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I also want to refer to the two major reviews that are taking place. Again, that tells me that this is the wrong debate at the right time. This would have been a great opportunity to have some input into those reviews. We have a whole day for an international development debate-a luxury that we have rarely had before. There are six speakers and we will have finished by five o'clock. That does not do justice to a question on the MDGs. However, it is not the fault of the Minister or of noble Lords; it is simply that we had a very narrow agenda and a very short period of notice. Because we are not discussing the broader church of the MDGs, it is a bit like Hamlet without the prince, or perhaps I should say that it is a debate on international development without the earl-the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who brings major expertise to our debates. I think also of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, and, on my Benches, my noble friend Lord Judd. In addition, from the Bishops' Benches several right reverend Prelates have given us very wise counsel. All those people could have taken part in a debate leading into, and assisting the Government in, the two reviews that they are seeking.
One of those reviews-on bilateral aid-was always going to take place; the previous Government had planned that. A more recent element is looking at the money that we invest in the international community
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During that decade it was very clear that the Government who put the greatest pressure on reforming United Nations agencies' efficiency was the UK Government. DfID was very helpful in that; it developed the partnership arrangement. That was not just signing cheques and nothing more; it was a very interrogative process, where, over the lifetime of the project, you would have to show not only that it fits in with the core mandate of the UN agency and that there is no overlap but that you can achieve milestones. Money is not paid up front or at the end but on the basis of achievement. In that sense, one of the weaknesses in the document that concerns me is the idea that you will pay at the end for the number of people put into a school, so you pay a Government a fee if they have 20,000 more children in school. That gives rise to three questions. Where do the schools come from in the first place? Who is training the teachers? Where do the teachers come from? An investment is required up front, and it is not simply a payment-by-results system. I think that the DfID partnership arrangements, which were anything but a signing-of-cheques-without-questions system, was a very good approach and one that I hope will not be abandoned. Clearly, it is right that the Secretary of State, in saying that we are ring-fencing the money, can also say that we have to examine the value. I am sure that greater clarity and perhaps greater purpose will come out of that.
I have declared my interest but I should also regale the House with what it is like to be a director of a United Nations agency's office. I was tasked by my director-general with reducing the budget of the office in London, which had about eight staff. I finished up recommending that we should close the office as I believed that, in relation to Europe, the money could be better spent in eastern and central Europe or, in relation to the rest of the world, in sub-Saharan Africa than in London. In that task, I was aided by the fact that the partnership arrangements that we had with DfID meant that we could pair DfID's technical departments in Scotland with our technical departments in Geneva, and that could be done more efficiently than going through the conduit of what you might call an embassy in London. That would not necessarily apply in other parts of the world, but it shows that within the UN system we are not wedded to simply maintaining offices for reasons of prestige or for anything else.
Parts of this document relating to DfID lead me to think that we should change that to, "You campaign in fiction but govern in fact". I hope that the reviews
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I have given the Minister notice of a few questions. I do not expect that she will be able to answer them all today, but perhaps we may have answers in writing. They touch on some points made by other speakers in the debate. Looking at the review of DfID spend in international organisations, what consultation will take place with EU partner Governments? The EU is an important component; sometimes it is criticised and sometimes applauded. What about the non-governmental actors-a question that was asked by the right reverend Prelate? Some non-governmental actors hold formal governance positions. The ILO, the CBI and the TUC have elected members of the governing council. What plans do the Government have to ensure interaction with other government departments that deal with the UN agencies, the FCO, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and so on? What about consultation within the wider NGO community? The faith groups are very important, as are the agencies, many of whom are based in this country, from Oxfam to War on Want and Feed the Children? They can all tell you what it is like dealing with UN agencies on the ground. Furthermore, what consultation is there on the bilateral spend within Whitehall and with the wider NGO community comprising faith groups, trade unions and charities?
I have been privately somewhat critical of DfID because I do not think that it has understood or taken on board sufficiently the role of the private sector in development. Not all the multinationals in Africa lack a sense of conscience. In many cases, and if given an opportunity that makes economic and social sense, they are prepared to assist. Therefore, what consultations are we going to have with those groups?
I suggest that it might be useful for the Government to consider a consultative conference with those NGOs to get their input while the review is taking place and to get an interactive response. If I give your Lordships my view on the situation in Tanzania, I may give it from the Facebook point of view, the trade union point of view or a charity point of view, but if we are in the same room we can interact, and that can be very helpful indeed.
