I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill will raise the limit on the total cumulative level of financial support that can be provided to the CDC, the UK’s development finance institution. The CDC was founded by Clement Attlee’s Labour Government in 1948 and is the world’s oldest development finance institution. It is wholly owned by the UK Government and does not have private shareholders. Its mission is to tackle poverty by creating jobs and driving inclusive economic development for people in the poorest countries in Africa and South Asia.
The CDC exists to help to address what economists call a “market failure”: the desperate shortage of investment in the world’s poorest countries because, in part, of a misperception of the risks of doing business there. It addresses that market failure by providing investment capital to support the building of businesses throughout Africa and South Asia. Its explicit mandate is to drive labour-intensive growth by creating jobs and opportunities for working people. Since its creation, the CDC has been supported by all successive Governments—Labour, coalition and Conservative—because of its core purpose of tackling poverty through sustainable economic growth. I present the Bill in the hope that that spirit of cross-party support will continue. I look forward to colleagues across the House offering the fullest possible scrutiny, and I welcome the opportunity to constructively address any points that Members raise.
In recent years the UK has led the world in efforts to eliminate extreme poverty. The previous Labour Government made an important contribution, for example, in relieving the unpayable debts of the world’s poorest countries. Under David Cameron’s leadership, the UK become the first G7 country to meet its promise to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on international development. The current Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government will honour that commitment and intensify our leadership on key global issues such as tackling modern slavery.
The Government have also rightly made clear and bold manifesto commitments to tackle poverty directly.
I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on her appointment to the Cabinet in this very important job—I know that she has been doing it for a while, but this is my first opportunity to do so. Later, she will meet the officers of the all-party group on Yemen. Will she confirm that the refocusing of funds in support of the CDC will not affect the Government’s commitment to the provision of emergency and humanitarian aid that she and her Minister of State have spoken of and given to Yemen over the past few years, as did her predecessor, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who is also in the Chamber?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that welcome and for his remarks. He is right: successive British Governments have been very clear not just about their commitment to the CDC but about our collective focus on humanitarian need at times of crisis. I look forward to seeing the delegation from the all-party group later today, when I will of course speak more about the work that the Government are doing in Yemen, where we are seeing the most awful and horrendous catastrophe. I will speak to the right hon. Gentleman later in more detail about the type of interventions and the support we are providing to those trapped in that dreadful conflict.
By 2020, we will save 1.4 million children’s lives by immunising 76 million children against killer diseases. We will help at least 11 million children in the poorest countries to gain a decent education, improve nutrition for at least 50 million people who would otherwise go hungry, and help at least 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation. We will lead the response to humanitarian emergencies. We will lead a major new global programme to accelerate the development of vaccines and drugs to eliminate the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, while investing to save lives from malaria and working to end preventable child and maternal deaths. We will also continue the inspirational leadership of my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), on women and girls.
Those commitments stand, along with our commitment to human development and directly meeting the needs of the world’s poorest, which is absolute and unwavering. Indeed, the first major decision I took in my role as Secretary of State for International Development was to increase the UK’s contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria from £800 million to £1.1 billion. That will help to save millions of lives in the years ahead.
The Secretary of State is outlining a long list of the Department for International Development’s achievements and her plans for the future, and she is praising her predecessors. Can she explain what has happened since she called for the Department to be scrapped and since she told the Daily Mail this year that most of our aid budget was being “stolen” and “squandered”? Those are her words.
The hon. Gentleman has just heard not only what DFID has done in the past under two outstanding Secretaries of State—my predecessors, my right hon. Friends the Members for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) and for Putney—which is a legacy that we will stand by in our manifesto commitments, but—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wants an answer, he should listen to my response.
I have already said that we will lead on major global programmes to accelerate the development of vaccines and drugs to eliminate many of the world’s diseases. The hon. Gentleman has also heard me respond to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) on the question of humanitarian crises and many of the immediate needs to which we are responding. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the very Select Committee of which he is a member is witnessing at first hand how aid is being spent in crisis situations, in refugee camps, and providing opportunities and, frankly, a lifeline to people around the world who are suffering. That is exactly what my Department is doing and what I am doing as Secretary of State, and I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] This is not about briefing the press, and, if I may say so, I think the hon. Gentleman’s remarks do a huge disservice to the international development community. He is sitting there smugly smiling, but it is an international community that comes together—[Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he should not make remarks from a sedentary position, but if he is going to make remarks from a sedentary position, he should not use the word “you” because he should not be accusing me of anything.
