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Both DfID and FCO officials need increased training on parliaments, and that is not touched on in the report. Perhaps there is a contradiction, in that DfID

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has more money to disburse as a result of moving towards the 0.7 per cent target, whereas another arm of government policy is reducing the number of officials to monitor that. As a result of the reduction in DfID officials, the onus is on parliaments to make those officials accountable. I note that recommendation 34 encourages DfID to progress the idea of producing guidance for country officers. Country officers including a portion of their reports on the dibursing of aid might well be a useful tool for African parliaments in holding their Executives to account.

Recommendation 12 stresses that the FCO and DfID should recognise that political parties are a vital component of a democracy and should encourage their development separate from the tribe, region or the “big man”. I shall not go into detail but there is an excellent case study in Sierra Leone, where DfID passed £400,000 to the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to train the various parties nationally. I understand that they even had an “Any Questions”-style session, where the parties had to say what they would do if they were in government; they even trained President Kabbah’s party on adjusting to a time out of office before its defeat.

Recommendation 3 on co-ordination is vital. There are many other players on the field. I have had the honour of being in Somaliland with AWEPA with money from the European Union; of being in Togo with the Parliamentarians for Global Action; and of working with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Ghana. We should seek to co-ordinate the work being done, which was perhaps insufficiently covered in the report. I also had the honour of doing some election monitoring for the IPU and CPA. It is also important to work with France. President Sarkozy has given a clear signal that he wishes to work with us.

My final point is that we are not starting from zero. Much work has already been done in the field. I stress the valuable work done by the CPA in Malawi, for example, where all the parliamentarians were defeated in one election. I was there with others running a seminar. The CPA runs seminars on governance, including a very helpful one in June this year on international parliamentary governance. They include clerks, which is very important not only for Commonwealth countries but for Rwanda, as well as inward and outward delegations. Most significant is its membership of the new Westminster Consortium, which was awarded £5 million over five years from DfID’s transparency fund for a sustained intervention, rather than brief encounters, in the countries selected. I welcome these bold initiatives. In brief, the CPA and others are there already. This is a valuable report and I hope that it will reinforce valuable change.

4.30 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood: It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea. I will refer back to his contribution in a moment. First, I join in the congratulations to my noble friend Lord Chidgey on initiating this very useful debate.

My mind goes back to when I first entered Parliament in the mid-1960s. It was the era of transition from colonialism to independence. My noble friend

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Lord Anderson will remember that in those days a lot of people in the House of Commons knew about Africa. They were either in the Movement for Colonial Freedom and tended to be on the Labour side, or they were in commerce or agriculture and sat largely on the Conservative side. A lot of people had an interest in Africa. Gradually that faded away as the years went by. As my noble friend Lord Anderson will remember, we reached a point where very few knew anything about Africa or took any interest. We used to scrabble around to get names on Early Day Motions, and it was the usual suspects—him, me and about four or five others.

I am very glad to say—and this is the point I want to make—that the situation has now completely changed again. The All-Party Group—ably chaired by Hugh Bayley, the Member for York—which produced this report, has a large number of supporters in both Houses of Parliament. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, how much we appreciate the support that the Royal African Society gives to that group. It makes a tremendous difference to the impact it has on this Parliament and the interest that we now again take in Africa.

There are 46 recommendations, but in a short speech of five minutes I propose to deal with just one. It is the one that has already been mentioned, recommendation 12. I quote it exactly:

In my experience, this is basically the weakness of the parliamentary institutions in Africa. The party-political system has not developed properly, and we need to do a lot more to encourage it. I agree with my noble friend Lord Anderson: we cannot expect FCO officials, or even DfID officials, to be expert in political matters. That is why the Westminster Foundation for Democracy is crucial. It could do with a bigger budget, and it could do with giving a bigger budget to the political parties in this country to enable them to nurture sister parties. Let us be blunt: the political parties in this country—all of them—are naturally using most of their resources for their own purposes. The amount that they put aside for international work is, in each case, relatively limited. Therefore any support that can be given to the Westminster Foundation for Democracy is to be welcomed.

