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Amendments Nos. 11, 16, 9 and 10 relate to the effectiveness of aid. The amendments are designed to include more countries in the Bill, for example, by proposing that those in receipt of UK bilateral aid exceeding £10 million be included. The right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill rightly made the point that the original Bill covered 10 countries, whereas the amended Bill covers 20, and the Minister said in Committee that for the duration of this Parliament a minimum of 25 countries would be considered. In Committee, I expressed concern about how the countries would be selectedthe Minister obfuscated, so I shall return now to the point on which I did not get an answer then. The 25 DFID PSApublic service agreementcountries on which the Minister proposes to carry out analysis and report are the same 25 countries that receive the maximum amount of British bilateral aid, with one exception.
I wonder whether any hon. Member on either side of the House can guess what the exception is? It is, of course, Iraq. In 2003-04, Iraq was the greatest recipient of British bilateral aid. During the past financial year, it has been the 10th biggest recipient of UK bilateral aid. It is my understanding of the Bill that there is no necessity for bilateral aidthat is British taxpayers money going to Iraqto be reported on. There are two pages of text in DFIDs annual report summarising the contribution to Iraq. It is not clear from those two pages how much money is going to Iraq and what it is being used for. When the Minister replies, I would like him to assure the House that the continuing contribution that the British taxpayer is making through DFID and other Departments will be reported
upon in the annual report, and will therefore be debated and scrutinised by the House.
Amendment No. 17 relates to the work of other Departments and how they will fit in with the DFID annual report. It is essentialespecially with regard to the Foreign Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and, we hope, with the progress that will be made with the World Trade Organisation reorganisations and the economic partnership arrangements that the Minister and I were discussing at the back end of last weekto facilitate enhanced trading to generate economic growth and, therefore, job formation and the alleviation of poverty. There must be important co-ordination between Departments. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley was right to highlight the importance of trade.
The other issue of Government co-ordination that needs to be highlighted is the well-known problem and tension between DFID, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. We need to ensure that where British taxpayers money is used, particularly when military action has taken place, everyone is working in harmony for the benefit of people on the ground.
I do not want to delay the House. I hope that the Minister has many constructive comments to make when he replies. However, I would not be doing my job properly if I did not address the correct and powerful points that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) made about corruption. It is right to highlight the necessity for the international community as well as the British Government, irrespective of the colour of that Government, to tackle corruption throughout the world. It has a severely negative impact in hindering aid distribution, economic growth and the alleviation of poverty.
There are various ways in which the problem needs to be tackled, not just by creating conditions and criteria for any aid that is given through DFID and with British taxpayers money, but by building transparent and honest police and judicial systems and by strengthening auditor-general powers within specific countries rather than having external auditors.
Corruption is not just about people taking funds for personal gain; it can be the misallocation of funds, which means that money does not end up with the social projects for which it was originally intended, such as health and education. Sometimes, the recipient Government move money from the health and education budgets to the defence budget or other budgets about which we would not necessarily feel comfortable.
Amendment No. 15 relates to direct budgetary support. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that there is growing concern about such support, not only from within his Department but from within the international development community, whether it be the global fund or the various United Nations organisations. I do not know whether Members are aware that since 2000, £1.5 billion of British taxpayers money has gone into direct budgetary support for 20 countries.
We support the Bill, the principles behind it and the overarching architecture, but as the Bill stands, just 42.6 per cent.or £35 millionof the total bilateral aid going to Uganda will be covered by the measure. It
is also a fact that 67 per centor £66 millionof the aid going to Tanzania will not be covered by the Bill. Indeed, 73 per cent. of the aid going to Mozambique will not be covered by the Bill. I hope that the Minister will be able to say that the appropriate use of taxpayers money is being provided through direct budgetary reform, and that that will form a fundamental part of the annual review. That provision is not set out in the Bill, nor is the way in which the selection of the 20 to 25 countries will be reported upon.
I have set out the general problems with specific regard to the amendments. I welcome the fact that the Bill has been brought to the House and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill on bringing it. He will find us extremely supportive during the rest of its passage through the House. We wish there to be an expeditious enactment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): First, I join the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and other hon. Members in paying tribute to the late Eric Forth. When we last discussed the Bill and the money resolution on the Floor of the House, he made clear his intention to continue to scrutinise the Bill. I am sure that I speak for the whole House in saying that his absence makes the House feel emptier today.
