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"lower than our lowest expectations".
Blaming other leaders and using strong words is simply not good enough. Britain should be both leading by example and putting the hard graft into international negotiations. On the basis of Muskoka, it is questionable whether this new Government is doing enough. But that was not the only disappointment that we witnessed in Canada.
Tony Baldry: I had hoped that we might hear a slightly more consensual speech. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman was campaign manager for the late Prime Minister, but perhaps he could now focus on the international development brief. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot say both that the UK is leading by example-and the accountability report published in Canada shows that the UK is way ahead of the other G8 countries on contributions to the 0.7% target at 0.6% for 2010-
Tony Baldry: But the right hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander) cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that we should lead by example, when we are leading by example, and then whinge about how we are doing.
Mr Alexander: Let me try to clarify the point that I am making. I am proud of our record, and the figures for the decade of delivery that we saw under Labour bear repeating. The House need not take my word for it. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be willing to praise Oxfam if he has the opportunity to do so later, but Mark Fried of that organisation said after the summit:
"The only promise that counts is the Gleneagles one to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010 and that is the one they have abandoned today."
It was at Gleneagles that the efforts of the former Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), buoyed by millions of campaigners around the world, achieved the historic promise to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010, with $25 billion of that going to Africa, and also agreed crucial steps on debt relief-what a disappointing contrast with Muskoka and Toronto.
"I come to the G8 and G20 in Muskoka and Toronto with a clear commitment to make sure these summits deliver for people. Too often, these international meetings fail to live up to the hype and the promises made"
Mr Andrew Mitchell: In due time and on mature reflection, the right hon. Gentleman may regret the tone that he has adopted. He quotes one particular non-governmental organisation, but why does he not quote what CAFOD or ActionAid said, when they endorsed the Prime Minister's leading role in trying to ensure that other members of the G8 stand by the commitments that they made at Gleneagles and to which I referred in my speech?
"not fought for the commitments to be included"
in the communiqué? To quote another NGO, Save the Children was moved to describe the resultant dropping of the Gleneagles communiqué as simply "shameful". So can the Secretary of State now tell us how many phone calls and meetings he and the Prime Minister held with other Ministers about maintaining their Gleneagles promises? Did they go the extra mile, or did they merely give up? The silence is deafening.
"David Cameron is battling hard to safeguard the Gleneagles legacy... Cameron can hold his head high as the UK is standing by its aid commitments."
Rather than this silly exchange of quotes, we need to move the focus of the debate back on to poverty. Although these new organisations, such as the G8 and G20, are important, it is the older organisations, such as the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that have to pick up the pieces. The latter organisations are now out of date, having been created when the world was very different, but have to comply with what the G8 and G20 tell them to do. The failure lies there, rather than with the British Government.
Mr Alexander: It ill behoves the Conservative party to offer warm words of endorsement to the non-governmental organisation sector in the United Kingdom and then express such discomfort when their policy experts make a judgment on the conduct and performance of the Prime Minister in his first international summit.
I shall turn to the G20. I will, of course, welcome any attention that the new and larger grouping pays to international development and tackling poverty. I believe it is vital that the G20 discusses the wider global economic architecture, that the concerns of the poorest countries are at the forefront and that issues such as taxation and the regulation and taxation of the financial markets are treated as development issues, in the way we sought to do at the London G20 summit. I must express some scepticism, however, about another forum-the working group on development-being created under the auspices of the G20 at the same time as the G8 appears to be abrogating its responsibilities. In his winding-up speech,
will the Minister tell the House how he envisages the new G20 group working and how it will be held to account?
Members of the G8 and G20 need to reach beyond the easy myopia that often besets publics and politics in difficult times. That is why I argued, in the White Paper that we published in 2009, that we must not turn away in fear and isolation. Although we rightly focus on tackling the global economic crisis, we must also take the longer view. We need to help fashion a world in which better regulated, greener and fairer markets operate for all, and in which growth and prosperity is generated and poverty alleviated, but not at the expense of people or the planet, on which we all depend. We need to create a world in which the skills and energies of the private sector are harnessed for the benefit of all, but in which its excesses are not treated as an acceptable by-product. We need to create a world in which we help to tackle the conflict and insecurity that blights the lives of so many ordinary people, particularly women and girls, with a broad-based concept of stabilisation, conflict prevention and peace-building that treats security and justice as basic services. We also need to create a world in which we maintain our promises to deliver the aid that helps to catalyse development and realise rights, that puts children into school, helps mothers have safer births, and ensures clean drinking water is available.