It is not just in times of crisis that the international development community comes together. My Department is championing economic development and investing in people and human capital. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman may not like that and may disagree with it, but that is the core purpose of the Department.
The Secretary of State is making some very strong statements. Of course I do not deride the work of the Department; I think it is doing a fantastic job. She has outlined many of the positive things it is doing and the humanitarian aid it is providing to refugees, but why did she say that most of the Department’s budget was being stolen and squandered, without any justification?
As the hon. Gentleman knows from my appearances at the Select Committee, I have clearly stated that I will drive transparency and accountability in the Department. There have been examples. I am sorry that on an issue as important as not only saving lives but transforming lives and investing in people, he chooses to take such a narrow focus.
On the subject of the Bill, does the Secretary of State recognise that there are concerns that the CDC is not in fact targeting the poorest countries? Although private sector investment is very welcome, surely it needs to be just as targeted and as effectively monitored as investment in non-governmental organisations and other ways of boosting aid.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. It is right that the focus is on development impact and on outcomes. That has been shown by many of the reforms that the CDC has undertaken since 2010. Yesterday, a National Audit Office report was published which showed exactly that.
Will my right hon. Friend please be reassured that her efforts to ensure that we have accountability and transparency in all aspects of public expenditure, but particularly in the area of international development, are a key part of maintaining public confidence behind the 0.7% target?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We owe that to those who contribute to the taxes that enable the Government to make these important decisions about international development, and in particular our humanitarian responses and how we spend and invest that money. As I will go on to say, there are many examples around the world of lives being transformed, and that is something that our country can be very proud of.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that with regard to the concerns expressed about the CDC, the gravest relate to the period when the Opposition were in government—for example, the excessive levels of pay to CDC staff? Has the Conservative Government not got a grip of that, and is the CDC not much more efficient following the review in 2012 by the then Secretary of State?
I thank my hon. Friend for her comments and observation. As I outlined at the beginning, the CDC is an established organisation that we should all be proud of. Clearly, there was a period before 2010 when the management of the CDC was, to put it mildly, not doing what it should have been doing. There were concerns about excessive pay and the lack of focus on development outcomes. Since 2010, when DFID led the way forward in working with the CDC, we have seen great progress.
I must make progress.
As I mentioned earlier, contrary to some of the reports that we have seen in the past week, the future of the CDC will absolutely not come at the expense of DFID’s existing work on humanitarian support, human development and directly tackling what might be called the symptoms of poverty—disease, hunger and preventable suffering.
We all have a deep responsibility to tackle the underlying causes of poverty. That is why successive Governments have rightly focused increasingly on helping countries to grow, lifting the poorest out of poverty forever. That means creating jobs for the world’s poorest people, and driving the structural economic change that will end poverty permanently. To do this, we need to build the broadest possible coalition to fight poverty.
That includes NGOs and civil society organisations from the UK and from developing countries, which do such vital work. DFID’s recent civil society partnership review clearly stated the Government’s desire to work even more collaboratively with them in pursuit of these objectives.
Eliminating poverty also means working in partnership with multilateral agencies such as the Global Fund, with other bilateral development agencies, and directly with Governments in developing countries.
An example of that was the event that I and the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) went to last week with His Royal Highness the ambassador of Saudi Arabia. DFID is working with wealthy donor countries to unlock enormous potential across the middle east. If not for the leadership shown by DFID, some of that work would be undone.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. As he knows, a great deal of work is taking place with other Governments, helping them to develop their own capacity for aid, so that they can work more effectively bilaterally and with multilateral agencies. At a time when we see a great deal of conflict in that region, we are working on an agreement with some countries in the Gulf and the middle east on what their own development bodies and agencies can do to support humanitarian relief as a result of crises taking place on their doorstep.