I also seek a couple of assurances in relation to fears that have been raised with me, some of which I share. Will the Minister reassure us that the Government remain committed to ring-fencing 0.7 per cent of gross national income and that that money will be spent on poverty alleviation? Will she assure us that it will not be transferred to other budget heads required for dealing with other important issues such as climate change? There were proposals to increase spending on that, but I hope that it will not be at the expense of poverty eradication. I do not expect all those questions to be answered today.
Finally, I draw the Minister's attention to a point made by the right reverend Prelate. There are five years in which to seek to move towards meeting the millennium development goals and I echo the question: who will represent us at the major summit in September?
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Baroness Verma: I thank noble Lords for all their thoughtful and helpful contributions to the debate, and for their warm welcome and kind words. As I set out in my opening remarks, the new coalition Government recognise their responsibility to ensure that every aspect of our UK aid budget both delivers and demonstrates value for money. Programmes supporting access to education, among other key services in developing countries, will be prioritised in aid spending. We will do so in ways that are appropriate to the country context and in ways that will deliver results, whether it is through state or non-state providers, or, indeed, through a combination of both. Our approach to supporting education will be based on what is best for the children in developing countries and one which ensures that the British taxpayers' money is well spent.
Before responding to points raised in the debate, I want to make some additional points about access and quality. A good school is one that is accessible to every child in the locality; distance and cost should not prevent children from attending regularly year on year. Classrooms should be well equipped places, safe and free from harassment or discrimination.
Girls and boys should have equal rights. The same goes for those children living with disability or HIV/AIDS. Each classroom should have a well trained and committed teacher. Learning materials should be made available. The school should be well led, managed and governed, supported by an efficient education system that strives for education excellence at all levels, assures standards and is responsive and accountable to the public. Children should be supported to reach their full potential. We expect this for our children here in the UK. We should expect no less for children everywhere.
The National Audit Office's report on DfID's bilateral support to primary education, published on 18 June 2010, showed that in DfID's 22 priority countries for education, there has been significant progress on enrolment, improving the balance between boys and girls. The same report also acknowledged that DfID policy advice and financial support has been instrumental in helping partner Governments to boost enrolment. The report states that 14 of those 22 priority countries are on track to achieve the enrolment goal by 2015. It also records that progress on gender parity has been good, with eight of the 22 having already achieved the goal.
Although such progress is not exclusively due to DfID, the report recognised the importance of the role that the Government have played in facilitating change. It has done that by giving prominent advisory support
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Governments have also responded with increased national funding. It is this partnership with developing country Governments, together with other donors, civil society, faith groups, the private sector and foundations, that will meet the challenge of delivering universal primary education. The NAO report shows that progress is being made, but it also shows why the Government are right to focus on results: concentrating on outputs and outcomes, not just inputs.
The high cost of education is the biggest deterrent to poor families educating their children, particularly girls. Support to poor and marginalised children to have access to basic services needs to be part of a comprehensive programme, combining system reform and quality improvement. However, we must recognise that in some countries, managing and sustaining increased enrolment can be difficult. That is particularly true where schools have been ill prepared for sudden class size rises and have found themselves without enough teachers, infrastructure or learning materials. There is also an issue of affordability of expanding access to secondary education. The response may involve partnerships with the private sector and targeted subsidies for girls and poor families.
Poor health and nutrition can also seriously undermine school attendance and achievement. Evidence from India and Vietnam indicates that children who are stunted at the age of one will have a lower cognitive ability at the age of five than that of their peers, regardless of their socio-economic background or their parents' levels of education. While education outcomes support other development outcomes, investments in nutrition and health likewise improve education outcomes. The work that DfID is doing in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria and Zimbabwe to improve the nutrition of at least 12 million children over the next five years amounts to 10 per cent of all undernourished children around the world. That is vital. It will help to ensure that when they start their primary education, their cognitive ability is not already impaired.
The millennium development goals cannot be reached without adequate investment in higher education and skills. Good quality universities and further education colleges are needed to train skilled professionals, the public sector managers, business leaders, and health and education workers of tomorrow. Investment in higher education also drives the science and innovation necessary for economic growth. In sub-Saharan Africa, a student who spends one extra year in higher education has been found on average to increase average annual growth by 0.39 per cent. Through the Development Partnerships in Higher Education programme, we are working with the British Council to support up to 200 partnerships between higher education institutions, and we are supporting education research through three consortia looking at education access, quality and outcomes.
The new Government are reviewing the aid programme to ensure that we target UK aid where it is needed most and where it will make the most significant
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I now turn to questions raised by noble Lords. I will endeavour to answer as many of them as I can, and where I cannot I will provide a written answer. My noble friend Lady Falkner talked about gender inequality. While we all agree with her desire to see the disparity in access to education between boys and girls removed, it is crucial that we work in ways that encourage states to engage with achieving the MDGs. That is why we are carrying out these reviews to see what works and what does not. We owe it to the poorest and to those who give funds that we can guarantee the best value and best outcomes for all those whom we try to reach. The noble Baroness asked about the impact of food prices on education. DfID has provision for contingency funds to meet unexpected needs and has specific provision for humanitarian support.
