§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Development assistance]:
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 6, after first "assistance" insert "only
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. Before doing so, perhaps I may draw the attention of the House to the declaration of interest I made in Committee. For much of my life I have been and still am involved in the work of humanitarian and voluntary agencies, which deal with development matters.
§ I also want to make clear one point at the beginning of our proceedings. I take second place to no one in my admiration for the commitment of my noble friend the Minister on the Front Bench to the courage, commitment and leadership of the Secretary of State and to the dynamic and exciting role played by DfID in developing policy in this sphere. My intention, however misguided the Front Bench may feel it to be, is to help them in that work and in no way to undermine it. I hope, therefore, that my amendments will be accepted in that spirit.
§ I turn to Amendment No. 1. Frankly, I am puzzled by the present drafting of the Bill. The Bill does not stipulate that the Secretary of State cannot provide assistance if that assistance will not contribute to a reduction in poverty. It stipulates that the Secretary of State may provide such assistance if something which is being proposed is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.
§ In Committee, my noble friend the Minister stated that the word "only" was intended. I know her well and know that she meant that fervently. However, if that is intended, I do not understand why it is not on the face of the Bill. I have had a certain amount of experience in this sphere as a Minister. I am not talking about hypothetical issues but about what really happens in government when the struggle for public funds is under way. It seems to me that the Bill, as presently drafted, gives a hostage to fortune. It enables other departments, which may have interests and objectives which are not about the reduction of poverty, to have greater play in the debates which take place in Cabinet Committee.712
§ If the word "only" is not to be on the face of the Bill, in many ways it would have been better not to introduce the concept of a reduction. I genuinely believe—not with the present Government, never; not with the present Secretary of State and present Ministers—that at some future date the concept of reduction could become a problem. That is why I have tabled Amendment No.2.
§ It would be possible for a future administration or, indeed, for another Minister in this administration, perhaps, to say that the objectives of the Bill were being fulfilled because there had been a 0.5 per cent reduction in poverty. Unless the objective is stated on the face of the Bill there is nothing against which to measure how much is being achieved by that reduction and how far that reduction is really making significant progress. I find that all the more intriguing because we have had two White Papers, in each of which the concept of the elimination of poverty was strongly stated in the title. The first is entitled, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century. The second is entitled, Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work fir the Poor. In both White Papers there were personal statements from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister committing themselves to the elimination of poverty.
§ It seems to me that to remove the word "elimination" and the concept of elimination from the face of the Bill would be, however inadvertently, a retrograde step. We are now talking just about reductions in poverty. I believe that in future discussions—heated discussions, perhaps, in Cabinet Committee and elsewhere—this may prove to have been a self-inflicted wound. That is why I have tabled Amendment No. 2.
§ At present, all Members of the House are deeply concerned about the elimination and eradication of terrorism in the world. There are some people who are rather defeatist. They may say, "It's never possible to eradicate terrorism". We would say, "Don't come here with such defeatist talk. To eradicate terrorism must be the objective. We must seek to fulfil that objective, however difficult". I find it strange that we have moved into an age in which we can have as an objective the eradication of terrorism, but we can no longer have as a stated objective in a Bill the elimination of poverty. It is unfortunate and potentially dangerous to have left that concept of elimination out of the Bill.
§ Some people will say that elimination is a political concept and we are dealing with legal matters, and that using the word "elimination" will give room for all sorts of people to challenge the Government and to say that poverty is not really being eliminated, but only reduced. I say, frankly and candidly, that we should welcome such debate and such pressure. Surely it is good for people to be able to ask how much progress we are making towards the elimination of poverty and not just ask what token reduction we have made.
§ That brings me to the third of my amendments. Poverty has many dimensions, but too easily it can be seen in material terms alone. Amendment No. 3 seeks to establish, on the face of the Bill, the right of the 713 Secretary of State to interpret poverty in wider terms. Putting such a matter on the face of the Bill will assist the Secretary of State in any future discussions or deliberations in Whitehall about how money may be used by her department or by the department of any successor to the present Secretary of State. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, no one in this House knows more about international development and aid for good causes than the noble Lord, Lord Judd. He has spent a great deal of his working life devoted to such causes and all noble Lords are glad to hear his views on the Bill at Report stage.
However, I find it difficult to accept either of his first two amendments. If the word "only" is to be included, who decides whether the development assistance will relate only to the reduction of poverty? If that word were to be included, for rather semantic reasons a number of good causes may become divorced or separated from the aid that they would otherwise receive. I do not believe that adding the word "only" helps the cause with which the noble Lord is normally associated.
In relation to his second amendment, in a realistic world one has to accept that poverty will never be eliminated. There is no possibility of that. It is rather foolish to set oneself targets that in one's heart one knows are quite unachievable. Although we would all like to see poverty totally eliminated, as we would like to see children throughout the world receiving primary education, in a realistic way we have to accept that that will not happen. Therefore, perhaps the words that he suggests in his second amendment are a pipedream. I believe that the wording on the face of the Bill is preferable.
On the other hand, I agree with his third amendment relating to the broadening and clarifying of the definition of the word "poverty". I believe that the words,material deprivation and also deprivation in wider human development terms",would be a substantial addition to the Bill.
The final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was associated with the reduction of terrorism, the war in which we are jointly engaged with others at the moment. If this Bill had been drafted earlier, it may have been sensible for the word "starvation" to have been included, specifically in the subsection to which the third amendment refers.
At the moment it is not possible for the Report stage of this Bill to pass without dwelling on the position of those who are likely to face starvation in Afghanistan in the weeks ahead. In this context I declare an interest in that my elder son has been working for Oxfam in Islamabad for the past three weeks. Naturally, I am aware of the passion he feels on the subject. The latest figures from Oxfam, supported by other major agencies, are that the United Nations estimates that 50,000 tonnes of food, particularly wheat, must move into Afghanistan within the next few weeks. In the past 714 month 10,000 tonnes have been moved in and the present figures from the World Food Programme, which is playing a major part in the situation, are that about 500 tonnes daily are being moved in. If that situation continued the food would reach only one-third of the target that the UN estimates is essential before the snows arrive.
Of course, it is difficult to achieve accurate statistics. I know that the Government believe that the World Food Programme organisation is meeting its target, but the aid agencies on the spot would say absolutely categorically, against the figures that I have quoted, that the target is not high enough. Stockpiling must take place before winter comes, not only of wheat, but also of blankets. There are few drivers and porters willing to risk their lives by driving through the Khyber Pass to distribute the aid properly.
I gather that there is no clear indication at the moment that the Taliban has been grabbing aid, but it is clear that 400,000 people are already suffering. The most worrying figure of all is that it is assessed that another half a million people will be cut off in the next few weeks. On top of that, one and a half million will not have enough food for the winter. In total, perhaps two and a half million people are at risk in one way or another.
I appreciate enormously the efforts of the Secretary of State, Clare Short, in immediately making more money available and in her bravery in going to Pakistan herself to see the situation. Whether there should be a pause in the bombing raids is not something that we should discuss here today, but, in the context of the work carried out by the Department for International Development, we must be aware of the number of those in Afghanistan who are at risk at the moment and who will be materially deprived if circumstances continue as they are at present.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Redesdale
My Lords, I support the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I hope that he will not push them because I could not support him that far, but unlike the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I believe in the pipedream of the elimination of poverty as an ultimate goal.