Once again, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), who rightly drew the attention of the House to the fact that while the Bill has been significantly amended, its substance remains the same. As he said, the Government have sought to take on board concerns expressed on Second Reading, including anxiety about the absence of the millennium development goals from the Bill. I encourage hon. Members to resist new clause 5, because those internationally agreed goals, which chart the steps that must be taken to combat poverty, deserve to be included in the Bill and provide a rallying point for all donors, including the Government.
New clause 7 deals with aid effectiveness and policy coherence. It is right that they should be included in the annual report, but the need for such measures has already been addressed by the Bill. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood), reflecting on his visit to Afghanistan, usefully pointed out the need for much better co-ordination of work by non-governmental organisations and others throughout the international community. He will be reassured to learn that the Government accept that argument, and we have sought to implement the international agreement that was reached in Paris in March 2005 on the better harmonisation of aid. We wish to make progress in harmonising and aligning our aid with aid from other international donors, and we shall encourage them to do the same.
Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 26 and 27 deal with the way in which the annual report is produced, the information that it includes and the question of further information on development assistance that may become available after it is published. It is sensible to include a review provision in the Bill to enable my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to update the House if further information becomes available, so I urge hon. Members to resist amendment No. 2. It is clearly sensible on the grounds of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, which all hon. Members wish to
encourage, to allow the Secretary of State flexibility in the way in which he seeks to align the Bills requirement for an annual report with other information published by the Department. I encourage the House to resist amendments Nos. 4 and 5, as paragraph 7 of the schedule makes provision for occasions when figures are not available for an annual report, specifying that they must be included in a subsequent report.
A number of hon. Members dwelt on amendment No. 8, which deals with European Community aid to which the UK contributes. I accept that we should report on such aid, and I am surprised that hon. Members did not acknowledge the fact that a provision requiring such a report is included in the Bill. I draw hon. Members attention to paragraph 3 (a) and (d) of the schedule, which refer to the need to report on European Community and other multilateral aid.
Amendments Nos. 11, 16, 9 and 10 relate to the number of countries on which we report and how the choice of those countries is made. We had a long discussion on that in Committee. As hon. Members have acknowledged, I made it clear that it is our intention to report for the duration of this Parliament on 25 countries currently covered by our public service agreement with the Treasury. I did, however, accept the representations made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and other hon. Members on Second Reading that we should increase in the Bill the number of countries on which all future Governments will be required to report. That figure increased from 10 to 20.
The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) asked me whether we would continue to report on our work in Iraq. I assure him that we will continue to do so in the reports that are published as a result of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 22 are similar in purpose and relate to whether Government agencies and non-departmental public bodies are covered by the Bill. I can assure hon. Members that under the terms of the existing text, Government agencies and non-departmental public bodies are potentially covered. If they provide aid, we will report in the way set out.
The amendments that were subjected to particular scrutiny were those dealing with corruption, especially amendment No. 15. I assure the hon. Members for Stone (Mr. Cash), for Christchurch and for Shipley (Philip Davies) that the Government take extremely seriously the need to deal with corruption. The hon. Member for Stone paid tribute to the work of Transparency International. I am sure it will not have escaped his attention that the Department funds much of that work. He rightly paid tribute to the work of the all-party group chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley). We welcome that report on corruption and the Government will respond to it in due course.
The need for more work by the Department to address the issues of governance and corruption surfaced a number of times in the consultation on the
White Paper. I hope that the forthcoming White Paper will give the hon. Member for Stone further confidence that we continue to address those issues. If he wants even more detail about the considerable amount of work that we are doing to fight corruption, I would be more than happy to meet him to get through that at greater length.
Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 25 relate to the need for definitions of poverty, sustainable development and corruption. Those terms are in common parlance and we do not need to write definitions into the Bill. Lastly, on amendment No. 29, which related to the loss of moneys through fraud, let me reassure the House that we already have robust approval, procurement, risk management and reporting arrangements to ensure that aid is spent for the purposes intended. All our aid is subject to independent audit and the National Audit Office has consistently given an unqualified opinion on DFIDs accounts. We have recently gone further by establishing a fraud response unit so that we can drill down even further on the matter.
Mr. Chope: I am grateful to the Minister for that full response. I am grateful to the promoter of the Bill for his contribution, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) for his remarks. Eric Forth would indeed be proud of the detailed scrutiny that we have given to the amendments today.
Amendment No. 15 was the principal subject of discussion. I said earlier that the amendments and new clauses were effectively a shopping list and that at the end of the discussion we would choose which to put to the vote. In responding to amendment No. 15, the Minister said that the Government take the issues of corruption seriously. If so, why cannot they accept the amendment? It would merely require, in the interests of transparency, that the Government should produce and include in the annual report observations about progress in relation to
promoting the establishment of a link between the commitment of aid and the reduction of corruption in recipient countries.
