Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill (First sitting)
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: Joan Ryan, †Mr Gary Streeter
Boswell, Philip (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)
† Bruce, Fiona (Congleton) (Con)
† Doughty, Stephen (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
† Duddridge, James (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)
† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab/Co-op)
† Fuller, Richard (Bedford) (Con)
† Grady, Patrick (Glasgow North) (SNP)
† Graham, Richard (Gloucester) (Con)
† Griffiths, Andrew (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
† Hussain, Imran (Bradford East) (Lab)
† Lefroy, Jeremy (Stafford) (Con)
† McGovern, Alison (Wirral South) (Lab)
† Osamor, Kate (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)
† Scully, Paul (Sutton and Cheam) (Con)
† Stewart, Rory (Minister of State, Department for International Development)
† Tolhurst, Kelly (Rochester and Strood) (Con)
Colin Lee, Glenn McKee, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Rory Stewart MP OBE, Minister of State, Department for International Development
David Kennedy, Director General for Economic Development, Department for International Development
Diana Noble, Chief Executive Officer, CDC Group
Graham Wrigley, Chairman, CDC Group
Tom McDonald, Director Department for International Development Value for Money, National Audit Office
Terry Caulfield, Value for Money Manager, National Audit Office
Gideon Rabinowitz, Development Finance, Oxfam GB
Sir Paul Collier CBE, Professor of Economics, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Saranel Benjamin, International Programmes Director, War on Want
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 6 December 2016
[Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair]
Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill
This is quite an unusual procedure for those who are not used to it. We are now sitting in public and our proceedings are being broadcast. Before we begin, I have a number of preliminary announcements. Please make sure that mobile phones are switched off or to silent. Tea and coffee are not allowed; please help yourself to water. We will first consider the programme motion. In accordance with my normal practice, we will start with the shadow Secretary of State, and then we will listen to whoever indicates that they wish to speak. We do not need to allocate questions. Is everybody happy with that? Yes? Excellent. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication. In view of the time available, I hope that we can take these matters formally without debate.
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 6 December) meet—
(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 6 December;
(b) at 11.30 am on Thursday 8 December;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:
Tuesday 6 December
Until no later
than 10.30 am
Department for International
Development; CDC Group plc
Tuesday 6 December
Until no later
than 11.25 am
National Audit Office; War on
Want; Oxfam; Sir Paul Collier,
Blavatnik School of Government,
University of Oxford
(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 1.00 pm on Thursday 8 December.—(Rory Stewart.)
I can announce that the deadline for amendments to be considered for line by line Committee sittings has passed. I hope everyone got them in on time.
That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Rory Stewart.)
Examination of witnesses
Diana Noble, Graham Wrigley, Rory Stewart and David Kennedy gave evidence.
Do any members of the Committee wish to make declarations of interest? No? Good. We will now hear oral evidence from the Minister and from the chair and chief executive of the CDC. Before calling the first member to ask a question, I would like to remind all members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill, and we must stick to the timings in the programme motion agreed by the Committee. We have until 10.30 am for this session. Could the witnesses introduce themselves for the record?
Diana Noble: I am Diana Noble and I am the Chief Executive of CDC.
Graham Wrigley: I am Graham Wrigley and I am the chairman of CDC.
Rory Stewart: I am Rory Stewart and I am the Minister of State, Department for International Development.
David Kennedy: I am David Kennedy and I am the director general for economic development at DFID.
Good morning. CDC’s operational policy published in March 2014 on the payment of taxes and the use of offshore financial centres dictates that CDC would invest through a jurisdiction that is not successfully participating in the Global Forum only in exceptional cases. What would be the exceptional cases in which it would use these jurisdictions?
Diana Noble: Let me first say that CDC’s use of OFCs has nothing to do with secrecy or reducing tax. We take pride in the payment of corporation tax by our portfolio companies in the countries where we invest— it is one of our development indicators. We use OFCs for two important reasons. One is for legal certainty; the other is to pool capital in neutral places. Let me explain both of those. CDC’s mission is to invest and grow businesses in some of the poorest companies in the world. Unfortunately, many of those places do not have legal systems that allow us to invest with certainty that, if there is a dispute, we will be able to get our money back. Of course, one of our big areas of responsibility is to look after UK taxpayers’ money: that is part of our mandate. So unfortunately, for some places where we invest we have to go through an offshore structure.
The second point is that we have a very important mission to pool capital from other investors to come in alongside us into difficult countries. This is an enormously important role. If we look at CDC’s investments from 2004 until now, we have supported fund of funds that total $30 billion in Africa and south Asia, of which CDC has only provided $5 billion—so that is $25 billion from other investors. Those investors come from lots of different jurisdictions themselves, so the capital does have to be pooled somewhere. Those investors, who are already cautious about the countries in which the investments are being made, have a lower risk tolerance than CDC does, for legal certainty; so they insist on a safe jurisdiction. We, however, do play our role, because we insist that that pooling is done in the best, or the most compliant, of the offshore centres in the OECD register.
Do we think that the situation is ideal? We don’t. We look forward to the day when every country where we invest has a safe legal regulatory system, where we can invest directly in every single country; but that is not the case today. What we have done, though, is encourage an important project that we have been working with DFID on, to examine the possibility of an onshore centre in Africa. That work has led to the Governments of Kenya and Rwanda taking this very seriously. It would be a very long-term project, but we are very keen that it gets progressed over time.
Q How many offshore jurisdictions do you currently use?
Diana Noble: It is a short list. We can provide absolute clarity about exactly how many, subsequent to this Committee. On the list are certainly Mauritius, which is well accepted as a place for pooling capital, particularly for Africa and south Asia; Guernsey; and Cayman Islands.
Rory Stewart: I have the list: at the moment, it is Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Luxembourg and Mauritius.
Kate Osamor—are you happy?
Q I apologise, Mr Streeter, for being slightly late. Graham, can I ask you a little about the potential for the CDC to attract investment from other investors? Diana was just talking about the fund of funds drawing funds in, but at the top level of the CDC are there opportunities to get sovereign wealth or other enlightened investors, perhaps high net worth individuals, to put their money alongside the increasing capital of the CDC?
Graham Wrigley: That is an interesting question. The other day someone asked us whether it would be possible to turn the CDC into an ISA or a PEP. Looking at how other DFIs are funded, the IFC has created a vehicle whereby people have invested alongside the IFC; the FMO is owned partly by some banks as well as—
Q Do you want to explain some of those acronyms for the record?
Graham Wrigley: Yes. I am sorry. The IFC, which is the International Finance Corporation and is part of the World Bank, has created a programme called the AMC, which has mobilised other capital. The FMO is the Dutch equivalent of the CDC and it is partly owned by some banks. The CDC’s business model, though, is one whereby we are 100% owned by the UK Government, and that is how we see ourselves. We see ourselves as we are, as the world’s oldest development finance institution.
We have mobilised other capital mostly through the fund structures, and we are now looking at permanent capital vehicles whereby we will get investors who are interested at the project level. It has not been on our agenda for the past five years to look at raising capital at the CDC level because, as I said, we see ourselves as 100% owned—
Q Are you open to putting that on your agenda? If the British taxpayer is being asked to put more money in—Diana was talking about how well we are leveraging in at the project level—surely we should have a strategy. Loads of people, not only in the UK but around the world, may be willing to put their money alongside the expertise of the CDC, so will you look at that?
Rory Stewart: May I come in on that? Technically that would be a call for the Department for International Development rather than for the CDC, and it would be set out in the five-year forward business strategy produced at the end of this year. It is certainly something we can consider. Among the things that we would have to consider is the fact that we are driving the CDC very hard to make high-risk investments in some of the most difficult countries in the world. We have dropped our expectation of the level of financial return because our primary objective is development, so the type of investor who would co-invest with the CDC would have to be a specialised one, engaged, essentially, in some form of philanthropic investing. But we can certainly look at that.
Q I am intrigued by Mr Wrigley’s suggestion about an ISA or a PEP, which are much more about individual investors. Every day on the television we see requests for people to put money—£2 a week, £3 a week—into those sorts of things. There is a tremendous interest in this country in development work, and pride in the public support for it. Would you be interested, Minister, in taking up the indication from Mr Wrigley about an ISA/PEP model to galvanise individuals in this country to put some of their money alongside the CDC?
Graham Wrigley: May I be clear that that was not my suggestion? The CDC, as the Minister said, provides incredibly high-risk, development-driven, impact investment in the hardest countries in the world, and it is the last place I would recommend anyone put their pension—
Thank you. We will move on. Alison McGovern.
Q I have two questions. The first is for the CDC—I do not mind if you answer, Diana, or if Graham does—and the second is for the Minister.
The first question is on crowding in versus crowding out. What is your measure for additionality? Can you tell me numerically what the test is? How do you know for sure that you are not doing what the private sector would do anyway, and how numerically do you know that projects and funds are meeting that test?
Secondly, the Bill proposes an incredible level of freedom on investing in the CDC. Why is the cap so high? Why are we expressing such a high level of confidence in CDC, as opposed to any other aid mechanism?
Diana Noble: I am happy to take the first question. It is a very important question that has been extremely high on the agenda of the board and the management team over the past five years.
We felt back in 2012 that this had not been taken seriously enough by the CDC pre-2012. We engaged an extremely experienced person—ex IFC—to look at the whole area of additionality for us. He wrote a long report and went to talk to all the other DFIs as well. Our guidance to him was, “We want CDC to have the highest standards of additionality across all the DFIs.” This is a difficult area. He has written a long report and I would be very happy to share it with Committee members.
The report led to some broad principles that say that CDC completely understands that we must play a unique role in every investment that we make. This is not generic across a portfolio; this is a standard that the investment committee applies for each investment that we make. We must be satisfied that our unique role is either that we are bringing capital that another investor will not bring or that we are bringing some unique expertise that is important and will lead to a material improvement that another investor will not bring. We take that incredibly seriously.
The team of CDC has no interest in doing what the private sector will already do. We take real pride in being distinctive and bringing something special to our investing companies.
Q May I briefly follow up on that? You say that either there is not another investor, which is clear, or that we need to bring some unique experience. What does that really mean? That seems to me like a catch-all.
Rory Stewart: The primary measure that has been set by the Department is the development impact grid, which defines what the most difficult countries are in which to invest. It looks at three criteria—GDP per capita, the amount of capital available and the difficulty of doing business. The last two help us from a strategic level to answer your question. I will hand back to Diana.
Diana Noble: You are right. It is at the point of investment that we say we are bringing expertise to a company. That is a forward look. It would typically be environmental and social issues. For example, we worked with an online retailer in India to transform how they thought about their supply chain and to sign them up to the ethical trading initiative, which was the first time that any online retailer in India had done that.
Of course, we are saying that at the point of the investment. We do not know whether it is going to happen. What we have done—again, we are the first DFI to do this—is implement an external objective review of every case, in which we only justify it on this additional expertise, not on capital. We had our first report back that said that in all of those cases—they are a minority—we did in fact actually deliver and in a lot of cases we delivered more than we expected at the time of the investment committee. I agree with you that none of us should be justifying an investment on an expectation that does not happen.
Rory Stewart: The answer to the second question is that over a five-year period we are looking at a ceiling option on the basis of a business case of CDC being able to draw down up to £4.5 billion. That is a very large sum of taxpayers’ money and we need to be very responsible about it. It is also worth putting that in context. The overall annual expenditure is estimated at £12 billion. To put that £1 billion in context, in a single year we would typically put something in the region of £5 billion into multilateral institutions. To illustrate that what we are putting into CDC is not out of proportion to other comparable investments, the type of funding we produced for the World Bank over the last three-year period was £3.3 billion. We are about to do another replenishment, but it is of that order.
Why are we putting it into CDC? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that we believe CDC is a very effective vehicle for delivering jobs and economic development in some of the hardest places in the world. The second thing, contextually, is that there is a difficult issue, to which we can return, of comparing a stock with a flow—in other words, comparing what will be a capital fund for CDC with the annual expenditure of the Department—but even at 8% we are likely to be significantly lower than the amount of money that Germany or France, for example, put into their equivalents.
A quick follow-up.
Q Minister, you mentioned the index that is designed to drive investment to the poorest parts of the world, yet we have heard about investment in online retail in India. My understanding was that the Government’s policy is to move investment away from middle income countries, or countries towards the middle income range, such as India. How can the two approaches fit together? It makes no sense.
Rory Stewart: In the grid, we break India down by state and target the poorest states. There is a transition in India. You are absolutely right that the Government have decided to move away from traditional development grants and into technical assistance and the kind of financing that CDC would produce. We do two things in an Indian context: we target the poorest states and, specifically on the question of the online retailer, we are able to do things in India that we might not be able to do in some of the more testing, difficult markets. With that particular online retailer we are also able to focus on driving up labour standards and making sure that skills and worker safety are protected. It is worth bearing it in mind that India, despite all its very strong economic performance, still has some of the very poorest areas in the world. Enormous numbers of people are on less than $2 a day, and many are on less than $1 a day.
Q I would like to probe a little more on the specifics of the hard figures in the Bill—the £6 billion and the ultimate cap of £12 billion. Where do those numbers come from? What was the needs assessment that these are about the amounts of money that the Department feels CDC needs? Was there dialogue between the Department and CDC to reach those amounts? Why go for such hard figures, rather than some kind of proportional formula? Is there any indication of a timescale in which these amounts might eventually be reached?
Rory Stewart: It is a question of setting a ceiling. We welcome this, but it is quite unusual in the Department’s spending to have to go through primary legislation in order to make a financial allocation. I mentioned to Ms McGovern that, in a three-year period, we would allocate, say, £3.3 billion to the World Bank. We do not do that through primary legislation. This Bill attempts to give the Department the ability to do what we do with the rest of our budget, which is to make decisions on the basis of ministerial decisions, accountability to Parliament and strategic decision making. Specifically in relation to CDC, we would like the ability, should a business case emerge, to give it more money without having to come back to Parliament with primary legislation every time we wished to do so.
Where was the figure arrived at? Well, the figure was arrived at after a discussion with CDC about the maximum possible amount it could realistically require over the period, which takes into account its staff resources, the demand in the developing world and its past spend. If you look at CDC’s last round, it put about £1.2 billion through in a year, of which £735 million was a recapitalisation from the Government.
Looking forward over the next five years—2016 to 2021—this would allow them to draw down something of the order of £1 billion a year. In effect, it is only £4.5 billion because of that £6 billion they already have £1.5 billion. On the next bit of what they take in the future, if I’m honest with the Committee, my preference would have been to say, for the reasons and principles I laid out in relation to our other spend—our investment to the World Bank—that Ministers could come back through secondary legislation. A statutory instrument is how I just did a £350 million addition to the World Bank. I think you were on that Committee, Mr Grady. That would be the process we would hope to do with CDC.
My preference would have been to just give Ministers the power to go to a Statutory Instrument Committee to ask for that money, but the Clerks of the House advised us that it would be better to set a financial limit to that power, so we chose for the period 2021 to 2026 the same amount we chose for 2016 to 2021. That is how that figure is arrived at.
Q Just to build on the point made by Mr Grady in his question to the Minister, I listened to the answer, but in the absence of a business case strategy or investment policy I am finding it difficult to understand how we can arrive at those specific figures because there is nothing to suggest how that money will be spent.
Secondly, does CDC have the capacity, given the totality of its lifetime spend of £1.5 billion? Such a massive increase would be an issue. Another question, probably to the Minister, is around the point made earlier by Ms McGovern and the areas where we have availability of private sector financing. Is there any idea of where the new strategy or investment policy will go with that? I take on board the example used—India. I accept that India has pockets of poverty, but in comparison private sector financing is more readily available perhaps than for other target areas.
Rory Stewart: Those are three very good questions around the business case, capacity and private sector financing. I will take them one by one.
The idea of this proposal—the primary legislation—is to provide an indicative ceiling around which a business case can be organised. Within the Department, we would expect to produce a business case and to have some sense of what money would be available. Currently, there would be no money available so it would not be possible at the moment for anyone to write, as the Department would hope, the forward strategy for future investment or produce a business case, which we hope to do in the summer of next year because Parliament would not have given us permission to give any more money to CDC.
