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Mr. Cash: I have made a speech addressing some of the issues raised by clause 8, and I have also made those points to the Secretary of State, who has replied to them, so I am interested to hear the view of my hon. Friend on the Front Bench.

Mark Simmonds: As my hon. Friend knows, I was present when he raised those matters in Westminster Hall. I sympathise with his argument, to which I shall specifically refer later in my speech.

We will support the Bill, but the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill knows that it is unlikely to proceed on to the statute book without
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Government support and co-operation. We want to see the Bill on the statute book, which is why it would be helpful if the Minister were to clarify in his winding-up speech how clause 8(2)(a), which provides for the Secretary of State to commit to aid spending three years in advance, fits with the Department's intention not to provide a proportion of financial support to, for example, Uganda, if certain criteria are not met.

We want to discuss various omissions, which the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, DFID officials and the relevant Ministers need to consider, in Committee and on Report. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East has raised one of those omissions: there is a case for including a provision to assess humanitarian aid, if only so that lessons can be learned to improve effectiveness in subsequent emergencies.

The Bill does not refer to the international finance facility for immunisation or future international finance facilities, and it fails to mention global aid to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, which will use up significant sums of money from British taxpayers and elsewhere. It also does not refer to harmonisation, which is an important point raised by the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith). If the Minister cannot explain those omissions today, I would be grateful if he were subsequently to explain how those policy areas fit into the context of the Bill, whether Ministers and the Department believe that the House would benefit from analysis of the outcomes in those particular policy areas and whether the Government intend to assist the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill in widening the scope of his Bill to cover those important areas.

The Bill does not appear suitably to address the effectiveness of direct budgetary support, which goes to the heart of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). The Government's own figures state that Britain has given nearly £1.5 billion in direct budgetary support to 20 countries since 2000. In the financial year 2004–05, for example, Uganda received £61 million in bilateral aid, of which £35 million was direct budgetary support. If the Bill were implemented unamended, just 42.6 per cent. of total bilateral aid going to Uganda would be transparent, while the rest would be outside the Bill. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant percentage of direct budgetary support money is unaccounted for and does not end up where it was intended to go. The Bill is an opportunity for the Government to improve accountability and transparency on money allocated by DFID in direct budgetary support and thereby improve the lives of millions of people in developing and poorer nations.

The Bill clearly covers both bilateral and multilateral support, although the wording is confused in places. How does DFID propose to measure and analyse outputs from multilateral assistance, when it has limited control—and sometimes limited knowledge—over how and where the money is spent? Will the Minister explain how the Bill accords with specific countries' poverty reduction strategy papers? Does the Bill cover both international development assistance and official development assistance? Are countries not classified as developing by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, such as eastern European
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countries, covered by the Bill? How will EU multilateral aid be monitored and become transparent? That point was rightly highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, who has been a passionate and consistent advocate for, and believer in, resolving these issues.

Our long-term goal must be to facilitate the developing world in graduating from aid dependency to pluralistic societies with strong economies, thereby creating wealth and more and better jobs. That can be achieved only through alleviating global poverty, creating freer and fairer trade, making wider and deeper debt reductions, enhancing civil society and democracy, and assisting developing countries to build their export capacity and to develop their infrastructure.

We welcome and support the Bill's principal objective, as it would implement robust accountability systems so that development assistance is more effective for developing nations and their citizens. I hope that we shall be able to work across political parties to improve it and to facilitate its expeditious passage to enactment.

1.25 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): I join other hon. Members in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) on securing this debate, and commend the passion and skill with which he made his case to the House. No Labour Member will be surprised by that, as he has long been a campaigner on these issues. He consistently championed the needs of those in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America long before such causes became fashionable. I agree with the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) that my right hon. Friend has performed a remarkable feat in assembling such a coalition of support inside and outside the House, but nobody who knows him will be remotely surprised by that.

This has been an excellent debate. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning) for her comments, particularly about the considerable opportunities for scrutiny that already take place in the House in relation to international development and the way in which the Bill will further help such scrutiny. The hon. Members for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and Leeds, North-West (Greg Mulholland) made similar points later in the debate.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend (Mr. Brown) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) rightly congratulated my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, and the Government more generally, on the commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target. My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), in confirming his support for the Bill, referred to the excellence of Oxfam, which is based in his constituency and which also supports the Bill.

The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) and my hon. Friends the Members for City of York (Hugh Bayley) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark) eloquently echoed the moral case for development assistance that my right hon. Friend made in his introduction to the Bill. My hon. Friend the
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Member for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin) referred to the huge appetite among the British people for more progress in the fight against poverty.

The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) reminded the House that development must be a partnership and that developing countries have a responsibility further to strengthen good governance. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) paid tribute to the huge contribution that co-operatives make in tacking poverty in the developing world.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) rightly mentioned the importance of humanitarian assistance. We will reflect further on that. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and the hon. Members for St. Ives (Andrew George) and for Boston and Skegness raised, in their very different ways, a challenging series of questions for the House to reflect on if the Bill progresses, as the Government hope that it will.

Aid well spent can make a huge difference. In Burundi this year, a newly-elected Government scrapped primary school fees, and our £2 million of assistance is helping UNICEF to refurbish 500 schools and train 4,000 teachers, bringing hope to many young people in that country who are being given the chance to learn to read and write and to have better lives as a result. In Pakistan, as we speak, our £58 million of humanitarian assistance is helping to shelter and to feed the people of Kashmir—victims of the terrible earthquake in December.

It has been rightly highlighted that while much has been done, much more still needs to be done. That is why the Government have recognised the need to commit more development assistance. We have trebled our aid budget since 1997. By the end of the current spending round, we will have reached 0.47 per cent. We are committed, as hon. Members know, to reaching the UN's 0.7 per cent. goal by 2013, and earlier if we can launch the excellent idea of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, namely, the international finance facility.

We recognise the need to be accountable for that progress from 0.2 per cent. to 0.7 per cent., and more generally how aid is used and how other Government policies impact on poor countries. The Bill helpfully codifies the way that Government report on development and how they account for the resources that are spent, and it will place the need for such a report on a formal legislative basis. Helpfully, the Bill seeks to promote the transparency with which assistance is provided.

We take seriously our responsibility for ensuring that the money entrusted to us by Parliament for development is used for the purposes intended, and is managed through systems that ensure high levels of accountability to the UK public. We continue to invest in similar systems of accountability in our partner Governments and partner organisations to ensure that money is well spent and is used for what it was intended. In managing public funds we are, for example, required to comply fully with the range of requirements under Government accounting rules, and our use of those
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resources is subject to an annual financial audit by the National Audit Office. That audit covers our procedures for managing all types of expenditure, including support given to multinational organisations, to non-governmental organisations, to the private sector and that given directly to partner Governments through budget support or other financial instruments.

The Auditor General provides his formal opinion on our financial statements to Parliament, and his opinion has always been positive. In addition, the NAO carries out a rolling programme of studies on how well the Department manages its use of public funds. As the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton said, the Public Accounts Committee can hold public hearings, and does, that are based on the reports to which I have referred. There is also the International Development Committee, which challenges the way in which we use our funds.

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