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Lord Brennan: My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed on this important question. In particular I thank the Minister. First, I thank her for so nobly grappling, as a non-lawyer, with the dense reasoning of the parliamentary draftsmen, of which I, as one of Her Majesty's counsel, despair. Congratulations on that, but even more must we thank her for her clear statement of the Government's commitment to use the Bill and all their efforts to help children and for illustrating the strength of that commitment. When the special assembly on children, as part of the General Assembly, takes place later this year or next, I hope that that commitment will be further reflected in a landmark speech by whichever Minister there represents this country.

The issue of children will not go away. As Gordon Brown said in the speech to which I referred, the face of world poverty is the face of a child. The least that we, who are concerned about that, can do to match the generosity of the Government's position set out by my noble friend is to promise her an equal measure of devotion and to ensure that the Government do what they say they will. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings moved Amendment No. 12:

"( ) The Secretary of State may not appoint a date under subsection (2) until Parliament has enacted legislation to give effect to the Convention on Combating the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, before we debate this amendment, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, for her courtesy and, in particular, for the very helpful letter that she wrote to me regarding other points in the amendments arising from the Committee stage.

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When we debated this issue in Committee, given the Minister's response, I said that I would return to the matter. As I stressed then, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the International Development Bill does not become law before the Government have taken appropriate action to enforce the OECD convention on bribery and corruption. The Government have been promising to take action on the issue since 1997, but I am afraid that they have been hollow words. In April 2000 an International Development Select Committee report on corruption said:

    "Simple and clear legislation should be brought forward as a matter of urgency".

Eighteen months later, still nothing has been done.

During the Committee stage, the Minister set out much of the action that the Government are taking in the international field and paid special attention to money laundering. This, we recognise, has become more pressing following the tragic events of 11th September. Nevertheless, the Government made a clear commitment, which we believe they must honour.

In Committee, as reported at col. 1349 of the Official Report of 16th July 2001, the Minister promised your Lordships that a criminal justice Bill would be brought forward with provisions to deal with the proposals of the OECD convention. Perhaps noble Lords will forgive me if I make an error but, from the Library timetable of the complete list of public Bills before Parliament this Session, I am afraid that I cannot find any sign of such a Bill. In these vital times I ask: why not bring it forward now?

We know that the legislative timetable is apt to slip. Given that the Government will need time to bring in legislation in response to the terrorist threat, would it not be wise to act now? Perhaps I may suggest that that could be done either by the Government bringing forward an amendment or, more simply, by their agreeing to our amendment. That would, in turn, give greater impetus to the introduction of the criminal justice Bill, thus giving effect to the Government's international commitment to the convention.

Implementation of the OECD convention has wider implications for the development agenda. The Government cannot credibly continue to make improvements in governance a condition for development assistance when they have failed to implement the OECD Convention Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials. As we know, the convention commits the 34 signatories--that is, 29 OECD member countries, and five non-member countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile and the Slovak Republic--to make it a criminal offence for any person to bribe a foreign public official in order to gain improper advantage in the conduct of international business.

The scope for corruption is wide. Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that corrupt politicians and businesses are finding it harder than ever to hide their activities from the mass media and anti-corruption activists, such as Transparency International, to whom I must

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pay tribute. However, despite it becoming easier to detect corruption, Britons who bribe foreign officials still cannot be prosecuted under UK law. The UK is unique among developed countries in not implementing the convention. In June this year, Laurence Cockroft, chairman of the London chapter of Transparency International, said:

    "It is high time the UK stopped dragging its heels in the fight against international corruption and put an end to the current situation where we have no adequate legislation to make bribery abroad a criminal offence".

It is a sad reflection that, of the few countries yet to incorporate the bribery of foreign officials into current domestic law, Britain is one.

In April 2000, the International Development Select Committee said:

    "Corruption has a devastating impact on the poorest people in society".

The Government's 1997 White Paper on development recognised economic growth as the prime means of creating income and employment opportunities, and the private sector as the main impetus of economic growth. However, the persistence of corruption impedes both economic growth and the private sector.

Transparency International, too, says that corruption,

    "reduces growth . . . scares away foreign investment, and channels investment and loan and aid funds into 'white elephant' projects of little or no benefit to the people but which carry with them the high returns to the corrupt decision makers".

The International Development Select Committee agrees. It found that corruption was the single most important factor which discouraged both domestic capital formation and foreign direct investment in poor countries. It is the poor who pay disproportionately for corruption. Corruption has a devastating impact on the poorest people in society by denying them access to public services as they are frequently unable to pay the necessary bribes.

A new extraterritorial offence is needed as current laws are inadequate to enforce the convention. In the meantime, while the Government have failed to introduce effective legislation, they have damaged the good name of Britain abroad. George Moody-Stuart, chairman of the anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International (UK), said:

    "Tony Blair and Robin Cook are said to have an ethical foreign policy. It is difficult to claim this if you don't have support for the OECD convention".

Perhaps the new Foreign Secretary has a new foreign policy. Transparency International has said that slow progress on passing reform could cause concern among the other OECD members which have already updated their domestic legislation.

Time is pressing and, as the Minister is aware, passing legislation is simply the start of a long and hard process. Further delay could seriously harm the effectiveness of the convention, and the Government should make certain that bribery legislation is firmly in place before this Bill is passed.

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We should like the Government to take action. We recognise that tackling corruption will bring benefits to business, to states and, more importantly, to the poor in developing countries who most need our help. The Washington File of 2nd July 2001 stated:

    "We are hopeful that all the signatories will complete the process of ratification and implementation of the convention by the end of this year".

If the Minister acts now, she could meet that target and therefore fulfil our international obligations. I beg to move.

Lord Desai: My Lords, it is very difficult to disagree with the noble Baroness's statement that we do not like corruption and must fight it; I agree with her. However, this afternoon's debate has been rather like bowling: we have knocked over different pins--care for the environment and for children, gender and human rights--and we have satisfied ourselves that by and large what is before us is a good way to encourage international development. What surprises me about the amendment is the idea that, unless one agrees to the convention, one cannot agree to the Bill. That is a rather drastic proposal whose nature I do not understand.

Although corruption among public officials in international business transactions is very bad and should be eliminated, much of the corruption that hits the poor is petty corruption, which has nothing whatever to do with international business transactions. It involves a local policeman walking around a bazaar extracting money from shopkeepers because they do not have a proper licence. I could take noble Lords to a street market in Delhi and show them that taking place. Corruption is important but the OECD convention will get rid of only a very small part of it.

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