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Tony Baldry: I think that my hon. Friend might be misleading himself. The overseas territories are small territories which for various reasons have not become independent, or have not wanted to. The money given under the Bill and previous legislation is not for emergency or humanitarian relief; it is given to ensure that they acquire the infrastructure and development they need to build themselves up; otherwise, they would face considerable difficulties.
Mr. Rosindell: I accept that point. I do not disagree with my hon. Friend. However, I feel strongly that citizens of our overseas territories should be made to feel that they are as British as the rest of us.
Dr. Tonge: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Mr. Rosindell: I am about to finish my speech, but I will give way.
Dr. Tonge: I thank the hon. Gentleman. I just wanted to say that I entirely agree with him.
Mr. Rosindell: I thank the hon. Lady.
Although I would like to say more, I am anxious that my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) should have the opportunity to speak. I conclude by saying that it is only right that our primary focus should be on how we can help those who are in need of our assistance. However, that help must tackle the deeper issues, or it might be of no help at all.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster): I welcome the opportunity to discuss the framework of our international development policy. The outcome of the Bill will be vital to the 1.2 billion people throughout the world who live in extreme povertythat is, surviving on less than $1 a day.
During the 1990s, one third of the world's children suffered from malnutrition. Although there was a worldwide reduction of 17 per cent. in that figure, it fell far short of the 50 per cent. target, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa the absolute number of malnourished children actually increased. The under-five mortality rate in low-income countries in 1999 was 116 children per 1,000 born, compared with only five per 1,000 in high-income countries. The overall situation has been made much worse by the events in America on 11 September and their adverse effect on economic growth in developing countries. Up to 10 million more people now face poverty in 2002.
We need to achieve the targets set at the G7 Finance Ministers meeting in Palermo in 2001. Those targets include progress towards gender equality, especially in terms of education for girls, by 2005; a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of people living in extreme povertyI understand that some progress has been made in that respect; universal primary education in all countries; and access to reproductive health services through primary care. At this point, let me reassure the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), who was concerned that those funds are concentrated on contraception. In fact, they are concentrated on ensuring safer childbirth and on prenatal and antenatal services for women.
With less than 15 years to go, the prospects for success in some areas are improving but, on present trends, none of the goals in health or education is likely to be achieved globally. Bearing that in mind, I support the broad thrust of the Bill, which will become the new basis for United Kingdom provision of overseas assistance. There are some issues of concern, which I almost hesitate to mention, given the consensual debate that we have had this evening. However, none are insuperable, and I hope that there will be an opportunity to address them in Committee.
The Bill seeks to clarify the purposes for which development assistance is provided; in other words, it should help to reduce poverty, and it widens the means to do so. However, it does not define poverty, which is a subjective term and requires explanation. It gives the Government powers to provide humanitarian relief, although no time scale is given, and there is no requirement for such assistance to contribute specifically to poverty reduction. It is not just the quantity of aid that matters, but its effectiveness. We must ensure that it reaches the people for whom it is intended. The method of distribution is vital, and charities and non-governmental organisations could play a much greater role in
We must encourage good governance in developing countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) spoke powerfully about that. We should not increase aid to countries where there is a deterioration in human rights or an increase in military spending. I was pleased that the Secretary of State spoke about improvements and progress in China, where coercive birth control is causing women distress. I welcome the HIPC initiative, but its delivery is taking too long. I hope that we will look more closely at the financial progress of individual countries and the root causes of problems in indebted countries to give them an opportunity to achieve genuine sustainable development, and so break the link between dependency and debt.
There is a close link between debt relief and corruption. The OECD's convention on combating the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions was signed in December 1997, yet still awaits ratification. Four years on, the United Kingdom lags way down the list of countries that have promised to introduce that legislation. I urge the Government to make time to deal with that matter; perhaps the Under-Secretary will comment on that when he responds to our debate.
My main concern is the waste and mismanagement of the EU aid budget, which has still not been tackled, even though the agency has been called the worst in the world. Member states should be able to deliver more aid bilaterally and should certainly do so more effectively. EU aid programmes have been found to have serious weaknesses and shortcomings. In the past five years, the average delay in the disbursement of committed funds has increased from three years to four and a half years. It is a scandal that people are suffering for any longer than is necessary because of bureaucracy or inefficiency in the EU. Between 25 and 30 per cent. of the Department's budget is spent by the European Community, but we have little control over its spending decisions. If we did have more control over those decisions, I wonder whether the Department would have made different priority decisions about where aid is spent, for example, in India.
