Clause 1 - Development Assistance

International Development Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:30 pm ar 13 Mawrth 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 1, in page 1, line 10, after `contribute', insert `directly or indirectly'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of John Butterfill John Butterfill Ceidwadwyr, Bournemouth West

I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

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

No. 3, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

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

No. 4, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

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

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

When we broke for lunch, I was about to conclude my introductory remarks. I had yet to deal with the substance of the amendments, but I shall not speak for much longer.

The amendments are designed with the genuine aim of ensuring that the Department for International Development is able to continue to do the things that it wants to do. This morning, I pointed out that the Secretary of State has said that she has the flexibility to do what she wants to do. My concern is that the Bill might change the rules in such a way as to remove that flexibility. In my view, clause 1 is restrictive. I hope that the Minister will answer the points that I have made.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

Clause 1 sets out the Bill's core provisions, which enable the Secretary of State to give aid if she is satisfied that it is likely to lead to a reduction in poverty. The Government have deliberately left the Secretary of State's discretion as wide as possible, provided that it meets certain purposes.

The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) asked why the Bill is necessary—a point that was answered by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), as well as on Second Reading. The Bill is necessary to prevent a future Government from tying aid without justifying such a change to Parliament. In future, there will be no more Pergau dams, no aid linked to arms sales, no connection between aid and trade. Our aid programme is no longer a tool of foreign policy, still less of trade policy and, in a nutshell, that is how we want matters to remain. Any future Government who want to change that policy will have to justify themselves to Parliament.

Subsection (1) requires that the Secretary of State be satisfied that

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

Amendment No. 1 is designed to ensure that any such contribution, whether direct or indirect, is capable of satisfying the Secretary of State. That is unnecessary and undesirable. Under the clause as drafted, the Secretary of State can provide development assistance if it is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty. We do not specify whether that contribution must be direct or indirect, but it is clear that there must be a demonstrable link between the giving of assistance and a contribution to a reduction in poverty. To make a point of saying that a contribution can be indirect would enable the Secretary of State to be satisfied even where the extent of the contribution is accidental or a mere knock-on effect. That would introduce a loophole, and I am sure that that is not the intention of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) assured the House that a Conservative Government would not reintroduce the aid for trade scheme, but I am advised that accepting amendment No. 1 would make such schemes lawful. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that that is her intention. If we are all agreed—as I believed we were—that poverty reduction must be the focus of all future assistance, it makes no sense whatever to compromise a statutory provision that guarantees that focus. I therefore ask that amendment No. 1 be withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 would add three purposes to development assistance: good governance, conflict reduction and the promotion of private and foreign direct investment. As many hon. Members have noted, those areas are vital to development. Sustainable reduction in poverty requires good government, a lack of corruption, the absence of conflict, private sector growth and foreign direct investment. The Department is heavily engaged in all those areas. The amendments are simply not necessary.

The Bill is 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 and foreign investment in developing countries. We are clear that that support is possible within the context of the two purposes of sustainable development and welfare under the overarching poverty reduction requirement.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

I am not sure at what stage in the Minister's speech he will reach my point, but I am keen that he addresses it. It is important that aid should not be withdrawn from a country that is no longer a client simply on the basis that it is no longer among the poorest of the poor. I hope that his remarks about the scope of the clause mean that if a serious international effort has been made to assist a country and it is close to taking off on its own, aid will not be withdrawn.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

If the state of a country is improving and poverty is decreasing, it is likely that aid to that country will be withdrawn gradually. I am sure that that is what happens at the moment and that it will continue. There is no question of building a country up and suddenly pulling the plug.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Minister says that aid will be withdrawn gradually. However, as soon as the Bill is enacted, certain projects that are currently supported by the Department will fall outside its provisions. Can he give us an assurance that every funded project will fall within the parameters of the Bill?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I assure the hon. Lady that and the Bill is entirely consistent with the Department's philosophy and its work. I cannot speak for every project because to do so would be foolish.

The intention of the Bill is to entrench the change in philosophy that has occurred over the past three or four years, to which we believe that all parties and many non-governmental organisations and others are signed up. The support offered by Opposition Members can continue in harmony with the wording of the Bill as it stands. Further specific purposes are unnecessary and could create confusion when we are aiming for clarity.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

What the Minister has just told me worries me greatly. It is entirely in conflict with what the Secretary of State said on 6 March. When asked by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon about drugs and drug trafficking, she replied that

``the large amount of money that could be spent on preventing drugs from flowing across the world—desirable as that is—would not come within development budget funding.''—[Official Report, 6 March 2001; Vol. 364, c. 173.]

I am worried because there must be projects currently funded by DFID—for example, some Customs and Excise projects—that aim to prevent drugs from flowing across the world. The Secretary of State has distinctly said that those projects will no longer fall within the parameters of her Department when the Bill is enacted. Does not that completely contradict what the Minister just told the Committee?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

With respect, no it does not. The hon. Lady quoted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State out of context. The whole paragraph reads:

``When people grow drugs because they have no other livelihood, supporting them so that they can have other livelihoods and a better, legitimate life is a proper part of development assistance spending. However, the large amounts of money that could be spent on preventing drugs from flowing across the world—desirable as that is—would not come within development budget funding.''—[Official Report, 6 March 2001; Vol. 364, c. 173.]

My right hon. Friend was saying that if spending is linked to the reduction of poverty and the aims set out at the beginning of the Bill, that is fine, but the Department does not exist to deal with drugs alone—it does so only where doing so meets the wider purposes of reducing poverty and creating sustainable development. I assure the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that all current DFID-supported drugs projects will be consistent with the Bill. In the extract that she quoted, the Secretary of State was not referring to DFID projects, but to projects that are not funded by DFID. The hon. Lady therefore has no cause to worry. The short answer to her question about whether all the projects will continue after the Bill is enacted is yes.

On Second Reading, several hon. Members made the point that we should not define the boundary between what the Secretary of State can and cannot support. The Bill imposes no constraints on the types of activities that the Secretary of State can support—indeed, it increases the range of instruments that are available to her. Rather, it imposes a constraint on the purposes for which the assistance can be provided. With the exception of assistance to the overseas territories and in cases of disaster or other emergency, 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 in pursuit of a more focused purpose. That distinction between activities and purpose is crucial.

Let me offer one example of how the boundaries of the Bill will be defined. After 10 years of civil conflict, Sierra Leone is by some definitions the poorest country in the world. We are all aware of the horrendous situation there. Poverty breeds the discontent that perpetuates the violence. Our current strategy is to end that vicious circle by promoting security, giving substantial support to the police, helping to civilianise and make accountable the country's ministry of defence and helping to reintegrate ex-combatants from all sides who wish to return to civilian life. We provide budgetary support to help to meet the direct costs of running the country and delivering Government services. We also seek to strengthen governance by supporting the newly-created anti-corruption commission, reforming the judiciary and helping the Government to prepare for the elections that are due next year. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will be able to continue to support all those interventions because they are all aimed at reducing poverty, either by furthering sustainable development, or by promoting the welfare of the people.

The amendments are not only unnecessary, but potentially damaging. On the principle that nothing in legislation should be said if it is unnecessary to say it, every additional purpose stated in the clause would cast doubt on the breadth of the two core purposes. If support for good governance is not, as we believe it is, implicit in action to further sustainable development and to improve welfare, what do the two core purposes cover? As the hon. Member for Richmond Park rightly asked, why stop at good governance?