Today I want to explain why CDC is a vital partner in our efforts to end poverty, for it is widely recognised that aid on its own will not eliminate poverty. No country can defeat poverty and leave aid dependency behind without the prospect of a functioning economy, sustainable economic growth, jobs, trade and investment. Development investments via CDC complement our other work and allow us to fight the scourge of poverty on all fronts. In the world today, faltering economic growth and rising young populations have exposed the chronic need for jobs and better opportunities. At present, most developing countries are not growing fast enough or industrialising fast enough to leave poverty behind.
The additional financing needed to achieve the UN sustainable development goals by 2030 is estimated at $2.5 trillion every year, but current investment levels are less than half that. As the UN and many international development banks have made clear, much of this finance will need to come from the private sector. The chair of the OECD’s development assistance committee, Erik Solheim, has stated:
“There is no longer a dispute about the need for private sector involvement in development. The role of DFIs”—
that is, development finance institutions—
“is to connect development aid with private investment, and explore how we can employ market forces in the world’s most challenging places.”
Dr Dirk Willem te Velde, head of the international economic development group at the Overseas Development Institute, writing in the Financial Times yesterday, said:
“Statistical evidence to be published by the Overseas Development Institute soon suggests that a £10bn increase in exposure of DFIs in Africa would raise average incomes and labour productivity by a quarter of a per cent, which is actually slightly above the average impact of aid overall. Most jobs are created by the private sector, and working with the private sector to create jobs is vital for inclusive growth.”
We know that that will be difficult in the poorest, most fragile and conflict-affected states. These are the hardest markets, where businesses will not go on their own because it is perceived as too risky, yet it is in those very places that jobs and economic opportunities are so desperately needed. CDC does exactly that by creating jobs, stimulating growth and supporting local business.
There are currently only a few investors in the world with the skills and risk appetite to create jobs and opportunities in the most difficult frontier markets. CDC is one of those investors. CDC uses its expertise and capital to support over 1,200 businesses in more than 70 developing countries to grow and create jobs. It is a great British success story that has a long history of creating jobs in the developing world.
This is not just about abstract numbers; importantly, it is about investing in people. The life-changing impact of CDC’s investments can be seen in countries such as Sierra Leone, where the UK has supported businesses to get up and running to drive forward the country’s recovery following the devastating Ebola crisis, which killed thousands and damaged the economy. In the words of Henry Macauley, Sierra Leone’s Energy Minister, whom I met just three weeks ago:
“CDC has played an important role in supporting key businesses during the Ebola crisis and continues to do so in Sierra Leone as the economy now recovers. They are an increasingly important investor in the nation’s power sector and I’ve found them to be a great and promising private sector partner.”
The life-changing impact of the CDC’s investment can also be seen through people such as Yvonne, in Uganda. Thanks to a CDC-supported loan, she could buy a vehicle, a scrubbing machine and a vacuum cleaner for her cleaning business and attend training courses. In just 10 years, she had expanded her business from one person to providing jobs for 175 people. It is people such as Yvonne who we should have in our minds as we debate the Bill.
In the past, legitimate concerns were raised about some aspects of the CDC’s performance. That is why, in recent years, the CDC has modernised and transformed its approach. In 2010, DFID undertook a public consultation and an extensive review of the CDC, and began moving the CDC in a new direction, including by bringing in a new board and chair and hiring a new chief executive. Under its new leadership, the CDC has transformed itself. Before 2011, it operated a financial-return-first strategy, with no screening tool to help filter out insufficiently developmental investments.
The Secretary of State may have answered this question, or she may be coming on to answer it, but there were concerns about some of the salaries paid to senior officials at the CDC and about the monitoring of administrative costs. Given that we support this organisation, which is moving in the right direction, is she satisfied that there is proper monitoring of that aspect of its work?
