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Baroness Andrews: I support Amendment No. 12, spoken to by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I cannot follow the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on civil society. However, there is a case for including the term "civil society organisations" on the face of the Bill, although I understand the Bill to be both inclusive and generous in its approach and its definitions in many respects. I make a plea for considering good governance and the critical role that civil society organisations have played in many regimes in facilitating the transition to democracy. I think, for example, of Latin America where the hope of democracy was kept alive in many instances by human rights organisations, political organisations and children's and women's organisations.
Democracy is now regarded as a condition of development aid. We find in many of the European aid arrangements a condition that societies promote and work towards democracy. That seems to me to be absolutely right and proper. If the term "civil society organisations" were included on the face of the Bill, it would enable those proposing the Bill and responding to it to pick up the positive signal that democratic growth and economic development are closely connected, if not completely symbiotic.
Lord Brennan: A year in your Lordships' House has taught me the legislative limitations on political and personal vision. That is not, however, the reason that I disagree with the thrust of the amendments we are discussing. I am not standing before the Committee a victim of political and spiritual fatigue, but rather because these amendments, heartily though I agree with their sentiment, do not meet the objective at which the Bill should be directed. It is not a piece of legislation in which we as representatives of the nation should proclaim our values which we think should instil any form of international aid. That is not the
Like many Members of the Committee I have travelled extensively in connection with work to address poverty. Those involved in such work are exhausted with workshops. They are fed up with textual frenzy. The distance between word and deed is too great. They want action. If any of those donees were to consider the Bill and determine what it might do for them, they would not, I submit, consider the form of amendment which we are presently debating. They would ask whether the measure gives development assistance. The answer is yes. They would ask whether it provides for sustainable development. The answer is yes. They would ask whether it improves the welfare of their people. The answer is yes. They would ask whether such assistance is designed to have lasting benefit. The answer is yes. They would ask whether the government providing all that have full powers to do so. Under the terms of Clause 4 they certainly do.
Practically speaking, even though I agree with the sentiment we are discussing, I want in the future, along with others in the Chamber, to say to the government of the day, "There were your powers--minimum in terminology, maximum in effect. Did you achieve the objective we set for you when we passed the Bill?" Few of us have the wealth of Rossetti and even fewer of us have the single-mindedness of William Morris, but in the year 2001 the poor people of the world want action, not words. I support the Bill as it stands.
Lord Joffe: I declare an interest as the chair of Oxfam and a number of other development agencies. My purpose in supporting all the amendments in this first group, other than Amendment No. 1, is to improve what is already a very good Bill which includes a principle of fundamental importance to development.
My concern with Amendment No. 1, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, is that by adding the word "indirectly", a potential loophole in the Bill would be widened. I am sure that that was not the objective of the noble Baroness. However, it is possible to envisage a future Secretary of State using the word "indirect" as a basis for reintroducing tied aid on the ground that tied aid indirectly contributes towards the reduction of poverty, as indeed it does.
I refer to the flexibility given to future Secretaries of State to interpret the Bill in a way which suits the policies and strategies they may have which may not accord with the policies and strategies of the present Secretary of State. We all know that there is no danger that the present Secretary of State would stray from the intention of the Bill as it represents exactly what she has proclaimed and done during the period she has
The amendments support the principles of the Bill while ensuring that it is implemented in accordance with those principles. That seems to me to be of critical importance. I, too, have travelled abroad and I know that those involved in development work in those countries care about the wording of measures although their main concern is, of course, with the implementation of aid and the elimination of poverty. Much of the wording that is proposed accords with the wording used by those involved in development in the developing world.
I refer to two amendments which I believe are of specific importance. As I say, I support all the amendments in the group with the exception of Amendment No. 1. Amendment No. 4 seeks to widen the definition of "poverty" to extend well beyond deprivation of material needs. It is very much accepted development policy that one needs to consider poverty in a much wider framework than simply material deprivation. The amendment embodies exactly the current approach to development which is widely recognised as the way forward by most experts in development.
The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, adds the words "human rights" to the Bill. The noble Baroness illustrated the importance of protecting the human rights of people suffering from disability against the violations they endure all the time. It is essential that the words "human rights"--it is what development is about--should appear in a Bill which defines our approach to development.
