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Amendment No. 22 is similar to amendments Nos. 17 and 19. The important point is that we are talking about taxpayers money. If the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch were agreed to, the report would detail how all taxpayers money is spent, not only the money that happens to be channelled directly through the Department. I hope that the House will agree that what is important here is that all taxpayers money be properly accounted for; which agency such money goes through should be irrelevant.
I therefore urge Members to support amendment No. 22, so that there is greater transparency in respect of how taxpayers money is spent.
Mr. Cash: Will my hon. Friend also note that the distinguished Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has just come into the House? He is doubtless taking a very close interest in this Bill because, after all, the Department for International Development has to account to him for these matters.
Philip Davies: I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friendthat is indeed why my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) is taking such a close interest in this Bill. He, too, doubtless supports a Bill allowing for greater transparency of Government spending; indeed, his excellent Committee spends all its time ensuring that Government money is spent effectively. Making sure that this Government do that is a difficult challenge, but his Committee certainly plays a great role in ensuring that any instances when money is not spent properly are highlighted. He will be particularly interested in amendment No. 22, which would allow all taxpayers money to be properly accounted for in these annual reports, rather than just that spent directly by the Department.
My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch made a great job of explaining why amendments Nos. 23 to 25, which seek to define the terms corruption, poverty and sustainable development, are so important, and why those terms should be defined. It is clear that they all mean very different things to different people. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone made it clear how corruption is defined in the Corruption Bill. I hope that Members will look at that definition closely and perhaps seek to include it in the Bill before us.
As I said, poverty and sustainable development mean very different things to different people. Poverty can be judged in absolute or relative terms. As my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch made clear, if we always refer to poverty in relative terms, we will never eradicate it. We should focus on ensuring that everyone gets wealthier and absolute poverty is eliminated. That should be our top priority and this report should make it clear what we are trying to achieve. Sustainable development is one of those warm phrases that politicians love to use in front of voters. It sounds very nice and as if we care about the same things as they do, but it is used without anyone having a particular idea what they mean by it. Surely in a Bill that focuses on transparency we should make it clear what we mean by words such as poverty, corruption and sustainable development, so that we can see whether the Government are achieving their goal of eliminating them.
Philip Davies: I agree. One does not need the wisdom of Solomon to come up with an adequate definition of those terms. I am sure that my hon. Friend would offer his services to ensure that they were properly defined, should the Government and the House accept the amendments, as I hope they will.
Amendment No. 5 is similar to amendment No. 4, andas I said earlieron reflection I am not sure that it is one of the stronger amendments. Amendments Nos. 29 to 31 address the waste of money. My hon. Friend pointed out the amount of bilateral aid that has been misused, stolen or diverted into fraudulent schemes, and surely any report on international aid has to focus on how much of that aid has been diverted into fraudulent schemes or, as in amendment No. 30,
has been paid, directly or indirectly to nationals of any country, either directly or indirectly through their employment, who are not citizens of the countries to which the aid is...addressed.
I do not understand why hon. Members do not want such information to be clearly stated in the report. Surely we all want to ensure that taxpayers money is not wasted. The amendments would ensure that taxpayers money was spent properly.
If amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are not accepted, we may have to wait 11 months or so for information. We want information to be collected and made available straight away. It is pointless to have a Bill that requires information on certain subjects if a provision is included that says that information does not have to be included in the report if it cannot be obtained in time, and paragraph 7 of schedule 2 would undermine everything that the Bill seeks to achieve. It would strengthen the Bill to remove that paragraph so that DFID would have to find the relevant information.
I was fascinated by what my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch said about new clause 5 and the millennium development goals, some of which were so far in the future that they were essentially meaningless. Goals such as halving poverty by 2015 are important, and we may want to reassess whether the goals are still suitable. He mentioned the goal of increasing the number of women in parliament, and surely that cannot go hand in hand with the goal of halving poverty. Everybody can see that some of the goals are more important than others. The benefit of the Bill is that it would stimulate a public debate on how the Government are spending the money. Many of my constituents feel passionately about that. The Bill gives us the potential to stimulate public debate about how money is spent. After the public have made their views clear, we may want to reflect on amending some of the millennium development goals, such as the number of women in Parliaments, and focus on some of the more important aspects of international development.
Mr. Cash: I notice that my hon. Friend tabled a question on that very subject for DFID questions the other day. Is he concerned that he did not receive an adequate response from the Secretary of State?
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. My question was about how effectively direct Government grants are spent. We did not reach it at DFID questions but I would have liked to press the Secretary of State about the measures being taken to reduce corruption and the waste of money given directly to Governments. The beauty of the Bill is that such things will be made more transparent; it might mean that such questions would not need to be asked in Parliament because the information would be provided in the reports, which is why it is so important we ensure that they contain the correct information.
