Skip to main content

Building our Common Future

Volume 495: debated on Monday 6 July 2009

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the White Paper on international development that I am publishing today. Copies of both the White Paper and this statement have been placed in the Vote Office.

We stand at a critical juncture for international development. Although millions have been lifted out of poverty over the past decade thanks to sustained economic growth, reforming Governments, debt relief and increases in aid, much of that progress that we have seen is now imperilled. The global recession, the climate crisis and ongoing conflict and fragility in many countries threaten now to turn back the clock on the development gains made since the beginning of this century. The White Paper therefore sets out how the Government will pursue the fight against global poverty, and places new emphasis on four key areas: supporting growth; tackling climate change; tackling conflict and fragility; and improving the international system. I will say more about each of those areas in turn, but I will first set out the context for the White Paper.

The past decade has, of course, seen real achievements in the fight against global poverty: aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to get 40 million more children into schools around the world; the number of people with access to AIDS treatment has increased from just 100,000 to more than 3 million today; and the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has fallen from a third to a quarter. Yet it is clear that with 9 million children dying each year, 70 million denied the opportunity to go to school, and a billion people around the world still without enough to eat, the world remains far from meeting the millennium development goals set in 2000.

Now the global recession threatens to trap as many as 90 million more people in poverty, which would push back progress towards the first MDG—the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger—by as much as three years. The likely impact of the economic crisis is a stark reminder that the gains made in moving towards the MDGs can indeed be fragile. Those gains are also threatened by the advance of climate change—if temperatures continue to rise at current levels, an extra 600 million people will be affected by malnutrition by the end of the century—and by the effects of conflict and poor governance. Each year, at least 740,000 people are killed as a result of armed violence, with many more injured or disabled. So unless all three of those global challenges—the recession, climate change and conflict—are tackled, the MDGs will be pushed further out of reach.

Now is therefore not the time to turn away from the mission to tackle global poverty. I am proud to say that the Government are keeping the promises that we made to dedicate 0.7 per cent. of national income to development assistance by 2013. By next year our assistance will be equivalent to 0.56 per cent. of national income, in line with the European Union’s collective commitment, and by next year we will have nearly trebled our bilateral and multilateral aid to Africa since 2004. Half our global bilateral aid will be invested in public services, helping to get 8 million children into school across Africa, and delivering not only our promised 20 million anti-malaria bed nets by next year, but an additional 30 million treated bed nets by 2013. We will work with others to help developing countries provide free health care to their citizens, and we will press the international community for more support to save 6 million mothers and babies by 2015.

We will continue to tackle sickness, hunger and illiteracy across the developing world. We will also support developing countries to pursue economic growth, to protect their citizens from the impact of climate change, to help resolve conflicts and to build capable, accountable and responsive states.

Let me take each of those challenges in turn. I am sure that we would all accept that growth is the exit route out of poverty and aid dependence. Fifty years ago, income rates in east Asia were equivalent to those in Africa; today, incomes in east Asia are five times higher. In the midst of this recession, we will help to protect 50 million poor people in more than 20 countries from the worst effects of the present downturn. We will press for the rapid delivery of the commitments made by the G20 at the London summit to provide further financial support to the poorest countries. We will work towards concluding a successful and equitable Doha development round that would boost the global economy by more than $150 billion a year.

We will help developing countries to build fairer and more sustainable economic growth, double our agricultural research funding, and provide investment for infrastructure and reforms that will help African countries to trade with each other and the world. The Fairtrade label now certifies more than £1 billion-worth of goods, helping more than 7 million producers and their families around the world. We will continue to support that success story, and indeed quadruple our support for Fairtrade and ethical trading.

We will advance our work with law enforcement agencies to clamp down on bribery and corruption, which have a parasitic effect on many economies. DFID support to the Metropolitan police has already led to the recovery of £20 million of assets and the freezing of £131 million of assets. We will now triple our investment in these efforts, supporting the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service, and helping the Met to pursue more investigations across more countries.

