International Development Bill

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Mr. Mullin: Amendment No. 6 would add a new spending power that is not constrained by the poverty reduction requirement, the furthering of sustainable development or improving welfare. That power would allow the Secretary of State to spend money to persuade people of other countries not to migrate to the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, who is no longer in the Room, said that he was ambivalent about the amendment, and he is right to be so. The Government will strongly resist it because it would drive a coach and horses through the Bill's core principle—the reduction of poverty.

Mr. Robathan: The Minister has just said that the amendment is about stopping economic migration to the United Kingdom, but that is not what it says at all.

Mr. Mullin: Amendment No. 6 refers to

    ``the aim of reducing economic migration.''

Mr. Robathan: There is no mention of the UK.

Mr. Mullin: As I was saying before I was interrupted, there are only two exceptions—the dedicated power to provide assistance to the overseas territories, which reflects our special relationship with and continuing obligations to them, and assistance that is provided in response to disasters and emergencies. The hon. Member for Blaby touched on the one circumstance in which the Bill could support public awareness campaigns about economic migration: that is, if they sought to contribute to the reduction of poverty—for example, by preventing young girls from being sold into slavery. However, it would not be acceptable to use the Bill purely and simply to prevent economic migrants from seeking to find a better life and to tackle their own personal poverty.

There is no case for making any further exceptions, and certainly not the one that is proposed in the amendment. That runs directly counter to the Bill's basic argument—which the Opposition supported on Second Reading—that UK development assistance should be used only for reducing poverty. Economic migration is a serious problem, but the development budget should not be raided to support programmes to reduce it. I must ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment.

Mrs. Gillan: We have had a short and useful debate. The amendment was a probing amendment, and I do not intend to press it to a vote. However, I am disappointed by the Minister's response. He has virtually ruled out the Department spending any money on trying to discourage people from coming to this country and taking the words of the traffickers over any information that may be disseminated by the Government. I hope that he will reflect on his response, because some people will be disappointed by it. However, I am grateful to him for allowing us to explore the Government's thinking on these issues, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Development Assistance for UK Overseas Territories

Mrs. Gillan: I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 24, at end insert

    `(and, for the avoidance of doubt, such assistance may include support for communications systems)'.

We tabled this probing amendment to determine the parameters of the Government's attitude toward the overseas territories. When I asked the Minister about that earlier with reference to the Secretary of State's answer about preventing drugs from flowing across the world and large amounts of money being outwith development budget funding, he tried to set my mind at rest. However, I have a number of other concerns, some of which were raised on Second Reading.

I am worried that some overseas territories remain unsure about the Department's spending priorities in respect of their countries; Montserrat springs to mind. In the House on 10 January, my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) put the following question to the Minister's predecessor:

    ``Given that Montserrat was listed as a tax haven by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, what representations on that point has the hon. Gentleman made, or alternatively what assistance does his Department envisage providing for the territory, bearing in mind that if its financial services sector is damaged or destroyed, the country is much more likely to be prey to the commission of serious crime, including drug trafficking?''

The reply was:

    ``We are of course aware that were any overseas territory to lose any resources as a result of the pressure that the hon. Gentleman describes, our Department would need to make available additional resources.''—[Official Report, 10 January 2001; Vol. 360, c. 1062.]

I seek an assurance from the Minister that those additional resources would be forthcoming for any overseas territories. I also seek assurances about the infrastructure project on St Helena, the landmine clearance programme in the Falklands and communications projects on the Pitcairn Islands.

Opposition Members have rightly asked questions about overseas territories, but the Minister will have anticipated them because they were flagged up. Therefore, rather than making a meal out of the amendment, which was tabled to probe the Government's policy towards the overseas territories, I shall keep my remarks brief and allow him to respond.

Mr. Mullin: Clause 2 provides a modified form of the power taken in clause 1 to allow the United Kingdom to continue to provide support to the overseas territories, which reflects our continuing responsibilities in relation to them. It allows the Secretary of State to offer development assistance without needing to be satisfied that the provision is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty, which is the overriding requirement of clause 1. However, assistance provided must meet the purposes set out in clause 2, which are furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of the people. The effect of the amendment would be to ensure that the Secretary of State could help overseas territories to establish communications systems. However, it would not place her under a duty to do so, although its mention might raise an inference that such a use of her powers would be reasonable and would therefore make doing so harder to resist.

The Government must resist the amendment. There is no question that the Bill would allow the Secretary of State to support the establishment of communications systems where such support would either further sustainable development or improve the welfare of the people of an overseas territory. The Department for International Development has funded many communications projects in overseas territories in recent years, so there is no doubt to alleviate and the amendment is unnecessary. To single out such support for specific mention serves only to call into question what other developments could be assisted.

The forthcoming departmental report will show that resources will be made available to the Pitcairn Islands for essential infrastructure. The Falkland Islands have not been in receipt of UK development assistance since 1997 as a result of the exceptional progress that the area has made in achieving self-sufficiency.

The Bill will not adversely affect the Government's existing support to overseas territories because clause 2 will ensure that that is allowed. I must therefore ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment.

Mrs. Gillan: I am unsure whether the probing amendment has achieved the effect that I wanted, but I appreciate the spirit in which the Minister has responded. Perhaps there will be another opportunity to raise the interests of the overseas territories. However, the Minister has assured me that they will continue to be a priority for Government aid. I included the Falkland Islands as an example in case they should need aid from us in future—God forbid. As the Minister knows, the islands have a fragile economy. The point I made was a belt and braces measure.

Amendment No. 5 is probing and I am not so curmudgeonly as to press it to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 pm

Mrs. Gillan: I beg to move amendment No. 8, in clause 2, page 2, line 5, at end insert—

    `(4) No order shall be made under subsection (3) unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 15, in clause 18, page 8, line 17, after `section', insert `2(3),'.

Mrs. Gillan: I seem to be hogging the Committee—[Hon. Members: ``No!'']—so I rise to my feet again with great trepidation. The amendments have been linked to probe the Minister's intentions. They are designed to ensure that Parliament is fully consulted on changes to the UK overseas territories list and that the Secretary of State would be required to seek Parliament's approval for any additions or deletions to the list. We do not want that list to be subject to an executive order because if a country such as Montserrat were removed, it would cease to be covered by its preferential position and move into a category covered by the focus on poverty. Removing countries from the list subjects them exclusively to the focus on poverty and removes them from the latitude of expenditure that can be given to overseas territories.

I should like the Minister to state the conditions under which an overseas territory could be removed from the list, tell the Committee whether an annual statement of the assistance that has been given to territories will be published, and make sure that they have a voice if and when they face removal from the list. They are a prime example of domains that are subject to our legislation without representation. The amendments seek assurances that the House and the overseas territories will be consulted about removals from the list.

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