Clause 1 - Development assistance

International Development Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at on 22 November 2001.

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Amendment moved [this day]: No. 1, in page 1, line 7, after `contribute', insert `directly, or indirectly'.—[Mrs. Spelman.]

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 12, at end insert

`or—

(c) promoting good governance in one or more such countries'.

No. 3, in page 1, line 12, at end insert

`or—

(d) reducing conflict or the potential for conflict in one or more such countries'.

No. 4, in page 1, line 12, at end insert

`or—

(e) putting into place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment in one or more such countries.'.

No. 6, in page 1, line 16, at end add—

`(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Secretary of State may fund public awareness campaigns in developing countries for purposes consistent with this section.'.

No. 12, in clause 4, page 2, line 24, at end insert—

`(d) promote, or assist any person or body to promote, the awareness of good governance and of the means of achieving good governance,'.

No. 13, in page 2, line 28, after `(b)', insert `(c) or (d) or (e)'.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 2:30, 22 November 2001

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. It is a great pleasure to serve under you for the first time.

I was in the middle of presenting a group of amendments that probe the Government on the objective and focus of the Bill, which is clearly stated as being poverty reduction. I expressed our concern that important aspects of development assistance should not be downgraded because of that primary focus. We discussed the need to ensure that conflict reduction and prevention continue to receive the same attention from the Department.

I move now to foreign direct investment. Amendment No. 4 would put in place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment into developing countries. It would allow the Secretary of State to provide assistance for measures that were designed to do so. It is based on the assumption that attracting such investment is a major purpose of development aid and provides Governments with more tax revenue to boost the local economy, create jobs and bear the risk if investments fail.

Underlying the amendment is the belief that attracting foreign direct investment into developing countries is an essential element of poverty reduction. The Government have said:

``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 passage is lifted from the Government's White Paper ``Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor''.

Foreign direct investment by multinational companies can boost the local economy, create jobs and help to alleviate poverty. It 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 risk that the Governments of developing countries face when they borrow money from banks. Companies bear the risk if their investments fail, but if they are successful, the host Government benefits from increased tax revenue, and the investor benefits from the resulting profits, in what one might describe as a virtuous circle.

The Government have stressed the importance of foreign investment in the globalisation White Paper, noting:

``The attraction of capital inflows is an essential element of a strategy to speed up sustainable development and poverty reduction.''

The White Paper continues:

``A central feature of globalisation has been the substantial increase in movement of capital around the world.''

Over the past seven years, it has increased to more than three times the level of development aid.

Attracting foreign direct investment is, therefore, vital to development, and the Bill must reflect that reality. That is especially pertinent in the context of the successful preliminary talks in Doha on a world trade agreement. If the outcome in three years' time is successful, markets will become more open to developing countries and there should be greater opportunities for foreign direct investment. To take an optimistic view of the outcome of the talks, foreign direct investment should contribute more than three times the level of development aid. It should be a growing feature of the relationship between developed and developing nations, and we sincerely hope that it will close the gap between us. That is another of the important elements that we want to be reassured will not be lost by focusing on poverty reduction.

Amendment No. 6 draws the Government on their understanding of the use of development assistance to fund awareness campaigns. The amendment would allow the Government to fund awareness campaigns in developing countries. When I spoke to amendment No. 2, I stressed the importance of good governance. I was seeking reassurance that focusing on poverty

reduction would not preclude initiatives that could lead indirectly to poverty reduction. We strongly believe that, in the important areas highlighted in our amendments, programmes for direct poverty reduction should go hand in hand with public awareness campaigns. The amendment would be consistent with the aims of the Bill. That is not directly poverty reduction; it is an obvious example of indirect assistance. Public information campaigns have a key role, directly and indirectly, on a range of issues related to poverty reduction.

Hon. Members may recall the topical but tragic case of Victoria Climbie—I am sure that the results are present in the memory of each one of us. That case uncovered a considerable amount of trafficking between west Africa, the United Kingdom and other European destinations. We welcome some of the initiatives that the Government sought to put in place to deter traffickers. The most important is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention on bribery and corruption, which will be incorporated in emergency legislation. Having pressed so hard for it in this Bill, we are glad to see that it will be enacted relatively quickly. It will deter British nationals from engaging in the loathsome trade of trafficking by going to seek children—particularly from west Africa. Another important factor in dealing with that problem is to make parents aware of the dangers that their children face. The Climbie case underscores the need to ensure that development assistance can be given in the form of public awareness campaigns, which is why I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Investigations into what appeared to be a much larger problem of trafficking than was originally thought, uncovered some horrifying statistics. Children are sold in the Ivory Coast for as little as £15. To understand fully how parents could bring themselves to sell a child, we would need to understand what it means to live in abject poverty. The real problem is that parents in such countries are often completely misled; they are led to believe that, if they sell their children to European nationals, their children will have a better life in this country. I am afraid that it has proved to be quite untrue.

It is of the utmost importance that resources should be made available to put a deterrent in place, and that parents should not be duped by the hype. They should know that their children will not necessarily be coming to a better life or a better education here. The sheer hard fact is that many of the children trafficked into this country go on to receive absolutely no education. Worse still, many of them have a life of abuse and depravity. There is a clear pathway through British airports to other parts of Europe. I am sure that the Committee is aware of the statistics—of the 469 children who entered through Gatwick airport and the 65 who went missing, some of whom turned up in Turin working as prostitutes. Parents in developing countries need to be warned in the strongest possible terms against such organised crime.

Other measures would go hand in hand to help overcome that horrible trade. Our colleagues in the European Parliament will seek to introduce cross-border controls on the children being trafficked, who obviously cross several European borders before finding their ultimate destination. Those colleagues agree that development resources should be put into public awareness campaigns in developing countries, which is why I want to emphasise the importance of that initiative.

Another important project that I warmly commend to the Minister is the starfish initiative, of which I am sure that he has heard although it is comparatively new. It is an example of a public awareness campaign that could indirectly reap important dividends in terms of poverty reduction in the developing world. It was set up by Helen Taylor-Thompson, the founder of the Mildmay trust, of which hon. Members may have heard. The particular aim of the initiative is to make girls and young women aware of the dangers of prostitution, which many often sadly resort to as almost their only means of earning a living. In places such as sub-Saharan Africa, they entertain the considerable risk of contracting AIDS.

The starfish initiative is a public awareness campaign that takes the simplest possible form. It supplies to a community a container that contains teaching tools on DVD. The language of the country, or even of the region, is used in the DVD to convey important points of public awareness to adults and children. No text appears, as the women and children are often illiterate. The initiative tackles the difficulty of working with a population that needs to be made aware of things that we take for granted, and that is unable to read warnings. We want to ensure that such initiatives will not be precluded from benefiting from the assistance given by the Department for International Development.

Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Labour, Workington

Does the hon. Lady agree that the problem affects not only women from developing countries who come to this country, but young women, especially from rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, who are enticed to cities? They are often told that there is a better life there, and jobs waiting for them in cafes or restaurants. Then they find themselves subject to prostitution. The problem relates to movement not only from developing to developed countries, but within developing countries.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. He will see how powerful such a simple public awareness tool could be if located in a rural area. It could impart basic information and perhaps the rudiments of education in terms of literacy and numeracy. The incentive to quit one's roots and seek a better life in a city might be negated. Those of us who are older and wiser know that cities do not always provide a better life, certainly not in environmental and perhaps not in economic terms. Such initiatives could provide good opportunities to tackle distinct problems of lack of awareness and educational opportunities in some of the poorest parts of the world.

I mentioned amendment No. 12 earlier and will not cover that ground again. It would highlight the importance of public awareness in relation to good governance for exactly the same reasons as amendment No. 6, interwoven with the need to reinforce good governance and civil society and bring about political stability as a precursor to poverty reduction. Amendment No. 13 is consequential to the group of amendments.