The scale of the economic crisis and its impact on the developing world is now clear, but climate change presents, if anything, an even greater long-term threat to the prospects of alleviating poverty in the developing world. Two weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change launched the UK’s Copenhagen manifesto, setting out our detailed proposals for an ambitious deal in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

This White Paper will ensure that new and additional finance is made available, over and above our aid commitment to reach 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. We will also increase our investment in helping developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but set a limit of up to 10 per cent. of official development assistance.

We will also give countries practical support to help in that process of adaptation, including by supporting the world-renowned Hadley Centre to model the effects of climate change in developing countries. We will also encourage low carbon development by investing in clean technology and tackling avoidable deforestation.

Alongside the climate and financial crises, the third great threat to continued progress in reducing global poverty is the continuing and enduring level of conflict and state fragility. One third of the world’s poorest people live in conflict-affected or fragile countries. Half of all children who die before their fifth birthday live in such places. If we are to make further progress towards meeting the millennium development goals, we must work differently in those countries and directly address the causes of war and weak government. Half of all our new bilateral aid will go to fragile and conflict-affected countries. We will place security and justice alongside other basic services—tripling spending on those areas and addressing violence against women in particular as a priority. We will also create jobs, benefiting 7.5 million people in five fragile countries by 2013. In all fragile countries, we will help to develop joint strategies with our colleagues in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. Internationally, we will press for the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union to provide rapid assistance in the aftermath of conflict.

It is increasingly clear that global challenges demand global solutions. If we want to make real progress in solving the economic crisis, the climate crisis and the persistence of ongoing conflict, we will need to work more, not less, through the international system. But if international institutions are to live up to these new responsibilities, they must become more accountable, more responsive to and more able to address current challenges, and more representative of all their constituents.

The White Paper sets out our strategy for improving the effectiveness of international institutions in tackling global poverty in the years ahead. We will invest a higher proportion of our new aid resources through the international system in return for securing key reforms. Our funding for the United Nations will be subject to performance and will be increasingly channelled in ways that encourage UN agencies to deliver as one in developing countries. We will push for the creation of a single, powerful UN agency for women by merging existing structures and will at least double our core funding for work on gender equality to the UN.

In Europe, we will press for the EU to create a single development commissioner, to re-prioritise resources towards fragile countries in Asia and the middle east and to make poverty reduction a primary aim of all EU external policies such as those on climate and security. We will continue to press for improved governance and performance of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the regional development banks so that they can do more to support poor countries during the downturn. To meet growing humanitarian demands, we will lobby internationally for a stronger humanitarian system and humanitarian access, including through increasing the UN’s central emergency response fund.

In turn, we will maintain our own rigorous focus on aid effectiveness and the effectiveness of DFID as an organisation to deliver on its mission of poverty reduction. At this time of economic challenge, we will work harder than ever to ensure that every pound of UK aid contributes to direct and tangible results. We will prioritise our efforts and work in fewer countries. We will deliver an additional £155 million of efficiency savings by next year by making value for money improvements in our research budget and other areas.

As well as meeting our commitments on aid effectiveness made in the Paris declaration and in the Accra agenda for action last September, we will further improve the transparency of the projects we fund through a new searchable database on our website. We will set aside at least 5 per cent. of budget support funds to help developing countries’ Governments to improve accountability to their citizens. We will establish deeper and broader partnerships with civil society organisations and the private sector, doubling our central support to civil society to £300 million a year and launching a new innovation fund to help community groups and individuals in the UK to support small but innovative development projects.

Finally, as the Select Committee on International Development noted in its recent report, signs that the downturn is beginning to undermine previously strong support in the United Kingdom cause concern for all of us who are concerned about development. The White Paper sets out our plans to do more to help show the UK public how Government assistance is helping to fight poverty, including through the use of the new UKaid logo to increase the visibility of our work.

In conclusion, the mission of the Department for International Development, as clearly set out by the White Paper, will remain reducing poverty and supporting sustainable development. A world in which too many countries lack not only the basics of life but the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations diminishes us all. For the Government—and for many people across the United Kingdom—this is a profoundly moral cause, but in the 21st century development is not merely a moral cause: it is also a common cause.

