the "poverty reduction" focus of the Bill could prove to be little more than a paper tiger. For example, the Public Service Agreement 1999 to 2002 targets set down by the Government in the Annual Report 2000, appeared to be a way of holding the Department for International Development accountable through some clearly defined and measurable targets. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Data on primary school enrolment could not be found, while targets for reducing maternal mortality had not been met.
"We envisage that publication of the Annual Report could be an occasion for a Parliamentary debate on international development".
However, there has been no such annual debate. There has been only one debate on international development since 1997 and that was in the final week before the election. We need more debates on international development, especially if targets are being missed.
The globalisation White Paper showed that insufficient progress was being made on any of the key 2015 international development targets. According to DfID, primary school enrolment figures have not risen fast enough. As regards eliminating gender disparity by 2005, DfID stated that,
"girls' enrolments remain persistently behind those of boys".
As regards reducing infant mortality, DfID stated:
"The fall is not enough to meet the target" and that progress towards reducing maternal mortality was well off course.
That is very different to DfID's description of its PSA targets, which was: for primary enrolment, "no comprehensive new data"; eliminating gender disparity, "on course"; reducing infant mortality, "on course"; and reducing maternal mortality, "only modest progress". There is a lack of honesty about aid targets and a lack of fair and accurate measures of results. We call for an annual report to measure progress towards these aims.
With regard to poor targeting, there is often also not enough evidence of achievement. Although DfID has set the target that 70 per cent of projects should meet its objectives, the small print reads:
"Very few of these projects have been completed as yet".
Current targets do not take into account sustainable development. Projects rated as officially successful by DfID can turn out to be unsuccessful. In a response to a Question for Written Answer the Secretary of State said that,
"A formal review of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Organisational Development Project in October 1999 showed that it was successful in contributing to DfID's objectives as set out in the Public Service Agreement. The review concluded that the project was enabling organisational change to take place in ZRP to the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe, including the poorest.
However, since February the ZRP has not enforced the law or upheld their own charter in relation to the attacks on the opposition and the land invasions".--[Official Report, Commons, 20/6/00; col. 123W.]
This Bill calls for sustainable development to be one of the major focuses of the aid budget, but the only way one can tell whether a project or programme has been sustainable is to measure it a number of times and several years after completion. Surely, that is the only true measure of sustainability.
Government targets need to be both achievable and measurable. Sector-wide programmes cannot fully account for the impact of British aid money. As DfID's own research has shown, when using sector-wide aid programmes individual donor programmes are difficult to disaggregate from other donor programmes. I beg to move.
I warmly support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Rawlings. In the vast range of legislative responsibilities which any government must now shoulder I cannot recall any matter in respect of which they are not obliged to report to Parliament. Here the taxpayer must potentially shoulder, justifiably, a very large burden of various humanitarian aid throughout the world and outside the British Commonwealth. I believe that if ever there was a case in which the Government should be required to produce an annual report to Parliament, this is it.
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, has already said that there is a good deal of material for a Second Reading debate. Although I do not want to prolong debate on this immensely important subject, the noble Baroness has a point. Government departments report annually in the normal way, but I am not certain that there is a timetable for regular reporting on international development targets. I should be grateful to hear an answer to that from the noble Baroness.
Amendment No. 11 would require the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on the performance of the development assistance programme and to lay it before both Houses of Parliament. The Secretary of State already produces such a report. DfID's departmental report provides a comprehensive account of the department's operations and future plans. It includes an assessment of progress against the department's agreed public service agreement targets. The departmental report is a public document.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, referred to the lack of honesty in measuring performance against targets. Perhaps it is helpful if I say a little more about the accountability of the Secretary of State under the Bill and the transparency of DfID's decision-making procedures and policy development processes. The Secretary of State is accountable first and foremost to Parliament. She is also required to make an annual report to Parliament on the policies and operation of her department. The Select Committee on International Development reports on that report and can call in the Secretary of State to explain and discuss any part of it. It can also request amendments to the format and content of the report. The Secretary of State is also accountable for the use of her powers to the courts and to the general public.
I also remind the Committee of the transparency of DfID's policy-making and decision-making procedures. Our country strategy papers, institutional strategy papers and target strategy papers are all developed in full consultation with our partners and are publicly available. They consider in a frank and comprehensive way the opportunities and challenges for development and the resources available from DfID to address them.
The annual departmental report also includes reporting against each international development target. We also report quarterly to the Treasury on each TFA target. The existing mechanisms for reporting on DfID's policies and operations include the publication and presentation to Parliament of an annual departmental report. In view of that, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, to withdraw her amendment.
moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 2, line 11, at end insert--
"( ) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements to ensure that humanitarian assistance provided under subsection (1), which is provided via other agencies or bodies, shall comply with the same standards as to effectiveness and probity as apply to assistance disbursed directly."
This amendment seeks to prevent humanitarian assistance provided via agencies other than the United Kingdom Government being used for purposes that would not comply with UK government standards. This is the only part of the Bill that is not subject to a poverty focus. We believe that there is no reason why humanitarian aid should not also be used for poverty reduction. Humanitarian aid needs to be delivered quickly and efficiently. However, it is also very important that such aid is not misused and spent incorrectly. The Government said in the White Paper Eliminating Poverty published in 1997 that,
"The multitude of actors involved in humanitarian work underlines the importance of international co-operation based on sound principles. Hence we shall encourage systemwide agreement on common performance standards and a code of ethical conduct for organisations involved in humanitarian work, and will seek to implement guidelines already agreed within the OECD. We shall work for, and co-operate with, a more effective and efficient multilateral humanitarian system, building on the capabilities of UN institutions, the Red Cross movement, other international organisations and NGOs. Within the EU, we shall also work closely with other member states and the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to ensure more consistent joint policies and approaches".
If international co-operation is based on "sound principles" and the Government are working to encourage "systemwide common performance standards", why do they not take the lead in publishing within this Bill the fact that all humanitarian aid must conform to a poverty focus?
The International Committee of the Red Cross--I declare an interest as a working member of over 30 years--has said that humanitarian aid is based on seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. These principles were officially proclaimed in the declaration at the 20th international conference of the Red Cross held in Vienna in 1965. We believe that there needs to be provision within the Bill to allow the United Kingdom to prevent British taxpayers' money being used to fund humanitarian aid that does not comply with UK standards. I look forward to hearing the response of the Government. I beg to move.
In speaking to this amendment I shall conveniently speak to Amendment No. 14. When the subject of the amendment was raised at Second Reading, the Minister was not in a position to give a definitive reply. The noble Baroness has since, very courteously, written to me. I deeply appreciate that letter. In it the noble Baroness referred to the Secretary of State's firm position and the ethical framework within which the whole interpretation of the Bill will take place.
It will not surprise noble Lords that, while I appreciate that letter and the spirit in which it was written, I am not altogether convinced. Having been in government myself I know of the tremendous pressures that there are to take other considerations into account. It would be helpful to have specifically on the face of the Bill what humanitarian assistance means. It is not just the present Secretary of State, whose commitment we do not question, but future Secretaries of State who will have to take what the House wants firmly into account.
In saying that, I underline that in dealing with Nicaragua in 1986 the International Court of Justice argued that if humanitarian assistance was to escape condemnation as being politically motivated rather than being motivated by humanitarian purpose alone, it must conform to the standards laid down by the ICRC.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, referred to the ICRC's position. Perhaps the noble Baroness could just have added the ICRC's principle of,
"no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs".
If that is not in itself important enough, I was interested to come across a document which reminded me that in 1996 the Council of the European Union in dealing with humanitarian aid found it quite possible to define the purpose of humanitarian aid. Council Regulation (EC) No. 1257/96 of 20th June 1996 states:
"Whereas humanitarian aid, the sole aim of which is to prevent or relieve human suffering, is accorded to victims without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation and must not be guided by, or subject to, political considerations".
The European Union and the ICRC have managed to define what humanitarian assistance is and should be. That will inevitably raise questions as to why there is nothing on the face of the Bill stating what our interpretation is. I would therefore like to be reassured by the Minister about this matter.
"alleviating the effects of a natural or man-made disaster"
That should be read in the sense that it can also include warnings provided to communities and shelters and prevention systems. Some definitions of "humanitarian assistance" refer only to events after a disaster has struck. Therefore, one comes in after--as it were--people are suffering. I hope and believe that it is intended that the Bill will include a more effective form of assistance to enable countries to avoid disaster.
One example was Hurricane Mitch. A better warning system would have prevented the huge increase in poverty which followed that hurricane. One has seen, for example, the flood shelters off the coast of India and Bangladesh. They have greatly reduced poverty. In some definitions of humanitarian aid that would not be humanitarian assistance. They are exceedingly effective in reducing poverty. I hope that, in the context of the clause, the Government are considering this broader definition of humanitarian assistance.
With regard to Amendment No. 13, I should like to suggest that humanitarian aid is very different in kind from development aid. It is different because it is entirely in the context of a crisis, whereas development aid needs to create a framework to increase poverty reduction.
My attention has been drawn to a leader in the Daily Telegraph on 10th July which says it all. The article stated that,
"aid organisations are not required to sit in judgment on the world's misguided rulers. Their business is to prevent innocent people in the world from suffering the consequences of misrule".
Therefore, I speak against the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 seek to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided effectively and with impartiality.
Clause 3 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to provide humanitarian assistance in response to disaster or other emergency. Assistance under the clause is not limited to "development assistance", as defined in Clause 1. Nor is there any requirement for the assistance to be likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked that humanitarian assistance should be linked to poverty reduction. Clause 3 is intended to enable the Secretary of State to respond to the immediate needs of the victims of disaster. To require her to temper that immediate response according to an assessment of whether her support would reduce poverty would seriously inhibit her ability to act expeditiously. The immediate needs of the victims of disaster must be the driving force for the help which is given.
The clause does not use the term "humanitarian assistance", which is, as a consequence, not defined in the Bill. Instead, the clause refers to,
"natural or man-made disaster or other emergency" and limits the purpose of assistance to "alleviating the effects" of these on the population of a country outside the United Kingdom.
The effect of Amendment No. 13 is to place the Secretary of State under a duty to apply standards of "effectiveness and probity" to any bodies or persons who acted on her behalf in the provision of humanitarian assistance.
It is already open to the Secretary of State to impose standards on those who carry out activities on her behalf. The department devotes significant resources to ensuring that our partners' systems and procedures meet the requirements of effectiveness and probity set out in the department's humanitarian guidelines. Indirect assistance is also subject to the same degree of scrutiny as direct assistance by our own internal audit department, the National Audit Office, and by Parliament through the International Development Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Indirect assistance will be channelled through organisations with which we have an existing relationship, based on a positive, prior assessment of their effectiveness, efficiency and probity. The International Development Committee's recent assessment of our response to the Kosovo crisis is an example of the thorough scrutiny of both indirectly and directly provided assistance.
I would therefore argue that the amendment is unnecessary. I regret that it is also undesirable because it places statutory constraints on how the Secretary of State may respond to a crisis. It could require a layer of bureaucracy that would add not value but delay DfID's approval of proposals.
Amendment No. 14, tabled by my noble friends Lord Judd and Lord Hunt and by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, seeks to define in the Bill the terms on which humanitarian assistance should be provided--specifically, that it should be provided to victims without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation. No one would disagree with that sentiment. The question is whether such a definition would enhance the effectiveness of such assistance by appearing on the face of the Bill.
As my noble friend Lady Whitaker has already stated, humanitarian assistance is quite different from development assistance. It is provided in response to crises, which are often unforeseen. To be effective it must be immediate and provided flexibly. Noble Lords have pressed me consistently in the House on the speed of the Government's response to crises in, for example, Mozambique, India and elsewhere in the world. The speed of our response has always been commended by noble Lords. This urgency does not mean that impartiality is overlooked. To achieve the aim of alleviating the suffering of those affected by disaster, humanitarian assistance cannot be provided only to one group of people and withheld from others who share in that suffering.
