Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman may see the link between what he is saying and the Bill, but it is not yet evident to the House. On Third Reading of a Bill, his remarks must be within the context of that Bill.

Norman Lamb: I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point that I am making is that there must be consistency across Departments. At the time of the sale to Tanzania, there was talk of the possibility of amending the export control legislation to achieve the same test of sustainable development and reduction of poverty that is at the core of this Bill. Will the Minister confirm that that will happen so that we have consistency across Departments, driving at the same objective of poverty reduction?

The third issue concerns the fact that 25 per cent. of the Department's aid expenditure is channelled through the EU. There is genuine concern that the EU is not yet performing as it should in channelling its aid into the reduction of poverty. All the trends have been in the wrong direction. A Library research paper says that in 1970–74 30 of the top recipients of EU aid were Africa-Caribbean-Pacific region countries, but by 1996–97 only two of them were in the top 15. That is a move entirely in the wrong direction. In 1970–74, two of the top 15 recipients were the Asian countries India and Bangladesh, but their position slipped, and by 1997–98 there were no Asian recipient countries in the top 15.

It is incumbent on the Government to ensure that their total spend on development assistance goes into the reduction of poverty and sustainable development. In an

23 Jan 2002 : Column 975

earlier intervention, I expressed concern that monitoring of the EU's aid budget had not started particularly auspiciously. The annual reports that were promised in 2000 have not yet appeared. The Government must demand change in the EU so as to ensure that the money spent on aid through the EU satisfies the same test as the Bill lays down for the rest of our aid.

The Bill is an excellent start in directing our spending in the right direction, but it is not enough on its own. There must also be an increase of resources going to the developing world. We must aim to achieve the 0.7 per cent. target within 10 years. There must be consistency across Departments, and we must ensure that all our aid meets that test.

9.7 pm

Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford): I shall not detain the House for too long, as we have covered an enormous amount today and in previous stages of the Bill. It has been an education for me, as a new Member of Parliament. The Standing Committee was the first on which I have served, and it has been impressive to observe the passage of the Bill through Parliament. The consensus that we have reached in the House is a rarity.

The issue of overseas development and poverty reduction should unite all hon. Members, from whatever side of the House, because in this country we are privileged to be in a society in which poverty does not affect too many people. Of course we have poverty in some areas, but deprivation exists in countries across the world, where people are in genuine need and do not have the advantages that we take for granted. All hon. Members should work together to ensure that we get the best results for poor people in the third world who need help from countries such as the United Kingdom.

The administration of overseas aid must be efficient. We must be sure that the money we spend in this area is used to best effect. We must ensure that it is monitored. It is disappointing that the proposal of an annual report has not been accepted. It is also disappointing that once again we are using the European Union as a method of distributing overseas aid. The EU's record in that area is not particularly proud. I shall not give further examples, as some have already been given, and the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) referred to the problem a few moments ago.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) said, there is nothing wrong with the idea of third party organisations distributing money, but we want to see that it is being used properly and not going to the wrong areas, and we do not want to see the huge delays caused by its being administered from Brussels.

A small point which, as the Minister knows, I have raised at earlier stages relates to the inclusion of the British overseas territories. I believe that, being British, they should be included in other legislation; they should not be lumped together and treated as if they were foreign territories in relation to international aid.

I am delighted to note that the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) agrees with me. Sadly, as she will know, that is one of only a few matters on which we agree. The views that she expressed earlier on the United States concerned me greatly. The United States does a phenomenal amount of work in defending freedom, helping impoverished countries and assisting countries

23 Jan 2002 : Column 976

that lack democracy and are threatened by various interests. It is always the first nation to help bring about democracy, freedom and the alleviation of poverty, and we must stand by it.

I do not think that the debate is assisted by attacks on our ally, the United States. I believe that we need to work with the United States, and with all countries that want to contribute to the eradication of global poverty. Sidelining and criticising the United States does not help us to achieve our ultimate objective.

9.12 pm

Mr. Hawkins: With one exception, contributions to the debate have been of high quality. There has been a good deal of common ground between the parties. The Under–Secretary of State spoke briefly but skilfully, as always, about the overall concept of the Bill. He also stressed a fact that concerns hon. Members throughout the House: at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium, some 800 million people still cannot read or write, and 113 million children can obtain no education.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) expressed our reservations about the Bill, and listed the ways in which we feel that it could have been improved. She rightly paid tribute to the retiring permanent secretary Sir John Vereker, and described what she had seen of the resilience of Afghan aid workers during her recent visit to Pakistan. She spoke of the need to go on tackling global poverty, and emphasised that Conservative Members had wanted specific provision for funds for good-governance projects in the Bill.

My hon. Friend also pointed out that we felt the Government had fallen at the first hurdle recently, a point picked up by the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington), speaking with great experience of the subject, echoed the tributes to Sir John Vereker. I was slightly concerned when at one stage he appeared to praise without reservation the so-called "everything but arms" initiative. I attended a number of meetings just before the end of the last Parliament where many other Labour Members—led by the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and the former Chairman of the Select Committee, Bowen Wells, to whose work I pay tribute—were worried about some of the adverse effects of that initiative, especially its impact in the Caribbean and knock-on results in the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Roger Casale) spoke about his strong commitment to the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), from his great experience as the current Chairman of the Select Committee, spoke of his worries about the collapse of civil society and the grim parts of the world, and expressed his views on the vexed question of percentages.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) spoke about his support for the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, and praised the underlying spirit of some of the Conservative amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden moved in Committee, and some of the new clauses that were tabled for tonight's debate.

The hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) claimed credit for the focus on poverty concept, and said that he was delighted that it had moved from something

23 Jan 2002 : Column 977

that he put forward as a Back Bencher in his first Parliament to being part of the Bill. The hon. Member for North Norfolk went back to the question of percentages. Although he said that the percentage was moving in the right direction, he will not have forgotten that for the first three years under the present Government, it went down. He talked about the export guarantee amendment. He may have forgotten that that was a Conservative amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell) rightly defended the United States' role in protecting freedom and democracy, not least in aid. He expressed his concerns, which I share, about the delivery of aid, and about the way in which British overseas territories such as Gibraltar, on which he and I have great concerns, particularly at the moment, should be included properly in future legislation.

It has been a good-natured Third Reading debate, with one exception, as I said. I cannot finish without drawing attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), who contradicted the Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs in the debate on Zimbabwe, was comprehensively demolished by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury.

The hon. Lady said a couple of things with which I agreed. She described herself as a difficult Liberal Democrat who needed a lot of tutoring. She said that she dreams about sustainable development, and that she needed a lot of education from the retiring permanent secretary and his civil servants about humanitarian issues. She wished my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury well in his difficult work chairing the Select Committee, but venting her anti-American spleen and prejudice was not worthy of her, her party or this debate.

Next Section

IndexHome Page