International Development Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 18th October 2001.

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Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:15 pm, 18th October 2001

My Lords, as I explained in Committee, we firmly believe that it would not enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance to try to define on the face of the Bill the terms on which it should be given.

My noble friend has taken an interesting approach in attempting to link the Secretary of State's powers to those laid down in the legislative basis for European Community humanitarian assistance. But there are a number of significant disadvantages to such an approach. We believe that it would impose an unnecessary restriction on the Secretary of State's ability to take necessary action.

While the objectives of our Bill are largely consistent with the objectives of the EC regulation, the regulation is intended to govern Community actions, not those of the member states of the European Union. As a matter of principle, the Secretary of State should not have her or his hands tied legally by external definitions.

There are also practical difficulties. The EC regulation does not allow for certain types of assistance which the Secretary of State may wish to provide under this clause, such as post-emergency rehabilitation and reconstruction, and assistance for displaced people after the immediate humanitarian crisis subsides, including, for example, the reintegration of demobilised former soldiers. Both of those matters have been discussed in the House. For European aid, these forms of assistance are covered by subsequent Council legislation.

Finally, identifying how the "purpose" of humanitarian assistance is defined by the regulation could lead to considerable legal argument. During the debate in Committee, my noble friend quoted one of the 18 preambular paragraphs of the regulation--I had to go and look it up--but the regulation does not at any point specifically define the "purpose" of humanitarian assistance. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.