We must recognise that tackling poverty cannot be reached by spending aid alone-on that there is common ground between us-although our aid remains essential. We must take a transformative and holistic approach to development, looking at the wider global economy and issues such as tax, conflict, sustainability and gender.
Barry Gardiner: Was my right hon. Friend as revolted as I by photographs in the press in the past couple of days showing the beating of young boys in Bangladesh by police? Those boys were in the textile workers industry and trying to improve their own conditions-currently they earn $35 a month. Does he agree that we need to incorporate into our view and distribution of aid a clear focus on human rights abuses in the country to which we are delivering an aid programme?
Mr Alexander: I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend. I was similarly horrified by the pictures that appeared in Britain's newspapers. It reinforces the importance and urgency of continuing to make the case, not just for human rights, as he describes, but for effective mechanisms of democratic accountability so that the public in countries where such difficulties are emerging can exercise constraint on those Governments and security forces.
I want to address our aid promises, which have already been the subject of some of our exchanges. The Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have been at pains to insist repeatedly in recent weeks that they fully intend to meet the 0.7% aid target by 2013, and I welcome the fact that the coalition agreement, on page 22, section 18, under the title "International Development", states:
"We will honour our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid from 2013, and to enshrine this commitment in law."
I was hoping that a little more clarity might have been brought to that commitment by the Secretary of State in the debate, but despite repeated questioning, we still have no timetable for the legislation he promised in the
first Session of this Parliament. Indeed, I have here an explanatory note, issued by his Department on the day of the Loyal Address, entitled: "Background Note-Non Legislative Item-International Development Spending from 2013". Why is this the case, given that a draft Bill was scrutinised by the International Development Committee in the last Parliament? That deserves a better answer than the one offered today to the Committee Chairman. Will the Minister tell us when the legislation will be introduced?
Malcolm Bruce: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising this point, but will he acknowledge that the Select Committee, in scrutinising, acknowledged that there were some difficulties with the draft legislation? There was not unanimity, and indeed his own Government acknowledged that more work needed to be done. Can we get this together? We want legislation, but it is not quite ready. I agree with him, however, that we want a timetable.
Mr Alexander: I am unyielding in my admiration for the right hon. Gentleman's commitment and expertise on these matters. I recognise that an important process of pre-legislative scrutiny was undertaken by his Committee, but I do not believe that the question of how to ensure effective legislation is what currently divides us. What divides us is the prospect of a parliamentary motion taking the place of legislation. I hope that he agrees that legislation is required.
Mr Alexander: Forgive me, but I am reading from a background note published by Ministers that describes international development spending from 2013 as a "non-legislative item". If Department officials are not following ministerial direction, that is an issue for the Secretary of State rather than us. I hope that, in the winding-up speech, this matter can be clarified, with a clear and explicit commitment to legislation, along with a date.
Mr Mitchell: The former Secretary of State needs to elevate the nature of his speech. The right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), the Chair of the International Development Committee, had it absolutely right. I do not know where the former Secretary of State got that piece of paper from, but I am happy to confirm that it is not accurate.
Mr Alexander: I am grateful for that admission from the Secretary of State, and I hope it will be followed up in the Minister's speech later with some clarity on the timing of when we can seek to make progress.
The right hon. Gentleman has been generous in giving way. He is demanding, or requesting, that we expedite our interest in moving towards 0.7%, and that is understandable. However, he was in power for 13 years. One of the first private Members' Bills I was involved in was put forward by the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), who proposed that the then-and indeed any-Government commit to this target. That was agreed
and supported by Front-Bench Members at the time. Why, then, is the former Secretary of State now demanding that Conservative Members move faster, given that he had plenty of time to introduce this target into law under his own Administration?