Too many of the political parties in Africa are either personal fiefdoms of an individual or tribal institutions. We really must get away from that. A lot of work needs to be done. I was a founding board member of International IDEA. It was set up largely on the initiative of the Swedish parliament. It is scandalous—and I say this to the Minister with great respect—that the previous Government decided not to be a member of International IDEA. That was a terrible shame. I hope that this Government will eventually join the institution and help it to develop an international concept of standards of democracy. By producing an annual audit on corruption, institutions such as Transparency International have helped to put pressure

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on that issue, just as Amnesty International has kept up pressure on human rights. However, we have no international democracy audit, and it is time we did so that we can range through the effectiveness of African parliaments—indeed, the parliaments of the whole world. That could be done if a body such as International IDEA had more resources to produce a democracy audit. That would help to increase the pressure for political parties and parliaments to be much more effective.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that we have exported some of the appurtenances of Parliament—the wigs and the gowns are there in Zimbabwe—but not, sadly, the basis of democracy. A few years ago, the high commissioner in Lesotho, who happened to be a Scotsman—there is a little bit of prejudice here—thought, rightly, that the Scottish Parliament was a better format than the Westminster Parliament for a country such as Lesotho, which was moving from a single-party to a multiparty system. He asked me to go out and conduct a series of seminars, which I did. I made some recommendations, which were followed, to get away from the imposition of opposing Benches, which is not really appropriate in struggling democracies. I think the Scottish model could be followed elsewhere. My plea is to look carefully at recommendation 12, and I urge the Government to implement it fully.

4.36 pm

Lord Avebury: I join in the congratulations that have been expressed to my noble friend and his colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Africa on attracting such a star cast to this debate on what is in some ways a rather depressing report. It highlights the weakness of parliaments in almost every African country, although its three examples are by no means the worst. Parliaments exist on paper in many states without making any practical impact on governance or on the scrutiny of the Executive. The report might have focused more on the connection between authoritarian presidential constitutions and systems of government and the absence of effective parliaments. It does not mention Zimbabwe, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, where Mugabe has ruined the Parliament, or Sudan, where, under the comprehensive peace agreement, the National Assembly is an entirely appointed body.

I was particularly interested in the recommendation that a biannual report of the state of parliaments should be produced. From the references, it seems that UNDP would be the right body to initiate the project, initially defining the benchmarks, norms and standards to be used in assessing performance with the aid of the CPA and the IPU, and possibly the SADC parliamentary forum.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned NePAD's African peer review mechanism, which includes democracy and good political governance in its remit, but only 26 of the 42 AU states participate in the APRM, and it is a desultory process that produces very few reports. In the case of Ghana, which probably has one of the best parliamentary systems in Africa, the APRM was nevertheless told that Parliament is neither effective nor independent of the Executive branch. Can the

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Minister tell us whether the Government still think of NePAD as the best mechanism for promoting effective parliaments, which is one of the goals of objective 4 of the APRM?

One of the witnesses told the APPG that strengthening parliaments is not simply an issue of capacity, and the report quotes former DfID Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, as suggesting that we should try to work to the plans of a country's people. However, the Government's plans may not accord with the wishes of the people in the absence of free and fair elections. In Cameroon, for example, rigged elections have allowed President Biya to stay in power since 1982, and the tame parliament has recently passed a resolution allowing him to stand for yet another seven-year term in 2010. If he is re-elected, that will allow him to remain in office until the age of 85. How does the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness, which is seen by DfID as needing to be applied more rigorously to parliamentary strengthening work, apply in that situation?

One criticism of the aid programmes in this area, which has been mentioned by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is familiar. It is that multiple development partners with multiple fund management mechanisms overload the recipients. Are we certain that even within our own agencies, and more widely among our EU partners, there is well managed co-ordination, so that all are working to a common strategy? Should there be a formal mechanism for developing common strategies and minimising the burden on African parliaments of dealing with a great many donors with different agendas?

4.40 pm

Baroness Rawlings: I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for initiating this debate. I read with interest the report, which suggests a number of recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness of African parliaments in their role of representing their people by holding the Executive to account.

On a continent with an unfortunate history of strong leaders or “big men”, I applaud efforts to encourage the confidence of legislatures and the proficiency of parliaments. The report makes recommendations which encourage an unobtrusive form of engagement, so that parliaments in Africa feel that they are “pulling in” changes rather than having them pushed by outsiders, and that development partners learn lessons from evidence and information that they have gathered. That seems sensible to us.

