International Development Bill [Lords]

[back to previous text]

Mrs. Spelman: I am sure that the hon. Lady understands that the Government conceded that they would incorporate corruption provisions into the emergency legislation on international terrorism. My advice from the Clerks Office is that it will be on the statute book before the Bill.

Dr. Tonge: The hon. Lady is right. I thank her for reminding me, especially because I was in the Chamber last night. She is right that that is why corruption did not feature. I thought that that was strange.

Investment depends on a stable work force. Business men and Government officers in some countries in the Great Lakes region of sub-Saharan African say that they build a 25 per cent. wastage rate into their business plans because of HIV/AIDS. That means that 25 per cent. of their work force die from HIV/AIDS in one year. That does not attract investment, and it means that we must include the war against HIV/AIDS on our list, as well as general health issues.

Public information was the most interesting item on the hon. Lady's list, and her point was well presented and interesting. I am not trying to belittle what she said: she singled out certain issues, even though others are just as important. Public information can be absorbed only if people have education and reasonable communications. In the third world countries that I have visited, communication is a big problem. In the area of southern Sudan that I visited, communication was carried out by drums—that is still the standard way of communicating. I was told that drums were the original mobile phone, and they are very effective. However, I worry a little about spending development aid on public information campaigns that might not be widely disseminated and which, in any case, should be undertaken by the Government concerned. We saw the most brilliant public information campaigns on HIV/AIDS that were undertaken by the Ugandan Government. They have managed to slow down the awful rise in AIDS cases in Uganda by focusing on education and public information. It is very important but difficult to deliver. It should be done at country level, not imposed from a foreign country.

3 pm

Tony Cunningham: I have travelled extensively in Africa too and I appreciate what the hon. Lady is saying. Not all of Africa is like southern Sudan. A country like South Africa has a massive AIDS problem. One of the ways of dealing with that is to run a public awareness campaign. To suggest that it has its limitations because people are communicating via drums in Sudan is misleading because there are large parts of Africa—South Africa is just one example—with quite educated populations that have real problems with AIDS and where a public awareness campaign would be extremely beneficial.

Dr. Tonge: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In some African countries like Uganda it would be telling people how to suck eggs. We are guilty of not having a decent public information campaign about HIV/AIDS. We could learn a thing or two from countries like Uganda. Who are we to tell people how to run their public information campaigns when we cannot get it right ourselves? I take the hon. Gentleman's point about not all countries being at the same level but I do not think that it is an appropriate use of aid money. Countries could decide themselves, probably at a more local level than national Government, whether it was appropriate to run a specific campaign.

The hon. Member for Meriden has done a lot of work and is extremely diligent about the question of child slavery and sex slaves. But it made me smile wryly when I thought about our debate this morning about funding the United Nations Population Fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International. Those organisations are all desperately trying to get out those messages and to save young girls from prostitution and sexual slavery and to spread the messages about HIV/AIDS and maternal health. One only has to look at that debate to realise that there is an awful lot more to public information than first meets the eye.

In conclusion, I fully appreciate the amendments and the reasons why they have been tabled. However, as I said in the summer, one simply cannot single out a few development factors and put them all down on the face of a Bill. One must either put them all down and be sure not to miss one out or encompass everything in the alleviation of poverty and sustainable development. That says it all. That is why I wanted sustainable development on the face of the Export Control Bill too, but the Government would not accept it. It is an important phrase, which encompasses all the things that the hon. Member for Meriden mentioned, and many more.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow, Maryhill): I shall confine my speech to a few short comments. I concur with the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) that simplicity is key here. A simple statement of poverty reduction is a most important principle. I am pleased that the Government have incorporated that in the Bill. It is part of a general trend that is now coming into world organisations. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have similarly accepted a basis of poverty reduction and it is certainly to be hoped that other international organisations and other countries will accept similar statements in their policies.

The hon. Member for Meriden made an interesting and informative speech this afternoon. However, I believe that amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 6 fall within the definition of sustainable development in any event. No one would argue that sustainable development is possible without the cessation of conflict within a country's boundaries. The promotion of a public awareness campaign—regarding health, harm and luring into criminal activities—likewise falls easily within the definition of poverty reduction. Picking out particular topics has the danger of emphasising them at the expense of other, perhaps even more important, policies for poverty reduction.

On amendment No. 4, attracting private and foreign direct investment may contribute to poverty reduction, but not necessarily in every instance. In many well documented instances, private and foreign investment does not achieve poverty reduction or sustainable development. One thinks of the exploitation of clothing workers in the far east and the exploitation of natural assets in Papua, New Guinea: neither of these types of investment have made any contribution to the people living in those areas. Equally important are better policies on trade and investment, to which the Government are committed. We should also deal with the control and regulation of multinational companies. The amendment raises other questions that would have to be addressed. Simplicity here is a virtue. The hon. Lady raised interesting, well thought-out points, but I support the Government in rejecting the amendment.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): We are all trying to achieve the same objectives. The debate about what should be in the Bill is largely conceptual. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Ann McKechin) argues that concepts such as reducing the risk of conflict or promoting good governance are themselves included within the concept of sustainable development. We would argue that they are necessary conditions for stable development, but are not necessarily included within the definition of sustainable development itself. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on that, so that it may not be necessary to press the amendments so hard.

I was disappointed by some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tongue). She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of these issues and I was pleased that she acknowledged the work of my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden and for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) in pressing so hard—consistently and successfully—for tightening up the provisions on ending bribery and corruption. The products of their labours are not to be seen in this Bill, but they are in another Bill—and, thank goodness, one of its less controversial aspects.

When the hon. Member for Richmond Park came to the main body of her speech, I expected to hear a long list of things other than good governance, reducing conflict, increasing investment and public awareness. Other than her point about bribery and corruption, which has been acknowledged and dealt with, her comments focused mainly on education and medicine for HIV. It is clearer that the concept of relieving poverty includes within it the promotion of education and the supply of medical assistance to combat the scourge of HIV than it is that the concept of sustainable development contains within it the concept of preventing conflict and promoting good governance.

Jim Knight: Improving the welfare of the population is the provision that adequately addresses the point raised by the hon. Member for Richmond Park. Other elements could be added to the list under the multifaceted approach: debt relief springs to mind. Although it is not covered in any of the clauses, it is something that we should address.

Dr. Lewis: It is an arguable point, but I think that the two things above all that have destroyed the prospects of advancement for developing countries that have gone off the rails and suffered so greatly in recent decades are bad governance and the outbreak of conflict. Those are far and away the most prominent negative factors. Our purpose in proposing the amendments in what we hope is a constructive and probing way is to seek reassurance from the Minister that future projects that are put forward, given the Bill's provisions and available funds, will not be ruled out on the grounds that they are more concerned with politics, government, international affairs and security matters than they are with international development. The definitions concern us; if the Minister can satisfy us on those points, I am sure that he will not be disappointed by our reaction.

 
Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index


©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 22 November 2001