However, I feel that pushing the definition of "poverty" too far may mean that we fall into the trap of making this into a legal debate on what poverty involves, which is a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. This issue has caused me some concern. The poorest countries in the world have some of the worst problems. But there are also some middle-income countries that have very poor areas, and people there are equally needful of our assistance, especially in areas that may not fall under a legal definition such as education and environmental assistance.
I echo the words of the noble Lord in relation to the work carried out by the Secretary of State. I nave some concerns about linking aid to military action. I believe that it would be inappropriate to make too many points in relation to the present situation. I hope that 715 the noble Lord, Lord Judd, will be content not to push the amendments and that the Minister can give some assurance that the ideas behind those amendments are the ones to which DfID will stick.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos)
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Judd for his remarks about the department, the role being played by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and about myself. I thank other noble Lords who have also spoken.
My noble friend and I have debated this matter on many occasions. I understand his concern. However, what is appropriate in legislation against our longer-term political objectives is the issue at the heart of one of my noble friend's amendments. I welcome debate. The debate that we have had on this subject, both in Committee and today, is part of the process of raising awareness of what the Government are trying to do through their development agenda and our clear focus on poverty elimination.
Before addressing the detail of the amendments, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, that his point with respect to the issue of—for example—starvation and the situation in Afghanistan is covered in Clause 3 which deals with humanitarian assistance. I agree with the noble Lord that we need to stockpile food in Afghanistan for the winter. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development made that point. The noble Lord will be aware of the strenuous efforts made by the Government through our support for the World Food Programme and other NGOs to bring vitally needed help and supplies to the poor in Afghanistan. As the noble Lord said, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is at this time in Pakistan.
I turn to Amendment No. 1. I fully recognise my noble friend's concern to make absolutely sure, for example, that tied aid cannot be provided under the Bill. But we do not believe that the clause requires the addition of the word "only" in order to do that. The clause already makes clear that the Secretary of State cannot—I repeat, cannot—provide development assistance if she or he is not satisfied that it is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty. There are no other circumstances under Clause 1 in which development assistance can be provided. The Bill will make sure that such assistance can no longer be used to further improper commercial or political ends.
On Amendment No. 2, I fully recognise the efforts of my noble friend to combine his concern that on the face of the Bill we should reflect our long-term policy objective of the elimination of poverty and the concern that I set out in Committee that the elimination of poverty is too high a test to embed in legislation directed to the sanctioning of individual spending decisions. But we believe that under this new formulation the Secretary of State's decisions would 716 be open to be tested against the higher standard. If that is not what my noble friend intends, then the wording of the amendment would have no value.
Turning now to Amendment No. 3, again I recognise my noble friend's efforts to find a definition of poverty that we shall be able to accept. But I believe that however we try to define poverty in the Bill—here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale—we risk exposing the Secretary of State to the risk of technical legal challenge over whether the aspect of poverty that she or he had identified fell within specific elements of the definition, rather than within the meaning of the whole term. The proposed amendment offers the possibility of exhausting debate over the meaning and quality of "deprivation" and the compass of "human development" to the distraction of the purpose of reducing poverty wherever we find it and in whatever form it takes.
The Government's commitment to poverty elimination is firm. As my noble friend said, it is set out in our two White Papers. We are focusing our whole development effort on the need to reduce extreme poverty and on meeting the millennium development goals and international development targets. The Bill will establish our poverty focus in law. I hope that on the basis of my response my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments, even if we do not altogether agree. With regard to Amendment No. 1 that concerns the word "only", in listening to the Minister, I just wish that she had drafted the Bill because if the Bill said what she has said, I would be a much happier man. I do not read Clause 1 (1) as saying what the Minister says it says. Clause 1 does not state that the Secretary of State cannot provide assistance if what is being proposed does not contribute to a reduction in poverty; it simply says that the Secretary of State can provide assistance if it is going to contribute to a reduction in poverty.
That is unfortunate. Together with one or two other matters in the Bill, it makes the point that when things are working well it is better to leave them alone rather than to start moving in and complicating the task for the future by introducing matters, notions, processes or concepts which may be open to still further confusion and debate in the future.
On the matter of elimination, I am sad when I hear noble Lords make the kind of observation made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry. I have tremendous respect for the noble Lord—as he knows—and a great admiration for him. I have always enjoyed his contributions in Parliament. I feel for the noble Lord in terms that he must be quite an anxious man at the moment because of his own personal involvement in the area, which the noble Lord has quite movingly described to us this afternoon, through his family and so on. If society is to move forward in any direction we have to be brave. We have to be prepared to set out what the objective is and then to measure the action against that.
717 I was excited by the two White Papers which referred unashamedly in their title—with messages from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister—to the elimination of poverty. I should feel much happier if the Bill therefore said, "Yes. Of course. We cannot have elimination in the immediate future, perhaps even in the foreseeable future, but we really have elimination as the ultimate objective and will therefore look at reduction in terms of how far it is moving towards that elimination".
In terms of Amendment No. 3, I have listened carefully to what my noble friend says. To show that I am a reasonable man I say that I understand the complications she has described. There are two sides to this argument. However, I am prepared to listen to and accept the strength of what my noble friend says.
I conclude by saying that the firmness and the commitment with which my noble friend has spoken—not for the first time—on these issues provides some point of reference on the matters of concern that I have raised. I am unhappy with the drafting. The drafters could have done better. In terms of what my noble friend has said, if we can make sure that in the future people look firmly at that, I am prepared on this occasion to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 2 anti 3 not moved.]
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, line 10, after "furthering" insert ", either bilaterally or multilaterally,
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, during a lifetime of work on development matters I have come firmly to the conclusion—I am sure that DfID would share this assessment—that we have to work increasingly in a multilateral context. It is not just that we can combine efforts to greater effect to more than just the aggregate of the sums and to greater effect if we are working together with others and in common with others, but it is also true that competing bilateral programmes can be disruptive and fragmentary in their approach. They can actually do damage. Therefore, it is important to sustain the concept of multilateralism, particularly within the UN system.
§ From that standpoint, therefore, it will be helpful for the Secretary of State in future deliberations, in Government and more widely, to be able to refer to the fact that there is a statutory obligation to work in multilateral as well as bilateral contexts. There are chauvinistic and nationalistic people around who fail to recognise this wider dimension. They work against the cause rather than for it. I would not want to see us in any way playing into their hands. I want therefore to see a commitment to multilateral action clearly on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I understand the intention of' my noble friend in regard to this amendment. He wishes to make sure that the Secretary of State provides assistance through multilateral 718 bodies, such as the European Union and the United Nations. I can assure my noble friend that Clause 4 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to make contributions to the European Development Fund and to United Nations bodies, to name but two examples. United Kingdom contributions to other European development assistance programmes, such as those for the former Soviet Union, Asia and Latin America, and for humanitarian purposes, are appropriated under the European Communities Act 1972 and attributed to the aid programme. Those contributions will not be affected by the Bill.
The Bill should not impose unnecessary constraints on the channels through which the Secretary of State may choose to direct development or humanitarian assistance. Decisions on whether to use multilateral channels for the delivery of UK assistance have to be made in the light of circumstances pertaining in each case and on the relevant capacities of the bodies in question.
As it stands, Clause 1 naturally embraces both bilateral and multilateral action. Though it is likely to be a rare event, there could be circumstances in which aspects of our effort to further sustainable development might be defined as unilateral; neither as part of a direct agreement with one other country, nor in the context of multilaterally concerted action.