My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch made the good point that many people may want to debate whether aid is working. So much aid has been poured into countries, yet they still rely on aidin many cases, they rely even more on aid than they did in the past. New clause 7 touches on the fact that in many countries the promotion of trade may be more important than aid. The provision would require the Secretary of State to include in the report observations on things that affect the spending of the money and its impact on development in the country. That is crucial. It is no good the Government doing a cracking job making sure that their money is spent effectively if things such as the common agricultural policy and the dumping of products in third-world countries undermine everything that they are trying to achieve. New clause 7 is crucial not only to ensure that Government aid is spent effectively but also to monitor the effect that other people may have on the spending of that money. The European Union is a great menace to ensuring that aid and development contribute to progress in third-world countries.
Mr. Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be extremely useful if bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund accepted the criteria that we are promoting in our arguments today? It is not just a question of what goes on in Government; it also involves the EU, the World Bank, the IMF and so on.
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. All those institutions spend British taxpayers money, which is why it is so crucial that any report contains information about how all that money is spent, not just a narrow part of it.
In relation to new clauses 5 and 7, I highlight the fact that many people in this country see the limitations of aid in helping third-world countries and realise that in many respects trade will bring wealth to those countries. India and China are prime examples; they have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty through trade, not through aid. It is essential that we explore how trade, not just aid, can help countries. With its protection rackets and tariffs, the European Union does an awful lot of harm to third-world countries ability to trade their way out of poverty.
In conclusion, I urge the House to consider many of the amendments proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch. They will strengthen the excellent Bill promoted by the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, as I hope he agrees. I hope that he acknowledges that they will increase the transparency that he wants to add to the reporting of international development aid.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab):
I intend to be brief. The House will understand that private Members Bills can be talked out by their friends and supporters as well, so I hope that I am giving a lead to the many who I believe support the Bill when I stick to the brevity to which I have committed myself. I do so with perhaps more confidence than might have been the case earlier today when I recall the intervention from the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), which I welcomed. I related that to what he
said at the end of the Committee sitting. That sitting was comprehensive and did not involve a single Division. It has led to the Bill being presented to the House in the shape that it is today. He said then:
We have had, on Second Reading and today, a most comprehensive debate. We have pretty well rewritten the Bill. There can be no excuse...for any hon. Member from any party to try further to amend this Bill, which has been examined exhaustively.
I hope that Opposition and Government Members and the Whips will make it clear to everyone that there will be no patience with any Member of Parliament who seeks to filibuster on Report and Third Reading.[ Official Report, Standing Committee B, 15 February 2006; c. 33.]
I intend to take the hon. Gentlemans advice. I will, however, respond briefly to the debate that we have had so far. You very rightly pointed out that there was more than a degree of repetition in at least one of speeches, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What worried me a little more was the repetition of point after point that was made on Second Reading and dealt with in detail in Committee. In response to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), who talked about this being a Government Bill, I have to say that, whereas I welcome the clarification and the assistance that my hon. Friend the Minister offered comprehensively in Committee, in my view it would be the most dreadful slur on the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) to imply that he was not acting as the principal spokesman for the Opposition and doing his job in scrutinising the Bill. I believe that he did his job very well.
I can give examples not just of repetition, but of points that are being made in support of amendments and new clauses that do nothing whatsoever to strengthen the Bill. Indeed, they weaken it. For example, amendment No. 3 to clause 1I will go through this quicklyseeks to prevent combination with other reports. We were told on Second Reading that we were seeking to do too much, and now when we recommend that, for example, the departmental report should become part of the report to Parliament, somehow or other that is seen as unacceptable. What we seek to do avoids duplication, saves money and leaves scope for more detailed reporting if necessary. In joining in the tributes to the late Eric Forth, may I say that on Second Reading, he expressed the strong view that he found repetition unacceptable, as well? He did not oppose the Bill.
I turn briefly to country numbers and criteria. I welcomed the excellent speech from the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood), which was made all the more relevant by the fact that he sat through the whole of the Second Reading debate and the Committee sitting. Many of his proposals were taken on boardnot least in terms of the countries
that will be covered. The number was 10 on Second Reading. It is 20 now. The Minister told the Committee that the Government would report on 25. That is appropriate, given that that is based on public service agreements, which have the importance of providing a specific focus on pursuing the millennium development goals, which, incidentally, were not even mentioned in amendment No. 11. We have made considerable progress in that respect and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman acknowledged that.