The amendment underlines the fact that sustainable development must involve a broader, almost global and certainly continental, view. Many environmental problems involving dams and rivers can take place in one country but have an adverse effect on another country. There is an extraordinary lack of communication of information between different countries. It is important that sustainable developments are seen in a broad context.
The DfID now has its officers working in-country. It is important, therefore, to ensure that such local activities are undertaken within a global strategy. I have to declare an interest. I am chairman of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea. It takes a view on global environmental matters.
Baroness Amos: Clause 1 sets out the core power in the Bill. It constrains a Secretary of State to provide development assistance only where she is satisfied that it will contribute to the reduction of poverty either through furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of the people. Amendments Nos. 1 to 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12 seek to amend the scope and operation of that core power.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, was concerned that the Bill might not allow the Secretary of State to support activities which provide the foundation for the reduction of poverty. Amendment No. 1 would make explicit that the Secretary of State could provide assistance for activities that were likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty either directly or indirectly.
As Clause 1 is presently drafted, the Secretary of State can support activities which contribute to the reduction of poverty either directly or indirectly and which impact on poverty either immediately or over a longer term. But in every case there must be a demonstrable causal link between the giving of assistance and the contribution to a reduction in poverty. I can reassure the noble Baroness, therefore, that the Bill already reflects the sense of Amendment No. 1.
Not only is the amendment unnecessary, it is also undesirable. If we make a point of saying that the contribution may be indirect, as the amendment provides, we risk enabling the Secretary of State to provide assistance even if the extent of the contribution to the reduction of poverty is incidental--a mere probable knock-on effect. So, for example, the amendment might allow the use of aid for commercial or political ends so long as there was some contribution to the reduction of poverty. I recognise that that is not the noble Baroness's intention but I offer it as an example of the potential and, I believe, undesirable impact of the amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, propose that the core power be amended so that the overarching aim of development assistance becomes the elimination rather than the reduction of poverty. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Judd and others that the Government remain committed to the elimination of poverty. The 1997 and 2000 White Papers on international development make clear that commitment. That is why we have a commitment to the achievement of the international development targets.
However, we have been advised--here I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai--that the elimination of poverty is too tough a test to embed in legislation directed to the sanctioning of individual spending decisions. If we were to adopt the elimination of poverty as our overarching aim there is a risk that the
I believe that it has been recognised in this House that the process towards the elimination of poverty will be gradual and can be achieved only through continuing efforts to reduce poverty. We have adopted, therefore, the reduction of poverty as our aim in the Bill and as the test for the legitimacy of the Secretary of State's decision.
Amendment No. 3 makes explicit that the Secretary of State cannot provide development assistance for purposes of a commercial, political or otherwise non-developmental nature. This is the negative image of Clause 1 as it is currently drafted. The clause sets down the overarching aim and two purposes for development assistance. It is determinative. By that I mean that the clause does not allow the Secretary of State to act for any purpose which is not compatible and consistent with the overarching aim and the two purposes set down. It is not necessary to state the aims and purposes for which the Secretary of State is not able to provide assistance.
Indeed, in doing so we weaken the test set down in Clause 1. Refining the powers in this way casts doubt on the primacy of the overarching aim of the reduction of poverty and the two purposes of furthering sustainable development and promoting the welfare of the people. If we must specify that they do not allow for commercial and political purposes, the inference must be that they do not stand as a complete definition of our aims and purposes.
My noble friend Lord Judd pressed me on the fact that I used the word "only" in my reply at Second Reading and that it is not included on the face of the Bill. Clause 1 spells out the circumstances in which the Secretary of State may spend public money. In doing so, it implies that her authority to do so is limited by the terms of the clause. The word "only" is therefore implicit in the power and does not need expression.
I hope that I have reassured the Committee that Amendment No. 3 is not necessary in that the Bill provides no scope for the Secretary of State to provide assistance for any aim or purpose other than those set down in Clause 1. In fact, such an amendment would weaken the powers in Clause 1.