DIFD is in the process of producing a series of strategy papers identifying action that developing countries and international communities need to take in nine areas to help to achieve development targets. These papers include not only good governance, but the empowerment of women, human rights and the environment. Why should governance be elevated rather than those other issues?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby 4:45, 13 Mawrth 2001

I wish that I had in front of me some of the evidence that the Secretary of State has given to the Select Committee on International Development. I am sure that the evidence states that from good governance comes the ability better to tackle all those problems. I am making a genuine point.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

It is a perfectly reasonable point, but I have said that nothing in the Bill as drafted will affect our ability to assist good governance.

The amendments would be damaging in another way. The setting up of specific additional purposes for development assistance 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. If we were to admit that such purposes were desirable for their own sake, we would be undermining the principle that underpins the Bill and our policy on development assistance.

For example, amendment No. 3, which relates to conflict reduction, would have an effect that I am sure was not intended. To insert the words

``reducing conflict or the potential for conflict'' as a purpose for development assistance would allow the Secretary of State to support such activities without any consideration for the welfare of the population of the country. That would allow development assistance to be used to shore up undemocratic regimes and possibly to suppress human rights. As drafted, the Bill allows assistance to promote the welfare of the population, which we believe must encompass conflict resolution, but with proper regard for the interests of the people. There is no need and no place for a power of assistance that does not recognise those interests.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

For the first time in all the years that I have listened to the Minister, I have not the faintest idea what he is talking about. [Laughter.] It seems to me that he is saying that the Bill does not need to be amended because everything that the Secretary of State wants is already in the Bill, and that adding any form of explicit example would instantly put her at risk of behaving extremely badly. I do not understand the logic of that argument.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I am not saying that. In my inadequate way, I am trying to make the point that was made so well by the hon. Member for Richmond Park this morning. I do not resile from anything that the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) was saying about the need to deal with conflict resolution and good governance, but one could add to the list indefinitely—the treatment of women and education were mentioned.

The Bill's primary purpose is to deal with the reduction of poverty. It is not about the reduction of conflict: even though that can be related to the reduction of poverty and the sustainable development of the welfare of the people, it cannot be an end in itself. We could become involved in trying to reduce conflicts that would not necessarily help the welfare of the people.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

The Minister will not be surprised that I do not share the mutual admiration between his party and the Liberal Democrats. Although I usually get on extremely well with the hon. Member for Richmond Park and agree with her on many issues, I do not think that she made her point well this morning.

To return to the substance of the Minister's argument, which is a perfectly good one, I accept that by adding things we may undermine the Bill, but that is not our intention. His argument is reasonable, but he is spoiling it by suggesting that the Secretary of State will give arms to undemocratic organisations. As we have said, that is exactly what we do not want to happen. The drafting of the amendment might be incorrect because the Opposition do not have hordes of draftsmen available to provide assistance, but the Minister is undermining his argument, which was a good one until he got on to such dubious ground.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

If that is a problem, I shall move on to matters that are not.

The hon. Gentleman said that my argument for not diluting the core purpose of the Bill was a good one. That is the Government's key argument, plus the fact that on several occasions I have been able to give Opposition Members the assurance they wanted that just about all the projects in which we are currently engaged would be permitted under the Bill. I understand why hon. Members have asked that question and I have given an assurance in that respect.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

If ``just about all'' the projects currently receiving support from the Department for International Development would be covered, which ones would not be permitted under the Bill?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

Okay, let me row the boat out further and say that all the projects currently covered would be permitted. If the hon. Lady can suggest some that might not be covered, we shall consider them, but we are confident that the Bill covers everything that she and I want it to cover.

To conclude, there are risks in adding lots of new purposes and we should not take such risks, so I request that the amendment be withdrawn.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Minister has made a valiant attempt to read out the brief prepared by his officials. I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent because I, too, thought at one stage that the Minister was losing his grip on reality. To suggest we want our amendments to this important and substantial clause to allow our overseas development aid to fall into the wrong hands, such as those of a violent regime, is preposterous.

I am disappointed with the Minister's response, not least because he chose to dismiss a genuine attempt by the Opposition to improve the Bill. He has not seen fit to accept or even to consider the amendments or some other way of incorporating their spirit into the Bill.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

With all due respect, the spirit of what the hon. Lady wants to achieve is incorporated in the Bill. That is my argument.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Perhaps the Minister will let me finish. If he has no intention of changing a word of the Bill because he is satisfied with every part of it--even though we have only just started to discuss the first group of amendments--it seems pointless to continue. It is rather sad that he should suggest that the Opposition want to achieve a specific purpose when it is obvious from our amendments and our speeches that that is not our intention.

I am pleased with the Minister's assurances that he believes that nothing that the Department is currently doing will be outlawed by the Bill, but that begs another question--why is the Bill necessary? If everything that the Department is doing is covered by the Bill, it seems otiose.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

The Secretary of State said in the House:

``The flexibility of our current arrangements makes the United Kingdom one of the most effective development organisations in the world.''--[Official Report, 6 March 2001; Vol. 364, c. 167.]

I emphasise the word ``current''.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

That is a helpful intervention, because it reiterates the question why has the Bill been introduced if current policy is already in line with its provisions? Yet another piece of legislation is being hurriedly put on the statute book at this late stage in the parliamentary timetable.

The Minister's remarks about amendment No. 1 are inaccurate. The amendment is an attempt to ensure that if an activity were perceived objectively to be peripheral to poverty reduction but would in fact reduce poverty, the wording of the legislation would safeguard the Secretary of State.

Amendment No. 2 relates to good governance, which is one of the key planks of our policy. I had thought that it was also one of the key planks of the Government's policy. It is clearly necessary to establish a commitment to good governance on the face of the Bill. Why does the focus on the reduction of poverty make it unnecessary to put good governance on the face of the Bill? The Government have adopted a pick-and-mix attitude and their rhetoric does not match the reality of the Bill. I am disappointed that there has been no give or take on that point.

I know that I am not isolated in my view because the Minister referred to non-governmental organisations and other interested parties which have contributed to the development of aid policy not only under this Government, but under the previous Government. There is a strong feeling that good governance should be on the face of the Bill.

The Minister disingenuously suggested that amendment No. 3 would enable the propping up of regimes. If the amendment has unintended consequences, I should be happy if he were to reconsider its drafting. As we explained, it is only thanks to the good offices of the Clerk of the Committee that we have been able to draft our amendments.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I did not suggest that the hon. Lady had tabled the amendment to prop up unsavoury regimes. I merely suggested that that was a possible outcome if the amendment were accepted. I did not impugn the motives of Opposition Members.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. I did not think that he meant that; none the less, his comments implied a lack of forethought on our part.

