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At the time of Commissioner Patten’s work on the previous negotiations, when Cotonou started in 2000, there was to be much more focus on the eradication of poverty, rather than the general disbursement of aid in a much vaguer way, as one had had hitherto. Does the Minister feel that progress has been made in that focusing exercise, so that the millennium development goals of the United Nations are beginning to be achieved by the global activities of the EU as part of that general picture? Commentators and people in the entertainment business have made great intellectual contributions to these matters and registered their disappointment at how these goals are not being achieved. More needs to be done by the European Union, which—speaking from memory and not having the figures to hand—gives more money in aid than the United States does. One significant proportion of total US aid goes to one country—Israel—which can be classified as an advanced country and not a developing country. The figures for the European Union are therefore impressive and we welcome the increases.

There are, as the Minister knows, still exemptions in these fields, which are disadvantageous to developing countries. One thinks of the exemptions for sugar beet, and other favoured markets in the European Union, where the cartel protection for

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European advanced countries still exists; that continues to be very unsatisfactory.

The EU-Africa second summit will take place in Lisbon in December 2007. It will not primarily deal with matters such as aid and European Investment Bank activity. It is much more to do with non-economic, non-financial, non-aid matters. It is also about an ambitious strategic new partnership with African countries—part of the ACP framework—on security and so on. Security as a global umbrella concept is important from the point of view of development, so there is a link there. It is good to see that that link—the wider context between the EU and Africa—is developing apace. The success story is there.

Good governance has to be emphasised much more, and the five-year reviews constitute a good framework on which to develop these matters over the 20-year period, but the good governance syndrome needs special attention. I hope the Minister can reassure us yet again that that will be given priority. She said that trade issues were not directly involved in this and that they were a separate part of the discussions coming through the other frameworks. That brings us back to the question of whether our international institutions, which were developed after the Second World War, are still as apposite as they should be for direct assistance to developing countries, and whether they need to be modified in any of their parameters and procedures to help countries, besides just representing the advanced and wealthy West. I am glad that, as she said, the United Kingdom is giving nearly 15 per cent of the total of these increased figures. The partnership agreement between the ACP group of states and the EC has got off to a good start. A lot more needs to be done, and we welcome the increases that will come, presumably, as the years unfold. It is still in the early stages; we need to be reassured that the procedures and administration are running efficiently. On that supposition, I am happy to support these orders.

7.45 pm

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I am not a full expert in this area, but I echo my noble friend’s welcome for this agreement. I have always been rather uncomfortable with the concept of the ACP, which seems to reflect the colonial geography of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Does the Minister feel that the continuation of a major flow of aid and assistance through this structure distorts the way in which aid is distributed globally? Are more worthy developing states left out because of this historical relationship between European Union member states and their former colonial territories? I am concerned about the continuation of that. Perhaps states that are not within the ACP are less looked after by developed countries than other states that are better off.

I am interested that the European Investment Bank is involved in this process—again, I apologise that I do not have in-depth knowledge in this area—but is that a relatively new involvement? The EIB’s particular expertise is in developed countries, particularly within member states and aspiring candidate member states.

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It is very good at infrastructural projects, in terms of large loans. In many ways, the expertise in development finance has moved across to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is concentrated in the former Soviet bloc states and eastern Europe. Would it be more appropriate if this institution, with its specialist knowledge in development, played more of a role here than the EIB, which has a more developed economy role?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful for the support of those on both Benches opposite for these important orders. It is very good news that all around the House we support the general aim of poverty reduction and that we all acknowledge that poverty reduction measures have to be coupled with good governance.

A number of important points have been raised. It is clear that Europe is playing, and will continue to play, a major role in helping developing countries, particularly in Africa, to meet the challenges that they face. The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, cited the fact that the EU was a major player when it came to aid and development. The EC was the world’s third largest distributor of OD aid to developing countries in 2005, behind the US and Japan. Too often the EC receives too little acknowledgement of the work that it undertakes in developing countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Astor, asked about monitoring the aid to ensure that it gets to where it is meant to be and is not subverted because of corruption. The creation of Europe Aid has led to better aid management and decentralisation to more able and active EC delegations. As the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said, it is important to have the technical expertise on the ground. Strengthening the EC delegations so that people on the ground work with the people who are disbursing the aid is the best way to ensure that the opportunities for corruption are limited. There is more to do to ensure that the systems are still reformed so that we can address the capacity reinforcement that is still necessary. We want an integrated approach to development co-operation, where policy and funding go hand in hand and good governance is the key to all these issues.

