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Lord Desai: My Lords, at Second Reading I stated that what I particularly liked about the Bill was its definition of sustainable development. I liked it because it was necessarily extremely broad. That breadth did away with a great deal of conceptual muddle surrounding the notion of sustainable development. Believe me, it is not as easy a definition as many would like to think.

I should like to say only this. If specific requirements are added to the Bill along the lines suggested by my noble friend--for very good reasons--I can think of other specific requirements which have been missed out. For example, I might want to add a mention about gender, or children, or human rights. None of those requirements is mentioned on the face of the Bill.

However, to ensure the likelihood of generating lasting benefit for the population of a country, the current definition of sustainable development should cover the ground. Flexibility is always preferable to attempting to nail concepts down. The more specific the requirements, in some cases the more difficult it will become to give aid where it is most needed. That is because it will be impossible to satisfy all the specific requirements of the criteria.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Judd has a long and distinguished record of contributions to and concern about development matters, so I know that he is aware of the ongoing debates regarding the nature of sustainable development and within that, issues of environmental responsibility and, as the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, so powerfully outlined in his example, potential environmental impacts.

As I said in Committee, we believe that poverty can be permanently eliminated only through sustainable development, but we also believe that it is important to avoid forcing the Secretary of State to adopt either an overly economic or environmental focus in interpretations of that term. In that I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai when he says that we need flexibility in these matters. Sustainable development is understood to comprise economic, social and environmental factors. The balance between them must be determined in the context of the needs of those people at whom the assistance in question is aimed.

I can reassure my noble friend that we take the environmental aspect of sustainable development very seriously. All DfID spending proposals are screened to determine their likely environmental effects and the seriousness of those effects. This screening is intended to enhance the environmental benefits of the proposed project or programme; to ensure that our activities are

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consistent with relevant UK, EC and local legislation and with international environmental agreements; to identify any potentially adverse environmental impacts of the proposal; and to ensure that environmental issues are properly taken into account in the detailed design.

We are also working at international level as part of the preparations for next year's World Summit for Sustainable Development to promote the principle that environmental sustainability considerations should be integrated into countries' national poverty reduction strategies.

With that reassurance, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, again I extend my appreciation to all noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment. I did not follow the logic of the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, because the project he described, very graphically, was clearly environmentally unsound.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, the point is that at the time it was thought to be extremely environmentally sound, and all the experts thought that it was sound too.

Lord Judd: My Lords, my point is, as the noble Lord pointed out in his own remarks, the job was not properly done. That is what was wrong; it was badly done. We do not, presumably, approach any legislation in this House on the basis that we cannot envisage changing anything because someone may make the change badly. We expect people to do their job properly. In that case, clearly people had not done their job properly. But that does not invalidate the arguments for being environmentally sound.

To my good and noble friend--my longstanding friend--Lord Desai, I candidly put to him that I have a difference with him. I care as deeply as he does about gender, but I believe that the issue of environment is of strategically greater significance than the issue of gender. If we get the environment wrong, the argument about gender will become fairly academic in the not too distant future.

We are talking about the survival of the human race. We are talking about economic and social viability in the countries concerned. Gender is important, but we would be desperately unfortunate if we embarked along roads of development which proved counter-productive in terms of the preservation of the environment and caused greater problems in the future for those already over-taxed and ill-fated societies.

I say to my noble friend the Minister, yet again, how I wish she had drafted the Bill. We would then have had a very different creature in front of us. However, because I admire the way in which she has put her case, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 3 [Humanitarian assistance]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 6:

    Page 2, line 11, at end insert--

"( ) Such assistance shall be consistent with the purpose of humanitarian aid as defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/96 of 20 June 1996."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I start by quoting the European regulation concerned. It is not long.

    "Whereas humanitarian aid, the sole aim of which is to prevent or relieve human suffering, is accorded to victims without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation and must not be guided by, or subject to, political considerations".

In this area of policy--not unlike other areas to which we have referred already and some to which we will refer later--in the real world of political activity there are a lot of pressures with which to contend. There will always be a tendency for pressure to be exerted to divert humanitarian aid from simple humanitarian purposes to achieving political objectives which may at the time seem important. When those pressures are exerted, the Secretary of State needs the maximum possible explicit authority to withstand them.