Bluntly, if the Committee decided not to pass this legislation, CDC would have to start reducing staff and we would have to scale down significantly the future programme of investments because there would simply be no money legally available to CDC and there would be no purpose in producing a business case in the summer for future investment because that money has already been allocated. So we believe it is important to get your permission in principle for a seemly amount that we could give CDC should a business case be produced to meet it. That brings me to the second question.
I will hand over to Graham and Diane in a second, but I am absolutely certain that the board of CDC and its chief executive will not request the money from us if they do not feel they have the capacity to spend it and if market demand does not exist for that expenditure. They are under a strong obligation to their board to make sure they take this money responsibly, so even in a case in which DFID does its business through consultation with CDC and we decided, for the sake of argument, that a reasonable sum of money going forward over a five-year period was, let us say, £3 billion—I chose £3 billion because the £4.5 billion is a ceiling and we are not saying we will take that. That is what this business case is about. So let’s say it was £3 billion. They would then effectively be able to draw down on a promissory note, effectively. The Department would be saying, “You can draw down that money over a five-year period.” CDC would then have to come up with individual proposals—“Here is a solar programme in Burundi that we think is worth investing in”—and draw down the money from us. I do not want to speak for CDC, but it would certainly not be drawing down money if it did not feel that it had the resources to spend it responsibly.
That brings me to the third question of private sector financing and to Ms McGovern’s question. We are absolutely clear that we do not want to be in the business of crowding out private sector finance. One of the really good criticisms made of CDC in the National Audit Office report, the Public Accounts Committee report and the ICDC report was that it was doing exactly that, for example by making investments in coastal China. We stopped those things from 2012 onwards. The investments that we are now talking about in India are in places such as Bihar or the poorest bits of Uttar Pradesh, where the business environment is very difficult and very little capital is going in. We are also making sure that the grid is followed absolutely with every investment, so that we are not falling into that trap.
Graham Wrigley: This very important question is about how CDC and the shareholder respond to what we think is the very clear need for long-term, patient, impact-driven and additional capital in low-income countries, and about how we do that in a responsible and thoughtful way. We fully understand that this will be a very significant step in CDC’s history, but from our perspective, having worked on this for the last five years, this is evolution, rather than revolution as it might look from the outside.
Let me explain why. If we go back to 2012, when an entirely new mandate was created, a new team was empowered to go off and explore and see what would happen. At that time, the projections showed that if things went well, more capital would be required. That is precisely what happened, and it led to the recapitalisation in 2015. As the Minister has just said, we structured that recapitalisation such that the money could be drawn down if and when there was the market demand. Indeed, it was only this week that the first promissory note for that recapitalisation was called.
Going into the next five years, the team has now been established. It was 40 people back in 2012; we are now at 220. The commitment rates have gone up. We believe that the market need in our markets is growing, and for the last year we have also been working with the Department on a series of potential new programmes focused on high risk and on unlocking new forms of development impact.
The quantum and timing of any capital given to CDC will depend on two things: first, the shareholder making its decision about how CDC stacks up against other opportunities—the opportunity cost was debated in Parliament last week; and secondly, the view from CDC. As chair of CDC, I feel deeply responsible for making sure that any capital that we call is allocated for the purpose of development impact, and that our teams can execute that responsibly. That is the context for where we are now and for the Bill. We see this as a long-term discussion about the shareholding of CDC. CDC has to perform it for the purpose of development impact, which I promise you is what drives everybody who works in CDC.
Rory Stewart: Just to confirm, Graham, am I right that you are formally saying to the Committee that you would not draw down this money if you did not feel that you could spend it responsibly and have the resources to do that?
Graham Wrigley: No, we would not do that.
That well known Labour Member, James Duddridge.
Q Thank you, Mr Streeter. I should have taken the opportunity to draw the Committee’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests; my apologies that I did not do so earlier.
I have two questions, Minister. First, going back to the cap, I wonder whether the Bill is future-proof. I think that we will pass the Bill—it will become an Act—there will be successful drawdown up to 2020 and 2025, and quite possibly at that point you will have to come back to the House to ask for more money. Can you go into a little more detail as to why the Clerks did not advise that? Recently, we have had the multilateral and bilateral review, and that does not get anywhere near the same scrutiny as this relatively, proportionately, smaller amount of money.
Rory Stewart: I think the argument from the Clerks is that Parliament does not like the idea of granting blank cheques, and I can completely understand why you would want to bring us back. Again, this was simply an attempt to get an in-principle agreement that in changing the way in which the CDC was funded, we would move to secondary legislation, but I can completely understand why you would want to put a cap on that, and we have accepted that; we are happy to take that.
Q This is my second question. As I said, I think that the Bill will be passed, but if it is not and we accept as a Committee the need to put more money into economic development and jobs, what capacity would DFID have to spend the same volume of money? Is there an alternative? During Second Reading, there was a lot of talk about the opportunity cost of giving this money to the CDC. What else could DFID do with the money?
Rory Stewart: The key thing is that this is within our economic development portfolio, which is less than 20% of our spend, so it is about moving money from, essentially, David Kennedy’s part of the Department—within different programmes in his part of the Department. The intention is not to move large sums of money from our humanitarian activity, health activity or education activity. It is a different modality for economic development.
What alternatives might we have were you as a Committee to decide not to approve this legislation? We could, for example, give more money, through the World Bank, to the IFC. We could use a different form of DFI, which was not the CDC, and the World Bank could theoretically spend that money. That would not require primary legislation; it would require my going to you with a statutory instrument in the normal way we give money. Alternatively, we could spend the money, as we have done in the past, on technical assistance. That is a normal part of economic development activity. There are also various forms of livelihood programming that we have done in parts of the world. However, we believe that the CDC is a really good institution; we think that it is in many ways better than the other development finance institutions that we could look at as alternatives if you did not wish to go with the CDC. That is why we strongly suggest that we put the money into the CDC.
Q Over the years since the inception of the Commonwealth Development Corporation in 1948, the Government’s approach to it has fluctuated considerably. In the 1980s it was doing, on a smaller scale, broadly what Graham and Diana are now doing—direct investment—but then there was pressure to separate out and effectively privatise the private equity or venture capital element of it. With 0.7% of GNI going to DFID, you can take a longer, more strategic approach to the CDC, but the effective tensions, potential tensions, between ODA objectives, taxpayer return on equity and pursuing aid goals but not investing in things that might be done by the private sector otherwise, remain and arguably will be more in the public eye as the CDC expands. How will you balance those, and what is the longer-term strategy, in your view, for the future of the CDC?
Rory Stewart: It is a very good question. You are absolutely right: since 1948, the CDC has been through changes. I think that is because it was a very bold and imaginative move by the Attlee Government. It was a very unusual thing at the time; indeed, it was the first DFI. And from the moment that they were invented, DFIs have had to tread a thin line between two quite different things: a private sector modality—a desire to generate a commercial return—and a public developmental objective. A lot of the shifts you mention are about the pendulum swinging back and forth between these two types of objective.
Looking at the history of CDC, there have been times, in the 1980s for example, when CDC made a lot of very bold, risky investments in high development impact and lost money. It did not succeed in making money. There have been other times, under other leaderships—and this was true in the period criticised by the NAO, in the 2000s—when they went to the other extreme. We had a situation in which, during that period, CDC managed to generate £1.5 billion of profit—profit for the UK taxpayer, profit that is put back into the CDC and reinvested, but they were very high rates of return, largely achieved through the fund of funds strategy.
Now, we are using this piece of primary legislation, this discussion of the Committee and also the UK aid strategy and the CDC strategy being undertaken at the end of this year, to provide a much tighter definition of the key characteristics that take us forward. That is, philosophically, that the DFIs work when you get that balance right. The balance is right where the private sector element gives you the commercial discipline to make sure the investments you are making are genuinely sustainable, that they are going to keep those jobs and deliver revenue to the Government and value for money for the taxpayer. However, that has to be balanced with the public objective, which is the ability to make very patient long-term investment, to take a certain degree of risk and to pursue developmental impact. That is why we have put out this grid where, on the X axis and Y axis, we measure with every single investment how much capital is available, how hard the business environment is, how low the GDP capture is on both axes and whether the sector is likely to create jobs. That is also why we brought in Harvard University last year to review this and why we are now going through a 15-year longitudinal study to try and establish this.
I think we are getting better at this, but your warning, Mr Graham, is a good one and everything we are doing in our strategy, our metrics and our measurement is to ensure that we are not back in a world where this pendulum is swinging back and forwards all the while.
Just before Mr Graham comes in again, five other colleagues have caught my eye and we must finish this session at 10.30 am, so we are going to have to speed up a little bit.
Q May I follow up very briefly on three specific points? First, if having private sector expertise in CDC helps it focus on the commercial return element, sustainable investments and so on, which I totally accept, would a partial flotation at some stage not both achieve Richard Fuller’s earlier point—I think it was Richard Fuller who mentioned it—on bringing private money into the CDC, that is, the Government acting as a catalyst to bring money with it, on the one hand, while on the other, assure those people in the private sector that it was not the Government competing against them?
The Centre for Global Development called for the CDC to
“do as much as possible to demonstrate that it’s investing in projects that create jobs and growth which would not otherwise happen.”
Is that an impossible ask?
The last point is on the geographic eligibility. At the moment, you can invest in 63 countries, which is considerably more than the Commonwealth. What about Palestine or the middle east?
Rory Stewart: Okay, here we go.
As briefly as you can, please.
Rory Stewart: Those were three very complicated questions, but I will try to deal with them very quickly. No. 1, the reason why a partial flotation would be difficult is that the returns we generate are deliberately low. We are only at about 3% return because we want to have a developmental impact. It would also have a significant impact on our governance arrangements, as we are currently a 100% shareholder.
The second question—is it an impossible ask? No, we do not feel it is an impossible ask. It is tough, but if you look at our investments in solar power around Burundi and CAR, that is a really good example of something that is extremely unlikely to have been done by a normal commercial investor. These are high-risk investments, generating a relatively low return. We are only able to do it because we are a DFI with that patient long-term investment policy.
The third question? I am so sorry, Mr Graham.
Q Sixty-three countries at the moment. What about Palestine, for example?
Rory Stewart: This very interesting discussion has gone back and forth. As you are aware, the International Development Committee asked CDC to look strongly at investment to deal with the crisis around Syria and at what we can do to help bring stability to the middle east, for example. At the same time, other members of the IDC tabled amendments to the Bill that would not only take us out of middle-income countries in the middle east but would restrict investment to the countries with which DFID has bilateral programmes. My gut instinct is that that is an issue not for primary legislation but for Departments to address through their strategy in response to a changing world.
Q I apologise for my late arrival. I was hosting a general from the British Army. Minister, I want to ask a very specific question about where these figures come from. I want to probe you further on them. You answered a written question from me yesterday—for Hansard, it is 55702—and said that the only capital requests that you received from CDC were for the £735 million. You said that you have not had any others. Can you be clear about whether CDC has requested capital increases to you beyond the £735 million?
Rory Stewart: The process is threefold. We will seek permission from Parliament to be able to recapitalise CDC. We want to know whether you are prepared to allow us to give any more money to CDC—£1, £10, £1 billion or £6 billion. We are looking for the option to give it more money. Then we will produce the five-year forward strategy for CDC, which will come together at the end of the year. Then we will produce a business case in the summer to lay out what we believe, in consultation with CDC, its likely requirements are in order to prepare our promissory notes. The final stage is that CDC will make a request on the basis of the projects it has. That is exactly what we have done with the £735 million.
We have discussed the ceiling that we are proposing to you in detail with Graham and Diana. At this early stage, they believe it is a reasonable maximum limit for the amount that they could conceivably need between 2016 and 2021.
Q Okay. May I ask you a separate question? A minute ago, you said that CDC’s support to India is targeted at the poorest states, but you told me yesterday in a written parliamentary answer—55689—that the majority of new disbursements are still going to the richer states in India. In fact, the top disbursement is to Maharashtra, which is where Mumbai is located. You told me that 42%—that is only this year; it has been going up steadily—goes to the poorest, but the majority goes to the richest. Can you explain why that is, and do you want to clarify what you said earlier?
Rory Stewart: My understanding of what is happening there is that every business case in India needs to be scored against our development impact grid. To achieve the score that we are looking for—I believe it is a 2.3 score, and we are generally crossing 3.0—we have to reconcile on the X and Y axes the number of jobs that would be created through the investment. In other words, we focus on the sector, then on GDP per capita, which is broken down by state, then on the difficulty of investment, and then on the amount of available capital. Any investments, even in the wealthier states in India, will have gone through that grid.
Q But the majority is not going to the poorest states. Is that correct?
Rory Stewart: Let me hand over to Diana on this.
Diana Noble: Can I explain our strategy? In a lot of cases, when you want to help poor countries, it is better to back businesses that exist elsewhere and encourage them to expand into those countries. Therefore, a lot of our investment is about the vision that we can create through these investments.
Let me illustrate that with a quick example. Last year, we invested in a mid-size Indian bank—RBL. The vision was to help it expand its business into rural areas, to the rural poor and into poorer states. That is, as I am sure you know, a big priority for the Modi Government. CDC did not just provide capital to RBL; we also helped it with expanding financial literacy training to 25,000 really poor women in Madhya Pradesh to explain to them how they can benefit from savings accounts and bank accounts. There are already results from that. RBL now has 1.9 million new customers in the rural and poorer areas. We are evaluating that by doing a random sample of loans to understand how that translates into new jobs as well. That is a really good example of our having a partnership with a high-quality operator, going to poorer places, helping them and sharing the results.
Rory Stewart: I did not answer your question directly. The answer at the moment is that, from our portfolio, 42% of the investment in India goes into the poorer states. The rest—the remaining 58%—does not go into the poorer states, but into states where we believe the business will benefit the people in India who are in need. Many of those investments are intended to be regional investments, so we may invest in a bank, for example, that is not located in one of the poorer states, in order to benefit ultimately the people in the poorer states.
The best way to evaluate such decisions is by looking at the individual investment and giving us an opportunity to discuss with you the individual company in which we have invested, so that we can discuss our theory of change. It is difficult to decide whether to make a regional investment to help the poorer states or whether to go straight to the poorer states. I think we should be accountable and talk to you about those individual investments so that we can explain why we have a theory of change and investment in a particular company.
We need to move on.
Q I would like to ask Diana about job creation. You say that one of CDC’s key strategic aims is to achieve development impact focused on job creation. How do you measure jobs that are created directly and indirectly? Last week, the National Audit Office said in its report that progress on measuring job quality has been slow. How are you working on that? How are you measuring productivity, quality of jobs and income levels?
Diana Noble: As you rightly point out, we focus on jobs because we believe a job is the first and the best step out of poverty. I think everyone on the Committee understands the difference that a job makes to someone in a poor country: to them and to their family. When we talk to workers it is clear that they also use the income particularly to educate their children, so it has a benefit for future generations. How do we measure job creation? This is something that we take very seriously. Two years ago, in partnership with some academics, we put in place a way to measure job creation across the whole of the Africa and south Asia portfolio.
We are the first DFI to collect data from all our portfolio companies. We do not just collect headcount data; we also collect revenues, supply chain, purchases, work and wages as well. The academic uses that to calculate not just the direct job creation but the indirect job creation. As you can imagine, some of our priority sectors, such as financial inclusion and particularly infrastructure and power, have a far greater job impact beyond the direct jobs. So we have now published the methodology on our website. We are going to go through a peer review process because we want it to become one of the industry standards. We have shown the data from that for two years now. We can start to compare and contrast it. It shows that the portfolio has created over 1 million jobs in the past two years. That is a number we take immense pride in.
You also rightly talked about job quality, because it is not just about volume. Quality has lots of different elements to it. What all of us sitting in this room might consider a good job is not necessarily so with the lens that you should use in the countries where we invest.