Order. I am extremely grateful, and I am sure that the House will be. However, the Secretary of State modestly exceeded his allotted time. I hope that the House will take it in the proper spirit when I say that in future, in accordance with Standing Orders, I am keen to enforce those time limits, principally in the interests of Back Benchers.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. There is much in the White Paper that we welcome, not least since it adopts a number of themes and specific ideas that the Opposition have been championing now for more than four years. We welcome his commitment to do more on agriculture and to focus on women, who bear the brunt of conflict and poverty. We look forward to hearing how he will breathe new life into the very important Doha process.

This time of economic crisis, which particularly affects the world’s poor, is a time not to withdraw our support but to redouble our international development efforts. Poverty breeds extremism, incubates disease and drives migration and conflict. Tackling poverty and deprivation is not merely a moral duty that we must discharge with passion and rigour—it is also in our best national interest.

It is also a matter of relief to many of our fellow citizens that this is no longer a Labour or Conservative agenda but a British agenda that commands widespread support. The Government are clearly listening to Conservative arguments on international development, particularly on the need to improve our performance in fragile states.

Over the past few years, I have seen for myself the impressive work done by DFID staff in a number of conflict-affected countries—the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Burma, the Somalia border, Iraq, Afghanistan and the west bank—and I pay tribute to DFID’s brave staff, who put themselves in harm’s way in those places. One thing that has emerged from those visits is the intense difficulty of operating effectively in such environments. Security costs are often astronomic. The capacity of the Governments with whom we work is frequently, by definition, very low or non-existent. Insecurity makes monitoring and evaluation difficult. The risk of corruption is high. Local politics is often opaque and complex, and there is a real risk of aid exacerbating tensions.

As the recent highly critical evaluation of DFID’s performance in Afghanistan has shown, we need a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness of our aid in conflict and war zones. What estimate has the Secretary of State made of the increased security cost to his Department of working more in fragile states? He will be well aware of the National Audit Office report that found that only half of DFID projects in the most insecure countries achieve their aims and that almost a quarter suffer from fraud or financial problems. Does he accept that, if we are to get value for money from our spending in those countries, we need radically to improve the quality of our aid effort and demonstrate that through independent assessment and validation, so that any lessons can be learned?

The Secretary of State is rightly keen to raise the profile and visibility of British aid, but he will be aware that, in this age of austerity, spending on rebranding will be very carefully scrutinised. How much does he estimate that the rebranding exercise will cost? What value-for-money inquiries and cost-benefit analysis did he undertake before announcing this policy? Does he recognise the risk that UKaid could be confused with USAID. Does he agree that the most effective way to raise awareness and public support for British aid is to focus on the outcomes and achievements that it generates, rather than on the inputs so beloved of the Government?

The White Paper has been launched during the dying days of this Labour Government. The country and Britain’s international development effort need a renewed sense of direction. There are some good points and sensible suggestions in the White Paper that we strongly support, because many of them originated on this side of the House. I hope that we will all have the opportunity to debate them at more length over the coming months, for the prize of a more effective British international development effort is clear: a better life for millions of people and a safer world for Britain.

I thank the hon. Gentleman both for his welcome of the White Paper and his warm words of congratulations to the staff of the Department. It has been a great privilege for me over the past couple of years to work with an extremely expert, experienced and dedicated staff, and I think that there is a consensus on both sides of the House that they are among the best of British and that they deserve our congratulations.

Although the challenge of climate change is a key theme of the White Paper and we all recognise that recycling is a necessary part of responding to climate change, the hon. Gentleman will notice that we did not accept all the Conservatives’ proposals—for example, the recycled assisted places scheme, under which British aid money would be spent on promoting private education in developing countries. By contrast, the key theme of the White Paper is extending access across the developing world to public education that is available to all. It has not been because of ideological dogma that DFID has come to be recognised as a global leader over the past decade; it is because we have undertaken the hard yards of investing in new schools, new classrooms and new teachers and worked closely with Governments and a range of other organisations, including non-governmental organisations, to deliver those changes.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his brass neck in suggesting that there is widespread support for the DFID budget, as his statement comes only a week after it was exclusively revealed on the Conservative homepage that only 4 per cent. of endorsed Conservative candidates support the protection of DFID’s budget—less than one in 20 does not seem to me to be a commendation of the proposals advanced by Opposition Front Benchers. However, I am confident that, if we take the right steps, there will be a broad consensus in favour of the proposals set out in the White Paper.

