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Finally, although we will want in due course to discuss in detail whether the Department is giving
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adequate and rigorous attention to the independent evaluation of aid effectiveness, particularly to outputs and outcomes, we welcome what the Secretary of State has said and applaud the emphasis that he has placed today on the importance of good governance.

Hilary Benn: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for supporting the White Paper. It is indeed, in the broadest sense, the product of politics and of our own form of good governance. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned two of my predecessors from the Conservative party, who occupied the position that I now have the privilege to hold, let me say that part of the reason why I am able to announce increased spending on education and on a doubling again of investment in water and sanitation is that we have a rising aid budget. While I welcome the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman approaches his job and what he has said today, it has to be said that, in the end, we should all be judged by what we do when we have the chance to do it, rather than by what we say when we are not in power. People will have memories about what has happened in the past.

To deal with the hon. Gentleman’s specific questions, we will undertake the assessment ourselves, but we will draw on a wide range of sources. It will include others who are looking at the quality of governance and we will obviously talk to the Governments of the countries concerned. The fact that we will publish that will mean that there is transparency, and if others have a different view of our assessment they will no doubt be able to speak up.

On the new unit to fight corruption and money laundering, I have, of course, discussed it with my right hon. Friends. I believe that it is absolutely right and proper that, in addition to the contribution of officers from the Met police and City of London police, DFID should contribute. As the hon. Gentleman knows, if we can be more effective in fighting corruption, the development benefits will be enormous.

On the arms trade treaty, the short answer is that we will continue our efforts to persuade others in the international community that that is the right approach to take. If my memory serves me correctly, about 50 countries in the world support the principle of an arms trade treaty, and the consequences of the unfettered flow of arms are always to be seen in conflict, death and destruction. We are making the case and we are working hard to encourage other countries to support it.

It is, of course, important to do more work in fragile states and the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that we will work with a variety of partners. Where it is possible to work with a country’s Government, we will do so in the right circumstances, and we will also work with NGOs and other international partners.

On the trade talks, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister has been working very hard since the failure of last year’s Hong Kong talks to try to get the discussions back on track. He is doing so as we speak in the run-up to the G8 summit this weekend. The question is how the logjam between the three big blocs can be broken. The Prime Minister has done as much, if not more, than anyone else in the world to try to break that logjam, but it requires all parties to recognise the need to move.

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On UN reform, the principal change that we need is that the UN development system should be more effective, which is why we have been very strong advocates both of the “four ones” in-country and of a central pool of funding, so that the UN system—which ought to have lead responsibility, particularly in fragile states and in setting standards—can be more effective.

On the responsibility to protect, we need a combination of political will and the Government have demonstrated that—as the hon. Gentleman referred to Darfur—in pressing very strongly in the UN Security Council for sanctions, for the UN force to be allowed to come in and for referring what happened in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. That is one aspect of the responsibility to protect. The other thing that we need to do is to build the capacity to act. That is why we have been such a strong support of both AMIS—the African Union Mission in Sudan—in Darfur and building an Africa stand-by capacity.

On EU aid, it is a question of both European Community aid—which has undoubtedly improved in recent years, but still has some way to go, particularly in ensuring that the EC has the right skills in-country—and the quality of aid of other EU members states, because almost all the growth in aid over the next five years will come from Europe. Therefore, part of what we will do is to talk to our partners about ways in which we can work more effectively together.

On climate change, the permanent secretary is undertaking a skills review in DFID precisely to do what the hon. Gentleman referred to, namely, to ensure that we have the right skills to take on that increasingly important work.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman can rest assured that I will continue to be determined to ensure that we keep an eye on aid effectiveness, because in the end all that work and all the policies laid out in the White Paper are for a purpose, which is to demonstrate to people that our international development effort makes a difference—and to do that, we must show results.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): I strongly commend my right hon. Friend’s statement, as well as the White Paper that underlies it. He will have widespread support for the whole concept of capacity building, which is absolutely vital not simply in the fight against corruption, but in building strong societies. In that context, we as the United Kingdom have a special role in increasing the capacity of the legal and courts systems, which are absolutely fundamental to the whole concept of good governance, precisely because the English legal system is still the dominant system in large parts of the world. Will he tell the House how exactly we can enhance our role to ensure that the courts and the general legal framework are central to his own capacity building for good governance?

Hilary Benn: I agree completely with my hon. Friend, because an effective, functioning legal system is fundamental to good governance and, in particular, to giving people the confidence that if they have a dispute—whether between two neighbours or in trying
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to enforce a legal contract—their court case will be dealt with fairly. With a good, functioning and effective legal system, people are more likely to invest their money in those countries and therefore create jobs and generate the wealth that they need to pay for improvements in health and education.