All our humanitarian assistance is provided under a published framework. The Secretary of State and her department are subject to the Human Rights Act in what they do. If we were to embed in the Bill constraints of the type sought by my noble friend Lord Judd, the department would be legally accountable for ensuring that each and every disaster or emergency be formally appraised against each of the elements set down in the principles. To embed a precise but wide-ranging duty in the Bill would give rise to a substantial increase in bureaucracy, both for us and our partners, which we believe would constrain our ability to react quickly. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Hunt that the term "humanitarian assistance" includes support for measures to improve disaster preparedness.
For those reasons, I ask that Amendment No. 13 be withdrawn.
I welcome the opportunity to move an amendment to this important Bill. The Bill has an inspirational or visionary element, as my noble friend Lord Judd said, as well as a legal element. All great legislation has some visionary element, including even constitutional Bills referring to the future of this Chamber.
The purpose of the amendment is to urge that under the responsibilities of the Secretary of State there should be more promotion of poverty reduction by all the various government departments and agencies that can contribute. That is done and is partly co-ordinated and paid for by the DfID through the regular budgets. That arrangement may be rather uncertain and is not always explicitly co-ordinated. For example, there is some co-ordination of work with the United Nations agencies, but as I know from my own experience, it is not always explicit. In other areas, such as the use of science and technology for international development, there is some co-ordination but it is not as extensive as it might be. The aim of the amendment is to empower the Secretary of State to devote resources in her department to ensure by encouragement and co-ordination that other departments continue to devote a certain proportion of their budgets and efforts to international development and poverty reduction.
In particular, such work should be a feature of the targets of departments and agencies and the personal targets of permanent secretaries and chief executives. All departments and agencies have large budgets for providing and purchasing goods and services--many of them in and from foreign countries, including those where there is great poverty. If those actions were redirected to some extent towards the goal of poverty reduction, that could have a considerable effect.
In a former life, when I was a civil servant, I suggested that government departments and agencies should have such wider goals. A distinguished Minister, who is now a Member of this House, said, "That's the kind of thing they do in France, not in the UK". I hope that the Government will think along the lines suggested in my amendment. More could certainly be done, not necessarily by detailed instruction but by broad promotion. An amendment along the lines I have suggested would encourage staff, stakeholders and people involved in government, including those who provide services to departments--scientists, doctors and so on--to understand the broad aims of the Bill in a more effective way. I beg to move.
I hope it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I take this opportunity to speak to Amendment No. 19 in the name of my noble friend Lady Rawlings. I trust that the reasons for the new clause are self-evident. It seeks to ensure that all government departments responsible in some way for overseas activities are focused on poverty reduction. Indeed, in many ways that has been the thrust of the Minister in her replies to our debates thus far today. That is buttressed by making provision for a report to be put before Parliament each year to chart the progress being made.
It is axiomatic that the Department for International Development should be committed to its primary aim of reducing global poverty but its efforts should also be backed up with a similar commitment from other government departments. In fact, of course, the Government have accepted that they must take a cross-departmental approach to poverty reduction. The Prime Minister said in the preface to the globalisation White Paper:
"This White Paper sets out the UK Government's policies in all these areas. It reflects our commitment to work across all parts of Government in order to help eliminate world poverty, and to cooperate with other governments and international institutions as part of a broader international effort".
It is essential that that works in practice; the more so because the record over the past four years is suggestive of a lack of the commitment called for by the Prime Minister. Examples abound. It is open to debate whether the Foreign Office promoted human rights issues in Turkey over the Ilisu dam. The Government's globalisation White Paper stressed that:
"Making political institutions work for poor people means helping to strengthen the voices of the poor and helping them to realise their human rights".
However, the Ilisu dam showed how the Foreign Office did not make any attempt to raise human rights issues with the DTI. In response to the International Development Select Committee, Richard Caborn said:
"The DTI is not responsible for human rights. It will take the advice of other government departments. I would say, to the best of my knowledge, that this was not a question which was raised when we circulated to other departments. That is, DfID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and indeed others. It was not raised to the best of my knowledge".
It can be argued that the Ministry of Defence did not demonstrate a commitment to poverty reduction in March 2000 when it charged the DfID the full market price--£2.2 million--for four Puma helicopters to assist in Mozambique. The sale of spare parts to Zimbabwe does not seem, on the face of it, to have been focused on poverty reduction. In the Caribbean we can all recall that when a volcano devastated the island of Montserrat in August 1997 Clare Short accused the islanders of "sheer irresponsibility" and accused them of "wanting golden elephants next" in their pleas for aid and assistance.
The crisis demonstrated the Cabinet split over responsibility for the island between Clare Short and Robin Cook. Robin Cook then took charge of the Government's handling of the crisis. Revealingly, Downing Street said that it wanted to ensure "better co-ordination" across government departments.
But the evidence suggests that the Government have failed to deliver the joined-up decision making that they espouse. In seeking to ensure that other government departments cannot ignore poverty reduction in their dealings with developing countries, our amendment seeks to facilitate that desirable aim. We trust that the Minister will view it with sympathy.
We have already heard some interesting contributions to this grouping of amendments, and perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to Amendment No. 20 as well.
We have heard that, in order to make progress, inter-departmental co-operation is essential: one has to look at government as a whole. But it is not only within the United Kingdom that co-operation is essential. If we are to win the battle for the reduction of poverty--if we have to call it that--we must have effective international collaboration as well as national collaboration.
I am slightly mystified at this point. Only in December of last year was the extremely interesting White Paper entitled Eliminating World Poverty--Making Globalisation Work for the Poor published. In its introduction, the Secretary of State stated:
"We now have unprecedented consensus--across the UN system, the IMF and the World Bank, most Regional Development Banks, leaders of developing countries, the G8 and the OECD--that the achievement of the Targets should be the focus of our joint endeavours".
She went on to say:
"This Second White Paper analyses the nature of globalisation. It sets out an agenda for managing the process in a way that could ensure that the new wealth, technology and knowledge being generated brings sustainable benefits to the one in five of humanity who live in extreme poverty".
That extremely important White Paper was received with considerable interest across the world. But the Bill before us today makes absolutely no substantial reference to international development and co-operation. That is why I tabled this amendment.
If my noble friend can bring forward a better form of words to express my concern, I shall be the first to applaud it. However, in my amateurish way I have looked at the Bill and decided that something should be attempted to put in a form of words that is clearly missing. Here, at the least, is one proposal. Earlier in our proceedings I was told that we must remember the importance of modesty. For that reason, I put forward this amendment with a great sense of modesty as regards whether it contains the right wording. However, as I have said, at least it is an attempt.
I hope that my noble friend will take seriously the point that I have made and will be able to reassure the Committee.
I should like to speak briefly to Amendment No. 16, which has somehow crept into this rather politicised debate. I have some difficulty with the drafting of the amendment, which strikes me as rather negative when the Bill here refers to the "awareness of global poverty". I accept the focus on poverty, but is it not misleading to suggest that the awareness of poverty is sufficient in development education, for example?
So-called poor communities have a great deal to teach us. We now live in a world of interdependence. The events in Oldham and Bradford have made that fact much more urgent. It is important that non-governmental organisations in particular should positively promote an understanding of development issues. I cite here the legacy of empire and why our cities are as they are alongside the relief of poverty. Given that, perhaps I may suggest the addition of the words "development issues" which are easily understood by teachers and all those involved in this element of education.
I should like to speak to Amendment No. 17A in this grouping, the first in the supplementary list. This amendment is designed to encourage an alliance between government and business in the pursuit of international development.
The White Paper published last year stated plainly that the private sector has a key role to play in making globalisation work better for the poor. Why is it a key role? The same paper states:
"Managed wisely, the new wealth being created by globalisation creates the opportunity to lift millions of the world's poorest people out of their poverty. Managed badly and it could lead to their further marginalisation and impoverishment. Neither outcome is predetermined".
It is a matter of political will and choice. That political will, designed to encourage choice by business in particular, can help to reduce world poverty. But why should it?
The bitter experiences of Shell and the Brent Spar incident and in Nigeria, or BP in Colombia, or Monsanto worldwide with concerns about the effects of GM products on the poorest countries all serve to indicate that big business cannot ignore the responsibilities imposed by globalisation. Happily, business accepts this.
In the debate on Second Reading I mentioned the use of codes of conduct and ethical and moral investment--dare one use the word "moral" in this context--which business has been promoting. Only a week or so ago, a group of European business leaders met and decided to institute a programme for corporate social responsibility, reaching its climax in 2005. It is to be directed at the Union, but also at the world outside. The duty is obvious--the price of drugs, the effects of environmental change, dams and energy prices--and cannot be avoided. However, as I have said, happily business now accepts that it should play its part.
This is not a new revolution, but simply a reflection of globalisation. In this country we speak of the public/private partnership--I underline the word "partnership"--and promote it as beneficial to ourselves. By doing so we draw into government more closely than ever before business leaders, with the objective of producing that which will benefit the community. I have tabled this amendment to test my own suggestion that Clause 4 has itself been expressed in the most expansive of terms in order to test the Government's spirit and energy in applying the clause to the world of business.
The White Paper states:
"We welcome the increasing focus by multinationals on training information and technology professionals in developing countries, and we are keen to work with them--for example on trade and investment promotion packages, and teacher training materials".
Those are but a few of many examples that one can readily contemplate. If Clause 4 means what I think it means, then the amendment is superfluous. Otherwise it provides an excellent opportunity for my noble friend on the Front Bench plainly to declare that the policy of the White Paper will continue to be developed and implemented in this Bill and that the Government will ally with their people and with business to promote international development.
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I ask a question not directly related to these amendments but to Clause 4 as it stands. I welcome the succinct nature of the Bill, but perhaps that could result in a great many questions being left unanswered. Anxieties have been expressed outside your Lordships' House as regards what is the precise meaning of this clause and what are its implications regarding the provision of grants for development education. There are those who are concerned that Clause 4 of the Bill may not extend to include Churches or faith-based organisations, although what we have heard about NGOs suggests that that would be the case. We are concerned that the clause will be interpreted in such a way that Churches and faith-based organisations will be excluded.
The reason for this goes back to Second Reading. In her response to the debate, the noble Baroness, in answer to points made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, said that both in the UK and partner countries the role of NGOs was recognised and that the Government channel a substantial proportion of their resources through NGOs.
But then the answer to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, appeared less clear and referred to work primarily with reforming governments. The Minister added that projects empowering local communities are, in principle, eligible for Challenge Fund support. She then returned to a clearer statement on the need for greater awareness and understanding of development issues across the UK and internationally. There, again, work with NGOs was encouraged.
It is quite clear to us that the role of the Churches and faith communities throughout the world is quite enormous. Our own Church of England, for instance, has nearly 70 million members in 164 countries. I have myself seen in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia tremendous work being done by the Churches in regard to education, pastoral care and development issues. I have witnessed the great and renewing demand for this support in the light of the collapse of government funding in those countries.
My own diocese recently sent a quarter of a million pounds to provide capital for building schemes in Zambia. That will provide the people there with an income with which they can then pursue their own projects. We hope and pray that that will provide sustainable financial resources for them in the future.
The movement for link dioceses has taught the Churches in this country a great deal about developmental needs, and the Christians and members of other faiths are a substantial human resource in Africa and elsewhere. I am thinking of two great hospitals, the Lutheran hospital in Namibia and the Christian hospital in Katete in Zambia. Those hospitals are not only about healing but about teaching, helping to develop mental attitudes and tackling the AIDS epidemic in all kinds of ways.
From what the Minister said, this is probably an unnecessary anxiety, but I have been asked to raise the issue.
