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Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I very much support the Bill, but could it not be improved by removing the cap on scrutinising only the 10 largest recipients of British aid? Should we not examine most, if not all, of the British aid projects around the world?
Mr. Clarke: There have been extensive consultations on the Bill. I want Parliament to get as much information as possible, but I do not want to impose bureaucracy where it is not required. With great respect, that would be the result of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): I am pleased to be in the Chamber to support my right hon. Friend's Billin fact, I am so pleased to be here to support it that I shall not be speaking on it, which I am sure hon. Members will welcome. Will the report deal with the effectiveness of aid to the developing world? In the past, particularly under previous Governments, some of that aid has been dissipated, has not been effective and has not helped the very poorest of the people whom we want to help.
Mr. Clarke: I am sure that there is widespread disappointment in the House that my hon. Friend will not seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The issue that he raises is one of the most important aspects of the Bill, and I hope to deal with it later.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): I echo the comments that have been made about the 10 countries on which the Bill focuses. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider expanding that number? An awful lot more countries require attention and observation, particularly with regard to corruption, which has already been referred to. To limit that to just 10 countries would not do justice to an excellent Bill.
Mr. Clarke: Nothing in the Bill prevents continued assistance to countries that are not specifically outlined in it. That is what the Department for International Development continues to do, and information will continue to be in the public domain. If the House agrees that there should be an annual report to Parliament, as I believe it will, the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to put precisely that point.
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): As Chair of the International Development Committee I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am pleased that the Bill's sponsors include members of the Committee from all three parties, which demonstrates the Committee's commitment to the Bill's objectives.
Will the right hon. Gentleman reiterate and reaffirm that it is important annually to evaluate how we are doing in achieving targets that go beyond this
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Parliament and the next one? Otherwise, not only accountability to the House but by Governments is too far distant to be effective?
Mr. Clarke: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I think that the whole House appreciates the excellent work that he is doing as Chair of the International Development Committee, and I take on board the important point he made.
To return briefly to the issue of what aid accomplishes, the Bill's focus is on results, above all else. The millennium development goals, including the international commitment to halve poverty by 2015, represent clear benchmarks for us all, but the Chancellor has repeatedly made it clear that, on present progress, our goals remain too elusive. He has reminded us that primary education for all will be delivered not by 2015 but by 2130; the halving of poverty not by 2015 but by 2150, 135 years late; and the elimination of avoidable infant deaths not by 2015 but by 2165, 150 years late.
"Shamefacedly the world is currently well off track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. What is needed to put them back on track is a genuine partnership between North and South to overcome a number of chronic, interlinked problems that lead to more than 30,000 children dying every day from preventable diseases".
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, whom I am delighted to see with us today, has given a tremendous lead. Few in the House who heard his speech on Africa in the Chamber on 30 June 2005, just ahead of the Make Poverty History week, will doubt his commitment. His desire to see developed nations accept their moral responsibilities, as well as truly to empower poor countries to reach the millennium development goals, was greatly encouraging. How could it be otherwise, when he reminded us that some 315 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly half the population, live on less than $1 a day; some 40 million of its children are not where they should bein schools; some 250 million Africans do not have safe water to drink or proper sanitation; and 6 million men, women and children died of AIDS in 2004 and of entirely preventable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria? He was clear about the need to stamp out corruption, and gave examples of effective action to that end in Zambia, South Africa and Nigeria. Like my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, he saw the need for partnershipa concept that is embraced by my Bill.
"We are also trying to improve predictability of aidfor example, by the 10-year agreements that we have reached with Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. In every case, we assess the risk and put in appropriate safeguards against corruption. We are also working with countries to strengthen and improve their public financial management, because we have to be sure that we can demonstrate that the money reaches the poor."[Official Report, 30 June 2005; Vol. 435, c. 1468.]
This year's United Nations Development Programme human development report underlines the need to eradicate poverty in the developing world, where more than 1 billion people are living in extreme poverty, and the same number do not have access to clean water. We have rightly recognised the injustices, but it is crucial that we continue to work to resolve them.
My Bill seeks to ensure that aid is delivered effectively and increasingly. It enshrines the target of spending 0.7 per cent. of gross national income on overseas development assistance agreed at the millennium summit in 2000.
Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): I support the Bill and acknowledge the good work of World Vision, which is based in my constituency, but does the right hon. Gentleman not think that, despite the Minister's good work, there should be some penalty if we fail to meet the 0.7 per cent. target?
Mr. Clarke: The great value of the annual report that will be required if the Bill is approved is that it would give the House the opportunity to ask that sort of question, to seek effectiveness and to hold the Executive to account, and I trust that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that opportunity.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I, along with others, welcome my right hon. Friend's Bill and his particular commitment to the issue. He has rightly said that the millennium development goals are at the centre of the Bill. Has he considered whether there should be a wider commentary on the achievement of the millennium development goals within the report for which he asks?
Mr. Clarke: I welcome my hon. Friend's contribution and his long-standing interest in these issues. He is a very experienced parliamentarian, and I am sure that he would find no difficulty in pursuing that line if we get our annual report.
On that point, the Bill is about putting power in the hands of parliamentarians. It is about providing the House with the information to assess, analyse and scrutinise the Government's admirable commitments. It is about ensuring that all those people who marched to Edinburgh in the summer, who supported and watched Live 8, have before them the information to track the Government's progress.
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab):
Like other hon. Members, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Bill. He has discussed the support of the people who marched in Edinburgh, but young children in our schools support the millennium goal of getting children into education around the world. In my constituency, for example, children have collected Christmas boxes for AIDS orphans in Africa. Will he say how his Bill can
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help us to harness the enthusiasm and commitment of the younger generation, who will be the flag bearers for our policy into the future?
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