We were, however, disappointed by the Government’s response to the report. They have agreed in the most general way with its recommendations, but while there is plenty of dense jargon, there are rather fewer hard, cold facts. For example, we are told that,

That sounds very worthy, but what does it mean? Where exactly is the money going? In that example, where is the other £56.8 million going? What outcome is expected and by what measure will it be judged a success or failure?

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As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said, we would like the Government to be much clearer about how this multi-million pound budget is being spent. How is DfID’s outlay for strengthening parliaments in Africa audited? It is one thing to say that it may be a long process—I accept that there will be no immediate result and that our aim is to build up parliaments over time so that they can learn to exercise their roles by evolving their own distinctive legislative personalities—but there must be some way of assessing whether we are spending taxpayers’ money wisely. What outcomes are being tracked? In which countries does the tracking take place, and what exactly is being tracked to assess those outcomes? Will the Minister tell the Committee whether DfID helps to establish transparency within the parliaments which receive direct funding? As well as allowing us to follow as accurately as possible where our money is going, I hope that such a scheme, if presented sensitively, would help engender a culture of accountability and probity in countries where elected office is sadly sometimes regarded as a path to riches.

I am not criticising the goal of strengthening parliaments—quite the opposite. I hope that by building up contacts and support we will be able to achieve a lasting improvement in those institutions. I had the pleasure of the company of His Excellency the Ambassador of Senegal this week. I was very interested to hear that Senegal, one of the most stable, prosperous and democratic countries in West Africa, spends 40 per cent of its GDP on education and has recently added an upper House to its parliament.

In east Africa, there are examples of aid towards education through the Aga Khan Development Network and grants made to civil society organisations. They monitor their own spending very rigorously. If private organisations are able to do that, one might hope that government can follow suit and be much clearer on where and how money is being spent.

Are funds being diverted from embassies towards DfID? The United Kingdom has no direct representation in 23 of the 53 African states. In a Westminster Hall debate on 20 May, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, was quoted as saying that the Government were,

Will the Minister indicate how those efforts are coming along?

One country which has expanded its footprint in Africa is China. It appears that it is interested more in trade than aid and is less likely to champion parliamentary democracy in those countries where it is expanding its influence. Is the Minister at all concerned that the softly-softly approach espoused by DfID may get drowned out by the din of Chinese construction teams building roads from mines to ports across Africa? I am not suggesting that we are in any competition for influence with the Chinese, but it is another reason why I would like to be reassured about the efficiency of the schemes that we are supporting.

In February, my colleague, Andrew Mitchell MP, called for 5 per cent of Britain’s budgetary support for developing countries to be earmarked for tracking where our development money is going. Does the Minister support devoting just a small amount to safeguard our overall investment?

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4.45 pm

Lord Bach: I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for raising this important subject today. The Government very much welcomed the report that he and his distinguished colleagues on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Africa prepared. We congratulate them on that report. The star cast that we have in Grand Committee in the Moses Room this afternoon is worth much more than a rather hurried one-hour debate on this subject. Although noble Lords have been fantastically self-disciplined in keeping to their small five-minute blocks, I will have to be pretty disciplined to keep to the 12 minutes that I am permitted and will not be able to answer all the valid points asked of me by various noble Lords. However, I shall do my best to explain to the Committee where the Government stand on this important issue.

First, we believe that this is exactly the right time to discuss parliaments in Africa. Nine out of 10 Africans say they want to live in a democracy. According to Freedom House, half of the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa may now be classed as democracies. I heard, of course, what my noble friend Lady Amos said about elections. However, frankly, all is not well. The ongoing situation in Zimbabwe, on which the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, concentrated, has shown starkly that the trappings of democracy are not enough. Election results must reflect the will of the people, and robust institutions must represent citizens and provide a check on how power is exercised.

I hope that our position on Zimbabwe is absolutely clear. We condemn the violence and do not recognise the outcome of the second round of the sham presidential election. We call for a new transitional Government who reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people as shown on 29 March, and we call on all members of the international community to work towards the restoration of democracy in that country.

