New Clause 1 - Reduction in proverty: co-ordination within government

International Development Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 15 Mawrth 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

(2) The Secretary of State for International Development shall, jointly with Ministers representing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury, prepare and lay before Parliament an annual report on the work done in pursuance of the arrangements made under subsection (1).''.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is where we start the real debate on the Bill. [Interruption.] If members of the Committee will settle down, I will be able to advance my arguments in respect of the new clauses.

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

I am looking carefully at the amendment paper. The title of new clause 1 reads:

``Reduction in proverty: co-ordination within Government ''.

Is ``proverty'' a misprint for ``probity''?

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

My hon. Friend's eagle eye strikes again. He has raised a serious point. I should like to think that the new clause is about reducing poverty, not probity, but I do not want to stray on to ground that would oblige the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston to get to his feet to criticise me.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Llafur, Normanton

Order. As the hon. Lady tabled the new clause, she can easily clarify the matter by confirming to the Committee that its subject is the reduction of poverty and that the amendment paper contains a misprint.

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

Having taken advice from the Clerk, I understand that that is correct.

New clause 1 would provide great help and assistance to the Department for International Development by ensuring that all Departments that are in some way responsible for overseas activities focus on DFID's primary aim of poverty reduction. It would also provide for a report to be laid before Parliament every year to chart the progress that has been made towards poverty reduction. We have covered aspects of that issue in previous debates, but not in quite the same fashion.

DFID is a new Department that the Government created when they came to power by splitting it off from the Foreign Office. If the Department is to be effective and if it is committed to the elimination of global poverty, it is essential that it is backed up by similar commitments from other Departments. That does not always happen: we do not see as much so-called joined-up government—I hate that phrase—as we should like. The Minister, who recently moved into his post at the Department, will learn from its history that similar commitments have not been made by other Departments, which consistently let down the Secretary of State and the Minister's predecessor. I therefore want to enshrine in legislation a vehicle that will offer the Department protection from colleagues in other parts of Government.

The Department has been given no debates on the Floor of the House since 1997—not even the usual channels and those members of the Government who arrange the business of the House have seen fit to grant it an annual vehicle wherein it can set out its stall and sing its own praises. Indeed, to give praise where it is due, the Minister's team has done some very good things. However, they are not protected from the vagaries of the remainder of the Government.

The Government and DFID have accepted that they must take a cross-departmental approach to poverty reduction. In the preface to the White Paper ``Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor'', which was published in December 2000, no less a person than the Prime Minister states:

``This White Paper sets out the UK Government's policies in all these areas. It reflects our commitment to work across all parts of Government in order to help eliminate world poverty, and to cooperate with other governments and international institutions as part of a broader international effort.''

In other words, the Prime Minister himself seeks to realise the very aim that I have tried to enshrine in the new clause.

If my suggestion has something in common with the Prime Minister's comments, it cannot be too bad, and the Minister had better take it very seriously—indeed, I pray in aid the Prime Minister as the very reason for accepting the new clause. It is extremely important that matters are got right, but, as my hon. Friends will agree, they have not been got right in the past four years. My tabling the new clause was prompted by fears arising from instances of lack of co-ordination during that time.

I cite the example of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's involvement in the Ilisu dam affair, which is illustrated in the International Development Committee's sixth report, ``ECGD Developmental Issues and the Ilisu Dam.'' It became obvious to the Committee that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had not promoted human rights issues in Turkey, even though, according to the Government's White Paper on globalisation, that was DFID's intention. The White Paper states:

``Making political institutions work for poor people means helping to strengthen the voices of the poor and helping them to realise their human rights.''

The Ilisu dam affair, however, shows that the FCO made no attempt to raise human rights issues with the Department of Trade and Industry in particular. In response to the International Development Committee, the Minister for Trade, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Central, Richard Caborn, said:

``The DTI is not responsible for human rights. It will take the advice of other government departments.''

However, to the best of my knowledge that point was not made in respect of DFID, the FCO and other Departments.

