Skip to main content

Emerging Democracies

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

23. How much money and staff time were spent by the House on developing the capacity of Parliaments in emerging democracies in 2006-07. (140286)

There are many ways in which Members and their staff contribute to developing the capacity of Parliaments in emerging democracies, but they are not funded from within a single budget. For example, during 2006-07 the Overseas Office dealt with 95 visits from 66 countries and ran eight professional development programmes for parliamentary staff from 16 mostly Commonwealth countries. Three staff are engaged directly on this work, with a total identifiable cost of about £200,000, of which about one tenth was spent on visits to other countries.

It is good to hear that the staff of this place do so much to help parliamentarians from other countries to learn from our centuries of experience. However, does the hon. Gentleman think that it would be wise if we established a dedicated unit within Parliament to provide such support and advice to other Parliaments in emerging democracies? Canada has had such a unit for decades; should we not examine the feasibility of setting one up ourselves?

It is entirely open to the hon. Gentleman to make such a proposal. He wears a variety of hats that would put him in a good position to do so. It is important to realise that what I described represents only part of what the UK is doing and that other schemes—of which he is well aware—funded by the Treasury and the Foreign Office support such work in many other ways. The House’s actions in that regard should not therefore be taken to represent the total of what the UK is doing.

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware—I believe that he is—of the wonderful work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is very much part of this place, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s UK branch. They do a huge amount to help developing and emerging democracies with good governance and other matters that relate to democratic representation and democratic Parliaments. Could we not utilise the good offices of the IPU and the CPA a little more and thus answer the question that the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) asked?

I entirely agree that the IPU and the CPA do a great deal of such work—indeed, I was referring to that when I said that other programmes were funded by the Treasury. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which the Foreign Office funds, also undertakes such work.