International Development Bill

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Mrs. Gillan: I understand that. I thank the Minister for that clarification, but I am seeking clarification so that organisations have some point of reference on matters of interpretation, which are largely subjective. Under the Bill as drafted, that is entirely within the gift of the Secretary of State. One Secretary of State may think that a project is apposite; another may not. By trying to tease out an interpretation from the Minister in Committee, I am hoping to clarify the situation for outside organisations that want to know what is in the Secretary of State's mind and what is behind the Bill. I am afraid that I will not have received such comfort, unless the Minister goes into further detail about the sort of projects that may or may not be covered by the Bill.

I was pleased to hear the Minister's outline of which projects in Sierra Leone that are currently being funded by the Secretary of State and the Department he feels will fall within the Bill's ambit. However, would those same projects apply to Zimbabwe, for example? Is Zimbabwe a country where the people are poor? Is there a reduction in poverty criterion that would fit all those projects? Can the projects listed by the Minister be applied to whatever country? What is the difference between Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe? For example, there is a huge disparity in life expectancy between the two countries. People in Zimbabwe can expect to live much longer than people in Sierra Leone. Where do we draw the line? How do we compare country with country, like with like, individual with individual? That is what I have been trying to get at, and I am not getting the response that I seek from the Minister.

Mr. Mullin: There are varying degrees of prosperity and poverty in various countries. Although, I am glad to say, the situation in Zimbabwe is nowhere near as dire as that in Sierra Leone, there are certainly plenty of poor and desperate people in Zimbabwe who would benefit from our assistance. Of course, that presumes that the Government are interested in having our assistance, and having received it are willing to make proper use of it. Those criteria must also be taken into account. The key will always be that set out in clause 1. When anyone suggests a project—sending a gunboat or whatever the hon. Lady was suggesting—we would have to see whether it would meet those criteria. They may meet other criteria, in which another Department called the Ministry of Defence would have to foot the bill.

Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful.

Mr. Rowe: My hon. Friend happened to use Zimbabwe as an example. It may be of interest to her and to the Minister to know that at least one project in Zimbabwe is effectively being destroyed by the action of Zimbabwe's Government. They are allowing war veterans to destroy the local infrastructure in parts of the country that do not happen to vote for the ruling party. That sort of example raises all sorts of difficulties? How can we continue to provide assistance to a country that is undermining projects, regardless of how badly the poorest people in that country need those projects?

Mrs. Gillan: My hon. Friend takes the words out of my mouth. I shall give way to the Minister if he has a response to that intervention.

Mr. Mullin: That is a perfectly sensible, reasonable point, and one of the judgments that we must make is whether, in the projects that we fund in countries such as Zimbabwe—there are other examples in which regimes suddenly turn extremely nasty—we can achieve our objectives despite the Government. Some projects are what we might call people-to-people projects that bypass the Government somehow, in which case they can probably still be justified; but where they depend on the good will of the Government and that is clearly missing, we must consider withdrawing. That must be done on a case-by-case basis, exercising common sense, as well as taking into account the criteria in the Bill. I do not think that there is any difference between us on that.

Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful to the Minister for that, but we will have to return to the matter. We will be able to consider the impact of the Bill on specific current situations when we debate other amendments.

We have had a lengthy but valuable debate. It worried me that the Minister failed to comment on amendment No. 4, which relates to attracting private and foreign direct investment in one or more countries.

Mr. Mullin: I mentioned it.

Mrs. Gillan: The Minister mentioned it briefly in passing, but that was a derisory recognition of the purpose of amendment No. 4.

The Minister asked me to withdraw the amendments, but they deal with a lacuna in the Bill. With some effort and co-operation from the Government, we could have reached a better position and included in the Bill some protection for good governance and certain projects. We could also have secured some protection for the Secretary of State, who, in many ways, is restricting her own powers, albeit for the best possible purposes. Therefore, I cannot accede to the Minister's request to withdraw amendment No. 1 and must press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Division No. 1]

AYES
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Rowe, Mr. Andrew
Simpson, Mr. Keith

NOES
Browne, Mr. Desmond
Clarke, Mr. Tom
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Hall, Mr. Patrick
King, Ms Oona
McFall, Mr. John
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Turner, Mr. Dennis
Worthington, Mr. Tony

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 2, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

`or—

    (c) promoting good governance in one or more such countries'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Division No. 2]

AYES
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Rowe, Mr. Andrew
Simpson, Mr. Keith

NOES
Browne, Mr. Desmond
Clarke, Mr. Tom
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Hall, Mr. Patrick
King, Ms Oona
McFall, Mr. John
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Turner, Mr. Dennis
Worthington, Mr. Tony

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 3, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

    `or—

    (d) reducing conflict or the potential for conflict in one or more such countries'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Division No. 3]

AYES
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Rowe, Mr. Andrew
Simpson, Mr. Keith

NOES
Browne, Mr. Desmond
Clarke, Mr. Tom
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Hall, Mr. Patrick
King, Ms Oona
McFall, Mr. John
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Turner, Mr. Dennis
Worthington, Mr. Tony

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 4, in page 1, line 16, at end insert

    `or—

    (e) putting in place the framework necessary to attract private and foreign direct investment in one or more such countries'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 13.

Division No. 4]

AYES
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Rowe, Mr. Andrew
Simpson, Mr. Keith

NOES
Browne, Mr. Desmond
Clarke, Mr. Tom
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Hall, Mr. Patrick
King, Ms Oona
McFall, Mr. John
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Turner, Mr. Dennis
Worthington, Mr. Tony

Question accordingly negatived.

