International Development Bill [Lords]

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Tony Cunningham (Workington): Does the hon. Lady agree that the problem affects not only women from developing countries who come to this country, but young women, especially from rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, who are enticed to cities? They are often told that there is a better life there, and jobs waiting for them in cafes or restaurants. Then they find themselves subject to prostitution. The problem relates to movement not only from developing to developed countries, but within developing countries.

Mrs. Spelman: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. He will see how powerful such a simple public awareness tool could be if located in a rural area. It could impart basic information and perhaps the rudiments of education in terms of literacy and numeracy. The incentive to quit one's roots and seek a better life in a city might be negated. Those of us who are older and wiser know that cities do not always provide a better life, certainly not in environmental and perhaps not in economic terms. Such initiatives could provide good opportunities to tackle distinct problems of lack of awareness and educational opportunities in some of the poorest parts of the world.

I mentioned amendment No. 12 earlier and will not cover that ground again. It would highlight the importance of public awareness in relation to good governance for exactly the same reasons as amendment No. 6, interwoven with the need to reinforce good governance and civil society and bring about political stability as a precursor to poverty reduction. Amendment No. 13 is consequential to the group of amendments.

I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I hope that he can reassure me about my underlying concern that the Bill's focus on poverty reduction should not relegate such important aspects of development work.

The Chairman: I call Mr. Jim Lester—sorry, Mr. Jim Knight.

2.45 pm

Jim Knight (South Dorset): I welcome the speech by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman). I believe that there is a consensus in the Committee on her analysis and on the spirit in which the amendments were tabled. The hon. Lady said that support for poverty eradication was implicit in the amendments, and that is accepted. I also believe that the Committee accepts that good governance, conflict prevention, public awareness and investment are intrinsic to poverty alleviation.

That recognition goes to the heart of the question whether we should support the amendments. It is a question of how we interpret clause 1. Do we tell the Secretary of State that the aim of all development aid is poverty eradication and leave it at that? I echo the hon. Member for Meriden. If good governance, foreign direct investment, private investment, conflict prevention and public awareness campaigns are all part of poverty eradication, can we leave the Bill in all its purity and simplicity, claiming that poverty eradication includes all those aims and therefore we do not need to specify them? Or do we need to specify them because we are worried about their being missed out?

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that not specifying those aims might make them illegal. That is the nub of the question whether we go with the amendments. As has been successfully argued by the hon. Member for Meriden, poverty eradication is all about encouraging all the things that I have listed and that are listed in the amendments. Therefore, because, as she said herself, poverty eradication is multifaceted, we should not specify the things that we require in case we miss anything out. It is important to give the Secretary of State room for manoeuvre on the explicit understanding that the goal is poverty eradication.

I can give examples of how good governance and poverty eradication are intrinsically linked. The hon. Member for Meriden used the example of Afghanistan and I cannot better that. On conflict prevention, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) mentioned Ethiopia, I thought of Sierra Leone and the hon. Member for Meriden mentioned the work of Saferworld.

A couple of years ago, I was in Belarus as part of an interesting relationship that Mendip district council, of which I was a member, has with the city of Svetlagorsk. Since Chernobyl and the fall of the Soviet Union, the city has had a problem with HIV/AIDS, which has reached epidemic proportions. As a result of its relationship with a local authority in Somerset the city council, which has a very difficult job, understood the need for a public awareness campaign. That campaign has resulted in a levelling off of the epidemic, largely because agencies such as the police and the council have ensured that the general population understand some of the dangers involved. I saw an extraordinary amount of poverty associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS in Svetlagorsk, and it was being dealt with by public awareness. I see the link between public awareness and poverty reduction, but I do not see the need to specify it in the Bill.

I refer members of the Committee to the wording of clause 1(1), which states:

    ``The provision of . . . assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.''