I now come to the contribution of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). Although it would not be expected that the Bill would deal exclusively with corruptionnor should itit simply is not true that we have not taken that matter seriously. Clause 6(2)(c) reflects many of the points that he made. The hon. Gentleman has made many relevant points about corruption both today and on other occasions. However, the Department is pursuing corruption; there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that it takes corruption lightly. When we have the opportunity to debate the hon. Gentlemans International Development (Anti-corruption Audit) Bill, as I hope we will, many will say that it is the correct vehicle to deal with his arguments. However, given what clause 6 will do on corruption, the British people would be absolutely astounded by any attempt to delay my Bill with such arguments, and I am sure that that would not be the wish of the House.
Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) on not only introducing the Bill, but piloting it successfully through the Second Reading debate and Committee. His passionate and articulate speech on Report means that his fundamental belief in the right of the Bill comes over strongly. I hope that he will acknowledge the support that he has received from me, Her Majestys Opposition and my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), who sadly cannot be with us today because he is in New York at the United Nations. We have supported the objectives of the Bill, and I thank the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill for his comments about the process of scrutiny both on Second Reading and in Committee.
It is fair to say that the right hon. Gentleman, Ministers and the Department should be congratulated on the way in which they listened to constructive contributions that hon. Members on both sides of the House made about possible ways of improving the Bill. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that the Bill that we considered on Second Reading has been totally reconstructed and redrafted to become the Bill before us today. The amended Bill is significantly better because it will create greater simplicity and clarity than the original Bill would have done.
Having said all that, I do not necessarily share the right hon. Gentlemans implied criticism of my hon. Friends. They raised significant issues in their contributions on the new clauses and amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) was absolutely right to highlight the problems of
meeting the millennium development goalsproblems that are becoming clear, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. However, I must correct my hon. Friend because I do not think that the Chancellor has pushed out one of the goalsthe aim of all children being in primary education by 2130. That was a prediction of what would happen if we continued at the present rate. We need greater focus and we must all work together to ensure that we achieve the target of spending 0.7 per cent. of gross national income by 2030, and thus get as close as possible to meeting the millennium development goals by their target dates. When considering new clause 5, which deals with the millennium development goals, it needs to be said that those goals were set up by the United Nations, not the British Government, even though, quite correctly, the Government were a signatory to them.
The House will be delighted to hear that I will not talk about every new clause and amendment, but I want to speak to several key measures. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch was absolutely right to highlight in new clause 7(3) the importance of enforcing property rights. I would go further and suggest that the relevant point in many countries is not just the enforcement of property rights, but the setting up of property rights. That is a fundamental necessity if we are to have not just property rights, but the rule of law, which helps to generate the inward investment and the creation of capital that we have seen in Asia. Such mechanisms lead to economic growth and the creation of jobs, and thus the alleviation of poverty, as has happened in south-east Asia. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) made exactly that point in his speech.
Amendment No. 4 takes us back to our debate in Committee about the phraseology of clause 2, although I will not repeat the points that were made at that time. What the Opposition want is to see quality statistics that facilitate an informed and enlightened debate on the way in which DFID and other Departments spend British taxpayers money. We want statistics that measure both outputs and inputsa theme to which I shall return on other amendments.
We are concerned that the changes to the Bill have removed the provision of the independent monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of policy and expenditure, which appeared in clause 8(2)(a)(iii) of the Bill as originally published. The removal of that provision weakens the Bill somewhat. Independent assessment of the aid budget could well be beneficial; it can be done and it has been done. For example, DFIDs 2004 to 2007 Latin America regional assistance plan states that there will be
an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of DFiD work in the region.
a results based management system
and it has full disclosure of countries performance ratings. If that monitoring is possible for one part of DFIDs work in one part of its departmental structure, why can it not be done across the Department? DFID has stated that the IDA is an effective instrument with a 25 per cent. efficiency gain, so clearly detailed analysis of performance is taking place within the
Department in relation to some areas and a conclusion has been reached, so comparisons must have been made with other funding channels. The Bill would be more comprehensive if that detailed analysis were included so that both outputs and inputs could be effectively monitored and measured.
There are other important issues, which I shall not explore in detail, but I shall give an example. DFID does not keep sufficient records of how and where money that goes through other bilateral channels, such as USAID, is spent. In our view, that should be addressed.
Clause 4 and amendment No. 8 deal with which multilateral institutions should come within the Bill. The amendment proposes that the European Community should do so, and my hon. Friends have rightly spoken about that. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary knowI am sure that, privately, they agreethat many people think that the British taxpayers money that goes to the European Union is not necessarily spent as effectively as we would like, or in the places that we want it to be spent. I know that Members are lobbying European Ministers hard to persuade them to our way of thinking. The Opposition want the most detailed possible assessment of aid spending, so we welcome the division of a general clause into its constituent parts, which is an improvement on the original drafting. However, if multilateral aid is to be broken down into separate funding streams, the Bill should make provision to examine and compare aid given by the EU, the UN, the Bretton Woods institutions and the development banks, as well as bilateral aid, in order to determine which aid channels are the most effective.
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