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The devastating consequences of climate change are our responsibility. The challenge is for all of us to face up to the fact that all our promises, and all our expectations and hope for development, could be negated by climate change. The G8 meeting at Gleneagles attempted to bring that to the fore, and it is critical that DFID leads the way in pursuing that Gleneagles agenda. Following on from that meeting, Globe UK, the all-party environment group, of which I am vice-chair, set up the G8 plus five dialogue to bring together parliamentarians to advance the Gleneagles agenda. We have worked closely with the World Bank on its energy investment framework, and we look forward to monitoring DFID’s work in the field. When my hon. Friend the Minister sums up, will he give his
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assessment of the response of regional development banks to the World Bank’s investment framework for clean energy?

On my second interest, gender, I am afraid that, like some other Members, I must be critical of the Department. Women make up the vast majority of the poorest. They are poor because they are members of the poorest communities, but also because they are women. Women experience discrimination in every sphere of political, social and economic life and at every age. African women are the world’s poorest people. They have the lowest life expectancy, and Africa has the greatest disparity between women and men in access to education, literacy and income in the world. Tackling women’s poverty and inequality requires a transformation in relations between women and men, and a transformation in the way in which we define development. It also requires a definition of good governance—which, as the Secretary of State has said, is central to the report—which recognises the implications of gender differences for people’s access to essential public services, political participation and economic opportunity.

The Department for International Development has a twin-track approach, combining specific activities aimed at empowering women with a commitment to pursue gender equality in the mainstream of all development programmes. To date, however, those commitments have not been implemented thoroughly or consistently. One World Action, in giving evidence to various reports, has argued that women’s rights and gender equality are not a high priority outside the social development department of DFID. It says that, today, evidence of effective gender mainstreaming outside that cluster remains disappointing. I add to that assessment my dismay and astonishment that a 15-page consultation document on conflict policy produced by DFID does not mention the word “women” once.

Six years ago, however, the UK led the international community in promoting Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. That resolution, unanimously adopted, recognised the disproportionate effect of conflict on women and underlined the essential role of women in the prevention of conflict and as full participants in post-conflict peace building and reconstruction efforts.

Earlier this year, in recognition of the importance of that resolution, DFID, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office produced an action plan. I hope that my Front-Bench colleagues will appreciate how disappointing it is that the consultation document on conflict includes no reference to women or to the action plan. I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister will give me an undertaking that that serious omission will be corrected when the actual policy document is produced.

The points that I have raised about gender are not new. My right hon. and hon. Friends will recognise them from various sessions in the Committee. There is, I think, a critical need for DFID to change the way in which it is working. I know that the Secretary of State has acknowledged the need for a gender strategy, and I hope that one will be produced very soon.

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Although the White Paper contains references to women in the context of micro-finance and girls going to school, it is very light on all the other important issues, such as the climate change and economic agendas. As the Secretary of State says, good governance is at the heart of the White Paper, but governance that denies the rights, basic needs and interests of women and girls—the majority of the population—cannot be considered good governance. No Government who neglect the rights, needs and interests of women and girls can be described as legitimate, and nowhere is that more important than in developing countries and countries recovering from conflict. I hope that my ministerial colleagues will give much fuller consideration to those issues, and will endeavour to strengthen accountability in relation to them.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. Although I have made criticisms, I have not the slightest doubt that we have one of the best international development Departments in the world—possibly even the very best.

5.27 pm

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and to endorse all that she said, not only in terms of the contribution that we are making but in terms of her contribution. I assure the House that she is assiduous in presenting the issues that she raised. In my view, the Committee does not listen to her enough, and does not respond enough. If she continues to speak, we will.

As a co-vice-chair of Globe UK, I consider issues of climate change to be fundamental. Although I do not think that all the criticisms of the Environmental Audit Committee are entirely fair or valid, I think that the Department must look again at what it is doing in its environmental and climate change programmes, and decide whether it can incorporate some of the Committee’s recommendations in its future work.

We are constrained by time. I agree with others that we require far more time to debate issues such as these, and I think that the Leader of the House—who will be presenting proposals next week—should take account of the fact that this is not the right way to treat the business with which we are dealing.

