|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Lord Bishop of Southwell: My Lords, I welcome the commitment in the gracious Speech to address the issues of global poverty and development. It is particularly encouraging that the G8 meeting in Edinburgh, the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting and the United Nations millennium review meeting have all been identified as fora where the needs of the world's poorest people can be advanced. However, if we are to achieve this aim, we need to be certain that the issues raised at these international fora are indeed the right ones.
It seems appropriate that in Christian Aid Week I should draw attention to a new report recently published by that agency entitled The damage done: Aid, death and dogma. The report highlights, yet again, the devastating impact that liberalisation policies can have on the world's
19 May 2005 : Column 127
poorest communities. It vividly demonstrates the human and social impact of the ideological, dogmatic commitment to enforced liberalisation, demonstrating that this is not simply an academic debate but one which touches on the lives and livelihoods of millions of the world's poorest people.
The fact that the report also implicates the Department for International Development in the promotion of some of these policies shows that we can ill afford to ignore this opportunity to debate our Government's record and to ask what will be discussed at the G8 in a few months' time.
I am very encouraged to see that the British Government's position on enforced liberalisation has changed this year. In February 2005, DfID released a policy paper, Partnerships for poverty reduction: rethinking conditionality, which explicitly stated:
"We will not make our aid conditional on specific policy decisions by partner governments, or attempt to impose policy choices on them (including in sensitive economic areas such as privatisation and trade liberalisation)".
This theme was picked up by the Africa Commission, which again stated that liberalisation should not be forced on African countries and that they should be allowed to choose when to open their markets based on their own needs. That was repeated yet again in the election manifesto of our new Government.
The next step, however, is to make sure that election promises become reality. As a first move, the Government should consider enacting legislation that will ensure that their policy commitments can be carried forward into future governments. Changes must be made so that Britain can use its own actions as leverage to exact further change from others. As a first step, I call on the British Government to amend the International Development Act 2002 to bar UK aid being tied to policies of liberalisation and privatisation.
But even such a change in the policy position of our Government is not enough. If real change is to be effected, our Government need to win the support of the wider global community. Fortunately, July this year presents an ideal opportunity for the UK Government to do just that as the G8 is hosted in Scotland. I hope that our Government will not only press the message that enforced liberalisation is the wrong way to achieve growth and poverty reduction but will also strongly push the full agenda of the Make Poverty History campaign, more and better aid, debt relief and trade justice.
If discussions in Scotland are confined to increases in aid, then we are in danger of providing a sticking plaster solution while failing to tackle the real causes of global poverty. While it is true that more and better targeted aid is vital in the struggle against global poverty, if we do not simultaneously debate global trade policy and debt relief we are in danger of undermining any progress we make on aid delivery. These factors are interconnected, especially where aid is tied to policies of liberalisation, and to debate them in isolation cannot result in a coherent strategy for the eradication of global poverty.
19 May 2005 : Column 128
I hope that, like our Government, the G8 nations will take seriously the need to stop enforced liberalisation throughout the developing world, ensuring that aid programmes and bilateral trade agreements are not used to "force open" developing countries' markets. I urge them to agree an increase in global aid budgets of $50 billion a year and to increase national aid budgets to 0.7 per cent of national income by 2010 at the latest. I also ask that they cancel their share of the unpayable debt stock of the world's poorest nations, including the multilateral debt owed to international financial institutions. I am most encouraged by what the Minister said in his opening speech. Only if all of these three key aims are achieved will we have an impact on the appalling levels of global poverty that still beset our world.
I acknowledge fully the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in regard to governance. I am afraid that I do not have time to touch on that issue but, of course, I agree wholeheartedly with him, particularly in the case of Zimbabwe.
Our Government have promised that they are committed to tackling issues of global poverty. If so, then the G8 is a unique opportunity that must be seized. Outside that G8 meeting, Churches, faith communities, civil society organisations and vast numbers of the general public will be literally waiting in the streets to hear what our world leaders can achieve. Millions of the world's poorest people will be waiting too. I pray that we will not let them down.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, despite this early position in the speaking order, I wish to make only a very narrow, brief and perhaps slightly familiar contribution. It is to welcome most warmly the commitments in the gracious Speech to tackle poverty in Africa and climate change, to push for an end to the abuses in Darfur and to combat international crimebut also to say that something will be missing from real effectiveness in some of those key battles if reducing corruption does not form part of the effort to combat international crime. I remind the House of my unremunerated interest in Transparency International.
The United Kingdom hasjustlyone of the highest reputations for its work on development in Africa and elsewhere. The efforts of my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Developmentand, indeed, of the whole Governmentas set out so comprehensively by my noble friend the Minister, have already achieved much and will certainly continue to do so. British achievement in conflict resolution is, indeed, incomparable. I am sure that the House will support the further efforts in both these areas that are necessary and that are promised. But both of these are undermined if commercial companies continue to subvert officials, and even whole governments, in some developing countries with impunity.
The international community has moved against corruption, with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Have we ratified it yet? The
19 May 2005 : Column 129
OECD has moved against corruption with its anti-bribery convention. We signed up to it, but we were criticised by the OECD in its last progress report on our implementation for not having brought forward the necessary comprehensive legislation.
We have done well in legislation on cross-border judicial co-operation. But we have not yet completed the jigsaw, although the Government published a draft Bill on corruption, analysed by the scrutiny committeeof which I was a memberand found wanting, as long ago as July 2003. No doubt partly as a consequence, we do not have unified investigation and prosecution arrangements to follow through such areas of corruption as our existing law does cover. How many prosecutions have there been? The best of our transnational companies have their own codes of practice to deter their employees from taking part in a corrupt business culture. But we have no coherent framework to help them.
I know that the Department for International Development agrees that stronger action is needed to deal with bribery by UK companies overseas, to deter money laundering and to trace and return the proceeds of corruption.
The Treasury has produced a splendid report on the challenges and opportunities of globalisation for the UK financial services sector. The City of London is of prime importance to our economy, and to the rooting out of corruption. This report does not mention even the need to deter money laundering once.
I know that these remarks stray beyond the scope of this debate. But that is the trouble with corruption: law on the subject is the responsibility of the Home Office. Culture, as well as the Export Credits Guarantee Department, is more the province of the DTI. Money laundering is a concern of the Treasury. Compliance with international instruments is also the interest of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. But the adverse effects of not reining in corruption are damaging above all to the development of the poorest of poor countries, which is the interest of the Department for International Development.
So I hope that my noble friend can get proper legislation proposed, in the interests of the millions who, through the corrupt actions of British companies, die too soon, or are condemned to extreme poverty, or are simply left out of the "opportunity" and "hope" which this Government rightly think normal to try to obtain for all our citizens.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|