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"( ) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements to ensure that humanitarian assistance provided under subsection (1), which is provided via other agencies or bodies, shall comply with the same standards as to effectiveness and probity as apply to assistance disbursed directly."

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to prevent humanitarian assistance provided via agencies other than the United Kingdom Government being used for purposes that would not comply with UK government standards. This is the only part of the Bill that is not subject to a poverty focus. We believe that there is no reason why humanitarian aid should not also be used for poverty reduction. Humanitarian aid needs to be delivered quickly and efficiently. However, it is also very important that such aid is not misused and spent incorrectly. The Government said in the White Paper Eliminating Poverty published in 1997 that,

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If international co-operation is based on "sound principles" and the Government are working to encourage "systemwide common performance standards", why do they not take the lead in publishing within this Bill the fact that all humanitarian aid must conform to a poverty focus?

The International Committee of the Red Cross--I declare an interest as a working member of over 30 years--has said that humanitarian aid is based on seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. These principles were officially proclaimed in the declaration at the 20th international conference of the Red Cross held in Vienna in 1965. We believe that there needs to be provision within the Bill to allow the United Kingdom to prevent British taxpayers' money being used to fund humanitarian aid that does not comply with UK standards. I look forward to hearing the response of the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: My noble friend referred to subsection (1). However, Clause 3 has no subsections. It is just a clause on its own. Is my noble friend assuming, therefore, that this will become subsection (2) of Clause 3?

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The noble Baroness was referring to subsection (1) of Clause 1.

Baroness Rawlings: It is subsection (1) of Clause 1.

Lord Judd: In speaking to this amendment I shall conveniently speak to Amendment No. 14. When the subject of the amendment was raised at Second Reading, the Minister was not in a position to give a definitive reply. The noble Baroness has since, very courteously, written to me. I deeply appreciate that letter. In it the noble Baroness referred to the Secretary of State's firm position and the ethical framework within which the whole interpretation of the Bill will take place.

It will not surprise noble Lords that, while I appreciate that letter and the spirit in which it was written, I am not altogether convinced. Having been in government myself I know of the tremendous pressures that there are to take other considerations into account. It would be helpful to have specifically on the face of the Bill what humanitarian assistance means. It is not just the present Secretary of State, whose commitment we do not question, but future Secretaries of State who will have to take what the House wants firmly into account.

In saying that, I underline that in dealing with Nicaragua in 1986 the International Court of Justice argued that if humanitarian assistance was to escape condemnation as being politically motivated rather than being motivated by humanitarian purpose alone, it must conform to the standards laid down by the ICRC.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, referred to the ICRC's position. Perhaps the noble Baroness could just have added the ICRC's principle of,

    "no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs".

If that is not in itself important enough, I was interested to come across a document which reminded me that in 1996 the Council of the European Union in dealing with humanitarian aid found it quite possible to define the purpose of humanitarian aid. Council Regulation (EC) No. 1257/96 of 20th June 1996 states:

    "Whereas humanitarian aid, the sole aim of which is to prevent or relieve human suffering, is accorded to victims without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation and must not be guided by, or subject to, political considerations".

The European Union and the ICRC have managed to define what humanitarian assistance is and should be. That will inevitably raise questions as to why there is nothing on the face of the Bill stating what our interpretation is. I would therefore like to be reassured by the Minister about this matter.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: I support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Judd about the meaning of humanitarian assistance. Clause 3 refers to,

    "alleviating the effects of a natural or man-made disaster"

That should be read in the sense that it can also include warnings provided to communities and shelters and prevention systems. Some definitions of "humanitarian assistance" refer only to events after a disaster has struck. Therefore, one comes in after--as it were--people are suffering. I hope and believe that it is intended that the Bill will include a more effective form of assistance to enable countries to avoid disaster.

One example was Hurricane Mitch. A better warning system would have prevented the huge increase in poverty which followed that hurricane. One has seen, for example, the flood shelters off the coast of India and Bangladesh. They have greatly reduced poverty. In some definitions of humanitarian aid that would not be humanitarian assistance. They are exceedingly effective in reducing poverty. I hope that, in the context of the clause, the Government are considering this broader definition of humanitarian assistance.