Mr Alexander: As I have said, I am happy to have both main parties' records scrutinised. We trebled aid, whereas the previous Conservative Government halved it. My right hon. Friend played an honourable and distinguished role in ensuring that, through the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006, there is effective scrutiny by the House of the rising budget line we delivered year on year. [Interruption.] Forgive me, but I will continue to speak through Mr Deputy Speaker.
I can assure hon. Members that I support the legislation that the Labour party proposed and brought to the International Development Committee for scrutiny. I would welcome the opportunity for our legislation to be passed expeditiously.
There is the question of where and how our aid money is allocated across Government, and on what it is spent. We believe that the majority of our overseas development assistance should naturally be programmed and allocated by the Department for International Development. We were joined in that view by the Secretary of State's now Cabinet colleague the Scottish Secretary, who warned during the recent general election campaign of the danger that Conservative plans could mean large sums ending up being diverted from the aid budget-for example, to count as climate finance in due course.
"Dear Andrew...I am flattered by the attention that your researchers are paying to us, but would politely suggest that their efforts would be better spent explaining to voters and the 'development community' how Conservative plans for DfID would work; specifically, the very real danger that under your proposals DfID departmental expenditure would leak to other departments such as the MoD and the FCO, what exactly is meant by 'injecting business DNA into the department' and how exactly your proposed annual monitoring could hope to work for multi annual programmes.
In other words, time better spent answering the very serious points raised by the NGOs and others about your own manifesto.
With kind regards,
Elsewhere in that intriguing exchange of letters, the Secretary of State attacked the now Scottish Secretary and the now Business Secretary for "undermining" the consensus on international development.
However, I am glad to say that it appears that the differences between the Conservatives and the Liberals have been resolved-in the same way that a python resolves its differences with a mouse. In the coalition programme for government, we see no mention of additionality in climate finance, despite the fact that climate finance is such a crucial issue, as has been recognised across the House today. In contrast, we made it clear in government that from 2013 we would ensure that additional sources of climate finance would be provided, with no more than 10% of our aid spending being allocated to that purpose. The Liberal Democrats had also called for additional climate finance, but alas, like their promises on VAT, this now appears to have
been another promise that has been conveniently forgotten. Will the Minister of State therefore tell us whether the Government intend to make any form of additional climate finance available, from what point, and from what sources? If he answers that none will be provided, perhaps he can tell us what he feels the prospects are for the climate negotiations in Cancun later this year, in the absence, as yet, of post-2013 commitments from the Government.
I would also appreciate it if the Minister could explain in more detail than we heard from the Secretary of State what is meant by the Government's proposals for a military-led "stabilisation and reconstruction force". We took a pragmatic but appropriate approach to stabilisation in government, recognising the complementary but distinct roles that development, diplomacy and defence should play in places such as Afghanistan. In one of the bloodiest weeks of the conflict, our thoughts must be with the families and loved ones of those British soldiers who have fallen in the service of their country in recent days. The sacrifice of our troops in Afghanistan demands that those charged with the heavy responsibility of overseeing the mission should bring strategic clarity to that onerous and important task.
The Prime Minister confirmed to the House in recent days his commitment to the counter-insurgency campaign in which NATO is engaged. That of course requires military force, but in the words of the US army's counter-insurgency field manual, authored by the new commander, General David Petraeus, action is also required to
"uphold the rule of law, and provide a basic level of essential services and security for the populace."
My personal conversations with General Petraeus confirmed to me the depths of his personal commitment to a comprehensive approach that requires more than just military pressure, yet since coming into government, the Secretary of State's colleague the Defence Secretary has declared:
"We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of education policy in a broken 13th century country".
For progress to be achieved through a comprehensive approach to counter-insurgency-and so that the war be ended-what is required is both strengthening of the state and its legitimacy, and striving for a political settlement, as surely as also weakening the Taliban militarily. Under such an approach, diplomatic, development and defence efforts will all play a crucial part in bringing about the conditions under which our brave forces can return home. Will the Secretary of State or the Minister explain to us in more detail how the proposed force will be funded, managed and directed?
"redesigning our aid programmes so that they build in rigorous evaluation processes from day one."
Perhaps the Minister of State will take the opportunity-avoided by the Secretary of State-to explain the outputs of the £200 million that has been announced by the Prime Minister, most recently on his welcome trip to Afghanistan.
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