There is much in the White Paper that I support. I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle): it is extremely well produced, a good read and a very good statement of policy. I am not sure that its content is radically new, but it provides a very good focus on “where we are at”. If some of what I say is critical, it is only because of the time constraint: there is no time to give praise, but there is time to make suggestions.

Very briefly, then, I will say that there is cross-party recognition of the commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) for reaffirming that on behalf of his party. There is, however, a need for clarification of how we are to achieve that target. There is also total support for debt relief, but I think that the Secretary of State will know what I am going to say next.

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It is true, of course, that when countries whose debt has been liquidated and which were servicing the debt in some way are relieved of that duty, money is released that can go into poverty reduction programmes. The Secretary of State must accept, however, that a good many countries were not servicing or repaying their debt, and writing off a debt that was not being repaid does not produce any more money. It seems to me that including all that debt relief as if it were a contribution to our 0.7 per cent. target is at least a little debatable. Would the Secretary of State be prepared to conduct an analysis to establish where money is and is not being genuinely released, and come up with an adjusted figure representing the real extra benefit from debt relief? That might help to define our contribution. Having said that, I obviously welcome the commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target, but the Secretary of State knows that some people say that, as a consequence of incorporating debt relief this year, there has been no real increase in the spend on development itself. Clearly, we should expect to see increases year on year.

The Secretary of State was right to say that when we are working with developing countries, governance is crucial both for them and for us. Simply handing over money to corrupt regimes to siphon off is neither good for poverty reduction, nor the credibility of the programme. We must find ways of dealing with those circumstances. One of the problems in very poor countries where Governments do not pay their civil servants, teachers or nurses, for example, is that public service is no longer regarded as a job, but as a franchise. People have to go down below to get bribes from the people they are supposed to serve in order to sustain their family’s income. We have to find ways of ensuring that that does not happen.

It is interesting to note the launch of the campaign by the Mo Ibrahim foundation to form a league table of governance and give an award to the African leader who achieves the most. I have often said that one way of resolving problems of super-incumbency, if I may call it that, in Africa is to ensure that whatever presidents get in office, ex-presidents should get double, which might encourage people to move on.

The relationship with the World Bank is the next important matter and the Secretary of State has made much of his withholding of £50 million. He told the Select Committee that he believes that it has already galvanised the bank into focusing attention on his concerns about conditionality. In a few weeks’ time, we will see what the response is. I am sure that the Secretary of State would acknowledge that the reality is that we will be giving more money to the World Bank and we will be working with it. It has put tackling corruption high up its agenda, so it has to be a welcome partnership, which we will support.

The Secretary of State’s dilemma is that if he has a rising budget, and a reducing head count, more money will go by definition into international institutions that we do not control directly or into budget support. Finding ways of ensuring that our objectives are realised in that context—without necessarily imposing new conditions—is highly important.

I am not omitting climate change from my discussion because I believe that it is less than
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absolutely central, but only because I agree with what has already been said and I want to put that on the record.

On trade and the Doha round, it is simply unacceptable that the promise of delivering on a development round should be allowed to die or even to slumber. It would be a matter of shame to me if the EU contributed in any way to such a failure. I hope that the British Government will do everything in their power to persuade the EU, over which we have some influence, to take a bold step— [Interruption.] I hear someone shouting, “What about the Americans?”, but we do not have institutional control over the Americans whereas we do have institutional engagement with the EU. Of course the Americans must respond. After what the Conservative spokesman said about the mid-term elections, I hope that America will be more prepared to do so.

Surprisingly, however, I have a little bit more confidence that the Bush Administration might deliver on a Doha round than a reconstructed Congress after the November elections. That Congress looks to be more left-wing in one sense, but more protectionist in another. There is an opportunity here, but if we do not seize it now, the consequences will be unacceptably bad. If we reflect on the fact that the EU puts three times more money into agricultural subsidies than into its entire overseas development budget, that can only fill us with shame.