Amendment No. 4 would insert a definition of poverty. The Bill does not currently define poverty. The concept is both relative and complex, yet there is a common ability to recognise poverty when it presents itself. Attempts to capture the range of its manifestations in legal language would on the one hand expose the Secretary of State to the constant risk of technical legal challenge over whether the aspects of poverty that she had identified fell within the definition, and on the other hand give rise to the possibility that actions could be justified because the definition appeared to embrace them even though poverty as we naturally understand it was not present.
Numerous questions could be asked and would require answers. For example, could we assist those who were poor, but not the poorest? How poor would an individual or community have to be to merit assistance? How should we assess the depth of poverty of an individual or a community when poverty has many different aspects?
By relying on the natural understanding of poverty, we allow the Secretary of State to offer assistance across the spectrum of its manifestations. She is constrained in the way in which she can do so: it must be through furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of people. She is accountable to Parliament and to the courts on the use of her powers.
Amendment No. 5, tabled by my noble friend Lady Wilkins, would insert a reference to "securing human rights". As my noble friend said, the Department for International Development has adopted a rights-based approach to development. The policy is set out in detail in the target strategy paper, Realising Human Rights for Poor People.
In considering whether and how to reflect that approach in the Bill, we need to bear in mind two issues: whether the Secretary of State is bound to respect human rights when she exercises her powers; and whether she can or should be required to make human rights an issue in the decision-making process under the Bill. I assure my noble friend that we do not take our commitment to human rights as read. Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 makes it unlawful for any public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a convention right. It would be unnecessary and inappropriate to repeat such a requirement in the Bill.
The issue of whether the Bill could or should require the Secretary of State to take account of a country's human rights record when determining whether to provide assistance is important. We believe that, under the Bill, the Secretary of State could continue to take account of a country's human rights record in determining whether to provide assistance. For example, she could determine not to assist a government but to work through other agencies if she thought that the purpose of promoting welfare might be compromised by that government's disregard for human rights. However, I do not agree that the Bill should include a requirement for the Secretary of State to take account of a government's human rights record in determining the nature and scale of assistance for their people. That would cut across the primacy of the overarching requirement of poverty reduction and the welfare purpose. The Government strongly believe that the needs of people in developing countries must be the driving force behind the choice of form of assistance.
There are also practical difficulties in adopting an explicit human rights focus in the Bill. Any requirement set down in legislation would be likely to prove a blunt instrument in dealing with the wide range of countries and circumstances that we face. For example, we would risk constraining the Secretary of
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 would require "sustainable development" to be interpreted as development that was compatible with "essential global environmental strategies". That hits on an interesting point. Although the term "sustainable development" is used in the Bill, it is not defined. The reference is made in Clause 1(3) to prevent the hijacking of the term, not to define it. We have taken that approach because we recognise that sustainable development can be an emotive term for some people. While we feel that it must be on the face of the Bill, as we believe that poverty can be eliminated permanently only through sustainable development, we wish to protect the Secretary of State from being forced to adopt an overly economic or environment-oriented interpretation of the term. We believe that sustainable development comprises economic, social and environmental factors. The balance between those factors must be determined by the needs of poor people, not by reference to any wider conceptual considerations.
Amendment No. 12 would ensure that the Secretary of State could provide support for civil society organisations engaged in work that promotes the welfare of the people. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others who have spoken to the amendment that, under the provisions of the Bill, the Secretary of State will be able to support such organisations where their activities would contribute to the reduction of poverty.
The amendment is also undesirable. We have to work within the legal convention that nothing is said in legislation that does not need to be said. Such an explicit reference to one or more narrow activities or purposes--in this instance support for civil society organisations that are engaged in work that promotes the welfare of the people--might lead a court to conclude that it was appropriate to interpret the powers set down in subsection (2)(b) narrowly to exclude support for activities or purposes that were not explicitly mentioned. Such a constraint would severely limit the effectiveness of our development effort and is clearly unacceptable.
We have stressed our commitment to working in partnership with civil society organisations in the United Kingdom and in developing countries. I hope that the noble Earl will be reassured that the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to support organisations engaged in the activities that he described.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, for her clear explanation. It was not in our mind for commercial and political aims to be included in the Bill. However, we feel that the Bill should be able to go wider. We may yet explore the issue further on Report. I have pleasure in thanking the noble Baroness and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.