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Consideration and Third Reading

1.—Paragraph 4(1) of the Order shall be omitted.
2.—(1) Proceedings on consideration and Third Reading shall be concluded in two allotted days.
(2) Proceedings on consideration (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at Eight o'clock on the second of those days or, if that day is a Thursday, at Five o'clock on that day.

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(3) Proceedings on Third Reading (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the second of those days or, if that day is a Thursday, at Seven o'clock on that day.
(4) An allotted day is one on which the Bill is put down on the main business as first Government Order of the Day.—[Angela Smith.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Order [28 June],

Question agreed to.

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International Development Bill [Lords]

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

New Clause 1

Restriction on assistance to governments involved in gross violations of human rights

'(1) The Secretary of State shall prepare and lay before Parliament a list of those countries whose governments he considers to engage in or tolerate gross violations of human rights, as defined in subsections (2) and (3) below, and other countries may be added to (or deleted from) the list by resolution of the House of Commons.
(2) In determining whether a country is in gross violation of human rights, as described in subsection (3) below, the Secretary of State shall give particular consideration to whether a foreign government—
(a) has engaged in gross violations of the right to freedom of religion; or
(b) has failed to undertake serious and sustained efforts to combat gross violations of the right to freedom of religion, when such efforts could have been reasonably undertaken; or
(c) has engaged in persecution of individuals or groups on the basis of their ethnic origin or membership of a particular ethnic group.
(3) In this section "gross violations of human rights" includes a consistent pattern of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those powers, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.
(4) No assistance shall be provided under Part I of this Act to the government of any country for the time being included in the list in existence under subsection (1) (provided that this section does not prohibit or restrict the provision of medicine, medical equipment or supplies, food, or other humanitarian assistance).'.—[Bob Spink.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.50 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Britain has a strong and honourable tradition and record on aid and development. I congratulate the Government on introducing the Bill, which the Opposition welcome. We believe in strengthening our international aid framework to make it more effective and more relevant and appropriate to changing world situations. We think that the Bill is right, but we also think that it can be improved. That is why I am speaking to the new clause, which would link the giving of British aid with the promotion of long-term, sustainable human rights improvements and, thereby, the promotion of long-term, sustainable development. I should make it immediately clear that the new clause does not seek to restrict direct humanitarian aid. I propose that food, medical and disaster aid should be exempt from the controls that it would introduce.

I know that the Secretary of State for International Development is currently in Tokyo, but none the less, I should like to say that I have long admired her. She has great energy and commitment, especially in this area, and a very big heart. I hope that she will take on board the ideas that I am floating in the new clause and be guided by them in future policy development. As the general thrust of my arguments is sound—some might say that they are merely simple common sense—I have no doubt

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that she will listen and respond positively. Even if she cannot do so today, she may do so in developing her policy in future.

The House knows well the superb work of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) on human rights and the promotion of religious freedom around the world. His sound influence will be felt in the new clause, for which he must take all the credit. He is currently unavoidably detained in Committee; otherwise, he would be here to speak to the new clause. None the less, both he and I wholeheartedly support the promotion of international development world wide and would welcome an increase in the amount of UK Government aid that is given to developing nations. However, decisions on whether such aid should be given, how much is allocated and where it is targeted should take into serious consideration the human rights records of the receiving nations. In many cases, aid can and should be used as leverage to pressure Governments into strengthening civil society and improving their human rights records.

Since the 20th century, human rights have become a universal language enshrined in international law, including the universal declaration of human rights, the Geneva conventions and the international covenants on civil and political rights. There is a strong correlation between a state's respect for human rights and its development. That underpins the thesis that I am advancing.

It is no coincidence that most economically developed nations tend to have generally good human rights records, a strong civil society and a democratic Government. Strengthening civil society and significantly improving a state's human rights record are major contributions to the long-term development of any nation. I therefore urge the Government not to give aid to states that engage in or tolerate gross violations of human rights. As I explained earlier, humanitarian assistance such as providing medicine and food is excepted.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Like the hon. Gentleman, I want to do whatever is possible to promote human rights. It would be difficult to think of a Government with a poorer human rights record than the Taliban when they governed Afghanistan, yet the United Nations argued for massive aid to that country for humanitarian purposes. Much of it required Government support. On 6 September, the UN argued for $560 million of aid. Would not the new clause put such aid at risk?

Bob Spink: It would put pressure on the new Government in Afghanistan to improve and strengthen civil society and human rights. It would apply positive pressure to try to achieve a freer, more democratic and sounder world.

Hugh Bayley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again. Like him, I hope—and have confidence—that the new Administration in Afghanistan will improve human rights. It is an important, positive sign that the Government includes two women. However, my question related to the Taliban. Would he have opposed giving aid to Afghanistan before 11 September, when the Taliban were in power?

Bob Spink: The hon. Gentleman asks a hypothetical question. We are no longer in that position. If the new

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clause had formed part of Government policy many years ago, I presume that it would have been used as positive pressure to extract a better record from Governments who abuse human rights. We can apply pressure by many means, for example, diplomacy or simply talking and asking for change. We can also apply economic pressure to improve human rights. The new clause would create a link between human rights and economic pressure.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): I acknowledge the importance of putting pressure on countries to improve human rights. However, the new clause goes further. Once a country is listed as a state where gross violations of human rights occur, it can receive no development assistance. The Taliban would have been on the list because they were probably the worst Government in the world for violating human rights. The new clause would have prevented any aid to Afghanistan. Would the hon. Gentleman have wanted to achieve that?

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