We already do a great deal of such work, as my hon. Friend knows, but what has been most striking in the past year is the keenness with which my Cabinet colleagues have said that they would like to do more of this work together. That is why we are now moving to the next stage of the Africa capacity-building initiative, which is to find a mechanism to match the desire to help with the demand for assistance from developing countries, so that we can draw on the great well of expertise and good will in the UK to work with legal professionals and others in developing countries to share skills—indeed, to learn from one another—because that is absolutely fundamental to making progress.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): I, too, thank the Secretary of State for presenting the White Paper and for the courtesy of supplying me with an advance copy of both the White Paper and his statement. The White Paper deals with issues that are literally matters of life and death for many of the most vulnerable people on the planet, many of whom are not only suffering from poverty, but from hunger and thirst, in some of the most dangerous parts of the world—with natural and man-made disasters combining to add to their misery. These are complex issues and the detailed response set out today in the White Paper is a good milestone on the journey towards the end of that misery.

Only a year ago, we witnessed not only the Make Poverty History march through my home city of Edinburgh and the Gleneagles summit, but the claims that, if only the G8 leaders would act on aid, trade and debt, we could make poverty history. However, I believe that such claims alone are simply not true, because other important issues, which are set out in today’s White Paper, must also be tackled fully to make poverty history. Conflict is detailed on page 46 of the report, and the crisis that often follows the availability of natural resources in many of those fragile states is dealt with on page 35. Corruption is highlighted, as is global warming and the problems of disease—AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis—and access to clean drinking water supplies.

The title of the report highlights the importance of good governance, and corruption dramatically affects many of the fragile states that we have talked about. Corruption is not just an issue at the lowest level, where people on starvation wages might take a bribe as a way to feed their children; some people at the top are skimming millions of dollars into overseas bank accounts, and action on that both in DFID and in the City of London is absolutely vital. I look forward to hearing what the Secretary of State can do in conjunction with the banks and other institutions in the City to tackle that issue.

Democracy is also highlighted in the report, but we must remember that elections are simply not enough on their own if they give legitimacy to corrupt regimes. I should like to hear from the Secretary of State what he
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will do to empower citizens to hold their own Governments to account and to work with other Departments, such as the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, and parliamentarians here and abroad to ensure that that problem is tackled at all levels.

We have also heard that aid must be effective. It is good that DFID’s aid budget is increasing, but the Secretary of State is under pressure to reduce staffing levels. It is more important than ever for his Department to monitor the effectiveness of the spending to ensure that it is effectively delivered. Where DFID has taken action—for instance, in Malawi, where the World Food Programme was charging more than $240 a tonne to deliver food aid, when DFID could deliver it for $100 a tonne—much more aid was delivered, and I hope that reducing staffing levels will not reduce the ability to monitor where the money is effectively spent.

Does the Secretary of State agree that DFID will be judged not on how much it spends, but on how effectively that money is spent? The Department has a good record on delivering humanitarian assistance following disasters. I recently witnessed its excellent response following the earthquake in Pakistan, but one interesting issue that cropped up on the ground there and stimulated debate is that of flag flying and the awareness of exactly what aid DFID is funding and delivering. An example was that the temporary shelters provided to help some of the 2 million to 3 million homeless in Pakistan had the Norwegian Government’s brand on them, but they were more than 50 per cent. funded by DFID. Although I do not say that the flag should be waved in a colonial manner, we must ensure that two things happen. First, people must not be misled into not being aware of what DFID is funding. Secondly, when we are trying to build bridges with the Islamic community here at home, it is key that we make clear exactly what is happening in areas such as Pakistan and in other communities throughout the world, where good work is being done that is sometimes not fully recognised.

I have not had time to read all the report, but I should also like to hear from the Secretary of State whether more will be done on remittances. He will know that massive sums of money are flowing into the poorest countries of the world, but some of them have significant transaction costs, which reduce the money’s impact at its final destination.

Page 7 of the report refers to the number of people living in the poorest countries of the world. Although we know that the poorest of the poor live in Africa, most of the world’s poorest live elsewhere. I should like to know what the Secretary of State will do to reconsider how best to focus DFID’s attack on poverty to catch those missing millions who live on less than $1 a day in Asia and Latin America.

The Secretary of State rightly highlighted—again, there are details on page 93 of the report—the more erratic weather conditions that are affecting more of the poorest of the poor in places such as the horn of Africa. Never before have we seen a clearer example of how the actions of the developed world, which is producing carbon emissions and eating up natural resources as if there were no tomorrow, and the impact
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that we in the west are having on the future of the poorest of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could bring his remarks to a close. There is pressure on the business of the House because of the further statement.

Hilary Benn: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. He made an important point about the two types of corruption—grand and petty corruption. The action plan that I shall publish will give the House an opportunity to see the progress that we want to make. The governance and transparency fund will be the main vehicle for supporting people in their communities in improving the demand for good governance, and I will consult about the best way of setting that up.

We will indeed monitor the effectiveness of our spending. It is good to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) in the Chamber. I hope that his Bill will get on to the statute book, because it will provide us with a very effective means of doing precisely what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) asked for in that regard.