I hope that, in the light of this explanation, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line 14, after "prudent" insert "and environmentally sound
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, increasing numbers of people concerned with third world issues, if I may use the old phrase, realise that they cannot be separated from concerns about the environment. But, of course, environmental issues range far wider than third world matters. For myself, I have reached the stage in life where I believe very much that we need to see a change in mindset as regards our socio-economic activities whereby we realise that the greatest and most important strategic interest of all, in consideration of our children and grandchildren, is the effective management of our environment.
§ For that reason, I believe that when one considers countries facing tremendous problems of development, we now have a chance to get it right and to ensure that we do not lead those nations down roads that subsequently prove to be less than satisfactory in terms of a commitment to the protection, enhancement and well-being of the environment. It would be a good thing to spell out in the remit of DfID that it bears the responsibility of ensuring that all its actions are 719 environmentally sound and compatible with good stewardship of the environment. That is why I have tabled this amendment. I would have thought that it might be possible for the Government to accept it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, I regret that once again this afternoon I find myself in some disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, over the words that he wishes to add to the Bill, although I appreciate that he wants to see them included for extremely good reasons. We all believe in environmentally sound measures and in fostering a greater consciousness of the environment across the world, not least in the developing countries. However, the real problem here is how to ascertain whether something is environmentally sound and whether, in the pursuit of environmentally sound measures, traditional methods fall by the wayside.
For example, technicians and consultants might be anxious to see the latest GM-tested crop seeds being used in place of traditional seeds. However, increasingly history demonstrates that in many cases the use of modern techniques is often to the lasting damage of older traditions. It is then found that the resultant crops obtained, despite the projections of the makers of the new seeds, fall far short. In Bangladesh, for example, attempts have been made to introduce various new strains of rice. Those efforts have had the effect of producing, after some years, lower yields than was the case with the traditional types of seed. In the end, the new strains simply did not suit the soil and water into which they were planted.
However, recognition of such problems is not achieved quickly. It comes only after a number of years of experiment, by which time the old seed has often disappeared, along with the knowledge of how to treat the land in the traditional manner. As a result, many living on extremely low incomes find that their agricultural output is worse than it was five years previously, despite the environmentally sound measures that were introduced.
I recall when I was a Minister at the Foreign Office paying a visit to Sudan. On a trip to an area outside Khartoum, I was shown a major project aimed at bringing back water to land associated with the Nile, but from which it had receded. A century before, water had been in good supply and cotton was grown on the land. The project to reopen the old canals and re-establish the growing of cotton was hugely welcomed. I watched a film showing local people jumping for joy and leaping into the water in celebration of the return of the Nile to their cotton fields. However, what no one had realised was that the water was impregnated with bilharzia. All those who entered the water went on to develop bilharzia, from which many died, while others were maimed for life. The project had not been tested properly.
That story reflects for me a sad tragedy. It is a tragedy when a project that appears to be environmentally sound actually works in the other 720 direction. Mistakes were made because of lack of proper study of the local conditions, the soil and what can survive in a particular climate.
For those reasons, whatever may be the good motives underlying the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in seeking to add the words "and environmentally sound" to the Bill, personally I think that it would be a mistake.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, at Second Reading I stated that what I particularly liked about the Bill was its definition of sustainable development. I liked it because it was necessarily extremely broad. That breadth did away with a great deal of conceptual muddle surrounding the notion of sustainable development. Believe me, it is not as easy a definition as many would like to think.
I should like to say only this. If specific requirements are added to the Bill along the lines suggested by my noble friend—for very good reasons—I can think of other specific requirements which have been missed out. For example, I might want to add a mention about gender, or children, or human rights. None of those requirements is mentioned on the face of the Bill.
However, to ensure the likelihood of generating lasting benefit for the population of a country, the current definition of sustainable development should cover the ground. Flexibility is always preferable to attempting to nail concepts down. The more specific the requirements, in some cases the more difficult it will become to give aid where it is most needed. That is because it will be impossible to satisfy all the specific requirements of the criteria.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Judd has a long and distinguished record of contributions to and concern about development matters, so I know that he is aware of the ongoing debates regarding the nature of sustainable development and within that, issues of environmental responsibility and, as the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, so powerfully outlined in his example, potential environmental impacts.
As I said in Committee, we believe that poverty can be permanently eliminated only through sustainable development, but we also believe that it is important to avoid forcing the Secretary of State to adopt either an overly economic or environmental focus in interpretations of that term. In that I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai when he says that we need flexibility in these matters. Sustainable development is understood to comprise economic, social and environmental factors. The balance between them must be determined in the context of the needs of those people at whom the assistance in question is aimed.
I can reassure my noble friend that we take the environmental aspect of sustainable development very seriously. All DfID spending proposals are screened to determine their likely environmental effects and the seriousness of those effects. This screening is intended to enhance the environmental benefits of the proposed project or programme; to ensure that our activities are 721 consistent with relevant UK, EC and local legislation and with international environmental agreements; to identify any potentially adverse environmental impacts of the proposal; and to ensure that environmental issues are properly taken into account in the detailed design.
We are also working at international level as part of the preparations for next year's World Summit for Sustainable Development to promote the principle that environmental sustainability considerations should be integrated into countries' national poverty reduction strategies.
With that reassurance, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, the point is that at the time it was thought to be extremely environmentally sound, and all the experts thought that it was sound too.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, my point is, as the noble Lord pointed out in his own remarks, the job was not properly done. That is what was wrong; it was badly done. We do not, presumably, approach any legislation in this House on the basis that we cannot envisage changing anything because someone may make the change badly. We expect people to do their job properly. In that case, clearly people had not done their job properly. But that does not invalidate the arguments for being environmentally sound.
To my good and noble friend—my longstanding friend—Lord Desai, I candidly put to him that I have a difference with him. I care as deeply as he does about gender, but I believe that the issue of environment is of strategically greater significance than the issue of gender. If we get the environment wrong, the argument about gender will become fairly academic in the not too distant future.
We are talking about the survival of the human race. We are talking about economic and social viability in the countries concerned. Gender is important, but we would be desperately unfortunate if we embarked along roads of development which proved counterproductive in terms of the preservation of the environment and caused greater problems in the future for those already over-taxed and ill-fated societies.
I say to my noble friend the Minister, yet again, how I wish she had drafted the Bill. We would then have had a very different creature in front of us. However, because I admire the way in which she has put her case, I will withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.722
§ Clause 3 [Humanitarian assistance]:
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 11, at end insert—
( ) Such assistance shall be consistent with the purpose of humanitarian aid as defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/96 of 20 June 1996.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I start by quoting the European regulation concerned. It is not long.
Whereas humanitarian aid, the sole aim of which is to prevent or relieve human suffering, is accorded to victims without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation and must not be guided by, or subject to. political considerations".
§ In this area of policy—not unlike other areas to which we have referred already and some to which we will refer later—in the real world of political activity there are a lot of pressures with which to contend. There will always be a tendency for pressure to be exerted to divert humanitarian aid from simple humanitarian purposes to achieving political objectives which may at the time seem important. When those pressures are exerted, the Secretary of State needs the maximum possible explicit authority to withstand them.
§ From that standpoint, if we accept—as we presumably do—in a European Union context the validity of the European Council regulation, then surely it is a little odd that we are not consistent in terms of accepting it in the application of what we are ourselves doing outside the European Union. I urge that we should become consistent and that what we have accepted in one context should run right across our policy towards humanitarian assistance. I beg to move.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, as I explained in Committee, we firmly believe that it would not enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance to try to define on the face of the Bill the terms on which it should be given.
