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Having dealt with the amendments, I come to the new clauses in the group. New clause 5—the key provision, which leads the group—goes to the heart of the Bill. It is all about the millennium development goals and requires that each annual report should include the Secretary of State’s assessment of the millennium development goals and the indicators used to measure achievement, and whether they need to be amended. The millennium development goals are, in some respects, already looking rather sick. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has said that, far from the goal of primary education for all being delivered by 2015, it will not be delivered until 2130. That is so far into the future. How meaningful is it to have a directive that must be achieved by the year 2030? Is this not bringing into ridicule the process of having millennium development goals? Is this not encouraging a lack of focus on our priorities for the third world?
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10.30 am

Mr. Cash: Does my hon. Friend accept that there is something rather insidious, which is characteristic of the Government, in piling in a vast amount of time and attention to targets—for example, public services and so on—and yet to leave the issue on which the focus should be addressed in disarray? We end up by having an enormous amount of spin, huge reports, commissions and everything else. At the same time, there are people in Africa and other countries who are starving to death because the relevant issues are not being dealt with, and the money that is given by charitable organisations, for example, is being diverted.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is a timely moment to remind the House that we are talking about public aid, and also a report relating to that. I think that the hon. Gentleman is pushing the boundaries further than they should properly be pushed on this occasion.

Mr. Chope: I revert to the issue of millennium goals and poverty, Mr. Deputy Speaker. One of the goals was to halve poverty by 2015. Who would disagree with that as an objective? Some may say that halving it would not be good enough and that it should be eliminated. It is impossible to eliminate poverty if it is defined in terms of relativities. However rich other people become, there will always be some people who are not as rich as others. If we accept that there is such a thing as absolute poverty, halving it by 2015 is fine. That is a reasonable objective. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that poverty will not be halved until the year 2150. That will be 135 years too late for those who might be hoping that they will be removed from poverty. Again, we are presented with a meaningless concept. What is the point of having goals that are so far in the distance? It is rather like the football match last night, when people wondered when the goals were coming. At least they came in the end. However, we have millennium development goals that are unlikely to be met—in this case, of halving poverty—until 135 years have passed.

Even more distressing is that the goal of eliminating avoidable infant deaths—not unavoidable infant deaths—is 2015. When is it likely to be achieved? In the year 2165—in other words, 150 years later than the original target. It is only seven years since the millennium. In another six years, perhaps the target will be extended 150 years further into the distance, beyond the horizon. In this context, I think that new clause 5 would improve the Bill enormously. It would force the Government to address the millennium goals and lead to an open discussion on whether they are worth while, whether they should be amended and whether there should be a focus on fewer of them, and on achieving the most important ones.

My new clause also includes the indicators of the goals. Some of the indicators of whether the goals are being achieved, or are likely to be achieved, are unnecessarily controversial and undermine the main objectives of the goals. If goal 1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, why do we not concentrate on that goal and on goal 2, which relates to universal primary education, and on reducing child mortality, which is goal 4, rather than getting diverted into the issue of the 12th indicator in goal 3, which is the proportion of seats held by women in national Parliaments?

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Surely there is no comparison between the gravity of the earlier issues to which I referred and increasing the proportion of seats held by women in national Parliaments. It is grossly distorting to think that seats held by women should even be considered in the same context as other, much more important, millennium goals. The new clause would give the Government the opportunity to engage the public in a debate about where the millennium goals are and where they are going.

At present, 50 countries are going backwards on at least one of the millennium goals. In sub-Saharan Africa, some countries are failing in every one of those goals. There should be much more focus on them and we should think about modifying them so that they are more realistic and attainable. Even if we increase the proportion of public expenditure in this country and of our GDP that goes in public contributions to the developing world, that will go nowhere near solving the problems that have been identified in the millennium development goals.

There are many who find it rather depressing and debilitating to think that things are getting worse rather than better. The facts give credence to those commentators who argue that the effect of aid is often to increase the poverty and the problems in other parts of the world, rather than to deal with them, and that too much of the discussion and posturing about third-world aid is to make us feel better, although we are not achieving very much on the ground in the countries to which we say we are directing our resources and help.

That brings me on to new clause 7, which is an important alternative proposal. It would provide that:

Having spoken at some length, I shall not go into great detail about what might be the effect or the impact of being able to include new clause 7 within the Bill. The value of aid and the barriers to development are important issues. There are some who might argue that 40 years of aid have not helped to reduce the dependence of African countries on aid, but instead have made them more dependent on it.

