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Mr. Clarke: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's contribution. I am sure that she agrees with me that education is at the heart of what we want to achieve for children. I hope to discuss that objective later, which is embraced by the millennium development goals.

I shall briefly explain each clause in the Bill, which aims to promote transparency to forge and cement the confidence to sustain support for even greater progress. Clause 1 calls for an annual report to Parliament.

Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on not only his success in the ballot but introducing this excellent Bill, which I wholeheartedly support. Given the massive success of Make Poverty History, does he agree that the report should be published in a smaller, easy-to-use guide, which—this relates to the previous intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber)—would help schoolchildren to understand exactly what we are trying to achieve?

Mr. Clarke: I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. I have not included it in my Bill yet, but I am sure that discussions can take place. People outside the House do not always want to read lengthy legislation, and they may appreciate a plain person's guide to what we are seeking to achieve.

Clause 2 deals with the coherence of the UK contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable development, ensuring that Government policy is unified, holistic and joined-up in its objectives to further international development, which is consistent with the view expressed in the joint publication in March by the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Treasury.

Clause 3 sets out the financial reporting requirements, which embrace bilateral and multilateral development assistance and take into account information on low-income countries.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing this enormously important Bill, which I intend to support. Does he agree that when he refers to parliamentarians and the accountability of Governments to Parliaments, his Bill may set an example to aid recipients? We are committed to good governance in African countries, which want to join us in that, so it is important that African parliamentarians have the opportunity to understand what their Governments are doing with aid.

Mr. Clarke: I agree with my hon. Friend, who also made that point at a recent meeting in London with the United Nations millennium development goals co-ordinator. If the Bill is enacted, I hope that it inspires developing countries and their Parliaments to follow us on accountability and transparency.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): I enthusiastically support the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. Does he agree that in some quarters, sometimes as a result of ignorance
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rather than of malign intent, there is a supposition that there is on the one hand aid and on the other hand good governance, as though they should be juxtaposed against each other? Will he take this opportunity to underline the importance of good governance and the fact that it is not achieved on the cheap? Good governance requires a strong and continuing commitment by this country and others to international development assistance.

Mr. Clarke: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), who has made an extremely important point underlining the emphasis on getting the results right. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) has said, developing countries think that it is their responsibility to make an appraisal. When I was in Sweden last week, I was very impressed by the agreements and compacts, which are far removed from the terrible conditionality of the past.

Clause 4 seeks an assessment of progress towards fulfilling millennium development goal 8, including progress on aid, debt relief and, crucially, achieving objectives on the effectiveness of aid.

Clause 5 addresses multilateral development assistance and millennium development goals 1 to 7.

Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): It is a pleasure to be here to support my right hon. Friend. Last night, Bob Geldof said that if anyone tries to talk out the Bill, they will be vilified throughout the country. Does he agree that that is the case?

Mr. Clarke: Given the commitment of every political party in this House to the objective, I doubt whether any hon. Member would be so foolish. If such a thing were to happen, I would await the results, but I regard it as unlikely.

Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman has just made a slip of the tongue: he said, "unlikely", but given the reaction, I think that the word he was looking for is "unwise".

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning) is not only a sponsor of the Bill, but an extremely wise person. Who am I to disagree with the wisdom that she shares with the House?

Clause 5 addresses millennium development goals 1 to 7, which largely concern developing countries, and seeks to establish, for example, how much multilateral assistance is untied. Importantly, it makes it clear that we should know what assistance is being given to developing countries as they address environmental concerns, which are clearly of the utmost importance.

Clause 6 deals with the UK's expenditure targets and monitors progress towards the objective of spending 0.7 per cent. of gross national income on development assistance. That will include an annual revised assessment of when the 0.7 per cent. target is expected to be reached, as well as of the current percentage of GNI being spent. I am proud to say that if the Bill is enacted, it will be the first time that that figure has been enshrined in legislation.

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): The transparency that would be introduced by my right hon.
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Friend's Bill, which I welcome, would help to remove the barrier to our understanding of how we achieve the United Nations target. Does he agree that that target is not a speed limit, so that once we achieve that speed we can go no faster, but something that we must achieve at some point in the future?

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we have, as I hope we will, annual reports to Parliament, as in at least five other countries that have reached or exceeded the target, there is no reason in the world why we should not continue to monitor the situation.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): We have heard much about good governance overseas. Does my right hon. Friend agree that his Bill would also promote good governance in this country, because the reporting that he is asking for would make parliamentarians focus on achieving what we have said so often that we wish to achieve, thereby translating our words into deeds?

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. In terms of coherence, particularly across Government Departments, the Bill would help us to get much nearer to what she is seeking to achieve.

Clause 7 deals with the effectiveness of bilateral aid and total overseas development assistance. It sets out benchmarks against which the effectiveness of aid can be measured, including the impact on HIV/AIDS, child mortality, trading opportunities and, crucially, good governance.

Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing this excellent Bill. Has he considered adding education to his very good list for assessing the effectiveness of assistance? One of the ways in which we can effectively eradicate poverty is through the education of girls and young women, in particular. It would be interesting and appropriate to hear about what the Government have done in that respect.

Mr. Clarke: I thank my hon. Friend and remind her, if I may, that development goals 1 to 7 include education of girls in developing countries, particularly in relation to investment. There are some good examples of best practice even today, but we want to build on those. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that that is the right thing to do.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the work of Professor Calestous Juma from Kenya, who works at Harvard and who said that we must turn development aid away from a rescue operation for Africa into a learning process for Africa? Would my right hon. Friend like such an approach to be used to measure what is happening to our aid overseas?

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