I would like some assurances from the Minister. Can he assure me that funding for something like the Patrol Task (North) guard ship, which I mentioned earlier, would be included? I want assurances that military trainers, election observers, education programmes on democracy building and police projects all fall within the ambit of the Bill. What would happen if such projects were deemed not to contribute to poverty reduction in a certain country and other Departments were unwilling to spend money on them even though they complimented other direct programmes to reduce poverty?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development 5:00, 13 Mawrth 2001

The matters that the hon. Lady lists would have to be matched against the core purposes of the Bill and judged on whether they were likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty, whether they would further sustainable development and whether they would help to improve the welfare of the population. As I have said, the criteria can and would be interpreted fairly broadly. I gave the example of Sierra Leone, where some of the interventions that she wants have been justified. However, any suggestions for current and future aid would have to be matched against the core principles.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I understand that. I thank the Minister for that clarification, but I am seeking clarification so that organisations have some point of reference on matters of interpretation, which are largely subjective. Under the Bill as drafted, that is entirely within the gift of the Secretary of State. One Secretary of State may think that a project is apposite; another may not. By trying to tease out an interpretation from the Minister in Committee, I am hoping to clarify the situation for outside organisations that want to know what is in the Secretary of State's mind and what is behind the Bill. I am afraid that I will not have received such comfort, unless the Minister goes into further detail about the sort of projects that may or may not be covered by the Bill.

I was pleased to hear the Minister's outline of which projects in Sierra Leone that are currently being funded by the Secretary of State and the Department he feels will fall within the Bill's ambit. However, would those same projects apply to Zimbabwe, for example? Is Zimbabwe a country where the people are poor? Is there a reduction in poverty criterion that would fit all those projects? Can the projects listed by the Minister be applied to whatever country? What is the difference between Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe? For example, there is a huge disparity in life expectancy between the two countries. People in Zimbabwe can expect to live much longer than people in Sierra Leone. Where do we draw the line? How do we compare country with country, like with like, individual with individual? That is what I have been trying to get at, and I am not getting the response that I seek from the Minister.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

There are varying degrees of prosperity and poverty in various countries. Although, I am glad to say, the situation in Zimbabwe is nowhere near as dire as that in Sierra Leone, there are certainly plenty of poor and desperate people in Zimbabwe who would benefit from our assistance. Of course, that presumes that the Government are interested in having our assistance, and having received it are willing to make proper use of it. Those criteria must also be taken into account. The key will always be that set out in clause 1. When anyone suggests a project—sending a gunboat or whatever the hon. Lady was suggesting—we would have to see whether it would meet those criteria. They may meet other criteria, in which another Department called the Ministry of Defence would have to foot the bill.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

My hon. Friend happened to use Zimbabwe as an example. It may be of interest to her and to the Minister to know that at least one project in Zimbabwe is effectively being destroyed by the action of Zimbabwe's Government. They are allowing war veterans to destroy the local infrastructure in parts of the country that do not happen to vote for the ruling party. That sort of example raises all sorts of difficulties? How can we continue to provide assistance to a country that is undermining projects, regardless of how badly the poorest people in that country need those projects?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

My hon. Friend takes the words out of my mouth. I shall give way to the Minister if he has a response to that intervention.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

That is a perfectly sensible, reasonable point, and one of the judgments that we must make is whether, in the projects that we fund in countries such as Zimbabwe—there are other examples in which regimes suddenly turn extremely nasty—we can achieve our objectives despite the Government. Some projects are what we might call people-to-people projects that bypass the Government somehow, in which case they can probably still be justified; but where they depend on the good will of the Government and that is clearly missing, we must consider withdrawing. That must be done on a case-by-case basis, exercising common sense, as well as taking into account the criteria in the Bill. I do not think that there is any difference between us on that.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am grateful to the Minister for that, but we will have to return to the matter. We will be able to consider the impact of the Bill on specific current situations when we debate other amendments.

We have had a lengthy but valuable debate. It worried me that the Minister failed to comment on amendment No. 4, which relates to attracting private and foreign direct investment in one or more countries.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Minister mentioned it briefly in passing, but that was a derisory recognition of the purpose of amendment No. 4.

The Minister asked me to withdraw the amendments, but they deal with a lacuna in the Bill. With some effort and co-operation from the Government, we could have reached a better position and included in the Bill some protection for good governance and certain projects. We could also have secured some protection for the Secretary of State, who, in many ways, is restricting her own powers, albeit for the best possible purposes. Therefore, I cannot accede to the Minister's request to withdraw amendment No. 1 and must press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Rhif adran 1 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 1 - Development Assistance

Ie: 4 MPs

Na: 13 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 2, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

(c) promoting good governance in one or more such countries'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Rhif adran 2 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 1 - Development Assistance

Ie: 4 MPs

Na: 13 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 3, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

(d) reducing conflict or the potential for conflict in one or more such countries'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Rhif adran 3 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 1 - Development Assistance

Ie: 4 MPs

Na: 13 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 4, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

(e) putting in place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment in one or more such countries'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Rhif adran 4 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 1 - Development Assistance

Ie: 4 MPs

Na: 13 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 20, at end insert—

`(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.'.

The Secretary of State and the Minister should be thrilled to pieces that we have tabled amendment No. 5. I hope that it will do everything that they desire. The purpose of the amendment—

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Indeed. As my hon. Friend says, we mean to be helpful. I hope that the amendment will not be rejected out of hand as was the first group of amendments. The purpose of the amendment is to link more closely the activities of the Government with clearly defined and measurable targets. The Government currently publish their public service agreement and progress towards achievement, but that is often too vague, with not enough evidence to back the claims. The projections have sometimes lacked accuracy. I also hope that it will give the Secretary of State a platform for the annual debate that she wishes to have on development matters. Indeed, we all wish for such a debate, although the usual channels and the Minister's and the Secretary of State's friends in Government obviously do not wish for an annual debate on that topic.

To find out exactly what had been promised before the election, I turned to the ``Road to the Manifesto'' document, ``A fresh start for Britain: Labour's strategy for Britain in the modern world''. It stated:

``Labour will introduce regular reporting to Parliament on the role of the UK in the World Bank and the IMF (including the voting record of the Executive Directors); a statement of the Government's objectives for the forthcoming year; regular debates in Parliament on these reports''.

To me, ``regular debates'' certainly means more than one debate every four years, as I think it does to the Secretary of State. I hope that she and the Minister will use the amendment to secure an annual debate.

The World Bank, in its paper ``Understanding and Responding to Poverty'', said:

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

I can see nothing in the Bill to define poverty or to demonstrate how progress will be reported or measured. That is a significant omission.

On western donors, the United Nations Development Programme document, ``Poverty Report 2000'', states that

``the great majority of the agencies lack monitoring assistance to hold themselves accountable to their declared poverty objectives. They can present no convincing evidence on how their interventions have benefited the poor.''

That is an extremely important statement, which I hope the Minister understands. We are concerned that there is nothing in the Bill requiring the Government to outline their progress towards meeting those targets, or for the effective measurement of such progress.

If there is little evidence and accountability on the use of aid money, and no effective measure of its success, the Bill's poverty reduction focus could prove to be little more than a paper tiger. For instance, DFID's public service agreement targets for 1999-2002, set out by the Government in the annual report of 2000, appeared to be a way to hold DFID accountable through some clearly defined and measurable targets. Unfortunately, they have not been successful. For example, sufficient data on primary school enrolment could not be found, and targets for reducing maternal mortality were not met. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon referred to much of that information on Second Reading.

The globalisation White Paper showed that not enough progress was made on any of the key 2015 international development targets. According to the document, the Department's primary school enrolment figures

``have not risen fast enough'', and that, in relation to the elimination of gender disparity by 2005,

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

On the reduction of infant mortality, it states that

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

Also, progress towards reducing maternal mortality is well off course.