What does the EC do to ensure that its funds are not wasted? The annual accounts and resource management are overseen by its external auditor, the European Court of Auditors. The court’s main task is to provide the Council and the European Parliament with an external independent audit of the European Community’s annual accounts, including those of the development co-operation programme. If we are worried about certain situations, we raise them in management committees and in the Council. We follow everything up very closely.

The noble Lord asked to which countries funds were going to be given in the 10threplenishment. Discussions about the poverty reduction strategies of the individual ACP countries are under way; it is too early to say to which countries we will allocate money. However, it is clear that poverty is the key focus for low-income countries and Africa. More than 90 per cent of funding in the 10th replenishment fund will go

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to Africa and to low-income countries, which is in line with the United Kingdom’s own development and aid ethos.

The division between bilateral and multilateral is, again, still under discussion. I should think that a high proportion goes in bilateral aid, but if I am wrong I will inform noble Lords.

In response to the question about how DfID is helping to make EU aid more effective, we support the Commission in decentralising much of its programme. In 2002, when reforms were just beginning, only 24 per cent of the value of the European Development Fund portfolio was managed by delegations, but in 2006 that number had risen to 82 per cent. We support the Commission in all these reforms.

The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, asked about the millennium development goals and whether the EDF would assist in enabling countries to reach them. As I have stated, the main focus of the EDF is poverty reduction. We believe that lifting a country out of poverty is the best way to enable it to reach the millennium development goals. One focus of EDF money is on things such as access to clean water and education—things that will enable countries to prosper and reach the millennium development goals.

I agree that the EU-Africa summit is a very important occasion for discussions with Africa to improve our relationship and what is happening on the ground.

I was asked whether the World Trade Organisation and other global organisations should be modernised to ensure that they can meet the difficult trade challenges in today’s world. The Government are continually seeking to modernise institutions such as the UN and WTO to ensure that they are in better shape and can meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked whether the Government believe that the ACP is still an effective way of channelling aid and whether aid is distributed in the most appropriate way. It is very important to maintain the relationships with the countries in the ACP but not every ACP country receives the same proportion of aid. The countries that are the most needy and deserving receive the most money. It is not a “one size fits all” tool but an organisation in which we provide targeted aid so that we reach the parts that need to be reached.

I do not think that the European Investment Bank is an innovation. It has certainly been involved since the Cotonou agreement was made five years ago. Whether it was used under Lomé, I am not sure, but I will inform the noble Lord. The EIB is a useful tool, although I take on board the noble Lord’s comments that perhaps other EU entities might be more appropriate.

In conclusion, the Government believe that Europe has a key role to play in the international community’s efforts to eradicate poverty. The amended Cotonou agreement and the 10th EDF provide a valuable framework for Europe’s co-operation with the ACP states. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Amended Cotonou Agreement) (Community Aid Internal Agreement) Order 2007

7.58 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 4 June be approved. 19th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Baroness Royall of Blaisdon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.33 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.58 to 8.33 pm.]

Offender Management Bill

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 4.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen moved Amendment No. 12:

(c) is for the provision of assistance to the Parole Board and the Secretary of State in the early release and recall of prisoners.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is similar to one that I, along with my noble friend Lady Turner, submitted in Committee. It aims to keep what I believe is a vital public protection function in the public sector and so prevent the conflict of interest which, in part, led to the Government listing court work as a restricted provision.

The Probation Service does an excellent job of providing professional advice to the Parole Board which is impartial, accurate, reliable and skilled. It undoubtedly assists the board in making its decisions about releasing prisoners. If those are honeyed words, so be it, because I believe them.

The information is provided in writing and also verbally, and a risk assessment is offered where that is deemed appropriate. If this important function were to be commissioned, there could be an immediate conflict of interest. That is what my amendment is about. It is not that I dislike the voluntary sector. Before I came to this House, I had responsibility in my union for many thousands of members who worked in what we then called the non-profit sector, so I have knowledge of them and their work and a tremendous amount of respect for them. However, I do worry about a conflict of interest.

An example I gave in Committee was that, if a writer were to be employed by a company with a commercial interest in the outcome—for example, on tagging or on private jails—that would affect the

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ability of the Parole Board to carry out its functions. I am not the only one who has fears. In 2005, in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, a representative of the judiciary warned that they could not be involved in a body such as a probation board if competition were introduced into services for the courts and therefore, surely, into the Prison Board’s decisions as well.