DFID has a clear aim and objective, which is stressed in the globalisation White Paper. The practical issues associated with the Ilisu dam were examined by the International Development Committee, which found that there was no co-ordination in terms of responsibility for the human rights of the individuals concerned, which is a core aspect of DFID's work. Those rights were completely ignored by the FCO and the DTI. Indeed, it is clear that DFID did not appreciate the DTI's approach to the project. The report concludes:

``We have no sense that ECGD and the United Kingdom Government have at any point seriously considered what repercussions the construction of the Dam will have on the prospects for peace (and thus genuine sustainable development)''— another phrase with which we have become familiar—

``and the rights of the marginalised in this region of Turkey''.

Here we have my first practical example of a lack of co-ordination. It is imperative that there is co-ordination between those three Government departments.

Practical examples are important. Let us consider what happened in the case of Hurricane Mitch. There was some difference between the reports from the Treasury and the Department for International Development. As we know, hurricane Mitch was a terrible hurricane that swept Central America—a dreadful natural disaster. It was reported in the press that it turned British aid policy upside down as the Government found themselves at the head of international help to countries stricken by disasters. The Chancellor seized the chance to demand a global moratorium on debt repayments by afflicted economies within 48 hours of a completely different announcement made by Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, who, two days earlier, had said that that would be an irrelevant issue.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Llafur, Normanton 4:30, 15 Mawrth 2001

Order. I must remind the hon. Lady of the convention that right hon. and hon. Members are not mentioned by name, but by constituency or title. The hon. Lady has now done that twice. Perhaps she would follow the convention in future.

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

I do apologise, Mr Butterfill. It was completely inadvertent. I am seeking to read from documents where the Secretary of State is named in person. No disrespect to her is intended. I offer my unreserved apology.

At a time when an emergency was being dealt with, the Treasury and the Department for International Development issued conflicting statements within a short period of time. That was not joined-up government at its best.

We need to consider what happened in the case of Mozambique. In March 2000, the Ministry of Defence did not exactly demonstrate a commitment to poverty reduction when it charged to DFID some £2.2 million, the full market price for four Puma helicopters to assist in Mozambique.

I have said that I shall give praise where praise is due, and DFID carried out some spectacular work on Mozambique, so I join those who praised the unquestioned rapidity and scope of the response in many areas. However, at the same time there was an unseemly and subsequently public row between the Ministry of Defence and DFID. Some criticism was made that the UK helicopters were not deployed immediately because of the discussions taking place between the Ministry of Defence and DFID. More recently, criticism was made of the apparent cut in the planned expenditure on Mozambique. That did not contribute to the view that could easily be taken, looking objectively at what was going on, that all Government departments were singing from the same hymn sheet. It is a great shame, because in such instances we should not be reduced to petty quarrelling over the cost of helicopters before they are deployed. I am sure that the Minister will agree. Such matters should be discussed afterwards, not while the emergency is in train.

We must also briefly examine what happened with Montserrat. When a volcano devastated that Caribbean island in August 1997, the islanders found themselves in a disastrous position. The photographs that were taken show the devastation on the island.

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

The record must be put straight. The Soufriere volcano in Montserrat was erupting long before 1997, and that was the problem: it was an unpredictable and on-going event. In 1997, the arrangements for aid were in a mess. I know that because I went out there and saw it for myself.

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

I was reading my notes incorrectly. In fact, it was in August 1997 that the Secretary of State accused the islanders of irresponsibility and said that next they would ask for ``golden elephants'' in their pleas for aid and assistance.

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

The hon. Lady should put that period in context. At the time, 2,000 people were left on the island—mainly the elderly and disabled. More than 100 policemen were there, funded by this country, and the main request from the island was for a new prison. The Secretary of State probably said what she did bearing in mind that a prison was not the most urgent requirement for the island.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Llafur, Normanton

Order. We are in danger of being diverted. I have tolerated the last exchange, but we are in danger of moving from a debate about new clause 1 to a general debate about the condition of Montserrat in 1997.

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

Of course, Mr. Butterfill.