I know that the matter concerns the hon. Member for Richmond Park. We have not yet been able to find common cause on the Bill, but I hope that I shall find common cause with her on this issue, because she feels strongly about it, as we all should.

Those descriptions are different from DFID's description of its PSA targets, which were: for primary enrolment, ``no new data''; eliminating gender disparity, ``on course''; reducing infant mortality, ``on course''; and maternal mortality, ``only modest progress''. There is a lack of honesty about the aid targets, and a lack of fair and accurate measures of the results. What we are calling for, which we hope to facilitate by the amendment, is an annual report to measure progress towards those aims. That is not something with which the Minister can quarrel.

If the wording of our amendment is not up to the Minister's high standards, we are willing to withdraw it on the basis that it can be redrafted as a Government amendment, which we shall be pleased to support. There are many examples of core targets, although there is inadequate evidence of them. DIFD has set the target that 70 per cent. of projects should meet the Department's objectives. However, the small print says that few of the projects have been completed. Current targets do not seem to take sustainable development into account. Projects rated as officially successful by the Department can turn out to be unsuccessful. For example, in a written answer on 20 June 2000, the Secretary of State said:

``A formal review of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Organisational Development Project in October 1999 showed that it was successful in contributing to DFID's objectives as set out in the Public Service Agreement.''

Fine so far, but she continued:

``The review concluded that the project was enabling organisational change to take place in ZRP to the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe, including the poorest.''

However—this is not dissimilar to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent—she said:

``Since February the ZRP has not enforced the law or upheld their own charter in relation to the attacks on the opposition and the land invasions.''—[Official Report, 20 June 2000; Vol. 352, c. 123W.]

So, if a project does not ultimately satisfy the twin tracks of sustainable development and poverty reduction—the core of the Bill, as it has been described by the Minister—what are we to do? What will be the outcome? If a project does not satisfy the Bill's objectives, what sanctions are there? Is the Secretary of State to be clapped in irons? I think not.

The Bill calls for sustainable development to be one of the major focuses of the aid budget. Surely the only way in which one can tell whether a project or programme has been sustainable is to measure it not once, but several times, and several years after completion. That can be the only true measure of sustainability as we understand it. I hope that the Minister is now starting to see the reason behind the amendment, and beginning to feel that he may be able to accept it.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Llafur, Coatbridge and Chryston 5:15, 13 Mawrth 2001

I am sorry if I anticipate the hon. Lady, but the amendment proposes the publication of a report. No doubt she has costed the printing and publication of it, and perhaps she will tell us what costs will be involved.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for attributing to me the ability to cost the incredible work that would be necessary to prepare, design, cost and print the report. To be fair, that is not a problem, as we are debating the principle of the matter. That is especially so as the Department has spent more than £2 million of taxpayers' money since 1997 on its own publications; indeed, this year it will spend £55,000 on direct mail promotion of its publications. I feel sure that the cost of the sort of report that would result from the amendment being accepted would pale into obscurity compared with the vast amount of publishing that the Department has already carried out—I believe to little avail.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his inquiry. It is rather pleasing to find that Labour Members are awake. It is sad that, during debates on such an important Bill, Labour Members should remain silent except for the occasional intervention. As we have so few opportunities to debate the international development during the past four years, I should have expected hon. Members to take this opportunity to do so.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Llafur, Coatbridge and Chryston

Not only am I fully awake, I do not even take exception to the nomenclature that hon. Lady attributes to me, which occasionally gives me the impression that the hon. Lady herself is asleep. Would she not agree that the answer is simply that she does not know?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am quite willing to admit to the right hon. Gentleman that I do not know. I used to be a marketing director and I was good at costing the distribution and design of publications and coming up with the various items to promote organisations. With a little time, I could probably make some costings.

I apologise for not according the right hon. Gentleman his Privy Council status. I know that he has achieved those giddy heights. No discourtesy was intended, and I hope that he will forgive me. I shall try to correct myself; it was an inadvertent mistake. Of course, some of us were up into the small hours of the morning defending democracy. Unlike the Minister, who went home to bed and whose vote is not recorded, I voted last night with my party

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

As did the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will forgive me for my slight error in nomenclature.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

Unless I have been asleep for the past four years, it seems that the Department already produces a departmental report. It would therefore cost little to add such a provision. The right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke), who as a Privy Councillor is the most senior member of the Committee, labours the point on extra costs. It cannot be beyond the wit of the Department's excellent civil servants to add a few paragraphs.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. At least the right hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity as a politician to admit that there is something that I do not know.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

My hon. Friend will, of course, be able to confirm that the Minister knows exactly how much his Department's annual report costs.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I have a killer fact that will floor you all in a moment.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Minister says that he has a killer fact. I am delighted. I stand by to be assassinated. I am not a difficult target.

I return to amendment No. 5. The Opposition believe that Government targets should be achievable and measurable. Sector-wide programmes cannot fully account for the impact of British aid money. The Department's researchers said that, when using sector-wide aid programmes, individual donor programmes are difficult to disaggregate from other donor programmes. I hope that the Minister will smile on me benevolently and give me hope that he will accept the amendment in some way, shape or form. Certainly, we need to know at what point the Bill recognises aid quality. Perhaps such a reference is included and I simply cannot find it; if so, I look to the Minister for guidance.

Do the Government intend to publish detailed performance indicators for the sector-wide programmes, so that the public and the House can have confidence in the way in which aid is spent? What scope is there for measuring projects' contribution to sustainable development several times and several years after completion? Those are reasonable questions to ask of the Minister at this stage in our proceedings.

I reiterate that I am looking for fulfilment of the promise, which was made in a manifesto document before the last general election, of a regular debate on reports in Parliament. People expect such commitments to be met. Indeed, I hope that more power will be given to the Secretary of State, who assured the Chamber on Second Reading that she wanted an annual debate. However, it is clear either that the usual channels have not been fighting on her behalf, or that she has failed to convince her colleagues that parliamentary time should be given to the matter. We can give time to issues such as foxhunting, but it seems that we cannot spend a day debating the lives of the poorest people in the world, to which we hope to make a difference by distributing money through aid programmes.

I have probably gone on for long enough about the amendment, but this is a matter about which I feel strongly, and the Minister should note that the amendment could be used to the Department's own advantage, even if it were accepted in a different form. I know that my hon. Friends also want to speak to the amendment, but they will agree that we are willing to withdraw it if the Minister is prepared to come up with a similar provision that he finds acceptable.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Richmond Park 5:30, 13 Mawrth 2001

I hope that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) is sitting comfortably and has some cold water to hand in case she feels faint, because I must say that I am minded to support the amendment. Indeed, she makes a very good case. In the past, the Select Committee on International Development and the Government have castigated the European Union for failing to give sufficient feedback on the progress of projects and the difference that aid is making in developing countries. If we are to place such requirements on other agencies, we should also place them on ourselves. We need greater feedback on our aid's effectiveness and the way in which it is dispersed.

I commend DFID on its literature, which is not a waste of money. Indeed, it is very good, and through it DFID has done a tremendous job in promoting the cause of development. I accept that it is difficult to find in the report what we really want to know: whether we are making a big difference and whether maternal mortality is declining significantly. The problem is probably one of presentation, in that it is rather difficult to get at the facts that we need. A simple appendix would suffice—there is no need for an entirely different publication. Alternatively, a section could be included explaining how the poverty targets are progressing.