Baroness Whitaker: With regard to Amendment No. 13, I should like to suggest that humanitarian aid is very different in kind from development aid. It is different because it is entirely in the context of a crisis, whereas development aid needs to create a framework to increase poverty reduction.

My attention has been drawn to a leader in the Daily Telegraph on 10th July which says it all. The article stated that,

    "aid organisations are not required to sit in judgment on the world's misguided rulers. Their business is to prevent innocent people in the world from suffering the consequences of misrule".

Therefore, I speak against the amendment.

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Baroness Amos: Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 seek to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided effectively and with impartiality.

Clause 3 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to provide humanitarian assistance in response to disaster or other emergency. Assistance under the clause is not limited to "development assistance", as defined in Clause 1. Nor is there any requirement for the assistance to be likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked that humanitarian assistance should be linked to poverty reduction. Clause 3 is intended to enable the Secretary of State to respond to the immediate needs of the victims of disaster. To require her to temper that immediate response according to an assessment of whether her support would reduce poverty would seriously inhibit her ability to act expeditiously. The immediate needs of the victims of disaster must be the driving force for the help which is given.

The clause does not use the term "humanitarian assistance", which is, as a consequence, not defined in the Bill. Instead, the clause refers to,

    "natural or man-made disaster or other emergency"

and limits the purpose of assistance to "alleviating the effects" of these on the population of a country outside the United Kingdom.

The effect of Amendment No. 13 is to place the Secretary of State under a duty to apply standards of "effectiveness and probity" to any bodies or persons who acted on her behalf in the provision of humanitarian assistance.

It is already open to the Secretary of State to impose standards on those who carry out activities on her behalf. The department devotes significant resources to ensuring that our partners' systems and procedures meet the requirements of effectiveness and probity set out in the department's humanitarian guidelines. Indirect assistance is also subject to the same degree of scrutiny as direct assistance by our own internal audit department, the National Audit Office, and by Parliament through the International Development Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Indirect assistance will be channelled through organisations with which we have an existing relationship, based on a positive, prior assessment of their effectiveness, efficiency and probity. The International Development Committee's recent assessment of our response to the Kosovo crisis is an example of the thorough scrutiny of both indirectly and directly provided assistance.

I would therefore argue that the amendment is unnecessary. I regret that it is also undesirable because it places statutory constraints on how the Secretary of State may respond to a crisis. It could require a layer of bureaucracy that would add not value but delay DfID's approval of proposals.

Amendment No. 14, tabled by my noble friends Lord Judd and Lord Hunt and by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, seeks to define in the Bill the terms on which humanitarian assistance should be

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provided--specifically, that it should be provided to victims without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation. No one would disagree with that sentiment. The question is whether such a definition would enhance the effectiveness of such assistance by appearing on the face of the Bill.

As my noble friend Lady Whitaker has already stated, humanitarian assistance is quite different from development assistance. It is provided in response to crises, which are often unforeseen. To be effective it must be immediate and provided flexibly. Noble Lords have pressed me consistently in the House on the speed of the Government's response to crises in, for example, Mozambique, India and elsewhere in the world. The speed of our response has always been commended by noble Lords. This urgency does not mean that impartiality is overlooked. To achieve the aim of alleviating the suffering of those affected by disaster, humanitarian assistance cannot be provided only to one group of people and withheld from others who share in that suffering.

All our humanitarian assistance is provided under a published framework. The Secretary of State and her department are subject to the Human Rights Act in what they do. If we were to embed in the Bill constraints of the type sought by my noble friend Lord Judd, the department would be legally accountable for ensuring that each and every disaster or emergency be formally appraised against each of the elements set down in the principles. To embed a precise but wide-ranging duty in the Bill would give rise to a substantial increase in bureaucracy, both for us and our partners, which we believe would constrain our ability to react quickly. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Hunt that the term "humanitarian assistance" includes support for measures to improve disaster preparedness.

For those reasons, I ask that Amendment No. 13 be withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: I am rather disappointed by the Minister's reply. I may wish to consider the matter again at Report stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Supplementary powers]:

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