The crisis in Montserrat serves as an example because splits in the Cabinet were allegedly demonstrated over responsibility for the island. The Foreign Secretary appeared to take over the Government's handling of the Montserrat crisis, after criticising the Secretary of State for International Development. Regardless of whether she was right—the hon. Member for Richmond Park obviously thinks that she was—the Prime Minister's office was quoted as saying that the reason for the Foreign Office taking over the matter was because it wanted to ensure better co-ordination across Departments. That takes us back to the heart of new clause 1, by which I am seeking better co-ordination across Departments, in the interests of DFID.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby 4:45, 15 Mawrth 2001

The International Development Committee carried out an inquiry into the Montserrat situation; in fact, it may have been the first report that we issued in the 1997-98 Session. We found that greater co-ordination between Departments was needed, especially between DFID and the Foreign Office. There was a self-evident—although not malign—split. It was a bad-tempered division between the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development, which was unfortunate for the situation in Montserrat.

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, because I come now to the work of the International Development Committee, coupled with that of the Select Committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry for my final example in support of the new clause 1.

There is an on-going and disturbing lack of co-ordination across Government. The Quadripartite Committee report that was published yesterday morning encompasses export licences. Paragraph 61 provides a good example of the failure of Government to co-ordinate. It evaluates the co-ordination between the Department of Trade and Industry and DFID. DFID does not at present sign off the annual reports on licences. At paragraph 61, there is a strong recommendation from the Quadripartite Committee that the concerns that have been raised in the past by the Department should be taken into account. More importantly, it says that the Department should be accountable in any matter in which has been involved. The recommendation is that DFID should have more joined-up government with its fellow Departments by appending its name to reports in which it has a say, however small.

I have more examples to give, but shall hold back. The Government have failed to deliver joined-up decision making. The new clause would ensure that other Government Departments could not ignore the aims and objectives of this Department in their dealings with developing countries. As it is a new clause, I shall be happy if the Minister wishes to alter the wording. However, we tabled it in good faith and I hope that he will accept it.

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

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham began by quoting the Prime Minister. I am not one of those who always assume that the Prime Minister sets out with malign intent; I think rather that he becomes carried away by the audience to which he is speaking, and, in his natural enthusiasm, overstates the case to the point at which he finds it difficult to deliver.

In this case, he has underestimated the extraordinary difficulty of ensuring that Departments work together, when the ethos of Departments is often at odds. I was for a time a parliamentary private secretary—the height of my parliamentary career—in the Department of Trade and Industry. I am sure that it has changed since those days, but I have little doubt that it is filled with hard-working and effective civil servants, and former business people, who are on secondment or short-term contracts, whose success is evaluated by how much British produce they sell overseas. The proposition that, in pursuit of the alleviation of poverty, they should give part of British production over to some indigenous enterprise in a poor country does not automatically warm the cockles of their hearts. It is folly to believe that people whose careers depend on an entirely different ethos will find it easy to change.

If that entirely proper objective is to be achieved, there will have to be a considerable appraisal within Government of what the objectives really are. One could make a serious case that, were we able to bring countries—for example, those in sub-Saharan Africa—to a point where they had serious purchasing power and serious prosperity, they would provide a much better long-term market for British goods than they currently possibly can. However, it is asking a great deal of a British company to hold back from selling its goods in the hope that, five or 10 years down the track, the room that it has made for indigenous enterprises will yield it better sales.

What the Prime Minister said—that we should all be equally committed to the alleviation of worldwide poverty—is, in a sense, pie in the sky. I should like to think that it was not, but I am not at all sanguine about the idea. Such commitment would require a much bigger effort than has so far been put in. We are better than we were, and I hope that we will get much better still. We are certainly better in terms of the aid programme. If the Government of a country think that it would be nice to have a magnetic resonance imaging scanning machine in a new hospital in their capital city, we no longer simply allow a British supplier to make a sizeable profit by producing a machine that the people in that country have neither the skill to maintain nor even, sometimes, the skill to use. Those with either skill would only be the richest of the rich rather than the poorest of the poor. We are beginning to get the message across.

However, to get it across to the other Departments will take a great deal of hard work, especially in the case of the Ministry of Defence, the whole ethos of which is to promote sales of British arms overseas. That is a perfectly understandable position. One day—I could not possibly put a date on it—it became apparent to the Ministry of Defence that it could only ever fund the next generation of weapons if it sold a huge proportion of its current stock of weapons to people overseas. That was a black day for the world, but it was also a very important day in the development of the Ministry of Defence. There is a serious problem with the departmental culture. The Departments will, almost instinctively, resist any suggestion that they should hold back in order that the poorest of the poor should benefit instead.

