Clause 2 - Development assistance for

International Development Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 27 November 2001.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

I apologise that I shall have to leave the Committee in a few moments. I have secured an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall about Zimbabwe.

I want to make some brief remarks about clause 2, particularly about the overseas territories. I find it strange that we continue to treat the people of British overseas territories differently from those in the mainland of the United Kingdom. I do not believe that any hon. Members would want their constituencies to be treated differently from others, but we do that to the overseas territories. That is wrong, and the issue needs to be addressed, not only in the Bill but in Government policy in general. To suggest that overseas territories should be part of international development and that overseas aid should be given to, say, the Falkland Islands or Montserrat in the same way that we give aid to foreign countries, is wrong. It is wrong to lump them all together.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

Not at the moment.

I ask the Minister and the Government to reconsider their approach to dealing with people who are as British as all of us here today.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

I was not planning to say anything on the clause, but I am moved to speak in response to the hon. Gentleman's last few words. The clause clearly treats British overseas territories differently from other developing nations and makes an exception of them. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the British Overseas Territories Bill is currently going through Parliament. The hon. Gentleman can use the opportunity afforded to him by debates on that Bill to address whatever issues he wants relating to British overseas territories. That seems straightforward to me.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell) for raising the issue. As he will be aware, there are historical reasons for the nature of our relationship with the British overseas territories. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) has just pointed out, another piece of legislation is before Parliament which aims to change the position on UK citizenship for citizens of the British overseas territories.

The overseas territories are a disparate group of countries. They range from those with a very high per capita GDP to those that are developing countries—or, to be more accurate, developing overseas territories—in every sense. I accept, and it is reflected in the Department for International Development's policy, that the overseas territories wish to take greater responsibility for their own affairs. When I recently attended the annual meeting of the overseas territories consultative council, that was a clear feature of the remarks made by the territories' representatives. They want to have greater responsibility for governing themselves and to take decisions about their own future.

We wish to support that, but in the context of our continuing assistance, which has to take account of the varying circumstances among the territories. Some have every possibility of economic development and self-sustaining success, while others have very little possibility of that. The Bill will allow the British Government to have regard to particular circumstances in making decisions on assistance. I hope that that is helpful.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.