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 17, which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. The amendment seeks to ensure that there is, to use the parlance of the day, "joined up government". It is a probing amendment. In that spirit, can the Minister give any indication of what level of contact has been garnered with the DTI over the export control Bill?
I rise to speak to Amendment No. 25, which is tabled in my name. Clause 7 provides the Secretary of State with the power to provide assistance under the Bill. It allows her to set out the terms and conditions for such assistance. However, subsection (3) provides that the Treasury must approve such terms and conditions for financial assistance. My amendment seeks a requirement to make all details of requests made to the Treasury to approve such terms and conditions for financial aid a matter of public knowledge.
I propose that this be done by laying a report of the details of approval or otherwise before Parliament. Many noble Lords argued long and hard for details such as these to be made publicly available during the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. It is important that such matters are reported to Parliament. It will help us to understand more fully the terms and conditions under which aid is given in a specific circumstance and the reasons for refusal by the Treasury.
We believe in more open government and that there should be no mystery surrounding the approval of financial aid.
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 17. I apologise to the Committee for not referring to it when I spoke earlier.
As other Members of the Committee have said, the Bill applies to many government departments. I simply wish to ask the Minister--I hope that she will be able to reply--whether, when the Bill is enacted, it will be looked at and acted upon by every government department. Or will it be acted upon only when a missive comes from DfID? I believe that the Act should be seen by everyone.
The annual reports of government departments, agencies and inter-governmental bodies should include an account of their activities in the direction of global poverty and international development. At the moment there is a very varied response. Some government agencies believe that this is important and will include such an account; others will not. Only a clear statement in the Bill will have that implication. I hope that the amendment will be seriously considered.
Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17, 17A, 19, 20 and 25 relate to the promotion of policy coherence on development issues within Whitehall, and to the new powers taken in the Bill to support organisations engaged in development awareness activities and to provide a wider range of financial instruments than are available under the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980.
Amendments Nos. 15 and 17 draw attention to the issue of promoting coherence across Whitehall on issues relating to development awareness. It would be inappropriate to require in the Bill that other government departments and agencies utilise a proportion of their budgets for development assistance. Parliament has reserved the right to itself to determine annually the allocation of resources to particular departments and for particular purposes. We should not use legislation to cut across that convention.
Clause 4 of the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to support organisations undertaking development awareness and advocacy activities. The Secretary of State is already supporting such activities on the basis of the Appropriation Act. The power in the Bill will serve to regularise the position. The Government believe that if we are to succeed in meeting the international development targets we need to build greater awareness and understanding of development issues across the United Kingdom and internationally. We therefore support activities which promote public knowledge and understanding of development issues, of our global interdependence, of the need for international development, and of the progress that has been made and that is possible.
I can assure the Committee that DfID is well aware that to make progress in this area we must work closely with other government departments, and in particular with the Department for Education and Skills. The Bill in no way constrains the Secretary of State from working across government and, I should say to the right reverend Prelate, with any other partners to promote an awareness of global poverty. The Secretary of State will be able to continue to work with Churches and faith groups in all areas of our work, including development, education and awareness.
I hope that I have reassured the Committee that such an amendment is unnecessary. But I need to go a little further and explain why it is also inappropriate. If a duty is to be imposed in law, then it should be cast in sufficiently precise terms so that a Secretary of State can be held to account on whether or not the duty is being met. I have been advised that the only way to frame the Secretary of State's duty would be to set down in some detail how the various government departments must carry out their business. Even if we were capable of formulating such directions, I do not think that it would be a desirable step to take as we would end up constraining rather than facilitating the co-operation and co-ordination that the amendments seek to establish.
Amendment No. 16, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, seeks to clarify and expand the purpose of the development awareness activities that the Secretary of State could support under the Bill by allowing that such activities should be able to promote awareness of either global poverty or development issues. I believe that I can provide reassurance on this point. We have received legal advice that Clause 4(2)(c) has a broad application which naturally embraces raising awareness of "development issues". To insert the term is therefore unnecessary.
Amendment No. 17A, tabled by my noble friend Lord Brennan, would enable the Secretary of State to work with the private sector to make any privately funded development assistance work effectively for the reduction of poverty.
Private sector activity is the main driving force behind economic growth, which is in turn a principal driver of poverty reduction. Private financial flows to Africa are now far greater than flows of official development assistance. The Government's 2000 White Paper on making globalisation work for the poor recognised the opportunities and challenges of globalisation, and set out the ways in which we, in co-operation with the international community, will work to ensure that poor people can take advantage of these opportunities.
The Bill builds on this understanding and will enable the Secretary of State to support the efforts of multinational corporations and indigenous companies to develop and promote socially responsible business practices. It will, for example, enable continuation of support for the Ethical Trading Initiative. I can, therefore, reassure my noble friend Lord Brennan that the Government already recognise the contribution that the private sector can make to the reduction of poverty.
Amendment No. 19 recognises that coherence in government policy on all issues affecting developing countries is crucial if we are to make an effective contribution to the reduction of poverty. The effect of the amendment would be to require the Secretary of State to promote poverty reduction as the focus of all dealings between the UK Government and developing countries. It would further require the making of a joint annual report to Parliament by the Secretary of State for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the MoD and the Treasury on what had been done under the arrangements.
DfID is working more closely than ever before with other government departments. It is, for example, working with the DTI on making the next WTO trade round a "development round"; with the MoD and with the FCO on conflict prevention; with the Treasury on debt; with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on securing agreement to various biotechnology and biodiversity protocols; and with the Department for Education and Skills on child labour. There has been substantial and wide-ranging discussion at official and ministerial level on the development of the Export Control Bill now under consideration in another place. The co-operative work is continuing.
These specific links are complemented by the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Development, which provides a ministerial forum for reviewing government progress in promoting coherence. This joint working is captured in our department reports, which include for the first time specific public service agreement targets which cover joint working. Future departmental reports will report progress against these targets. The contents of the report will be informed by the scrutiny and recommendations of the Select Committee on International Development.
Amendment No. 20, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Redesdale, ranges broadly, taking in the focus of the United Kingdom's development effort, policy coherence, and the Secretary of State's engagement with various multilateral development organisations, such as the UN and the European Union. I can respond only in equally broad terms.
Development issues have a much greater profile across government. We established the Department for International Development in 1997 as a separate department. The Secretary of State for International Development is a member of the Cabinet and DfID Ministers are members of the key ministerial committees and sub-committees relevant to international development, such as those concerned with the environment, biotechnology, defence and overseas policy and trade. The Government working as a whole have been able to make very important contributions to the international development effort; for example, on debt relief and conflict reduction. Later this month, the G8 summit will receive a report on progress in achieving the international development targets.
Subsection (4) of Amendment No. 20 requires the Secretary of State to participate in and support relevant multilateral institutions, including the United Nations and the European Union. The scale, presence and history of these organisations mean that they can make a significant contribution to reducing poverty. Some have not come close to reaching their potential--noble Lords will be aware of the debates that we have had about improving the effectiveness, for example, of the European Union. Others are very effective partners. But I do not believe that it is desirable to determine in law which institutions or which activities the Secretary of State should support, as the amendment seeks to do. The principle running through the Bill is that the needs of poor people must be the driving force behind the choice of form of assistance; otherwise the primacy of the overarching requirement of poverty reduction and the two development purposes will be compromised.
Amendment No. 25 would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report specifically on that development assistance which is provided with Treasury approval. This assistance will be in the nature of loans, guarantees, and the taking of securities in a company.
Clause 7 provides for the use of a wider range of financial instruments than are available under the 1980 Act; namely, shares, options and guarantees. These instruments will allow the Secretary of State to capitalise upon the enormous potential contribution of the private sector to poverty reduction, with less risk of distorting markets, creating unfair competition or compromising companies' incentives to operate efficiently and sustainably. The department does not expect that these instruments will be used often.
In the light of these clarifications and arguments, I ask that Amendment No. 15 should be withdrawn and that Amendments Nos. 16 to 17A, 19, 20 and 25 should not be moved.
I shall speak briefly to this amendment, which again relates to Clause 4. I can see the reason for including the last line of subsection (2). It leaves no doubt as to the main purpose of the Bill, which we have heard expressed many times; but the purpose is stated in Clause 1 and is also present in subsection (4).
I have a concern that in Clause 4 as drafted such a statement may be counter-productive and that it could actually deter some of the positive educational work of the non-governmental organisations and the Churches. They may feel that they have to justify their position more than is necessary to officials in the Department for Education and Skills or the Department for International Development, who may on occasion have less experience of certain development issues.
It is always hard to make a direct link with poverty in developing countries. Let us take as examples racism awareness--an important part of development education--the encouragement of cross-cultural work to illuminate international issues; and work with refugees, which help to create images of poverty and persecution overseas. Such projects build awareness, but they may not directly pay for legal aid, let alone reduce poverty or the sources of persecution. The inclusion of the provision in line 25 could make life hard for overworked organisations and it could make some applications impossible to complete. I am not sure that a debate on this amendment, or indeed many of the other debates that we have had, would pass the test of being a direct contribution to the reduction of poverty. However, I submit that they are important in terms of development awareness. I beg to move.
Having listened to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I should like to say a few words on the amendment. I have much sympathy with the aim of the amendment because, when reading the clauses to which reference is made, I, too, was puzzled as to how it would be possible to support these projects other than if they were likely to contribute to "a reduction in poverty". The organisations would have to be either devoted to furthering sustainable development outside the UK, to improving the welfare of a population in one or more countries, or to alleviating the effects of a natural or a manmade disaster. I cannot imagine how one could do any of the latter without contributing to "a reduction in poverty", unless the phrase is used in a very narrow sense. For example, if the benefits would be in terms of a reduction in morbidity or mortality, one could not say that the material wealth of the existing population would be improved. One could say only that they were better off in the sense that they would not become ill so often, or that there were not so many deaths.
When the Minister responds, can she say whether the definition of "a reduction in poverty" is so narrow that it could not encompass objectives of that nature? If she says that that is not the case and that it can deal with wider issues that do not directly refer to people's income or wealth in the countries that are the recipients of the aid that will be provided under the clause, I cannot see the point of having the qualification. Indeed, I should then agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that the words can be deleted without causing any difficulties for the department or the agencies that will receive the money.
I believe that the point of line 25 in the clause was to ensure that subsections (2)(a) and (b)--which, if one studies them, are very broadly defined--must be underpinned somewhere. I agree with the noble Earl that subsection (2)(c) refers to "a reduction in poverty". However, if noble Lords look to subsection (2)(a), they will see that the Secretary of State may,
"support, by way of subscription or otherwise, any organisation that exists (wholly or partly) for one or more relevant purposes".
That is really very general and, therefore, must be underpinned by the words,
"if he is satisfied that to do so is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty".
That is the purpose of line 25 in the clause.
As for the observation made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I should advise him not tempt fate. Indeed, that situation could very soon be reversed, so the less said the better.
Perhaps I may begin by pointing out to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that I referred to the Secretary of State as "she" in my responses. However, I believe that the legislation is somewhat different in that respect: it uses "he" in a generic way.
Subsection (2) of Clause 4 enables the Secretary of State to subscribe to, or otherwise support, organisations whose purposes are wholly or partly the "relevant purposes" as listed in subsection (4)--that is to say, furthering sustainable development, promoting the welfare of people, or providing assistance in response to disasters and emergencies. It enables the Secretary of State to contribute to funds intended to be used in whole or in part for such purposes. It also enables the Secretary of State to promote, or assist others to promote, the awareness of global poverty and the means of reducing it.
Amendment No. 18 seeks to remove the requirement that such support must be,
"likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty".
