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Clause 5 - Meaning of ``assistance''

Part of International Development Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 27th November 2001.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development 11:15 am, 27th November 2001

Not for the first time in the Committee, I agree with everything that the hon. Lady has said about the importance of the issues that she raised. Clearly, economic development and technical assistance in an appropriate form is essential to enabling developing countries to prosper and succeed in the future. The Bill in its current form permits all such assistance to be given. My reservation about the amendment relates not to the intention behind it but to its unintended potential consequences, which arise from the way in which it is drafted.

The purpose of the definition in clause 5(2) is simply to describe the form and nature of the technical assistance. It would therefore be undesirable to attempt to use it as a definition that restricts what technical assistance may be provided for. The distinction is important. If one restricts what assistance may be provided for, everything not mentioned in the amendment may be deemed as something for which assistance cannot be given.

Although the definition in the amendment appears inclusive rather than exhaustive, it cuts across the purposes of development assistance set out in clause 1(2). It does not strictly prevent other forms of technical assistance, but the specification of some types and forms of assistance begs the question why others are not mentioned.

As for the proposed list of forms of assistance, the amendment would—I am sure that it is unintentional—remove the power of the Secretary of State to give assistance by way of scholarships under clauses 1 and 2. The way in which the amendment is worded would cut out clause 5(2)(b), which reads:

``is provided in the form of a scholarship''.

That paragraph would be removed if we were to agree to the amendment, although doing so would not affect the separate powers set out in clause 14(5).

The lack of the word ``know-how'', which qualifies the basis on which services, training and the results of research are to be provided, also opens up the meaning of ``technical assistance'' to a substantial and unwarranted degree. I accept the point that the amendment makes, but the supply of material is provided for in clause 5(1)(b), so its repetition in the amendment is unnecessary.

I accept the intent and the spirit in which the amendment was tabled, but it would be undesirable to accept it for those practical reasons.