I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I hope that he can reassure me about my underlying concern that the Bill's focus on poverty reduction should not relegate such important aspects of development work.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

I welcome the speech by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman). I believe that there is a consensus in the Committee on her analysis and on the spirit in which the amendments were tabled. The hon. Lady said that support for poverty eradication was implicit in the amendments, and that is accepted. I also believe that the Committee accepts that good governance, conflict prevention, public awareness and investment are intrinsic to poverty alleviation.

That recognition goes to the heart of the question whether we should support the amendments. It is a question of how we interpret clause 1. Do we tell the Secretary of State that the aim of all development aid is poverty eradication and leave it at that? I echo the hon. Member for Meriden. If good governance, foreign direct investment, private investment, conflict prevention and public awareness campaigns are all part of poverty eradication, can we leave the Bill in all its purity and simplicity, claiming that poverty eradication includes all those aims and therefore we do not need to specify them? Or do we need to specify them because we are worried about their being missed out?

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that not specifying those aims might make them illegal. That is the nub of the question whether we go with the amendments. As has been successfully argued by the hon. Member for Meriden, poverty eradication is all about encouraging all the things that I have listed and that are listed in the amendments. Therefore, because, as she said herself, poverty eradication is multifaceted, we should not specify the things that we require in case we miss anything out. It is important to give the Secretary of State room for manoeuvre on the explicit understanding that the goal is poverty eradication.

I can give examples of how good governance and poverty eradication are intrinsically linked. The hon. Member for Meriden used the example of Afghanistan and I cannot better that. On conflict prevention, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) mentioned Ethiopia, I thought of Sierra Leone and the hon. Member for Meriden mentioned the work of Saferworld.

A couple of years ago, I was in Belarus as part of an interesting relationship that Mendip district council, of which I was a member, has with the city of Svetlagorsk. Since Chernobyl and the fall of the Soviet Union, the city has had a problem with HIV/AIDS, which has reached epidemic proportions. As a result of its relationship with a local authority in Somerset the city council, which has a very difficult job, understood the need for a public awareness campaign. That campaign has resulted in a levelling off of the epidemic, largely because agencies such as the police and the council have ensured that the general population understand some of the dangers involved. I saw an extraordinary amount of poverty associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS in Svetlagorsk, and it was being dealt with by public awareness. I see the link between public awareness and poverty reduction, but I do not see the need to specify it in the Bill.

I refer members of the Committee to the wording of clause 1(1), which states:

``The provision of . . . assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.''

That leaves it wide open for the Secretary of State to address all the issues raised in the set of amendments that we are discussing. All we need is reassurance from the Minister that his definition and his Department's definition of poverty reduction will address all the items listed in the amendment. Perhaps the reassurances referred to by the hon. Gentleman may be given, and we can be relaxed about letting the amendments go.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for getting his name wrong. As he knows, because I sat next to him the other evening, I know who he is. I was thinking of Mr. Jim Lester, who was a Member for many years and was very interested in international development.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. As a partially deaf person, it is wonderful to be able to hear you so clearly. Fortunately, we do not get much barracking in the Committee Rooms, so things are easier.

I apologise on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), who was going to be here this afternoon but now cannot attend. When we talked hurriedly at lunchtime, we agreed that he would deal with this group of amendments, as he was a new member of the Committee and I had done it all before, during the summer. Interestingly, the points that he made to me were similar to those that I made in those earlier proceedings, although he had not yet read the record, which shows that Liberal Democrats are united on this matter.

First, we are worried about amendment No. 1. We could not possibly support it because it substantially weakens the Bill's clarity of purpose. The word ``indirectly'' seems to me and to my hon. Friend to create a large loophole for Ministers. In that way, my favourite old chestnut ``tied aid'' could be reintroduced by an unscrupulous Minister, who could say, ``Ah, yes, all these British industries will be involved with the project, but indirectly it will be terrifically good for the country and for sustainable development.'' It may not be good for sustainable development, in fact, but the Minister would be able to give that reason. We are unhappy about the amendment, and feel that it could re-legitimise tied aid. I have done hours of work in assuring myself that tied aid would no longer be possible under the Bill.

I cannot help being political, because that is my nature. The Tories made so many mistakes, and the Pergau dam stands out in our minds. They cannot see how dangerous it could be to allow such a loophole in the Bill.

I now turn, as I did in the summer, to the group of amendments that single out good governance, conflict prevention, attracting investments and public awareness campaigns. I cannot understand why those issues have been singled out. Whenever I talk to groups or give lectures about international development, as I am sometimes called to do, one major point that I make is that there are 10 or 11 important factors in development that are interlinked.

``You can't have one without the other,'' as the old song says. How can there be good governance if there are no educated people to govern? Education is crucial, as the Government have repeatedly recognised. As an ex-medic, I believe that it is impossible to have a good education unless people are healthy enough to make the most of it, so health is also important. Therefore, good governance is impossible unless there is a good health service and an education system to deliver the people who can deliver that good governance.

Even if all those things are in place, who will define good governance? In the summer, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) and I took a trip down memory lane. We visited Uganda several years ago and discussed whether, in our terms, it had a good Government. It had abolished the party system, and, by our standards, its Government were curious from the bottom up. There were also lots of opportunities for skulduggery. When we debated the issue again this summer, however, Uganda appeared to have done jolly well under what is pretty dodgy governance by western standards. It will, therefore, be difficult to decide what is good governance. In any case, it will not exist if the other elements are not in place.

It is a joke for us to talk about conflict prevention when we remember what is going on in Afghanistan and southern Sudan or when we recall Ethiopia and Eritrea. There has been a civil war in the Congo for years, and 2 million people have died. Six other countries in the Great Lakes region have been sucked into that terrible whirlpool of conflict and poverty. We see the old cycle going round and round again. Conflict prevention should be important, but not only for the Department for International Development. It should also be important for the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Foreign Office and No. 10 Downing street, for goodness' sake. Unless the Government intervene early, introduce a proper foreign policy with an ethical dimension and persuade our American friends to do likewise, we shall never prevent conflict. We need a complete change of tack in our approach to such issues. Conflict prevention is important; it should not be an exclusive concern.

People will not invest in a country unless there are educated people to do the jobs and manage the businesses. I thought that the Tories would table amendments about corruption, but their measures are corruption-free. They beef on about it constantly, and I expected it to be covered. Corruption is important, and we must deal with it.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I am sure that the hon. Lady understands that the Government conceded that they would incorporate corruption provisions into the emergency legislation on international terrorism. My advice from the Clerks Office is that it will be on the statute book before the Bill.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

The hon. Lady is right. I thank her for reminding me, especially because I was in the Chamber last night. She is right that that is why corruption did not feature. I thought that that was strange.

Investment depends on a stable work force. Business men and Government officers in some countries in the Great Lakes region of sub-Saharan African say that they build a 25 per cent. wastage rate into their business plans because of HIV/AIDS. That means that 25 per cent. of their work force die from HIV/AIDS in one year. That does not attract investment, and it means that we must include the war against HIV/AIDS on our list, as well as general health issues.

Public information was the most interesting item on the hon. Lady's list, and her point was well presented and interesting. I am not trying to belittle what she said: she singled out certain issues, even though others are just as important. Public information can be absorbed only if people have education and reasonable communications. In the third world countries that I have visited, communication is a big problem. In the area of southern Sudan that I visited, communication was carried out by drums—that is still the standard way of communicating. I was told that drums were the original mobile phone, and they are very effective. However, I worry a little about spending development aid on public information campaigns that might not be widely disseminated and which, in any case, should be undertaken by the Government concerned. We saw the most brilliant public information campaigns on HIV/AIDS that were undertaken by the Ugandan Government. They have managed to slow down the awful rise in AIDS cases in Uganda by focusing on education and public information. It is very important but difficult to deliver. It should be done at country level, not imposed from a foreign country.

Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Labour, Workington 3:00, 22 November 2001

I have travelled extensively in Africa too and I appreciate what the hon. Lady is saying. Not all of Africa is like southern Sudan. A country like South Africa has a massive AIDS problem. One of the ways of dealing with that is to run a public awareness campaign. To suggest that it has its limitations because people are communicating via drums in Sudan is misleading because there are large parts of Africa—South Africa is just one example—with quite educated populations that have real problems with AIDS and where a public awareness campaign would be extremely beneficial.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In some African countries like Uganda it would be telling people how to suck eggs. We are guilty of not having a decent public information campaign about HIV/AIDS. We could learn a thing or two from countries like Uganda. Who are we to tell people how to run their public information campaigns when we cannot get it right ourselves? I take the hon. Gentleman's point about not all countries being at the same level but I do not think that it is an appropriate use of aid money. Countries could decide themselves, probably at a more local level than national Government, whether it was appropriate to run a specific campaign.

The hon. Member for Meriden has done a lot of work and is extremely diligent about the question of child slavery and sex slaves. But it made me smile wryly when I thought about our debate this morning about funding the United Nations Population Fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International. Those organisations are all desperately trying to get out those messages and to save young girls from prostitution and sexual slavery and to spread the messages about HIV/AIDS and maternal health. One only has to look at that debate to realise that there is an awful lot more to public information than first meets the eye.

In conclusion, I fully appreciate the amendments and the reasons why they have been tabled. However, as I said in the summer, one simply cannot single out a few development factors and put them all down on the face of a Bill. One must either put them all down and be sure not to miss one out or encompass everything in the alleviation of poverty and sustainable development. That says it all. That is why I wanted sustainable development on the face of the Export Control Bill too, but the Government would not accept it. It is an important phrase, which encompasses all the things that the hon. Member for Meriden mentioned, and many more.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow Maryhill

I shall confine my speech to a few short comments. I concur with the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) that simplicity is key here. A simple statement of poverty reduction is a most important principle. I am pleased that the Government have incorporated that in the Bill. It is part of a general trend that is now coming into world organisations. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have similarly accepted a basis of poverty reduction and it is certainly to be hoped that other international organisations and other countries will accept similar statements in their policies.

The hon. Member for Meriden made an interesting and informative speech this afternoon. However, I believe that amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 6 fall within the definition of sustainable development in any event. No one would argue that sustainable development is possible without the cessation of conflict within a country's boundaries. The promotion of a public awareness campaign—regarding health, harm and luring into criminal activities—likewise falls easily within the definition of poverty reduction. Picking out particular topics has the danger of emphasising them at the expense of other, perhaps even more important, policies for poverty reduction.

On amendment No. 4, attracting private and foreign direct investment may contribute to poverty reduction, but not necessarily in every instance. In many well documented instances, private and foreign investment does not achieve poverty reduction or sustainable development. One thinks of the exploitation of clothing workers in the far east and the exploitation of natural assets in Papua, New Guinea: neither of these types of investment have made any contribution to the people living in those areas. Equally important are better policies on trade and investment, to which the Government are committed. We should also deal with the control and regulation of multinational companies. The amendment raises other questions that would have to be addressed. Simplicity here is a virtue. The hon. Lady raised interesting, well thought-out points, but I support the Government in rejecting the amendment.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Opposition Whip (Commons)

We are all trying to achieve the same objectives. The debate about what should be in the Bill is largely conceptual. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Ann McKechin) argues that concepts such as reducing the risk of conflict or promoting good governance are themselves included within the concept of sustainable development. We would argue that they are necessary conditions for stable development, but are not necessarily included within the definition of sustainable development itself. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on that, so that it may not be necessary to press the amendments so hard.

I was disappointed by some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tongue). She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of these issues and I was pleased that she acknowledged the work of my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden and for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) in pressing so hard—consistently and successfully—for tightening up the provisions on ending bribery and corruption. The products of their labours are not to be seen in this Bill, but they are in another Bill—and, thank goodness, one of its less controversial aspects.

When the hon. Member for Richmond Park came to the main body of her speech, I expected to hear a long list of things other than good governance, reducing conflict, increasing investment and public awareness. Other than her point about bribery and corruption, which has been acknowledged and dealt with, her comments focused mainly on education and medicine for HIV. It is clearer that the concept of relieving poverty includes within it the promotion of education and the supply of medical assistance to combat the scourge of HIV than it is that the concept of sustainable development contains within it the concept of preventing conflict and promoting good governance.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

Improving the welfare of the population is the provision that adequately addresses the point raised by the hon. Member for Richmond Park. Other elements could be added to the list under the multifaceted approach: debt relief springs to mind. Although it is not covered in any of the clauses, it is something that we should address.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Opposition Whip (Commons)

It is an arguable point, but I think that the two things above all that have destroyed the prospects of advancement for developing countries that have gone off the rails and suffered so greatly in recent decades are bad governance and the outbreak of conflict. Those are far and away the most prominent negative factors. Our purpose in proposing the amendments in what we hope is a constructive and probing way is to seek reassurance from the Minister that future projects that are put forward, given the Bill's provisions and available funds, will not be ruled out on the grounds that they are more concerned with politics, government, international affairs and security matters than they are with international development. The definitions concern us; if the Minister can satisfy us on those points, I am sure that he will not be disappointed by our reaction.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. As you know, we came to Parliament together. It is humbling to see you rise to such important heights in parliamentary affairs, and I congratulate you on your appointment as Committee Chairman. I am sure that you will have a distinguished career in that capacity.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend puts me to shame. I, too, should have congratulated you, Mr. Amess, but I felt that if I did so, it would inevitably remind you of our first meeting in the late 1970s. To your credit, you were a Conservative in Newham, North-West, and I was an active member of the Labour party in the next-door constituency.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. This has gone far enough.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Very interesting, Mr. Amess, but we must now return to international development.

We are discussing the essential core of the Bill and, through the amendments, trying to tease out exactly what the Government intend by it and the central clause, clause 1. The amendments allow an important opportunity for a vital debate on definitions. Lawyers will read the Bill and will take into account what is said, particularly by the Minister, when they interpret it, so we must find out exactly what the Bill is designed to do.

When I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden this morning, we saw nods and shakes of the ministerial head. I hope that we shall do much better this afternoon and have words from the ministerial mouth that will finally resolve the question whether the amendments are necessary. The point that I raised with my hon. Friend is that, surely, the Bill covers the many valuable initiatives that she suggested. For instance, the Bill could allow the Government to provide aid that promotes, in the words of amendment No. 2,

``good governance in one or more such countries'.''

Nothing in the Bill—leaving aside the amendments for the moment—prevents the Government providing aid with the intention of

``reducing conflict or the potential for conflict in one or more such countries'.'', in the words of amendment No. 3. Nothing in the Bill would stop the Minister from

``putting into place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment'', in the words of amendment No. 4. Nothing in the Bill indicates that the Minister cannot

``promote, or assist any person or body to promote, the awareness of good governance'', in the words of amendment No. 12.

I have some experience of how Ministers reply to debates and, if I understand the ministerial shake of the head, I suspect that he will say that the intentions underlying the amendments are worth while and that he has no argument with any of their laudable aims, but that he must tell the Opposition that they are not necessary. He may also say that they are incorrectly drafted or that they are not necessary because the Bill already covers those points.

I do not know what the Minister will tell us, but I have been in that position so I know how these matters are dealt with. That is fair enough, if he is trying to tell us that nothing in the Bill will prevent the Secretary of State from doing what my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden wants him to do. That leads me directly to my next point. If there is nothing in the Bill that will prevent the Secretary of State from doing all the excellent things that my hon. Friend wants him to do, what is the Bill's purpose? It is so widely drafted and so open to any interpretation, that I am not sure what it will achieve.