The rebranding—the use of the UKaid logo—is a necessary step in response to concerns that the public have expressed not just to the Department but to the International Development Committee about the profile of UK development expenditure. Frankly, perhaps in the past, DFID has been the best-kept secret in the British Government, and I make no apology for the expenditure that has been incurred in making sure that we have branding that will, I believe, resonate with the British public in time, as a reflection of their long-standing commitment to the concerns of international development.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the quality of international aid. Perhaps the most obvious example, given the question that he posed, is Afghanistan. He asked what the independent assessments were. I reflect on the recent Oxfam report on Afghanistan, in which the Department for International Development was highly commended for working, albeit in challenging circumstances, with the Government of Afghanistan. We will continue to pursue that course, with all the necessary caveats relating to corruption and the protection of British taxpayers’ money, because we believe that it offers a better, more sustainable way to deliver aid. Finally, I genuinely believe that there is potential for public consensus on development in the future. I believe that the White Paper takes a significant step towards answering the questions that the British public have had in their minds.

May I, too, thank the Secretary of State for an advance copy of the statement and the White Paper? However, I echo the shadow International Development Secretary’s plea for a full debate on this substantive issue as soon as possible. In a world of enormous disparities of wealth and life experience, we clearly have huge moral responsibilities to provide official development assistance, as the White Paper recognises. However, in a world that is increasingly globalised and interdependent, and where the consequences of poverty, conflict and climate change affect all of us, there is also a clear national interest in supporting developing countries as they tackle challenges of an unprecedented nature and scale.

We on the Liberal Democrat Benches will study the White Paper carefully, but we certainly support the identification of conflict and climate change as key priorities, alongside the still-important focus on poverty, hunger and disease. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the White Paper does not signal a departure from the primary pro-poor focus of his Department? The resources required to deliver on the priorities are underscored by the welcome continued commitment to the 0.7 per cent. target, but we still have no indication of how that spending level will be reached.

In the absence of a comprehensive spending review, will the Secretary of State publish his Department’s detailed planning assumptions, showing how it wants the resources to be allocated in the run-up to 2013? In the absence of a strategic defence review, will he tell us how other Departments will be reconfigured to make effective use of the welcome extra resources planned for conflict issues? On interdepartmental working, will he confirm that as he allocates funding to deal with climate change and conflict to other Departments, his Department’s increased resources will not simply be laundered to the Ministry of Defence and others to bail them out of the Government’s overall Budget crisis?

The Secretary of State’s ambitious agenda is being set out at a time when his Department continues to reduce its staffing complement. Surely that means that ever-larger cheques will be written to international organisations, so how will he ensure that he achieves his avowed intent to improve accountability and transparency in the provision of development assistance? Finally, he pledges the rapid delivery of the recent G20 commitments, but how can anyone take that seriously when a key part of it, the G8 countries, have failed miserably to deliver on the Gleneagles promises of four years ago?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome endorsement of the themes of conflict and climate change in the White Paper, and indeed for his broad agreement, if that is not to prejudge the debate that I hope we can have in the months ahead on the themes that the White Paper sets out. I am happy to give the confirmation that he seeks that the focus of the Department will remain poverty reduction—the pro-poor focus, as he describes it. The themes that emerged in the White Paper reflected the insights that we have garnered in recent years, which showed us that to deliver fully on the millennium development goals and that pro-poor agenda, we needed better to incorporate climate change, and the challenge of working in fragile and conflict-affected states—and indeed with the whole multilateral system—than we have perhaps done in the past.

As for the Government’s position on forward public expenditure, it is of course the Government’s long-standing position that we will meet the target of 0.7 per cent. by 2013. The credibility of that claim rests not simply on its recent reiteration by our Prime Minister, but on the fact that as recently as the previous spending review, we were clearly on track to meet that commitment, and that continues to be the case.