The subsection in question is designed to enable the Secretary of State to continue to contribute to organisations and funds whose mandates or constitutions may not be strictly or exclusively focused on the reduction of poverty but which, nevertheless, make a valuable contribution to the reduction of poverty in particular areas or on particular issues. Examples of the organisations and funds that we have in mind are UNESCO, the European Development Fund and the Global Environment Facility.
However, although we wish to be able to contribute to such institutions and funds, it is clearly important that we retain the poverty focus that runs through the Bill. We should not allow our contributions to such organisations and funds to become a "special case", subject to a less rigorous test than other development assistance. I cannot see any advantage in diluting the poverty test in respect of these activities and institutions. Indeed, to do so would, I suggest, send a signal to partners such as the European Union that the United Kingdom is not serious about the reform of its external development assistance programmes. We are serious about the need for such reform.
The amendment also seeks to remove the requirement that support for organisations engaged in development awareness activities must be likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty. Again, I must emphasise the Government's belief that our entire development effort should be focused on the reduction of poverty. This includes our support for organisations that promote development awareness. To remove that focus would enable the Secretary of State to support activities that, although worthwhile in themselves, did not seek to contribute to the reduction of global poverty.
It may be appropriate for another department to fund such activities from another budget, but it is not for DfID. We do not believe that that focus will deter organisations from pursuing their activities in this area, or from applying to DfID for funding. Under the Bill, we are clear that we shall be able to continue to support all the programmes that we currently support. Indeed, our work in this area might increase because the Secretary of State would have the implicit powers under the legislation to support development awareness activities, rather than having to rely on the annual appropriation account exercise. In view of my explanation, I ask the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, to withdraw his amendment.
I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister could respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Can she assure the Committee that the word "poverty" includes ill health and that the term "anti-poverty measures" includes the provision of health services, even if the people who receive such services are not a penny better off and may in fact be a penny worse off if they had to pay a small fee for the much needed improved services?
We had a long and substantial debate on the core power in the Bill under Clause 1. I hope that I made it absolutely clear in my response that the core power is drawn both widely and flexibly so as to permit a range of activity. One of the reasons for resisting the insertion of a number of issues in the Bill--for example, good governance, working on conflict reduction, health and education--is precisely because their inclusion might lead a court to interpret that as meaning that there were a range of other activities in which we cannot engage. That is why the core power in Clause 1 is written in a flexible way. It will allow us to undertake a range of activities.
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 2, line 32, leave out from second "in" to end of line 35 and insert "the fields of economic development, administration and social services, consisting in the making available of the services of any body or person, training facilities, the supply of material, or the results of research undertaken in any such fields".
In speaking to this amendment, I give notice that I shall be speaking separately to Amendment No. 22. I believe that the Minister is aware of this intention. Amendment No. 21 seeks to classify economic development as an important objective of technical assistance. The Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 sets out the definition of "technical assistance" to include assistance in the field of economic development. The Bill makes no reference to economic development.
Technical assistance is a vital part of British development assistance. It is also the part in which the British people have the most confidence. We believe that technical assistance has provided developing countries with valuable know-how and skills which they would not otherwise have had. We also believe that as one of the world's premier financial centres, the UK has a unique role in assisting developing countries with their economic development as well as their social development.
The British public support technical assistance. A survey of opinion for DfID involving 1,772 people chosen at random showed that just 18 per cent thought that providing financial assistance was the most important way of reducing poverty. In a survey of children, DfID found that the majority of support for development was for technical assistance and training nurses, doctors and engineers rather than just financial aid.
Economic growth is also crucial to development, but in the new definition of "technical assistance" economic development is no longer included. The globalisation White Paper states that economic development goes hand in hand with other development, including the environment. It states on page 16:
"Poverty and environmental degradation are often linked. Economic development gives countries improved access to new, less resource-intensive and less polluting technologies. Over the last fifty years, it has been more closed economies--such as the former Communist countries--that have had the worst record of industrial pollution and urban environmental degradation".
The 1997 government White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty, stated in the first line of section 1,
"We shall refocus our international development efforts on the elimination of poverty and encouragement of economic growth which benefits the poor".
The globalisation White Paper also highlighted the importance of multinationals in economic development. It states:
"TNCs can contribute significantly to economic development in host countries through their technology, specialised skills and ability to organise and integrate production across countries, to establish marketing networks and to access finance and equipment on favourable terms".
If the Government support the role of TNCs in contributing to economic development, they should include economic development within the term "technical assistance" in the Bill so that government too can support developing countries through technical assistance in technology and specialised skills. We believe that technical assistance has been vitally important over the past 20 years and want to see the definition remain the same in the new as in the old legislation. I look forward to hearing the Government's response. I beg to move.
Amendment No. 21 seeks to retain the definition of "technical assistance" used in the 1980 Act. Clause 5 defines "assistance" for the purpose of the Bill. It reflects our concern that the Secretary of State should not be constrained in terms of the type of assistance that she can offer, or in terms of the areas in which she can operate. To that end we make explicit the Secretary of State's ability to provide know-how in the form of personnel, training or the provision of the results of research and the awarding of scholarships. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that such assistance can be provided to encourage economic growth where it contributes to the reduction of poverty.
The definition of "technical assistance" improves on that set down in Section 1 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980. The definition in the 1980 Act limits technical assistance to assistance in the fields of economic development, administration and social services. It is not clear why these limits are imposed. The Secretary of State must be able to provide technical assistance in all areas in order to make the most effective contribution possible to the reduction of poverty. The definition in the 1980 Act also imposes limits on the kinds of assistance that can be provided. As the definition of "technical services" in the 1980 Act is inclusory rather than exhaustive, it does not strictly prevent other forms of technical assistance being given, or such assistance being given in different areas but, by specifying the fields and forms, narrows the interpretation of the term.
The effect of Amendment No. 21 is to reintroduce into the Bill the weaknesses of the definition in the 1980 Act. It opens up to doubt the areas in which technical assistance can be provided and the forms of such assistance. I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
I have given notice that I intend to oppose the Questions that Clause 5 and Clause 6 stand part of the Bill. Opposing the Question that a clause stand part of a Bill is rather like taking a sledgehammer to crush a nut. However, it seems to me that there is a nut here, the contents of which we want to examine. That is why I have taken the step that I have. However, I fervently--almost desperately--hope that my noble friend will provide a response which will result in my not having to pursue this reckless course.
As regards Clause 5, what worries me is that on the one hand there is generalised wording about assistance,
"in any form or of any nature", but on the other hand there are specific examples of,
"financial or technical assistance, and assistance consisting in a supply of materials".
What about political or military support or advocacy at the UN and elsewhere? What about research? I hope, therefore, that my noble friend can say a little more as regards why the specifics mentioned are the only specifics so mentioned and what the Government have in mind with regard to the words,
"in any form or of any nature".
It would be extremely helpful to be given some examples on the record.
As regards Clause 6, I simply say that it does--
I am grateful to the Minister for putting me right. It is clear that we are degrouping. I had not understood that that was going to happen. I am grateful that it has now been clarified. I have made my points. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to reassure us.
I hope that my noble friend will bear with me. I shall speak briefly on whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill. When we discuss the Question whether Clause 6 shall stand part, I shall give some examples which I think will reassure my noble friend.
Clause 5 defines the meaning of assistance for the purposes of the Bill. It provides that assistance can be in any form or of any nature. The Secretary of State is constrained in the Bill to provide assistance only for the overarching aim of reducing poverty and for the two development purposes of furthering sustainable development and promoting the welfare of the people. We believe that the Secretary of State should have available to her the widest possible range of instruments to achieve these narrower purposes.
In the light of that, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his objection to the Question whether Clause 5 shall stand part. I shall give a fuller explanation and examples in our discussion on whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill.
This amendment seeks to prevent countries running up substantial debts to the UK Exchequer by limiting the proportion of development assistance provided to them in the form of loans. This amendment would seek to ensure that development aid is mostly provided in the form of grants.
We are concerned that a new drive to grant loans to developing countries could see them get into debt again. That is why we want to ensure that DfID is limited in the proportion of grant aid and loans that it is able to give to any one country. In government the Conservatives cancelled £1.2 billion of loans owed to DfID from developing countries to help relieve their burden of debt. We are concerned that a new push to provide loans to projects could mean that the debt burden again becomes an issue.
We are also concerned that the British taxpayer should get value for money from these loans. That means that the Government must be sure that payment is forthcoming and guaranteed and that a proper risk assessment is undertaken by Government before projects are considered.
We are also concerned about the countries eligible for DfID loans. Do the Government plan to lend to projects in countries which have failed to pay back debts owed to the UK? Will the Government be supplying loans to heavily indebted poor countries? I beg to move.
Amendment No. 22 would place a limit on the ability of the Secretary of State to provide development assistance to a country by way of loans. Clause 6 sets out the kinds of financial assistance that may be provided under the Bill.
I do not believe that we should set out in the Bill limits on the amounts or nature of the assistance that the Secretary of State can provide. One of the principles on which the Bill is built is that the needs of poor people in developing countries must be the driving force behind the choice of form of assistance; otherwise the primacy of the overarching requirement of poverty reduction and the two development purposes will be compromised.
The amendment would require that no more than 10 per cent of financial assistance provided to a country be in the form of loans. The ceiling of 10 per cent is arbitrary. I cannot conceive of any absolute limit being appropriate for the range of countries and circumstances with which we now deal and will deal in the future. For emerging credit-worthy countries such as India and South Africa a higher ceiling might at some point be appropriate.
That said, I recognise the noble Baroness's concern that the Government should not allow developing countries once again to build up unsustainable debt burdens. We share that concern and have been working with the international community to ensure that any loans for HIPC countries are provided only for productive expenditure. Currently DfID's financial aid is in the form of grants. In line with our policy in this area, there is no intention to initiate a new push to provide loans. All the Bill does is to retain the power to provide loans which is in the 1980 Act. This will ensure that the Secretary of State has the discretion to act in circumstances which we cannot necessarily predict.
In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I have given notice that I shall oppose the Question whether Clause 6 shall stand part. It is again in the hope that my noble friend's response will make any action on that proposition unnecessary.
I seek examples and illustrations. They would be helpful for future interpretation of the Government's intentions. Perhaps I may add to what I said on whether Clause 5 shall stand part. With regard to Clause 6, I seek examples and case studies which illustrate how Ministers view the specific relationship to the impact on poverty. I am struck by what my noble friend Lord Brennan said. There is a tremendous potential and important contribution to be made by the private sector. However, in adopting fairly widespread provisions, it would be helpful if the Government could spell out how they envisage that power working.
I refer to the grouping; I hope that that is in order. It is suggested that we might speak at the same time to several other amendments. I wish to speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 29, 32 and 33.
Perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend and through him ask for some advice for those who are less experienced in this House. I saw the grouped list. We now appear to be embarking on a consideration of 12 different amendments to four different clauses. Some of us do not know the order and sequence. Perhaps someone could help us.
I shall try to assist. In speaking to a group of amendments, the mover of the first amendment speaks first and any other noble Lords who have either put their names to amendments or have a point to make then speak in turn.
Perhaps I may ask a further question. I was not aware that one spoke to a group of amendments when discussing whether a clause shall stand part. A number of amendments may be grouped together on different clauses. However, the debate on whether a clause shall stand part is taken by itself. I am somewhat surprised that the Minister tells us that we can consider whether the clause shall stand part and at the same time a number of amendments to later clauses. Perhaps the noble Baroness will confirm that that is the case.
On the list of groupings it is clear that if any noble Lord objects he may ask for the amendments to be degrouped. However, failing that, we must deal with them in the order shown.
I support the point that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, made about the undesirability of having amendments to Clause 7 in the same group as stand part debates on Clauses 5 and 6. That has led to some confusion. We have disposed of Clause 5 stand part and are now dealing with Clause 6 stand part. Once that has been dealt with, we should go on to Clause 7 and consider the remainder of the amendments in this group.
