|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
My right hon. Friend spoke of the radically new approach that this Government will take to international development-an approach that has accountability and transparency at its core. These are not empty words. It is these principles that will allow us to demonstrate to the British public that their money is being put to good use: that it is saving lives, creating futures and, ultimately, securing a more prosperous and peaceful world for us
all. Combating poverty is not only morally right: it is, as the Secretary of State has said, very much in our national interest. Abroad and at home, development is the right thing to do.
Last weekend, the Prime Minister took to the global stage to reaffirm Britain's commitment to meeting the internationally agreed goal of 0.7% of GNI to be spent on aid from 2013. We all know that some G8 members have not kept to the promises they made five years ago at Gleneagles, and that is utterly shameful. However, those who say that we should cut our aid budget are asking us to break our word; we are not prepared to do that, and nor would we ever wish to. Two wrongs do not make a right. Since when has someone else's weakness been a good reason for us to surrender our belief in a fairer, safer and more secure world? We will do our bit, and we will continue to hold others to account at each and every opportunity.
Britain is in the lead on international development. Indeed, developed countries are looking to us for inspiration as much as developing ones are looking to us for help. We are the first country to say that we will enshrine the 0.7% contribution in legislation; and unlike America, for example, our aid is not tied to commercial interests. We have a dedicated Whitehall Department whose Secretary of State has a seat in Cabinet, and now, too, a seat in the National Security Council. This Department has a voice, and this Department is being heard. Put simply, Britain can be proud that it is the standard-setter and principal leader in a world in which charity confined to home would be an abrogation of our wider responsibilities. As many hon. Members have said, charity may start here, but it must not end here.
Despite all this, we must be frank and honest: there are some who, through the pages of the press or elsewhere, still question the validity of spending taxpayers' money on international development. They speak of money given in good faith but diverted into the hands of tyrants or used to prop up corrupt regimes. The natural corollary seems to be that we should therefore give up and go away, at whatever human cost that might entail. I, and we, and I think Members on both sides of this House, profoundly disagree.
As the Secretary of State has said, the answer lies in greater rigour, more transparency, and full accountability. It lies in the new UK aid transparency guarantee that will help us to track money far more accurately. It lies in our conviction that internal evaluation is not enough and that we must set up an independent body to scrutinise where and how we are spending taxpayers' money. The answer, in short, lies not in passive defeatism but in active resolve.
I wish to acknowledge all the speakers who have contributed to the debate. The first after the Front Benchers was my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), who said that it was good that we were trying to measure results but pointed out how difficult it is to measure everything easily and consistently. No doubt the Select Committee that he chairs will look into exactly that type of issue in the months ahead.
The hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) made a strong plea for us to engage fully in negotiations on the structure of IDA16. We will do that, and indeed we are doing that. My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey) made a charming, thoughtful
and generous-spirited maiden speech, and I think it is fair to say that it was listened to admiringly by all of us in the Chamber and also, I noted, by the noble Lord Hunt, her Conservative predecessor.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) rightly wants aid to be so successful that it does not need to be permanent. We wholly agree. That, in a nutshell, is exactly what the "development" bit of international development is all about. We look forward to the continued wisdom and consistent expertise of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), and the House, and particularly we on this side, appreciated the consensual tone of the contribution of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford).
My hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) made his maiden speech. It took me a little time to tune into his Stevenage accent, and I hope he will let me know when Robbie Williams is next playing locally. His thoughtful comments on international development were much noted, and I hope that his interest in the issue will continue. Likewise, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk), in his maiden speech, made a passionate defence of the interests of beleaguered Palestinians, an issue that will figure in both our foreign and defence policy. I am sure that he will make many such comments on the topic in future. I enjoyed his warm account of his own meeting with Gillian Duffy as well-someone I would quite like to have met, I have to say.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) said that we need to tackle Beveridge's five evils globally. The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) made a very good speech, and I look forward to his contribution to the International Development Committee. Many other Members spoke, and I fear that I will not quite have the time to go through their contributions, but I think I have covered all the maiden speeches. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not mention everyone who has spoken. I certainly urge everyone who has contributed to continue to participate in our debates and oral questions, and to form a cadre of informed opinion in the House that will continue to raise international development to the position that it deserves in our deliberations.
Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): Many of the speeches this afternoon rightly referred to the human rights of women and girls around the world. Will my right hon. Friend make a brief comment on the extent to which the human rights of gay people are under threat in some parts of the developing world with which we have significant ongoing relationships? I am wary of any sense of using aid as a political weapon, but I hope that the influence of the Department can be brought to bear as appropriate.
Mr Duncan: As my hon. Friend will appreciate, I have a particular interest in that issue, and I follow it and feel for it closely. I see the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) in his place, and he is also a champion of the issue at home and abroad. We do not want to use aid as a weapon, but we will always be very forthright in defending people's rights. The whole issue of gay equality is moving from a domestic argument to a global one, and that is where our passions should now more sensibly rest.
I have mentioned the good speeches that we have heard today, but sadly I have to say, and I think the House feels, that the tone set by the shadow Secretary of State lived down to our expectations rather than up to them. It added to our deliberations a nasty and divisive flavour that simply does not need to exist on this topic. The right hon. Gentleman has experience, which we value. Might he not have had the inclination to share that experience and appreciate that his reputation and the House would both benefit from learning from it? We would much rather do that than watch him hop around looking for a scrap in the playground. Also, for him to use his former position to say that he knows the name of the particular official who worked on the speech for his successor as Secretary of State is nothing short of contemptible.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to blame half the world's poverty on a strange historic conspiracy between General Kitchener and the Conservative party. If he wants to know the real feeling of the modern Conservative party on this issue, he need only look at the number of people on the Benches behind me today to realise what they feel. He accused us of being ideological, but I can assure him that we are wholly non-ideological. To us, what matters is what works. On user fees, for instance-which he mentioned-we want to get children into school, and in many cases we are paying for those user fees out of our budget. He laboured the point about 0.7% this afternoon-talk about giving a dog a bone-as if there were a great issue about a departure from the clear policy on which we stood at the election. We are committed to enshrining 0.7% in law from 2013. As he well knows, we are considering how to proceed, not whether to proceed, as he implied. He will just have to wait for an announcement at the appropriate time.
Additional climate finance, as the previous Government made clear, will come from the existing aid budget. On the question of how the G20 working group on development will be held to account-something that he knows all about as a former Secretary of State-it will report to leaders through their sherpas. On the forthcoming millennium development goals summit, the UK ambition is to agree on an ambitious action agenda for attaining the MDGs. The shadow Secretary of State absurdly asked for our post-2013 spending plans. But so badly did his party mess up the public
finances that he could not even, when he was Secretary of State, give us his own figures for next year. [Official Report, 6 July 2010, Vol. 513, c. 1MC.]
I have acknowledged the insightful contributions that we have heard from Members today, but I now wish to acknowledge the influence and record of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. His passion for international development is known to all in this Chamber and none can doubt his genuine commitment and considerable expertise. Indeed, rarely has a Member of Cabinet shadowed their portfolio for the length of time-nearly five years-that he has done. Only yesterday, Jon Snow said:
"Andrew Mitchell is unquestionably the best prepared Secretary of State-nobody has waited longer in the wings and everyone in the sector knows of his commitment to the sector".
It is telling that within a few short weeks my right hon. Friend has already set in train a number of initiatives that will allow us to bring about a fundamental re-think of the way we give aid. He has, for example, launched two critical reviews-a bilateral review that will look at how we spend money directly with specific countries, and a multilateral review that will follow the money that we are channelling through other bodies such as the EU, the World Bank or the UN. Meanwhile, the full scale value-for-money review that he has commissioned is already yielding savings that can be directed back to the front line.
In today's economic climate, we need-more than ever-to be able to show the British taxpayers that their money is going where it can do most good, and that when it gets there, every single penny of it is put to the best possible use. Our focus will be at the sharp end, where it matters-on results not process. It will no longer be the number on the aid cheque that matters, but the number of people it helps. As my right hon. Friend said, our thinking and action will not stop there. We will look ahead to the millennium development goals summit and we will push everything that we can to focus on poverty.
