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Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments, even if we do not altogether agree. With regard to Amendment No. 1 that concerns the word "only", in listening to the Minister, I just wish that she had drafted the Bill because if the Bill said what she has said, I would be a much happier man. I do not read Clause 1(1) as saying what the Minister says it says. Clause 1 does not state that the Secretary of State cannot provide assistance if what is being proposed does not contribute to a reduction in poverty; it simply says that the Secretary of State can provide assistance if it is going to contribute to a reduction in poverty.

That is unfortunate. Together with one or two other matters in the Bill, it makes the point that when things are working well it is better to leave them alone rather than to start moving in and complicating the task for the future by introducing matters, notions, processes or concepts which may be open to still further confusion and debate in the future.

On the matter of elimination, I am sad when I hear noble Lords make the kind of observation made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry. I have tremendous respect for the noble Lord--as he knows--and a great admiration for him. I have always enjoyed his contributions in Parliament. I feel for the noble Lord in terms that he must be quite an anxious man at the moment because of his own personal involvement in the area, which the noble Lord has quite movingly described to us this afternoon, through his family and so on. If society is to move forward in any direction we have to be brave. We have to be prepared to set out what the objective is and then to measure the action against that.

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I was excited by the two White Papers which referred unashamedly in their title--with messages from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister--to the elimination of poverty. I should feel much happier if the Bill therefore said, "Yes. Of course. We cannot have elimination in the immediate future, perhaps even in the foreseeable future, but we really have elimination as the ultimate objective and will therefore look at reduction in terms of how far it is moving towards that elimination".

In terms of Amendment No. 3, I have listened carefully to what my noble friend says. To show that I am a reasonable man I say that I understand the complications she has described. There are two sides to this argument. However, I am prepared to listen to and accept the strength of what my noble friend says.

I conclude by saying that the firmness and the commitment with which my noble friend has spoken--not for the first time--on these issues provides some point of reference on the matters of concern that I have raised. I am unhappy with the drafting. The drafters could have done better. In terms of what my noble friend has said, if we can make sure that in the future people look firmly at that, I am prepared on this occasion to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.]

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 1, line 10, after "furthering" insert ", either bilaterally or multilaterally,"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during a lifetime of work on development matters I have come firmly to the conclusion--I am sure that DfID would share this assessment--that we have to work increasingly in a multilateral context. It is not just that we can combine efforts to greater effect to more than just the aggregate of the sums and to greater effect if we are working together with others and in common with others, but it is also true that competing bilateral programmes can be disruptive and fragmentary in their approach. They can actually do damage. Therefore, it is important to sustain the concept of multilateralism, particularly within the UN system.

From that standpoint, therefore, it will be helpful for the Secretary of State in future deliberations, in Government and more widely, to be able to refer to the fact that there is a statutory obligation to work in multilateral as well as bilateral contexts. There are chauvinistic and nationalistic people around who fail to recognise this wider dimension. They work against the cause rather than for it. I would not want to see us in any way playing into their hands. I want therefore to see a commitment to multilateral action clearly on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I understand the intention of my noble friend in regard to this amendment. He wishes to make sure that the Secretary of State provides assistance through multilateral

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bodies, such as the European Union and the United Nations. I can assure my noble friend that Clause 4 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to make contributions to the European Development Fund and to United Nations bodies, to name but two examples. United Kingdom contributions to other European development assistance programmes, such as those for the former Soviet Union, Asia and Latin America, and for humanitarian purposes, are appropriated under the European Communities Act 1972 and attributed to the aid programme. Those contributions will not be affected by the Bill.

The Bill should not impose unnecessary constraints on the channels through which the Secretary of State may choose to direct development or humanitarian assistance. Decisions on whether to use multilateral channels for the delivery of UK assistance have to be made in the light of circumstances pertaining in each case and on the relevant capacities of the bodies in question.

As it stands, Clause 1 naturally embraces both bilateral and multilateral action. Though it is likely to be a rare event, there could be circumstances in which aspects of our effort to further sustainable development might be defined as unilateral; neither as part of a direct agreement with one other country, nor in the context of multilaterally concerted action.

I hope that, in the light of this explanation, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, again I think that my noble friend has spoken strongly. Once more, I hope that future generations will look back at what she has said and see that it is firmly the intention here. To some extent I am reassured and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 1, line 14, after "prudent" insert "and environmentally sound"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, increasing numbers of people concerned with third world issues, if I may use the old phrase, realise that they cannot be separated from concerns about the environment. But, of course, environmental issues range far wider than third world matters. For myself, I have reached the stage in life where I believe very much that we need to see a change in mindset as regards our socio-economic activities whereby we realise that the greatest and most important strategic interest of all, in consideration of our children and grandchildren, is the effective management of our environment.

For that reason, I believe that when one considers countries facing tremendous problems of development, we now have a chance to get it right and to ensure that we do not lead those nations down roads that subsequently prove to be less than satisfactory in terms of a commitment to the protection, enhancement and well-being of the environment. It would be a good thing to spell out in the remit of DfID that it bears the responsibility of ensuring that all its actions are

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environmentally sound and compatible with good stewardship of the environment. That is why I have tabled this amendment. I would have thought that it might be possible for the Government to accept it. I beg to move.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I regret that once again this afternoon I find myself in some disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, over the words that he wishes to add to the Bill, although I appreciate that he wants to see them included for extremely good reasons. We all believe in environmentally sound measures and in fostering a greater consciousness of the environment across the world, not least in the developing countries. However, the real problem here is how to ascertain whether something is environmentally sound and whether, in the pursuit of environmentally sound measures, traditional methods fall by the wayside.

For example, technicians and consultants might be anxious to see the latest GM-tested crop seeds being used in place of traditional seeds. However, increasingly history demonstrates that in many cases the use of modern techniques is often to the lasting damage of older traditions. It is then found that the resultant crops obtained, despite the projections of the makers of the new seeds, fall far short. In Bangladesh, for example, attempts have been made to introduce various new strains of rice. Those efforts have had the effect of producing, after some years, lower yields than was the case with the traditional types of seed. In the end, the new strains simply did not suit the soil and water into which they were planted.

However, recognition of such problems is not achieved quickly. It comes only after a number of years of experiment, by which time the old seed has often disappeared, along with the knowledge of how to treat the land in the traditional manner. As a result, many living on extremely low incomes find that their agricultural output is worse than it was five years previously, despite the environmentally sound measures that were introduced.

I recall when I was a Minister at the Foreign Office paying a visit to Sudan. On a trip to an area outside Khartoum, I was shown a major project aimed at bringing back water to land associated with the Nile, but from which it had receded. A century before, water had been in good supply and cotton was grown on the land. The project to reopen the old canals and re-establish the growing of cotton was hugely welcomed. I watched a film showing local people jumping for joy and leaping into the water in celebration of the return of the Nile to their cotton fields. However, what no one had realised was that the water was impregnated with bilharzia. All those who entered the water went on to develop bilharzia, from which many died, while others were maimed for life. The project had not been tested properly.

That story reflects for me a sad tragedy. It is a tragedy when a project that appears to be environmentally sound actually works in the other

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direction. Mistakes were made because of lack of proper study of the local conditions, the soil and what can survive in a particular climate.

For those reasons, whatever may be the good motives underlying the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in seeking to add the words "and environmentally sound" to the Bill, personally I think that it would be a mistake.

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