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The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: Perhaps I can return for a moment to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24--not that there is a lot more to be said. But I am fearful of not saying anything as though this matter of coercive abortion was not a matter of great importance.
Of course, the over-population of the world is a threat to peace and wellbeing. Often the problem is greatest where there is the most poverty and the least adequate education. It is important therefore to see that the United Nations Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation should be encouraging education and campaigns to tackle this huge problem.
But coercion in pursuit of family and childhood planning stretches authority beyond humane practice. It infects the having of children with fear and especially, in many cases, of forced abortion. That profound misuse of power is a fundamental denial of what is right. It denies essential reverence for human life and it is impossible to quantify the psychological damage of such compulsion on individual human beings, on the whole community and indeed on the human race.
For those who believe in God there are further questions about the givenness in the matter of gender which will and indeed is already affecting us. The line between proper education and planning and idolatrous control disguises the common good and needs constantly to be watched.
The difficulty that this amendment faces is that, if it is agreed, then presumably many other human rights abuses of a serious sort would need to be named. In a sense, by naming one we exclude the others. So, while I totally support what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, I cannot see how it can be pursued as he suggested in this Motion.
Lord Brennan: I speak to Amendments Nos. 26A and 35A. Amendment No. 26A seeks to develop the provisions in this Bill to improve the plight of the world's children who live in poverty. I declare an interest: I am a patron of the Consortium for Street Children of the United Kingdom, which embraces some 30 charities working for children, not just street children, throughout the world.
When I looked at this Bill, I was more inspired than some, but distressed as to one particular omission. Anybody who asked the question: "What is the central feature of world poverty today?", would receive the answer, "Its effect on children". A rough word scan by eye rather than the machine, tells me that the word, "children" does not figure in our International Development Bill. I find that extraordinary. Why? Because it fails to give emphasis to that which demands emphasis.
Why is that practical requirement so important? All of us who work in this field can identify three key problems in dealing with the plight of children, particularly in the developing world. The first is that in many countries children are the least important priority. It is the earner of money, the sustainer of the family who comes first. So it is that children and those with their primary care--mothers and wives--suffer the most. That factor should not be ignored when deciding what aid to give to such countries who have that mode of life.
Secondly, and very importantly, it cannot be allowed that the governments of those countries should leave the care of children solely to NGOs, substituting what they do for their governmental responsibility. I am sure that most of us would readily
Those three problems--the social mores of societies, the will of NGOs and what is to be done with the money--demand consideration by the Government in an international development Bill. As Gordon Brown stated, the face of global poverty is the face of a young child. That explains why proposed subsection (5) in Clause 7 identifies what the aid will do for children and ensures that the people who receive it report back. That is hardly contentious.
I turn to the next part of my amendment, proposed subsection (6) of Clause 7. The amendment calls upon the Government not to give aid unless the circumstances justify it to any country which has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The preamble to that convention recognises that,
I mentioned the substance of my amendment at Second Reading. My noble friend the Minister with great clarity told us that the Government's policy did not require children to be particularly mentioned because the policy was holistic. That is a commendable concept, provided that it is firmly attached to practicality and not allowed to drift into the nebulous. Children cannot be treated as anything more nor less than being at the heart of the matter. I commend the amendment to my noble friend the Minister. If it is thought that it needs further consideration I would hope that on this or the next occasion, whether or not it becomes part of the Bill, the Government will firmly state the sort of commitment, the need for special consideration of children, for which I have asked.
I turn briefly to Amendment No. 35A which deals with an entirely different topic. The amendment seeks to develop the scope of Commonwealth scholarships. This is a probing amendment inviting the Government to clarify, first, that Parts III and IV of the 1980 Act continue to be part of the powers of this Bill; namely, the exchange of teachers, policemen and nurses between ourselves and countries in need, and, secondly, that in giving the assistance at Clause 5, or in Commonwealth scholarships at Clause 14, it will not simply be restricted to traditional educational years but that there will be flexibility and variety in the extent of help that is given.