Will the Minister assure us that the Bill is not so widely drafted that, in the words of the hon. Member for Richmond Park, an unscrupulous Minister could use the present wording to bring back tied aid? I presume that the Minister will say that the wording does not permit that. I am not a parliamentary draftsman, and the Minister has much better advice than I have, so I presume that he can convince us that, although the Bill is sufficiently widely drafted to cover the laudable aims enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden, it is not so widely drafted that an unscrupulous Secretary of State could use it for his own ends to bring back tied aid.

I do not know how the Minister will square that circle. If he cannot do so, what new dynamic does the Bill introduce? How will it significantly change the culture in his Department? It is no bad thing for the Committee to study the wording closely. The Bill is so widely drafted that the Secretary of State can provide assistance

``if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.''

That could mean anything. Can that include all the things that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden has mentioned? We need more help, which is the value of these proceedings, because during the proceedings Members can pin down Ministers in the Committee Corridor and ensure that they come up with satisfactory answers about the meaning of the wording.

What exactly does ``sustainable development'' mean? How would the courts interpret those words? What does the phrase

``improving the welfare of the population'' mean?

The exercise should be valuable, and that is why the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend are important. One cannot argue with any of them although, in her inimitable way, the hon. Member for Richmond Park did start to argue with them. I do not know why the hon. Lady has such an objection to our proposal to allow the provision of assistance that is likely to contribute directly or indirectly to a reduction in poverty. I do not claim to have the hon. Lady's experience or expertise in international development, but surely a lot of useful work can be done both directly and indirectly.

On amendment No. 2, we would surely all be convinced that the promotion of good governance in developing countries is vital and central. We are not just picking out one subject from a long list. The purport of the hon. Lady's speech seems to be that there is no point in having a list of good things that one wants to do because one is bound to leave out one or two things and it is better to have an all-embracing definition. I pointed out why such a definition might be dangerous. We are not debating a narrow little list that can be added to or subtracted from; good governance is central to the debate. Poverty exists in much of the third world because government is corrupt.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park 3:15, 22 November 2001

I repeat that good governance is not possible unless educated people can govern, which is why education is the most important factor in development. I am glad that the Government regard education as a top priority. Good governance is essential. We know that countries fail because of bad governance, but that is largely because they do not have enough educated people.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

I agree. The hon. Lady may be satisfied that the clause allows the Minister to promote education. The wording is so wide that I am sure that it will, but it does not mention education. The clause mentions ``reduction in poverty'', ``furthering sustainable development'' and

``improving the welfare of the population''.

The hon. Lady might respond that education and good governance are included because they contribute to the welfare of the population. However, the clause does not preclude the Minister from undertaking any activity by the clause. The wording is so broad that the Minister can do whatever he pleases. I am not sure of the point of these proceedings or the Bill. I may have misunderstood the Bill's purpose, but that is my personal view. The Minister's response will be useful.

The other matters that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden mentioned need to be flagged up. Apart from telling us that good governance is important, it would be useful if the Minister said that he would use the Bill to promote awareness, and attract direct foreign investment in such countries. I hope that he will explain how, without our helpful amendments, the Bill will create a framework to attract direct foreign investment.

However, if that is the purport of his argument, is it a loophole through which a Pergau dam type investment might creep in the future? Will the Minister assure us that that will not happen? Has he drafted the Bill tightly enough to ensure that he has not only tied his own hands—he personally has no intention of repeating the Pergau dam experience—but those of a Minister with different priorities in the future? Such a Minister might think that it is vital to get British investment into a certain country that is resistant to it. That Minister may not be promoting investment to help the country, but he may think that it is vital and start to apply pressure on that country. He might then say that poverty exists in a region because of a lack of investment, and it so happens that X company plc in Britain is capable of providing such investment and that Mr. Minister, in the developing country, should therefore give careful consideration to providing contracts or opportunities to this British company. However, I believe that that investment would reduce poverty. So we return to where we were. Surely those who criticise what happened in the Pergau dam disaster do not argue that everyone involved was corrupt or did not have people's best interests at heart. Some people presumably felt that it would lead to a reduction in poverty.

I think that I have made the point. We need reassurance from the Minister. I hope that he will not just dismiss the amendments and say that they are unnecessary because he will do all the good things that they propose; we want to tie him down to saying precisely what the Bill will achieve and how it will promote good governance, a reduction in poverty, education programmes, awareness programmes and so on while ensuring that we do not repeat the tied aid of the past.

Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Labour, Workington

I spoke earlier about the importance of using the Governments, non-governmental organisations and other executive bodies of developing countries. That brings me to the argument made by the hon. Member for Richmond Park that we could learn something from Uganda and so on. I was not suggesting that we should tell such countries how to run their public awareness campaigns, but we can facilitate such campaigns by providing support and funding. That happens with conflict prevention and in many other areas. What we are doing in terms of conflict prevention in Sierra Leone, for example, is extremely laudable.

We have talked about the amendments, about what is and is not included and about whether sustainable development covers our objectives and so on. If I were asked what single factor would help bring developing countries into the developed world, I would say the education of girls and women. That would deal with good governance, conflict prevention and everything else. However, no amendment includes that. I support what the Government say. A catch-all is provided that includes many of the factors that we have spoken about. I am happy with that.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Opposition Whip (Commons)

While I accept the thrust of what the hon. Gentleman says, does he really think that the education of girls would itself end or reduce conflict? It is true that there is conflict between the sexes and the insertion of more women into public life might be beneficial in that respect. However, most of the conflicts that have disfigured so much of the developing world in recent years would surely not have been more than marginally affected by such a welcome step forward.

Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Labour, Workington

I disagree with that most strongly. I mentioned this morning one of the most recent conflicts in the Horn of Africa, the conflict between Ethiopa and Eritrea, during which I had the dubious honour of talking to the leaders of both countries. All of them were men; those were the people taking the decisions. I believed at the time that if those Governments had contained men and women, they might not have been so eager to go to war. Balancing the genders in Governments, Parliaments, the medical profession and so on would go a long way to improve the chances of developing countries of becoming developed.

Photo of Piara S Khabra Piara S Khabra Labour, Ealing, Southall 3:30, 22 November 2001

The difficulty with the high principles of good government, democracy, human rights and the prevention of corruption about which we talk is that while Britain has given aid to many countries, no progress has been made in them, as I know from my membership of the Select Committee on International Development.

Let me take the example of the recent conflict in Afghanistan, with which we are involved. The Government had laid down principles for Pakistan: it is a dictatorship, and there are no human rights. Ethnic minority communities have no rights at all. Suddenly, the international situation and our foreign policy and other commitments changed. We made a commitment to help America in the process of ensuring that terrorism was removed from the face of the earth. As a result, we lifted all the restrictions that we had placed on aid to Pakistan. We are giving more and more aid, but where are those principles? They have all gone overboard.

It is not as simple to have good government, democracy and human rights and to remove poverty as people have tried to convince us that it is. We do not live in an ideal world, and this Committee cannot really make a judgment on that situation today.

Mrs. Spelman rose—

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Has the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) finished his speech or is he giving way?

Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby

I am forced to get to my feet following the comments by the hon. Member for New Forest, East relating to the role that women play in democratising and managing nations. Even with limited observation, we can see that there is a direct correlation between the extent of conflict and the lack of women's involvement in the political and bureaucratic structures of a nation. Those statements stand on their own, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes me to support them with statistics, I shall be pleased to do so. However, I think that this is an opportunity to enlighten him about the role that half the population play and, moreover, could play, if only they had the opportunity and the education to do so.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Opposition Whip (Commons)

On those occasions when women have risen to the top of the Governments of their countries, they have not necessarily been any less warlike than their male predecessors.

Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but I maintain my position that, generally, when more than one woman has reached a particular position through enlightened democracy, there is a benefit that we all enjoy.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

May I join other hon. Members in welcoming you to your first stint in the Chair, Mr. Amess? We look forward to working with you as the Bill makes its way through Committee.

I feel that I should begin by saying that the hon. Member for Gainsborough has given the Committee a precis of the remarks that I was about to make. I know that you will not rule me out of order, Mr. Amess, if I say that I first met the hon. Gentleman almost 20 years ago, when we debated together at the Durham union. I particularly remember the occasion because during his speech he produced a shoe from somewhere and put it on the dispatch box, for reasons that I am afraid are now lost in the mists of time. The hon. Gentleman made an impression on me at the time and continues to do so.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Meriden for her comments about the amendments. We have been able to have an interesting debate on a range of issues that, in the words of several hon. Members, go to the heart of the Bill. I hope to offer reassurance on the points that she raised.

I shall pick up on a phrase that she used at the beginning of her remarks. She spoke about the narrow focus of the Bill. I would prefer to describe it as a clear focus. The clear purpose of the Bill is poverty reduction, which is to be achieved through sustainable development and improvements in welfare. A clear focus enables a wide range of activities to be undertaken to achieve the objectives.

I also wish to respond to her point about thinking ahead and what might happen if a different Secretary of State were to occupy the office. The hon. Lady referred to the choices that would be open to the Secretary of State. However, clause 1 is a permissive power. The hon. Lady's amendments would not require a future Secretary of State to do certain things in respect of good governance, for example. The Bill says that

``The Secretary of State may provide'', as opposed to ``shall provide.''

That brings me to the heart of the hon. Lady's amendments. I agree with every point that she made. Her excellent speech made my job easier, because she made my points for me. The examples that she chose, and the way in which she presented them, succinctly made the case for the Bill and described the nature of the work that the Department for International Development undertakes and will, I hope, continue to undertake.

We heard two contrasting arguments. The contributions of the hon. Member for Meriden can be characterised by the question, ``Can the Minister assure us that the purposes set down in the Bill are not too narrow?'' whereas the hon. Member for Gainsborough asked, ``Can the Minister assure us that the purposes set down in the Bill are not so wide as to render any activity possible?'' These are the two Goldilocks arguments. I shall attempt to reassure the Committee that the Bill is just right—neither too narrow nor too wide.

The hon. Lady asked whether the Government had a multidimensional view of poverty, and she sought reassurance that the term ``poverty'' was used in a multidimensional way. I am happy to give that reassurance. I refer her in particular to paragraphs 1.10 and 1.11 of the excellent publication by the Department for International Development, ``Halving World Poverty by 2015'', which clearly demonstrates the multidimensional nature of both poverty and the Government's response in seeking to overcome it.

I shall now discuss the amendments. Amendment No. 1 deals with the issue of direct or indirect contributions. It is unnecessary, and I am concerned that it would create difficulties, as outlined by the hon. Member for Richmond Park. As the clause is drafted, the Secretary of State can provide development assistance if it is likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty. The Bill does not say whether the contribution must be direct or indirect, but it is clear that there must be a demonstrable link between giving assistance and a reduction in poverty.

If the Bill were to say that the contribution may be indirect, as the amendment proposes, the Secretary of State could be satisfied even if the extent of the contribution to the reduction of poverty were accidental—a mere knock-on effect. That would dilute the overarching requirement of poverty reduction. In particular, there is a risk that inserting the word ``indirectly'' would open up the possibility that schemes such as tied aid would again become lawful. I am quite sure that that is not the Opposition's intention, but I take this opportunity to welcome the commitment given by the hon. Member for Meriden on Second Reading that a future Conservative Government would not seek to reintroduce tied aid.

That gives me the opportunity to answer the hon. Member for Gainsborough, who asked to be reassured that that was not the case. Having taken a policy decision to get rid of tied aid—it was implemented in April—the Government believe that the most effect way to ensure that aid cannot be used for improper political and commercial purposes is to rely on the clear statement of the principles and purposes of development assistance set out in clause 1.

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Secretary of State may provide development assistance only if she is satisfied that such assistance is

``likely to contribute to a reduction of poverty'' through sustainable development promoting the welfare of people. Any use of aid that does not respect the primacy of the poverty requirement, when it applies, and the two development purposes would fall outside the provisions of the Bill, and any such use would therefore be challengeable in court.

Tied aid is the best-known example of the improper use of development funds. Hon. Members have referred to the Pergau dam, which is very much in our minds. I am pleased that we were eventually able to offer sufficient reassurance to the hon. Member for Richmond Park that she was able to say on Second Reading that she was now satisfied that the Bill would no longer permit tied aid. However, to avoid doubt, a policy of tying aid would not be allowed under the Bill and any Government wishing to re-establish the link between aid and trade or political influence would need to return to Parliament to argue their case.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Would a future Minister not be able to rely in court on the fact that his primary purpose was, as set out in the Bill, to reduce poverty, even though a subsidiary purpose might be to promote the interests of a certain political or commercial outcome beneficial to a company in this country? I want a reassurance that such subsidiary purposes would not be covered by the primary purpose of reducing poverty.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

The answer is that the Minister can have regard only to the purposes laid down in clause 1. If a Minister in the hypothetical circumstances that the hon. Gentleman describes were to have in mind the secondary or lesser consideration of promoting the interests of British companies, it would not be permissible and would indeed be challengeable in court. As the hon. Gentleman knows only too well, a great deal of care and thought has gone into the drafting of this provision. We are very clear about the objective that we wish to achieve, which is to ensure that tied aid cannot be reintroduced. The application of minds far greater and more experienced than mine have been given to the problem in order to achieve the outcome that we desire. In that spirit, I offer the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

I want to ask a question in relation to something that the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall said earlier. Once the Bill is enacted, would future Governments not be able to give the sort of extra aid and debt relief to Pakistan that the present Government recently gave that country for political purposes—or would that not be covered by the Bill?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development 3:45, 22 November 2001

No, that is not the case. That aid and assistance was given first to support the communities in Pakistan that have welcomed and given shelter to refugees from Afghanistan and secondly to support the Pakistan Government in their development programme. Both of those are entirely appropriate purposes under the Bill. That aid and assistance would be permitted under the Bill, but I repeat that the granting of that aid would have to be for the purposes set out in clause 1, which is the heart of the debate.

Photo of Piara S Khabra Piara S Khabra Labour, Ealing, Southall

I want to find out whether the Department will pursue the principles of the Bill with the Government of Pakistan in order to ensure that that Government restores democracy—not in the diluted sense in which the President of Pakistan says, ``I am holding elections.'' They are not proper elections; all the parties are not involved. By holding any election, he is trying to hoodwink the international community. He says, ``I am introducing democracy.'' He is not introducing democracy at all. Will the Department, with the help of the Foreign Office, ensure that Pakistan restores democracy, human rights and the rights of the ethnic minority communities, before the Government take a final decision to continue to give aid to Pakistan irrespective of what happens there?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

We are doing so. Most importantly, we were doing so prior to the events of 11 September. Members might recall that on—I think—14 August, President Musharraf made a speech in which he set out what he described as his road map towards the return of democracy. That is an essential part of what the Government are seeking to do to encourage good governance, which applies to Pakistan as well as to many other countries with which we work.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

I hope that it is helpful to mention that clause 3 refers to humanitarian assistance and seems relevant to the help given in Pakistan and in Iran in recent months, largely before 11 September as well as after. It refers to

``alleviating the effects of a natural or man-made disaster'', and we have seen both in the context of Afghanistan and the refugee crisis that has had an impact on Iran and Pakistan. That provision would give adequate powers to the Secretary of State.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He anticipated what I was about to say, but his intervention is helpful because he is absolutely right in his reading of the Bill. That is why it is drafted as it is. All the areas that are the subject of the amendments are, as I think all Committee members accept, vital to development. The sustainable reduction of poverty requires good governance, a lack of corruption, the absence of conflict, private sector growth and foreign direct investment. As one would expect, the Department is heavily involved in all of those areas as a means of achieving sustainable development and the improvement of welfare.