My noble friend has taken an interesting approach in attempting to link the Secretary of State's powers to those laid down in the legislative basis for European Community humanitarian assistance. But there are a number of significant disadvantages to such an approach. We believe that it would impose an unnecessary restriction on the Secretary of State's ability to take necessary action.
While the objectives of our Bill are largely consistent with the objectives of the EC regulation, the regulation is intended to govern Community actions, not those of the member states of the European Union. As a matter of principle, the Secretary of State should not have her or his hands tied legally by external definitions.
There are also practical difficulties. The EC regulation does not allow for certain types of assistance which the Secretary of State may wish to provide under this clause, such as post-emergency rehabilitation and reconstruction, and assistance for displaced people after the immediate humanitarian crisis subsides, including, for example, the 723 reintegration of demobilised former soldiers. Both of those matters have been discussed in the House. For European aid, these forms of assistance are covered by subsequent Council legislation.
Finally, identifying how the "purpose" of humanitarian assistance is defined by the regulation could lead to considerable legal argument. During the debate in Committee, my noble friend quoted one of the 18 preambular paragraphs of the regulation—I had to go and look it up—but the regulation does not at any point specifically define the "purpose" of humanitarian assistance. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6 [Financial assistance]:
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 3, line 2, after "assistance" insert "in accordance with section 1(1)
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now move to the heart of what really happens in development—if you like, the nitty gritty; the wheeling and dealing. Before the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, rises to disagree with me, I want to make one point very clear: I do not have an ideological objection to the involvement of the private sector in development. I believe that the private sector has a very important part to play in development and I have advocated that role. Therefore it is not an ideological matter but a question of how it is done.
§ When the pressures are on and all kinds of considerations come into play, there is a real danger that what has been stated as the objectives of the Bill—even though they are not quite as I would have liked them, they are there—will seem very far away. In the context of the business of getting on with the work, everyone may concentrate on certain parts of the Bill and not all the time be thinking of its original purposes and objectives. From that standpoint, it seems useful to be able to refer back at certain key points in the Bill to its objectives. It would give a point of reference—it would provide "belt and braces". Because of the complexity of policy and the pressures involved in the areas dealt with in these clauses, it would be a wholesome development to see a reference at these points on the face of the Bill to what it is all supposed to be about—rather than merely expecting people to obtain a copy of the Bill, take it out of the filing cabinet, look the reference up, see what the objectives really are and all the rest. The information should be available in the operative part of the Bill with which the activity is concerned.
§ I hope that I am not being too provocative in saying that this is not a theoretical point. In quite recent times real issues have become highly contentious in this kind of area. Indeed, we have seen the departure from the department of one of the finest Permanent Secretaries 724 in Whitehall on a matter of principle in precisely this kind of area. Therefore, it seems to me extraordinary that there is a resistance to repeating a reference back to the principles and objectives of the Bill. I am disappointed. I begin to wonder why there is not a willingness to accept such a reference at this point.
§ The same points apply to some extent to Amendment No. 11. But my point in tabling the amendment is this. If one looks at the list or organisations set out in the schedule, one sees that they have a pretty demanding agenda involving all kinds of responsibilities other than reducing world poverty. If they are to co-operate in the policies of DfID, it would be sensible to have an explicit reference back at this point to the basis on which that co-operation is taking place. The point is not merely to facilitate the organisations in their general work; it is to make sure that any work that they do makes a genuine contribution to fulfilling the Bill's objectives. Therefore, I do not see why a "belt-and-braces" reference back at this juncture would not be appropriate. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, I am not certain about the noble Lord's reference to the private sector in his remarks on Amendment No. 7. I may have missed the point. It seems to me that both the private sector and the public sector have a real part to play in the provision of development assistance as defined in the Bill. I strongly support the amendment. A reference back to Clause 1(1) would be a good way of reminding people of the objectives for which the money was being provided.
I am afraid that I did not take part in the deliberations on the Bill in Committee. I am slightly surprised by the list given in Schedule 1, which seems rather odd. Perhaps the point was debated at some length in Committee, but it does not strike me as the obvious list to which the Clause 9 provisions should apply. Quite a large number of bodies which become involved in development aid are not listed in the schedule. Perhaps the Minister will explain.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, perhaps I may add a supplementary point. Why are not social services bodies included in the list?
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, the concerns that have prompted the tabling of Amendment No. 7 are ones with which I sympathise. One of the underlying reasons for bringing forward the Bill is the desire to ensure that there shall be no return to past abuses of the aid programme and no sliding away from the commitment that the Bill enshrines to place the reduction and eventual elimination of poverty at the heart of the United Kingdom's policy for development assistance. The driving need for humanitarian relief and recognition of our longstanding obligations to the Overseas Territories offer the only carefully crafted departures from it.
Let me explain why we consider Amendment No. 7 and any similar amendment to be unnecessary. Clause 6 is not itself a spending power. No future Secretary of 725 State will be able to base the giving of grants or loans or the taking up of securities on Clause 6 on its own. Clause 6 serves only to explain the forms which financial assistance may take when it is offered under Clause 1, 2, 3 or 4. Those are the spending powers. Unless a Secretary of State can bring himself or herself within the terms of one of them, the Bill will not sanction his or her spending.
Each of Clauses 1 to 4 uses the term "assistance". Clause 5 gives us the meaning of that term as it is used in the clauses. It refers to,financial or technical assistance, and … assistance consisting in a supply of materials".Clause 6 then explains what form financial assistance can take.
Therefore, we do not need the amendment proposed by my noble friend in order to ensure that financial assistance is given only in accordance with Clause 1 or, as I believe my noble friend would wish us to add, Clause 2 or Clause 3. That being the case, I ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.
Our concern about Amendment No. 11 is that it would impose an unnecessary curb on the actions of statutory bodies with respect to assistance to overseas territories or for humanitarian purposes. As Clause 9 is presently formulated, statutory bodies can enter into agreements for purposes that reflect the purposes in Clauses 1, 2 and 3. They may do so only with the consent of the Secretary of State. This is the device that ensures the consistency of their actions with development policy and allows the Secretary of State to ensure that the poverty criterion is met when appropriate. The amendment would apply the poverty criterion even in response to disasters and thus inhibit statutory bodies' scope for action even if the Secretary of State wanted them to help out. It would be better to leave control in the hands of the Secretary of State, who can be held to account in this House and in another place.
I turn to the point made about the schedule by the noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Renton of Mount Harry. We explained in Committee that the list is purely historical, based on the 1980 Act. The need for the list is to perfect the powers of bodies that could not otherwise assist. That is why the list is so "odd" and why it does not include every single statutory agency. If noble Lords would like more information, I advise them to return to the debates on the matter in Committee. In the light of that explanation, I ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment and not to move Amendment No. 11.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her explanation. On the point about the list of organisations contained in the schedule—I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, and I are in agreement—I, too, find it slightly odd. Why include these bodies and not others? It is interesting.
Problems arise in this area. I can remember being approached by a health authority that was anxious about a large amount of equipment which it felt was no longer relevant in its work. It hoped that DfID might 726 assist in exporting it to third world countries where it might make a useful contribution. One can see the pressures that will develop, whereas the starting-point in a third world country is to ask the following questions. What is the position in this country? What is really needed? What is the best use of available resources? And what is going to be sustainable in terms of a developing health service in this situation?