The Secretary of State believes that budget support is an important mechanism for delivering aid. In principle, I and members of the Select Committee agree, but it does have its problems. Setting up 10-year partnership agreements, which create commitment and continuity, is a good approach. Given the all-party support for the basic principle of increasing aid, I hope that those agreements will be fully honoured and endorsed in principle, subject to the vagaries of what happens. It is important that the development of civil society in these countries is viewed as part and parcel of the process of budget support. The parliamentary network of the World Bank and all sorts of other bilateral arrangements with parliamentarians and civil society are important so that people know what is being given to a Government and where it is coming from. The right questions should be asked to hold people to account. The objective is to create the capacity for the Governments and the citizens of affected countries to deliver their own outcomes. If it is understood in that context, it is a project that it is well worth continuing with—and, I hope, delivering.

On the issue of conflict, I welcome the comments by the Secretary of State on our report and his assertion that it is a legitimate subject for debate in the Chamber rather than in Westminster Hall. The issue is the extent to which one single conflict can wipe out the whole value of the world aid budget, and there is more than one conflict going on. For example, what happened in Israel and Lebanon over the summer is a classic case in which we now have to divert massive amounts of aid money into Palestine because the conflict destroyed the Palestinian economy. I am not saying that those poor people should not be helped, but the conflict diverted funds and that means that other poor people, whom we want to help, will not get funds. That is an indication of the problem.

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This is not the moment to have a debate about whether all the conflict situations we are in are ones in which we are totally blameless. The ones that we have considered in Africa are not ones in which the United Kingdom can be said to have been involved, but we have tried to promote peaceful solutions.

Real issues arise from the role of British and European companies in contributing to the promotion and extension of conflict by dealing in conflict goods. When the Committee took evidence, there was an exchange between the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and the chairman of Afrimex. The hon. Lady asked him whether he was aware of the OECD guidelines after the UN had identified his company. He said no. The hon. Lady asked if he had referred to the DTI and again he said no. She then asked whether the DTI had ever contacted him, and again he said no. That tells us that the DTI is not at one with DFID in ensuring that British companies are squeaky clean in the engagement in and possible contribution to conflicts. We need to resolve conflict resources, we need higher standards and we need to stamp out corruption inside and outside the countries involved if we are to ensure that we are not party to promoting or encouraging conflict in the future. Those are issues that need to be thoroughly debated.

5.37 pm

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): This is an excellent report. I have only a few minutes to speak, so I shall concentrate on a few points that have not been entirely explored this afternoon. I generally welcome the recommendations in the White Paper.

One theme of the report is corruption and accountability, and what is said is good as far as it goes. But let us not forget that the issue of tackling corruption and ensuring accountability is not one only for developing countries. There are banks, financial institutions and big companies in rich countries, including the UK, which have a lot to answer for in the way in which they have encouraged corrupt practices, laundered money and preyed on corruption in developing countries. We have a lot to do on that issue. We are doing some work, but we could do more. If I had more time I would mention the Christian Aid recommendations, which we should take seriously. It is not only for “them, out there” to deal with this: it is also our responsibility.

The issue of climate change has been discussed and I agree with all that has been said on that so far today. But we must remember that it is not an issue for 10 years’ time: it is happening now and the consequences are felt not just in developing countries. The boat people in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic who are affecting us in the European Union are also partly a consequence of climate change. It is important to recognise the link and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we need a debate on the issue, because there are still some unresolved tensions between the interests of development and of tackling climate change. We have to ask how far we can rely on opening up markets as a way to meet developing countries’ needs, if in so doing developing countries rely on methods of transport—for example, air
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travel—that, apart from contributing to climate change, may not be sustainable in 10, 20 or 30 years. Air travel over longer distances may not be sustainable. My suspicion is that the answer will be to emphasise the need for regional co-operation and development for developing countries. That is a matter about which the report is a little weak, and I hope that the Department will say more in the future about how it intends to develop regional co-operation among developing countries.

