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The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: I hope that I shall be forgiven if I ask a question not directly related to these amendments but to Clause 4 as it stands. I welcome the succinct nature of the Bill, but perhaps that could result in a great many questions being left unanswered. Anxieties have been expressed outside your Lordships' House as regards what is the precise meaning of this clause and what are its implications regarding the provision of grants for development education. There are those who are concerned that Clause 4 of the Bill may not extend to include Churches or faith-based organisations, although what we have heard about NGOs suggests that that would be the case. We are concerned that the clause will be interpreted in such a way that Churches and faith-based organisations will be excluded.
The reason for this goes back to Second Reading. In her response to the debate, the noble Baroness, in answer to points made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, said that both in the UK and partner countries the role of NGOs was recognised and that the Government channel a substantial proportion of their resources through NGOs.
But then the answer to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, appeared less clear and referred to work primarily with reforming governments. The Minister added that projects empowering local communities are, in principle, eligible for Challenge Fund support. She then returned to a clearer statement on the need for greater awareness and understanding of development issues across the UK and internationally. There, again, work with NGOs was encouraged.
It is quite clear to us that the role of the Churches and faith communities throughout the world is quite enormous. Our own Church of England, for instance, has nearly 70 million members in 164 countries. I have myself seen in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia tremendous work being done by the Churches in regard to education, pastoral care and development issues. I have witnessed the great and renewing demand for this support in the light of the collapse of government funding in those countries.
My own diocese recently sent a quarter of a million pounds to provide capital for building schemes in Zambia. That will provide the people there with an income with which they can then pursue their own projects. We hope and pray that that will provide sustainable financial resources for them in the future.
The movement for link dioceses has taught the Churches in this country a great deal about developmental needs, and the Christians and members of other faiths are a substantial human resource in Africa and elsewhere. I am thinking of two great hospitals, the Lutheran hospital in Namibia and the
From what the Minister said, this is probably an unnecessary anxiety, but I have been asked to raise the issue.
Lord Redesdale: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 17, which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. The amendment seeks to ensure that there is, to use the parlance of the day, "joined up government". It is a probing amendment. In that spirit, can the Minister give any indication of what level of contact has been garnered with the DTI over the export control Bill?
Baroness Rawlings: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 25, which is tabled in my name. Clause 7 provides the Secretary of State with the power to provide assistance under the Bill. It allows her to set out the terms and conditions for such assistance. However, subsection (3) provides that the Treasury must approve such terms and conditions for financial assistance. My amendment seeks a requirement to make all details of requests made to the Treasury to approve such terms and conditions for financial aid a matter of public knowledge.
I propose that this be done by laying a report of the details of approval or otherwise before Parliament. Many noble Lords argued long and hard for details such as these to be made publicly available during the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. It is important that such matters are reported to Parliament. It will help us to understand more fully the terms and conditions under which aid is given in a specific circumstance and the reasons for refusal by the Treasury.
We believe in more open government and that there should be no mystery surrounding the approval of financial aid.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 17. I apologise to the Committee for not referring to it when I spoke earlier.
As other Members of the Committee have said, the Bill applies to many government departments. I simply wish to ask the Minister--I hope that she will be able to reply--whether, when the Bill is enacted, it will be looked at and acted upon by every government department. Or will it be acted upon only when a missive comes from DfID? I believe that the Act should be seen by everyone.
The annual reports of government departments, agencies and inter-governmental bodies should include an account of their activities in the direction of global poverty and international development. At the moment there is a very varied response. Some government agencies believe that this is important and will include such an account; others will not. Only a clear statement in the Bill will have that implication. I hope that the amendment will be seriously considered.
Baroness Amos: Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17, 17A, 19, 20 and 25 relate to the promotion of policy coherence on development issues within Whitehall, and to the new powers taken in the Bill to support organisations engaged in development awareness activities and to provide a wider range of financial instruments than are available under the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980.
Amendments Nos. 15 and 17 draw attention to the issue of promoting coherence across Whitehall on issues relating to development awareness. It would be inappropriate to require in the Bill that other government departments and agencies utilise a proportion of their budgets for development assistance. Parliament has reserved the right to itself to determine annually the allocation of resources to particular departments and for particular purposes. We should not use legislation to cut across that convention.
Clause 4 of the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to support organisations undertaking development awareness and advocacy activities. The Secretary of State is already supporting such activities on the basis of the Appropriation Act. The power in the Bill will serve to regularise the position. The Government believe that if we are to succeed in meeting the international development targets we need to build greater awareness and understanding of development issues across the United Kingdom and internationally. We therefore support activities which promote public knowledge and understanding of development issues, of our global interdependence, of the need for international development, and of the progress that has been made and that is possible.
I can assure the Committee that DfID is well aware that to make progress in this area we must work closely with other government departments, and in particular with the Department for Education and Skills. The Bill in no way constrains the Secretary of State from working across government and, I should say to the right reverend Prelate, with any other partners to promote an awareness of global poverty. The Secretary of State will be able to continue to work with Churches and faith groups in all areas of our work, including development, education and awareness.