In these kinds of debates it is helpful not merely to take the legalistic position of the draftsman and say that the words are contained in the opening sections of the Bill. There ought to be an explicit statement at the point of the Bill that is applicable at any particular moment. I sometimes think that we have a problem of amour propre as regards the parliamentary draftsman. I hope that that is not the case here. Some of the arguments that I have heard from my noble friend suggest that, had she been drafting the Bill, she would have done so in very much the way that I seek. Therefore, I cannot quite understand the resistance to them.
However, my noble friend has put her case clearly. It would not be appropriate to divide the House. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 [Terms on which assistance is provided]:
§ 4.30 p.m.
Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 3, line 16, at end insert "subject to subsection (5)
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 8 and speaking to Amendment No. 9, perhaps I may say how sad I am that my noble friend Lady Young, who has been so closely involved with the issues that are referred to in these amendments, is unable to be here today because of illness. I am sure that your Lordships will join me in sending her our very best wishes. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, who has also worked tirelessly for this cause. sadly cannot be here today because of a long-standing commitment.
§ I am, however, willing to give my strong support to these amendments because of the principle that they enshrine: respect for human rights, especially for the reproductive rights of women and of motherhood. The amendments have been revised from those tabled at Committee stage by my noble friend Lady Young, to accommodate concerns about unintended consequences for voluntary family planning or for Britain's relations with other countries. I do not intend to divide the House today but I hope that in the light of these revisions, the Government will be willing to consider the amendments sympathetically.
§ I wish to emphasise that these amendments would not stop funding for abortion or family planning services, nor would they prevent Her Majesty's Government from giving funding to providers of these services, as long as they are not complicit in coercion. The amendments are not designed to condemn China or to threaten trade or diplomatic relations. Rather they could help China to reform its family planning programme to meet internationally agreed standards, and thereby improve its reputation in the international community.727
Her Majesty's Government's commitment to an ethical foreign policy must surely require them to enshrine respect for human rights in the disbursement of their international development budget. Therein lies the essence of these amendments. It is incontestable that coercion is both a policy and a practice integral to China's population control programme. Many reports from Amnesty International, the US State Department, dissidents, refugees and the international media testify to the harsh fact of forced abortion and sterilisation. In August the Sunday Telegraph reported that,
one Chinese county has been ordered to conduct 20,000 abortions and sterilisations before the end of the year … after family planning chiefs found that the official one-child policy was being routinely flouted … Many of the terminations will have to be conducted forcibly on peasant women to meet the quota".
§ Despite that clear evidence of coercive policies, the United Nations Population Fund—UNFPA—and the International Planned Parenthood FederationIPPF—continue to support and fund China's one-child policy. In 1999 UNFPA spent 5 million US dollars on population control in China and the British Government give UNFPA on average £15 million every year of unrestricted funds.
Moreover, the China Family Planning Association—CFPA—a state-run body responsible for ensuring the policy's implementation, has been an IPPF member since 1983, just as that one-child programme became increasingly coercive. In 1989 IPPF admitted that CFPA,
volunteers sometimes collect the occasional fine when a couple breaks the birthplan rules".
§ Last year IPPF gave 500,000 US dollars in unrestricted funds to CFPA. The British Government give on average £5 million every year to IPPF, again in unrestricted funds.
British taxpayers' money is giving financial sustenance to the coercive one-child policy. This has not gone unnoticed by the victims of that policy. A spokesman for a Tibetan human rights organisation said in August last year:
What is the UK doing helping to fund birth control policies in Tibet, an occupied country? With Tibetans a rapidly shrinking minority in their own land, rigid birth control—especially in conjunction with China's inhumane policies of enforced sterilisation and abortion—amounts to genocide … It's time the UK government behaved ethically".
UNFPA and IPPF have claimed that their activities in China involve purely voluntary family planning and are helping to eliminate the one-child policy's coercive practices. They have used this argument year after year. Year after year the Chinese authorities strengthen the strict population control programme. In 1995 the International Development Department's own document, China: Population Issues stated:
Critics of this position argue that several years of UNFPA and IPPF involvement in China have not led the Chinese to moderate their policies or stop abuses in the implementation of the policy".
The continued failure of UNFPA to moderate China's coercive policy was exposed last month. The US-based Population Research Institute sent a team to observe UNFPA's so-called voluntary programme and to interview women and officials in those counties where the UNFPA is active. Its investigation concluded:
The UNFPA, contrary to its own statements, is participating in the management and support of a program of forced abortion and forced sterilisation in China".
§ Other side effects of China's coercive one-child policies include infanticide of baby girls, a distorted demographic structure and a tendency to over-protect single male children, who experience psychological problems, characterised by the so-called "young emperor" syndrome.
The Government have stated:
UK assistance for sexual and reproductive health anywhere in the world is provided in support of the principles of free and informed choice",
and that they are,
totally opposed to any kind of coercion in matters related to childbearing".
§ However, the evidence shows that in China today, British taxpayers' money may be being used to promote forced abortion and sterilisation. I can therefore see no reason why the Government should not consider these amendments sympathetically. I hope that the Minister will do so because they are designed simply to promote compliance with the Government's own standards and to protect fundamental human rights. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Cox in bringing forward her amendment. Perhaps I may also say how much I regret the absence of my noble friend Lady Young. I know that she will read the Hansard report of the debate with considerable interest.
I have been approached by a number of NGOs to speak in support of the amendment. They have given horrific examples of some of the coercive population control practices, particularly in China, and their dramatic effect in Tibet, as my noble friend Lady Cox has already described.
It must be right for our Government to introduce conditions on how our money is spent, and not to continue to give millions in unrestricted grants to the United Nations Population Fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and others. That would be an excellent example of implementing an ethical foreign policy. I hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the amendment. I trust that the noble Baroness, or whoever responds to the amendment, can give us that assurance.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, it seems to me that two or three key words in this pair of amendments are, "any form of coercion". It was because of those words that I felt both willing and able to add my name to the amendments. I certainly would not deny to any family its right to plan the number of children that it has, their spacing, and so on. I am pretty sure that the great 729 majority of your Lordships would not object to any government having a population policy. However, what is objectionable—and, indeed, unacceptable—is the use of coercion to implement such policies.
A good deal of evidence has been accumulated over the years in the case of China to show that crude reproductive targets have been set leading to such practices as surgery carried out in totally insanitary conditions. That is bad enough in itself, but when there is added to that such practices as forced abortion, compulsory sterilisation of women and the compulsory fitting of intrauterine devices, the situation is compounded and made quite unacceptable, particularly when it is accompanied by such incidents as infanticide, the drowning of children in paddylields, and the torturing to death of a man who would not reveal the whereabouts of his wife (who was believed to be pregnant).
Of course, China is not the only country in which such occurrences are known to have taken place. Other countries where the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation have been involved include India, Peru, and perhaps others. It is for all those reasons, as well as those already mentioned by the two noble Baronesses who have spoken, that I urge the Government to accept at least the principle of the amendment, even if, perchance, its wording may not be absolutely perfect.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, these amendments would require the Secretary of State not to provide assistance to any organisations or individuals who were involved in promoting or practising coercive population policies. In view of the importance of the issue, I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate some of the points that I made in Committee about the Government's approach towards population policy.