That this House has considered the matter of global poverty .
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): We move from a matter of modern, enormous significance to one of historic significance. None the less, it matters to today's society, particularly, I would suggest, to many Roman Catholics in this country, as well as to people of other faiths. I am talking about the Act of Settlement, which makes a series of provisions. I will not deal with them all, because some have been dealt with in previous legislation. I shall instead focus on those that state, first, that the throne was to pass to the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her Protestant successors; secondly, that the monarch
"shall join in communion with the Church of England";
thirdly, that anyone who is married to a Catholic should be barred from the line of succession; and fourthly, that the monarch should make a series of oaths and declarations when they accede to the throne or are crowned.
"whereas it hath beene found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfaire of this protestant kingdome to be governed by a popish prince or by any King or Queene marrying a papist the said lords spirituall and temporall and commons doe further pray that it may be enacted that all and every person and persons that is are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold communion with the see or church of Rome or shall professe the popish religion or shall marry a papist shall be excluded and be for ever uncapeable to inherit possesse or enjoy the crowne and government of this realme".
"maintaine the Laws of God the true profession of the Gospell and the Protestant reformed religion established by law...and...preserve unto the bishops and clergy of this realm and to the churches committed to their charge all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them or any of them."
One further provision springs from common law and means that the succession in the United Kingdom falls to a male, rather than a female, which is known as male preference primogeniture-another element that many people now would think to be rather outdated.
Subsequent Acts have amended elements of the Act of Settlement. The Scottish and English Acts of Union in 1707 ensured that there would be no alteration to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, that the new monarch, when monarch of both kingdoms, would ratify the confession of faith, and that a new oath would be undertaken by the monarch in relation to the Church of Scotland stating that the monarch
"shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid settlement of the True Protestant Religion"-
"with the Government Worship Discipline Right and Privileges of this Church as above established by the Laws of this Kingdom."
Subsequent reforms also included the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which provided that the monarch could determine who any member of the royal family or anybody in the line of succession could marry. Today, still, the Lord
Chancellor has to issue certificates for anyone in the line of succession stating whether they have married a Catholic or someone who has now renounced their Catholic faith. Not the most recent-there was an instance last June when the Lord Chancellor had to do this-but the better known recent case is probably that from 9 April 2008, when the marriage of Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly had to be signed off by the Lord Chancellor.
In 1801, when the Parliaments of Ireland, England and Scotland were joined together, there was further reform of the Act of Settlement, which meant that the Irish agreed to the provisions in the Act. Later, the Accession Declaration Act 1910 specified that on accession, the monarch would have to declare:
"I am a faithful Protestant"-
"and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law."
The Statute of Westminster 1931 further determined that if there were to be any changes to those or many other provisions, they ought to be consulted on around the Commonwealth so that, on a particular day, one could not have a different monarch for Australia from the monarch for Canada and the United Kingdom. However, it is worth pointing out that, because we had to perform another piece of legal jiggery-pokery over the abdication of Edward VIII, there was one day when Ireland had a different monarch from the United Kingdom.
There was one further, tiny, Church of England measure that affected the position, which was the Admission to Holy Communion Measure 1972. That meant that any person in good standing with their Church-in other words, not necessarily a member of the Church of England-was able to receive communion in the Church of England. In theory, that could mean that a monarch who was not an Anglican-or, for that matter, a Presbyterian member of the Church of Scotland-but was, for instance, a Methodist, would be able to enter into communion with the Church of England without being a member.
All those different provisions have meant that, in sum and in total, there is a complete bar on any Catholic-and probably also any member of various other religions-sitting in the line of succession or becoming the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and, by extension therefore, of her further territories and the Commonwealth. I believe that this is now wholly inappropriate. The legislation that was written in 1688 and 1701 was, in one sense, deliberately offensive to those whom it termed "papists" or "followers of the popish religion", because it was believed to be against the secure interests of the people of this land. Notwithstanding the fact that anti-Catholicism is, unfortunately, still a vibrant part of many sections of the British media and British society, I do not believe that there are many in this country who believe, in all honesty, that the Roman Catholic faith undermines our national security.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|