I support the new clause. It embodies a valuable aspiration, which the Prime Minister clearly shares—when he is not talking to an audience from the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry, or the Women's Institute. However, I do not think that it would be easy to implement, and I should be interested to hear the Minister's comments on how we might achieve that valuable objective.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

I shall be brief, because I want to get on to new clause 2. I have an important speech to make on the United Nations and the European Union. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, I shall not pray the Prime Minister in aid. It is always rather unwise, as I am never quite sure what he really wants to achieve.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

That seems to be the Prime Minister's overriding aim, but I shall not go down that road, as I do not think it especially relevant to this important new clause.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham suggested, co-ordination has failed badly on several occasions in this Parliament. I want to home in on the Ilisu dam, which is the best illustration of why the new clause is necessary. The International Development Committee held a short inquiry into the Ilisu dam and summoned the Minister for Trade before us. When questioned, he said that he had not asked for or been given any advice by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on human rights and the Ilisu dam.

The subject is crucial to the Bill. The area is largely populated by Kurds and is in conflict. We know that the Kurdistan area—the Turks do not like to use that term—spreads across Syria, Iran, Iraq and into Turkey. A serious war is taking place there. It makes the small problems in Northern Ireland seem as nothing, as hundreds of people are killed there in a day. We have discussed conflict at length in relation to the Bill.

The Kurds believe that they are not properly represented at a governmental level, which is a fair and reasonable point. No love is lost between the Turkish Government and the Kurds. The issue also touches on poverty. The people who live where the dam is to be built—perhaps 60,000 of them—will be pushed out of their homes without compensation and moved to places where they cannot make a proper living. That problem is fundamentally important to development, yet one Department gave no advice about human rights to another Department.

The issue has been raised more by Labour Members, especially the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), than anyone else. The Select Committee issued a report on it, which I trust that the Minister has read as part of the small amount of reading that he will have had since taking on his ministerial responsibilities.

In our consideration of the lack of co-ordination on the Ilisu dam, especially the lack of ECGD cover, we wrote to the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office to ask about their positions. We received a letter from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry saying that he was happy to show us all the correspondence issued between the two Departments. We suspect that there was none. From the Foreign Office, we received a letter from the Minister for Europe, whose brief apparently covers Turkey as well. He has been in the news recently, and I suspect that he will continue to be. He said that we could definitely not see the correspondence because it was confidential. That raises freedom of information issues.

Because of the lack of communication on a development issue, the Committee has complained to the ombudsman, for the first time in the history of the House of Commons, about the Government's failure to provide information to us. We look forward to the ombudsman's report in the near future.

When the Minister responds, I am sure that he will say that our action is unnecessary because we have joined-up government. We used to use the word ``holistic''; I do not like either term. I want proper co-ordination between Departments, but at the moment, we do not have it. As my hon. Friends have pointed out on several occasions, we have not seen proper joined-up government, a holistic approach has not been taken and there has been no co-ordination. The clause is a simple provision. We look forward to it being included in the Bill.

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

A matter of great importance concerns the co-operation of other Departments with the Department for International Development. I do not know how many times I have said so—

It being Five o'clock, The Chairman put the Question, pursuant to Order [12 March], to complete the proceedings on the Bill.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 9.

Rhif adran 7 Adults Abused in Childhood — New Clause 1 - Reduction in proverty: co-ordination within government

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)

On a point of order, Mr. Butterfill. Despite the best endeavours of the Opposition, the new clauses still require substantial deliberation. The Government have chosen to restrict the time available to discuss the Bill, notwithstanding that we said that we were in favour of its provisions and that we seek to improve it. Could you advise us on what to do? How can our right to scrutinise legislation be safeguarded if the Committee has to come to such a premature end?

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Llafur, Normanton

Any new clauses that have not been considered by the Committee may be tabled on Report.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose at three minutes past Five o'clock.