That is an important point. Back in 2009, the CDC’s then chief executive was criticised quite extensively for the level of their salary and other pay, which stood at £970,000. The current chief exec’s total remuneration is now limited to a maximum of £300,000, and that is because the remuneration policies have changed dramatically since 2012. It is also important to reflect on the fact not only that pay across the organisation has been reduced by over 40%, but that compensation is no longer benchmarked, as it was prior to the changes in 2012, against the private equity industry. This is not a private equity firm at all. The CDC is now benchmarked against other development finance institutions, and any bonuses are based on the CDC’s development performance and returns, whereas, previously, they were based solely on financial performance. That has now changed.
No, I will not give way.
Under its new leadership, the CDC has transformed itself. As I said, it operated a financial-return-first strategy before 2011. It has now introduced dual objectives to deliver development impact and financial return. It has developed completely new ways of assessing and measuring development through job creation and of screening prospective investments for development impact. It is an innovative and intelligent investor with a core mission of fighting poverty. That was recognised in yesterday’s NAO report, which stresses that DFID’s oversight of the CDC led to
“important, positive changes...a significant departure from the previous strategy”.
Following new objectives agreed with the UK Government, the CDC now invests only in Africa and south Asia, where 80% of the world’s poorest live, and where private capital is scarce. The CDC focuses now on the sectors that create the most jobs and on sectors that create environments for other businesses to thrive, such as infrastructure and financial services. In the last year, CDC-backed businesses have helped to create over 1 million new jobs, and they have paid over $7 billion in local taxes in the last three years. That is money that Governments can use to invest in vital services, such as health and education.
As yesterday’s NAO report recognised, the CDC has addressed Parliament’s concerns about pay, and salaries have been cut, as I have just outlined. The whole ethos of the organisation has changed and, importantly, strengthened, with oversight from DFID. The CDC of today is a different, and much improved, organisation from the one it was many years ago. Some of the media coverage in recent days has not properly reflected that important shift, and I urge all Members to look carefully at the facts rather than some of the reporting.
Of course, there is more to do. Therefore, as part of the Bill, my Department will work to improve the transparency of the organisation further and to strengthen further the assessment of its development impact. As the NAO recognised, my Department has commissioned several independent evaluations of the CDC’s impact. Just last year, a team from Harvard, reviewing the CDC’s investments from 2008 to 2012, concluded that they had been “transformational”, creating hundreds of thousands of new direct jobs and billions of pounds in increased earnings. We are currently in the design stages of a complex new study to generate even more detailed data on the wider market impacts of CDC investments. We are the first Government ever to conduct such an in-depth study into their development finance institution.
There is no question but that the CDC offers value for money. Over the last five years, we have seen significant returns from it. Every penny of profit generated by the CDC is reinvested into businesses across the world’s poorest and most fragile regions, making every taxpayer pound invested in the CDC go further. The NAO further concluded that the CDC now has
“an efficient and economic operating model”
with low costs, compared with other development finance institutions. CDC salaries are covered by the returns the CDC makes on investments, not from development budgets.
Wherever possible, the CDC invests in countries, and it uses neutral jurisdictions only when it is absolutely necessary to do so, to protect taxpayer moneys from being lost to weak legal systems and to bring confidence to other global investors in the hardest-to-reach markets. However, the CDC uses only financial centres that are compliant with international tax transparency standards, as monitored by the OECD’s global forum on transparency and exchange of tax information. There are no exemptions.
Far from hiding investments, the CDC was one of the first development finance institutions to make public investment information about every single investment. In fact, with DFID’s support, the CDC is now a global leader on transparency. It has signed up to the international aid transparency initiative and has an online searchable database on its website, allowing users to access information on every investment and fund in the CDC’s portfolio. I can assure the House that my Department will continue to be an active and engaged shareholder in the CDC, ensuring that it continues to deliver for the world’s poorest and the UK taxpayer.
My right hon. Friend is outlining a strong case for what she proposes for the CDC. However, on the issue of probity, there are tremendous resources in the City of London, which could provide support for some of the businesses the CDC invests in as they look to get to the next stage of growth capital. Is there any element in the Bill, or are there any DFID proposals, to encourage City of London firms to provide that support for DFID goals?
It is important to acknowledge the City of London and the great expertise that exists there when it comes to not only investment in some of the most challenging parts of the world but transparency. Through the work the Government have done on tax and transparency, the City of London has moved incredibly far. My Department is working across the City of London on a range of issues, such as insurance. We are also looking at how we can do more on transparency and accountability, and that is absolutely right.