On job quality, before we make an investment, our fantastic environmental and social team go and sit down with the company and do due diligence on them. They say, “Are you up to standard, particularly in the areas of health and safety?” If they are not at the right standard, an action plan is agreed with management and put in place.
The second thing we do is collect data across the portfolio on fatalities and serious accidents. We have been doing that since 2008. We have very rich data now and have been able to combine that and give training back to portfolio companies and fund managers about the areas that lead to fatalities and serious accidents. We think that gives huge added value to our portfolio.
We are going further than that. We are collecting information on lost time injury frequency, particularly for manufacturing and construction—places where workers are potentially put at harm. We are looking at staff retention for some of our larger investments, because we are advised that it has a big correlation with job quality. We are doing an evaluation in Bangladesh at the moment—everyone on the Committee will be aware of the issues in garment factories there—to try to understand what workers really want out of their jobs, so that we can build that in. There is a big element of learning. We are on a journey, and there is still a long way to go.
So we move on to Patrick Grady.
Q I want to press you a little bit more on some of the policy and decision making and the opportunities we have with the Bill. ODA has a clear definition, and the various international development Acts put in place a duty to achieve poverty reduction, but is that sufficient for CDC, as was? We have heard about these business cases and impact grids. All these are policy-level decisions. The 1999 Act does not mention poverty, impact or international development. So, why not take the opportunity with this legislation to do what some of the amendments are attempting to do, which is to make it clear that CDC would have a statutory duty to meet those objectives or, at the very least, to put some of these processes into the legislation? Would that not help to reduce the risk of backsliding, returning to the days of excesses and concerns—which, I accept, are in the past?
Rory Stewart: Mr Grady, broadly speaking we are in sympathy. We are very clear that we expect all investments made by this Department to aim at poverty alleviation and, to relate to one of your amendments, to reinforce the sustainable development goals. The particular space that CDC operates within is our economic development space. We believe that the correct way to respond effectively to a changing world, to allow Ministers and elected Governments to put their policies through, is through the process we have of setting strategy and governance. One thing I was pleased with in the NAO report was the praise it brought forward for our governance. Any money we give to CDC has to follow that test. That is the fundamental test applied, whether we are giving money to CDC, IFC or a UN agency, or whether it is any of the £5 billion a year of multilateral spending. The way in which we control it is through not primary legislation but Government strategy documents.
Graham Wrigley: May I add, from the CDC perspective, that we have developed some organisational principles and pillars that we have shared with the shareholder? They cover the following things. The first is that our purpose is development. That is why everybody at CDC is there—Diana, me and everybody else. Secondly, we are the world’s oldest DFI, set up by Clement Attlee, supported by both major parties over the decades and 100% owned by the UK shareholder. We are very proud of that fact.
We have to balance—a question was asked earlier about this—development impact and financial return. That creates perpetual paranoia about whether we get the right balance. We see our goal as meeting the needs, and Diane will give you an example of that in a sec—
She might not. We will draw things to a close now with two more quick questions.
Q Some new research by the House of Commons Library suggests that CDC’s new investments, as a proportion, to Africa are actually falling over the past few years, with a majority going to south Asia, largely to India. Are you satisfied with that, given the poverty focus that is supposed to exist?
Rory Stewart: These are all really good questions. Fundamentally, things will change year on year. We would expect that with an investment strategy, because these guys have to make very difficult decisions. The NAO has been very clear that it does not want DFID Ministers micromanaging or interfering in the individual business decisions of CDC. I hope you would agree with that: if we were in the business of signing off on every single investment CDC makes, it would become a political arm of the Government, where we could be directing it to how it invests.
We set the overall strategy and framework; we have taken CDC out of places like China and given it the freedom to invest in south Asia and Africa. We have agreed a development grid; we are conducting a lot of research on how that happens, but I think it is perfectly reasonable that over a period more investment one year might go into south Asia than Africa. I think the way that we deal with that is through the next strategy that we produce, continuing this process of tightening accountability, but I do not think it is appropriate for me to start vetoing individual investment decisions by the board.
Q In this session, Minister, you said that you do not yet have CDC’s strategy, which we knew. We have discussed the fact that there was not much clarity about investments in India and whether or not they were going to the poorest states. You have explained that you are expecting CDC to increase the risk of the investments it makes at the same time as you are radically increasing the amount of capital available to it. So just for clarity, which do you believe to be CDC’s greatest priority? Is it the reduction of poverty; or is it return on investment, so that the CDC has continuity of capital?
Rory Stewart: The priority of CDC has to be to do good without losing money. The point is not to lose money while doing good, so we are focused on jobs and economic development without losing money. That is the guiding principle that CDC follows in everything it does.
Rory Stewart: I am sorry; there was a strange comment coming from Mr Doughty who, when he is not texting, throws things from the chair. We believe very strongly that economic development and job creation are absolutely core activities in the elimination of poverty. The distinction that Mr Doughty is trying to draw between economic development, job creation and poverty alleviation is extremely unorthodox and it is not one that the chief economist of our Department, or indeed any of the officials of our Department, would accept.
Q I have a final question for the Minister. While the CDC has made some progress since 2011, as I have said in the Chamber, does he at least accept that there is room for improvement around a greater focus on poverty alleviation, around greater overview and scrutiny and avoiding tax havens and so on?
Rory Stewart: Yes, we need to continually improve. One reason why this debate is useful, and why the primary legislation is useful, is to shine a light on all this stuff. None of us is at all complacent. These things are very difficult. The DFI is the leader in the world, we believe, in terms of trying to measure things that are very difficult to measure—how to treat job creation and economic development in some of the toughest environments in the world. We can keep improving and you are absolutely right that those things you have mentioned are exactly the kinds of things that our new strategy will attempt to improve, including, for example, caps on the amount of investment that goes to India.
Thank you for getting that all done within time. We thank our expert witnesses and the Minister.
Examination of Witnesses
Sir Paul Collier, Tom McDonald, Terry Caulfield, Saranel Benjamin and Gideon Rabinowitz gave evidence.
That is perfectly in order. Thank you for clarifying that.
Greetings to our second panel. We are going to hear evidence from the National Audit Office, War on Want, Oxfam and Sir Paul Collier. Would you please give your names for the record?
Sir Paul Collier: I am Sir Paul Collier. I am professor of economics and public policy at Oxford University.
Tom McDonald: I am Tom McDonald. I am the National Audit Office director responsible for value for money audits of the Department for International Development.
Terry Caulfield: I am Terry Caulfield. I am an audit manager at the National Audit Office, responsible for our work on the Department for International Development.
Terry, you may need to speak up a little bit. We did not quite hear all of that. It is fine for now, but I mention it for future reference.
Saranel Benjamin: I am Saranel Benjamin. I am the international programmes director for War on Want.
Gideon Rabinowitz: I am Gideon Rabinowitz. I manage Oxfam GB’s work on development finance.
Q Thank you, panel. This question is for all panel members. Do you feel that CDC is sufficiently focused on poverty eradication in line with DFID’s outcomes?
Sir Paul Collier: In a word, yes. I have been working on Africa for 40 years and it has been frustrating, because Africa is still poor. This year, per capita GDP in Africa is falling. We have a quiet crisis of trying to rekindle African growth. There is no secret about what rekindling growth and getting out of poverty means: it means raising the productivity of ordinary people and we know how to do that. Raising the productivity of ordinary people is what proper firms do. They perform a miracle of productivity every day by bringing ordinary people together at scale and specialisation, and making them dramatically more productive than they would be as isolated individuals. Africa is desperately short of proper firms, and the public interest in getting proper firms to go to Africa is enormous. That is the underlying rationale for CDC, and that is what it is doing.
CDC went through a very poor patch with this fund of funds idea, which was a crazy idea. It now has really expert management. What CDC is doing, and what DFID is doing to support it, is absolutely standard. This is what International Development Association money, which is the collective, concessional money given by the world’s rich countries to the World Bank, is being devoted to. The transfer to the International Finance Corporation—[Interruption.] I will shut up.
Thank you, Sir Paul. Let us hear from Oxfam and War on Want.
Gideon Rabinowitz: Thank you for having us on this panel; we appreciate it. Oxfam recognises the importance of investing in economic development and the private sector as a fundamental part of our development efforts. Economic development needs to be a core part of what DFID and the British Government do with regard to aid. Our concern is to make sure that any aid funds that are invested in those causes really support the right types of jobs, growth and investment that reach the very poorest. The international community agreed at the UN that all development effort should be focused on reaching those left behind. That needs to be the prism through which we see this. Given that prism, we recognise that the reforms agreed in 2011 to CDC were a really important step forward. They focus CDC more on the poorest countries and strengthen its focus on looking at development impact and its investment standards, but we also think that that is the start of a journey that CDC needs to go on in the coming years to ensure that it is focused not only on DFID’s mission of development and poverty reduction, but on the international development community’s focus on leaving no one behind.
We want to note a number of areas where we think CDC can do more. The first point relates to its focus on the least developed countries. Only 12% of CDC’s investments currently go to the least developed countries—the most economically and socially vulnerable countries as measured by a comprehensive index by the UN. We have some questions about whether the sector focus is right. Agriculture, where the majority of the world’s poor make their livelihoods, accounts for only 5% of CDC’s investments at present. A decade and a half ago that figure was one third. There needs to be a re-engagement in sectors such as agriculture.
I am sure that those points will come out in further questions; this is becoming a bit of a statement.
Gideon Rabinowitz: I will be very brief. The final point is that, whatever new resourcing authority is given to the Government through the Bill, we want it to leverage a continued focus on ratcheting up CDC’s development performance on those issues.
Saranel Benjamin: War on Want’s position is that we believe that UK taxpayers’ money should not be given to private funds that are going to be investing in projects, because that is basically getting returns on poverty—off the backs of the poor. It makes us very uncomfortable that UK taxpayers’ money is being used for that purpose. However, as we heard from the first panel this morning, the percentage of projects in which CDC is investing in Africa has reduced significantly. We were talking about agriculture; we have moved away from projects that were supporting small-scale farmers to those supporting large-scale agribusiness. That is causing displacement of people whose lands are being taken away and it is also creating a loss of livelihoods. I wonder how that goes together with the whole question of poverty eradication, when we are actually perpetuating it. I will come back to that later and maybe talk about a case study that we are looking at.
Q I have a question to the National Audit Office. You have visited a number of CDC projects as part of your review, and you obviously saw some very positive examples in CDC’s portfolio. I think we discussed one in Sierra Leone, but you also visited a number of those in India—I believe it was Terry who visited those projects. Could you say a little bit about the projects that you visited, particularly with regard to the investment in healthcare? I know that CDC is investing in a lot of private healthcare in India, but not necessarily specifically in stuff that benefits poorer people—it is more a kind of general investment.
Terry Caulfield: Yes, we visited two healthcare facilities in Bangalore in India. One of them was perhaps more intended for middle-income families and one was more down the lower end. We came away with the feeling that they were doing a range of things. At the lower end, they were trying to provide maternity facilities for families who would not otherwise have access to them, perhaps for financial or educational reasons or because of other hurdles that they might have had to get over. In that particular case, they were looking to expand the facility in that location and then use that to expand further out. Against the backdrop of an understanding of how access to Indian healthcare works, they were coming in at a number of different levels. There is a diversity there.
Q You make a big point about the issue of prospective development impact and whether CDC can prove its impact. Were you concerned when you heard the earlier panel talking about investments in richer places that theoretically will lead to jobs for poorer people, as people perhaps move to cities and take advantage? Do you think that is a bit too hazy? Can you explain a bit more about where you felt the CDC could be doing better to demonstrate impact?
Tom McDonald: One of the things that struck me from the projects that I visited in Uganda and Kenya was the need for a portfolio approach. Some of the projects clearly will have more of a development impact, and some will clearly do better financially. Some of them are harder to measure than others, particularly if the investment is through a fund or an intermediary.
In the report we say that, despite Parliament having expressed some concerns in 2008 and 2009 about how CDC measures impact, CDC has still been a little slow to put together a comprehensive picture of the approach it would expect to take, together with DFID, to provide Parliament and the taxpayer with a good view of what impact looks like. I should say that we are not suggesting that there is some simple way of doing that. Measuring all the different indirect and direct effects of the investments is complicated. For example, to answer your question directly, there was a commitment in 2012 to put together a measure of what quality of employment would look like. It has not made much progress on that. It has plans in place to try to evaluate some of its major investments and to improve the impact reporting, but for us, it is about the pace and comprehensiveness of that reporting.
Q May I ask Sir Paul Collier a question in relation to the amount of capital that CDC has? There seems to be a view that CDC can absorb about £1 billion a year. Given your work on urbanisation and the vast amount of infrastructure investment that is needed, do you think that CDC could be challenged to spend much more on an annual basis or to ramp up to that point? That relates in particular to funding the urbanisation that Africa needs to attract the companies that you referred to earlier.
Sir Paul Collier: Africa is going through a rapid and very necessary urbanisation. Africa’s future is urban, but not all cities are environments in which ordinary people can be productive. You can have a mega-slum. At the moment in Dar es Salaam, the modal enterprise has one worker: scale zero, productivity zero, specialisation zero—doomed. Cities need to become platforms where proper firms can function. They need energy supplies and decent connectivity. That is what the infrastructure is there to do, basically: energy and connectivity. That is expensive.
Q CDC could spend £1 billion just in Dar es Salaam.
Sir Paul Collier: CDC needs to scale up and scale up fast. I am hesitant about tying it in knots trying to get precise measures for this and precautionary measures for that, when the reality is that there are no techniques out there. Everyone is trying to build better measures. The International Finance Corporation has just hired for the first time a chief economist at vice-president level, designed to do that. People are trying to develop techniques, but it is difficult. To my mind, CDC’s priority, now that it has got sound, motivated management, needs to be to scale up. The task ahead for Africa is to get both the infrastructure and the private firms in before it is too late.
Q Very briefly, obviously there is a massive need for capital in Africa, and the question is how we should spend UK taxpayers’ money. I would like to come back to you, Tom. As we heard in the previous session, we are asking CDC to take increased risks with quite a lot of increased capital, but we do not yet have its strategy. Do you think that that approach is probably the wrong way round?
Tom McDonald: There is a cart-and-horse problem here, is there not? One of the things that we saw in the 2015 recapitalisation business case was that the Department did go through a thorough process of assessing, in collaboration with CDC, the art of the possible. There are good foundations on which the Department can build.
One of our worries, which we set out in the report, is that CDC has to be comfortable that it can absorb this money in two ways. One is internally: does it have the capacity to grow, still be agile and make decisions in the way it has done in the past? That is its internal operating model, if you like. The other is whether it has access to all the opportunities for investment. Now that it is again in the business of direct investment, that requires a lot more effort from the teams that are putting together these deals. There needs to be a discussion between the two bodies over the remainder of the spending review period, or the Parliament, about whether DFID is clear about what it wants from CDC, where it wants CDC to operate, and the principles on which it wants it to work. From CDC’s perspective, can it cope with the volume of money and can it, in good faith, invest all that in a portfolio of deals that will still allow it to meet its targets?
Gideon Rabinowitz: I have a very quick point to follow up on that. As well as our mission to tackle the injustice of poverty around the world, we are very keen in our work and our engagement with the development community to push for adequate public scrutiny and trust in the work that the British Government and institutions such as CDC do. We think that needs to be central to this debate, so these are really good issues that we are discussing. The absence of this investment strategy is making it a little difficult to get a fuller perspective. There is clearly a dynamic situation around CDC. I have looked at the business case for the last capitalisation last year, which said,
“CDC has previously determined that given investment needs, it could productively deploy up to £1bn of additional capital.”
We heard from this morning’s witnesses that that situation seems to have changed. An additional point was made in the business case that, of the £735 million that DFID allocated to CDC last year, it would need to go beyond that only in 2019. It is a very fluid situation, and the lack of clarity over that investment strategy and how the situation on the ground with CDC is changing poses challenges. It is important to get that clarity.
Q A very quick question for you, Tom—probably a one-word answer. If I got you right earlier, you were calling for a more effective measurement of the quality of jobs generated by CDC. Do we have such a measurement in the UK?