From that standpoint, if we accept--as we presumably do--in a European Union context the validity of the European Council regulation, then surely it is a little odd that we are not consistent in terms of accepting it in the application of what we are ourselves doing outside the European Union. I urge that we should become consistent and that what we have accepted in one context should run right across our policy towards humanitarian assistance. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, as I explained in Committee, we firmly believe that it would not enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance to try to define on the face of the Bill the terms on which it should be given.

My noble friend has taken an interesting approach in attempting to link the Secretary of State's powers to those laid down in the legislative basis for European Community humanitarian assistance. But there are a number of significant disadvantages to such an approach. We believe that it would impose an unnecessary restriction on the Secretary of State's ability to take necessary action.

While the objectives of our Bill are largely consistent with the objectives of the EC regulation, the regulation is intended to govern Community actions, not those of the member states of the European Union. As a matter of principle, the Secretary of State should not have her or his hands tied legally by external definitions.

There are also practical difficulties. The EC regulation does not allow for certain types of assistance which the Secretary of State may wish to provide under this clause, such as post-emergency rehabilitation and reconstruction, and assistance for displaced people after the immediate humanitarian crisis subsides, including, for example, the

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reintegration of demobilised former soldiers. Both of those matters have been discussed in the House. For European aid, these forms of assistance are covered by subsequent Council legislation.

Finally, identifying how the "purpose" of humanitarian assistance is defined by the regulation could lead to considerable legal argument. During the debate in Committee, my noble friend quoted one of the 18 preambular paragraphs of the regulation--I had to go and look it up--but the regulation does not at any point specifically define the "purpose" of humanitarian assistance. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I find my noble friend's observations reassuring. Having accepted them in the spirit in which they are offered, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Financial assistance]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 7:

    Page 3, line 2, after "assistance" insert "in accordance with section 1(1)"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now move to the heart of what really happens in development--if you like, the nitty gritty; the wheeling and dealing. Before the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, rises to disagree with me, I want to make one point very clear: I do not have an ideological objection to the involvement of the private sector in development. I believe that the private sector has a very important part to play in development and I have advocated that role. Therefore it is not an ideological matter but a question of how it is done.

When the pressures are on and all kinds of considerations come into play, there is a real danger that what has been stated as the objectives of the Bill--even though they are not quite as I would have liked them, they are there--will seem very far away. In the context of the business of getting on with the work, everyone may concentrate on certain parts of the Bill and not all the time be thinking of its original purposes and objectives. From that standpoint, it seems useful to be able to refer back at certain key points in the Bill to its objectives. It would give a point of reference--it would provide "belt and braces". Because of the complexity of policy and the pressures involved in the areas dealt with in these clauses, it would be a wholesome development to see a reference at these points on the face of the Bill to what it is all supposed to be about--rather than merely expecting people to obtain a copy of the Bill, take it out of the filing cabinet, look the reference up, see what the objectives really are and all the rest. The information should be available in the operative part of the Bill with which the activity is concerned.

I hope that I am not being too provocative in saying that this is not a theoretical point. In quite recent times real issues have become highly contentious in this kind of area. Indeed, we have seen the departure from the department of one of the finest Permanent Secretaries

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in Whitehall on a matter of principle in precisely this kind of area. Therefore, it seems to me extraordinary that there is a resistance to repeating a reference back to the principles and objectives of the Bill. I am disappointed. I begin to wonder why there is not a willingness to accept such a reference at this point.

The same points apply to some extent to Amendment No. 11. But my point in tabling the amendment is this. If one looks at the list or organisations set out in the schedule, one sees that they have a pretty demanding agenda involving all kinds of responsibilities other than reducing world poverty. If they are to co-operate in the policies of DfID, it would be sensible to have an explicit reference back at this point to the basis on which that co-operation is taking place. The point is not merely to facilitate the organisations in their general work; it is to make sure that any work that they do makes a genuine contribution to fulfilling the Bill's objectives. Therefore, I do not see why a "belt-and-braces" reference back at this juncture would not be appropriate. I beg to move.

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