I told the hon. Lady that I am minded to support the amendment, but before I decide I shall listen to what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Llafur, Clydebank and Milngavie

I hope that the Minister will not accept the amendment, because if he does I will feel fairly stupid. I think that it was wrongly worded by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham—it says that she wants a report, but what she really wants is debate and accountability, which it would not provide.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I have stressed that the wording of the amendment may be imperfect owing to the limited time available to us, and the difficulties that there may have been in explaining our intentions to the Clerk who assisted us. If so, we are willing for the Government to redraft it, but I hope that I have explained its spirit in terms of the way in which it is currently expressed.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Llafur, Clydebank and Milngavie

I accept that. However, the Department already produces an annual report, which includes a statement by the Secretary of State along the lines that the amendment suggests, a statement of purpose and a statement of the public service agreements. What is missing is the opportunity to examine those statements.

I have some sympathy for the amendment. I tabled an amendment calling for an annual debate—which you, in your wisdom, Mr. Butterfill, did not select because it was based on the wrong part of the Bill and was incorrectly worded for this purpose. An annual debate may not be exactly what we are looking for, but we must have something that raises the profile of the Department. It is unsatisfactory for the House to have a general debate on international development only every four years. Departments that do not regularly produce legislation get a raw deal in this place; their work is important, but it is not examined by the House. The continuing work of the Department is more important than its unusual work. For example, every now and then when there is a disaster, such as that which occurred in Mozambique, there will be a statement and a chance to consider the Government's response—but that is not the Department's central purpose.

It is odd that the House can debate certain statutory instruments, which we usually think of as minor pieces of legislation, but is not given the chance to have an annual debate on the work of an increasingly significant Department. The Ministry of Defence—rightly—has the privilege of an annual debate on the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and there are annual debates on Wales and on estimates, but there is no such debate on the work of DFID. If there was, it might help to raise the profile of the Secretary of State. It might even help to end the stock question that they ask in quiz shows when they are trying to stop the contestant getting the money and to which nobody ever knows the answer—``Who is the Secretary of State for International Development?''

It would be churlish not to acknowledge that there have been some steps forward, the biggest of which is Westminster Hall, where hon. Members can initiate Adjournment debates on reports by the International Development Committee. The existence of the Committee itself is a major step forwards, although it is inadequate in that it has places for only 11 members.

I sense that the Secretary of State and the Minister have some sympathy for what we seek to achieve, and I am sure that we can collectively consider the exact form in which to do so. We need to lift the profile of the Department and allow what it does to be scrutinised. The amendment would not achieve that; it merely asks for a report. It is what one does with the report that matters, not the fact that it exists.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

I agree to a large extent. We accept that the amendment is not of the best, but our aim is to make it a statutory requirement to have the report—which is already published anyway—and to bolster that report, which, as the hon. Member for Richmond Park pointed out, will make examination easier.

In debate, there is no difference between members of the Select Committee on International Development. The Department's work is worthy of exposure to the public gaze on the Floor of the House. Occasional debates in Westminster Hall

Photo of John Butterfill John Butterfill Ceidwadwyr, Bournemouth West

Order. We are in danger of slipping into a debate about amendment No. 17, which I ruled out of order. The reason for my ruling is that we cannot in Committee bind the House in respect of the subjects of future debates. Perhaps we could now return to the amendment under discussion.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

I apologise for being out of order, Mr. Butterfill. My enthusiasm carried me away.

If a copy of the report is laid before the House, the Government and the usual channels—God bless them—might wish to introduce an annual debate on the Floor of the House in which the report can be exposed. That is important and not controversial. I hoped that the Minister would say that he might table an amendment along those lines. He may find our amendment deficient, but I think it is perfectly good as far as it goes. Ensuring that the Department's received greater exposure would be better than the occasional debate on a Select Committee report in Westminster Hall, as such debates are widely ignored rather than widely reported.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

It is important that we continue to have an annual report. I hope that the International Development Committee of the next Parliament—of which I, sadly, will not be a member—will do as it does now and produce that report, as the exercise has to date been mutually beneficial.

I am ambivalent about the criteria that should be laid down. A sensible part of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham was to suggest that if the Department declares that its principal objective is the reduction of poverty, we should be able to measure its success in meeting it. There is much to be said for calling the Secretary of State to account for the expenditure of public money. I feel strongly that those involved in international development should not allow themselves to become pessimistic: optimism is a sine qua non of effective work.

In future, it is unlikely that the Department—which is concentrating on the poorest countries in the world—will be able to demonstrate that it has relieved poverty over the piece. For example, we know that by 2005 or thereabouts, infant mortality in South Africa will be 60 per cent. higher than it would have been if not for HIV-AIDS. The statistics are horrendous. We already know that life expectancy in Tanzania has fallen by 10 years and that it is set to fall further. To measure the success of the Secretary of State and her Department against the criteria suggested in our amendments or other such criteria is almost to ask the Department to set itself a hurdle that it might fail to clear. I am worried that the choice of criteria will be a central issue in how we call the Secretary of State to account in the future. Enormous importance attaches to the choice.

Let me give an absurd example. The measurement of poverty in this country changed out of all recognition when Peter Townsend's formula became generally accepted. The idea of relative poverty being the way in which to measure poverty has changed the nature of the debate in this country. I shall not argue today about whether that is a sensible or foolish way of proceeding. To apply the Townsend formula to some of the countries to which we are actively providing development assistance would be a travesty. We are talking about people who do not know where their next bowl of rice is coming from, so the concept of relative poverty is unhelpful in those circumstances.

If we are not careful, we will face the paradox that the greater a country's failure to run its affairs properly, the stronger the argument for UK development assistance. That makes the hope of a sector-wide approach more difficult to realise. That is another element in the importance of the criteria to measure the success of the Department.

There is a danger of this country letting Zimbabwe fall by the wayside because of the perceived difficulty arising from Mugabe using its former colonial status as an excuse for his behaviour. We have allowed ourselves to become paralysed, even though black Zimbabweans are now suffering even more than most white Zimbabweans. The project of which I have direct knowledge has become almost impossible to carry on because of the destruction of local government, which has been closed down in one of the provinces of Zimbabwe.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development) 5:45, 13 Mawrth 2001

My hon. Friend will know that I was in Zimbabwe a mere two weeks ago. I saw at first hand many of the black people who have been put out of their homes and deprived of their livelihoods by the activities of ZANU-PF. Until as recently as a year ago, those people were thriving, their children were going to school and they lived in houses attached to the farms, but they now live almost like animals. The tractors have not been used for a year and they have been unable to plant a seed. They are having difficulty continuing a normal life, even though they are being paid by the farm owners. Their slide into poverty has been inevitable and frightening.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

I share that perception, but I am not talking only about people working on farms. I am referring to people working in the education service in Zimbabwe who, because they come from a district that voted overwhelmingly for the Movement for Democratic Change, have been closed down. The suggestion that the Zimbabwe Government is targeting only the white population and that we must keep our mouths shut is demonstrably untrue.