Finally, I turn to peace and security. Many hon. Members have mentioned the very worrying threat of a nuclear arms race developing in the middle east and east Asia. Whatever North Korea is doing with its apparent nuclear tests, it seems pretty clear that devoting the resources necessary for its programme will impoverish even further an already impoverished country. Another danger is that it will set off a nuclear arms race in countries in the region. Even though some of them may be relatively rich, experience shows that an arms race will subsume resources from the poorer countries as well, as they will also feel that they must do something about their security.

That emphasises the need to get a genuine non-proliferation process under way. We must try again to make progress with getting the world community to agree a non-proliferation treaty, and we must also build a stronger set of the multilateral organisations, agencies and agreements that will give us the long-term peace and security that are essential if we are to achieve real development in the longer term. We must not settle for having a few measures that will be undermined by the greater insecurity that always affects countries in the developing world much more than those elsewhere.

5.41 pm

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con): I do not want to say a word against the Secretary of State, for whom I entirely share the esteem already expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell). The right hon. Gentleman made an excellent speech, but it is clear that he did not succeed in persuading his colleagues, including the Leader of the House, of the importance of this debate. To allocate only an hour and three quarters—that is, less than an hour for all the Back-Bench speeches—is nothing less than contemptuous of the subject.

I am left with trying to make three points in about four minutes. First, international development is a very peculiar subject. It is the only one that we discuss in the House where we target inputs—in no other field would we dream about targeting 0.7 per cent. of our GDP. It is a very un-businesslike approach, although I accept that we are so committed to it, psychologically and politically, that we cannot go back on it. However, we should not deceive ourselves into believing that spending more money will automatically achieve progress in poverty reduction.

In fact, the connection between spending money or targeting inputs and achieving outputs is very uncertain. Sometimes, the connection may be an inverse one. The western world has spent about $2.3 trillion on aid in the past 50 years, with very inadequate outcomes. For about 20 years, the highest
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per-capita recipient was Tanzania under Nyere, but per capita income there fell in that time. That tells us that we must be quite sceptical.

Secondly, that need for scepticism means that we must be careful that aid is properly spent. We must ensure that it does not displace expenditure by recipient Governments away from health or education programmes and on to arms or greater bureaucracy. We must be sure that Governments do not pursue the sort of perverse and damaging economic policies, such as excessive taxation or excessive and perverse regulation, that only undermine entrepreneurship. We must foster a climate that encourages foreign investment, and make sure that corruption is controlled and punished appropriately.

The Government are in a mess in respect of the whole question of conditionality. They seem to accept it in areas such as human rights and governance, but not in economic policies. I prefer the word “partnership” to conditionality, for obvious psychological reasons, but it is essential that there be a dialogue. Let us be clear: there is no point in spending our taxpayers’ money if its effect is counteracted by the recipient state adopting unfortunate and inappropriate policies.

We should not run away from conditionality. In that context, I am worried about the Secretary of State’s argument with the World Bank. It is far from clear to me that the conditionality that the World Bank is imposing is unreasonable. If it is imposing sensible conditionality on the economic policies pursued by donee countries, we should support it.

Thirdly, precisely because conditionality is important, we cannot achieve our purposes in poverty reduction and development spending in general alone. It is crazy to think that there can be 25 or 30 bilateral dialogues between 25 or 30 separate donors and a recipient country. That is hopeless. There cannot be 25 or 30 different sets of monitoring arrangements or sets of donors demanding several days a year with key Ministers and officials in the partner or recipient country. The officials and Ministers would not have time to do anything other than meet donors. We therefore need to make sure that we co-ordinate much more effectively and systematically than we have done so far. We have done so sometimes, in an ad hoc way. In some countries we co-ordinate effectively with other donors. We should make it a rule—we can do this within the European Union—that we develop one set of policies and have one dialogue so that we are not sending different signals to our EU partners or to the Commission. We should agree with them on the strategy for a country. We should then launch a co-ordinated single dialogue; we should agree with the donee country on common targets and approaches. We should set up a single monitoring procedure. It is much more difficult to do it outside the EU, but we should do it pragmatically where we can with the World Bank and other donors. The United States always wants to do its own thing; I understand that. But we can co-ordinate. We should have formal protocols. The opportunity is there precisely because of the structure of the EU.

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