We will shortly be setting out a new investment policy for the CDC, covering the next five years. That will include a new reporting framework to better capture the broader impact of investments on development, beyond job creation and the tax revenue generated. We will ensure there is maximum transparency, so that CDC investments can be scrutinised and, importantly, so that their impact on combatting poverty is made clear. As I stated, the CDC has a strong and transparent track record on which to build. With our support and oversight, we want the CDC to do more, and that is why we need the Bill.
The Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 set a £1.5 billion limit on the overall amount of Government financial assistance that can be provided to the CDC. That limit was reached in 2015. The need to raise the CDC’s capital limit was clearly signalled in the UK aid strategy back in 2015. The Bill builds on the economic development objectives of Clare Short’s 1999 Act and should be seen not as a new political direction, but as a logical continuation of the cross-party approach that has been in place for decades.
Any money given to CDC will meet the internationally agreed rules about which spending counts as aid. Raising the limit by £4.5 billion to £6 billion and introducing a delegated power to raise the limit further via statutory instrument to £12 billion over time will enable the UK to accelerate the CDC’s growth, so that the UK can deliver on its international development objectives. Let me stress that this £6 billion is not an annual spend; it is a cumulative figure and a limit placed on the total amount of financial assistance that a Government could provide to the CDC over a period of time before coming back to the House to seek a further increase via statutory instrument.
I fully support what my right hon. Friend is saying. This is a progressive, cross-party movement, and this is not a radical piece of legislation. Decisions have not been made to spend the full £6 billion straight away, but if the Department did commit to spend right up to that limit and fund it each year up to 2020, it would still represent only 8% of the Secretary of State’s budget, so 92% of aid would be spent in a more traditional way. This is a progressive move, not a radical change.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He is absolutely right about the 8% figure. It is also worth pointing out, putting this into context, that total aid spending over the course of this Parliament is likely to be £60 billion.
Some inaccurate reports have suggested that this Bill somehow paves the way for the entire aid budget to be given to the CDC in perpetuity. That is clearly not the case. Increasing the capital limit does not guarantee that we will use our resources in this manner, or commit us to any increases in capital. My priority is to ensure that we achieve maximum value for money with UK aid. The provision of any new capital to the CDC will require a full and detailed business case that will show how further investment will continue to achieve value for money, have a clear development impact for the poorest, and deliver in the UK’s national interests. Furthermore, it is worth noting that because CDC investments generate a return, any additional money we give to the CDC is not spent once and then lost; it contributes to the CDC’s capital, which is continually reinvested now and in future years. Importantly, therefore, it remains an asset that ultimately belongs to the UK taxpayer.
This Bill is fundamentally about people: improving life prospects by helping individuals to find work and earn money, so that they can feed their families, send their children to school and put clothes on their backs; empowering girls and women to determine their own future; and giving people in the poorest and most marginalised places hope, so that they do not feel the pressures to migrate or turn to some of the extreme causes that we see around the world. The CDC is just one part—a relatively small part in the context of overall development spending—of our crucial investment in developing countries. We will continue to invest in our life-saving, life-changing health, education and sanitation programmes, meeting our manifesto commitments. Ultimately, though, this is about jobs, growth and enterprise that will defeat poverty for good. It is right that Britain leads the world to tackle poverty across the world given that we still have more than 1 billion people living on less than a dollar a day. The UK Government are playing a leading role in building a more prosperous world. This Bill is the right thing to do for the poorest people in the world and for British taxpayers, and I commend it to the House.
The vast majority of Members of this House support the UK’s guarantee to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international development. This view is supported by the people of this country, who understand that our aid programme makes a significant contribution to creating peace and economic sustainability around the world and to building a more secure and stable international community. Our aid budget makes a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of the world’s poorest people. Underpinning the faith that the British people have in our aid programme is the knowledge that the money that is spent in developing countries—taxpayers’ money—is transparent; that the funds are provided for projects that have clear objectives and tangible outcomes; and that the money goes directly to source, with no middlemen, no creaming off the top, and no profiteering from people’s poverty.