We must ask ourselves how future Secretaries of State will deal with such a paradox. I am uncertain that definition under the Bill does not create a bottomless pit: the worse the Government, the greater the need for United Kingdom aid. I am worried about how that would be reported and how such a report would be evaluated. The measure of success will be central to any new report based on the Bill and I suspect that in many cases it will be claimed that decline has simply been slowed.

The other criterion that should be included in an annual report is the extent to which the control of development assistance is in the hands of local people. I referred to that crucial point this morning. We must find a way to measure the extent to which our development assistance is being administered by local people rather than by ex-patriots.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We have had a long debate on a simple amendment. I detected nothing in the contribution made by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham to suggest that she was aware that the Department already publishes an annual report and that the next one is due on 26 March. I hope that she will accept as good news that she does not have long to wait. The report will include a summary of progress on international development targets broken down by region, as well as a detailed report on the Department's performance in respect of the public service agreement.

That is not all. The Department for International Development complements its annual report with publication of each and every evaluation study. Later this year, it will publish a synthesis of the findings from project completion reports for the period 1986 to 1999. That will consist of a detailed assessment of the effect of projects over a long period, so I hope that the hon. Lady accepts that we are already on the case and that an amendment about annual reports is unnecessary.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

I share the Minister's view that detailed evaluation reports of projects are essential in assessing the Department's success. As we move from project work to a sector-wide approach and partnerships with Government, it will become harder to provide them.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We may have to change the way in which we evaluate the usefulness of projects; that may become more difficult in some cases, but detailed assessments are already possible on the basis of material that is published regularly by the Department. The report is scrutinised by the International Development Committee and the format of the report is informed by its recommendations. The Treasury requires annual departmental reports from all Government Departments and it is neither sensible nor necessary to enshrine that practice in legislation for one Department.

I have a lot of sympathy with the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie, which covered the burden of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham. We could do with more scrutiny on the Floor of the House of our Department's work, and I am sympathetic to the amendment tabled in that respect, but as you explained, Mr. Butterfill, it is not a matter on which we can legislate. There is the mechanism supplied by the usual channels, which is a two-way street.

The Opposition have not pressured us to debate the issues, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I would welcome such an opportunity. Indeed, we are keen to have a regular debate on our Department's work because we have a good story that we are anxious to tell. Many hon. Members would have important contributions to make to such a debate, which would provide them with a suitable platform. However, that is another matter. We are dealing with amendment No. 5, which is unnecessary, and I request that the hon. Lady withdraws it.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I have poured myself a glass of water and I have not fallen off my chair.

I thank the hon. Member for Richmond Park for having the grace to support the intention behind the amendment, despite its imperfect drafting. I also thank the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie because we intended not only to link the Government's activities to clear, measurable targets, but to give the Department a boost in the bear pit of demand for days for debate in the House.

I was unable to state baldly my intention in the amendment, but that is why I suggested that

``The Secretary of State...shall lay a copy of the report before Parliament.''

I am sad that the Minister has failed to grasp with both hands the opportunity to take the amendment away and refashion it. It is imperfect, but his vast team of officials could have worked on it and we could have created something that would have been acceptable to both Government and Opposition Members.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Richmond Park

Will the hon. Lady be content if progress towards the poverty targets were addressed within the existing annual report, or does she require a separate document?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Having heard the Minister's response, I shall develop my argument and pick up on the hon. Lady's point later.

When I went through the manifesto document ``A Fresh Start for Britain: Labour's Strategy for Britain in the Modern World'', which the Labour party produced before the last general election, I came across a specific promise:

``In Government Labour will audit all aid programmes for their impact on the poor...as well as on women, children and the environment.''

The Minister has used the argument that he is on the case already as his prime fly swat to squash the amendment, but if that is the case why do we need the Bill? According to outside observers, the Department is on the case already. If the amendment is otiose, the Bill is otiose.

I am alarmed that the Minister should use such a simple argument to remove a tool that could benefit him, the Secretary of State and the Department. I appreciate that there is an annual report; I have no problem with that. However, putting the report on the face of the Bill would provide assistance similar to that provided by including the focuses of poverty and sustainable development.

I do not accept the Minister's arguments. He wants to have his cake and eat it. He is happy to deploy one argument on one point and another argument on another point, but that is not satisfactory. I reiterate that I would like more information about the publishing of detailed performance indicators on sector-wide programmes so that we can have confidence in spending on AIDS, for example. The Minister has not replied to that point other than to say that he hopes that a new report will be laid before Parliament on 26 March. I welcome that new, but would it not have been better to make that report available to Members of Parliament before the Bill was scrutinised? Had it been available to us, we might not have found it necessary to table the amendment, but how can we judge? Do we have to trust what the Minister says, or will he provide proofs of the annual report?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development 6:00, 13 Mawrth 2001

Although the hon. Lady will probably deny it, I strongly suspect that when she tabled the amendment, she was unaware that the Department publishes an annual report containing much of the information that she has requested. I certainly heard nothing in the lengthy contribution that she made at the beginning of our debate to suggest that she was aware of that fact. One or two other Committee members made it clear in their speeches that they were aware of it, including my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie and the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I was trying to save time. I have watched the faces of Labour Members who are sitting firmly on their backsides making no contribution to the debate. At least Conservative Members are trying, in a spirit of co-operation, to improve the legislation. To refer to the report is otiose when we all have a copy of it—I see the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie holding up his copy. Not only do I have the report in my possession, but I was able to quote the costings to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston when he challenged me on how much the Department had spent on publications, including promotional publications.

Instead of the Minister telling us that the new report is expected on 26 March—long after the guillotine on scrutiny of the Bill—it would have been preferable to have had that report before us now, as that would have enabled us to judge the quality and see what improvements the Minister has made.

I asked the Minister what recognition of aid quality there is in the Bill but, again, he chose to ignore my question. I will give way to the Minister if he would like to tell us the answer now. No, it appears that the Minister cannot answer that question, which is a shame.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Minister has not been up all night, as I have, so he will just have to stay awake a little longer.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Richmond Park

The support that I felt for the amendment is draining out through my feet by the minute. It might not concern the hon. Lady, but if she goes on for much longer, it will have drained away altogether.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Good things never last for long. I did not expect that support from the Liberal Democrats would last even until the end of the debate on an amendment. [Interruption.] Despite the mockery from Labour Members and the lack of patience exhibited by the hon. Member for Richmond Park, the amendment was intended to strengthen the Bill. It was an attempt to move the Department into a more pivotal position and help the Government to fulfil their manifesto promises.

In their election manifesto, the Government said that they would bring development issues back into the mainstream of Government decision making. I believe that failing to have a debate and failing to have the annual report laid before Parliament and fully debated is a big gap both in the promises that the Government made to the electorate and in their good intentions for the Department. I emphasise that we wholly support the Minister's intentions; obviously, he will not accept our honest offer.

In conclusion, I am sad to say that I cannot let the matter drop. We feel strongly about it, so I am unable to withdraw the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 9.

Rhif adran 5 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 1 - Development Assistance

Ie: 4 MPs

Na: 9 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 20, at end insert—

`(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Secretary of State may fund public awareness campaigns in developing countries with the aim of reducing economic migration.'.

