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Lord Desai: My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment to which I have added my name. As he indicated, and as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said on many occasions, perhaps the one purpose it will serve is to let us know how my noble friend the Minister would have drafted the Bill had she had full freedom to do so. That is, no doubt, a good thing because, after all, what is stated in Hansard has some kind of super status.
I do not see the amendment in any way as restricting the Secretary of State from doing anything. I hope that I have not misunderstood the matter. As I said before in the context of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Judd, I do not want to lay down special conditions. But, as I read it, the amendment directs attention to the need to measure certain effects. In as much as it requires those effects to be measured, it draws attention to the need to consider them properly. Therefore, I believe that it is a good amendment. I am sure that, if nothing else, the spirit of the amendment will affect DfID's thinking.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, to which I have added my name. In doing so, I declare an interest in that one of my sons works with street children in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has done for the past seven years and my wife runs a charity, the Foundation for Children at Risk, which supports that work.
I feel as strongly as others who have spoken to the amendment that there should be some specific mention of children in the Bill. The case for singling out children has been clearly accepted by the United Nations in its work. After all, the United Nations has a specific fund, the United Nations Children's Fund, which is for children alone. We all know perfectly well that the huge sums of money raised for children by the United Nations would not have been raised if it had just simply been swallowed up in the United Nations Development Programme. That is an entirely worthy programme, but one which gets far less money and far fewer resources than the children's fund. Moreover, the United Nations has always taken the view--10 years ago it most prominently took this view--that the rights of children are somewhat different, additional and supplementary to the ordinary human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is why there is now a United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I believe that the United Nations has pointed the way for us in specifying children as being different. It is a sad fact that the second summit,
Children are different and separate. They should be recognised on the face of the Bill. The damage that is done to them by poverty, maltreatment and enrolment in armed forces is frequently irreparable. I feel strongly that the basic thrust of the amendment is a worthy one. If the Minister will forgive me for saying so, I find most of the arguments against specifying references to children either bureaucratic or legalistic. I admit that somewhere in my misspent youth I was probably responsible for producing bureaucratic and legalistic arguments in similar circumstances. However, the repentance of one sinner is perhaps worthwhile. I hope that in this particular case the noble Baroness will relent, if not repent.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I add my support for the amendment which was so eloquently and powerfully moved by my noble friend Lord Brennan. I pay tribute to the consistent and great work that he does in this area.
I believe that the amendment again highlights the fact that the Bill has raised more questions than it has answered. It has become so abstract and theoretical that I do not begin to see what it adds to what is happening at the moment. As I say, it has perhaps raised more questions than it has begun to answer. Therefore, I feel that, to be able to bring a bit of specific humanity into the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, suggested with all his experience, would be salutary. The House will forgive me if I slightly twist the tail of my noble friend Lord Desai--although that is a dangerous thing to do--who said that if one specified the words "environmentally sound", one ran the risk of having to include issues of gender. If we specify children, who are an overriding priority--I cannot say how strongly I support the amendment--we have to think also of the elderly in the midst of what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment and the disabled. There are many others who need to be mentioned specifically. However, the Bill emanates from DfID. DfID is not about bureaucracy and legalistic considerations; DfID constitutes a campaign or it is nothing. It ought to break new ground in the form in which it drafts its legislation.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, in previous years I have had the privilege of piloting through your Lordships' House one or possibly two Bills that eventually helped to change government policy and convinced the Government that they needed to do more in this country to prevent the sexual exploitation of children, particularly in south-east Asia. I am currently involved in Anglo-Russian co-operation for the benefit of
There is one extra reason why the amendment deserves to be accepted. If the lives of today's children can be enriched and made positive, they are the ones who are most likely to be successful in breaking cycles of poverty that have previously gone on from generation to generation.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed about the importance of dealing with the plight of children when we are talking about poverty elimination. As the core aim of the Bill is poverty reduction and, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said when moving the amendment, the burden of poverty falls disproportionately on children, it follows that the Bill's impact will be to help children.
As my noble friend knows, following our conversations after Committee stage on his amendment we put the point to parliamentary counsel who drafted the Bill. Their response was that any reference to children as a special case would seriously undermine the structure of the Bill and its core aim of poverty reduction.
The problem is not with the aspiration that underlies the amendment, but with the potential damage that might be caused to the structure and effectiveness of the Bill if we attempted to build that aspiration into it as a legal duty. Making it a legal requirement to have special regard to any given group or purpose would fetter DfID's ability to take a partnership approach to giving assistance and would put at risk our ability to support developing countries in the most effective way possible. For example, support for development in poor communities intended to produce long-term sustainable benefits for the children of such communities could be ruled out because it contained no immediate direct action to reduce the effects of poverty on children. We have to be free to look for long-term solutions that address the root causes of child poverty, not merely its effects.
DfID takes very seriously the need to address the problems of child poverty, which causes appalling suffering and jeopardises the well-being of future generations. The aim and purposes of the Bill--poverty reduction through sustainable development and the improved welfare of people--cannot be achieved without bringing children out of deprivation. Indeed, we will be unable to meet any of the international development targets if we do not succeed in tackling child poverty and its consequences. We cannot improve the condition in which children live without addressing the condition of their communities, realising their rights to the livelihoods and services on which they depend and having their voices heard. The best way to tackle child poverty is to address the causes of community poverty.
In view of the concerns that have been expressed, it would be helpful if I highlighted some of the ways in which the Government are working to improve the well-being of children and the realisation of their
Education, even at primary level, remains beyond the reach of 113 million children who are not enrolled, of whom 60 per cent are girls. The less obvious consequences of that include poorer health and nutrition practices, greater risk of contracting HIV and greater social exclusion. Recent UNESCO studies have suggested that only 1 to 2 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries receive an education, and most of those are boys. In many cases, children's education is severely hampered by their participation in the labour market to earn money for their families' survival. The best way of addressing those problems is to help countries and societies to develop appropriate strategies, build the capacities that they need to provide quality education for all their children and develop economies that support sufficient income-earning opportunities for families to survive without resorting to child labour, especially in its worst and abusive forms that put children in physical and moral danger.
We all know that children are affected by conflict. Conflict perpetuates poverty and reverses development. Of the 34 countries furthest from meeting the poverty eradication targets, 20 are in the midst of armed conflict or have only recently emerged from it. Ethnic and intra-community violence often leads to the destruction of families and brings a heavy burden of suffering on women and children. We are helping to protect displaced children in war-affected countries from the risks of living in an environment where traditional community structures and social provision have broken down. We are also working in a wide variety ways for the reduction of conflict more generally, to give communities, and their children, a better chance to escape from the burden of poverty.
The Government's commitment to fighting child poverty is clear. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development underlined it at the Westminster conference on international action against child poverty in February this year. Leaders from around the world, including Kofi Annan and the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, the UNDP, UNICEF and the OECD renewed their commitment to meeting the international development targets that form the basis of the UN's millennium development targets as a means to defeat child poverty and offer this generation of poor children the opportunities that were denied to their parents.
Next year, at the postponed UN special session on children, the world will have the opportunity to renew and strengthen the commitment it made to children at the 1990 World Summit for Children. The plan of action that we expect the special session to endorse seeks to cover the full range of measures needed to ensure the realisation of children's rights, including their health, their education and their protection from conflict, exploitation and mistreatment.
We will wholeheartedly join this global commitment to the children of the world. The Bill will provide us with the legislative basis that we need to pursue the wide range of means available to help the children of developing countries to break out of the cycle of poverty and misery that so many of them endure.