Parliaments must be able to play a full role in democratic governance. Where they need it, the UK should support parliaments. We have made many significant investments; for example, since 2001 we have provided nearly £4.5 million to the Malawian Parliament in support of its five-year strategic plan. African parliaments are holding their executives to account, in high-profile ways, such as in Tanzania, where the Prime Minister resigned because of parliamentary pressure over corruption allegations, and in smaller, everyday ways, such as in Zambia, where in 2007 the Government withdrew an unsuitable Bill on NGOs at parliament’s request. We want to see more of this, and will continue to invest in strengthening the institutions that make this possible. The question is how best we can do that, and it is to that matter that noble Lords have set their minds today.

The report makes some helpful recommendations. It emphasises the need to base support on a thorough understanding of the political context, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said, can be very varied. It mentions the importance of broad-based local ownership and the need for donor co-ordination. It highlights the need to use evidence, learn and share lessons, assess parliamentary performance and evaluate the impact

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of our support. It urges donors not to marginalise parliaments, but to encourage them to play a full part in development relationships.

Of course, it is almost a statement of the obvious that parliaments are inherently political, as the report clearly points out, and as Members of this House are well aware, whether or not they were Members of another place earlier in their career. Recent events in Africa have reinforced the group’s observation about the importance of the wider political context. We should base our work on an analysis of the political context and focus our efforts accordingly. For example, where a parliament is unable to exercise a check on the Executive, we should encourage the development of civil society and political parties.

However, where parliament plays an important role, or has the potential to do so, support can be beneficial if it is designed to suit the political context. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through its network of posts around Africa, makes it its business to understand the political context in individual African countries. DfID’s country governance analysis is helping to improve its understanding of political contexts and to identify where we can support democratisation. FCO political expertise feeds into that process as well.

Understanding the political context also means focusing on how parliaments engage with their public and civil society. In Nigeria, we helped set up a civil society office at the Nigerian Parliament to improve interaction between parliament and civil society. Increasingly, the UK’s support to parliaments is through integrated programmes to promote accountability more broadly. For example, our Deepening Democracy programmes in Uganda, Malawi and the DRC support a range of oversight and accountability institutions to help provide the checks and balances vital for democracy. Wherever DfID missions are present in Africa, we encourage joint political reporting from the head of mission and the head of the DfID office and close co-operation on political and developmental issues. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have committed £62 million over a five-year period for strengthening democracy and government accountability, including support to the legislatures, political parties and the electoral commission.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary recently said that democracy has to be “home-grown”. Our experience here in Westminster may be valuable, but that does not mean that it can be transferred elsewhere. That is in line with what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, was talking about when he supported recommendation 12 of the report. When we support parliaments, we look to the parliament itself for direction. In Malawi, Uganda and Zambia, we have rooted our support in the parliaments’ own strategic plans. We have learnt that our assistance achieves more if it is based on demand from parliamentarians themselves.

Donor co-ordination has been referred to. Many of our projects are carried out jointly with other donors and other organisations. We have recently awarded £5 million over five years to the Westminster Consortium for Parliaments and Democracy, a joint venture between the much-praised Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Overseas Office of the House of Commons, the

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National Audit Office and the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The consortium will support a range of demand-led strategies for strengthening parliaments.

DfID is at the forefront of donor co-ordination on support to parliaments. With partners, we are holding a conference in October at Wilton Park on parliamentary strengthening. DfID will then host a meeting of the donor co-ordination group on parliamentary development to discuss how to strengthen collaboration and increase impact. We agree with the All-Party Group that it is important to assess the effectiveness of our support to parliaments. We are helping to fund the Africa Legislatures Project, which aims to enhance understanding of the ability of 18 case-study legislatures to represent the people, make laws and oversee the Executive. We think that this will also help us to develop a better basis for evaluating the impact of parliamentary strengthening programmes and deciding where such programmes are most needed.

Development assistance should not undermine the role of parliaments but should seek, where appropriate, to strengthen it. Managing development assistance is, for the most part, the responsibility of the Executive. Parliament’s role is to hold that Executive accountable. We believe that it is better to strengthen such domestic accountability arrangements rather than to establish special arrangements for donors to report directly to parliaments. That is where I think we disagree with one of the report’s recommendations.

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