I am happy to proceed as the Committee decides, but in the absence of any decision, I had better proceed with the grouping as it is. It is therefore appropriate to say a few words about Amendments Nos. 29, 32 and 33.
Amendment No. 29 is self-evidently vital. The effectiveness and standing of the NGOs, for which we rightly have so much respect, depends on their perceived independence and integrity. They must be demonstrably free of any influence or manipulation that might be interpreted as in any way undermining their unique and special status. I hope that the amendment would help to achieve that objective.
I imagine that Amendment No. 32 is more controversial. For a long time, governments of different persuasions have said that they are committed to the UN target of 0.7 per cent. Progress is now being made towards that objective, but in the second phase of a government with a very large majority it would be timely to establish some yardsticks by which we measured our success in achieving that ultimate target. The indications that I have given in the amendment do not seem unreasonable. We should be able to stop talking about the target being our ultimate objective and actually achieve it, as a number of other countries already have, by 2004-05.
In development debates these days we hear a great deal about targets, especially the 2015 targets and mid-term targets, and about the obligations that developing countries must fulfil to be eligible for more aid. The amendment spells out the obligations on the rich with the same disciplines that we require of the poor.
On Amendment No. 33, I recognise the nature of the statutory bodies listed in the schedule, but I am a little perturbed that, although the clause refers to sustainable development and welfare, somehow the commitment to poverty has dropped out. Notwithstanding the specialised nature of the bodies listed in the schedule, whatever they are doing in the context of sustainable development or welfare should also be in the context of the reduction of world poverty. It would be good to ensure that that overarching objective--to use my noble friend's language--of the reduction of poverty was specifically mentioned in that context.
I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 26 on behalf of my noble friend Lady Young.
"New infections in 2000 totalled an estimated 3.8 million, as opposed to 4.0 million in 1999".
In 1999, the United Nations Population Division report The World at 6 Billion estimated that world population would cross the 6 billion threshold on 12th October 1999. It is then projected to cross the 7 billion mark in 2013, the 8 billion mark in 2028 and the 9 billion mark in 2054. World population should nearly stabilise at just above 10 billion after 2200.
The UN report also says:
"The highest rate of world population growth (2.04 per cent) occurred in the late 1960s. The current rate (1995-2000) is 1.31 per cent".
It goes on:
"Eighty per cent of the world currently reside in less developed regions. At the beginning of the century, 70 per cent did so. By 2050, the share of the world population living in the currently less developed regions will have risen to 90 per cent".
Last year, the Government spent £162,610,000 on health and population programmes. Last year, DfID gave £15 million to the UN Population Fund. DfID also supports a number of UK NGOs to deliver reproductive health programmes. In 1999-2000, the largest NGO recipients were the International Planned Parenthood Federation, with £5.85 million, and Marie Stopes International, with £4.95 million.
We want women in developing countries to have the best possible access to birth control and family planning. We also believe that all people should be free to decide the size of their own family. However, we will not support any policies or agencies that practise coercive abortion. I beg to move.
I signed Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who apologises to the House, as she is on parliamentary business in Indonesia at the moment, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is absent on parliamentary business elsewhere.
It might be convenient to speak to Amendment No. 26A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, at the same time. I strongly support the intentions behind it. The amendment would go a long way to deal with some of the questions raised in Amendments Nos. 23 and 24.
This is a timely and topical debate, not least because of the decision in the past few days to award the Olympic Games to China, where coercive population control is regularly practised. Some Members of your Lordships' House may have read an article in today's Daily Telegraph by Sion Simon, who is the Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington. He said:
"The totalitarian brutality of the Chinese government is not in dispute. By the regime's own admission, it has executed more than 1,700 people in little more than the past two months. The most common crimes among the dead were forms of disobedience which in the rest of the world would be called expression".
The decision on the venue for the Olympic Games has met huge criticism throughout the country. As an example of that, I cite yesterday's Independent on Sunday:
"Optimists suggest that the Olympic spirit will ensure that China cleans up its human rights act in time for the Games".
But, the paper says,
"Think again. No, we can expect the Beijing Games to model themselves on Berlin in 1936--with dissenters brutally swept aside in a grotesque attempt to showcase a totalitarian regime ... Don't be taken in".
The reason for drawing a parallel with that decision is that over the past 20 years successive governments have argued that we should do business with China in the whole area of reproductive rights and that, sooner or later, we shall be effective in preventing the coercive population policies pursued there. I do not mention this issue simply because of a distaste for abuses of human rights in China; I have taken a long and sustained interest in this matter since the Chinese Government introduced the policy in 1980.
Indeed, looking back to my time in another place, together with the Member of Parliament for Congleton, Mrs Ann Winterton, in 1995 I initiated a debate there following the broadcast of a programme entitled "The Dying Rooms" by Channel 4. Brian Woods, the director of the programme, wrote about his harrowing visit to a number of orphanages in China at that time. He said:
"Every single baby in this orphanage was a girl ... the only boys were mentally or physically disabled. 95 per cent of the babies we saw were able-bodied girls".
He also said:
"The most shocking orphanage we visited lay, ironically, just twenty minutes from one of the five star international hotels that herald China's emergence from economic isolation".
That programme followed another broadcast by BBC2 called "Women of the Yellow Earth". Both programmes highlighted how forced abortion, forced sterilisation and the forcible fitting of IUCDs for women had been commonplace in China since the one-child policy was introduced in 1980. The simple test that I suggested in the debate in another place in 1995 was whether or not we would permit such procedures to take place here. If not, I asked, what in the world were we doing funding them in China?
At that time, I took those arguments to the then Minister responsible for overseas development, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey. I had two meetings with her. I saw the present Secretary of State, Clare Short, for whom I have considerable respect, not long after she came to office. To use a phrase that probably explains that we both held trenchant views on either side of the argument, we held a very frank discussion.
The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and Clare Short have argued consistently in the same context as the arguments put forward for the Olympic Games being held in Beijing--that is, if we were inside we might be able to affect the population policies being pursued by the Chinese Population Association. Successive governments have also argued that we do not fund the Chinese Population Association directly. However, no one has disputed that the funds that we do provide to the United Nations Population Fund--the UNFPA--and to the International Planned Parenthood Federation--IPPF--go into the CPA and, thence, into the one-child policy. Ministers have always accepted that, and I shall allude to it again during the course of my remarks.
During the past 15 years or so both in another place and here I have regularly tabled Questions to Ministers on these subjects. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, replied to a Question which I tabled in March this year when I raised with her the matter of a report which appeared in the Sunday Times. I shall return to that report in a moment. In reply, she said:
"The incident in Hubei Province is deplorable, and the Government remain concerned about reports of reproductive abuses and other human rights abuses in China. But we also believe that programmes of the kind supported by UNFPA can contribute to improving policy and practice, and to helping to bring about a climate where coercion and abuse will no longer be tolerated".--[Official Report, 6/3/01; cols. WA24-25.]
Therefore, the argument remains the same: if we stay within, somehow we shall be able to influence events. The purpose of this amendment is to say that surely the point has now been reached where we can see that that policy has not succeeded and that, therefore, the moment has now come to change the policy.
"A retired doctor had rescued the newborn child from the cesspit of a men's lavatory, where he had been tossed to die. Liu Juyu took the baby to a clinic, where she was confronted by five birth control officials. Amnesty says they snatched the baby, threw him to the ground, kicked him and took him away to be drowned in a paddy field.
The child had been born in breach of local quotas enforced by the officials, who feared higher-level punishment if their targets were not met".
In the same report, another case referred to,
"mass demonstrations ... held in Changsha, Hunan province, after cadres tortured to death a man who would not reveal the whereabouts of his wife, who was believed to be pregnant".
Those are not lurid reports dreamed up by journalists. Amnesty International's citing of that case highlighted the growing resistance in China to such brutal methods. Perhaps later in the week--I have tabled an Unstarred Question on these matters for Wednesday--I shall have the opportunity to return in further detail to what Amnesty said.
There has been a change of mood in relation to these issues. Considerable change has occurred in the United States, for example, following hearings in Congress held on 10th June 1998 to which I shall refer again in a moment. The very first act of the incoming Bush Administration was to stop the funding of such programmes.
Change has also taken place here. When Mr Gary Streeter was appointed as the spokesman on overseas aid for the Opposition, I went to see him and we had an extremely useful discussion. He promised me that he would take the issue most seriously. As a consequence, I was delighted to read in the Conservative Party manifesto at the general election an undertaking that these policies would be reassessed. Therefore, I was even more pleased when the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, moved this amendment today and provided us with the opportunity to discuss--not in an adversarial, partisan way--the issue further as the summer proceeds between now and Report stage on 16th October.
Instinctively, I would wish to divide the House on the matter, but not today. I want people to have the chance to consider the issue and to see whether we can make a common purpose and recognise that all the evidence that is emerging shows that the previous policy of hoping for the best is simply not working.
When Congressman Chris Smith spoke to the congressional hearing, he cited the example of the Nuremberg trials. He said then that forced abortion was rightly denounced as a crime against humanity by the Nuremberg tribunal. He said that the United Nations should be organising an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the Chinese population control programme. Indeed, he added, it continues to fund and congratulate them.
In evidence to that Select Committee, an extraordinary account was given by Gao Xiao Duan, who was herself a birth control official in China. She had managed to flee from China and gave evidence directly to Congress. She said:
"Should a woman be found pregnant without a certificate, abortion surgery is performed immediately, regardless of how many months she is pregnant".
Elsewhere in her evidence, she said:
"Following are a few practices carried out in the wake of 'planned-birth supervision'
I. House dismantling ... this practice not only exists in our province, but in rural areas in other provinces as well".
When referring to sterilisation she said:
"The proportion of women sterilized after giving birth is extraordinarily high".
"During my 14-year tenure ... I witnessed how many brothers and sisters were persecuted by the Chinese communist government for violating its 'planned-birth policy.' Many of them were crippled for life, and many of them were victims of mental disorders resulting from their abortions. Many families were ruined or destroyed. My conscience was always gnawing at my heart ... Once I found a woman who was nine months pregnant, but did not have a birth-allowed certificate. According to the policy, she was forced to undergo an abortion surgery. In the operation room, I saw how the aborted child's lips were suckling, how its limbs were stretching. A physician injected poison into its skull, and the child died, and it was thrown into the trashcan. To help a tyrant do evils was not what I wanted. I could not bear seeing all those mothers grief-stricken by induced delivery and sterilization. I could not live with this on my conscience. I, too, after all, am a mother".
Harry Wu, the human rights activist who was imprisoned in China for many years, also gave evidence. There is not time this evening to go into great detail, but I am sure that Members of the Committee would wish to hear one or two of his statements. He said:
"are stationed in every village. Those communist party and government cadres are the most immediate tools for dominating the people ... They must watch every woman in the village, their duty being to promptly force women violators to undergo sterilization and abortion surgeries ... PBP is targeted against every woman, every family".
The evidence continues to amass. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture made available to me documents from the research directorate of the immigration and refugee board in Ottawa, Canada. In its evidence, it said:
"Beyond sheer population growth, the Chinese government has acknowledged that it is facing two difficult demographic issues--an ageing population and a growing gender imbalance ... both of which are in part related to its population policies of the past decades".
That refers to the fact that there is now a disproportionate balance between the sexes--about 120 boys are now born for every 100 girls. The Sunday Telegraph of 22nd September 1998 highlighted the consequences of that policy in an article entitled, "China's kidnapped wives". Of the practise of kidnapping young women, it stated:
"It has become a huge and lucrative business in China. In the five years up to 1996, 88,000 women who had been kidnapped were released by the police--and 143,000 kidnappers caught and prosecuted".