Mr. Cash: I hope that my hon. Friend and I will not disagree over the necessity for countries to receive aid, but also to have debt reduction. I campaigned as chairman of the Jubilee campaign—with more than 300 Members of this place supporting me—on the subject of the reduction of third-world aid. If a reduction in debt relief results in an increase in the amount of money made available to other countries, they can help themselves, which is one of my main objectives.

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Mr. Chope: I agree wholeheartedly, which is why aid should go to individual people, rather than to Governments. On 23 July 2005, The Business magazine said:

That is a result of the way in which the money is made available, and it demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such aid. Under new clause 7, the Government are required to include in the report observations about the value of aid and about the effect of third-party regulation and controls. Bob Geldof said:

He declared, too, that Africa needed entrepreneurial spirit. Such observations capture the public’s imagination, and it would be interesting to see whether the Government’s observations in the annual report can do the same.

Mr. Cash: My hon. Friend may not know that Bob Geldof is a long-standing friend of mine. He deserves strong support because his status and his directness enable him to draw attention to things that those of us who are not always listened to in the House of Commons as carefully as we would like sometimes fail to convey to the public at large.

Mr. Chope: I agree with my hon. Friend, and I am sure that we are both delighted that Bob Geldof is playing a key role in Conservative policy development with a view to bringing about the early return of a Conservative Government.

We must consider, too, civil and judicial structures when addressing the lack of property rights, the need for a trusted judiciary, law enforcement and the rule of law. On 3 July 2005, The Business said that developing countries are

People have houses, but not the titles to them crops but not deeds; businesses, but not statutes of incorporation. Too often, what passes for ownership is a system of informally evolved and acknowledged property rights. It would be useful to include Government observations on such issues in the annual report.

It has taken me longer than I hoped to develop my arguments, but I have provided a shopping list of requirements to improve the Bill. The Government must account to taxpayers for the large sums of money that have already been spent in the third world and the ever larger sums that the Chancellor has promised to spend on their behalf in future.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): I am delighted to participate in our debate, and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), whose constituency I find it difficult to pronounce, on his Bill. I attended the reception last night with Midge Ure, who, with Bob Geldof, supports the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, like others, has spoken eloquently about the measure, and urged us to keep our contributions short so that we can make progress.

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I had the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee, and I am pleased that some of my proposals, particularly on humanitarian accountability, have been included in the Bill. It is the first time that that has happened to me, and it may be a while before it happens again.

10.45 pm

Mr. Cash: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his success in being able to add his proposals to the Bill in Committee. Can he explain why the long title was changed, thus ensuring that my proposals could not be considered?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) will resist that invitation, however tempting it appears.

Mr. Ellwood: I am grateful for your assistance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and for allowing me to press on. However, I thank my hon. Friend for his congratulations.

The introduction of the Bill was prompted by the millennium development goals of 2001, which called on Governments to increase the proportion of gross national income spent on aid to 0.7 per cent. In considering the annual report, I should like to focus on the requirement for all Governments to participate in that initiative. High profile areas that have received money include Sudan, and Phuket in Thailand, with which I was involved in the aftermath of the tsunami, and regions affected by the Indonesian earthquake. As a nation, we are very generous in providing money and resources, which combine with the generosity of other countries—some offer more, some less—as the millennium development goals are designed to involve everyone. Money and resources, however, must be used wisely in the country that receives them. We must be sure that our money is spent correctly, and to prevent overlaps and clashes in the deployment of funds, co-ordination is required.

Yesterday morning I returned from Afghanistan, where I spent a few days meeting military organisations and civilian ministries. I met President Karzai, whom I asked about security and international development, General Jones, the head of NATO, and General Richards, the head of the international security assistance force. All of them agreed that the security umbrella provided by NATO and ISAF could be improved, as more troops were needed. In general, the provision is working, but the level of security provided by NATO cannot last for ever, as funds will eventually run out. International development and reconstruction organisations must take advantage of a small window of opportunity to build the necessary infrastructure, win the trust of the local people and develop local economies to provide jobs and livelihoods that are not connected to the poppy trade.

