Skip to main content

Bilateral Aid Review

Volume 773: debated on Wednesday 6 July 2016


Asked by

As my right honourable friend the International Development Secretary confirmed last week, the outcome of the bilateral aid review will be published shortly, together with DfID’s other aid reviews. This enables us to present a more complete picture of our future plans and publish more detailed priorities for each country programme.

My Lords, the confirmation by the Secretary of State that it would be in the early summer is indeed welcome, because the delay has been unfortunate. Can the Government confirm that these new bilateral plans will be targeted to seek the fullest possible implementation of the sustainable development goals agreed at the United Nations last September, and to building the institutional and government capacity in our partner countries to ensure that they can deliver on the goals themselves?

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right—I will take his second point first—about ensuring that we build capacity and strengthen institutions in the developing world so that countries are able to make the programmes that we are working on in those countries work for them much more effectively and efficiently. On his first point, it is really important that we do not lose focus on the SDGs. That is the start of the process and I am pretty certain that, as we go forward, develop our programme plans and work with other multilaterals, others will also look closely at what we are doing and will, we hope, support our work to ensure that those goals are met and we end up leaving no one behind.

My Lords, is DfID now looking at the implications of Brexit and the potential end of the UK’s major influence over the EU’s aid budget? If so, what are the implications for what the UK might do bilaterally now?

My Lords, we expect some challenges and change following the decision to leave the EU, which will affect some parts of the development work that we are undertaking, but it is a very small percentage of the work that we deliver through the European Development Fund. We will very much continue to work with our partners through multilateral institutions. I emphasise that we have committed ourselves to the 0.7%—that will be our commitment and we will continue to help shape global events and work with our multilateral partners to do so.

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that our commitment to overseas aid is not only a very important matter of principle but, particularly in the wake of the post-EU referendum turbulence, a timely and tangible reaffirmation of the outward-looking and compassionate country that we want the UK to be? In that context, I observe that some early good news from her department would be a welcome and positive signal.

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right: we want to be seen continuing with the excellent work that we do as a global leader in this field. It is important that we also make sure that we do not take our foot off the pedal in ensuring that others also step up and have the same ambition as us. Yes, there are conversations to be had about the fact that we will now be leaving the EU; however, I re-emphasise that we will continue to work very closely with all our multilateral partners.

My Lords, the last time my noble friend asked this Question, we were told that the review would be completed in the spring. Now we are being told that it will be completed—I very much hope—in the summer. I hope it is not a Heathrow-type summer. The point I made the last time the Question was asked was about the capacity of the department to deliver not only the review but the outcomes of the review. That is a serious concern, bearing in mind our commitment to 0.7%. Can the Minister give us a detailed assurance that the department will have the capacity to effectively monitor the bilateral programmes that we end up with following the review?

My Lords, we have started updating our building stability framework. We have made a number of structural changes through the Better Delivery agenda to strengthen the delivery of our programmes. The reviews are complex. We want to present a rounded, whole picture of all the reviews, so we have brought the multilateral, bilateral and civil society reviews together. We have a much more focused picture of how we can deliver better in those countries where there is most need. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, said, it is really about making sure that we do not lose sight of the delivery of the SDGs. At the same time, we need to make sure that what we are delivering is being done in the most effective way, with value for money for the British public.

My Lords, I am a strong supporter of the Government’s aid and development commitments, but I am concerned about the porous lines between international aid and furthering the national interest. As the International Development Committee stated back in March, poverty reduction must remain a top priority for UK aid. Can the Minister indicate whether Her Majesty’s Government will seek to strengthen the conditions under which government spending can be classed as overseas development aid?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is absolutely right about ensuring that we do not lose sight of the way we deliver aid. It is being delivered through a number of government departments but we seek to ensure that we have a cross-government approach. We are making sure that our aid is delivered in a way that will be accountable and transparent, but is also delivered to the poorest and most needy people first. It is important—whether in a fragile-country setting or in a development setting—that we do not lose sight of the fact that ultimately we need to deliver first to the people who need it most.