That is a direct result of the fact that the number of women available is not the same as the number of men living in that country. The article continues:
"The kidnap trade has grown up for one simple reason: the massive imbalance of the sexes in the Chinese population. According to the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, there are now 120 males for every 100 females in China.
The shortage of women is a result of Communist China's one-baby rule--and the deep-grained peasant desire for that one baby to be a boy. Approximately nine out of every 10 of the millions of abortions performed in China each year are, experts say, aimed at getting rid of a female foetus".
Those are some of the consequences of the approach. Another consequence is called the "little emperor" syndrome. Inevitably, if a baby is a single child, he or she is often doted on in such a way that he or she becomes spoilt and grows to be socially immature and unable to relate properly to other children.
The report that the medical foundation made available to me suggests that the policy simply does not work anyway. It states:
"Some sources question the efficacy of the country's population policy, pointing out that the country's fertility rate dropped significantly in the 1970s, but that there has been no subsequent marked decline after the policy's implementation".
The report also refers to corruption. Many officials abuse the system because they have more than one child although they require others to conform to the policy.
I realise that time is short and I do not intend to detain the Committee for much longer. However, this is a rare opportunity to debate a crucially important question. This country provides vast sums that go towards the policy. The UK Government gave the equivalent of £15 million to UNFPA in 1999 and the equivalent of £5.8 million to IPPS in 1999. In addition, they donated an estimated £39.5 million directly to China through concessionary financing arrangements.
There is much evidence showing the way in which the money has been abused. I could cite Dr John Aird's book, Slaughter of the Innocents, or the evidence of Amnesty International or the medical foundation. A couple of years ago the BBC World Service reported that riots had broken out near the southern city of Gaozhou,
"after government officials moved in to enforce the country's one child family planning policy".
I have referred to the gender gap and the condition of orphanages. According to the latest available figures, which were compiled in 1994, about 1.7 million children are abandoned each year. The vast majority of those who are eventually admitted to orphanages are female, although some are disabled or in poor health.
China is the only country in the world in which it is illegal to have a brother or a sister. It is extraordinary that millions of pounds--British taxpayers' funds--have been poured into those policies over the years. In this context we also need to consider the distorting effect on the population in that country and the abusive approach used in countries such as Tibet, in which the Tibetan population has been deliberately reduced by coercive population means. We should also consider the abuse of women through forced sterilisation, forced abortions and the forced fitting of IUCDs. Those matters and the massive destruction of life should cause us seriously to reconsider whether we should make our resources available to support such an approach. I therefore with great pleasure support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings.
I want to speak briefly to Amendment No. 26, which is grouped with the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke, and which relates to Clause 7. It is a probing amendment. I am grateful to the Minister who at a meeting last week was kind enough to encourage the tabling of such an amendment so that there could be a brief airing of this important subject.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells referred to the substantial efforts that the Church of England has made, is making, and will continue to make in the provision of international aid as an NGO. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, also referred to the important role of the private sector.
I return to a subject that I raised on Second Reading and I declare an interest, as I did previously, as the chairman of a Christian charity that is active in Africa. My comments relate to the work of the smaller NGOs anywhere in the world and those that have been, and still are, assisted by Her Majesty's Government in the distribution of aid.
My concern is not primarily about the principle that Her Majesty's Government provide aid directly to central governments, especially those in western and central Africa. Under that approach aid is allowed to trickle down through local government and regional officials, with or without the assistance of NGOs, which have now changed from being a conduit of aid to being a contractor. NGOs now work for the governments of those countries in the construction of schools and hospitals and by digging wells. That change may or may not be significant in terms of the amount of money that the Government are now channelling directly through central governments rather than through NGOs, which can be owned locally or internationally. However, some significant implications are involved.
My concern is about the fact that that long-term policy, which may have the admirable aim of seeking to create sustainable aid that is administered by national governments to alleviate poverty, is raising certain conflicts in terms of short-term realities.
There are three immediate consequences of the change in providing aid directly to qualified governments as opposed to, in modest part, through NGOs. First, those organisations now have to put up the costs of bidding for work to be carried out for local governments in the alleviation of poverty and that costs money. They need working capital because they are only paid at the end of a project rather than being able to spend the available money throughout the life of the construction of the hospital, school or well. Thirdly, and finally, those charities--often Christian charities--suddenly find that they need commercial management expertise in calculating the best bid and in calculating and controlling costs.
Adverse consequences arise on the ground in a number of countries with this change, and they are occurring at local and regional level rather than at governmental level. My amendment refers to two. The first is inefficiency in the distribution of aid. Inevitably bureaucracy is created, overhead costs rise and there has been a hiatus in a number of countries in the disbursement of British aid through local and regional officials. I am sure the Minister read the Financial Times today, which contains a good article written by Mark Turner describing what happened in Kenya in 1999 when its local government admitted that its management of the aid programme left a lot to be desired and we reverted to control, administration and implementation by the NGOs.
The second complication is corruption. It occurs because local officials responsible for the disbursement of aid provided by Her Majesty's Government to central government are inevitably taking advantage of the fact that they can charge a fee for the disbursement of that aid. Indeed, in some countries the staff who were involved in the distribution of aid have now turned themselves into contractors and are bidding for work on the construction of certain projects.
I shall be grateful for the Minister's comments. A warning is needed, no more than that, in certain countries that unless inefficiencies and corruption cease, then the Secretary of State should reserve the right to go back to the ancien regime where in some cases aid was disbursed directly through NGOs. I conclude by citing a sentence from the Catholic Institute for International Relations--a letter I received this morning as did many other noble Lords. The letter quite correctly sums up the role of NGOs and development assistance when it says,
"NGOs are often best equipped to deliver assistance swiftly, cheaply and democratically".
Perhaps I can return for a moment to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24--not that there is a lot more to be said. But I am fearful of not saying anything as though this matter of coercive abortion was not a matter of great importance.
Of course, the over-population of the world is a threat to peace and wellbeing. Often the problem is greatest where there is the most poverty and the least adequate education. It is important therefore to see that the United Nations Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation should be encouraging education and campaigns to tackle this huge problem.
But coercion in pursuit of family and childhood planning stretches authority beyond humane practice. It infects the having of children with fear and especially, in many cases, of forced abortion. That profound misuse of power is a fundamental denial of what is right. It denies essential reverence for human life and it is impossible to quantify the psychological damage of such compulsion on individual human beings, on the whole community and indeed on the human race.
For those who believe in God there are further questions about the givenness in the matter of gender which will and indeed is already affecting us. The line between proper education and planning and idolatrous control disguises the common good and needs constantly to be watched.
I can understand the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that somehow granting aid to China, as with the Olympic Games, will bring about impressive change in its human rights abuses. But supporting coercive population policies is a different matter. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the money might be used to enforce precisely that policy rather than educate the people to share in wise population planning.
The difficulty that this amendment faces is that, if it is agreed, then presumably many other human rights abuses of a serious sort would need to be named. In a sense, by naming one we exclude the others. So, while I totally support what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, I cannot see how it can be pursued as he suggested in this Motion.
I speak to Amendments Nos. 26A and 35A. Amendment No. 26A seeks to develop the provisions in this Bill to improve the plight of the world's children who live in poverty. I declare an interest: I am a patron of the Consortium for Street Children of the United Kingdom, which embraces some 30 charities working for children, not just street children, throughout the world.
When I looked at this Bill, I was more inspired than some, but distressed as to one particular omission. Anybody who asked the question: "What is the central feature of world poverty today?", would receive the answer, "Its effect on children". A rough word scan by eye rather than the machine, tells me that the word, "children" does not figure in our International Development Bill. I find that extraordinary. Why? Because it fails to give emphasis to that which demands emphasis.
I shall read out a few words and invite the Committee's agreement to the sentiment:
"Yet today we can predict with grim precision that as long as children's needs are seen as incidental and not integral to what we as Governments do; as long as they are a part and not at the heart of all policy decisions we make; each and every day of this year 30,000 children will lose the fight they are waging for life. Seven million will perish before reaching their first birthday. Over ten million will die before the age of five".
"at the heart of all policy decisions we make".
Why is that practical requirement so important? All of us who work in this field can identify three key problems in dealing with the plight of children, particularly in the developing world. The first is that in many countries children are the least important priority. It is the earner of money, the sustainer of the family who comes first. So it is that children and those with their primary care--mothers and wives--suffer the most. That factor should not be ignored when deciding what aid to give to such countries who have that mode of life.
Secondly, and very importantly, it cannot be allowed that the governments of those countries should leave the care of children solely to NGOs, substituting what they do for their governmental responsibility. I am sure that most of us would readily accept that the vast majority of NGOs working abroad from this country work for children and that the vast majority of money received is for children. That should not allow any government, nor ours when dealing with them, to ignore their responsibilities. Thirdly, when those countries receive the money, what do they do with it? Tied aid has gone but there should be aid tied to results at which money is directed.
Those three problems--the social mores of societies, the will of NGOs and what is to be done with the money--demand consideration by the Government in an international development Bill. As Gordon Brown stated, the face of global poverty is the face of a young child. That explains why proposed subsection (5) in Clause 7 identifies what the aid will do for children and ensures that the people who receive it report back. That is hardly contentious.
I turn to the next part of my amendment, proposed subsection (6) of Clause 7. The amendment calls upon the Government not to give aid unless the circumstances justify it to any country which has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The preamble to that convention recognises that,
"in all countries in the world, there are children living in exceptionally difficult conditions, and that such children need special consideration".
It further states:
"The importance of international co-operation for improving the living conditions of children in every country, is paramount".
Why should we give aid to the country whose government does not observe that commitment unless the needs of children particularly demand it?
I mentioned the substance of my amendment at Second Reading. My noble friend the Minister with great clarity told us that the Government's policy did not require children to be particularly mentioned because the policy was holistic. That is a commendable concept, provided that it is firmly attached to practicality and not allowed to drift into the nebulous. Children cannot be treated as anything more nor less than being at the heart of the matter. I commend the amendment to my noble friend the Minister. If it is thought that it needs further consideration I would hope that on this or the next occasion, whether or not it becomes part of the Bill, the Government will firmly state the sort of commitment, the need for special consideration of children, for which I have asked.
I turn briefly to Amendment No. 35A which deals with an entirely different topic. The amendment seeks to develop the scope of Commonwealth scholarships. This is a probing amendment inviting the Government to clarify, first, that Parts III and IV of the 1980 Act continue to be part of the powers of this Bill; namely, the exchange of teachers, policemen and nurses between ourselves and countries in need, and, secondly, that in giving the assistance at Clause 5, or in Commonwealth scholarships at Clause 14, it will not simply be restricted to traditional educational years but that there will be flexibility and variety in the extent of help that is given.
I do not apologise for taking up this length of time. This group of amendments combines several topics of major importance. I am sure that we would all agree that there is no more important issue than the plight of our children.
Despite our earlier confusion, like other Members of the Committee I hope that it will be convenient if I comply with the original grouping and speak to Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Rawlings.
Amendment No. 30 seeks to set sensible limits on the Government's use of sector-wide aid programmes. It seeks to ensure that there are measurable and published targets for their outputs, as there are for individual aid projects, and that there is sufficient monitoring of their progress. It seeks to ensure that any beneficiaries of sector aid have demonstrated in the past a record of transparency and openness in their use of UK aid. The amendment also seeks to ensure that a report is prepared into any proposed use of sector-wide aid programmes and that that report is put before Parliament in advance of disbursements being made.
The Secretary of State described sector-wide aid as "a small revolution" in the way in which the Department for International Development works. However, in spite of that revolutionary change, there does not appear to be in place a set of well-publicised targets, objectives and measures of its effectiveness. It is vital to any aid programme that the effects can be measured and lessons learnt. We are concerned that the Bill makes no reference to measuring such outputs. Surely it is also important that Parliament is kept informed of all developments in those programmes?