Tom McDonald: A one-word answer would be no.
Q Thank you. Saranel, it is clear that you would not want to see any money going from the taxpayer to CDC that would mean either selling it or closing it down, or possibly both. How would that help DFID achieve its goals of supporting businesses and jobs in the developing world?
Saranel Benjamin: I think we differ in how we see development. However, the fact that CDC is operating without a strategy begs the question of what it is prioritising. Why would one prioritise private education or schools, or private healthcare, in countries where the majority of people are not getting access to that? How does that justify the better use of UK taxpayers’ money? I think the question was raised earlier about whether we are choosing poverty reduction or profit-making.
Q So you do not believe that creating jobs through business is a constructive way of meeting development aims?
Saranel Benjamin: I don’t think that that is the only thing that should be done in terms of development, but from CDC’s point of view, that seems to be not just about job creation, but about supporting projects that have absolutely nothing to do with poverty reduction. I cannot see how supporting top-level real estate in Kenya, for example, is about poverty reduction.
Q I just want to ask any panel member who might want to reflect on the levels of transparency in CDC and the opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny. I particularly want to ask the reps from War on Want and Oxfam how their transparency in reporting requirements from DFID have changed in recent years and whether they have any views on how they should apply to CDC.
Gideon Rabinowitz: Oxfam is a signatory to the international aid transparency initiative, which is the comprehensive aid transparency framework that is applied across the development community. The initiative was started and promoted by the UK Government, who have obviously played an important leveraging role in promoting transparency across the world.
We are ambitious implementers of IRT and in our dialogue with DFID right now, we are being encouraged to look at how we can apply those standards and the standards introduced by the initiative further down our supply chain with our local partners. It will be a challenge, but one that we shall pursue head on. Throughout the chain of delivery partners we work with, we will look at ways we can address those standards.
One of the questions we think it would be really useful for the Committee to think about is, how—whatever is agreed through the legislation—can we help to ratchet up the level of transparency of CDC? It has made progress, but the last time it was assessed against IRT standards, it scored “poor”. We have not seen a fundamental change in the level of information that is currently reporting, so it has some catching up to do. We hope this legislation can help.
Saranel Benjamin: That is a really good question, because while listening to everybody talking, I was thinking that when we have to apply to DFID for funding, there is absolutely no way we would get funding if we just went and said, “Can I have £500,000 and I will give you the strategy later?” That would never happen for the development sector.
It is a ridiculous comment.
Saranel Benjamin: No, DFID subjects the development sector to a number of processes involving deep scrutiny of all our work. It does not do that with CDC. The fact is that a case study such as Feronia, for example, can exist. Either CDC can say that it did not know that it was happening or DFID can say that it did not know that it was happening. It seems to me that there is a lack of oversight.
Q Can I ask Terry and Tom about value for money? How should CDC be scrutinised by the various bodies that will scrutinise it, assuming it gets this increased money—DFID, Parliament, the International Development Select Committee, ICAI and the Sub-Committee on the Select Committee, which I chair, which scrutinises ICAI? In view of the increased funding, how can we ensure that we scrutinise value for money effectively? What measurements should we be using?
Tom McDonald: That is a very good question. The first duty is with DFID as the shareholder. What we have seen of the reforms that have been put in place since 2012 is an increased volume of reporting from CDC back to the Department, characterised by a no-surprises policy. CDC is very clear that if it is thinking of undertaking something new or innovative it will consult with DFID first. Similarly, it will have quarterly shareholder meetings and with the shareholder produces a significant volume of information. These are all improvements from the previous regime that Members have talked about before and they help to mitigate the risk that CDC at some point in the future might engage in some of the poor behaviour that we saw previously.
That is the first line of defence in terms of scrutiny. Who else might do that? We will clearly continue to have an interest. We have been writing reports on CDC for at least 20 years. Obviously, it is up to Parliament how else it wishes to do that. The difficulty, as with other aspects of DFID’s spending, is following the money. We have this problem with multilateral expenditure. When DFID makes a payment to a CDC or a multilateral body, it is quite for us as the auditors to track that money through to the eventual point of impact. We have to be creative about it and find ways of doing that. It is not straightforward.
Q I am probing a little, if I may. You say that it is up to us how we do it, but you have just spent eight months looking at CDC day in and day out. I am seeking to glean the benefit of that detailed insight when the Independent Commission for Aid Impact and our Sub-Committee, which scrutinises it, looks at the issue. What should we be focusing on? Where should we be asking questions?
Tom McDonald: If you look at our value for money conclusion, we essentially divided it between, on one hand, the economy and efficiency with which CDC was being run and with which DFID was overseeing it, and the effectiveness of CDC. Looking at the first two e’s, we concluded that DFID’s oversight of CDC has improved considerably, and that CDC’s operating model is now pretty economic and efficient. It is a pretty good way for CDC to organise itself and spend the money that DFID has allocated to it.
On the subject of effectiveness, which we discussed at the beginning, this is clearly not an easy thing, but we still think there is more to do. There is more on which DFID could press CDC, and there is perhaps more on which Parliament could press both DFID and CDC to give a better picture of what CDC itself says is its ultimate objective: changing people’s lives, not just creating jobs.
Q Just a further question to Ms Benjamin from War on Want, to follow up from colleagues. I am slightly lost. Are you saying that you are principally against the development finance institution model—that would considerably weaken where I thought you were coming from—or are you concentrating on specific instances where you think the money was not spent well and most efficiently to target poverty alleviation? You gave the example of the Republic of the Congo. Can you elaborate on that and be more specific about where you are heading? I am slightly confused about where you are going with it.
Saranel Benjamin: As I said, we come from very different development backgrounds. For War on Want, a charity that works with partners in the global south, it is not about creating jobs; that is our approach. We are about supporting grassroots communities and organisations to allow them to envision the change that they want to see in their own countries. For me, when I see a private firm like CDC investing or looking for opportunities, I see it looking for an entry point for the UK to make a profit in the global south. For me, that is what it looks like. Given the use of tax havens, those countries are not really benefiting from what is being invested in those countries.
Again, look at the quality of jobs being created. Feronia in the DRC is one example. Workers are being paid less than $2 a day. Are you telling me that that is poverty reduction? Is that job creation? There is a dispute about the land on which Feronia operates; it is a 100-year-old land struggle. The largest investor in Feronia is CDC, which holds 67% of the investments owned in Feronia. The land dispute has been going on for a number of years, and communities have been displaced off that land. CDC claims that it is all legitimate, but it refuses to make the lease agreements or concessions publicly available. We have requested them from CDC, and have yet to have an acknowledgment that the email was received.
Are you happy with that answer, Imran?
Q Very quickly, for Tom McDonald and Sir Paul Collier, Saranel has just said that CDC exists for the UK to make a profit in the global south, and the countries are not really benefiting from those investments. Do you agree with that?
Tom McDonald: We did not assess the whole portfolio, in terms of the impact that it was having. We have to rely to some extent on the prospective assessment of impact that CDC is now doing on a regularised basis for all its investments. I honestly cannot give a yes or no answer as to the impact on the south.
Q Do you agree that the prime purpose of CDC is for the British Government to make a profit in the global south, and that our investments are not benefiting the people in those countries, which is Saranel’s claim?
Tom McDonald: From what we saw when we visited the projects in east Africa and India, there is a clear desire to benefit the people of those countries, as well as for CDC to achieve its own targets.
Well, just answer the question, if you will.
Sir Paul Collier: I am sorry. It is self-evident that the path out of poverty involves business. It is also self-evident that not enough modern business is going to these very poor countries. So it is a very strong public interest to use public money to try and encourage firms to go to areas where they are needed but where they will not make much money. That is the rationale for the whole of the development finance institution enterprises. Clearly, CDC is controlled by DFID; DFID is controlled by Parliament; and the objective of getting people out of poverty runs right through both organisations.
Q Just as a quick follow-up, Sir Paul, you have used the phrase “public risk capital”; would you expand a little bit on what you are saying about the need for public involvement?
Sir Paul Collier: Yes. These environments are risky environments, in which there are not great amounts of money to be made by private enterprise. That is why so few firms go there. So one of the purposes of public money is to bear some of the risk. I believe we should be prepared to lose some public money in incentivising firms to go to places where there is a public interest. Parliament has not, and DFID has not, authorised CDC to go that step—yet. I very much hope that that will happen. In the negotiations for the latest International Development Association round—IDA 18, which is being signed this month—the World Bank’s aid arm is authorised to lose money in International Finance Corporation investments, to get firms to go to places where there is big public interest. We are on a journey, and scaling up CDC is part of that journey.
Q Just on the issue of low-tax environments and tax havens, and their use by CDC, I am not sure if you were all present for the earlier evidence session, in which a question was asked about that, but essentially the point was that in a number of the locations in which CDC operates they do not have the financial infrastructure or probity to encourage either CDC or other investors around that. Do you think that CDC makes effective and good use of tax havens in its investing, and do you have any concerns about that?
Sir Paul Collier: I should say that I was instrumental in the British G8 trying to clamp down on secrecy havens and get the compulsory register of beneficial ownership, so I had a lot of fight to push this agenda forward. The use of the overseas territories for registering companies has a triple function: sometimes it is a tax haven, which is bad; sometimes it is a secrecy haven for banking, which is worse; and sometimes it is a neutral administrative centre for a lot of third-party investments. If a company from the middle east wants to invest, along with a company from India and a company from Singapore, along with CDC, they try to find a neutral territory.
I don’t think that is fair.
Q Specifically on this, Mr McDonald, you should have told the Committee right at the start, yes, you thought about it, but you didn’t think it of concern to look at in your inquiry, shouldn’t you?
Tom McDonald: When we start a value-for-money audit, we have to consider a huge number of issues. This was one of the ones that we considered at the beginning but didn’t undertake any detailed field work on. Apologies.
Was that your last question?
Q I have a follow-up question for Oxfam or War on Want. I do not agree with everything War on Want says, but a good point it made was about the differing standards that appear to be applied to the CDC as opposed to non-governmental organisations, other multilaterals and so on. The multilateral aid review is pretty robust on how we should deal with multilaterals—publish every item of spending over £500 and so on. Gideon, perhaps you could say a little more about where a double standard might be going on here in expectations.
Gideon Rabinowitz: I have made the point already: it is clear and on the record that the CDC has a bit of catching up to do on transparency. One of the reasons why it would be helpful for it to make progress on transparency is that everyone would then know a lot more about where it is investing, what it is investing in, what the justifications for those investments are, and why it thinks it is providing financial and value additionality in those investments. We would all be starting this debate from a different position if there was greater awareness of what the CDC was doing and how it is working.
The other point that we are keen to emphasise is that if there is some way in which the Bill can leverage that additional transparency to include encouragement of reporting around a wider range of development impacts and indicators to help secure our confidence that the CDC is focused on the right investments, that would be very valuable. The type of indicators that we have to report against in our programmes could be rolled out more broadly in some of those investments.
Q May I ask a separate point, Paul? You said, “Take more risk. Get in there. Get things done.” Are you not worried that the CDC’s profile appears to be declining in Africa and still heavily focused on middle-income countries? Looking at the projects in lower-income countries, there appears to be quite a lot of diversity, but do you think that they ought to be even more risky, more poverty-focused, or more focused on Africa than on, say, India?
Sir Paul Collier: Yes, I do. I should also say that with risk comes an incidence of failure. The CDC is in a risk business in difficult environments; we should all get used to accepting a rate of failure. The CDC should not be judged by the fact that it will have some failures. If it has no failures, it is not doing its job.
Q It is too risk-averse at the moment, do you think?
Sir Paul Collier: That may be true, actually. The emphasis on scrutiny, scrutiny, scrutiny, without any understanding of context, drives people into that sort of risk-averse behaviour. Yes, we need transparency and scrutiny, but that has to be in the context of an understanding that the basic mission we want the CDC to do is difficult and will involve a rate of failure.
Final question: Fiona Bruce.
Q On scaling up and the challenges of recruitment and retention, which are highlighted in the NAO report, I am interested to know whether you think that CDC will be able to meet the recruiting challenge and what particular skill sets are needed for CDC, as opposed to other international development work, bearing in mind that a lot of people want to work in this field. Why will CDC have particular challenges?
Tom McDonald: CDC does face a significant challenge if it is going to make use of additional capital to recruit and retain the people it needs to manage that money. In the past, CDC has found it to be quite a slow process to recruit people at the senior level, but it gets there. The real difficulty is recruiting and retaining people at the middle levels of management, because CDC is competing, effectively, with other funds and private equity employers who can afford to pay a lot more. What CDC has changed is that whereas it used to benchmark its salaries against the private equity industry and therefore pay people a lot more through their overall benefits packages, now it benchmarks pay against other DFIs, which we think is a good step. The danger is that as average pay has come down, CDC is in the process of reconsidering its remuneration framework with DFID. That would be something we would want to watch very carefully, because the pressures on retention and recruitment might start to force that average pay up again next year.
Q I was not so much concerned about pay levels—well, I am concerned about pay levels, but I am particularly concerned about the skill sets that you are saying there is potentially a shortage of, or there could be a shortage of, for these particular appointments.
Tom McDonald: I don’t think there is an absolute shortage of skill sets. It is about finding the right packages and opportunities to get the right people in to do the job. Because of the change in strategy since 2012, CDC needs a lot more people with experience of making direct investments—understanding the context, as Sir Paul was describing, knowing what an opportunity looks like in a local market, and then being able to put a deal together that makes commercial sense, but also has a development impact. There probably are not that many people who have both of those skill sets.
Thank you very much indeed. That brings us to the end of our sitting—
Thank you—much appreciated, and I did notice.
Thank you, witnesses, for all your expert evidence, which has been greatly appreciated by the Committee.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Andrew Griffiths.)
Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.
Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill (Second sitting)
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: †Joan Ryan, Mr Gary Streeter
† Boswell, Philip (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)
† Bruce, Fiona (Congleton) (Con)
† Doughty, Stephen (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
† Duddridge, James (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)
† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab/Co-op)
† Fuller, Richard (Bedford) (Con)
† Grady, Patrick (Glasgow North) (SNP)
† Graham, Richard (Gloucester) (Con)
† Griffiths, Andrew (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
† Hussain, Imran (Bradford East) (Lab)
† Lefroy, Jeremy (Stafford) (Con)
McGovern, Alison (Wirral South) (Lab)
† Osamor, Kate (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)
† Scully, Paul (Sutton and Cheam) (Con)
† Stewart, Rory (Minister of State, Department for International Development)
† Tolhurst, Kelly (Rochester and Strood) (Con)
Colin Lee, Glenn McKee, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 6 December 2016
[Joan Ryan in the Chair]
Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill
We now begin line-by-line consideration of the Bill. Before we begin, I ask that everyone ensures that all electronic devices are turned off or are switched to silent mode. Members may remove their jackets if they wish—although it may be a little chilly today for that.
The selection list for this afternoon’s sitting is available in the room. It shows how the selected amendments have been grouped together for debate. Amendments grouped together are generally on the same or similar issues. A Member who has put their name to the leading amendment in a group is called first, and other Members are then free to catch my eye to speak on all or any of the amendments within that group. A Member may speak more than once in a single debate.
Please note that decisions on amendments do not take place in the order that they are debated, but in the order in which they appear on the amendment paper. In other words, debate occurs according to the selection and grouping list, and decisions are taken in the order on the amendment paper. I hope that explanation is helpful to Members.
Amount of the limit on government assistance
I beg to move amendment 6, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out “£6,000” and insert “£3,000”.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out “£6,000” and insert “£5,999”.
Amendment 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out “£6,000 million” and insert
“the amount specified in subsection (1A)”.
This amendment paves the way for amendment 4.
Amendment 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert—
“(1A) After subsection (1), insert—
(1A) The amount specified in this subsection is whichever is the lesser of the following amounts—
(i) £6,000 million,
(ii) the amount determined in accordance with subsection (1B).
(1B) The Secretary of State shall determine the amount for the purposes of this subsection by estimating the amount which will constitute 5% of official development assistance in the relevant period determined in accordance with subsection (1C).