On the hon. Gentleman’s rather inelegant but challenging phrase about interdepartmental working and the laundering of the DFID budget, I simply ask him to reflect on the fact that it is not a former Prime Minister of the Labour party and a former Foreign Secretary of the Labour party who have, in recent days, argued for the reincorporation of the Department for International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; that proposal came from Members on the Conservative Benches. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are sincere in our commitment that DFID should remain a separate and distinctive Cabinet-rank Department that is determined to work effectively with our colleagues in the Foreign Office and in the Ministry of Defence.

In relation to the issue of accountability and transparency that the hon. Gentleman raises, we have listened carefully to recommendations from the International Development Committee on how we could improve our website to make sure that there is a searchable facility whereby we will be able to provide better and more accessible information, not just here in the United Kingdom, but internationally.

On the hon. Gentleman’s final point, I can assure him that, in the days between now and L’Aquila and in the preceding weeks, the British Government will be and have been arguing with our G8 colleagues that now is the time to publish what could be called a Gleneagles framework whereby the whole world will be able to judge by the time of the L’Aquila summit which countries have met their Gleneagles commitments and which countries have fallen behind. I welcome the fact that as recently as last month one stated categorically that the British Government were meeting their Gleneagles commitments. I hope that in the days between now and L’Aquila, other countries will reflect on their responsibilities and set out credible recovery paths.

Order. Eighteen Members are seeking to catch my eye. I am naturally keen to accommodate as many of them as possible. I therefore look to each Member to ask one brief supplementary question and, of course, to the Secretary of State to offer us a characteristically succinct reply.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this important White Paper. Will he and his fellow Ministers back up the very welcome commitment to seek a single UN agency for women by working with other countries to make sure that they give that commitment and the financial support to such an agency? That will make a tremendous difference in developing countries, where women do most of the work.

Let me begin by succinctly paying tribute to my right hon. Friend’s long-standing concern and campaigning on development issues. I am able to give her the assurance that she seeks. As recently as last week, when Helen Clark, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, was in the Department, I was able to discuss with her the importance of the coherence of the UN’s effort, and nowhere is that effort more needed than in relation to a single agency dealing with the gender question.

I thank the Secretary of State for the White Paper, and for taking account of many of the recommendations of the International Development Committee. He is right to say that in the present climate aid, is needed more, not less, and we need public understanding and backing for that. On the conflict country support, will he clarify how many fewer countries the Department will operate in? If 50 per cent. of the bilateral money is going into conflict, what will that mean in a situation where multilateral donations are rising? Can he put a figure on the sum we are talking about?

I fear that I will have the opportunity to answer the right hon. Gentleman’s questions in a great deal more detail shortly, when I appear before his Committee. Let me record my gratitude for the work of the Committee; it has been invaluable in framing our analysis and our prescription in the latest White Paper.

On the specific point that the right hon. Gentleman raises, this is not a sudden handbrake turn for the Department. He is as aware as I am that over recent years we have reduced the number of countries in which we have been working—my recollection is that we have done so by about 10 in recent years. We plan to continue that progress on the basis of the best principles of aid effectiveness, rather than a sudden move towards working in conflict and fragile affected states. However, we also want to see an improvement in the effectiveness of the multilateral system so that some countries can take more of the burden than they have done in recent years.

When donor countries pool their resources in multilateral institutions, they raise substantially more people out of poverty per pound spent than when countries go it alone with their own bilateral programmes. I am pleased to see the Government’s commitment to multilateral aid in the White Paper, but what will they do to persuade other countries to do the same?

As in so many areas, I hope the Department has the opportunity to lead by example. I do not see a choice between increasing the resources to the multilateral system and improving our policy influence over those multilateral institutions. I believe we can demonstrate to other donors a continuing—indeed, increasing—commitment to those institutions, at the same time as convincing them that they can have real influence to ensure a progressive outcome to the policy agenda.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s emphasis on growth as the only sustainable route out of poverty, and I am delighted that he has decided to reverse the mistaken and long-standing decline in the share of aid going to agriculture and infrastructure, but does he agree that the countries that have been most successful in growing out of poverty are those that have traded out of poverty? Will he therefore put more emphasis on extending duty-free, quota-free access to all low-income countries, not just less-developed countries, and on making more generous and simple the rules of origin, which at present inhibit many countries in taking advantage of duty-free access?