The new sector-wide approach means that instead of numerous agencies distributing aid for individual education projects, all donors work together to find a single programme alongside the government of a developing country. Unfortunately, that is not without risk. Sector-wide approaches mean a loss of control over aid programmes. The social development working paper from the Department for International Development admits:
"Any individual donor's agenda is likely to be subsumed within a collective donor approach" and will mean,
"handing over the control to national institutions in partner countries".
It further states:
"Individual donor agencies joining a common programme with key partners in the country concerned lose a certain level of direct control over activities they support".
The approach means a loss of direct control over our aid budget and gives developing countries much more power over their own aid. That may be desirable but, equally, independent sources suggest that there is little evidence of the effect that sector-wide aid programmes--they have the imaginative acronym of SWAPs--have on poverty. For example, the Overseas Development Institute states:
"As yet, there is very little material on the impact of SWAPs on poverty".
Moreover, SWAPs are supposed to build capacity in developing countries and allow them to administer their own policy priorities, thereby decreasing the need for DfID staffing. Thus, the report also criticised DfID for simply moving staff out to developing countries. It states:
"It is notable that donor discussions in the Oslo meeting ... were concerned about increased donor staffing implications of SWAP approaches, and several donors have retained field staff in country to 'manage' their SWAP support (e.g. DfID has moved towards country programme missions in SWAP countries.) It seems possible that these staff are spending their time seeking as many meetings with the same Government staff to discuss SWAPs as they previously did to discuss projects. In Ghana, Government health officials seem under as much pressure as before, even though they are resisting donor pressure for more 'business meetings'".
As the ODI stated, sector-wide programmes have led to an increase in DfID's staffing levels in developing countries. Total staff numbers in the 1989 DfID annual report were 1,650, including 450 overseas. Staff numbers for the department in the annual report 2001 totalled 2,249, including 967 overseas. That is an increase of almost 600. It also led to a rise in aid administration running costs. In 1996-97, aid administration running costs totalled £65 million. In 2001-02 those costs are forecast to be £108 million, an increase of £43 million.
Given that there is so little evidence of the beneficial effect of SWAPs on poverty reduction and that since SWAPs have been introduced DfID's staffing abroad has rocketed, it is our belief that the Government should now ensure that SWAPs are subject to proper targets and monitoring. That will ensure that the public can have the maximum confidence in UK aid.
I turn to Amendment No. 31, which seeks to establish a website for the purpose of assisting UK nationals and UK-based charities and non-governmental organisations to contribute to the reduction in world poverty by providing them with additional information and advice. We believe that any Bill that states poverty reduction as an aim of aid needs to fully utilise the generosity and compassion of the British people. We believe that the Government should recognise this in the Bill and agree to set up an agency to facilitate private donors and charities to play a greater role in poverty reduction.
The people of Britain have consistently demonstrated that they care about development issues. However, individuals and small charities are being weighed down by the twin burdens of a lack of resources and inadequate information. We on these Benches believe that facility exists via mechanisms of IT to provide more information and better co-ordination of the relief efforts of British people. Through a sophisticated website, database and call centre, aid direct could act as a central information service for members of the public, providing up-to-date and accurate information on all areas of development.
Aid direct would be an agency dedicated to offering advice on how best the British people can help those indeveloping countries. It would help to match needs in the developing world with willing helpers in the UK. Aid direct would be set up in partnership with the NGO community, with constant input from NGOs and embassies throughout the world. It would facilitate and empower the British public and small aid charities to make a real difference to communities in the developing world. The opportunity exists to tap into this valuable resource. Indeed, given the response of the noble Baroness to Amendments Nos. 15 and 17, I trust that she will respond positively to this suggestion.
I rise to speak to Amendment No. 27. It touches on some of the issues already mentioned and it is complementary. I believe that the change referred to by many Members of the Committee in the way in which policies are being implemented and funds distributed makes it particularly essential that these expenditures are compared regularly and on a comparable basis. The noble Lord, Lord Freeman, for example, expressed concern about changes resulting from increased government expenditure rather than that of NGOs. It is important that the effects of those are made apparent. Greater transparency will make those decisions better understood. As we heard from the right reverend Prelate, there is some puzzlement about some of the changes and therefore we must have greater transparency. The purpose of the amendment is to make that clear.
There have been many discussions about whether the funding is coming through NGOs, international bodies, the EU and so forth. At present, the comparisons made between the different expenditures and their effectiveness is unclear and an amendment of this kind will help in that direction.
I rise to speak to Amendment No. 28. This is a key amendment which seeks to place the UK Government's relationship with charities and non-governmental aid organisations specialising in development on a more stable financial footing. It would ensure that development assistance provided through charities and NGOs could not fall below 15 per cent of total development assistance; would help to build strong support for development; and would act as a check against an overly centralising government.
The Bill, as Members of the Committee know, gives considerably more power to the Secretary of State. We believe that charities and non-governmental organisations are an asset to the United Kingdom's attack on global poverty. We believe that charities and NGOs are more than just service providers and, as such, should be formally recognised and supported in the Bill. Aid distributed by UK- based charities and NGOs amounted to £195 million in the financial year 1999-2000. That was roughly 8 per cent of the total DfID budget. We want to see their role in development boosted and their involvement increased. We believe that by increasing government funding for charities more people will become involved either directly or indirectly with the development programmes and projects and that support for development will increase.
The Government pay lip service to charities but fail to harness their energy and enthusiasm. Howard White, an economist with a special interest in issues relating to aid policy, especially the macro-economic and poverty impact of aid, wrote an article about the first four years of the Department for International Development. It was placed in the BOND newsletter, representing 250 international development charities. In his article he criticised DfID, stating:
"DfID's relationship with the NGO community has been somewhat chequered. It might be thought that the trends outlined above of a stronger poverty focus and the emphasis on partnership have led to a closer working relationship between DfID and NGOs. In reality the picture is somewhat more mixed. It is true that NGOs welcome the poverty focus, and they find several positive aspects in the changing nature of DfID's work--the HIV/AIDS programme is often mentioned in this regard. But there is also a feeling that there is not a genuine partnership, since DfID is not really prepared to enter into dialogue. As mentioned above, these criticisms centre in particular in the second White Paper. The consultation process for preparing the document was said by one NGO not to be very consultative. The relationship between DfID and NGOs is also seen to have suffered as a result of Clare Short's personal antagonism towards the NGO community. Mainstream NGOs believe that genuine debate has been sacrificed by the Secretary of State's desire to distance herself from the anti-liberalisation stance of more radical members of their community. [BOND Newsletter, DfID, The First Four Years, April 2001]".
However, the Government claim that:
"The UK Government work closely and constructively with NGOs and other elements of UK civil society." [Globalisation White Paper, 199, col. 359].
However, we have seen that this is not the full story. The Government should take on board this criticism and work towards a better relationship with the UK overseas development charities. The Government could do this by providing charities and the British people with more information on development aid and how they can help. They could also increase the amount of DfID funding spent via charities and NGOs.
We on these Benches believe that the British people should be encouraged to play a more active role in development. Conservatives see aid not purely as an activity for governments but as an area in which everyone can participate. The Conservative Party believes that the Government should support the British people by setting up agencies dedicated to motivating and encouraging the entire UK aid effort.
I shall begin by addressing the points raised by my noble friend in relation to Clause 6 and then move to discuss Amendments Nos. 23, 24, 26, 26A and 27 to 33. Clause 6 sets out the kinds of financial assistance which can be provided under the Bill. The Bill provides for the use of a wider range of financial instruments than are available under the 1980 Act by enabling the Secretary of State to provide guarantees and to purchase securities in a company as well as providing grants and loans.
The ability of the Secretary of State to use these new financial instruments has generated some interest. Let me therefore offer an example of how the Secretary of State might come to use development funds in this way.
DfID is currently working with a number of micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to extend the provision of financial services to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. For DfID to make a grant to such institutions carries several risks. An MFI, for example, might pay insufficient attention to innovation or cost control. Those risks would not apply to MFIs which were able to obtain capital on commercial terms. But banks are risk averse and often poorly informed about micro-finance institutions. The provision of a guarantee by DfID would enable banks to learn about the nature of the micro-finance market, and the Bill would enable the Secretary of State to do so. I am happy to write further to my noble friend Lord Judd on these matters.
Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 would require the Secretary of State not to provide assistance to any organisation or individuals involved in promoting or practising coercive population policies. Before I comment on the amendments, I should take this opportunity to clarify the Government's policy on this important issue. UK assistance for all family planning is provided in line with the principles of free and informed choice upheld at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994. The Government are totally opposed to any kind of coercion in matters related to childbearing. The issue is usually raised in connection with the policies of the Chinese Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, did this evening. The Government disagree with China's one child policy and do not support it. Coercion should have no place in family planning.
DfID makes annual contributions towards the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation in over 150 countries, including China. We support their programmes in China because they work to secure greater respect for reproductive rights. UNFPA makes a full range of reproductive health services available in 32 Chinese counties on a voluntary basis in adherence to the standards agreed at the conference in 1994. Birth quotas have been abolished in the areas where UNFPA works. The programme shows encouraging achievements; for example, it has witnessed a decrease in the induced abortion rates in those counties. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that our work has made a difference.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Is the noble Baroness able to confirm that her department's publication China: Population Issues states:
"Critics of this position argue that several years of UNFPA and IPPF involvement in China has not led the Chinese to moderate their policies or stop abuses in the implementation of policy. This is true"?
As I have said, we have evidence that the work of UNFPA in the 32 Chinese counties has led to a decrease in the induced abortion rate. That is the aim of the work within the context of the principles agreed in Cairo. Therefore, the Government's policy is in line with the sentiment behind these amendments.
I should also explain why we believe that it is unwise to accept the amendments. To specify individual policies or priorities in the Bill would give rise to doubt about the scope of the powers in the Bill and throw into question the ability of the Secretary of State to support policies and priorities that are not mentioned. This arises because of the legal convention that nothing is said in law that is not necessary. If we set down in the Bill individual policies and priorities which the Secretary of State is in any case able to pursue, or in this case not to pursue, we would allow the inference that the powers in the Bill would not otherwise cover such activities. That might lead a court to conclude that the powers in the Bill should be interpreted narrowly, excluding policies and priorities that were not mentioned on the face of the Bill.
Amendment No. 26 would require the Secretary of State to consider using country-based non-governmental channels for the provision of development assistance where she had evidence that the government of the country were using assistance inefficiently or condoning corruption and bribery in its distribution.
The noble Lord, Lord Freeman, implied that DfID assistance to smaller UK NGOs is now channelled only through developing country governments. I can reassure the noble Lord that that is not so. Centrally run programmes, such as the Civil Society Challenge Fund, continue to provide direct DfID funding to civil society organisations. In addition, our regional programme managers continue to use what the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, referred to as the ancien regime. The latest departmental report gives a number of examples, including support to CAFOD to develop a peace-building programme in DRC and to Oxfam to improve the livelihoods of pastoralists in Kenya.
Subsection (1) of Clause 7 allows the Secretary of State to impose terms and conditions on the provision of development assistance. Further, Clause 7 is subject to the core power set down in Clause 1. I can, therefore, reassure the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, that the Bill already reflects the exact sense of his amendment.
Amendment No. 26A to Clause 7 seeks to require that special consideration be given to the needs of children. I am sure that all Members of the Committee agree that the welfare of children is of paramount importance to the reduction of poverty in developing countries, but it is difficult to isolate their needs from other ways of contributing to sustainable development or enhancing welfare. Children need parents who can access livelihood opportunities and protection from lawlessness, and they and their parents benefit from improved government resource mobilisation that finances better services. All assistance provided under the powers in Clause 1 directly or indirectly reduces the effects of poverty on children.