(1C) That period begins with the financial year in which the Secretary of State considers that the Crown’s assistance to the Corporation (determined in accordance with subsection (2)) will exceed £1,500 million and ends at the end of the fourth subsequent financial year.
(1D) For the purposes of this section, “official development assistance” has the same meaning as in the most recent annual report laid before each House of Parliament in accordance with the provisions of section 1 of the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006.””.”.
This amendment, together with amendment 3, would replace the proposed limit on government assistance under section 15 with a new amount, expressed as either £6 billion or 5% of forecast official development assistance over a five year period, whichever is the lesser amount.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan, and for the first time, I think. I know you take a keen interest in these matters, so it is particularly delightful to serve under you, as it was to serve under Mr Streeter this morning—I know he is equally interested in the Bill. We had a wide-ranging debate on Second Reading and a wide range of issues were also explored by all members of the Committee during some excellent scrutiny of the witnesses who were before us this morning.
Amendment 6 stands in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Edmonton and for Bradford East. It regards the nub of the matter, which is the amount of money—aid money; taxpayers’ money—that the Bill intends to allow the CDC to receive. It is a very large sum: up to £6 billion, leading up to £12 billion, which I know we will come to discuss in due course.
As I said on Second Reading, I am not opposed to the existence of the CDC and I am not opposed to much of the important work that it does; I recognise that it does some excellent work. Indeed, the National Audit Office is clear that the CDC is largely meeting its own standards and the strategy that was set for it in 2012. However, that is not the issue before the House or, indeed, the Committee; rather it is whether we should grant such large sums of money to CDC as opposed to directing that important aid money to other uses.
Despite having listened carefully to the Minister and the CDC itself—I have met its representatives—and reading much of the documentation about the Bill, I am still at a loss as to where the £6 billion and £12 billion figures have come from; I do not believe that the case has been made for that expenditure. There may be a case for increasing capital for the CDC, and I am sure we will hear many of those arguments today, but I have certainly not seen the case to justify the expenditure of a potential extra £4.5 billion over this spending round, as implied by the Minister’s earlier comments and the contents of the explanatory notes to the Bill, nor do I see the rationale for potentially expanding that sum to £12 billion.
The information we have before us is very vague. Paragraph 10 of the explanatory notes to the Bill says:
“Increasing the limit on government assistance to £6,000 million will enable the Secretary of State to accelerate CDC’s growth over the current Spending Round in response to forecast market demand—”
which is not actually explained anywhere, nor has it been explained in answers to questions I have put to Ministers—
“over CDC’s next strategy cycle and in order for CDC—”
this, again, is very vague—
“to play a fuller role in the delivery of the UK’s international development objectives.”
Those are very short sentences and paragraphs to justify the potential spending of £6 billion, rising to £12 billion. Let us remember that the CDC only required capitalisation from the UK Government of £1.5 billion over the entire period between 1999 and 2016. We understand that the bulk of that has come at the CDC’s request, although I know that there are a variety of views out there on that. In recent years, we have seen the big recapitalisation of £735 million in two tranches, which I am glad to say was accompanied by a business case. Not all of that case was met, but at least there was some rationale for it—whether it should have gone through is not relevant now—whereas there is no rationale for the proposed increase.
I think it was the NAO that said that there is a cart-and-horse problem here. This is a huge potential uplift and we have not seen any kind of rationale for it, any clear statistics, analysis of markets or suggested project sectors, just a vague assurance that it will all be all right on the night and that Parliament should therefore go ahead and approve large sums of money on the nod. We have also heard doubts expressed by the NAO and others about whether the CDC even has the absorptive capacity to accept that sort of uplift in such a short space of time.
We had reassurances from the Minister that the uplift would only come in response to clear demand and with the clear ability to take it on, but the reality is that the NAO has criticised the CDC for risks in its staffing and for its organisation. Even regardless of that criticism, I question whether any organisation could take such an uplift in such a short space of time, whether it was a non-governmental organisation, the World Bank or a UN agency. We ought to treat our scrutiny of development finance institutions and multilateral agencies with the same brush, whether they are close to the Department for International Development or slightly further away; I will come back to that point in due course.
The other issue is that there is an opportunity cost here that I hope we will be able to explore in the debate. The Minister earlier seemed to suggest that if we do not give the money to the CDC, we will inevitably have to give it to a development finance institution that is performing less well or is perhaps even less focused than the CDC, but I do not think that he has made that case very clearly.
I have read in detail the multilateral aid review that the Minister published last week and that we scrutinised in an urgent question on Friday. It does a lot of good things; it gets into the meat of what some agencies are doing and it points out agencies that are not performing well. Has the CDC been put through that level of rigour? Is it subject to the same expectations of transparency, poverty focus, effectiveness and accountability to beneficiaries, taxpayers and the Government? I am not sure that it is. Where would it appear in the multilateral aid review’s graph of agencies? Undoubtedly it would do well in some areas but in others I suspect it would not, particularly given the NAO’s commentary.
Given what DFID expects not only of multilaterals but of its bilateral partnerships and its partnerships with civil society organisations, there seems to be a double standard. One example is that DFID now expects multilateral agencies to publish details of everything they spend over £500. That is a good thing, but we clearly do not have the same transparency from the CDC. Yet we are planning to give it extra billions of taxpayers’ money via the Bill—initially up to £6 billion and later up to £12 billion. At the very least, we ought to provide a level playing field for assessment and expectation, so that we are absolutely sure we are investing our money in the routes that will lead to the greatest reduction in poverty, that align with our wider development objectives, that are coherent and that meet the wider objectives of the Government and the Department.
Conversations with the CDC and comments from the Minister have revealed a crucial issue: the CDC has not requested this capital increase. The Minister told me that in a written answer last night and confirmed it in this morning’s Committee sitting, and the CDC itself has also confirmed it to me. That seems a very odd situation. I can understand a generic conversation—“Well, if x were y and y were z, we might be able to take a bit more money or do this or that”. But not even to have a request, never mind a clear rationale or expectation of what could be done with £6 billion of taxpayer funding—let alone £12 billion—is extremely concerning. Is the tail wagging the dog? Is this Ministers putting pressure on an organisation to accept significant increases in money, perhaps for some other purpose which I will come on to, rather than it being based on a real set of demands and a real set of expectations of what could be delivered? I am concerned when I hear that from the Minister or from the CDC, and I am concerned when it is confirmed in writing. It is in contrast to the situation in which it made a request for recapitalisation in the last year. It was perfectly reasonable for there to have been a request—I do not know about the value—but the CDC put forward a business plan which was discussed over a period and the Department agreed the £735 million.
The Minister is shaking his head but the CDC did request £735 million; it told me so. Perhaps the Minister wants to intervene? The Minister’s own written answer to me last night, when I had asked him specifically what recapitalisations had been requested by the CDC in each of the past six years, told me that it had requested £735 million. So I am confused as to why he is shaking his head; perhaps he would like to intervene?
Thank you. It is a great pleasure, Ms Ryan, to serve under your chairmanship. I will try not to intervene too much, since this is not really my responsibility, but as a point of information, I think there are two separate issues here. The first is the question of the CDC calling on a promissory note, which is what would happen in the future. In terms of the £735 million request the hon. Gentleman is talking about, when the Government have funds available and have legislative authority to allow money to go into the CDC, the CDC will then make a request. That would be true in the future too, so if the Bill gets through Parliament and the money is available, so the option is available, and the promissory note and the business case from DFID are in place, at that point the request would come from the CDC. One would not anticipate the request coming from the CDC at this stage. That has not happened in the past and it would not happen in the future.
I find that a very odd suggestion when we are talking about such large sums. One would expect there to be the architecture of a request, or the basic bare bones of a request, even if the specific details were not there. We are not talking here about £100 million or £200 million, large sums as those are, we are talking about £6 billion and £12 billion. These are huge sums as a proportion of the overall aid budget and in terms of our commitments to other multilateral development finance institutions. Now the Minister suggests that we just accept these back-of-a-fag-packet calculations— £6 billion, £12 billion—without any kind of rationale for what they are. He said earlier that the department had come up with those figures, that he had come up with those figures, and they had been presented to the CDC, rather than the other way around. One would expect the CDC, as the expert in the markets and sectors it is investing in, to be suggesting to Ministers, perhaps, where potential investments could be made, where returns could be achieved and where poverty eradication could be delivered.
I am contradicting myself by intervening again. There is an important distinction here. This is a piece of enabling legislation. The CDC is in a very unusual position. Unlike our normal relationship, where we can, for an NGO such as Oxfam, give money without coming to Parliament, or for a multilateral organisation such as the World Bank, go through secondary legislation, a statutory instrument, this is unusual. This is one of the only organisations we deal with where Parliament had imposed a cap. So what we are asking for is enabling legislation which would allow DFID, if it had a request from the CDC, to give it the money. This is not our giving it the money, it is creating an option and a ceiling against which, in the future, the CDC would be able to present a business case.
The Minister suggests we should not be sceptical of the Government and their intents. It is the role of this House to be sceptical of the Government and their intents. To suggest that Ministers are going to take powers but might not use them is a slightly curious argument: I have not seen many cases of that in the past. The timing of this is very odd, given some of the other circumstances, which I will come on to.
I will give way in a moment, but I just want to make one point. We have seen a very important change in the definition of the ODA, which occurred only last year. Previously, as I said on Second Reading, it was the issue of the CDC net disbursements that contributed to our ODA figures. Normally we looked at the money that the CDC was investing, returns from that investment, the function of the two and ended up, usually, with a positive number. Over the past five years it had been a £100 million or £200 million positive contribution to our aid effort. In fact, last year it would actually have been a negative contribution of minus £9 million. However, the Government changed the rules. They decided to count the capital inflow into the CDC—all of it, in its entirety—as ODA, as aid, rather than the function of what is actually, potentially, being achieved.
There is no perfect way to establish the benefits of our aid. Many different formulae could be used. However, this seems a very odd situation, and it is such a large increase in the budget for which parliamentary authority is being requested. The reality is that whereas before it would have been a function of whether there had been an impact, whether there had been a net disbursement to the poorest countries, regardless of where that went, whether it was effective and all the other questions that we should be asking, we are now looking instead at just the pure input of capital into the CDC. As a result, last year, instead of a minus £9 million contribution to the ODA budget, we saw plus £450 million, because of the disbursement that was made by the Secretary of State in capital to the CDC.
What is to prevent the Government in the future from putting pressure on the CDC, regardless of whether it wants the money, to spend, use or request, through the process that the Minister has described, large sums to bump up the figures to show that the Government are, for example, meeting the 0.7% aid target? Before the Minister jumps to his feet to say, “Oh no, that would never happen,” let me say that he knows full well that it has been the habit of all Governments, of all colours, to look at how figures are presented, move things around and reclassify things in an attempt to meet wider targets and wider agendas. Obviously, a certain amount of that goes on all the time, but it does look very odd that we are seeing this huge rise, this huge potential new power being given, at the same time as the definition of how that is counted is changed. That is where my scepticism and that of many others comes from.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point about the capacity of DFID and, indeed, the capacity of the two continents—Africa and part of the continent of Asia, south Asia—to absorb this kind of money, but does he not agree that one major challenge facing the world at the moment is the need to create in the next 15 years 1 billion jobs, most of which will be in those countries, and that the amount of money that we are talking about is tiny in comparison with the amount that would be required to create those jobs and thereby to alleviate poverty?
I agree that the challenge of creating jobs is huge and one in which we and others should be playing a role, but it is not solely our role. Again, I hope that one question that we will get on to discussing is whether we should be providing what is in effect private capital in some of these locations or whether the capital should be coming from other sources: other Governments, institutions or DFIs. Indeed, should that be the responsibility of the Governments themselves? We will undoubtedly come on to that in discussion of some of the new clauses, but one of my fundamental questions is about the focus of this money: where is it going currently, and is it doing all that it could do? Professor Collier himself said this morning, in relation to the current bias of funding towards south Asia and India in particular, that he thought that there should be more focus on Africa. I agree.
I agree, too, on that point. Will the hon. Gentleman also accept this point about the other DFIs? The Dutch DFI has invested far more money than we have, and the Netherlands has a population one quarter the size of the UK’s. The French Proparco is in a similar position to the UK, but the Germans have invested three times as much. We are laggards in this respect.
We are not here to discuss the Dutch DFI, but I do know a reasonable amount about it. It provides only marginally more than us. It does do interesting work; it does not do exactly the same work as us. I do not know its history of recapitalisations and how much additional ODA money it has received recently. It would be interesting to look at that. However, the question here is this. What is the best use of our money? Are we not investing or have we reduced investment in other sectors where we could be using our aid in order to do this, and is that the right choice? That is the question before us, and when we look at, for example, DFID’s closures of bilateral programmes in places such as Burundi, we do not have clarity from the bilateral aid review on whether there will be further closures or changes.
We have heard worrying things about cuts in bilateral funding for HIV/AIDS programmes, despite the good money that is going into the global fund. We have seen a shift away from certain sectors and from budget support. We have seen a shift away from investing in free healthcare and education, and in teacher salaries, and with removing user fees for healthcare, for example. When the CDC invests in private healthcare and private school systems, we might have a debate about the role that voluntary and private play in healthcare and schools, but again it is an opportunity cost—it is a choice about where we invest these things.
I accept the hon. Gentleman’s wider point about the importance of jobs, investing and crowding in capital into some of these sectors, but we have to question what we should be doing with our money and whether that is right versus other potential sources. I contend that the Government simply have not come forward with a case that justifies this level of cap. Some increase in the CDC’s budget might be justified, but certainly not at this level.
I will give way in a moment, once I have made another point.
All that needs to be seen in line with some of the other issues. I mentioned the diversion of aid and the shifting of aid between priorities, but by 2019 26% of ODA will be spent by Departments other than DFID. That is a significant shift from where it was. As the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East knows, I am not opposed to cross-Government working or other Departments spending ODA, but that level of it is concerning. With the CDC on top of that, as well as the prosperity fund, which we discover was given £1.3 billion of ODA in September this year—much of it spent through other Departments and yet ending up in India, China, Malaysia, Mexico and other locations—the picture of where our aid spending is shifting to gets worrying. Is it shifting away from the poorest countries and the poorest people, and from the core services that I believe we should be supporting?
Indeed. We can put any figure down and, without the rationale, we can have a debate—the Minister might criticise me for a £3 billion figure, I can criticise the Minister for a £6 billion figure. The fact, however, is that the Minister has not provided a clear rationale or business case for £6 billion—nor has he for £12 billion—and there are some interesting suggestions from the SNP Members about proportions. Those are all issues that we ought to discuss. I made it clear earlier, I am not opposed to the CDC getting more money, but I am concerned about the period over which it gets it, the total amount and the caveats that we might then place on the CDC to receive it.
I am just trying to understand. The hon. Gentleman is seriously proposing an amendment to this House which we will vote on to give £3 billion to the CDC. Will he justify why he wishes to give it £3 billion? This is a real amendment, to a real piece of legislation before this Committee.
Order. May we keep this within the rules? If people want to make an intervention and the Member gives way, that is fine; shouting across the Floor is not fine. Everyone will get an opportunity to speak.
It is actually £1 million, but my amendment is probing, as the hon. Gentleman’s is. What the hon. Gentleman is getting wrong—I do not think wilfully—is that the Minister does not need to present a business case and, indeed, he should not present a business case now. This is a figure that might be reached on the basis of drawdown and a request of the CDC with a business case which he will then analyse.
But the CDC has not made such a request and, as the NAO said this morning, it is the cart before horse. That is the problem. I do not expect the Minister to provide a detailed analysis of every single project that we will invest in over the next 10 years, but a paragraph in the explanatory notes and some vague assurances about market demand are simply not good enough. We are talking about spending, potentially, billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Would we suggest the same amount went to a non-governmental organisation such as Oxfam or indeed the World Bank?
Does my hon. Friend agree that the central issue is not an increase in funding but the sheer level of funding? This is an organisation that in its whole life has had funding of £1.5 billion. On the Opposition Benches we want to probe why there is such a significant increase, which is a reasonable view to take.