It is with great trepidation that I rise to speak to amendment No. 6, as I appear to be hogging the limelight on the Committee. It is such a shame that so many Labour Members who have valuable contributions to make to our debate and who should not be afraid of making them just because the Committee must end at 5 o'clock on Thursday evening have felt constrained to sit on their hands. That will not go unnoticed.

The Minister will be pleased to know that amendment No. 6 is merely a probing amendment. It has been tabled to reflect some of the concerns expressed on Second Reading and would allow the Secretary of State to fund public information campaigns in developing countries to reduce economic migration. The Bill will allow such programmes to be funded from the aid budget, which is an important issue that needs discussing within the context of the clause.

I was going to make a comment for the sake of all members of the Committee, including the Minister and the usual channel, but I see that the Government Whip is not in his place—he is in and out of the Room like a yo-yo. I shall keep my remark to myself until he returns.

We tabled the probing amendment in part to reflect the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who is the Chairman of the International Development Committee. I am sad to say that he was not able to serve on this Committee, because it was set against an extremely important meeting of the International Development Committee on a major report on HIV-AIDS.

On Second Reading, my hon. Friend pointed out that we could not turn a blind eye to people who come to Britain for economic reasons. He talked about the moral duty and practical and common-sense reasons to help people. He said that something was badly wrong when tens of thousands of people crossed the length of the continent of Europe, travelling through safe countries, to reach Britain. Trafficking in such people concerns us all.

Part of the Second Reading debate focused on the role of aid in helping to stem the tide of migration. We believe that public information campaigns in developing countries have a key role to play in deterring those who might be tricked into agreeing to be trafficked. That does not fall strictly into the definition of a reduction of poverty, but we must remember that 700,000 women and children are trafficked across borders every year and that the European Union estimates that 500,000 illegal immigrants arrived last year alone, up from an estimated 40,000 as recently as 1993.

Recently, several high-profile incidents involving the trafficking of people have appalled everyone in this country, no matter what their political persuasion. Migrant trafficking and smuggling has become a global business that generates huge profits for traffickers and organised crime syndicates. A recent study by the institute of migration shows that at any time there are an estimated 15 million to 30 million irregular migrants worldwide.

We saw the results of the pernicious trade in July 2000 when the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants were found inside a tomato truck in Dover. What a waste of lives. As recently as January, a Georgian cargo ship carrying on board an estimated 80 illegal immigrants split in two off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey; about 50 people are believed to have died. In May 2000, a rubber dinghy containing 29 illegal immigrants from north Africa sank close to Spain; six were drowned. I could go on, but it is not my intention to list such disastrous events. I cite them merely to discover the Minister's and the Government's attitude, in the context of the Bill, to the sort of public awareness campaigns that I believe are needed in developing countries to reduce economic migration and trafficking in human misery.

The institute of migration claims that although reliable statistics are kept on apprehensions of unauthorised migrants at borders and on arrests of traffickers, those figures account for only a small fraction of the overall problem. Criminal gangs are often responsible for migrant trafficking, and migrants often travel without full knowledge of the potential risks. Once they have arrived at their destination, trafficked migrants are almost entirely dependent on those criminal gangs and are vulnerable to serious human rights abuses. One way in which we might deter potential victims would be to mount sustained education programmes in their home countries. Many people who pay to be trafficked do so in ignorance of the risks of extortion, human rights abuses and, ultimately, death.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent 6:15, 13 Mawrth 2001

It occurs to me that that would be an admirable role for the British Council—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

My hon. Friend knows that I have no sense of humour—[Laughter.]—and he tempts me to sing the praises of the British Council, but I shall resist. I know that he wants to speak, so I shall bring my remarks to a conclusion.

Amendment No. 6 is a probing amendment that is designed to reveal the Minister's thinking. It needs to be emphasised that the traffickers profit from potential migrants' lack of awareness of the dangers. Many victims of traffickers are misled about what awaits them, so potential migrants need to be warned of the risks. The International Organisation for Migration has shown that public awareness campaigns in countries of origin can do much to prevent traffickers from exploiting the limited knowledge of potential migrants.

The Minister knows that information can be transmitted in many ways, so I shall not list them. However, once I have heard his reply, I might want to explore the matter further. The activities proposed in the amendment are not directly poverty reduction, but are life-saving measures. As the amendment has not been accepted directly or indirectly, I must press the Minister on the subject because funding for such activities could be ruled out. Trafficking can have a pernicious effect: for instance, if those who are attracted to migration are from the middle classes or are educated people, their country of origin could be denied an opportunity to regenerate or to make progress.

I reiterate that amendment No. 6 is a probing amendment that will enable us to discover whether such expenditure will continue, or whether it falls outwith the parameters of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Ceidwadwyr, Faversham and Mid Kent

I am slightly ambivalent about the amendment. The Opposition have tabled many useful and important amendments, but I have slightly less enthusiasm for amendment No. 6. To tell people in developing countries about the conditions of schools in Hackney or about the incidence of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus in British hospitals might help to anchor them there. Indeed, many of the teachers who are immorally recruited from countries that need them much more than we do can be discovered hurrying home again once they find out what it is like to teach in a British school. An education programme might therefore be useful. However, that raises two serious questions. The first concerns the colonising of the professions in countries that need them more than we do.

The Minister knows that I have raised that subject with his colleagues in the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Employment more than once. The Government are trying to behave scrupulously in the matter, but they are being totally undermined by the fact that no health trust in this country would, in extremis, turn first to the national health service registers; they would turn instantly to a private agency to provide them with weekend cover or emergency support. Those private agencies are not inhibited by Government guidelines. They go round the world, recruiting professionals who are sucked into the public system in a rather indirect way.

That is a lamentable outcome when we consider that the number of teachers dying in Malawi each year is greater than the number being trained. The idea that we should further remove some of them to teach in our schools is shocking and runs against our development philosophy and intentions. We need to have an education campaign not merely in developing countries, but in our own country, where we should be discussing development issues on a wider scale than we currently do. There is much to be said for increasing public understanding of development issues, including whether it is proper to recruit from overseas.

I am ambivalent about the amendment for another reason. If we could create the kind of conditions in the countries that need our help in which professionals could study and exercise their skills, and we could provide them with economic and military stability that would enable them to live in peace, their desire to stay where they are would be enormously increased. None of us would want to leave our friends and family, customs and culture and fly overseas—unless we are members of the International Development Committee—to live elsewhere, unless we really felt that the gains would be so much greater. It is not a matter of encouraging people from overseas; it is more a matter of putting our resources into education and other issues. If, in the process, people realise that life in this country is not entirely a bed of roses, that is fine. I am not sure that I am entirely in favour of the Bill creating a demand for an education programme that is designed to show people that it is not worth coming to live here.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Richmond Park

When I first saw the amendment, I was shocked and horrified. The official Opposition should be wary, lest it be misconstrued. Perhaps they wanted it to be misconstrued. On the face of it, it looks as if they are up to their old tricks— this is fortress Great Britain; we must not let people come in, as they are bogus asylum seekers, and so on. All that language comes to mind. I warn Opposition Members that that is what they are risking by supporting this amendment.

After hearing the arguments of the official Opposition, I am prepared to believe that that is not their intention. I am extremely concerned about trafficking in people. I have been talking to one of the inspectors of the Metropolitan police about the sex slave trade in Britain, which is growing rapidly. Young women and girls from eastern Europe and elsewhere are being used as sex slaves. That is not a matter for the Department for International Development, but for Customs and Excise, the Home Office and the Foreign Office. We must do something about it. DFID's budget is for the relief of poverty, and we must stick to our guns.