I do not apologise for taking up this length of time. This group of amendments combines several topics of major importance. I am sure that we would all agree that there is no more important issue than the plight of our children.
The Earl of Northesk: Despite our earlier confusion, like other Members of the Committee I hope that it will be convenient if I comply with the original grouping and speak to Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Rawlings.
Amendment No. 30 seeks to set sensible limits on the Government's use of sector-wide aid programmes. It seeks to ensure that there are measurable and published targets for their outputs, as there are for individual aid projects, and that there is sufficient monitoring of their progress. It seeks to ensure that any beneficiaries of sector aid have demonstrated in the past a record of transparency and openness in their use of UK aid. The amendment also seeks to ensure that a report is prepared into any proposed use of sector-wide aid programmes and that that report is put before Parliament in advance of disbursements being made.
The Secretary of State described sector-wide aid as "a small revolution" in the way in which the Department for International Development works. However, in spite of that revolutionary change, there does not appear to be in place a set of well-publicised targets, objectives and measures of its effectiveness. It is vital to any aid programme that the effects can be measured and lessons learnt. We are concerned that the Bill makes no reference to measuring such outputs. Surely it is also important that Parliament is kept informed of all developments in those programmes?
The new sector-wide approach means that instead of numerous agencies distributing aid for individual education projects, all donors work together to find a single programme alongside the government of a developing country. Unfortunately, that is not without risk. Sector-wide approaches mean a loss of control over aid programmes. The social development working paper from the Department for International Development admits:
As the ODI stated, sector-wide programmes have led to an increase in DfID's staffing levels in developing countries. Total staff numbers in the 1989 DfID annual report were 1,650, including 450 overseas. Staff numbers for the department in the annual report 2001 totalled 2,249, including 967 overseas. That is an increase of almost 600. It also led to a rise in aid administration running costs. In 1996-97, aid administration running costs totalled £65 million. In 2001-02 those costs are forecast to be £108 million, an increase of £43 million.
Given that there is so little evidence of the beneficial effect of SWAPs on poverty reduction and that since SWAPs have been introduced DfID's staffing abroad has rocketed, it is our belief that the Government should now ensure that SWAPs are subject to proper targets and monitoring. That will ensure that the public can have the maximum confidence in UK aid.
I turn to Amendment No. 31, which seeks to establish a website for the purpose of assisting UK nationals and UK-based charities and non-governmental organisations to contribute to the reduction in world poverty by providing them with additional information and advice. We believe that any Bill that states poverty reduction as an aim of aid needs to fully utilise the generosity and compassion of the British people. We believe that the Government should recognise this in the Bill and agree to set up an agency to facilitate private donors and charities to play a greater role in poverty reduction.
The people of Britain have consistently demonstrated that they care about development issues. However, individuals and small charities are being weighed down by the twin burdens of a lack of resources and inadequate information. We on these Benches believe that facility exists via mechanisms of IT to provide more information and better co-ordination of the relief efforts of British people. Through a sophisticated website, database and call centre, aid direct could act as a central information service for members of the public, providing up-to-date and accurate information on all areas of development.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 27. It touches on some of the issues already mentioned and it is complementary. I believe that the change referred to by many Members of the Committee in the way in which policies are being implemented and funds distributed makes it particularly essential that these expenditures are compared regularly and on a comparable basis. The noble Lord, Lord Freeman, for example, expressed concern about changes resulting from increased government expenditure rather than that of NGOs. It is important that the effects of those are made apparent. Greater transparency will make those decisions better understood. As we heard from the right reverend Prelate, there is some puzzlement about some of the changes and therefore we must have greater transparency. The purpose of the amendment is to make that clear.
There have been many discussions about whether the funding is coming through NGOs, international bodies, the EU and so forth. At present, the comparisons made between the different expenditures and their effectiveness is unclear and an amendment of this kind will help in that direction.
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