I hope that I can reassure the hon. Member for Meriden that, for those reasons, the amendments are not necessary. The Bill has been drafted to ensure that the Secretary of State can support activities that strengthen governance, reduce corruption, tackle the causes and consequences of conflict and promote private sector growth from foreign investment in developing countries, as well as promoting health and education and all the other points to which members of all parties have drawn attention. All such support is possible in the context of the two purposes of, first, sustainable development and, secondly, welfare, under the overarching poverty requirement. To that extent, further specific purposes are unnecessary.

The Bill imposes no constraints on the type of activity that the Secretary of State can support. Indeed, it increases the range of instruments that is available to her. However, it does impose a clear test of the purposes for which assistance can be provided. As has been pointed out, with the exception of two cases—humanitarian and emergency assistance in the case of a disaster, and assistance to overseas territories for which we have a specific responsibility—assistance can be provided only if it is likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty by furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of the people. In other words, the Bill will enable a wider range of activities to be followed in pursuit of a more focused purpose.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

I want to pursue what might be called the Ealing, Southall point, because I think that it is terribly important. Let us take the case of Burma, an impoverished country, which is in that state because of a brutal military regime and for all the reasons that we know. In future, will a Minister be able to use the Bill to say to the Burmese military junta, ``I believe that your country is impoverished. I want to help you. I am prepared to give you money, but there must be steps towards democratisation or you must treat some of your ethnic minorities better''? How will the process work?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

That dilemma is not new so far as international development is concerned. In making a judgment under the current and new powers, Ministers have to weigh several matters in the balance, including those to which the hon. Gentleman referred. As he will be aware from our stance in certain circumstances, when we fundamentally disagree with the activities of a Government because we think that their policies do not contribute to sustainable development and the reduction of poverty and do not enhance the welfare of their people, we are left with the decision to give only humanitarian aid.

That decision is made for the good reason, which the hon. Gentleman will understand, that in those circumstances it makes no sense to penalise the people of the country—he cited Burma as an example, and Afghanistan would be another—for a Government whom they had no part in choosing. That is why the Government have invested £32 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan since 1997, and aid had been given before that as well. We made the judgment and decided that we wanted to continue to provide support to people in difficult circumstances without condoning the activities of their Government.

We debated engagement this morning. A balance has to be weighed and a judgment made of what is best in the circumstances. Another current example in which such considerations are being carefully weighed is Zimbabwe.

Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Labour, Workington

Let us say we reached the point at which we said that we would penalise the people of a country because their Government were not to our liking. They would already have been penalised by having to live under that Government, so humanitarian aid should continue. Could we not provide that aid through non-governmental organisations—multinational organisations such as the Red Cross—as opposed to the Government, to ensure that humanitarian aid was received by those whom we wanted to receive it?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point, because he highlights another mechanism that the Government can use to promote development without necessarily using Government agencies. In several developing countries, NGOs play an important part in helping to promote the principles that the Bill aims to enshrine in law.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset cited another topical example: Sierra Leone. The Bill will enable the Government to continue our work there, which is designed to end the vicious circle of poverty by promoting security, supporting the police—that aim was mentioned by the hon. Member for Meriden—helping civilians, making the country's defence ministry accountable and helping to reintegrate ex-combatants into civil society. We provide budgetary support to help meet the direct costs of running the country and delivering Government services. We also seek to strengthen governance by supporting the Anti-corruption Commission to reform the judiciary and help in the conduct of elections. The Secretary of State will be able to continue to support all those interventions under the Bill, because they are all aimed at reducing poverty through the two tests in clause 1(2).

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have visited Sierra Leone recently and seen how people in the amputees' camp struggle to make themselves artificial limbs. Will the Minister suggest whether he regards it appropriate, under the provision of such aid as he envisages, for us to send some specialist teams to assist people to recover? If the Bill does little more than its predecessor to help that tragic group of people, perhaps it is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is confusing two separate things. The Bill provides an updated legal framework to govern the work that we do. The important thing about the issue of Sierra Leone is the type of assistance that we give. I cannot answer the questions that he raises about that type of support, but I am happy to look into the matter and to reply to him. As he knows from his visit, the country has suffered grievously, but it is at last making difficult, slow and uncertain progress, due to the nature of the intervention that the United Kingdom has made, partly for historical reasons that derive from our past relationship with that country.

I hope that by addressing the case of Sierra Leone, I am addressing the points that the hon. Member for Meriden raised at the start of the debate. That case provides a good example, because it involves all the policies that are undoubtedly permissible under the Bill and which we would continue to want to pursue, because they help to establish the preconditions—peace, security and stability—that will allow that country to prosper in the future.

I want to address a point made by the hon. Member for Gainsborough, having already drawn his attention to the fact that the clause does not require the Secretary of State to give aid—it is a matter for the Secretary of State to exercise her judgment in doing so. If she chooses to give aid, she can set conditions, which are dealt with under clause 7. Those conditions must respect the objectives in clause 1, and the aims and purposes; they are not to be used as a backdoor way of reintroducing tied aid, as the hon. Gentleman put it. They do not exercise undue political leverage but provide a mechanism for promoting welfare reform.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

What does ``undue political leverage'' mean, as opposed to ``political leverage''?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

What I mean is having regard to considerations that would be improper for the purposes of the Bill, especially of clause 1. As I said to the hon. Gentleman, a Secretary of State must eventually make judgments about whether to give aid, to which countries it should be given and then, in relation to the Bill, in what circumstances and form we want to give it. That practice is right and proper, has been followed in the past and will be followed in future, and allows us to exercise judgment in the difficult areas of influence and engagement to achieve the purposes to which we all subscribe.

The establishment of specific additional purposes, as the amendments suggest, would be a statement that they do not have to comply with the requirement to further sustainable development or improve the welfare of the people. In other words, it would imply that they could be done for their own sake. If we were to admit that, we run the risk of undermining the legislation and our policy on development assistance.

We should follow the principle that nothing in legislation is said unless it is necessary to say it, although Parliament has not always been good at adhering to that stricture. On that principle, if we elevate such areas for support to the level of specific free-standing purposes, every additional purpose would run the risk of casting doubt on the breadth of the two core purposes. To be precise, if support for good governance is not, as we believe, implicit in action to further sustainable development and improve welfare, what do those two core purposes cover?

On amendment No. 3, which deals with the reduction of conflict and of the potential for conflict, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington made a succinct point about the devastating impact that conflict has on communities and the hon. Member for Meriden referred to Saferworld. I met people from that organisation a couple of months ago to discuss their good work in relation to arms, and small arms in particular. However, inserting the reduction of conflict as a purpose of development assistance would allow the Secretary of State to support such activities without consideration for the welfare of the population of the country. That would open up the possibility of development assistance being used to shore up undemocratic regimes and the possible suppression of human rights, whereas the provision as drafted allows assistance to promote the welfare of the population, which encompasses conflict resolution, but with proper regard for the interests of the people. There is no need or place for a power of assistance that does not recognise those interests. I am sure that that rather strange effect of the amendments is not intentional, but I hope that I have reassured the Committee that it demonstrates the dangers involved in setting up specific additional purposes in clause 1 that do not have to comply with the requirement either to further sustainable development or to improve the welfare of the people.