All UK, assistance for family planning is provided in line with the principles of free and informed choice upheld at the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994. The Government are totally opposed to coercion in matters related to childbearing. I said that in Committee and it is clear in all our publications. I am surprised that noble Lords imply that we agree with coercive practices in these matters.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, spoke about China. During the discussion in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned the policies of the Chinese Government. Let me reiterate: the Government disagree—we have made that absolutely clear—with China's one-child policy. Coercion should have no place in family planning. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, talked especially about the UNFPA's contribution to reproductive rights work in China. I repeat what I said in Committee:We have evidence that the work of UNFPA in the 32 Chinese counties has led to a decrease in the induced abortion rate. That is the aim of the work within the context of the principles agreed in Cairo".—[Official Report, 16/07/01: cols. 1341–1342.]730 The Department for International Development supports the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation as forces for positive change in over 150 countries. We support their efforts to improve government policies and the supply of appropriate contraception. Last year, for example, in addition to our contribution to UNFPA and IPPF, we gave an additional £25 million to help avert a shortage of contraception in developing countries. Noble Lords will appreciate the importance of this, given the concerns expressed in the House about the rising prevalence of HIV and AIDS in many parts of the world.
I turn now to China. These organisations have programmes in China aimed at promoting better understanding of international standards in reproductive health, and are working to secure greater respect for reproductive rights. The UNFPA is engaged in high-level negotiations with the Government of China to secure a commitment that its programme could be conducted in adherence to the standards agreed at the 1994 conference. I believe we would all agree that that is a very important negotiation. The areas where UNFPA works have seen the abolition of birth quotas, evidence of a shift from administratively-oriented family planning services to client-oriented services, and, as I said before, a decrease in induced abortion rates.
The Government's policy is in line with the sense behind the proposed amendments. But embedding current policies and priorities in legislation could restrict our ability to make the most effective contribution possible to the elimination of poverty and to the welfare of people. In the light of my explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I am grateful tot hose who have supported this amendment. Both my noble friend Lady Hooper and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, joined with me in giving evidence and quoting examples that give rise to continuing and justified concern—facts that indicate forced and coercive policies with regard to the fundamental issues of abortion and sterilisation. I take note of what the Minister said about the Government's stated policy regarding such ethical issues. However, there seems to be a real divergence on the interpretation of the evidence.
The evidence quoted by noble Lords in this debate is both sound and substantiated. The amendments merely ask that the principle of restricting funding where there are coercive policies should be placed on the face of the Bill. I see no inconsistency between what the amendments propose, and the principles involved, and what the Minister said in her response. However, just in case I missed something in the Minister's reply that bears reconsideration, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment for the moment. Nevertheless, I may 'wish to return to the issue on Third Reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 9 not moved.]731
Lord Brennan moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 3, line 24, at end insert—
( ) In providing any financial or other assistance, special consideration shall be given to reducing the effects of poverty on children, and where appropriate—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to enhance the effectiveness of the Bill. It should assist it because it seeks to reflect in the Bill government policy, as stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, last February in his major speech on the impact of global poverty on children. A question arose after the Committee stage, during which I put forward a similar amendment, as to whether it would in fact achieve that objective.
§ My noble friend the Minister very kindly arranged a meeting between myself and some of her officials from the Department for International Development. It was an interesting meeting. Just as their enthusiasm for the conceptual framework of the Bill increased, so my understanding of it decreased. When I told the officials that the convention on the rights of the child to which we were signatories states that children in difficult circumstances deserve special consideration, as the introductory words to my amendment suggest, they said, "That's as may be, but it can't go into this Bill". When I pointed out to them on the question of the subparagraphs that my noble friend the Minister said in Committee that the Government already identified whether or not a programme would assist children, and that, if it was intended to do so, the recipients should report back on the effectiveness of the assistance, the officials said, again, "That's as may be, but it can't go into this Bill". They then gave up; and I gave up.
§ I contemplated the state of affairs whereby logical drafting suggests that an International Development Bill serves the best interests of children by not referring to them. From that rich vintage of the parliamentary draftsmen, which we common folk find difficult to appreciate, I turn to practical reality; namely, what will this Bill do to help children? I express that concern not only on my own behalf but on behalf of the consortium of over 20 charities in which I play a part, including the UK sections of Save the Children and UNICEF. They want to know whether this Bill will help children. I have passed on to the Minister their concerns.
They have four essential concerns: first, that the burden of poverty falls disproportionately on children; secondly, that donee states must—I emphasise the word "must"—be made to use resources to fulfil their responsibilities as governments to help children and not just leave it to NGOs; thirdly, that there is no such thing as a child neutral economic or development policy; and, fourthly, that development aid must prioritise children in general and include marginalised children, the displaced and the vulnerable in particular. They congratulate, commend and look 732 forward to the continuation of the efforts this Government make to help children through development aid, but they want to know whether the Bill will help the cause.
§ It may be that the Bill possesses such a state of legislative purity that my poor amendment cannot aspire to be included in it. No matter, it provides an excellent opportunity for my noble friend the Minister—which I am sure she will take—clearly to state the determination of this Government to use this Bill to help children. I beg to move.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment to which I have added my name. As he indicated, and as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said on many occasions, perhaps the one purpose it will serve is to let us know how my noble friend the Minister would have drafted the Bill had she had full freedom to do so. That is, no doubt, a good thing because, after all, what is stated in Hansard has some kind of super status.
I do not see the amendment in any way as restricting the Secretary of State from doing anything. I hope that I have not misunderstood the matter. As I said before in the context of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Judd, I do not want to lay down special conditions. But, as I read it, the amendment directs attention to the need to measure certain effects. In as much as it requires those effects to be measured, it draws attention to the need to consider them properly. Therefore, I believe that it is a good amendment. I am sure that, if nothing else, the spirit of the amendment will affect DfID's thinking.
§ Lord Hannay of Chiswick
My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, to which I have added my name. In doing so, I declare an interest in that one of my sons works with street children in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has done for the past seven years and my wife runs a charity, the Foundation for Children at Risk, which supports that work.
I feel as strongly as others who have spoken to the amendment that there should be some specific mention of children in the Bill. The case for singling out children has been clearly accepted by the United Nations in its work. After all, the United Nations has a specific fund, the United Nations Children's Fund, which is for children alone. We all know perfectly well that the huge sums of money raised for children by the United Nations would not have been raised if it had just simply been swallowed up in the United Nations Development Programme. That is an entirely worthy programme, but one which gets far less money and far fewer resources than the children's fund. Moreover, the United Nations has always taken the view—10 years ago it most prominently took this view—that the rights of children are somewhat different, additional and supplementary to the ordinary human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is why there is now a United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I believe that the United Nations has pointed the way for us in specifying children as being different. It is a sad fact that the second summit, 733 the 10th anniversary of the signature of the Convention on the Rights of the Child—the first meeting of which in 1990 I had the honour to attend with the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, who made a most moving speech on behalf of the world's children—was swept away as one of the innocent victims of the outrage of 11th September. It should have taken place the following week. Let us hope that it will not be too long delayed.
Children are different and separate. They should be recognised on the face of the Bill. The damage that is done to them by poverty, maltreatment and enrolment in armed forces is frequently irreparable. I feel strongly that the basic thrust of the amendment is a worthy one. If the Minister will forgive me for saying so, I find most of the arguments against specifying references to children either bureaucratic or legalistic. I admit that somewhere in my misspent youth I was probably responsible for producing bureaucratic and legalistic arguments in similar circumstances. However, the repentance of one sinner is perhaps worthwhile. I hope that in this particular case the noble Baroness will relent, if not repent.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I add my support for the amendment which was so eloquently and powerfully moved by my noble friend Lord Brennan. I pay tribute to the consistent and great work that he does in this area.
