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Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab):
Last time, I asked the Minister to deal with the question of civilian and service volunteers who now live in the Irish Republicor the Irish Free State, as it used to be. Will my hon. Friend clarify the position of those people, and how the announcement will affect them? Several hon. Members have, over the past 20 or 30 years, raised the question of parallel circumstances in Germany. I. G. Farben, for example, held and used people not under the Geneva conventions, but as slave labour. I urge the Minister to stick his chest out and remember that eight Conservative Prime Ministers, under 31 years of
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Conservative government, did nothing to address this issue. He should be proud to have been able to implement the change, notwithstanding the hiccups and shortcomings.
Mr. Touhig: Let us hope and pray that there will be many more years of Labour government, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am sure that the country feels that way. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) for his kind comments, but I cannot specifically answer his query about citizens of the former Irish Free State, now the Irish Republic. I realise that I owe my hon. Friend an answer, so I shall look further into the matter and answer him then. My hon. Friend also asked a question about other prisoners of war
Slave labour, or those interned as a result of conflict. We take the view, as does the House, that those who had to endure Japanese prisoner of war camps had an exceptionally horrible existence. That is exemplified by the fact that 25 per cent. of prisoners of war in the far east died in captivity, as opposed to about 5 per cent. in Europe. That shows why we feel that it is important to do something to recognise the suffering that so many of our fellow citizens had to endure. I hope that the House will welcome what I am doing, and I look forward to working with ABCIFER and the all-party group and updating the House with further statements at the appropriate time.
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Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you provide some guidance on parliamentary inquiries into what is commonly called the loans or cash for peerages scandal, particularly when Scotland Yard detectives have asked for such inquiries to be delayed, lest they adversely affect police investigations or even a possible criminal trial?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he intended to raise that matter. As I understand it, no charges have yet been brought, so the normal sub judice rule would not apply. It is therefore for Committees of the House to take their own decisions about the conduct of their business. I understand that the Select Committee on Public Administration has decided to delay its inquiry, which is entirely a matter for a Committee of the House in these circumstances. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: In that case, he should say so. It is not enough to stand in his place, as I am unsure why he is rising. Is this a separate point of order or further to the previous point of order?
John Hemming: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought I had given you notice of my intention to raise a point of order in respect of an answer given yesterday by the Minister for Local Government. That Minister said that he did not accept the premise that the Government have a policy on what the council tax should be or on whether the council tax should be allowed to increase beyond the rate of inflation. I wish to clarify for the House the fact that the Government have had a policy on the council tax, which is called CTSS, council tax for standard spending, and ANCT, assumed national council tax. It is also important to note, for clarification, that the council tax has gone up beyond the rate of inflation.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that I received no notice that he intended to raise that point of order. I am afraid that his point does not fulfil the criteria for a proper point of order, but he has had his opportunity to put his remarks before the House.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State, when reporting on departmental expenditure, to publish an independent evaluation and measurement of the effectiveness of United Kingdom bilateral aid projects in reducing poverty and a comparison of the effectiveness of different projects and forms of aid in reducing poverty; to require the Secretary of State to redirect resources towards the most effective projects and forms of aid; and for connected purposes.
Throughout the past year I have been struck time and again by the commitment of people from all walks of life to the campaign to make poverty history. It captured public imagination and galvanised support across social boundaries and partisan divisions in a way that few other grassroots campaigns have managed to achieve in recent years. Many people still wear their "Make Poverty History" wristbands, not just from forgetfulness or as a fashion item, but from a lasting desire to see the overarching goal of the campaign realisedthat the grinding poverty and misery that so many people on the planet face daily should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Aid is only one part of a complex set of issues that can make a difference to the developing world, but more aid, delivered more effectively, has a key role to play in ending global poverty. However, as 2005 grew to a close I sensed some disillusion in the "Make Poverty History" campaign, as domestic concerns about terrorism and security diverted attention from it, and the disappointing outcome of the Hong Kong trade summit seemed to lead to a dissipation of the excitement and energy of some of the activists.
The best way to restore enthusiasm to all the people who campaigned, marched and wrote letters to us all is for the Government to demonstrate real follow-through on the rhetoric and to show tangible progress on meeting the eight millennium development goals that form the bedrock of our international development strategy. To that end, much better linkage must be shown between high-level development rhetoric, the nature of our international aid and interventions and the outcomes achieved on the ground in terms of poverty reduction, lives saved, children educated and all the other relevant indicators that the public understand and seek.
My Bill aims to strengthen that linkage. I pay tribute to the work of the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), whose International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Bill has stimulated much discussion about how we can lock Department for International Development Ministers into a clear framework of accountability. His Bill represents an extremely useful and substantial step forward, especially as it places Parliament at the centre of the accountability process. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on both the Bill and the skilful way in which he is piloting it through this place. I am extremely impressed by the degree of cross-party consensus it has achieved.
My Bill would provide a useful complement to that of the right hon. Gentleman. At its heart is a requirement that the Secretary of State regularly publish an
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independent evaluation of UK aid projects. In recent years, calls have been made repeatedly for greater evaluation, and more independent evaluation, of DFID activities. The sixth report of the International Development Committee in the last Parliament urged DFID to ensure the independence of evaluation by, first, increasing the proportion of evaluations conducted by external evaluators and, secondly, ensuring that the results of all its evaluations were made publicly available. Above all, it said that careful thought must be given to the ways in which the monitoring of DFID's progress against the millennium development goals can be more closely integrated with the monitoring of the Department's individual programmes and projects.
Let us be clear: we are not talking about the mere reporting of data and the repackaging of departmental data. That would not be good enough; it would be no substitute for a systematic and independent assessment of effectiveness. As the DFID effectiveness report demonstrated, a large volume of performance information may already be available, but there is
Higher priority must be given to performance assessment and evaluation so that DFID can better understand its own organisational effectiveness and its contribution to successful international development.
The Bill would certainly make sure that such evaluation received higher priority by making it a statutory requirement. Again, I emphasise the importance of independent evaluation. To quote again from the DFID effectiveness document: the Department
My Bill also requires the Secretary of State to publish a comparison of the different types of aid project and the different forms of aid that we support. DFID spends about £4 billion each year on a variety of programmes that are delivered through different mechanisms. Some of that spending takes the form of bilateral aid; some is
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multilateral. We need to achieve a far better understanding of the relative effectiveness of the main types of aid that we provide. The independent evaluation envisaged in the Bill should, I hope, provide the evidential basis, which will in turn lead to better decision making about which aid programmes should be targeted to ensure the greatest possible reduction in poverty.
Anyone who has spent any time at all reading through the literature about aid effectiveness will be aware that the territory is hotly contested. There is a great deal of conflicting evidence about what constitutes good aid and what constitutes bad aid. Measuring the effectiveness of aid is difficult and it is easy to talk about it in general terms, but it is essential that every effort is made to improve this discipline. I have been extremely impressed by the DFID officials whom I have met and by the Secretary of State, who brings unquestionable commitment to his job. I am confident that they would wish this agenda to be developed in their Department.
The rigorous, independent evaluation of our aid spending promoted by the Bill should not just ensure best value for taxpayers' moneyby securing the best possible poverty reduction outcomesbut strengthen and sustain public support for our aid. Over the past year, a huge number of people have invested their time, resources and energy in campaigning for an end to the obscene levels of poverty in the developing world. They are not just looking for warm rhetoric from this place or even for grand announcements that focus on the funding for our aid programmes and other inputs. Instead, they want to see and understand the outputsthe real, tangible difference being made by our international aidand to see how much further there is to go before poverty really is made history.
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