This year, our spending amounted to £728 million. Are any measures in place to determine what percentage of that money has been spent effectively? Or do we have to wait another five years before measures are in place to find out that there has been no improvement in systems? Between 1979 and 1997, the average UK net overseas development assistance, as a percentage of gross national product, was 0.32 per cent. Although that has since dropped to 0.26 per cent., I note that our target increase for 200304 is 0.33 per cent. We all look forward to reaching the 0.7 per cent. target. It is our duty, as a rich country, to achieve it.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): There has been much all-party agreement during the debate. I therefore wind up the debate for the official Opposition with some satisfaction. The House of Commons is often at its best when thoughtful speeches tackle genuine issues in measures such as the Bill. The Secretary of State will
The opening speeches were followed by impressive contributions from hon. Members of all parties. The right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke), who has been involved with international development for a long time, began with a generous and deserved tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden. However, he was uncharacteristically and unfairly critical of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) when he mentioned my hon. Friend's contribution in a debate before the general election. My hon. Friend was never mean-minded, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. I know that the Under-Secretary will concede that the Opposition's approach to the Bill has not changed. When the measure was debated in the previous Parliament, we welcomed it but made two or three points that my hon. Friends have highlighted again today.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) introduced a note of party political controversy to the debate. Nevertheless, in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell), she said that she agreed with some of his points.
The House is familiar with well observed, thorough and detailed contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), who chairs the International Development Committee. In paying tribute to him and his work, it would be remiss if I did not mention the important work of the previous Chairman. I note that the Secretary of State nods. Bowen Wells, the former Member for Hertford and Stortford, chaired the Select Committee superbly and a great deal of his work will be reflected in our work in Standing Committee. Tribute was properly paid to him at this morning's annual general meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury spoke of his experience on a recent visit to Burkina Faso. He said that he was worried that the Bill did not cover EU contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) also made that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury rightly pointed out that malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB kill 5 million people a year and that the global health fund must be made to work.
The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) talked about his work on the International Development Committee and his recent visit to Cambodia. He rightly said that the Department's work increases day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year. He made the interesting point that the provision of aid does not stop rich terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. He also made valuable points about the recruitment of young Muslims by terrorists such as the al-Qaeda network.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), who has a long-standing interest in international development, referred to the predictions that he made in the debate on the White Paper in May. He pointed out with sadness how quickly his dire warningthat poverty breeds fundamentalism, which breeds terrorismhad been realised.
My hon. Friend cited the Secretary of State's acceptance of the fact that the world's poorest people often come from religious minorities.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Ann McKechin) made a good speech, which, I should tell her, has been praised by a number of subsequent contributors while she has been out of the Chamber. She spoke of her concerns about tied aid and about the Doha talks.
The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), in a characteristically thoughtful contribution to the debate, said that people in Northern Ireland give more per capita to charitable good causes overseas than people in other parts of the United Kingdom. He mentioned his meeting earlier today with a delegation from the Philippines, and the fact that the people of Mindanao are once again vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Roger Casale) welcomed the cross-party support for the Bill and paid a well-deserved tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden. He said that he wanted aid to be focused on the world's very poorest people, and stressed his own constituency links with William Wilberforce.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) made a detailed speech in which he pointed out that he was having a second bite at the cherry on this Bill, as he had spoken in the Second Reading debate of its predecessor, which failed because of the general election. He said that he was speaking on behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party, so one might say that he was speaking for all the Celts in this debate. He spoke about the Brundtland definition and the World Trade Organisation, and said that he wanted the whole of the Department for International Development's budget to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. He also talked about what has been called the Tobin tax, but he may not have been aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House think that that should be rechristened in honour of the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), who supported it earlier today.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter), in his thoughtful and well-argued speech, referred to the Bill as motherhood and apple pie. He showed his great expertise and knowledge of the subject, especially in voicing his concern that the Bill does not fully reflect the work done by the Commonwealth Development Corporation. He also talked about what he had seen on visits to Belize and Jamaica earlier this year.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romford talked about the difficulties in the very different world of 15 to 20 years ago. He broadly welcomed the spirit of the Bill, and described the work in which he has personally been involved with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the International Young Democrat Union. He stressed his concerns about the overseas territories, which the Secretary of State will know that Conservative Front Bench Members share. We shall return to them in Committee, as we shall to my hon. Friend's concern about implementing the provisions against bribery and corruption. We have consistently stressed that concern here and in another place, and we shall undoubtedly return to it.
This has been an important and good debate on both sides of the House, on a very important Bill. We welcome the Bill, but we must bear it in mind that the background to all these overseas aid issues is that, despite decades of assistance from so many bodies in the developed world, most of Africa and much of Latin America, Asia and the middle east are, tragically, economically worse off today than they were 20 years ago. In the late 1990s, the United Nations released figures showing that 70 poor countries were worse off than they had been in 1980, and that 43 were worse off than they had been in 1970, despite decades of aid spending.
We hope that this consolidation of previous legislation will give the Department for International Development the opportunity to help to reverse that trend. All hon. Members recognise that, too often, aid programmes have brought neither material prosperity nor political stability to many regions. That is why Conservative Members have been particularly concerned about the measures in the Bill that deal with good governance. That is another matter to which we shall return in Committee.
This is a good Bill, but it can be improved in Committee if the Government will take on board the relatively small but important improvements that we have repeatedly stressed. Although the Government did not accept them before the general election, we hope that they will finally do so now. As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden rightly said, the Bill is very good but it could be made even better with a few changes, as we have suggested.