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has prior knowledge of many of those issues from the globalisation report that he published some time ago, but, as the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) suggests from the Front Bench, in relation to economic partnership agreements, some progress has been made on one of the issues that the right hon. Gentleman addressed.

On duty-free and quota-free access, however, there is a judgment to be made about whether we should push the development part of a multilateral deal, or whether we best serve the interests of developing countries by going for a comprehensive conclusion to the Doha round. It would be a great risk at this stage, with the election of a new Congress party Government in India and a more realistic prospect than there has been recently of a breakthrough on Doha in the months ahead, if we averted our gaze from the prize of a Doha deal and looked at what would, none the less, be an important part of a deal for developing countries.

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that no Government have been stronger in their resolve to try to conclude the Doha round than the British Government. Our Prime Minister continues to take a very active role, discussing with Pascal Lamy and others what progress can be made, and, as I have said, on the basis of certain changes among key players, I feel a cautious optimism that we may see real progress in the months ahead.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the US Government tie US aid very tightly, in some respects, to US foreign policy objectives. Can he confirm that he has no plans to do the same in the UK when it comes to UK aid by, for example, reintegrating DFID with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

Yes, I am very happy to give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. Distinguished members of the Labour party do not propose that approach; it is, however, the approach of the former Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary from the Conservative party.

I hear that it is not the position of Conservative Front Benchers. They do not seem to command the support of the former Prime Minister, the former Foreign Secretary or the prospective candidates of the Conservative party: quite whom they speak for is really for them to answer.

The Minister has made a big virtue of spending an increasing proportion of our aid through international bodies, but does he consider it wise to spend ever-increasing amounts of money through the European Union? It is widely regarded as being pretty poor when it comes to spending money efficiently, and it has been widely criticised for spending money on populations that cannot be described as among the world’s poorest.

Once again, Conservative Back Benchers seem to be rather at odds with Conservative Front Benchers, because, if I recollect properly, the leader of the Conservative party recently made a speech in which he said that the European Union had a key role to play in climate change and in tackling global poverty. However, I do not want to intrude on private grief.

On the hon. Gentleman’s substantive point, I agree that the European Union has a central role to play in tackling global poverty, and I welcome the real strides that have been made in reforming the EU’s development budget in recent years. The case that we will make towards the end of the year for a powerful single EU development commissioner will strengthen the arm of those who want further reform in the EU. However, this issue exposes a fundamental difference between the parties: some on the Opposition Front Bench argue for multilateralism but do not command the support of all their party; on the Government Benches, there is a universal consensus that there should be excellence in our bilateral programme and that we should work multilaterally to tackle global poverty.

In congratulating my right hon. Friend on the extremely effective and compassionate work carried out by his Department, whose role before its existence was one responsibility of a junior Minister in the Tory Foreign Office, may I ask what success he is having in getting aid into Gaza, which I know he has visited, but off which in international waters last week the Israeli navy committed an act of piracy against an aid ship and kidnapped its crew?

I am grateful for the words offered by my right hon. Friend, who has a long-standing commitment not just to the concerns and suffering of the people of Gaza, but to people throughout the developing world. He knows, as I do, that the Government have been pressing hard on the Israeli Government to allow not simply access for the aid we have provided, but for aid workers from a range of British NGOs to undertake their vital humanitarian work. We have not seen the progress that all of us, from all parts of the House, would have liked from the Israeli Government, but we continue to press the case for humanitarian supplies to be allowed free and unfettered access to Gaza. Ships should not need to travel to the coast of Gaza, because there should be free and unfettered access in Rafah and at the other land-based crossings, and I assure my right hon. Friend that we will continue to press that case to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Ministers.

I have learned from my discussions with Commonwealth Members of Parliament that the thing that upsets them more than almost anything else about international aid is how much of it is spent on consultants’ reports, which are fairly widespread when aid is given, not only by the UK but by countries throughout the world. Will the Secretary of State assure us that he will look critically at how much of his departmental money goes on consultants’ reports? Will he ensure that the money spent on them is minimised as much as possible so that more money gets through to the front line?