That leaves it wide open for the Secretary of State to address all the issues raised in the set of amendments that we are discussing. All we need is reassurance from the Minister that his definition and his Department's definition of poverty reduction will address all the items listed in the amendment. Perhaps the reassurances referred to by the hon. Gentleman may be given, and we can be relaxed about letting the amendments go.

The Chairman: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for getting his name wrong. As he knows, because I sat next to him the other evening, I know who he is. I was thinking of Mr. Jim Lester, who was a Member for many years and was very interested in international development.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. As a partially deaf person, it is wonderful to be able to hear you so clearly. Fortunately, we do not get much barracking in the Committee Rooms, so things are easier.

I apologise on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), who was going to be here this afternoon but now cannot attend. When we talked hurriedly at lunchtime, we agreed that he would deal with this group of amendments, as he was a new member of the Committee and I had done it all before, during the summer. Interestingly, the points that he made to me were similar to those that I made in those earlier proceedings, although he had not yet read the record, which shows that Liberal Democrats are united on this matter.

First, we are worried about amendment No. 1. We could not possibly support it because it substantially weakens the Bill's clarity of purpose. The word ``indirectly'' seems to me and to my hon. Friend to create a large loophole for Ministers. In that way, my favourite old chestnut ``tied aid'' could be reintroduced by an unscrupulous Minister, who could say, ``Ah, yes, all these British industries will be involved with the project, but indirectly it will be terrifically good for the country and for sustainable development.'' It may not be good for sustainable development, in fact, but the Minister would be able to give that reason. We are unhappy about the amendment, and feel that it could re-legitimise tied aid. I have done hours of work in assuring myself that tied aid would no longer be possible under the Bill.

I cannot help being political, because that is my nature. The Tories made so many mistakes, and the Pergau dam stands out in our minds. They cannot see how dangerous it could be to allow such a loophole in the Bill.

I now turn, as I did in the summer, to the group of amendments that single out good governance, conflict prevention, attracting investments and public awareness campaigns. I cannot understand why those issues have been singled out. Whenever I talk to groups or give lectures about international development, as I am sometimes called to do, one major point that I make is that there are 10 or 11 important factors in development that are interlinked.

    ``You can't have one without the other,''

as the old song says. How can there be good governance if there are no educated people to govern? Education is crucial, as the Government have repeatedly recognised. As an ex-medic, I believe that it is impossible to have a good education unless people are healthy enough to make the most of it, so health is also important. Therefore, good governance is impossible unless there is a good health service and an education system to deliver the people who can deliver that good governance.

Even if all those things are in place, who will define good governance? In the summer, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) and I took a trip down memory lane. We visited Uganda several years ago and discussed whether, in our terms, it had a good Government. It had abolished the party system, and, by our standards, its Government were curious from the bottom up. There were also lots of opportunities for skulduggery. When we debated the issue again this summer, however, Uganda appeared to have done jolly well under what is pretty dodgy governance by western standards. It will, therefore, be difficult to decide what is good governance. In any case, it will not exist if the other elements are not in place.

It is a joke for us to talk about conflict prevention when we remember what is going on in Afghanistan and southern Sudan or when we recall Ethiopia and Eritrea. There has been a civil war in the Congo for years, and 2 million people have died. Six other countries in the Great Lakes region have been sucked into that terrible whirlpool of conflict and poverty. We see the old cycle going round and round again. Conflict prevention should be important, but not only for the Department for International Development. It should also be important for the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Foreign Office and No. 10 Downing street, for goodness' sake. Unless the Government intervene early, introduce a proper foreign policy with an ethical dimension and persuade our American friends to do likewise, we shall never prevent conflict. We need a complete change of tack in our approach to such issues. Conflict prevention is important; it should not be an exclusive concern.

People will not invest in a country unless there are educated people to do the jobs and manage the businesses. I thought that the Tories would table amendments about corruption, but their measures are corruption-free. They beef on about it constantly, and I expected it to be covered. Corruption is important, and we must deal with it.

 
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