I visited Helmand province, where I met a representative from the Department for International Development and the provincial reconstruction team. They are doing fantastic work—which, however, is taking place in isolation from work in neighbouring provinces and other parts of Afghanistan. It is a silo project, and there is no overall co-ordinator in Kabul to make sure that those vast sums are spent correctly. When visiting Kabul and
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Kandahar I was deluged with details of international organisations and operations spending. All of them spend vast sums but, I am afraid, they work separately and follow their own agenda. Myriad organisations and ministries are active in Afghanistan, including UN missions and departments across Kabul, EU missions and delegations, and embassies, which provide cash, but also issue caveats about the way in which that money is spent. DFID is present, as is the United States Agency for International Development, ISAF, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging and the Afghan Counter Narcotics Trust Fund.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he needs to satisfy the House as to the new clause or amendment in the group that we are debating to which his remarks are related.

Mr. Ellwood: I am grateful for your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am speaking to amendments Nos. 4 and 8. It is the focus of the report that interests me.

We are in urgent need of a Paddy Ashdown-type character to co-ordinate operations in Afghanistan, because money is being wasted. The Bill deals with accountability for the 0.7 per cent. that we are spending. I am saddened to say that unless the annual report focuses not just on what Britain is spending, but on how that money is linked to international efforts, money will be wasted and unaccounted for, as other hon. Members have pointed out.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s contribution. He mentions amendments Nos. 4 and 8, but may I suggest that new clause 7 would also be an appropriate focus for his remarks, as it states that the report should

to the Secretary of State—

In that context, the security issues that my hon. Friend is rightly highlighting would fit neatly.

Mr. Ellwood: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. He raises an important point about bilateral aid, and we must consider how our money fits into that. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has joined us. I hope that the annual report for which the Bill provides will contain an analysis of how our money, and other money, is being spent.

I shall cite two examples to show how money is being spent and, unfortunately, wasted. The first relates to a school that was built by a non-governmental organisation to the north of Kandahar—a commendable project to provide education in a small town where there has been no form of education for a couple of decades, because of the various wars. Unfortunately, once the school was built the poppy fields to the north of the town were scorched, taking away the livelihoods—illegal though they were—of all the people who lived in that town. They have abandoned the town, leaving behind a brand-new
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school building. That is a good example of lack of co-ordination between the various international operations in Afghanistan.

The second example relates to bilateral aid, which was mentioned earlier. An embassy offered to build so many miles of road in Afghanistan. There are already many contractors building roads there and much work has been done in that respect. The condition that the donor country placed on the project required that that country provide the contractors. Limited funds were made available for the road building, and by the time the firm of contractors had flown out all its equipment, the time, and the funding, had almost run out. Had that money been allocated to a senior organisation in Afghanistan, it could have paid local contractors to continue the road building, rather than wasting time getting another company to come out and do the same work.

Mr. Cash: As the Secretary of State is in the Chamber, may I ask whether my hon. Friend is conscious, in the context of what should be included in the annual report under clause 2, that the Bill does not provide for it to include figures on corruption? There is a reference in the Bill to progress in

but no figures that would enable us to identify where the problem lies.

Mr. Ellwood: As my hon. Friend observes, the Secretary of State is present and heard his comments. The schedule provides a framework for the annual report, but the content of the report is for the Department. I hope that the comments on corruption have been heard. Corruption is widespread in Afghanistan. People there are not used to democracy, and tribal loyalties are strong. That is how a great deal of money is lost. If the Secretary of State can include such an analysis, it would put in perspective the challenges posed by the country to which the aid is going.

Mr. Chope: During his visit to Afghanistan, was my hon. Friend able to assess the extent to which the money put in to help there is being wasted? For example, has the vast sum spent on subsidising people to give up farming poppies been well invested?

Mr. Ellwood: We are straying a little, but that is an important point. Unfortunately, last year’s poppy crops were the largest ever recorded. About 4,000 tonnes of opium is being produced each year. We have spent £400 million on the poppy trade, and because last year’s crop was the largest ever—that is an estimate, of course, because the trade is conducted on the black market—questions must be asked about how that money was spent. That is why I argue that there should be one person or one organisation in charge, with the authority to make decisions, co-ordinate and use the finances and resources that donor countries provide. At present, so many conditions are attached to such aid that progress is being held back and movement away from reliance on the poppy trade is being hindered. That is crucial for the success of Afghanistan and for determining whether the money spent there by DFID, the Foreign Office and NATO is well spent.

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