Absolutely, and that gets to the nub of the issue. The Minister has been a veteran of many debates in this House and in Committee, so he knows full well the format in which debate takes place on amendments. Amendments are tabled to discuss the fundamental issues and the matters around them. Therefore, given the faux outrage at me for suggesting £3 billion versus £6 billion, he needs to explain—he has not done yet—his rationale for £6 billion and £12 billion, which I have yet to hear.
I am curious, partly because the hon. Gentleman’s amendment proposes an absolute sum of money, but more because everything he has said so far suggests that he is almost as close to the lady from War on Want in disapproving strongly about the activities of the CDC and the ability of Government to allow it to access more capital if it makes the right case for doing so. Therefore, I suggest the emphasis is slightly on him to try to demonstrate to members of the Committee why he has decided that £3 billion is the appropriate figure. I imagine that he was influenced this morning by hearing Sir Paul say that we need to get on with investing more in business in order to provide the jobs that Africa in particular so badly needs. I leave it to him to point out that that is what he thinks.
The hon. Gentleman clearly did not listen to what I said either on Second Reading or in Committee this morning. He knows full well that I do not support the views of War on Want on the role of business and private capital in supporting developments, jobs and job creation. I made it clear that I did not support that part of its views. What I did support was the suggestion that the CDC is being given a different set of rules to play by from other development finance institutions and indeed other routes on which we can put our valuable aid money, for which we should demand the highest levels of scrutiny, transparency and effectiveness, and coherence with the rest of our programme.
I do not want to stray too far from the terms of the amendment, but in the new clauses we will discuss some of those issues of coherence. Without additional safeguards and caveats on where that money is spent, the transparency arrangements, the business case that should be presented and so on, whatever number we put in, whether it is £1 million less that the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East suggests, the £3 billion less that I suggest or indeed any other figure, or a proportion as suggested by SNP Members, we could see multiple distortive effects. For example, the value of investments currently going into middle-income countries is still significantly higher than into lower-income countries. The value of investments going into Africa has gone down and the value of investments going into south Asia—mostly to India, a country to which we were supposed to end giving aid—has in fact gone up. The reality is, if we boost the CDC’s budget further without any change in that overall strategy, we will see a multiplication of that effect.
I am talking about the issue before us today, which is about new investment and new disbursements. The figures I am referring to about those shifts relate to new disbursements by CDC—new investments made in recent years. We can have a lengthy debate about what went on in CDC before 2012 and the legacy investments that are still part of the portfolio—
We are not going to do that here. We are talking about the future. We are talking about where this money would go. I am concerned that in recent years, despite the progress, there has not been a big enough shift into the types of markets, sectors and places that would fit more coherently with DFID’s objectives. The CDC is operating in 65 countries and DFID in only 35. I accept that there might be some difference in that and some difference of focus, but that is a huge difference and yet potentially we will decide to give billions more.
I will draw my remarks to a close, but I simply do not see that the case has been set out or the rationale has been given. I do not think there is enough clarity on the absorptive capacity. I do not think there is enough justification of the opportunity costs of not investing by other routes. The crucial fact is that the CDC did not request this money. Did it even request the legislation, I wonder? Perhaps the Minister will be able to provide us with documents to that effect, asking for the legislation to be made available. The CDC has just been given £735 million extra. It seems slightly odd that it then requests a Bill for £6 billion or £12 billion more.
I am very interested to hear what the SNP has to say about its proposals to other Members.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I have only two groups of points. The first is on process. I am a great fan of the “Daily Politics” show and was very disappointed when the hon. Member for Cardiff and Penarth resigned from the Front Bench. This is the first time I have sat on a Bill Committee where a Back Bencher has led the amendments in this way. The Labour Front Benchers, the hon. Members for Edmonton and for Bradford East, have added their names to the amendments, but have not tabled any in their own names. I will not do so in this debate, but I am thinking about leading a debate on the good use of Short money, because the Labour Front Bench is paid to do the job that is being done by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth on its behalf.
Order. Will the hon. Gentleman stick to the issues in front of us? A discussion of Short money is not relevant here.
I am sure that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench will confirm that they are in full support. In fact, we have discussed the amendments at great length. It is simply a procedural point. I was not aware until I was informed by the Clerk earlier about the ordering of names, despite having been on many Bill Committees. I was informed by the Chair at the start that I would be called first because my name came first in the list. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the amendments have been fully discussed with the Front Benchers and have their full support. No doubt the Front Benchers will speak to the amendments in due course.
Fantastic. My Front Bench also seems to be aware of that situation. I look forward to listening to the SNP’s contribution on amendments 3 and 4 and to seeing how its Front Bench is taking things forward.
Amendments 1 and 2, which I tabled, are probing amendments. I had taken myself off to table amendments that increased, not decreased, the amount and was told that while it would be permissible to table them, it would not be permissible for them to be selected, because of the money resolution. I therefore want to enter into a debate about whether it is the right amount. I have tabled an amendment that would make it lower, rather than higher, although I believe that there is capacity to invest more money in CDC, and faster. I do not share the scepticism of others around the table. I hope to see the £6 billion target reached earlier, rather than later.
This morning’s evidence session was incredibly useful and covered a lot of the points and queries that I would have wanted the Minister to address in his remarks. With that in mind, I will not detain the Committee any further.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I will speak to amendments 3 and 4, which stand in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill.
I agree with pretty much everything the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth had to say. The Minister has been asked repeatedly how the figures of £6 billion and £12 billion were arrived at. It increasingly sounds as if they were arbitrary figures based on a best-guess discussion with the CDC about what it might manage to spend over a particular period in the coming years.
Amendments 3 and 4 try to relate the amount of investment in the CDC more clearly to the overall amount of official development assistance the Government are likely to have at their disposal over a spending review period of the lifetime of a Parliament. Of course, the amount of ODA can go up or down in any given year, because it is, by definition, a proportionate target: it is a percentage of gross national income. Indeed, in the autumn statement a couple of weeks ago, the ODA forecasts were revised down because the economy as a whole is contracting, not least because of the Brexit result.
Using those forecasts, the Library estimates that amendment 4 would mean that £3.77 billion of additional investment could be made on top of the £1.5 billion already invested, making a total investment of £5.02 billion. The effect of amendment 5, which I appreciate we are not discussing immediately, would be to bring the upper cap to £9.77 billion. As the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East just said, the money resolution means that those numbers cannot go above £6 billion or £12 billion in any event. It is worth noting that introducing such a formula would mean that in the event of a significant decline in GNI—some sort of catastrophic economic collapse, which I am sure will not happen under this Government—the cap on investment could reduce, meaning that the Government would have to divest.
The first time the hon. Gentleman mentioned a contraction in the economy I let it go, but I thought the economy was growing at about 2.2%. It is the fastest growing economy in either the G7 or the G8—forgive me for not knowing which. Does he have the wrong numbers, or is he drawing a distinction between GNI and GDP and being selective?
As I said, the autumn statement demonstrated that GNI will go down and therefore the ODA forecasts are being revised down as well. The point I am trying to make is that if we are going to find a way of varying the cap on investment in the CDC, finding a way to make it proportionate to overall aid spending would seem to be the more sensible way of doing that.
In amendments 4 and 5, my hon. Friend and I have suggested a percentage adjustment mechanism. In this case, the figure of 5% is proffered. Does he agree that such a mechanism is altogether more equitable and appropriate? Will he elaborate on that for the Committee’s further consideration?
I thank my hon. Friend for that point. The point of equity and proportionality is what I am trying to test. As I have said, under my formula, the figures would come out not that much lower than the caps proposed in the Bill. Let us accept, in good faith, that we will hear some rationale for those caps. My formula would take us not a million miles away from those numbers. The point is that under my formula, the caps would vary over time, depending on what the total ODA spend was likely to be.
Even if the Minister objects to the particular formula, I will be keen to hear why some kind of proportionate formula is not preferable to the hard numbers in the Bill. We have heard about other amendments that probe those numbers. A formula that linked the caps to the total ODA spend over a period of time surely would help to clarify the link with the overall amount of ODA and the balance of the Government’s development priorities, which we will discuss when we debate the new clauses.
I will make four brief points. First, there are several reasons for bringing forward the Bill, but one of the major reasons is that reducing the expected rate of return of the CDC’s investments, which I absolutely agree with, creates a need for more capital.
Under the last Labour Government, the CDC grew substantially, was well managed, invested in funds and made a lot of money out of significant investments, such as that in Celtel. All of that was good and I welcomed it, but it perhaps was not in accordance with the CDC’s original mission, although I would argue that it helped to reduce poverty. Capital was generated internally to quite a considerable extent. The required rate of return was relatively high, those returns came in and that money was reinvested.
Now that CDC is quite rightly supposed to focus on harder investments with lower rates of return and higher risk, there inevitably will not be as much free cash flow or free capital available for investment, so the shareholder —the UK Government, DFID and the taxpayer—needs to be prepared to put in more capital if we are to meet those objectives.
The second point is about middle-income countries. I fully accept the Minister’s point about the importance of targeting lower-income countries wherever possible, but let us not forget that the range for middle-income countries is, frankly, ridiculous. It goes from just over £1,000 to £13,000 per year. At the lower end are countries that are basically low-income countries and at the higher end are relatively wealthy countries. If we categorise all middle-income countries as somehow moderately wealthy, that is simply not the case. There was a point—not now, sadly, because of what is happening there—when South Sudan was briefly a middle-income country; look at where it is now. We have to be very careful when we talk about middle-income countries as though they are a homogenous group; they are not.
The hon. Gentleman is making an important point and I have no doubt we will discuss this further. Is he not concerned, though, when he looks at the amount that is going into India, for example, and at individual states within India, where the majority of even the CDC’s new disbursements are still going to the richest states rather than the poorest? The top disbursement was to Maharashtra, where Mumbai is.
Absolutely, we should look at that. However, there are more of the poorest people in India than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. If you take the view that a company in India in which you invest is likely to have national ambitions and wants to work across India, you would hope that it would therefore target the poorest as well as those who are perhaps better off. I agree, though, that the CDC needs to look at this and ensure that it does not stray back into the realms of investing only in fairly soft, nice, high rate of return investments.
My third point is about employment. I have already mentioned the figure of 1 billion jobs. The World Bank says that 600 million jobs are required across the world in the next decade; others have put it as high as 1 billion. There will be more of those 1 billion jobs in the middle-income countries than in the low-income countries, so we need to invest across the two if we are to tackle this enormous threat.
I was in Tunisia last week at the launch of the Parliamentary Network’s middle east and north Africa chapter—I chair the global network. The problems that a country such as Tunisia faces, with a population of 10 million and unemployment among graduates of 60%, are enormous. We know the social consequences of that. Tunisia has a very high rate of young people who have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for Daesh. That is one consequence of the very high rates of unemployment and the lack of hope in those countries.
Finally, this is about investment. We talk about money being spent, but it is actually investment. Once it goes in, provided it is well-managed, it is recycled. As I have said, the money that made about £500 million of profit from Celtel under the last Labour Government was recycled into investment and is still there. Some of it may have been invested twice since then. This is not a one-off hit where we make a grant to an organisation and it does excellent work, but is then gone. It is money that goes round and round, that is recycled and that creates jobs.
The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point and I agree that it is investment and it is recycled—the CDC has shown that. However, does he not agree that that applies to our whole aid budget? If we invest in the education of a girl through a bilateral programme, with the opportunities that provides in her life and the opportunity it gives her to contribute to the economy, that is, similarly, an investment.
The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth is wrong. It is not an investment in the same way, in that it is not so easily controlled. An investment in a girl’s education is, indeed, an investment, but we are discussing an investment that has an actual return, which we can reinvest and have some degree of control over, as the aid budget is targeted in different ways. It is a different type of investment. As I said on Second Reading, it is a gift that keeps giving.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. This is the first time for me, but I am sure there will be many more.
I want to speak about investment. That word has been used many times and in the absence of an investment strategy from the CDC, we feel very sceptical about why we should use taxpayers’ money in this way. It is only fair to ask the Minister to present that to us, so that we can have a debate in which we feel we have all the information. That is my brief contribution on this group of amendments.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairpersonship today, Ms Ryan.
I will sum up the points that we are making. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth has gone into some detail, as always, on where we stand. I want to place the Labour Front Bench firmly in line with his views, to answer the point made by the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East.
The issue here is the Government’s intention. We are not in any way, shape or form anti-DFI or against the spirit of the corporation. It was brought in by a Labour Government many years ago and we accept, on the record, that the CDC has been improved since 2011, as I said on Second Reading. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth set out, we want to be satisfied on the rationale behind the level of increase; the lack of strategies and investment policies—the phrase “cart before horse” has been mentioned on many occasions and I will not go into it further—the CDC’s capacity; and the fact that it has not requested this money. Those are all pertinent points. Finally, regarding the concern about where and how this money is currently being spent, I agree with Members on both sides of the Committee on the logical point of view that has been put forward. Nevertheless, that concern remains.
The Minister’s earlier intervention was most helpful, when he set out his reason for why the business case, the strategy and the investment policy were not forthcoming. He gave the guarantee, which I want to press him on, that no money would go to the CDC unless it was requested by the CDC. Even so, it has to be done in the light of a proper business case, a strategy and an investment policy. Secondly, I press him to give some indication as to when those important strategies and policies will come forward. They are central to these proposals and I hope he genuinely gives us dates and assurances in that regard.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan.
I will begin by saying that I have a lot of sympathy with the points that the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth is making; they are all incredibly important. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of CDC and has identified a number of issues in relation to CDC that we take very seriously. They range across its accounting principles, its reporting framework, the scope of the countries in which it operates, its overall effectiveness, its absorptive capacity, the strategy and business case systems, theories of change and types of investment. I think these are all good concerns and there is nothing mentioned by the hon. Gentleman that I would disagree with in principle. These are the kinds of questions we would expect DFID and Parliament to ask, as well as CDC to ask of itself before it makes an investment.
The real question is what is appropriate to put in the Bill, what is appropriate to be done through Parliament, what is appropriate to be done through the Department and what is appropriate to be done through CDC. That is where I hope I can provide a bit of assurance to right hon. and hon. Members of all parties.
I think we can take it as read that there is an overall agreement that we should give some more money to CDC. There is some disagreement about how much more money—the different amendments suggest different views on how much money and how that money is calculated—but the basic principle is that CDC is a good thing, that economic development is a good thing, that DFIs are a good thing and that, particularly at this moment, as Sir Paul Collier pointed out strongly in this morning’s evidence session, we should be investing more in economic development and jobs in Africa. That is something we all agree. The question is how we do it and how we ensure that it is done in the right way.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North proposed a quite detailed amendment, but there is a small technical issue. He suggested that we aim at a 5% ODA amount, but there are two issues with that. We considered looking at that in the Bill, but the reasons we rejected it were twofold. There is an issue with confusing a stock with a flow. In other words, the measure is designed to create the capital that is invested and reinvested over time— that initial investment made by the Attlee Government continues to be recycled nearly 70 years later—whereas the ODA allocation is an annual allocation and an annual spend.
There is an issue around trying to compare a stock and a flow, and we can go on to that. In fact, rather good graphs have been produced, comparing stock and flow investments of Germany, France and the Netherlands, showing that, in proportional terms, Germany is spending nearly three times as much and France is spending nearly twice as much as we are. The reason I have not deployed those kinds of arguments is that I just do not think that that stock and flow comparison is good.
However, there is a more technical reason why we would reject the exact amendment. The way in which the amendment is written—at least on the basis of the analysis by our in-house lawyers—is that it would refer to the entire cap for the entire sum available to CDC. In other words, that 5% would not be 5% of future money. The way in which the amendment is drafted means that it would incorporate the £1.5 billion of its existing money. That would therefore limit us to only a further £1.5 billion over a five-year period. That would not be 5% of ODA. It would be about 2.5% of ODA, which we think would be considerably lower. The £3 billion number, which is what right hon. and hon. Members have been getting at, is a more plausible figure as an additional amount to the £1.5 billion. We can talk about that over time.