As my noble friend Lord Judd said when we debated this in Committee, it is very important if we are co-operating with others, as this Bill allows—indeed, wants us to do—outside the formal public service, to remember what the priorities are. Surely, one priority is to maintain what works well at the moment and not to detract from it because that would be detrimental to everyone, especially offenders. Although my noble friend the Minister has assured the House that there are no immediate plans to open up this area of work to competition, I and the National Association of Probation Officers believe that it would be better to ensure that this does not happen in the future either. I beg to move.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I very much support this amendment. I supported it on a previous occasion. Indeed, this afternoon at a more private meeting I again asked the Secretary of State about the matter. He did not quite respond to my question. It is crucially important that there should be probation officer reports on the dangerous prisoners who are out on parole—that is agreed in the amendment, it was agreed in another place and we have certainly supported it in your Lordships’ House—and that should also apply to anybody who is asking for parole or is asking to be submitted to the Parole Board for a decision. If the wrong people are let out on parole, without the appropriate high-level assistance that the Parole Board’s expertise can provide, we shall not be in a good position for the future.

I cannot understand why we have not had a definite reply on this. It seems such an obvious area that the Government could accede to. I hope very much that we shall now hear something really positive on this issue.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment, as I have done previously. I do so for a very particular reason in addition to the reasons given previously, which included the fact that the Secretary of State had announced that he was not going to move offender management from the public service for three years, but that interventions would be open to contestability. That seems to me absolutely right.

I do not know whether noble Lords read in the Sunday Times over the weekend an article by my successor as Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, in which she said:

In the context of this amendment it is interesting that the Parole Board has really been brought into the

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front line. Indeed, the growing number of indeterminate sentenced prisoners are choking the ability of the probation boards to get through the work. They can do it only if they have the very best professional service. Therefore, it seems to me absolutely vital that this should remain in the hands of the professionals because it is now such an obviously front-line service.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I rise briefly to support my noble friend’s amendment, to which I have added my name. It will be recalled that we had a debate in Committee in which we expressed concerns about possible conflict of interest. This is another situation where a conflict of interest could well arise if the writer to whom the business had been contracted were to have a commercial interest in the outcome, because he or she was involved in contracting for other business connected with the service. The House has already expressed an opinion on conflict of interest, and this is another such issue.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I readily acknowledge the principled stand that is being made on this amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen. She also tabled the amendment in Committee.

In Committee I made it clear that we do not seek to interfere in the Government’s negotiations with those who are trying to protect more offender management services from being opened up to contestability. This amendment would add to the Clause 4 protection the provision of assistance by the Probation Service to the Parole Board and the Secretary of State in the early release and recall of prisoners.

I certainly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, that the Probation Service provides impartial, accurate, reliable, skilled and professional advice to assist the Parole Board in making its decisions on the release of prisoners. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, I make no excuse for those being honeyed words—they describe what happens; and that is what we should be doing. The noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, argues that if this function were to be commissioned via contestability, there could be an immediate conflict of interest.

I merely make two observations. First, in Committee, at col. 1032 of the Official Report of 5 June, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, appeared to say that the reason for the Government refusing this amendment was mainly that the Parole Board Rules 2004 already provided robust safeguards and that the rules would soon be further tightened in the form of a statutory instrument. When will we see that statutory instrument? Secondly, what is the Government’s view of the harm that would be done by adding this protection if it will exist anyway? I am rather puzzled by that.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Gibson for moving the amendment, which enables us to clarify the Government’s position. I entirely respect the views

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that have been expressed from all around your Lordships’ House on the importance of the amendment. In particular, I dwell on the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, who rightly expressed concern about the importance for public safety of the issue. I am mindful of that.

The amendment seeks to add the work that probation does in relation to the Parole Board to the definition of “restricted probation provision” in Clause 4. The Government fully understand those concerns. To demonstrate our commitment on this point, we have given a guarantee to Parliament that we will not contract with a non-public sector provider for core offender management work for three years, which was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I am happy to assure noble Lords again that this guarantee includes the provision of assistance to the Parole Board. In addition, the new provision in Clause 3(7) would make explicit the contractual obligations that probation providers would be under to ensure that there is no conflict of interest between their duty to give advice impartially and their financial interest. That is an important issue, which is important to my noble friends Lady Gibson and Lady Turner.

8.45 pm

However, it is not appropriate to add this work to the restrictions in Clause 4. The clause was added to the Bill to meet the specific concerns that had rightly been expressed in relation to court work. Having listened carefully to our stakeholders and to the Members of the other place, we agreed that it was right that we should not seek to complete this area of work until we could demonstrate to the House that the safeguards in place were robust enough to meet those concerns.

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