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Mr. Simon Thomas rose--

Mr. Mullin: I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to intervene because I am up against the clock.

The Brundtland definition lies at the environmental end of the spectrum of views on sustainable development. At the other end, there are equally sound definitions that favour a fundamentally economic definition. Neither is necessarily nor wholly right. The Government believe that sustainable development must take account of environmental, economic and social considerations.

Finally, we debated the issues relating to amendment No 6, tabled by the hon. Member for Richmond Park, at length in Committee. If I do not get a chance to cover all the arguments in the two minutes that are left to me, a glance at the record will show the Government's case. The amendment relates to clause 1 and would ensure that a Secretary of State cannot take political, commercial or non-developmental considerations into account in exercising the core power. The hon. Lady knows that I have a great deal of sympathy for the intention behind the amendment. One of the Government's reasons for introducing the Bill is to ensure that development assistance can no longer be used for improper commercial or political ends. The amendment seeks to do just that. The question for the House is not whether or not we should use development funds for improper political or commercial ends such as tied aid; there is consensus that we should not do that. The question is how we can prevent such an abuse most securely and effectively. The Bill makes no explicit reference to outlawing improper--

It being Three o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

Question negatived.

Mr. Streeter: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will know that we have just spent about two hours debating one group of amendments to this important Bill and that there has been no filibustering, time wasting, distraction, deviation or unnecessary repetition. The Minister dealt properly with the amendments and the points made in argument and had to gabble to make his responses in time. In fact, he did not quite make it. There are now three groups of amendments that we shall not be able even to consider before Third Reading, for which an hour has been allocated. Is there any way that the programme motion can give us the flexibility now to continue to discuss those important amendments before we come to Third Reading? If not, is that not an indictment of the Government, who have been unacceptably heavy-handed in curtailing debate and the proper scrutiny of this important Bill?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): I am bound by the order of the House agreed to earlier. I regret that there is no room for flexibility.

Mr. Leigh: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The fact remains that there are three amendments on the vital matters of sector-wide

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development assistance, the involvement of non- governmental bodies and the renewal of the Bill. I know that you do not have the power to intervene but you listened to the whole debate and I am sure that you appreciate that there has been no time wasting. The Bill is not controversial or party political; no one is going to attack the Government from a party political viewpoint. If Government Members told you now that they would like to allow discussion of further amendments, would that be possible?

Madam Deputy Speaker: As I said earlier, I am bound to follow the order of the House. Consideration has been completed.

Mr. Wells: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not within your power to draw the attention of the business managers of the House to the dissatisfaction of the House with the time allocated to debating the Bill?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I must inform the hon. Gentleman that that is not a point of order, but a point for debate.

Mr. Streeter: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If I were to move a motion that the House should consider the remaining three groups of amendments and the House divided on that issue, surely, as a sovereign House of Commons, we have the ability to decide to debate those issues for another 45 minutes?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I repeat once again to hon. Members that the House has already made a decision and I must abide by that decision and the order of the House.

Order for Third Reading read.

3.3 pm

Mr. Mullin: I beg to move That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The major reason for introducing the Bill is to ensure that development assistance can no longer be used for improper commercial or political ends. Under the Bill, there will be none of the ambiguity that allowed a previous Secretary of State to support the Pergau dam. There will be no basis for the re-establishment of the aid and trade provision or, indeed, any improper links between aid and trade. The Bill reflects and supports the United Kingdom's development effort. The Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 allows the Secretary of State to provide assistance for the purposes of

Those purposes have not greatly constrained the Government's ability to refocus our country's development effort on the reduction of poverty, but we believe that it is not enough that legislation merely allows us to do most of the things that we need to do.

The Bill will ensure that we make the most effective contribution possible to the reduction of poverty. First, it requires that our development effort, with the exception of assistance to overseas territories and assistance given in response to man-made or natural disasters and emergencies, must be likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty through sustainable development or welfare

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improvement. Secondly, it provides a wider range of tools for achieving that aim. It provides for the use of a wider range of financial instruments than are available under the 1980 Act, including shares, options and guarantees. Those instruments will allow us to capitalise on the enormous potential contribution of the private sector to poverty reduction, with less risk of distorting markets, creating unfair competition or compromising companies' incentive to operate efficiently and sustainably, while retaining greater control and influence over the long-term use of Government funds.

The Bill will also place on a proper footing the Secretary of State's support for organisations undertaking development awareness and advocacy activities. The Government believe that if we are to succeed in meeting international development targets, we need to build greater awareness and understanding of development issues across the UK and internationally. Such support is currently possible only on the basis of the Appropriation Act 1999.

May I say a word about an issue that was not touched on in our debate a moment ago, but which was mentioned in Committee? I have considerable sympathy with Members who have spoken in favour of an annual debate on development in this House, as does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. I hope that the House can find the time to hold such debates in future, but it is inappropriate--as I am sure everyone will realise--to use legislation to determine the allocation of parliamentary time, as some amendments sought to do. Whether we have an annual development debate is a matter for the House authorities.

May I also return briefly to tied aid, since I was cut off in mid-flow a moment ago? As I said, we had a good debate on the issue in Committee, and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) had a chance to make again on the Floor the powerful arguments that she made in Committee. I shall repeat our position: the clear statement of principles and purposes of development assistance will ensure that any improper use of development assistance is ruled out. As I have said, under the Bill, there will be none of the ambiguity that allowed a previous Secretary of State to support the Pergau dam and there will be no basis for the re-establishment of the aid and trade provision. That position may not be the most publicly attractive, but we have been advised that it is the most effective safeguard against the improper use of aid funds.

I appreciate that the hon. Lady will not agree with me, but I hope that she will at least accept that we took seriously her representations on the subject. We had a long meeting with officials who advised the Government on the matter and, although we may have not succeeded in convincing her, we have considered carefully the points that she and other hon. Members have made. The most effective means of achieving the goal sought by her--and us--is the Bill as worded. It is no failure not to mention tied aid in the Bill. There would be a failure if the Bill allowed aid to be used for improper political or commercial purposes. I can reassure the House that the Bill prevents such misuse, and that therefore we will not fail.

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This is a short, straightforward and important Bill. I welcome cross-party support for its fundamental aim of focusing British development assistance on the reduction of poverty and it is a pleasure to commend it to the House.

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