I hope that I have reassured the Committee that such an amendment is unnecessary. But I need to go a little further and explain why it is also inappropriate. If a duty is to be imposed in law, then it should be cast in sufficiently precise terms so that a Secretary of State can be held to account on whether or not the duty is being met. I have been advised that the only way to frame the Secretary of State's duty would be to set down in some detail how the various government departments must carry out their business. Even if we were capable of formulating such directions, I do not think that it would be a desirable step to take as we would end up constraining rather than facilitating the co-operation and co-ordination that the amendments seek to establish.
Amendment No. 16, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, seeks to clarify and expand the purpose of the development awareness activities that the Secretary of State could support under the Bill by allowing that such activities should be able to promote awareness of either global poverty or development issues. I believe that I can provide reassurance on this point. We have received legal advice that Clause 4(2)(c) has a broad application which naturally embraces raising awareness of "development issues". To insert the term is therefore unnecessary.
Amendment No. 17A, tabled by my noble friend Lord Brennan, would enable the Secretary of State to work with the private sector to make any privately funded development assistance work effectively for the reduction of poverty.
Private sector activity is the main driving force behind economic growth, which is in turn a principal driver of poverty reduction. Private financial flows to Africa are now far greater than flows of official development assistance. The Government's 2000 White Paper on making globalisation work for the poor recognised the opportunities and challenges of globalisation, and set out the ways in which we, in co-operation with the international community, will work to ensure that poor people can take advantage of these opportunities.
The Bill builds on this understanding and will enable the Secretary of State to support the efforts of multinational corporations and indigenous companies to develop and promote socially responsible business practices. It will, for example, enable continuation of support for the Ethical Trading Initiative. I can, therefore, reassure my noble friend Lord Brennan that the Government already recognise the contribution that the private sector can make to the reduction of poverty.
Amendment No. 19 recognises that coherence in government policy on all issues affecting developing countries is crucial if we are to make an effective contribution to the reduction of poverty. The effect of the amendment would be to require the Secretary of State to promote poverty reduction as the focus of all dealings between the UK Government and developing countries. It would further require the making of a joint annual report to Parliament by the Secretary of State for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the MoD and the Treasury on what had been done under the arrangements.
DfID is working more closely than ever before with other government departments. It is, for example, working with the DTI on making the next WTO trade round a "development round"; with the MoD and with the FCO on conflict prevention; with the Treasury on debt; with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on securing agreement to various biotechnology and biodiversity protocols; and with the Department for Education and Skills on child labour. There has been substantial and wide-ranging discussion at official and ministerial
These specific links are complemented by the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Development, which provides a ministerial forum for reviewing government progress in promoting coherence. This joint working is captured in our department reports, which include for the first time specific public service agreement targets which cover joint working. Future departmental reports will report progress against these targets. The contents of the report will be informed by the scrutiny and recommendations of the Select Committee on International Development.
Amendment No. 20, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Redesdale, ranges broadly, taking in the focus of the United Kingdom's development effort, policy coherence, and the Secretary of State's engagement with various multilateral development organisations, such as the UN and the European Union. I can respond only in equally broad terms.
Development issues have a much greater profile across government. We established the Department for International Development in 1997 as a separate department. The Secretary of State for International Development is a member of the Cabinet and DfID Ministers are members of the key ministerial committees and sub-committees relevant to international development, such as those concerned with the environment, biotechnology, defence and overseas policy and trade. The Government working as a whole have been able to make very important contributions to the international development effort; for example, on debt relief and conflict reduction. Later this month, the G8 summit will receive a report on progress in achieving the international development targets.
Subsection (4) of Amendment No. 20 requires the Secretary of State to participate in and support relevant multilateral institutions, including the United Nations and the European Union. The scale, presence and history of these organisations mean that they can make a significant contribution to reducing poverty. Some have not come close to reaching their potential--noble Lords will be aware of the debates that we have had about improving the effectiveness, for example, of the European Union. Others are very effective partners. But I do not believe that it is desirable to determine in law which institutions or which activities the Secretary of State should support, as the amendment seeks to do. The principle running through the Bill is that the needs of poor people must be the driving force behind the choice of form of assistance; otherwise the primacy of the overarching requirement of poverty reduction and the two development purposes will be compromised.
Amendment No. 25 would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report specifically on that development assistance which is provided with Treasury approval. This assistance will be in the nature of loans, guarantees, and the taking of securities in a company.
Clause 7 provides for the use of a wider range of financial instruments than are available under the 1980 Act; namely, shares, options and guarantees. These instruments will allow the Secretary of State to capitalise upon the enormous potential contribution of the private sector to poverty reduction, with less risk of distorting markets, creating unfair competition or compromising companies' incentives to operate efficiently and sustainably. The department does not expect that these instruments will be used often.
In the light of these clarifications and arguments, I ask that Amendment No. 15 should be withdrawn and that Amendments Nos. 16 to 17A, 19, 20 and 25 should not be moved.
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