Mrs. Gillan: I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 20, at end insert—

    `(4) The Secretary of State shall publish an annual report on the performance of the development assistance programme against stated poverty reduction targets, and shall lay a copy of the report before Parliament.'.

The Secretary of State and the Minister should be thrilled to pieces that we have tabled amendment No. 5. I hope that it will do everything that they desire. The purpose of the amendment—

Mr. Robathan: Is to be helpful.

Mrs. Gillan: Indeed. As my hon. Friend says, we mean to be helpful. I hope that the amendment will not be rejected out of hand as was the first group of amendments. The purpose of the amendment is to link more closely the activities of the Government with clearly defined and measurable targets. The Government currently publish their public service agreement and progress towards achievement, but that is often too vague, with not enough evidence to back the claims. The projections have sometimes lacked accuracy. I also hope that it will give the Secretary of State a platform for the annual debate that she wishes to have on development matters. Indeed, we all wish for such a debate, although the usual channels and the Minister's and the Secretary of State's friends in Government obviously do not wish for an annual debate on that topic.

To find out exactly what had been promised before the election, I turned to the ``Road to the Manifesto'' document, ``A fresh start for Britain: Labour's strategy for Britain in the modern world''. It stated:

    ``Labour will introduce regular reporting to Parliament on the role of the UK in the World Bank and the IMF (including the voting record of the Executive Directors); a statement of the Government's objectives for the forthcoming year; regular debates in Parliament on these reports''.

To me, ``regular debates'' certainly means more than one debate every four years, as I think it does to the Secretary of State. I hope that she and the Minister will use the amendment to secure an annual debate.

5.15 pm

The World Bank, in its paper ``Understanding and Responding to Poverty'', said:

    ``To know what helps to alleviate poverty, what works and what does not, what changes over time, poverty has to be defined, measured, and studied''.

I can see nothing in the Bill to define poverty or to demonstrate how progress will be reported or measured. That is a significant omission.

On western donors, the United Nations Development Programme document, ``Poverty Report 2000'', states that

    ``the great majority of the agencies lack monitoring assistance to hold themselves accountable to their declared poverty objectives. They can present no convincing evidence on how their interventions have benefited the poor.''

That is an extremely important statement, which I hope the Minister understands. We are concerned that there is nothing in the Bill requiring the Government to outline their progress towards meeting those targets, or for the effective measurement of such progress.

If there is little evidence and accountability on the use of aid money, and no effective measure of its success, the Bill's poverty reduction focus could prove to be little more than a paper tiger. For instance, DFID's public service agreement targets for 1999-2002, set out by the Government in the annual report of 2000, appeared to be a way to hold DFID accountable through some clearly defined and measurable targets. Unfortunately, they have not been successful. For example, sufficient data on primary school enrolment could not be found, and targets for reducing maternal mortality were not met. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon referred to much of that information on Second Reading.

The globalisation White Paper showed that not enough progress was made on any of the key 2015 international development targets. According to the document, the Department's primary school enrolment figures

    ``have not risen fast enough'',

and that, in relation to the elimination of gender disparity by 2005,

    ``girls' enrolments remain persistently behind those of boys''.

On the reduction of infant mortality, it states that

    ``the fall is not enough to meet the target''.

Also, progress towards reducing maternal mortality is well off course.

I know that the matter concerns the hon. Member for Richmond Park. We have not yet been able to find common cause on the Bill, but I hope that I shall find common cause with her on this issue, because she feels strongly about it, as we all should.

Those descriptions are different from DFID's description of its PSA targets, which were: for primary enrolment, ``no new data''; eliminating gender disparity, ``on course''; reducing infant mortality, ``on course''; and maternal mortality, ``only modest progress''. There is a lack of honesty about the aid targets, and a lack of fair and accurate measures of the results. What we are calling for, which we hope to facilitate by the amendment, is an annual report to measure progress towards those aims. That is not something with which the Minister can quarrel.

If the wording of our amendment is not up to the Minister's high standards, we are willing to withdraw it on the basis that it can be redrafted as a Government amendment, which we shall be pleased to support. There are many examples of core targets, although there is inadequate evidence of them. DIFD has set the target that 70 per cent. of projects should meet the Department's objectives. However, the small print says that few of the projects have been completed. Current targets do not seem to take sustainable development into account. Projects rated as officially successful by the Department can turn out to be unsuccessful. For example, in a written answer on 20 June 2000, the Secretary of State said:

    ``A formal review of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Organisational Development Project in October 1999 showed that it was successful in contributing to DFID's objectives as set out in the Public Service Agreement.''

Fine so far, but she continued:

    ``The review concluded that the project was enabling organisational change to take place in ZRP to the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe, including the poorest.''

However—this is not dissimilar to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent—she said:

    ``Since February the ZRP has not enforced the law or upheld their own charter in relation to the attacks on the opposition and the land invasions.''—[Official Report, 20 June 2000; Vol. 352, c. 123W.]

So, if a project does not ultimately satisfy the twin tracks of sustainable development and poverty reduction—the core of the Bill, as it has been described by the Minister—what are we to do? What will be the outcome? If a project does not satisfy the Bill's objectives, what sanctions are there? Is the Secretary of State to be clapped in irons? I think not.

The Bill calls for sustainable development to be one of the major focuses of the aid budget. Surely the only way in which one can tell whether a project or programme has been sustainable is to measure it not once, but several times, and several years after completion. That can be the only true measure of sustainability as we understand it. I hope that the Minister is now starting to see the reason behind the amendment, and beginning to feel that he may be able to accept it.

 
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