I should like to speak about the difficulties that we would face in trying to define terms such as ``good governance''. That is a genuine practical difficulty, which was mentioned in debate on the Bill's previous incarnation. The Government do not take the view that the term has an easy or natural meaning. It would therefore have to be defined in the Bill. Any errors in our definition might mean that interventions that we wanted to support would fall outside the definition, leaving us unable to support them. Those are genuine risks, which we do not wish to take. I hope that the Committee will accept my reassurance that, under the Bill, we can support good governance activities, pursue conflict resolution as we are doing in Sierra Leone and elsewhere, and promote private sector investment.

I should like to discuss the two amendments that deal with awareness. The hon. Member for Meriden raised the matter and—the hon. Member for Gainsborough again took the words out of my mouth—we are extremely well disposed towards the intention of the amendments, which is why clause 4(2)(c) includes a provision allowing the Secretary of State to

``promote, or assist any person or body to promote, awareness of global poverty and of the means of reducing such poverty''.

The hon. Lady drew the Committee's attention to the example of the starfish initiative. That is an imaginative way of trying to raise the issue. I was in Malawi recently, where we are supporting a safe motherhood project. Part of that project is about raising awareness of the need to ensure, as I said on Second Reading, that women in labour at risk of complications get to skilled help as quickly as possible. That raising of awareness has included poster campaigns.

The amendment adds nothing to the power in clause 4(2)(c). On the contrary, it creates a free-standing purpose for the spending of money. Because of the nature of the amendment, it would not be constrained by the poverty criterion or the two purposes of clause 1. It would serve only to make possible spending on awareness on a broader basis than that on which the Secretary of State could provide development assistance. That might be regarded as a rather odd result, at the same time casting doubt on the meaning and extent of the power in clause 4(2)(c), which we included because of our agreement with the hon. Lady's points.

Finally, Amendment No. 12, dealing with the awareness of good governance, is unnecessary because, as the hon. Member for Meriden said, that good governance is a means of reducing poverty.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 4:00, 22 November 2001

For the sake of clarity, amendment No. 6 refers to

``public awareness campaigns in developing countries for purposes consistent with this section.''

``This section'' means clause 1. The commitment to awareness campaigns was not completely open-ended. It extended to awareness campaigns that are consistent with furthering sustainable development, the welfare of the population and poverty reduction.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

I am grateful for that clarification, but I hope that the hon. Lady will accept that clause 4(2)(c) provides the means and the powers that she and I are looking for to ensure that development awareness can be properly funded under the Bill.

Mr. Amess, I would like to say in conclusion that I apologise for the length of my response, but a number of points were raised in the discussion, which has been very useful. I hope that I have been able to offer members of the Committee the reassurance that they seek. The debate has been important because it has gone to the heart of the Bill's purpose. I hope that it has given hon. Members the opportunity to reflect on the fact that the Bill, as currently drafted, would permit this and future Governments to do the things that all Committee members agree that we should be seeking to do.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I have listened carefully to the Minister. He has done a better job than did his colleague in another place. I have carefully read the House of Lords Hansard on this point because, as far as possible, we should not duplicate what has been done in another place. Rather, we should probe deeper and further and use the opportunity to build on some of the arguments that have already taken place.

I was struck that, in another place, my colleagues were expected to be satisfied with an assurance that the Government had taken the advice of Parliamentary Counsel on the merits and demerits of trying to introduce amendments such as those that I have attempted to propose today, and had been told that they were unnecessary. The Minister has done a better job by giving specific examples to show us how the Bill might work.

Several hon. Members have given practical examples in terms of the durability of the Bill. The intervention by the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall came perilously close to pressing the Government into an area that was becoming greyer by the moment in seeking decisions to give development assistance to countries that promised to make steps in future in terms of good governance. I accept that that is a difficult area. No one would deny that the President of Pakistan has made significant steps in terms of good governance, in relation to freeing the press and—I am sure that this was not lost on the hon. Member for Richmond Park—ensuring that a third of the representatives in the Pakistani Parliament were female.

I accept completely that it is a difficult matter of judgment for any Secretary of State to disentangle the appropriateness of giving British taxpayers' money—in the form of development assistance—to countries that anticipate their governance improving all the while. The examples that have been given today have enabled us to think about how the Bill would work in relation to future decisions of that kind.

I thank the Minister for clarifying the Scylla and Charybdis of our arguments, in that the Bill seems both too narrowly and too widely defined. He has reassured me on the point that it is necessary to strike a balance between those two.

I should like to place it on the record that there is no way in which, through our amendments, we wish to reopen the question of tied aid. If that would be a real danger through the incorporation of amendment No. 2, it should be avoided at all costs.

We should continue, as an Opposition, to test what is in the Bill against practical examples that we know. I was interested in what the Minister said about awareness campaigns. It is significant that, in a written answer to me about awareness campaigns on the Ivory Coast, the Secretary of State confirmed that the NGOs that we support in Ivory Coast are primarily environment focused. I found that difficult to square with the needs of addressing child trafficking from that country, as I did not see how NGOs primarily there to serve environmental improvements would be brought into the picture of awareness campaigns relating to the criminal trafficking of children. That kind of practical example—between us we probably know many—leads us sometimes to question what is stated here. For example, the Minister said to me that my amendment on the promotion of awareness would be made unnecessary by the fact that clause 4(2)(c) specifically states that the Secretary of State may

``promote, or assist . . . awareness of global poverty and of the means of reducing such poverty''.

However, someone might not spot at first reading that the interpretation of that could be wide enough to encompass a public awareness campaign on something as specific as child trafficking.

The purpose of tabling a set of probing amendments is to thrash out the meaning of the clause and to record the discussion. We have heard about the potential dangers that would result if our amendments were accepted, and we wish to avoid the dangers of reopening tied aid that would result from too wide an interpretation of the Bill. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 16, at end add—

`(4) The Secretary of State shall publish an annual report on the performance of the development assistance programme against stated poverty reduction targets and shall lay a copy of the report before Parliament.'.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

With this it will be convenient to take new clause 1—Reduction in poverty: co-ordination within government—

`(1) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements to promote a focus on reduction in poverty throughout all government departments and agencies in their relations with developing countries.

(2) The Secretary of State for International Development shall, jointly with ministers responsible for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, prepare and lay before Parliament an annual report on the work done in pursuance of the arrangements made under subsection (1).'.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

We now move to a new group of amendments on the publication of information on which we can judge the success of the Bill and more readily understand the work of the Department for International Development. We call on the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on the performance of the development assistance programme against stated poverty reduction targets and to lay the report before Parliament.

The amendment would link more closely the activities of the Government with clearly defined and measurable targets. The Government publish a public service agreement and progress towards achievement, but that is often too vague for the Opposition to assess whether there is enough evidence to back up the claims. The projections have sometimes lacked accuracy.

The World Bank said:

``To know what helps alleviate poverty, what works and does not, what changes over time, poverty has to be defined, measured and studied''.

The Bill does not define poverty or demonstrate how progress will be reported or measured. Although I can see out of the corner of my eye that the Minister is going to produce a departmental report, without a clear statement in the Bill that such a report is produced and that it contains specific targets for measurement, a lack of will may ensue at some point and such a report may not be forthcoming.

The United Nations has said of western donors that 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 the Bill does not set down how the Government's progress towards those targets will be met, or how progress could effectively be measured. If there is little evidence and accountability concerning the use of aid money and no effective measure of its success, the poverty reduction focus of the Bill, with which we sympathise, could prove to be little more than a paper tiger.

The public service agreement that existed before the targets that were set down by the Government for 2002 in their annual report of 2000 appeared to be a way of holding DFID to account through clearly defined and measurable targets. Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case. Data on primary school enrolment could not be found, whereas targets for reducing maternal mortality have not been met.