Preparation of development assistance proposals under successive governments has required an assessment of the likely impact on those most affected. Similarly, it has long been standard practice for recipients to report on the implementation and impact of the assistance. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of the proposed subsection (5) are, therefore, unnecessary. The proposed subsection (6) would require that assistance affecting children should be provided only to a country which has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This, too, is unnecessary as assistance to any country, whether or not it has ratified the convention, will be provided only where the circumstances justify it. I hope that that reassures my noble friend Lord Brennan.
Amendment No. 27, tabled by my noble friend Lord Hunt, would require the Secretary of State to ensure that in funding third parties the effectiveness of their contribution towards poverty reduction is regularly monitored and made public. I can offer two points of reassurance to my noble friend. First, Clause 4(2), under which the majority of such expenditure will be given, requires that assistance can be given only if the Secretary of State believes that it is likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty. Secondly, DfID has a comprehensive and transparent procedure for assessing the contribution that multilateral institutions, such as the European Union and the United Nations, can make to international development targets and for determining the nature and scale our contributions to them. DfID's institutional strategy papers also set clear targets for its engagement with those institutions.
Amendment No. 28 would have the effect of imposing a limit on the value of development assistance that could be provided directly as opposed to being provided by arrangement with charities and NGOs. The amendment relates to Clause 8 which allows the Secretary of State to act through other persons or bodies as well as directly. This amendment runs up against the same arguments of principle and practicality that I outlined earlier. I do not believe that we should set out in the Bill limits on the amount or nature of the assistance that the Secretary of State can provide.
The amendment is also undesirable on practical grounds. There may be circumstances when it will be appropriate to provide less than a certain percentage of assistance to a country through NGOs. I do not believe that we should use the Bill to constrain the Secretary of State's ability to act in the most effective way possible.
Amendment No. 29 seeks to require the Secretary of State to preserve, respect and encourage the independence and impartiality of NGOs involved in the provision of humanitarian aid. The Government value the independence and impartially of all non-governmental organisations. I hope that there is no doubt about that.
The amendment imposes an uncertain and potentially onerous duty on the Secretary of State. If a duty is to be imposed in law, it should be cast in sufficiently precise terms so that a Secretary of State can be held to account on whether or not the duty is being met. If we accepted the amendment, or one similar to it, we would need to specify exactly how the Secretary of State was to preserve, respect and encourage the impartially of NGOs. We would then need to specify the extent to which the duties should be met. I hope that noble Lords will agree that this is a difficult area. If we were capable of formulating such directions, the risk is that they would be so prescriptive in terms of the relationship that the Secretary of State would have with such NGOs, and so onerous in terms of the work required by both parties to manage and monitor the arrangement, that the work of responding effectively and efficiently to disasters and emergencies would be compromised.
Amendment No. 30 would require parliamentary approval of each and every sector-wide programme commitment. It is already a requirement set out in DfID's procedures that any significant expenditure commitment, such as that in a sector-wide programme, be made only after a report has been completed on a proposal. The report must include target outputs and monitoring arrangements. Where the programme envisages channelling resources directly through a partner Government's financial management and control systems, these systems are assessed for their adequacy. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to impose prior parliamentary scrutiny on routine decisions relating to the bilateral programme. Prior parliamentary scrutiny would add a potentially cumbersome procedure to a process which often requires considerable speed and flexibility.
Perhaps I may touch on the point made by the noble Baroness in relation to staffing overseas. The increase in staffing overseas is not directly related to the use of sector-wide approaches, rather it reflects the increasing dialogue between DfID and developing country governments on the key macro-economics and sector policy issues that determine the effectiveness of all forms of assistance.
I have already spoken in some detail about the accountability of the Secretary of State to Parliament and to the courts and also about the transparency of DfID's decision-making procedures and policy development.
Amendment No. 31 would require the Secretary of State to set up and maintain a website for the purpose of helping to co-ordinate and facilitate the development activities of charities and those who give to such causes. If the Secretary of State considered that establishing such a website was an effective way to contribute to the reduction of poverty, then she could support it without recourse to a statutory power.
I often wonder when I look at government websites why there seems to be an absolute bar on having links to other organisations. In the case of the DfID website, the objective which the noble Baroness sought in moving the amendment might equally well be achieved if the noble Baroness thought about having hot links to other appropriate websites, such as those in the principle non-governmental aid agencies.
I shall certainly take that suggestion away. I can already see a number of potential difficulties with it in terms of which organisations we did or did not choose to have links with and the basis on which we made that decision. But I shall certainly take it away to the department. I shall write to the noble Lord about any subsequent decision that we make.
Amendment No. 32 would require the Government to allocate 0.5 per cent of GNP to development assistance in the financial year 2002-03, and 0.7 per cent in the financial year 2004-05. Noble Lords will know that Parliament has, by tradition, reserved to itself the power to allocate resources annually to departments and to purposes. An amendment such as this would run against this practice and would effectively bind the ability of future administrations to determine, in the context of other priorities, an appropriate allocation of resources for development assistance.
I would, however, take this opportunity to re-state the Government's commitment to the 0.7 per cent target. We are making progress towards that. We have set, and will reach, a target of 0.33 per cent of GNP by 2003-04. That is likely to represent a development budget of some £3.6 billion pounds compared with just under £2.1 billion in 1997-98.
I think that I have made it absolutely clear that there is a commitment to working towards that target. My noble friend may recall that the percentage of GNP used for development assistance went down substantially between 1979 and 1997. We have made every effort to increase that proportion. We will continue to do that. There is a commitment to the 0.7 per cent target.
Amendment No. 33 would enable those statutory bodies listed in Schedule 1, which is attached to Clause 9, and any statutory bodies that might subsequently be added to that Schedule, to act for the purpose of the elimination of poverty, in addition to the three purposes already listed in Clause 9.
Clause 9 enhances the powers of the statutory bodies listed in Schedule 1 to enable them to enter into arrangements to provide development assistance with the consent of the Secretary of State. In adding to their powers in this way, we believe that it would be inappropriate to specify what the aim of such assistance should be.
Amendment No. 35A seeks to ensure that under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme the Secretary of State will be able to continue to support the exchange of personnel and that she will be able to support flexible forms of training. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Brennan on both points. Under the Bill the Secretary of State will be able to continue to support all the forms of assistance available in respect of the scheme under the 1980 Act and new forms such as distance learning.
I have spoken at some length and I hope that the explanations that I have given will mean that noble Lords feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for her detailed answer on all the grouped amendments and for her comprehensive reply to all the questions. I cannot say that we have found them wholly satisfactory. No doubt we shall return to many of these issues on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 24 to 26A not moved.]
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 [Arrangements with third parties]:
[Amendments Nos. 27 to 29 not moved.]
Clause 8 agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 30 to 32 not moved.]
Clause 9 [Powers of statutory bodies]:
[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 [Immunities and privileges of international financial institutions]:
In moving Amendment No. 34 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 35. In proposing the amendments the Government have sought to address a concern expressed by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform in its report on the Bill. The committee noted that Clause 12 of the Bill enables diplomatic privileges and immunities to be granted to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and to any new international financial institution without the prior approval of Parliament. It further noted that that ran counter to normal practice, which is for Parliament to reserve the right to approve the granting of such immunities and privileges. The committee therefore recommended that the Bill might be amended to bring the IBRD and any new institutions into line with all other international financial institutions.
The reason for the anomaly is purely historical. Clause 12 re-enacts the provisions of Section 9 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980, which in turn draws its provisions relating to the IBRD from the Bretton Woods Agreement Act 1945. That Act does not reserve to Parliament the right to approve the granting of immunities and privileges in draft. Since then the practice has changed and, in the case of all other institutions of which we are aware, Parliament has reserved the right to approve the granting of immunities and privileges. In drafting the Bill the Government did not recognise that anomaly and we are grateful to the Select Committee for its advice on this issue. The Government are pleased to accept the committee's recommendation. I beg to move.
moved Amendment No. 35:
Page 6, line 15, leave out paragraph (b).
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 [Functions of the Commission etc]:
[Amendment No. 35A not moved.]
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 [Short title, commencement and extent]:
Corruption hurts the poor most and is a serious barrier to economic development in developing countries. In Helping Countries Reduce Corruption, the World Bank said:
"Evidence that corruption is a cancer on development is accumulating".
The OECD convention on bribery came into effect on 15th February 1999. It commits the 34 signatories--29 OECD member countries and five non-member countries; Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile and the Slovak Republic--to make it a criminal offence for any person intentionally to offer, promise or pay a bribe to a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business. The signing of the convention took place in Paris on 17th December 1997.
In the 1997 White Paper Eliminating World Poverty, the Government said that,
"as part of our commitment to combat corruption, we support OECD initiatives to criminalise the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions".
However, although the UK Government have ratified the OECD convention on bribery, a new extraterritorial offence needed to be created as current British laws are inadequate to enforce the convention. To date there is no legislation in force--although Home Office legislation is now being introduced--and no successful prosecution has ever been brought under laws on bribing foreign officials.
The Government promised in another place, at col. 33W of the Official Report of 10th April 2000, to pass legislation "as soon as possible" but failed to include it in the Queen's Speech in December 2000. However, it was introduced in June 2001. While Labour has failed to introduce effective legislation on bribery and corruption, it has damaged the good name of Britain abroad. George Moody-Stuart, chairman of the UK chapter of the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, said in Sunday Business on 2nd January 2000:
The United Kingdom review of implementation of the convention and the 1997 recommendation of June 2000--a peer group review by other OECD member countries--concluded that British law cannot enforce the OECD convention on paying bribes to foreign officials. Transparency International has said that slow progress on passing reform could cause concern among the other OECD members that have already updated their domestic legislation. In the Financial Times on 24th May 2000, George Moody-Stuart said:
"There is a danger that if it happens slowly we still look shabby".
Further delay could seriously harm the effectiveness of the convention and the Government should ensure that bribery legislation is firmly in place before the Bill is passed.
One of the major barriers to development is corruption. High level fraud and corruption distort economies and prevent aid money reaching those who need it most. Conservatives believe that the Government should have a twin-track approach to fighting corruption in developing countries. If there is significant evidence that a recipient government are abusing British aid money, aid should be stopped. In the event of a suspension of aid we will seek to route a similar amount of support into that country through non-governmental organisations so that the needs of the poor are still met. The Government should also ensure that bribe paying is no longer tolerated by passing legislation as soon as possible to enforce the OECD convention. I beg to move.
The effect of Amendment No. 36 would be to prevent the Secretary of State from appointing a date for the commencement of the Bill until the Convention on Combating the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions has been implemented in UK law. Corruption is a serious obstacle to development. We know that it hits the poorest hardest. The strategy of DfID is to support countries that are genuinely determined to crack down on corruption and we are currently spending £350 million each year on programmes in that area. The nature of the assistance we provide varies widely but includes support for national anti-corruption strategies. We are also collaborating with other development agencies and contributing to multilateral efforts, in particular through supporting the strengthening of financial intelligence units and regional anti-money laundering mechanisms.
Where governments are not committed to tackling corruption, we have taken strong action in partnership with other donors, including, for example, the withdrawal of government to government aid over recent years in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. But that is not a long-term solution and such action can hit the poorest hardest. We need to engage with such governments in order to influence them. The Bill will allow us to continue to support activities that help the fight against corruption in all its forms.
The Government believe that the OECD convention on the bribery of foreign officials is a major advance in the fight against corruption. I am therefore pleased that the Government have confirmed that a criminal justice Bill containing provisions that demonstrate our compliance with the OECD convention will be introduced into Parliament in the current Session. But there is no link between the enacting of legislation relating to combating the bribery of foreign officials and the passage of this Bill. In view of the commitments I have outlined and the explanation I have given, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.