In any case, if the Opposition are to be believed, we are to say to developing countries, ``Instead of spending this money on aid we will spend it on big posters and radio broadcasts explaining that, in fact, we are poor''. Try telling the people of southern Sudan that we are poor. Alternatively, we are supposed to say, ``Don't come to Britain, we are overcrowded,'' but it is the people of Rwanda and Burundi who understand the true meaning of overcrowding .

The amendment is a complete nonsense. We are the fourth biggest economy in the world, and the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants whom we have so far accepted constitutes a tiny proportion of our population. I shall repeat what I have said many times: the fuss that we are making about unfortunate people who are merely seeking a better life for their families is pathetic. Generations of British people did the same, and so would I in their position.

Photo of John McFall John McFall Labour/Co-operative, Dumbarton

The hon. Lady is perhaps being a little too charitable. I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham said and I can find no charitable interpretation of the Opposition's intentions. Is there not a consistency in what the Opposition have been saying for many weeks, which was demonstrated not least in the Leader of the Opposition's recent ``foreigners'' speech in Harrogate? The amendment is simply an extension of that point of view.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Richmond Park

I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman. I was indeed trying to be charitable, but in fact ``disgraceful'' was the first word that I wrote on my notepaper. The Opposition should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for continuing to push out that message. When I go abroad, I am ashamed to call myself British because I know that such attitudes and messages are getting across.

The answer lies in making the countries from which people migrate as prosperous as we are, and the only way to do that is to consider all the factors that contribute to poverty. I shall not rehearse this morning's debate, but there is a very long list of issues that we must address. As I have said in the House, I can remember when people in this country used to deplore the Irish economic migrants to this country who rightly wanted a better life for their families. Yet as a result of aid, development and the backing of the European Union the reverse is now true and people are migrating to Ireland because life there is good. I shall not begin a debate on Europe because that would upset the official Opposition and keep them here till well past midnight.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Richmond Park

That is a good example of how the right policies and the right help can turn a country round.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

The hon. Lady should perhaps read the amendment, rather than getting excited about matters that she described as disgraceful. She can let one or two things make her ashamed of being British if she likes—perhaps she should say as much to her constituents—but in fact she was referring to a matter with which a large part of the EU programme in north Africa is concerned. We discussed precisely that issue in our submissions on the EU aid programme, and neither this Government nor previous Governments have taken account of it.

The points made by my hon. Friends the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent and for Chesham and Amersham are entirely correct, but I should like put a slightly different interpretation—I nearly said ``spin'', which would have been something of a mistake—on matters. There has been, and will always be, economic migration, which can be of tremendous benefit to the individuals and countries concerned. For example, countries that are over-populated need part of their population to move on.

However, we are discussing the exploitation of economic migration by others, and although DFID should not be forced to contribute to preventing exploitation, it seems entirely fair that it should be able to do so. For some reason, the hon. Member for Richmond Park referred constantly to Britain, but in Vietnam and Cambodia, which the Select Committee visited recently, there is a lot of economic trafficking and migration. It usually involves children and young girls who think that they are heading for a better life somewhere else, but who end up as prostitutes. That has been particularly prevalent in and around Thailand. It is organised crime perpetuated by organised gangs. Those who run and work in those ghastly brothels are not necessarily poor, but they are hardly rich either.

This is an important issue that is not just about poor people who, understandably, see a way to better themselves by coming to the United Kingdom or other European countries. Throughout the world, gangs are trafficking in people's economic aspirations and thereby damaging them dramatically. Given his personal knowledge of the region, the Minister will know that the problem is particularly bad in Cambodia and Vietnam. The people there are so grindingly poor that they sell or give their children in the hope that they will have a better future in some glorified role as, say, a maid. We hear that many leave to work in bars, but the work turns out to be prostitution. DFID should be able to contribute to efforts to stop the ghastly trade of prostitution, and the amendment attempts to achieve no more than that.

To come closer to home, last week a report was published on Nigerian children—again, it is children—whose arrival in this country as asylum seekers proves in fact to have been organised by a gang that makes a great deal of money out of them. They are subsequently taken to Italy, where they work as prostitutes. I have driven around Italy and seen young African women standing in laybys. They leave their country for economic reasons, but I bet that they would rather be well off at home.

The Bill as it stands will not reduce poverty, which is why we have tabled the amendment. We are talking about a crime that is as organised as drug running; indeed, the same people are often involved. We should consider the potential impact of DFID money on a problem that in no way constitutes a benign trafficking. Be they illegal immigrants, child labourers or prostitutes, such people are often dumped in the sea, abused, murdered, or have their throats slit. It is a truly ghastly trade.

To the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent I want to add one about the morality of the western world's taking qualified professional personnel from the developing world. Although that certainly is an issue, I am not quite sure how one comes to grips with it. Of course, such people want the money that comes with a job in the western world. I am thinking not of the teachers to whom my hon. Friend referred, but those who work in silicon valley, in California, which is ``where it's at'' in terms of rapid development. Such development is valuable in India, but I understand that about half the young professionals in silicon valley—I will doubtless be corrected if my figure is wrong—are Indian. California does not have a poverty problem, but India does. This issue, which is a difficult one to address, reflects a selfishness on the part of the west, which does not contribute to the development of poorer countries.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development 6:30, 13 Mawrth 2001

Amendment No. 6 would add a new spending power that is not constrained by the poverty reduction requirement, the furthering of sustainable development or improving welfare. That power would allow the Secretary of State to spend money to persuade people of other countries not to migrate to the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, who is no longer in the Room, said that he was ambivalent about the amendment, and he is right to be so. The Government will strongly resist it because it would drive a coach and horses through the Bill's core principle—the reduction of poverty.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

The Minister has just said that the amendment is about stopping economic migration to the United Kingdom, but that is not what it says at all.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

There is no mention of the UK.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

As I was saying before I was interrupted, there are only two exceptions—the dedicated power to provide assistance to the overseas territories, which reflects our special relationship with and continuing obligations to them, and assistance that is provided in response to disasters and emergencies. The hon. Member for Blaby touched on the one circumstance in which the Bill could support public awareness campaigns about economic migration: that is, if they sought to contribute to the reduction of poverty—for example, by preventing young girls from being sold into slavery. However, it would not be acceptable to use the Bill purely and simply to prevent economic migrants from seeking to find a better life and to tackle their own personal poverty.

There is no case for making any further exceptions, and certainly not the one that is proposed in the amendment. That runs directly counter to the Bill's basic argument—which the Opposition supported on Second Reading—that UK development assistance should be used only for reducing poverty. Economic migration is a serious problem, but the development budget should not be raided to support programmes to reduce it. I must ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

We have had a short and useful debate. The amendment was a probing amendment, and I do not intend to press it to a vote. However, I am disappointed by the Minister's response. He has virtually ruled out the Department spending any money on trying to discourage people from coming to this country and taking the words of the traffickers over any information that may be disseminated by the Government. I hope that he will reflect on his response, because some people will be disappointed by it. However, I am grateful to him for allowing us to explore the Government's thinking on these issues, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.