I believe that the amendment again highlights the fact that the Bill has raised more questions than it has answered. It has become so abstract and theoretical that I do not begin to see what it adds to what is happening at the moment. As I say, it has perhaps raised more questions than it has begun to answer. Therefore, I feel that, to be able to bring a bit of specific humanity into the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, suggested with all his experience, would be salutary. The House will forgive me if I slightly twist the tail of my noble friend Lord Desai—although that is a dangerous thing to do—who said that if one specified the words "environmentally sound", one ran the risk of having to include issues of gender. If we specify children, who are an overriding priority—I cannot say how strongly I support the amendment—we have to think also of the elderly in the midst of what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment and the disabled. There are many others who need to be mentioned specifically. However, the Bill emanates from MID. DfID is not about bureaucracy and legalistic considerations; DfID constitutes a campaign or it is nothing. It ought to break new ground in the form in which it drafts its legislation.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, in previous years I have had the privilege of piloting through your Lordships' House one or possibly two Bills that eventually helped to change government policy and convinced the Government that they needed to do more in this country to prevent the sexual exploitation of children, particularly in south-east Asia. I am currently involved in Anglo-Russian co-operation for the benefit of 734 children and young people at risk of a wide variety of dangers in and around Moscow. For those reasons I am sympathetic to and supportive of the amendment.
There is one extra reason why the amendment deserves to be accepted. If the lives of today's children can be enriched and made positive, they are the ones who are most likely to be successful in breaking cycles of poverty that have previously gone on from generation to generation.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed about the importance of dealing with the plight of children when we are talking about poverty elimination. As the core aim of the Bill is poverty reduction and, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said when moving the amendment, the burden of poverty falls disproportionately on children, it follows that the Bill's:impact will be to help children.
As my noble friend knows, following our conversations after Committee stage on his amendment we put the point to parliamentary counsel who drafted the Bill. Their response was that any reference to children as a special case would seriously undermine the structure of the Bill and its core aim of poverty reduction.
The problem is not with the aspiration that underlies the amendment, but with the potential damage that might be caused to the structure and effectiveness of the Bill if we attempted to build that aspiration into it as a legal duty. Making it a legal requirement to have special regard to any given group or purpose would fetter DfID's ability to take a partnership approach to giving assistance and would put at risk our ability to support developing countries in the most effective way possible. For example, support for development in poor communities intended to produce long-term sustainable benefits for the children of such communities could be ruled out because it contained no immediate direct action to reduce the effects of poverty on children. We have to be free to look for long-term solutions that address the root causes of child poverty, not merely its effects.
DfID takes very seriously the need to address the problems of child poverty, which causes appalling suffering and jeopardises the well-being of future generations. The aim and purposes of the Bill—poverty reduction through sustainable development and the improved welfare of people—cannot be achieved without bringing children out of deprivation. Indeed, we will be unable to meet any of the international development targets if we do not succeed in tackling child poverty and its consequences. We cannot improve the condition in which children live without addressing the condition of their communities, realising their rights to the livelihoods and services on which they depend and having their voices heard. The best way to tackle child poverty is to address the causes of community poverty.
In view of the concerns that have been expressed. it would be helpful if I highlighted some of the ways in which the Government are working to improve the well-being of children and the realisation of their 735 rights. Each year, more than 10 million children still die before the age of five, with 95 per cent of those deaths occurring in developing countries. Action to improve child survival and health begins with measures to protect the health of women. Good health and nutrition in pregnancy, skilled care at delivery, and access to advice and treatment in the weeks that follow are key factors in the survival of mothers and infants. DfID is working with a number of partner governments and communities to enable poor women to access high-quality and affordable essential healthcare for themselves and their babies.
Education, even at primary level, remains beyond the reach of 113 million children who are not enrolled. of whom 60 per cent are girls. The less obvious consequences of that include poorer health and nutrition practices, greater risk of contracting HIV and greater social exclusion. Recent UNESCO studies have suggested that only 1 to 2 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries receive an education, and most of those are boys. In many cases, children's education is severely hampered by their participation in the labour market to earn money for their families' survival. The best way of addressing those problems is to help countries and societies to develop appropriate strategies, build the capacities that they need to provide quality education for all their children and develop economies that support sufficient income-earning opportunities for families to survive without resorting to child labour, especially in its worst and abusive forms that put children in physical and moral danger.
We all know that children are affected by conflict. Conflict perpetuates poverty and reverses development. Of the 34 countries furthest from meeting the poverty eradication targets, 20 are in the midst of armed conflict or have only recently emerged from it. Ethnic and intra-community violence often leads to the destruction of families and brings a heavy burden of suffering on women and children. We are helping to protect displaced children in war-affected countries from the risks of living in an environment where traditional community structures and social provision have broken down. We are also working in a wide variety ways for the reduction of conflict more generally, to give communities, and their children, a better chance to escape from the burden of poverty.
The Government's commitment to fighting child poverty is clear. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development underlined it at the Westminster conference on international action against child poverty in February this year. Leaders from around the world, including Kofi Annan and the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, the UNDP, UNICEF and the OECD renewed their commitment to meeting the international development targets that form the basis of the UN's millennium development targets as a means to defeat child poverty and offer this generation of poor children the opportunities that were denied to their parents.
736 Next year, at the postponed UN special session on children, the world will have the opportunity to renew and strengthen the commitment it made to children at the 1990 World Summit for Children. The plan of action that we expect the special session to endorse seeks to cover the full range of measures needed to ensure the realisation of children's rights, including their health, their education and their protection from conflict, exploitation and mistreatment.
We will wholeheartedly join this global commitment to the children of the world. The Bill will provide us with the legislative basis that we need to pursue the wide range of means available to help the children of developing countries to break out of the cycle of poverty and misery that so many of them endure.
With that full explanation, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Brennan
My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed on this important question. In particular I thank the Minister. First, I thank her for so nobly grappling, as a non-lawyer, with the dense reasoning of the parliamentary draftsmen, of which I, as one of Her Majesty's counsel, despair. Congratulations on that, but even more must we thank her for her clear statement of the Government's commitment to use the Bill and all their efforts to help children and for illustrating the strength of that commitment. When the special assembly on children, as part of the General Assembly, takes place later this year or next, I hope that that commitment will be further reflected in a landmark speech by whichever Minister there represents this country.
The issue of children will not go away. As Gordon Brown said in the speech to which I referred, the face of world poverty is the face of a child. The least that we, who are concerned about that, can do to match the generosity of the Government's position set out by my noble friend is to promise her an equal measure of devotion and to ensure that the Government do what they say they will. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 11 not moved.]
§ Clause 20 [Short title, commencement and extent]:
§ 5.15 p.m.
Baroness Rawlings moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 9, line 2, at end insert—
( ) The Secretary of State may not appoint a date under subsection (2) until Parliament has enacted legislation to give effect to the Convention on Combating the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, before we debate this amendment, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, for her courtesy and, in particular, for the very helpful letter that she wrote to me regarding other points in the amendments arising from the Committee stage.737
When we debated this issue in Committee, given the Minister's response, I said that I would return to the matter. As I stressed then, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the International Development Bill does not become law before the Government have taken appropriate action to enforce the OECD convention on bribery and corruption. The Government have been promising to take action on the issue since 1997, but I am afraid that they have been hollow words. In April 2000 an International Development Select Committee report on corruption said:
Simple and clear legislation should be brought forward as a matter of urgency".
