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Secondly, is the hon. Lady aware of a recent report--again, produced by the European Parliament--in which the Parliament expresses massive pessimism about whether the European aid reforms which Commissioner Patten has just introduced will work, because they do not deal with the EU culture, which is so bureaucratic, ineffective and unfocused? Is not that the problem? We all want those reforms to work, but I am afraid that, living in the real world, we profoundly believe they will not.
Dr. Tonge: Well, who is to say which are the wrong places, when talking about good governance? The Conservative party must sort out its argument; there is an element of confusion among some Opposition Members this afternoon.
The White Paper states that more than a third of the total amount of aid to developing countries--about £13 billion--is given on the condition that it is tied to the purchase of products and services. According to the White Paper, tied aid
Dr. Tonge: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I find it difficult to grapple with that concept. The Department and the Minister have been very kind; they have been patient with me, and they have spent a long time discussing clause 1 with me, but I am still not satisfied that it will stop the reintroduction of tied aid. I am told that it will do so, but I dispute that; it is not clear enough.
We know that the current Secretary of State is a very prudent person and that, on the whole, we would trust her with international development, but what of future Secretaries of State? Pigs may fly, and someone in the Chamber may become a Secretary of State one day-- I do not refer to the hon. Member for South-West Devon. Nevertheless, clause 1 is not clear, because nowhere does it say that it
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): I shall address most of my remarks to amendment No. 5, which stands in my name and those of my colleagues. First, however, I shall comment briefly on the new clause and other amendments.
There is a great deal of virtue in new clause 2 and its purposes, which were set out by the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter). There is an obvious failure in the European Union aid policy. The only question that we need answer is whether we should place on the Secretary of State a responsibility that should be fulfilled by the European Parliament and the Commission, which are accountable. There are difficulties with accountability which we need to address at a European level.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that over a long period the European Parliament and the Commission have shown themselves incapable of reforming the aid programme, and that in those circumstances, it is necessary for the House to consider taking action?
Mr. Thomas: I certainly agree that we need to consider taking action, and that is why I think new clause 2 worthy of consideration. However, whether we should put that responsibility on the Secretary of State is a matter of
I am less clear about the issue of good governance. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) put her finger on it when she said that good governance is a worthy aim of international development, but it is not the sole aim and it should not receive a higher priority than other aims such as education and health services and clean water.
Amendment No. 5 deals with sustainable development, which lies at the heart of the Bill's objectives. To be absolutely clear for the purposes of debate, sustainable development is not an objective like good governance or clean water; it is the whole framework within which we should deliver international aid policies. Agenda 21, agreed in the Rio declaration to which the previous Government wholeheartedly signed up, defines sustainable development as
Some Members may feel that sustainable development is about the environment, and are asking why we should be discussing it in relation to a Bill on international development. They may think that we need first to get the economy going or to address social needs. It must be emphasised that sustainable development is about the environment, social needs and the economy coming together in a package that allows a country to develop in a way that will give its future generations the opportunity to thrive.
The Government have sought to define sustainable development in the Bill in that context. I welcome their attempt to do so, but I do not know who dreamt up the definition because it does not square with those used by the Government in other regards. Recently in his career, the Under-Secretary has used other definitions elsewhere in the Government. I tabled my amendment because the definition in the Bill does not cover all our needs.
Interestingly, the only other legislation passed by the House which has included a reference to sustainable development is the Government of Wales Act 1998, which placed on the National Assembly for Wales an obligation to introduce sustainable development. It did not include a definition, but in responding to the obligation, the Assembly has come up with one. Lo and behold, it says:
There is another recent definition of sustainable development, which is contained in the European Union's 6th environmental action programme, but out of sensitivity to what some hon. Members regard as gobbledegook emerging from Europe, I will not quote it. It is not as acceptable to me as it may be to other hon. Members.
It is important to get that definition right. We know from the debate that we are now having on climate change that the worst effects are being felt in sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries. We will experience the least effects here, and we can cope with storms, floods and extreme summer temperatures using our technology and our economy. However, our Kyoto obligations and the need to develop international development aid in light of those obligations mean that we need a much clearer view of what sustainable development is.
We should have a strong definition so that we can respond to any international feeling, such as that demonstrated by America, which may be expressed about Kyoto and global warming in the near future. Having the right definition is vital, and in providing development aid we must not transfer the burden of meeting our Kyoto targets to the developing countries themselves. First and foremost, they have to bring themselves up to a level at which they can cope with climate change. There are some worrying ideas concerning the clean development mechanism which means that we may place our burdens on those countries through development aid. I do not want that to happen, and a stronger definition of sustainable development may be a way to avoid it.
I concur with the general view that the Secretary of State will not misuse the existing definition in the Bill, but a future Secretary of State may negotiate within the Government or the World Trade Organisation or on the general agreement on tariffs and trade, about which concern was expressed on Second Reading. They will have to report back to the House about how they are fulfilling the obligations placed on them by the Bill. For that reason, we need a firmer definition of sustainable development. If the Under-Secretary is not prepared to accept my definition, will he explain what the definition in the Bill means?
How do the Government intend to report back to the House on how they are achieving their obligations and objectives under that definition? It has been suggested that we need an annual or bi-annual debate on the matter. As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, which has in the past considered how Departments have set out and followed guidelines on sustainable development, using Green Ministers to do so, I ask how we will show that we are delivering sustainable development if we do not have the right definition. Are the sustainable development aims that the Government want achieved in this country those being achieved through our development aid in other countries?