I shall be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman on that matter. I shall set out the details in the letter, but my recollection is that there has been such a reduction recently. However, I come back to the latest independent review of DFID’s work; it said that DFID was a world leader in aid effectiveness. That did not happen by chance, but by choice. We are continually looking at how we can deliver aid most effectively. Obviously, that varies from country to country, but I am glad to say that we have made progress that has established DFID as a global leader in recent years. However, we are never complacent.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that poverty reduction requires us to focus on climate change; that was a welcome part of his statement. Will he go slightly further and recognise that in tackling climate change as part of the anti-poverty strategy, we must focus on land-use change and ecosystem services, which are a part of the parcel?

I recognise the centrality of both those issues to the challenges described in the White Paper and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the service and work that he has undertaken, particularly on forestry.

In 2005, I was privileged in taking seven busloads of my constituents to the streets of Edinburgh in our shared plea to make poverty history. Unless we now engage in the policy consequences and challenges of climate change, poverty will become the future for billions of our fellow citizens. That insight underpins the policy prescriptions of the White Paper.

What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the non-governmental aid organisations about prioritising some of the budgets on security and justice? Given their aims and campaigns, does he enjoy their full and unqualified support for that prioritisation?

Anybody with even a fleeting acquaintance with development NGOs in the United Kingdom knows that they never agree with each other, never mind with every paragraph of a White Paper—even one from the Department for International Development. In recent weeks, we have been unstinting in our efforts to try to ensure a genuine consultation and dialogue with the NGOs; if I remember rightly, we have had eight or nine regional consultation events around the country to make sure that not only London-based NGOs, but those right across the United Kingdom, can contribute.

We have received about 2,500 responses to the White Paper from a range of institutions, individuals and organisations. Some of the concerns that they might have had about our full commitment to NGOs have been answered by the doubling of our funding to civil society organisations. Whatever issues they might have about the focus on conflict in fragile affected states, they are issues on which we can work with NGOs in the years ahead.

In eight weeks’ time, I shall be in Tanzania—at my own expense—looking at what is being done by British university students working in Tanzanian schools for the summer. They are there under the auspices of READ International, a charity of which I am patron. Does my right hon. Friend agree that however good the relationships between voluntary organisations in this country and services in developing countries, and between our Government and Governments such as Tanzania’s, our aim has to be to ensure that the capacity of Governments in developing countries is sufficient for them to make their own decisions about how they manage services such as education? That is preferable to a paternalist or dogmatic approach to the sort of education that should be delivered, which appears to be the message coming from some on the Conservative Benches.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of capacity-building and the continuing country-led development that runs like a golden thread through the White Paper. I pay tribute to the organisation he describes and to the thousands of others across the United Kingdom that undertake vital contributions to the task of development. Their work inspired us to announce a new innovation fund in the White Paper. It will allow small organisations in constituencies across the country to apply for often small sums that could facilitate exactly the kind of visit that my hon. Friend is making.

I applaud the renewed emphasis on agriculture and infrastructure. What are the two biggest research projects that the Secretary of State’s Department is undertaking, and from which other projects does he intend to save £155 million?

We are undertaking a significant programme of agricultural research; we committed £1 billion towards research only last year. I will set out the figures for the hon. Gentleman in correspondence later. We have looked carefully at finding ways better to align that spend in what is a significant envelope to ensure that we get the most effective return. Our particular focus on agricultural research, which has moved up the agenda relative to the traditional health research that we have performed for several years, stems from our belief that it is the most effective way of engaging effectively within agriculture. Under a previous Government, there were a large number of agronomists within DFID, as well as many field-based workers. That is no longer the most effective contribution that we can make, which is instead to contribute to the raising of agricultural productivity, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, in a manner that was achieved on the Indian sub-continent 20 to 30 years ago.

I very much welcome the new emphasis on fragile and conflict countries and my right hon. Friend’s intention to develop joint strategies with the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office. Should the statutory definition of poverty reduction be found to be a hindrance in that development of joint strategies, either here or in working with other countries, will he have an open mind in reconsidering some of those parameters?

