|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Streeter: My hon. Friend sums up the matter nicely, if grotesquely. It is a scandal which must come to an end. How much longer can we wait? The Conservative party is the only political party pressing for concrete action to bring the scandal to an end. The Government had an opportunity at the recent Nice summit to put the matter on the agenda and to start to build a portfolio of support for scaling back the EU aid programme and allowing member states to spend that money bilaterally.
Since I was the Conservative party's spokesman on Europe in 1997-98, I have become convinced that there is an appetite for such an approach. The Nice summit was an opportunity for the Government to put that issue on the agenda. I urged them several times to do so, but they failed to take that opportunity. As a result, the rather feeble agreement that has now been reached is to review the performance of the EU aid programme in 2006--five more years of waste and five more years of the poorest people in the world suffering in the way that we have described. The Government should have started work on that at the Nice summit and it is to be regretted that they did not.
Under the EU aid programme, 30 per cent. of our aid budget is without a poverty focus. Can the Minister honestly say that it is right that the Bill should have no reference to the fact that any money that we spend via multilateral organisations, whether the EU or the UN, should also have a poverty focus? That would place the Government under a legal obligation to ensure that every pound that is spent via the EU comes within the poverty focus and is properly spent, and would place them under a legal requirement not to sit back and allow the current situation to continue, but to sort the matter out. That is why that should be in the Bill.
Mr. Rowe: As one reason the EU budget is so badly spent is that the EU is quite open about the fact that it has political rather than development imperatives, if the Government are prepared to go along with that, would it not be appropriate for the money that is being spent on our behalf by the EU to come from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's budget?
Mr. Streeter: That is an interesting suggestion, which I hope the Minister will take on board. It is wrong for development aid to be spent via the EU, either as a second tier of immigration policy for the southern European states, or as part of the wider Foreign Office or political diplomatic agenda.
New clause 2 and the amendments grouped with it contain two important points. We say that good governance should be the focus of the Bill and included in it, because without it the Bill will be less effective.
Secondly, the Bill should contain a legal obligation to ensure that any money spent by the British Government via the European Union or the United Nations is not be misused. I could have said much about the United Nations' effectiveness in spending our aid money, but I want to give other colleagues time to speak.
I hope that the Minister will take those substantive points into account. I believe that they have been fully argued and I am sure that my hon. Friends will speak in support of new clause 2. I hope that he will accept it and that we will not need to put it to the vote.
Mr. Wells: I want to make three points in support of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) and the new clause and other amendments in the group. I shall speak about good governance and humanitarian aid. However, first, I want to consider whether the money allocated to international bodies such as the World Bank, the European Union, the development banks and other organisations such as the United Nations development programme and UNICEF could be subject to legal challenge under the Bill as currently drafted.
The Department for International Development spends more than 50 per cent. of its budget on multilateral institutions, which do not have a poverty focus as their only and single-minded purpose. The Bill enshrines that purpose. It is therefore clear that a citizen of this country or a non-governmental organisation could take the Department for International Development to court for allocating part of its budget to, for example, the European Union, which does not spend the money on poverty- focused purposes. That is a genuine danger. Those who drafted the Bill have recognised that, and I am sure that they will inform the Minister of the difficulty.
I want to reflect on what we mean by good governance. I presume that we do not mean the sort of time-wasting activity that we discussed when we considered the programme motion. I hope that we do not define good governance as imposing from above a Westminster-style parliamentary system on the people of other countries. However, good governance requires the maintenance of specific principles.
First, the Executive in any country should be accountable to the people through a representational body, however it is formed. I often argue that democracy is the traditional way in which African countries have ruled themselves. The previous Secretary-General of the
A similar process has been described to many of us on visits to Swaziland, which is a monarchy. That procedure is changing, but it is keeping to the principle that the Executive have to be accountable to their people and rule by consent. In essence, that is what our Parliament tries to achieve. If countries achieve it by a different route, we should not oppose it, but welcome and support it in any way that we can.
The next thing that is essential is that we have a reliable and objective judiciary. That is not an easy thing to achieve. Even in this country, we are questioning whether we are right to leave the appointment of judges entirely in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, in view of his conduct in recent times in trying to raise money for political purposes from those who might be appointed to judgeships. Even we are not certain that we have got the right mechanism for appointing people to enforce with impartiality the laws passed by Parliament and the Executive.
A reliable and objective judiciary is essential if domestic savings are to be re-invested in a country and even more if we are to achieve the objective set out in the eliminating world poverty White Paper and the globalisation White Paper, both issued by the DFID during this Parliament, of bringing in the private sector to be the engine of growth, employment and opportunity in some of the poorest countries. Without that capacity to rely on an impartial judiciary, which will make objective decisions, the accumulation of domestic and overseas investment will not occur, and the abjectly poor will remain abjectly poor.
A survey entitled "Voices of the People" asked ordinary people in third-world countries what concerned them most about their Government and corruption. Their first concern was corruption in the judiciary and their second was corruption in the police force, to whom they always have to pay fees for one thing or another--to pass a police barrier on the road or to get a licence to do something or other.
Good governance requires a first-class impartial judiciary, an impartial police force and an objective and impartial civil service, which is essential to good administration. Those elements have to exist if we are to bring about development. The concept of good governance has come to the fore in development thinking as a result of failures of the past. Without such a framework in developing countries, it is close to impossible to get development to take place. So it is right to include the question of good governance in the Bill as it is essential to realising its objective, which is of course to eliminate abject poverty throughout the world.
Another thing that worries me about the proposals is whether we should allow regional development banks to invest in humanitarian aid. If we passed the new clause, we would exclude the possibility of regional banks providing such aid.
As I said on Second Reading, humanitarian aid is a problem because it is being thoroughly abused, which is undermining the whole concept of it. Such aid depends on the impartiality of its delivery. It should go to both or all sides of a conflict or violent event: to those who have been killed, maimed or injured who are working for the Government and those who have been killed, maimed or injured who are protesting or conducting a violent campaign against the Government. The Red Cross is trusted to go in on both sides and to provide humanitarian aid to them.
That principle has been established since the mid-19th century. If we throw it away, it will be at great expense: there will be much human suffering in those violent situations. That is why I am concerned that we make certain that humanitarian aid is delivered impartially.