|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman misleads the House, and I am sure that he would not wish to do so. I told him that no corruption was involved in procuring those cars, but that it was outrageous extravagance, engaged in by the previous Finance Minister. The current Finance Minister of Malawi made it clear, at the conference in London last Monday, that I had been in touch with him and that he had announced that the cars would not be procured for Ministers; they would be sold and the funds spent on poor people in Malawi. The hon. Gentleman simply misleads the House, as he so often tries to do, in suggesting that I--
Clare Short: I should like some advice from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has said that my response when he raised an issue was other than it was. I am sure that that was inadvertent, but it misled the House, and I need to correct the record.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is perfectly in order for the right hon. Lady to say that an hon. Member may have said something that was incorrect, but it is offensive in parliamentary terms to suggest that an hon. Member has misled the House.
Mr. Streeter: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Lady confuses her recent response on Malawi to the Select Committee with the response that I received when I raised the issue in the House--she can check Hansard--before Christmas. The impression given by those on the Government Benches was that there was no problem, and they dismissed my raising the issue. Subsequently, the Malawi Government had to sell the cars.
The money raised from their sale might have reached the correct coffers in the Malawi Government, but how much was lost by selling new cars on a second-hand basis? We all know that cars, especially expensive ones, depreciate rapidly, and we wonder what that episode cost British taxpayers.
On Zimbabwe, how can the Government spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money training the police and the army in a country whose President shops at Harrods, funds a war costing $1 million a day and oppresses his own people? Aid to the Zimbabwean Government should have been stopped a long time ago. The Government's inability to take a tough line with aid recipients undermines the very confidence in development that the Bill seeks to promote.
Corruption and waste are clearly major obstacles to encouraging support for development, so we might expect the Government to take every step possible to eradicate them. As we have already heard, however, Labour has failed to introduce legislation to enforce the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention on bribery. In 1997, the Secretary of State said in one of her first speeches:
Mr. Streeter: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman raises an issue that has nothing to do with the point that I am making, which is that, despite their posturing, rhetoric and four years in government, Labour has not introduced legislation on the OECD convention.
This Government have done nothing to enforce the convention. No prosecution has been brought under British law in the past four years; the Government have sat on their hands while corruption has abounded. Transparency International, a well known and much respected body, has said:
Where is the anti-bribery Bill? It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to say that she wishes that another Department had introduced it. Where is the joined-up thinking? Ministers promised in April 2000 that it would be introduced as soon as possible, but the Queen's Speech came and went. Where is the Bill?
Clare Short: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government of whom he was a member, and for whom he was collectively responsible, took the view that existing British law enforced the convention and that there was no need to legislate? His Government did not propose any legislation. We undertook a review and are committed to legislating.
Mr. Browne: Will the hon. Gentleman undertake that, if and when the Bill is introduced, no Conservative Members will oppose it on the grounds that it would give courts in this country jurisdiction over offences committed abroad? In the four years that I have been a Member of this Parliament, I have listened time and again to speeches of that nature from Conservative Members whenever we seek to bring jurisdiction home. I suspect that I shall hear such speeches again in the context of the Bill on the International Criminal Court.
Mr. Streeter: What a telling intervention that was--as though any Conservative Front Bencher could guarantee anything that a Conservative Member might say inside or outside the House. We believe that Members of Parliament are elected to represent their constituents and to speak their own minds in public and in private. What a contrast that is with the Labour party. The hon. Gentleman has as good as admitted that people such as himself take the line from their Front Bench spokesmen and that that is all they will ever say. We have known that for years, and are pleased to hear it confirmed.
My second major concern is that a third of all UK aid is channelled through the European Union. We know that its programmes are completely unacceptable and ineffective. Although the Bill does not alter the status of aid to the EU, the Government's new poverty focus puts Britain and Europe on a collision course. How can a Government who want aid to be channelled to the poorest countries contribute a third of their aid budget to an agency that last year gave most of its development aid to Morocco and Egypt? Surely their objectives are incompatible.
How can a Government who are committed to the elimination of world poverty seriously compromise that fight by funding an organisation with such a track record? According to the Blak report, which was issued by the European Parliament last week, the EU has the same number of staff in Mali to preside over an aid budget of 152 million euros as it has in Barbados, which has an aid budget of next to nothing. The picture of eurocrats sunning themselves on Caribbean beaches at taxpayers' expense is a scandal.
Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford): Does my hon. Friend greet with alarm yesterday's meeting between President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and none other than the EU's Commissioner for Development, Mr. Poul Nielson, presumably with a view to requesting the EU to continue and increase aid to that tyrannical regime?
Mr. Streeter: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. President Mugabe has benefited in his country from the publicity of being received by leaders of member state countries and Commissioner Nielson. That is a disgrace and has done untold harm to the cause of democracy and
The Government missed the chance at the Nice summit to get the EU aid programme sorted out once and for all. They refused even to put it on the agenda, despite our repeated requests. The Secretary of State deploys the right rhetoric, but once again her Government fail to act. The only target set for EU aid spending is for it to be more focused by 2006, so we face five more years of waste unless the recent reforms work.
The Conservatives are the only political party that is committed to fighting that waste. In almost every case, bilateral aid provides better value for money than EU aid programmes. When we take office, we will immediately review the effectiveness of the Commission's reforms. If we conclude that they have failed to deliver a more streamlined, more focused and less wasteful aid budget, we will fight for a treaty change to allow member states to deliver aid bilaterally. The Government should have put the mechanism for that on the table at the Nice summit, but they point-blank refused to do so.