On disasters, we are considering putting in place some branding of the help that we give. There was, however, little doubt in the minds of those in the UK Kashmiri and Pakistani communities about the effectiveness of Britain’s aid in response to the earthquake, not least because we sent the first search and rescue teams to the area. We are already doing work on remittances, particularly to bring down the costs involved, and we will continue with that work. In relation to the larger countries in Asia, I remind the hon. Gentleman that our biggest programme of all is in India, which is now making real progress. However, all those countries are going to be affected by climate change, and we have set out proposals on how we intend to respond to that.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend on the excellent White Paper. He may be aware that the World Bank and the International Energy Agency have estimated that it will take $300 billion every year for 25 years to meet the energy needs of developing countries and emerging economies. Will he work with the World Bank on its energy investment framework to ensure that, as far as possible, we donor countries no longer support polluting old energy technologies in developing countries, and that instead we provide them with the new technologies that deliver clean energy so as not to add further to the problem of climate change?

Hilary Benn: We will indeed support the World Bank in developing the energy investment framework. We will have a progress report on that at the World Bank’s annual meetings in the autumn. My hon. Friend is right. There is a great thirst for energy in developing countries, because that is literally how they are going to be able to fuel economic development and fight poverty. It is vital that, as they invest in that new
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generating capacity, they do so in a way that does not add to the problem of climate change.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): I welcome the White Paper and commend the right hon. Gentleman’s Department for the leadership that it gives in setting standards for how aid should be delivered. I also welcome the fact that he is concentrating on good governance, which is essential if the money is to get to the poor rather than to corrupt elites. How effectively will he be able to deliver his objectives in the light of his recent cuts in budget support, particularly in Ethiopia and Uganda? Despite the fact that $200 million of international aid is going to northern Uganda, the Ugandan Government are failing adequately to deliver health care, education and policing. How will the Secretary of State ensure that they deliver those services and that we get an international settlement that will allow people to return to the region? Does he believe that he can deliver his budget with reduced staffing levels? If he has to go down the multilateral route, how will he use his role as the British member of the World Bank to make it more effective and follow DFID’s world-class example in delivering aid more effectively? Is he aware that the International Development Committee will publish its report on private sector development before the recess? Will he explain what he proposes to do, through his Department, to unlock foreign investment and, in particular, domestic indigenous investment from entrepreneurs in poor countries? That is an essential means of expanding the private sector and delivering growth, which will bring down the levels of poverty.

Hilary Benn: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his work in chairing the International Development Committee and for his kind words. In the case of Ethiopia, we have found another route for our aid, through the basic services grant, so that poor people are not punished because of the problems of governance there. In Uganda, a political settlement is needed. In my view, that requires the five indicted leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army to be hauled off to the International Criminal Court where they belong, because that would unlock an end to the terrible crisis that has affected so many people there.

The head count restrictions will have an impact on the way in which we work. The permanent secretary is also looking at how we are going to make that happen. I know that he gave evidence to the Select Committee the other day. On the multilateral system we will become more selective about where we put our money. The question that I will increasingly ask—as the House would wish—is, “What effect will we get from putting our money into this route, as opposed to that one?”

I look forward with great interest to the private sector development report. Good governance is fundamental to unlocking the investment that the hon. Gentleman and I want to see. If there is peace, security, stability and good governance, people are much more likely to invest their own money and that of other people.

Several hon. Members rose—

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Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind hon. Members that there is a further statement to follow, as well as the main business. I therefore request that Members ask just one supplementary question, and that the Minister gives just a brief reply. In that way, as many people as possible will be able to catch my eye.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): I welcome the White Paper. My right hon. Friend rightly emphasises the need for good governance and transparency, but I am sure that he will appreciate that this is a two-way process. Will he outline how our Government will increase their accountability to the beneficiaries of our aid? How will the accountability of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund be increased?

Hilary Benn: The Government will achieve that by publishing more information about the work that we are doing, including the new commitments that I set out today in the White Paper, as well as what we are doing already. We will also achieve that aim through the support that we shall give to civil society, whose members can not only hold their Governments to account but talk to us about the way in which we provide support. In relation to the multilateral institutions, we are publishing for the second year in a row a report on the stance that we have taken in our discussions at the World Bank. Indeed, we have been pushing for greater transparency in the way in which the World Bank runs. It is right and proper that people should be able to see how these multilateral institutions work and make their decisions, because they receive a very large amount of our money.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The New Partnership for Africa’s Development—NEPAD—was meant to be a compact in which we gave more money and aid and African countries enhanced their governance. What is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the progress of the NEPAD initiative? He rightly referred to the importance of parliamentarians, and the civil capacity fund for Africa is obviously very good news. However, is there not also work there for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association? As we went through Africa, those of us who were on the Select Committee in the previous Parliament found—as I am sure those on the present Committee will—that parliamentarians were often left out of civil society. Their capacity seriously needs enhancing.

Hilary Benn: NEPAD has made progress most of all on the peer reviews. A couple of them have now been published and those of other countries are coming through the system. In the end, people will judge how effectively the results of those reviews are implemented. I specifically mentioned parliamentarians in relation to the governance and transparency fund because I agree with the hon. Gentleman that parliamentarians play a very important part in holding Governments to account. We will therefore look into how the fund can work to support them.

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