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The noble Lord said: I welcome the opportunity to move an amendment to this important Bill. The Bill has an inspirational or visionary element, as my noble friend Lord Judd said, as well as a legal element. All great legislation has some visionary element, including even constitutional Bills referring to the future of this Chamber.
The purpose of the amendment is to urge that under the responsibilities of the Secretary of State there should be more promotion of poverty reduction by all the various government departments and agencies that can contribute. That is done and is partly co-ordinated and paid for by the DfID through the regular budgets. That arrangement may be rather uncertain and is not always explicitly co-ordinated. For example, there is some co-ordination of work with the United Nations agencies, but as I know from my own experience, it is not always explicit. In other areas, such as the use of science and technology for international development, there is some co-ordination but it is not as extensive as it might be. The aim of the amendment is to empower the Secretary of State to devote resources in her department to ensure by encouragement and co-ordination that other departments continue to devote a certain proportion of their budgets and efforts to international development and poverty reduction.
In particular, such work should be a feature of the targets of departments and agencies and the personal targets of permanent secretaries and chief executives. All departments and agencies have large budgets for providing and purchasing goods and services--many of them in and from foreign countries, including those where there is great poverty. If those actions were redirected to some extent towards the goal of poverty reduction, that could have a considerable effect.
In a former life, when I was a civil servant, I suggested that government departments and agencies should have such wider goals. A distinguished Minister, who is now a Member of this House, said, "That's the kind of thing they do in France, not in the UK". I hope that the Government will think along the lines suggested in my amendment. More could certainly be done, not necessarily by detailed instruction but by broad promotion. An amendment along the lines I have suggested would encourage staff, stakeholders and people involved in government, including those who provide services to departments--scientists, doctors and so on--to understand the broad aims of the Bill in a more effective way. I beg to move.
The Earl of Northesk: I hope it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I take this opportunity to speak to Amendment No. 19 in the name of my noble friend Lady Rawlings. I trust that the reasons for the new clause are self-evident. It seeks to ensure that all government departments responsible in some way for overseas activities are focused on poverty reduction. Indeed, in many ways that has been the thrust of the Minister in her replies to our debates thus far today. That is buttressed by making provision for a report to be put before Parliament each year to chart the progress being made.
It is axiomatic that the Department for International Development should be committed to its primary aim of reducing global poverty but its efforts should also be backed up with a similar commitment from other government departments. In fact, of course, the Government have accepted that they must
It can be argued that the Ministry of Defence did not demonstrate a commitment to poverty reduction in March 2000 when it charged the DfID the full market price--£2.2 million--for four Puma helicopters to assist in Mozambique. The sale of spare parts to Zimbabwe does not seem, on the face of it, to have been focused on poverty reduction. In the Caribbean we can all recall that when a volcano devastated the island of Montserrat in August 1997 Clare Short accused the islanders of "sheer irresponsibility" and accused them of "wanting golden elephants next" in their pleas for aid and assistance.
The crisis demonstrated the Cabinet split over responsibility for the island between Clare Short and Robin Cook. Robin Cook then took charge of the Government's handling of the crisis. Revealingly, Downing Street said that it wanted to ensure "better co-ordination" across government departments.
But the evidence suggests that the Government have failed to deliver the joined-up decision making that they espouse. In seeking to ensure that other government departments cannot ignore poverty reduction in their dealings with developing countries, our amendment seeks to facilitate that desirable aim. We trust that the Minister will view it with sympathy.
We have heard that, in order to make progress, inter-departmental co-operation is essential: one has to look at government as a whole. But it is not only within the United Kingdom that co-operation is essential. If we
I am slightly mystified at this point. Only in December of last year was the extremely interesting White Paper entitled Eliminating World Poverty--Making Globalisation Work for the Poor published. In its introduction, the Secretary of State stated:
If my noble friend can bring forward a better form of words to express my concern, I shall be the first to applaud it. However, in my amateurish way I have looked at the Bill and decided that something should be attempted to put in a form of words that is clearly missing. Here, at the least, is one proposal. Earlier in our proceedings I was told that we must remember the importance of modesty. For that reason, I put forward this amendment with a great sense of modesty as regards whether it contains the right wording. However, as I have said, at least it is an attempt.
The Earl of Sandwich: I should like to speak briefly to Amendment No. 16, which has somehow crept into this rather politicised debate. I have some difficulty with the drafting of the amendment, which strikes me as rather negative when the Bill here refers to the "awareness of global poverty". I accept the focus on poverty, but is it not misleading to suggest that the awareness of poverty is sufficient in development education, for example?
So-called poor communities have a great deal to teach us. We now live in a world of interdependence. The events in Oldham and Bradford have made that fact much more urgent. It is important that non-governmental organisations in particular should positively promote an understanding of development issues. I cite here the legacy of empire and why our cities are as they are alongside the relief of poverty. Given that, perhaps I may suggest the addition of the words "development issues" which are easily understood by teachers and all those involved in this element of education.
Lord Brennan: I should like to speak to Amendment No. 17A in this grouping, the first in the supplementary list. This amendment is designed to encourage an alliance between government and business in the pursuit of international development.
The bitter experiences of Shell and the Brent Spar incident and in Nigeria, or BP in Colombia, or Monsanto worldwide with concerns about the effects of GM products on the poorest countries all serve to indicate that big business cannot ignore the responsibilities imposed by globalisation. Happily, business accepts this.
In the debate on Second Reading I mentioned the use of codes of conduct and ethical and moral investment--dare one use the word "moral" in this context--which business has been promoting. Only a week or so ago, a group of European business leaders met and decided to institute a programme for corporate social responsibility, reaching its climax in 2005. It is to be directed at the Union, but also at the world outside. The duty is obvious--the price of drugs, the effects of environmental change, dams and energy prices--and cannot be avoided. However, as I have said, happily business now accepts that it should play its part.
This is not a new revolution, but simply a reflection of globalisation. In this country we speak of the public/private partnership--I underline the word "partnership"--and promote it as beneficial to ourselves. By doing so we draw into government more closely than ever before business leaders, with the objective of producing that which will benefit the community. I have tabled this amendment to test my own suggestion that Clause 4 has itself been expressed in the most expansive of terms in order to test the Government's spirit and energy in applying the clause to the world of business.
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