The globalisation White Paper shows that not enough progress has been made on any of the key international development targets for 2015. The Department simply states that primary school enrolment figures

``have not risen fast enough''.

The Opposition would like to know more precisely what that means. On eliminating gender disparity by 2005, the Department states that

``girls' enrolments remain persistently behind those of boys'' .

It would be interesting to know how far behind that enrolment is. On reducing infant mortality, the Department states that

``the fall is not enough to meet the target''.

Progress towards reducing maternal mortality is also well off course. Those are vague terms, and we should like future reporting to be more specifically measured.

Those statements bear little relationship to the Department's description of its public service agreement targets. It gave a worded response to each: primary enrolment—``no comprehensive new data''; eliminating judge disparity—``on course''; reducing infant mortality—``on course''; and reducing maternal mortality—``only modest progress''. Those are all descriptive words and, although I am no great mathematician, I would like to see those targets expressed in a more concrete way so that we can understand where ground must be made up.

The Department has set a target of 70 per cent. of projects meeting its objectives. However, the small print states that few projects have been completed yet. It is difficult for us as an Opposition to discern from that how effective the Department is being. The Bill calls for sustainable development to be a major focus of the aid budget, but the only way to tell whether a project has been sustainable is to measure it several times, several years after completion. That is the only true measure of sustainability, and it might not appear in a short-term report. Retrospective reporting will be important if we want to judge the effectiveness of the Bill in one of its primary objectives.

Government targets must be both achievable and measurable. We all know what happens with public support for targets if they are set at an unrealistic level. The annual report for which we are calling should contain such realistic targets and ensure that they are measurable so that ordinary members of the public can understand them. Sector-wide programmes cannot fully account for the impact of British aid money. As the Department's research said, when using sector-wide aid programmes, individual donor programmes are difficult to disaggregate from others. The Department should find a way to resolve that problem.

Amendment No. 5, which proposes the publication of an annual report, has been grouped with new clause 1. Subsection (1) of the new clause would force the Secretary of State to

``make arrangements to promote a focus on reduction in poverty throughout all government departments and agencies in their relations with developing countries.''

Subsection (2) would make the Secretary of State for International Development,

``jointly with ministers responsible for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, prepare and lay before Parliament an annual report on the work done in pursuance of the arrangements made under subsection (1).''

Therefore, new clause 1 would ensure that all Departments that were responsible for overseas activities were focused on poverty reduction. The report would chart the progress made towards poverty reduction and give some practical meaning to the phrase ``joined-up government''. That is a popular phrase, but too often we find that it is difficult to put it into practice. The concept behind such a joint report is to focus departmental minds on working together to show that they share the all-important focus of international development work in poverty reduction.

If the Department for International Development is committed to the elimination of global poverty, it must be backed up by a similar commitment from other Departments. The Government have accepted that they must take a cross-departmental approach to poverty reduction, and in a preface to the 2000 White Paper, the Prime Minister said:

``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 vital that that works in practice, but over the past four years we have seen examples of where the joining-up process has failed. Controversially, the Foreign Office did not appear to promote human rights in Turkey in the Ilisu dam case. Events have moved on, and Balfour Beatty has pulled out. Ultimately, the human rights aspects of that project may prevail by default. The Government's globalisation White Paper stressed that we must strengthen the voice of the poor and help them realise their human rights in order to make political institutions work for them.

The Foreign Office did not raise the issue of human rights with the Department of Trade and Industry during the Ilisu dam affair. On 1 February 2000, the DTI Minister responsible, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), told the Select Committee on International Development:

``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.''

That gives us cause for concern, which is why we seek to make joined-up thinking work more effectively via our new clause.

The Ministry of Defence did not demonstrate a commitment to poverty reduction in March 2000 when it charged the Department for International Development the full market price for four Puma helicopters to assist in the Mozambique floods. The selling of spare parts to Zimbabwe also showed the failure of Government Departments to commit themselves to poverty reduction—further examples that provoke our concern. My amendment is intended to strengthen joined-up government and to make the poverty reduction focus of the Bill more effective. The Government, led by the Prime Minister, are committed to that. We hope that the Minister will welcome a joint annual report that would remind Government Departments of the poverty reduction focus.

Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby 4:15, 22 November 2001

I am in broad agreement with the amendment and echo the hon. Lady's concerns. Following this morning's debate, it is clear that evidence to support a particular view often does not exist. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me for digressing, but for each new piece of legislation in this country, a regulatory impact assessment is required. That assessment details the impact of legislation on business. It is an important document that allows us to assess the impact, and allows those affected by the Bill to understand that we are satisfied that its consequences are neither onerous nor disadvantageous.

We all welcome those methods of scrutiny. Many of us are frustrated when we send reasonable questions to various Departments and receive only the standard answer that information is not available or is too expensive to collate. If one asks for important information, but cannot get it and base an objective opinion on it, a degree of activity is outside our control. I am not happy about that.

For that reason, I sympathise with the hon. Lady's request. Many scandals associated with the United Nations and other third-party agencies have brought those organisations into disrepute, but asking for a report may be optimistic. Several of the organisations that we deal with—and smaller ones delivering aid—find it impossible to provide the information that we require for our auditing gene, simply because they do not have the wherewithal to do so. They do not have auditing procedures or even the equipment to write reports. Many of our relationships with these people must be taken on trust, but that does not preclude us from putting down a marker to receive information that substantiates the uses to which the money is being put. We must have some evidence.

Sooner or later we are accountable to the people who sent us to this place for the way in which these moneys are used; otherwise, when scandals arise, we are not best placed to defend ourselves. That is why the amendment contains some valid observations. I recognise the difficulty of achieving the right sort of report, but it is crucial to challenge the organisations to demonstrate that they understand the requirement and that they will pursue arrangements to secure this information in the fullness of time.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

I, too, sympathise with the amendment and I am inclined to support it. If my memory serves me correctly, we did not get as far last time round: our proceedings ended before a proper discussion and vote on the subject.

In my naive fashion, I always assumed that annual reports were a statutory requirement, that they had to be there and that we would always have them, but that is not so. It would be good to build into the Bill a requirement to produce an annual report and we should insist on seeing it. We should also insist on an annual debate on the annual report. I believe that we have not debated development since 1997; someone will correct me if I am wrong. It is important for Members to see the annual report and, as suggested by the hon. Member for Meriden, to discuss targets.

It is so difficult to assess how we are progressing in international development and it is important to keep looking at the 2015 targets to measure progress. We understand the difficulties, but it is a crucial issue, so I back annual reports and I hope that the Leader of the House will allow us to debate them.

Joined-up government is dear to my heart. As a new Member of Parliament, I remember that when the first of the White Papers on eliminating poverty was produced, I asked the Secretary of State whether other Departments agreed with it and whether she was happy that they would implement the same provisions. I was told off in a way that only a Secretary of State can tell off, and was informed that a White Paper would not be published unless all Departments had agreed on it. It was rather amusing.

Mrs. Spelman indicated assent.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

The hon. Lady nods. She and I know many cases where it is perfectly obvious that other Departments are not in agreement with the aims of the White Paper on development, which is why it is so important to keep pressing for joined-up government. I suspect that the Chairman will call time before we properly finish our debate, but numerous examples could be mentioned. I remember the fiasco at Montserrat during the early years of the new Government. They inherited a mess, but co-ordination between the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office was poor. The Ilisu dam—thank goodness the contractor has seen the light and pulled out—looked as though it might be another example. The Department of Trade and Industry seemed to be overruling the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office on issues such as the environment, displaced people, water wars and granting export credit guarantees for the dam.

The amendment and the new clause are worth while. I am happy for the Liberal Democrats to support them.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Stringer.]

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past Four o'clock till Tuesday 27 November at half-past Ten o'clock.