Very quickly, I will deal with the question of additional responsibilities, which is at the core of the questions asked by the shadow Secretary of State—the hon. Member for Edmonton—and the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Bradford East. The basic questions are: are we are putting the cart before the horse, why are we using taxpayers’ money for this kind of investment, when will we present our strategy, what are our real intentions, and what kind of guarantees are taking place? The answer is that, in effect, we have a whole series of procedures. What we are asking Parliament to do is only the first stage of a whole series of checks and balances.
We are asking this Committee, and we are asking Parliament, to agree to the principle of lifting the existing cap on CDC—in other words, putting CDC more into the type of arrangement that we would have with any of our other donors. It is very unusual that CDC has a capped amount. That is not true for the amount of money we give to an NGO or to the World Bank. In fact, we are actually giving more to the World Bank than we would envisage giving to CDC. We are asking Parliament to lift the cap.
The next bit—the question of how the business strategy, the business case and individual investment decisions are written—would then be taken forward by the Department, in line with the UK aid strategy, and debated in Parliament. Directly to answer the question of the hon. Member for Bradford East, who wanted dates, in December 2016 we will complete our business strategy, which will lay out the strategy for the next five years for CDC. It is the strategy that the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth was referring to as our last strategy. We will have a new strategy of that sort. That strategy will do a number of things that will address concerns raised in many of the amendments as the Bill passes through the House. It will, for example, tighten our impact assessments, put more focus on gender and set a cap on India. The next thing that will happen is that in summer 2017—this is quite a slow process—we will bring together a business case to draw down a promissory note of money; in other words, to say, “This is the amount of money we believe is the kind of money that CDC may need to call up.”
Indeed. I am happy to repeat that for the record. The intention is that, in our forthcoming business strategy, there will be a cap on the amount that CDC can spend on India.
As we move forward to the summer, we will produce the business case. The business case will define the amount of money, whatever that is. It could be, for example, £3 billion, which is roughly in line with some of the amendments that have come forward, but we would have the option to go up to £4.5 billion. I do not honestly believe that that business case will be going up to £4.5 billion, but we would have the option to do that.
The next stage is that CDCs needs to make very detailed investment decisions, which take a long time. A lot of these investment decisions take two to three years. Let us say that CDC was going into solar power in Burundi. It would have to get in on the ground. It would have to ensure that it had a viable business and then it would have to go through our development grid, which is the next stage of the process. That means ensuring that it had checked GDP per capita, it had checked the amount of capital available, it had checked the business environment and it had checked that this is a sector that creates jobs. That is just the first stage.
The next stage CDC needs to go through is to present a development impact theory. That individual investment needs to have a theory: exactly what contribution is this going to make to jobs, economic development and poverty alleviation? Within our strategy, at the end of this year, DFID will ask CDC to publish that development impact theory, so that the theory can be seen case by case with every investment and it will be possible to challenge that theory.
At that stage, CDC would then come back and call down on the promissory note to call down that money. Then other forms of monitoring come on. We are a 100% shareholder of CDC, which is why some of the analogies with giving money to NGOs or World Bank institutions are slightly different. This is us giving money to a wholly owned DFID institution. Every quarter, we as DFID shareholders meet the board and assess its performance. We have an annual review process. On top of that we have all the other processes: NAO, Public Accounts Committee and the International Development Committee. Independent Commission for Aid Impact reports would also be able to get into the business of CDC. It is that and, finally, it is our basic confidence in our institution that allows us to even begin the process. We would not come to the Committee asking for permission to make more money available unless we were confident that we had a good management team in place with a strong history and a strong track record of development; otherwise, we would be wasting hon. Members’ time.
We believe that this is a good institution that will be in a position for us to produce the business case, and that it will be in a position to find investments. I absolutely guarantee—
I am giving an absolute assurance to the hon. Gentleman that no money will be given to CDC until a full strategy is developed and published, which can be debated in the House—that is a strategy coming in December—and no money will go to CDC until a full business case is written in huge detail, which will be prepared in the summer of 2017. Following on from that, there will be the individual investment decisions. I am happy to give that assurance. On that, I would ask the hon. Gentleman kindly to withdraw the amendment.
This has been a helpful debate and we have covered some useful issues. I am still not convinced but I appreciate the steps the Minister has taken to explain some of the process and his assurances that issues that I and others have raised are being taken seriously. I welcome that; the Minister said nothing in principle that I would disagree with. I will record that and remember that as the Bill passes through its remaining stages.
I am intrigued by the Minister’s admission that there would be a cap on India. I would certainly like to know more about that. Is he able to give us a specific value or percentage? Given some of the wider points I have made, and no doubt will make with regard to other amendments, it would help if he would explain whether the Department has thinking on that on other countries. On the subject of middle-income countries versus lower-income countries, there are some odd situations where CDC seems to be putting money into places like Egypt. That country is not without its problems and not without poverty, but is not exactly a focus country for DFID. I would say there is a huge divergence between where DFID is operating bilaterally and where CDC is.
It would help if the Minister explained where CDC sits in relation to the transparency that is expected of other development finance institutions. It is all very well to go through the scrutiny and the checks and balances, because it is clear what those are, but it appears to me —I am not satisfied on this point—that CDC is being held to a different standard. We might not be a 100% shareholder in the World Bank, but we hold significant shareholdings as a major donor, and we take those very seriously. We use our influence there as a voting board member to take decisions, whether on individual loans or overall strategies.
It would also be very helpful if the Minister stated some clearer timelines. He says that he does not expect that we would use the full power to go to £4.5 billion in a short space of time, but the power would remain there, and were he not to be in his place, or were there another Minister who perhaps felt more mischievous, trying to move things around to fit the 0.7% aid target or whatever it might be, I am not sure that assurance would stand. Could we be much clearer—unlike the explanatory notes—about what sort of period we are looking at. If we are talking about spending £12 billion over a 20-year horizon, that is very, very different from what the explanatory notes seem to suggest, which is to spend up to £4.5 billion extra by the end of the comprehensive spending review period and then move on to another £12 billion—that is a much faster expansion. The timeline is not clear.
I welcome the Minister’s assurances—no doubt we will discuss this further—that there will be no further investment before a clear business case is produced. That will be debated by the House, and I think that is an important step forward. Indeed, I hope we will be able to vote on that. I will give the Minister a chance during this debate, and indeed during the weeks to come, to present further the case for expansion at this level. I am happy to withdraw my amendment at this stage, but we will undoubtedly return to the level and the exact amounts in due course. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed: 6, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out “£6,000” and insert “£3,000”.—(Patrick Grady.)
Question put, That the amendment be made.
Before I call the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, it may be helpful for the Committee to be aware that, if amendment 7 is agreed to, not only will all of the other amendments in the group fall, but all of the new clauses cannot be debated because they all refer to a provision that amendment 7 would remove. Nevertheless, I have decided that it would be helpful for there to be separate debates afterwards on some of the new clauses—but I do not wish to hear repeated arguments about the principle of the delegated power.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out “£12,000” and insert “£11,999”.
Amendment 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out “£12,000 million” and insert
“the amount specified in subsection (4A).
(4A) The amount specified in this subsection is whichever is the lesser of the following amounts—
(i) £12,000 million,
(ii) the current limit at the time plus the amount determined in accordance with subsection (4B).
(4B) The Secretary of State shall determine the amount for the purposes of this subsection by estimating the amount which will constitute 5% of official development assistance in the relevant period determined in accordance with subsection (4C).
(4C) That period begins with the financial year in which the Secretary of State considers that the Crown’s assistance to the Corporation (determined in accordance with subsection (2)) will exceed the current limit at the time and ends at the end of the fourth subsequent financial year.
(4D) For the purposes of this section—
‘the current limit at the time’ means—
(a) prior to the making of any regulations under subsection (4), £6,000 million,
(b) thereafter, the limit set in regulations made under subsection (4) then in force;
‘official development assistance’ has the same meaning as in the most recent annual report laid before each House of Parliament in accordance with the provisions of section 1 of the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006.”.
This amendment would set a new limit on the power to make regulations to increase the limit on government assistance under section 15, expressed as either £12 billion or the current limit at the time plus 5% of official development assistance over a five year period, whichever is the lesser amount.
Clause stand part.
I am conscious of your admonishment not to repeat the arguments I made when I moved amendment 6, Chair. I will discuss a few other issues, specifically around the use of a statutory instrument in this way, the value of it and the way in which other replenishments and funding rounds are agreed for development finance institutions.
Many of the arguments that we have already discussed also apply to amendment 7, although I will come to one that we did not cover, but the fundamental issue is whether the Government should be given this level of power. There is a debate to be had about how much we give CDC, over what time period and with what caveats, but giving the Secretary of State the power to come back at the time of their choosing, which could be next week or in 10 years’ time, and not just increase the amount by another couple of billion but double it, is very significant. I am always extremely reluctant to grant Ministers such powers, whether they are financial powers or Executive powers.
We all know that despite the procedures of this House and the fact that many Members take an active interest in Delegated Legislation Committees and statutory instruments, secondary legislation often does not receive the same scrutiny as primary legislation. It often goes through on the nod or is scheduled on funny days when Members are not available. Obviously it is the responsibility of all Members to turn up and hold the Government to scrutiny, but given the debate we have had on the matter in this Committee and in the legislative process, it seems odd not to ask the Government to come back later with another Bill.
Let us not forget that a Bill was not required from 1999 to today, when only £1.5 billion was used. Even if there was an expansion, not to require another Bill for quite a significant period and just to put through another uptick, perhaps by a mischievous future Secretary of State or the current one, seems very odd.
I must come back to the Minister’s point about other development finance institutions and the processes they are subject to. Most development finance institutions, including the global health fund, the World Bank’s International Development Association, individual development banks and UN agencies, tend to go through replenishment rounds. They agree a set period, put out strategies and requests to donors for funding and come back on a three or four-year cycle. Those requests have to be justified so that we can scrutinise them and say whether we agree. Indeed, that is the very purpose of the multilateral aid review: to look into whether we are giving money in all the right areas and where we think some development finance institutions are underperforming.
I am concerned that, although CDC may be doing better in line with its 2012 plan, making improvements and shifting its focuses, as we have heard from the Minister, without any ability to come back and have a full, thorough debate about the nature of the organisation, the caveats that are placed on it and the overall cap of funding that it should receive, we are giving Ministers a completely open-ended power to increase that funding very significantly. Let us not forget that £12 billion is equivalent, roughly, to the annual aid budget—I know the Minister has made it clear that it will not be used in one year, but it is a very significant sum of money. We ought to be acting with real caution when giving Ministers such powers.
It would help if the Minister could be clear about the time periods he is looking at. If he is talking about 20 years, let us hear him say that. I would still be nervous even so, because a future Secretary of State or Minister might change their mind, but it would help to smooth the debate if we heard that statement from the Minister.
The other issue that the Committee did not discuss in our consideration of the previous amendment was the focus on sectors. I mentioned the problem of multiplying potential shifts into certain countries or regions, away from stated objectives; that argument applies equally to sectors. If we increased the limit to £12 billion, it would be magnified even further. I was concerned to receive an answer from the Minister today about certain sectors in which he stated that the CDC continues to disburse into some really questionable areas. One is private, fee-paying education—the CDC’s portfolio value in 2015 was £56.9 million. Another is private healthcare providers and services, in which the CDC had a total portfolio value in 2015 of £117.9 million. Its portfolio value in extractive industries—metals and mining—was £9.3 million; the portfolio value in palm oil, which we have discussed in relation to the Feronia case and other matters, was £20.4 million; the value of the investment in real estate is £147.7 million; and in fossil fuels, the current value of CDC’s portfolio is £250 million. That seems to me to be at complete odds with DFID’s wider development objectives for Government coherence.
To come back to the nature of the amendment—I can see Ms Ryan looking anxiously at me—those sorts of issue will be magnified even further by rapid increases in the budget without caveats being placed on it. Ms Ryan, you have rightly said that were we to vote on the amendment, and were it to pass, we would not get a chance to discuss some of those other matters, but the power being given here without assurances is simply not acceptable and I have great concerns about giving that power to Ministers.
I shall raise only two points. I made all the comments I could possibly make on amendment 2 in the previous debate, so I will not detain the Committee further. I am sure it is terribly bad form, but I hope, Ms Ryan, that you will not mind, if we are still sitting when the business in the Chamber gets to the Adjournment debate, which is on rail services in my constituency, Southend, that I rush off before any possible vote.
I share many of the concerns outlined by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth. Amendment 5, tabled in my name, would apply the same formula to the upper cap as my previous amendment, and I have obviously heard the Committee’s view on that. I heard the Minister’s view as well and I appreciate the fact that he has given it some consideration. Even if that particular formula would not meet the standards that DFID would like it to meet, it would be interesting to see whether there was a way of coming up with a proportionate formula. That would answer a number of points that have been made today.
We have heard from a number of witnesses and in other evidence to the Bill, as well as from other hon. Members on Second Reading and since, that the £12 billion figure is particularly high, especially as it might theoretically be some years down the line before that maximum is reached or a need for it is felt. In that case, the points made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth about the use of a statutory instrument are correct; it would perhaps be better if the Government were to come back with primary legislation in due course. We may come on to some of these issues in the debates on the new clauses, but the hon. Gentleman made a point earlier about the number of other arm’s length bodies that have the potential to receive an 800% increase in their funding from the Government with so little scrutiny. We should bear that in mind.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I speak against amendment 7 —that will be no surprise—and in favour of clause 1(3). I would like to use the opportunity to probe the Minister a little, without straying too much into strategies, about the general thinking on direct versus indirect investing and how that relates to the figures, particularly the figure of £12 billion.
It is my view that the CDC has had unparalleled success in identifying and stimulating people in a variety of countries to set up first-time funds that then contribute to economic development in countries around the world. That role is, in itself, a tremendous aspect of British development policy—finding people in new countries who can then assist in the economic development of their countries.
We heard on Second Reading from the former Secretary of State about why getting the CDC to focus a bit more on direct investing had an advantage, in that people would then recognise that the CDC was there—it was good branding for us, developed a deeper understanding of countries and we were less stand-offish—but there is a value in indirect investing. As the Minister will know, the UK budget is only part of the money in that role. There is a multiplier effect from the CDC providing its money into first-time funds, because those funds then attract third-party funds as well. Does the Minister feel there is the right balance between direct and indirect investing? Can he reassure me that the CDC will continue to focus on the identification and creation of first-time funds in developing countries and that he shares the view of its role in the development agenda for the United Kingdom?
It goes to the point the Minister was kind enough to pick up on at Second Reading, when I mentioned the equivalence of respect. Part of this initiative from the Government is about rebalancing the way in which development budgets from the UK are spent. Rather than being a donor and donee model, we will work mutually together from the point of view of respect to understand how economic development in one country can be supported by a third country.
Those are my main points. Is the capacity there and does the Minister see indirect investment as having a significant role in the future? Does he share the view that identifying first-time funds in developing countries is an important part of our agenda and will he recommit himself to the issue of equivalence of respect through this amendment?
I accept that the potential increase from £6 billion to £12 billion is very substantial. I note that subsection (3) talks about regulations. Does the Minister envisage gradual increases, perhaps of a billion at a time, through regulations under secondary legislation? I believe that secondary legislation is a very adequate way in which to do this and that hon. Members need to take it very seriously, as the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth has mentioned. However, it might reassure Members if somewhere in the Bill or in an amendment it was stated that the increases would be no more than, say, £2 billion at a time. After all, we are now considering raising the amount by £4.5 billion in the Bill, yet, as I understand it, we are looking to put it up by £6 billion through secondary legislation. It might therefore be proportionate to indicate that we would expect the Government to come back to the House on more than one occasion if the sum were to go from £6 billion to £12 billion.
For the sake of avoiding repetition, I will cite the case I previously outlined, because I think the arguments are exactly the same. The only additional point is that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, who makes the point that using a statutory instrument to double the increase, if not more, is something that MPs will be uncomfortable with, for obvious reasons.
