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Session 2001- 02
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Standing Committee Debates
International Development Bill [Lords]

International Development Bill [Lords]

Standing Committee D

Thursday 22 November 2001


[Mr. David Amess in the Chair]

International Development Bill [Lords]

Clause 1

Development assistance

Amendment moved [this day]: No. 1, in page 1, line 7, after `contribute', insert `directly, or indirectly'.—[Mrs. Spelman.]

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 12, at end insert


    (c) promoting good governance in one or more such countries'.

No. 3, in page 1, line 12, at end insert


    (d) reducing conflict or the potential for conflict in one or more such countries'.

No. 4, in page 1, line 12, at end insert


    (e) putting into place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment in one or more such countries.'.

No. 6, in page 1, line 16, at end add—

    `(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Secretary of State may fund public awareness campaigns in developing countries for purposes consistent with this section.'.

No. 12, in clause 4, page 2, line 24, at end insert—

    `(d) promote, or assist any person or body to promote, the awareness of good governance and of the means of achieving good governance,'.

No. 13, in page 2, line 28, after `(b)', insert `(c) or (d) or (e)'.

2.30 pm

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. It is a great pleasure to serve under you for the first time.

I was in the middle of presenting a group of amendments that probe the Government on the objective and focus of the Bill, which is clearly stated as being poverty reduction. I expressed our concern that important aspects of development assistance should not be downgraded because of that primary focus. We discussed the need to ensure that conflict reduction and prevention continue to receive the same attention from the Department.

I move now to foreign direct investment. Amendment No. 4 would put in place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment into developing countries. It would allow the Secretary of State to provide assistance for measures that were designed to do so. It is based on the assumption that attracting such investment is a major purpose of development aid and provides Governments with more tax revenue to boost the local economy, create jobs and bear the risk if investments fail.

Underlying the amendment is the belief that attracting foreign direct investment into developing countries is an essential element of poverty reduction. The Government have said:

    ``the progress which has been made over the last few decades in reducing the proportion of people living in poverty has been largely the result of economic growth: raising incomes generally, including those of poor people. Economic growth is an indispensable requirement for poverty reduction.''

That passage is lifted from the Government's White Paper ``Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor''.

Foreign direct investment by multinational companies can boost the local economy, create jobs and help to alleviate poverty. It is far more important to developing countries in the long term than small increases in overseas aid. Foreign direct investment helps to take away some of the financial risk that the Governments of developing countries face when they borrow money from banks. Companies bear the risk if their investments fail, but if they are successful, the host Government benefits from increased tax revenue, and the investor benefits from the resulting profits, in what one might describe as a virtuous circle.

The Government have stressed the importance of foreign investment in the globalisation White Paper, noting:

    ``The attraction of capital inflows is an essential element of a strategy to speed up sustainable development and poverty reduction.''

The White Paper continues:

    ``A central feature of globalisation has been the substantial increase in movement of capital around the world.''

Over the past seven years, it has increased to more than three times the level of development aid.

Attracting foreign direct investment is, therefore, vital to development, and the Bill must reflect that reality. That is especially pertinent in the context of the successful preliminary talks in Doha on a world trade agreement. If the outcome in three years' time is successful, markets will become more open to developing countries and there should be greater opportunities for foreign direct investment. To take an optimistic view of the outcome of the talks, foreign direct investment should contribute more than three times the level of development aid. It should be a growing feature of the relationship between developed and developing nations, and we sincerely hope that it will close the gap between us. That is another of the important elements that we want to be reassured will not be lost by focusing on poverty reduction.

Amendment No. 6 draws the Government on their understanding of the use of development assistance to fund awareness campaigns. The amendment would allow the Government to fund awareness campaigns in developing countries. When I spoke to amendment No. 2, I stressed the importance of good governance. I was seeking reassurance that focusing on poverty

reduction would not preclude initiatives that could lead indirectly to poverty reduction. We strongly believe that, in the important areas highlighted in our amendments, programmes for direct poverty reduction should go hand in hand with public awareness campaigns. The amendment would be consistent with the aims of the Bill. That is not directly poverty reduction; it is an obvious example of indirect assistance. Public information campaigns have a key role, directly and indirectly, on a range of issues related to poverty reduction.

Hon. Members may recall the topical but tragic case of Victoria Climbie—I am sure that the results are present in the memory of each one of us. That case uncovered a considerable amount of trafficking between west Africa, the United Kingdom and other European destinations. We welcome some of the initiatives that the Government sought to put in place to deter traffickers. The most important is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention on bribery and corruption, which will be incorporated in emergency legislation. Having pressed so hard for it in this Bill, we are glad to see that it will be enacted relatively quickly. It will deter British nationals from engaging in the loathsome trade of trafficking by going to seek children—particularly from west Africa. Another important factor in dealing with that problem is to make parents aware of the dangers that their children face. The Climbie case underscores the need to ensure that development assistance can be given in the form of public awareness campaigns, which is why I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Investigations into what appeared to be a much larger problem of trafficking than was originally thought, uncovered some horrifying statistics. Children are sold in the Ivory Coast for as little as £15. To understand fully how parents could bring themselves to sell a child, we would need to understand what it means to live in abject poverty. The real problem is that parents in such countries are often completely misled; they are led to believe that, if they sell their children to European nationals, their children will have a better life in this country. I am afraid that it has proved to be quite untrue.

It is of the utmost importance that resources should be made available to put a deterrent in place, and that parents should not be duped by the hype. They should know that their children will not necessarily be coming to a better life or a better education here. The sheer hard fact is that many of the children trafficked into this country go on to receive absolutely no education. Worse still, many of them have a life of abuse and depravity. There is a clear pathway through British airports to other parts of Europe. I am sure that the Committee is aware of the statistics—of the 469 children who entered through Gatwick airport and the 65 who went missing, some of whom turned up in Turin working as prostitutes. Parents in developing countries need to be warned in the strongest possible terms against such organised crime.

Other measures would go hand in hand to help overcome that horrible trade. Our colleagues in the European Parliament will seek to introduce cross-border controls on the children being trafficked, who obviously cross several European borders before finding their ultimate destination. Those colleagues agree that development resources should be put into public awareness campaigns in developing countries, which is why I want to emphasise the importance of that initiative.

Another important project that I warmly commend to the Minister is the starfish initiative, of which I am sure that he has heard although it is comparatively new. It is an example of a public awareness campaign that could indirectly reap important dividends in terms of poverty reduction in the developing world. It was set up by Helen Taylor-Thompson, the founder of the Mildmay trust, of which hon. Members may have heard. The particular aim of the initiative is to make girls and young women aware of the dangers of prostitution, which many often sadly resort to as almost their only means of earning a living. In places such as sub-Saharan Africa, they entertain the considerable risk of contracting AIDS.

The starfish initiative is a public awareness campaign that takes the simplest possible form. It supplies to a community a container that contains teaching tools on DVD. The language of the country, or even of the region, is used in the DVD to convey important points of public awareness to adults and children. No text appears, as the women and children are often illiterate. The initiative tackles the difficulty of working with a population that needs to be made aware of things that we take for granted, and that is unable to read warnings. We want to ensure that such initiatives will not be precluded from benefiting from the assistance given by the Department for International Development.


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