I agreed with almost everything that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool said. The empowerment of women is key. That is why maternal and child health will be one of our key priorities and why we want to ensure that we look not just at the outcomes for those who are enrolled in the programmes for education but at the quality of the education. I completely agree that the big society should not be constrained to these shores and that we should see ourselves as part of a global big society. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State spoke eloquently in a speech to Oxfam on 3 June when he said that we are part of a much bigger picture. That is why I agree that our duty is not just to young children here but to all children across the globe.
The noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, raised a number of important points about China. In developing global partnerships with China, we can make progress in achieving positive outcomes. Noble Lords all agree that we need to have better audit trails, so that is why we are carrying out reviews of all programmes funded or supported by DfID. We will bring the China aid programme to a conclusion as soon as practicable, but in the mean time we will look at other ways in which we can work more closely with China in the work that China is doing in Africa.
I thank my noble friend Lord Freeman for his kind, warm words. The coalition programme states that we will use the aid budget to support the development of local democratic institutions, civil society groups, the media and enterprise. We must support efforts to tackle corruption. My noble friend highlighted the document to which the noble Lord, Lord Brett, referred. I agree with my noble friend-I do not think that it is a political document. It highlights some of the excellent work being done, and some of the work that needs to be looked at again and, perhaps, be done better. Where there have been problems, we sometimes need to be big enough to say that mistakes were made so that we can reconcile that with improvements and better outcomes.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brett, for his kind welcoming words. However, I was waiting for the but, and I got it. I know he agrees that this debate unites the House. I do not agree with him that the narrowness of the debate is the reason why there are so few
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As regards the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brett, we routinely meet EU partner Governments in a variety of fora to discuss development issues and we use these discussions to raise the multilateral aid review. We are committed to being open and transparent about how British taxpayers' money is spent in the developing world. DfID is considering how best to most effectively engage the public in this process.
On interacting with the UN and other agencies, we have already informed our counterparts in other government departments of the purpose of the review. When we make our assessments of the relevant agencies we will do so in close co-operation with those departments with which we are working on funding and policy. We will of course consult widely with other government departments as we take the bilateral aid review forward.
The Government want to engage and involve the whole country in the difficult decisions ahead. The spending review framework published by the Treasury sets out how we will do this across government. This includes a series of events over the summer where a range of groups will discuss various aspects of public spending. DfID is considering how to most effectively engage the public in this process.
The Government are committed to honouring the 0.7 per cent commitment on overseas aid from 2013. We will enshrine this commitment in law. We are committed to keeping both Houses informed and to consulting fully with both Houses. The views of your Lordships' House are of great interest to the consultation and it is crucial that noble Lords take the opportunity to be part of the consultation process.
The UK's £1.5 billion commitment to fast-start funding for climate change between 2010 and 2012 is drawn from the UK's aid budget. We have reaffirmed the UK's commitment to giving 0.7 per cent of GNI as ODA and are on track to get to 0.7 per cent by 2013. I will have to write to the noble Lord on a number of his questions because I do not have the answers at hand.
I should like to return to what children learn. Improving the quality of education is complex and multidimensional, but we have a good idea of what works. Key strategies associated with success include more and better trained teachers; increasing time on
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To achieve the goal of universal primary education, the international community needs to address equity, put teaching and learning at the heart of policy and practice, invest in good quality education, and inspire collective action. The United Nations millennium development goals summit in September is the moment for the international community to show that universal primary education by 2015 is a challenge that it will not abandon and to make clear that to achieve that goal we need even greater collective action.
I can assure the House that this Government will give their support to more concentrated action by developed and developing countries, so that those children who are missing out on education-both today's generation and tomorrow's-finally get the education that is their right.
I conclude by repeating the five key points made in a speech at the Royal Society on 3 June by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development: first, that global poverty both affronts our moral conscience and is a direct threat to Britain's vital national interests; secondly, that well spent UK aid is among the most effective of the instruments we can use, but that radical steps must be taken to ensure that our aid achieves all it can; thirdly, that transparency, accountability, responsibility, fairness and empowerment will be our watchwords; fourthly, that two new concrete steps have been announced to achieve this-the creation of the independent aid watchdog and our commitment to a UK aid transparency guarantee; and, fifthly and finally, although aid is important for development, we must use the whole of the British Government's policy spectrum to tackle global poverty.
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