Ms Ryan, thank you very much for chairing this debate. I will deal with these issues very quickly, because I do not wish to detain people very long. A few issues of fact: first, this will not be an additional £12 billion on top of the £6 billion. We are talking about lifting the ceiling, so it will be an additional £6 billion. Essentially, the whole debate—we keep coming back to it in different ways—is about the fact that the CDC, through an accident in history, is governed by completely different rules from any other body to which we can give money. In the initial legislation, from 1948 onwards, a cap was put on the amount of money that the Government could put in. An additional cap was put in during the early 2000s when the Government were proposing to sell off CDC. The cap was put in there simply so that the Government did not pump more money into this organisation before it was sold off. That was a perfectly legitimate intention of primary legislation, but it puts us in an eccentric position in that it is possible for us to give, theoretically, unlimited money to an NGO, to a research council or any other body, to the World Bank and to other financial institutions, whereas the CDC is the only institution for which we have to return to primary legislation every time we wish to give it money.
The point about this ability to go up to £12 billion in the future would be that it would try to put the CDC into a similar position to the other recipients. In other words, on the basis of Parliament, the Minister and the Department, a decision would be made on the strategy on how the money was to be allocated. Money could be allocated to an NGO, it could be allocated to CDC, and we would do that through the normal departmental process.
The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth asked about time. My strong belief, which I am happy to put on the record, is that the money we are asking for—that first ability to increase by £4.5 billion—would be the absolute maximum over the next five-year period up to 2021. We do not intend to come back for the next money until at least after 2021-22. At that point a new Government—it could be a Government, theoretically, of the Labour party—would have the option to come, through secondary legislation, and ask for the ability to increase the cap up to £12 billion. That, again, I would anticipate being for continuous, steady state investment. That £12 billion simply reflects, again, about £1 billion a year from the 2021 period going forward to 2026. That is the kind of money we are talking about and that is the kind of plan that is in place.
To conclude, we have heard very detailed, powerful and encyclopaedic speeches from the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth. He has already made enormous arguments about the sectors and countries in which we should be investing. I request, if possible, that we do not return to those when the amendments are discussed, because they have already been made in enormous detail during the debate so far.
Ms Ryan, I am sure that you, rather than the Minister, will decide what is in order. I have no doubt that we will want to explore some of those issues in further detail. I am sure the Minister does not want to, but I hope we can prevail on you. The fundamental issue here concerns my outstanding question: why £12 billion? Where has this figure come from? What is it based on? It seems to have been arbitrarily picked out of the air. It is an 800% potential increase, as the hon. Member for Glasgow North pointed out along the way.
It is helpful that the Minister talked about the timescale. He says that it goes up to 2021 and that he does not intend to come back before 2022. My question is, why give this power now at all? Why not just require another simple, one-clause Bill to increase the cap if CDC is shown to be performing, to be reforming, to be diverting its focus more to poverty eradication, more to some of the countries we want to work in, or some of the sectors we would like to see it working in? Why not come back? This happens with other legislation. An armed forces Bill comes through regularly to maintain funding for our standing armed forces, and there are many other instances where simple pieces of legislation are proposed and receive the required level of scrutiny—indeed, this has happened with the CDC in its lifetime. My concern is why we would give such extensive powers at this stage. I take in good faith the assurance of the Minister, but obviously, as I have said before, that does not apply to future Ministers. The Minister mentioned the issue of selling off CDC; what if a Minister wanted to do that in the future? This would allow a Government to pump money into it before a sell-off. That is concerning and should concern all of us in this Committee.
I was interested in the point made by the hon. Member for Stafford about gradual increases. Will the Minister reflect on the possibility of considering an India cap of a certain amount beyond which CDC could not increase, whether it be £1 billion or less, at a time, whether that was a year or a two-year period, and coming back with secondary legislation to do that? That might give a lot more assurance as to the scale of the increase and it would not be prey to the sorts of pressures that I know exist within the Department in terms of overspending more generally. We have a 0.7% target that we need to meet. As the CDC contributes to that, it is incredibly tempting, if there has been underspending in one Department or another, to suddenly pump a load of new capital into it, record it as official development assistance for that year, as has happened, and have it contribute to the overall figure.
However, I think the Minister has said some important things. I want to hear more about the caveats and strategy for CDC going forward and while I wholly object to the suggestion of giving statutory instrument powers, secondary legislation powers, I am sure that this will be an issue that those at the other end of the building will look at in great detail in due course. At this stage I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Short title, extent and commencement
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
As hon. Members will be aware, clause 2 is entirely standard. The only point of any note is that in this case, the Bill will come into force on Royal Assent. As we have discussed, this is an enabling Bill. The amendment made by the Bill to the cap and the introduction of the delegated power have no immediate effect and nothing is gained by subjecting them to delay or later commencement by Ministers, so it is appropriate that they come into force on the day the Bill is passed.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New Clause 1
Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: poverty reduction
“After section 15 of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 (limit on government assistance), insert—
‘15A Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: poverty reduction
(1) The Secretary of State may only lay a draft of regulations under section 15(4) before the House of Commons if he has also laid before the House of Commons a review in accordance with subsection (2).
(2) A review under this subsection must provide the Secretary of State’s assessment of the extent to which the increase in the limit on the Crown’s assistance to the Corporation is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.
(3) In this section, “reduction in poverty” shall have the same meaning as in section 1(1) of the International Development Act 2002.’” —(Patrick Grady.)
This new clause would require any draft regulations to increase the limit on government assistance under section 15(4) to be preceded by a review, also to be laid before the House of Commons, of the extent to which the increase in the limit will contribute to a reduction in poverty, the aim of development assistance.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I mentioned during the evidence session that nowhere in the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 do we find the words “poverty” or “impact,” or even the phrase “international development”. We have heard much on Second Reading and in Committee—in evidence and during our debates—about the robust business cases, policies and decision-making procedures that are in place in DFID and CDC, but at the end of the day, that is all they are: policies and procedures. New clause 1—and perhaps some of the other new clauses—attempts to make it much clearer in the legislation that governs the CDC that it must meet the same high standards set for DFID and all the other Departments that spend money towards the ODA target. The new clause would require any proposal by the Government to raise the limit on Government assistance to CDC to be accompanied by a report to the House about how such an increase in investment was expected to lead to a reduction in poverty, as defined by the International Development Act 2002.
As we have just heard, the Government are asking for authority to increase their investment in CDC to up to £12 billion by statutory instrument. That is both a significant amount in itself and nearly 10 times the current investment cap. As I said a minute ago, I wonder how many other arm’s length bodies have received or have the potential to receive such an increase—800%—in their funding from the Government by statutory instrument without any additional information justifying that being required to be laid before Parliament.
If Parliament is to be asked to increase the funding cap, it should have information at its disposal to help it make that decision. Ministers keep telling us that robust business cases will be presented, but—
Order. The hon. Gentleman mentioned new clause 2. We are debating new clause 1.
My apologies, Ms Ryan; I meant new clause 1. Given the previous concerns about potential bad practice, which were raised on Second Reading, does my hon. Friend recognise the potential for misuse of this substantial fund as an enticement in titanic and desperate international trade negotiations due to Brexit? Should not a serious, transparent and fully accountable stage-gate approval review be implemented before any funding is approved on a case-by-case basis?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said, Ministers have told us that robust business cases will be presented, but that is an assurance from the current crop of Ministers and the current generation of CDC officials. Putting reporting requirements in the Bill would help to future-proof against any risk of CDC backsliding into the kinds of questionable behaviours that were raised on Second Reading. My hon. Friend also raises interesting points about precisely how this massive potential investment in CDC relates to the Government’s ongoing trade agenda and their interests in trading with different parts of the world, especially in the light of Brexit.
The mechanism proposed in the new clause may not be perfect, and some of the other new clauses are, in some ways, a bit more robust and may place a heavier burden on the Government, but are the Government prepared to use this opportunity to make it clear in the Bill—as they seem to be doing in debate and in the evidence we have heard—that the primary purpose of the CDC and the taxpayers’ money that it spends is to reduce poverty around the world, and that people come before profit?
I am interested in this new clause. I think it will be very helpful to have the CDC more tightly linked to the terms of the International Development Act 2002. That set an important legal framework, which has guided the use of our ODA aid over the past 14 years, and therefore there are important safeguards within it that need to be closely looked at as regards the CDC. One of the issues is with the transparency around the CDC. Perhaps the Minister can clarify some of these, but when someone delves into the detail of some of the projects, organisations and programmes that we are funding, although there are a significant number of projects that are clearly focused on poverty reduction and are in some of the poorest countries in the world, there are others where it is questionable as to what the poverty-focused role is.
We heard this morning about the private healthcare provider in India. We could, but will not at this stage, get into a lengthy debate about the merits of private and voluntary healthcare versus public funded healthcare in developing countries, the role in transition and so on. It concerns me that CDC appears to be investing in a private fee-paying hospital without a focus on access for some of the poorest patients, for example, or some explanation as to why that money is focused on poverty eradication rather than as just a generalised investment.
I looked into one of the others called Qiming Venture Partners, which is a Chinese-based entrepreneurial fund. It describes itself as one of the top funders of entrepreneurs in the internet and consumer products; I struggle to see how that relates to poverty reduction. It has some very interesting pictures on its website of its staff sitting on tanks in Mongolia. I am happy for the Minister to clarify the nature of that investment, and if it is something completely different I will happily withdraw my comments about it, but it is very odd.
Another one we heard about this morning was Feronia. Clearly that is an investment in agribusiness, and we can see links there to poverty reduction and jobs in the agribusiness sector. However, there are also questions about the potential negative effects on livelihoods and poverty eradication because the investment is in palm oil. There are questions about land grabs, the rights of people living in the area and whether that is even a sustainable product to be investing in. Again, it seems odd that we are investing in fossil fuel projects when we are told that climate change is one of the biggest threats to developing countries and people in the poorest countries. I know that that is not just a problem to CDC; it applies to some of our investments through other development finance institutions, and is something we ought to look at much more closely.
I feel that tying CDC more closely to the wider terms under which DFID operates, and the wider terms in which our ODA is spent, would be helpful. Otherwise we might get some very interesting challenges and could even have legal challenges—judicial reviews—on some of these projects, particularly if we were to put in large sums of new money. I am sure that some of the campaigning organisations would take great interest in seeing whether some of these projects actually adhere to the principles that we set out for the Department and the spending of our ODA. I am encouraged by the new clause, and am certainly interested in the Minister’s comments on it.
This is an important principle—we should be focused on poverty reduction and the particular aspect of poverty reduction through job creation and economic development. I absolutely agree, and that is central to the mission of the CDC and its investment policy, but we are circling around a bigger issue: where is the appropriate place for this to happen?
I think that the only disagreement between myself and the hon. Member for Glasgow North is that this is a straightforward Bill, which is designed to lift the cap. We believe that the appropriate place to determine spending decisions and exactly how strategy works is through the normal departmental process. That would be true for our investments in the World Bank and in Unicef, money we would give to Oxfam or Save the Children, or anybody. We have procedures and processes to do that, which do not happen through primary legislation. We will continue to present that five-year strategy in December for the hon. Member for Glasgow North and other right hon. Members to interrogate. We will continue to present the business cases. We will be held absolutely accountable in law. In 2015 we passed a law that we would spend 0.7% on overseas development assistance as defined by the OECD. The money we are giving is governed by that legislation, which commits us legally to make sure that that money is driven precisely in the directions that the hon. Member has raised.
The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth continues to raise many different issues. I am struggling to work out in which sequence to answer them, because many of them are things I thought the hon. Gentleman was attempting to raise in later amendments. I hope that we are not going to keep hearing again and again about the same caseloads.
It seems to me that the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth has raised interesting points about individual investments by the CDC. He is concerned about where the geographic spend is. The figures probably suggest that it has been 48% in Africa over the last few years, but there is an interesting question there, on which the Minister might want to comment: if one invests in a business that is, for the sake of argument, based in Mumbai but investing in east Africa, is that geographically described as an Indian investment or an east African investment? The hon. Member then had questions about sectoral investment. There are interesting questions there, because if someone is building hospitals, they are also in construction, and therefore there are jobs for people building the hospital. Is that classified as an investment in health, in construction, or both?
Order. This is an intervention. If the hon. Gentleman wants to speak longer, he needs to indicate—
I will bring it to an end almost immediately. It struck me that the Minister might want to confirm that the CDC can be held to account directly before the Select Committee and that that is the place to ask specific questions on specific investments and their sectoral and geographic emphasis, rather than in this Bill Committee.
I think it is for me to decide where the best place for the questions is, and I have allowed them.
To conclude, and to follow up from my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, the questions about poverty and the impacts of our investments need to be asked again and again, right through the process. They need to be asked in Parliament; they can be asked through urgent questions; they can be asked through this process. They also need to be asked primarily in details about the CDC’s mission, its investment policy, the ex ante decision making based on the development impact grid, through the development impact theory on each individual investment, and we have to do it in a way that gets a very difficult balance right, because the National Audit Office has been very clear that it does not want the Department micromanaging and interfering in individual business cases and decisions. We are supposed to be setting the overall strategy, driving where the money is meant to be and driving it towards exactly the kind of indicators that right hon. and hon. Members have raised. Given the number of measures that the Government will be taking to address exactly the issues raised, not in the Bill but through all the existing other processes, within both the CDC and the Department and the wider parliamentary and public accountability process, I ask politely that the new clause be withdrawn.
That was an interesting and helpful response from the Minister. He has repeatedly said throughout this process that the CDC is different from all the organisations that DFID disburses funds to, precisely because of the way it is constituted in statute and the historical legacy, going back 70 years. This is an important opportunity to include in the Bill some of the assurances that the Minister continues to give us, to make it clear that poverty reduction is one of the purposes of the CDC. I hear what the Minister says about withdrawing the new clause at this stage. If I do so, I hope that he will understand if we choose to come back at a later stage with more detail. Perhaps the Government would indicate that they are willing to work on how we can build into the legislation some of the reassurances that we keep asking for and they say they are going to give us. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
New Clause 2
Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: Sustainable Development Goals
After section 15 of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 (limit on government assistance), insert—
“15A Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: Sustainable Development Goals
(1) The Secretary of State may only lay a draft of regulations under section 15(4) before the House of Commons if he has also laid before the House of Commons a review in accordance with subsection (2).
(2) A review under this subsection must provide the Secretary of State’s assessment of the extent to which the increase in the limit on the Crown’s assistance to the Corporation is likely to contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
(3) In this section, “the Sustainable Development Goals” means the Goals adopted at the United Nations on 25 September 2015.””—(Patrick Grady.)
This new clause would require any draft regulations to increase the limit on government assistance under section 15(4) to be preceded by a review, also to be laid before the House of Commons, of the extent to which the increase in the limit will contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 10—
Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: assessment of contribution to Sustainable Development Goals
After section 15 of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 (limit on government assistance), insert—
“15A Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: assessment of contribution to Sustainable Development Goals
(1) The Secretary of State may only lay a draft of regulations under section 15(4) before the House of Commons if he has also laid before the House of Commons the documents specified in subsection (2).
(2) The document specified in this subsection is a report containing an assessment by—
(a) CDC, and
(b) the Secretary of State
of the extent to which the proposed use of the new investment enabled by the proposed increase in the current limit at the time will contribute to progress in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals.
(3) In this section—
“the current limit at the time” means—
(a) prior to the making of any regulations under section 15(4), £6,000 million,
(b) thereafter, the limit set in regulations made under section 15(4) then in force;
“the Sustainable Development Goals” means the Goals adopted at the United Nations on 25 September 2015.””
This new clause would require any draft regulations to increase the limit on government assistance under section 15(4) to be preceded by the laying before the House of Commons of assessments by both CDC itself and the Secretary of State of the extent to which additional investment will contribute towards progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
I have already explained why reporting requirements are important and we heard the Minister’s response. The new clause asks for a report on how increasing the limit on Government assistance would help to achieve the sustainable development goals. It is worth putting on record why that is important. The sustainable development goals ought to be the overriding framework that explains in more detail what po