§ Eighteen months later, still nothing has been done.
§ During the Committee stage, the Minister set out much of the action that the Government are taking in the international field and paid special attention to money laundering. This, we recognise, has become more pressing following the tragic events of 11th September. Nevertheless, the Government made a clear commitment, which we believe they must honour.
§ In Committee, as reported at col. 1349 of the Official Report of 16th July 2001, the Minister promised your Lordships that a criminal justice Bill would be brought forward with provisions to deal with the proposals of the OECD convention. Perhaps noble Lords will forgive me if I make an error but, from the Library timetable of the complete list of public Bills before Parliament this Session, I am afraid that I cannot find any sign of such a Bill. In these vital times I ask: why not bring it forward now?
§ We know that the legislative timetable is apt to slip. Given that the Government will need time to bring in legislation in response to the terrorist threat, would it not be wise to act now? Perhaps I may suggest that that could be done either by the Government bringing forward an amendment or, more simply, by their agreeing to our amendment. That would, in turn, give greater impetus to the introduction of the criminal justice Bill, thus giving effect to the Government's international commitment to the convention.
§ Implementation of the OECD convention has wider implications for the development agenda. The Government cannot credibly continue to make improvements in governance a condition for development assistance when they have failed to implement the OECD Convention Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials. As we know, the convention commits the 34 signatories—that is, 29 OECD member countries, and five non-member countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile and the Slovak Republic—to make it a criminal offence for any person to bribe a foreign public official in order to gain improper advantage in the conduct of international business.
The scope for corruption is wide. Nevertheless, l am pleased to say that corrupt politicians and businesses are finding it harder than ever to hide their activities from the mass media and anti-corruption activists, such as Transparency International, to whom I must
pay tribute. However, despite it becoming easier to detect corruption, Britons who bribe foreign officials still cannot be prosecuted under UK law. The UK is unique among developed countries in not implementing the convention. In June this year, Laurence Cockroft, chairman of the London chapter of Transparency International, said:
It is high time the UK slopped dragging its heels in the fight against international corruption and put an end to the current situation where we have no adequate legislation to make bribery abroad a criminal offence".
§ It is a sad reflection that, of the few countries yet to incorporate the bribery of foreign officials into current domestic law, Britain is one.
In April 2000, the International Development Select Committee said:
Corruption has a devastating impact on the poorest people in society".
§ The Government's 1997 White Paper on development recognised economic growth as the prime means of creating income and employment opportunities, and the private sector as the main impetus of economic growth. However, the persistence of corruption impedes both economic growth and the private sector.
Transparency International, too, says that corruption,
reduces growth … scares away foreign investment, and channels investment and loan and aid funds into 'white elephant' projects of little or no benefit to the people but which carry with them the high returns to the corrupt decision makers".
§ The International Development Select Committee agrees. It found that corruption was the single most important factor which discouraged both domestic capital formation and foreign direct investment in poor countries. It is the poor who pay disproportionately for corruption. Corruption has a devastating impact on the poorest people in society by denying them access to public services as they are frequently unable to pay the necessary bribes.
A new extraterritorial! offence is needed as current laws are inadequate to enforce the convention. In the meantime, while the Government have failed to introduce effective legislation, they have damaged the good name of Britain abroad. George Moody-Stuart, chairman of the anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International (UK), said.:
Tony Blair and Robin Cook are said to have an ethical foreign policy. It is difficult to claim this if you don't have support for the OECD convention".
§ Perhaps the new Foreign Secretary has a new foreign policy. Transparency International has said that slow progress on passing reform could cause concern among the other OECD members which have already updated their domestic legislation.
§ Time is pressing and, as the Minister is aware, passing legislation is simply the start of a long and hard process. Further delay could seriously harm the effectiveness of the convention, and the Government should make certain that bribery legislation is firmly in place before this Bill is passed.739
We should like the Government to take action. We recognise that tackling corruption will bring benefits to business, to states and, more importantly, to the poor in developing countries who most need our help. The Washington File of 2nd July 2001 stated:
We are hopeful that all the signatories will complete the process of ratification and implementation of the convention by the end of this year".
§ If the Minister acts now, she could meet that target and therefore fulfil our international obligations. I beg to move.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, it is very difficult to disagree with the noble Baroness's statement that we do not like corruption and must fight it; I agree with her. However, this afternoon's debate has been rather like bowling: we have knocked over different pins—care for the environment and for children, gender and human rights—and we have satisfied ourselves that by and large what is before us is a good way to encourage international development. What surprises me about the amendment is the idea that, unless one agrees to the convention, one cannot agree to the Bill. That is a rather drastic proposal whose nature I do not understand.
Although corruption among public officials in international business transactions is very bad and should be eliminated, much of the corruption that hits the poor is petty corruption, which has nothing whatever to do with international business transactions. It involves a local policeman walking around a bazaar extracting money from shopkeepers because they do not have a proper licence. I could take noble Lords to a street market in Delhi and show them that taking place. Corruption is important but the OECD convention will get rid of only a very small part of it.
§ The Duke of Montrose
My Lords, it will not have escaped the attention of noble Lords that the Bill will give new powers to Scottish Ministers. Some of them, so far as I can see, are almost independent of the Secretary of State. Noble Lords may be aware that the Bill has already been the subject of discussion in the Scottish Parliament. On that occasion a member of my party raised that very point. In striving to answer poverty, the absence of legislation on corruption, such as the OECD convention, is a serious weakness. I raise that point merely to draw to the Minister's attention the fact that some form of acceptance of the sense, if not the wording, of the amendment would be well received north of the Border. I wish to support the amendment.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness for her kind words and for being so helpful in our discussions on the Bill.
I assure the noble Baroness that the Bill will allow us to continue to support activities that help the fight against corruption in all of its forms in developing countries. I shall give the House two examples. In Bangladesh, DfID is working on initiatives that are 740 designed to improve budgetary processes and accounting practices in ministries, on strengthening parliamentary committees and other groups that monitor performance and resource use and on reducing opportunities for corruption. The sum of £2.75 million has been granted to support the local chapter of Transparency International—the noble Baroness discussed its work in some detail—to develop "committees of concerned citizens" to act as watchdog groups and to monitor the delivery of public services.
In Nigeria, DfID is supporting federal government reform, including targeting resource mismanagement and supporting efforts to improve the integrity of systems at state level. We are also working with the United Nations development programme in Nigeria to provide technical assistance for selected state judges who will hear anti-corruption cases.
I agree that transparency and accountability are important, as is the creation of environments in developing countries which will help business to invest. The Government recognise the need to support developing countries in their efforts to take action in these areas. We believe that the OECD convention on the bribery of foreign officials is a major advance in the fight against corruption.
We are committed to introducing legislation that will give effect to that convention. I am unable at this stage to say when that legislation will be introduced. It is important to remember that there is no link between that legislation and the passage of this Bill. That is especially important in view of the assurances that I gave to the effect that we can continue to support activities that help the fight against corruption. In light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
§ Baroness Rawlings
My Lords, I extend my appreciation to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose for supporting the amendment. I am most grateful to the Minister for her response. However, I believe that a criminal justice Bill, which will implement the OECD convention, will be introduced but that it will no longer be introduced during this Session. I therefore do not understand why the Government should have anything to fear from the amendment. It is a shame that the Minister will not agree to it. I shall return to the matter on Third Reading, when we hope to have a more satisfactory reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.