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The noble Earl said: I shall speak briefly to this amendment, which again relates to Clause 4. I can see the reason for including the last line of subsection (2). It leaves no doubt as to the main purpose of the Bill, which we have heard expressed many times; but the purpose is stated in Clause 1 and is also present in subsection (4).
I have a concern that in Clause 4 as drafted such a statement may be counter-productive and that it could actually deter some of the positive educational work of the non-governmental organisations and the Churches. They may feel that they have to justify their position more than is necessary to officials in the Department for Education and Skills or the Department for International Development, who may on occasion have less experience of certain development issues.
It is always hard to make a direct link with poverty in developing countries. Let us take as examples racism awareness--an important part of development education--the encouragement of cross-cultural work to illuminate international issues; and work with refugees, which help to create images of poverty and persecution overseas. Such projects build awareness, but they may not directly pay for legal aid, let alone reduce poverty or the sources of persecution. The inclusion of the provision in line 25 could make life hard for overworked organisations and it could make some applications impossible to complete. I am not sure that a debate on this amendment, or indeed many of the other debates that we have had, would pass the test of being a direct contribution to the reduction of poverty. However, I submit that they are important in terms of development awareness. I beg to move.
Lord Avebury: Having listened to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I should like to say a few words on the amendment. I have much sympathy with the aim of the amendment because, when reading the clauses to which reference is made, I, too, was puzzled as to how it would be possible to support these projects other than if they were likely to contribute to "a reduction in poverty". The organisations would have to be either devoted to furthering sustainable development outside the UK, to improving the welfare of a population in one or more countries, or to alleviating the effects of a natural or a manmade disaster. I cannot imagine how one could do any of the latter without contributing to "a reduction in poverty", unless the phrase is used in a very narrow sense. For example, if the benefits would be in terms of a reduction in morbidity or mortality, one could not say that the material wealth of the existing population would be improved. One could say only that they were better off in the sense that they would not become ill so often, or that there were not so many deaths.
When the Minister responds, can she say whether the definition of "a reduction in poverty" is so narrow that it could not encompass objectives of that nature? If she says that that is not the case and that it can deal with wider issues that do not directly refer to people's income or wealth in the countries that are the recipients of the aid that will be provided under the clause, I cannot see the point of having the qualification. Indeed, I should then agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that the words can be deleted without causing any difficulties for the department or the agencies that will receive the money.
Lord Desai: I believe that the point of line 25 in the clause was to ensure that subsections (2)(a) and (b)--which, if one studies them, are very broadly defined--must be underpinned somewhere. I agree with the noble Earl that subsection (2)(c) refers to "a reduction in poverty". However, if noble Lords look to subsection (2)(a), they will see that the Secretary of State may,
Subsection (2) of Clause 4 enables the Secretary of State to subscribe to, or otherwise support, organisations whose purposes are wholly or partly the "relevant purposes" as listed in subsection (4)--that is to say, furthering sustainable development, promoting the welfare of people, or providing assistance in response to disasters and emergencies. It enables the Secretary of State to contribute to funds intended to be used in whole or in part for such purposes. It also enables the Secretary of State to promote, or assist others to promote, the awareness of global poverty and the means of reducing it.
However, although we wish to be able to contribute to such institutions and funds, it is clearly important that we retain the poverty focus that runs through the Bill. We should not allow our contributions to such organisations and funds to become a "special case", subject to a less rigorous test than other development assistance. I cannot see any advantage in diluting the poverty test in respect of these activities and institutions. Indeed, to do so would, I suggest, send a signal to partners such as the European Union that the United Kingdom is not serious about the reform of its external development assistance programmes. We are serious about the need for such reform.
The amendment also seeks to remove the requirement that support for organisations engaged in development awareness activities must be likely to contribute to the reduction of poverty. Again, I must emphasise the Government's belief that our entire development effort should be focused on the reduction of poverty. This includes our support for organisations that promote development awareness. To remove that focus would enable the Secretary of State to support activities that, although worthwhile in themselves, did not seek to contribute to the reduction of global poverty.
It may be appropriate for another department to fund such activities from another budget, but it is not for DfID. We do not believe that that focus will deter organisations from pursuing their activities in this area, or from applying to DfID for funding. Under the Bill, we are clear that we shall be able to continue to support all the programmes that we currently support. Indeed, our work in this area might increase because
Lord Rea: I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister could respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Can she assure the Committee that the word "poverty" includes ill health and that the term "anti-poverty measures" includes the provision of health services, even if the people who receive such services are not a penny better off and may in fact be a penny worse off if they had to pay a small fee for the much needed improved services?
Baroness Amos: We had a long and substantial debate on the core power in the Bill under Clause 1. I hope that I made it absolutely clear in my response that the core power is drawn both widely and flexibly so as to permit a range of activity. One of the reasons for resisting the insertion of a number of issues in the Bill--for example, good governance, working on conflict reduction, health and education--is precisely because their inclusion might lead a court to interpret that as meaning that there were a range of other activities in which we cannot engage. That is why the core power in Clause 1 is written in a flexible way. It will allow us to undertake a range of activities.
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