It gives me great pleasure to move new clause 6 in this important debate. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will give me a chance to say a few words, because it is the first time that I have spoken on a Friday since the death of my dear friend, the late Eric Forth. I hope that you will forgive me if I join hon. Friends and other hon. Members who have paid tribute to him. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but I am conscious that I could never imitate the way in which my late right hon. Friend scrutinised Bills so effectively on a Friday.
Hon. Members will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to speak at length, because we have already had a very useful debate. I will not repeat what my late friend used to do so superbly, speaking for about an hour and then saying, And I now come to the end of my preliminary remarks. I thought that as he was such a dear friend, I would do this almost as an Eric Forth memorial day, and wondered what sort of amendment I could table that would pay tribute to his memorya sensible amendment that could possibly be accepted by the promoter of the Bill.
It shall be a duty of the Secretary of State to make a motion for a resolution approving each annual report in the House of Commons, within three months of the report being laid.
That would merely ensure that when the Bill is passed, as I am sure it will be, and we have the annual report, it is debated on the Floor of the House. If the sponsors of the Bill feel able to accept the new clause, what greater tribute could there be to my late right hon. Friend than that we have not only achieved an annual report on a very important subject, but achieved more debate and greater scrutiny on the Floor of the House, which is what his whole life was dedicated to?
As the International Development Committee has pointed out repeatedly, parliamentary scrutiny and a coherent policy across Government are of the utmost importance. An annual report to Parliament carries more status than a departmental report or information posted online, and invites debate on the Floor of the House.
If my amendment were passed, that is, presumably, precisely what would happen. It would not simply invite debate, it would ensure debate. Later in the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning) said that
the Bill would ensure that the House has an opportunity to hold a similarly robust and informed scrutiny debate.[ Official Report, 20 January 2006; Vol. 441, c. 1072, 1082.]
I am not sure that the Bill as presently drafted does necessarily ensure that there will be an informed debate, but my new clause, which is tabled in a very positive spirit, would achieve that. I very much hope that the Bill will be passed with the new clause as part of it.
The Ministers views reflect my own. He has said as much as we would expect him to say in the debate. However, it might be helpful if I say that I would certainly look forward to the report
being debated annually in both Houses.[ Official Report, Standing Committee B, 15 February 2006; c. 5.]
What would a debate achieve? It would allow better scrutiny of the report and the progress that had been made in the past year in international development. That is a vital issue, yet we devote far less time to it in Select Committees, Standing Committees and debates and Question Time on the Floor of the House than to discussing, for example, the Foreign Office. In its public expenditure and its importance to the national interest, international development is, arguably, as important as the Foreign Office. Some of us often wonder what the Foreign Office does, but we all know what international development achieves. Why does our parliamentary system ensure that the Department for International Development gets so much less scrutiny than the affairs of the Foreign Office?
Philip Davies: Many of my constituents make the same point. They would like many more opportunities to debate international development, which is increasingly important to the public. Does my hon. Friend get the same feedback from his constituents, and does he agree that the new clause would guarantee much more regular debate of international development issues, which the public would love to happen?
Mr. Leigh: Like my colleagues, I get as many letters and cards about international development as on any other issue. That is good. There is a well-organised lobby, and I sometimes believe that, in our work in Parliament and in the prominence that we give different matters, issues such as international development do not receive as much scrutiny as they should.
The Secretary of State, a gentleman for whom I have the greatest respect, is in his place. I also have the greatest respect for his permanent secretary, who has appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on two or three occasions. The Department is one of the few that has a good record of public scrutiny before the PAC, and of ensuring that money is well spent. The accounts are not qualified. Again, the PAC has few sittings on international development, partly because the Department is so effective in bilateral aid. We have not held hearings in which enormous criticism has been made of lack of value for money, waste and so on. However, if we have less scrutiny by the National Audit Office, which reports to Parliament, and less scrutiny by the PAC, it is all the more important to accept an amendment such as the new clause, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) said, reflects the public interest in such issues.
If the new clause were accepted we could debate the finer points, which one can never get from an annual report. Many organisations produce annual reports. The promoter does not believe the Bill to be part of gesture politics. He believes that it will make a difference; he wants to make a difference and have a real debate. He does not simply want another annual report, to be put in a pigeonhole. How many annual reports do we receive every day in our postfrom great British public companies and this and that agency? How many hon. Members can put their hands on their hearts and say that they read them?
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