I read with some interest a recent report indicating that statutory change was necessary, but that has not been my experience as Secretary of State for International Development; indeed, I struggle to think of a single instance where I have felt constrained in the choices put before me under landmark legislation passed by this Labour Government. It is vital that we continue to be trusted as an organisation that sees poverty reduction as its core task, while at the same time working in an effective and collaborative manner with our colleagues in the Foreign Office and the MOD.

The Kettering-based charity, Casa Alianza, is a world leader in providing effective aid to street children, particularly in central America, many of whom suffer abuse at the hands of state authorities and local and national police forces. What emphasis does the White Paper place on helping the growing number of street children across the world?

The White Paper contains language on the challenge of urbanisation, which is directly related to the issue of street children. There is a strong and continuing focus on the need to provide basic health services, which are essential to the needs of street children. At the same time, we are considering the challenge of providing education, because many street children find themselves in circumstances where they are denied formal education. We are also seeking to increase our investment in social protection, because in many households it is the absence of income that has driven children on to the streets. I applaud the efforts of the charity in question, which are reflected in several other charities working on this important issue across the United Kingdom. If the hon. Gentleman sends me further details of the charity, I shall certainly be interested to have a look at them.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the growing concern in Parliament and beyond about the scandal of vulture funds. How will the White Paper allow the Government to further their work in tackling this issue?

The formal answer to my hon. Friend is that my colleagues in the Treasury lead on these issues. I would simply reflect on the fact that, as in other areas of policy, the challenge is to build a consensus on how we can move forward. I recognise that there is strong pressure growing as regards vulture funds. I take heart from the fact that in an equivalent campaign in relation to tax havens, we have seen, as a result of the leadership of our own Prime Minister at the G20, decisive action that I hope will be taken forward in Pittsburgh in September.

The House is aware that many of the countries to which funds go have high levels of corruption and the leadership probably have overseas bank accounts. In the interests of proper accountability, is the Secretary of State able to give us a percentage of the amount of money given by his Department that reaches the people for whom it is intended rather than a Swiss bank account?

It is a sad fact that corruption is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, and it is almost inevitable that if we have a Department focused on global poverty reduction, it will be working in environments where there is a real challenge in relation to bribery and corruption. It is for exactly that reason that we put such emphasis on building the capacity and public financial management of those countries. However, we have a zero-tolerance policy in relation to the misuse of British aid, and if the hon. Gentleman is aware of any examples of aid being misused anywhere across our global network, I will be grateful to take receipt of them.

I also welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. He will be aware of a recent meeting that I had with him and an agency called Christian Blind Mission, which works in the field of preventive procedures against blindness and child poverty right across the developing world. Does he agree that organisations such as CBM and others in the UK deliver the value for money that he mentioned in his statement?

As I shared with the hon. Gentleman when I met him and a representative of CBM, I think my ancestors would cry out if I did not pay tribute to such organisations, given that both my grandfather and grandmother were medical missionaries. We are fully aware of the contribution that organisations such as CBM have made over many years to tackling the scourge of blindness in the developing world.

I also shared with the hon. Gentleman the recent experience that I had on the Thai-Burma border, where a Scottish surgeon, using his holidays from work as an NHS surgeon in Aberdeen, had flown out and people had walked across the border from Burma to receive free treatment at a hospital on the border. I hugely admire the work of not just CBM but many other committed people of conscience and good will in this field. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to take forward our dialogue with that organisation.

I warmly welcome the White Paper, with one caveat, which perhaps the Secretary of State’s grandparents would agree with. Malaria is killing millions of people, particularly children under five, in sub-Saharan Africa, yet it is not one of the key priorities such as climate change and conflict. Will he look again at that and ensure that we do nothing to threaten the funding for malaria research and prevention, and indeed consider increasing it? That is one of the key ways in which we can help the world.

I should correct the hon. Gentleman. I emphasised in my remarks the fact that we are taking forward our spending on malaria. I am glad to say that we will be increasing the number of treated bed nets that we were committed to prior to the White Paper, because I have seen for myself in developing countries, and our experts have seen, case after case in which insecticide-treated malarial bed nets can make a huge difference to the rate of infection and reinfection. That is why I made a judgment that we should not end our commitment at 2010 but take it forward thereafter, and I am proud to reiterate that today.