We will always welcome any measures that aim to improve the quality of life of those less fortunate than ourselves. This Bill, with the right safeguards, could achieve that. The job of Opposition Members, and of the whole House, is to ensure that some of the previous excesses and failures of the Commonwealth Development Corporation are not repeated. I say that as a friend of the CDC. It was the post-war Labour Government of Clement Attlee who created the forerunner of the CDC. Much of the work of the CDC is vital, and we should of course work to strengthen its ability to support businesses and create jobs around the world.
However, we have a number of serious reservations about this Bill. Since the Government are proposing up to an eightfold increase in the amount it can contribute to the CDC, it is right that we ask questions. Let me begin with executive pay at the CDC. While we would all acknowledge the steps that have been taken to curtail the excesses of the past, what guarantees have the Government received that we will see no repetition of the eye-watering salary hikes that people awarded themselves in the past? It would be fundamentally wrong for the extra money proposed in this Bill to be used to fill the bank accounts of the executives of the CDC instead of going to those who need it the most.
Does the hon. Lady accept that no one is considering going back to those bad old days? While I do not want this to be a partisan issue, because I think there is a wide degree of consensus, the original deal with the chief executive was signed off by Clare Short, and the new deal, which reduced the salary by a third and placed a cap on the maximum, was signed off by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) when he was Secretary of State. There is no going back to those bad old days; this is about working together on the new framework.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am concerned that we learn from the past. I am not here to pull punches: this is about learning from the past and ensuring that we move forward in the correct, transparent way.
The second question the Government must answer is on the priorities of the CDC. Recent history is not kind to the CDC and the decisions it has made on the allocation of its funds—UK taxpayers’ money. In recent years, the CDC has become a more commercial organisation. In 2004, the CDC created the private equity arm, Actis. In a deal that raised serious concerns on the governance of the corporation, 60% of the equity firm was sold to managers at the CDC at a bargain basement price. In the space of a few years, they had turned the CDC from an aid agency into a cash machine. With the focus turned to maximising profits, mainly for those who worked at the CDC, the traditional areas of financial support that the CDC had focused on for nearly 60 years were being abandoned. Food security through agriculture programmes went, safe and clean water projects were cancelled, and transport and infrastructure projects were abandoned. Poverty reduction—surely key to any development objectives—withered on the vine of self-interest and, I am afraid to say, earning a fast buck.
It is worth comparing the principles and values on which the CDC was founded to achieve its aims with the realities of its present-day operation. In 1998, the CDC spent 50% of its budget on agribusiness in Africa. That investment had two virtues: first, it helped to feed people in those countries, where starvation and hunger were rife; and, secondly, it enabled communities to become more self-sufficient, created jobs, and was a step on the ladder out of poverty. Today, funding for agribusiness has dropped to just 5%.
We see similar patterns in the CDC’s infrastructure programme. For people to live healthy lives, and to enable communities to thrive, not simply survive, we need to help create a solid infrastructure as part of our development priorities. Dirty water and poor sanitation robs the lives of over 300,000 people each year. Infants and young children are especially susceptible to diseases because of their immature immune systems. Their young bodies simply do not have the right immune system to cope with waterborne diseases. According to UNICEF, over 40% of medical facilities in Africa do not have access to clean water. Dirty water and a lack of good sanitation do not just rob people of their lives; they make a country less productive. A recent study estimated that there was a $150 million shortfall for water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan countries, while the World Health Organisation estimates that we need £535 billion in investment to achieve universal access. I accept that those are huge sums of money, but look at the benefits. It is estimated that every dollar spent on improving water quality and sanitation delivers $4 in increased productivity. With such overwhelming evidence for the health and economic benefits, the case for investing in infrastructure programmes should be beyond doubt.
Another dimension, when we are talking about health, is the pharmaceutical industry and the products that it sells to some African countries. Surely, the Government should be looking at this area and trying to make pharmaceuticals a lot cheaper for those countries.
I totally agree with my hon. Friend. We need not only to look at the health of poorer people but to make sure that they can access water and sanitation.
It is surprising, if not shocking, that the CDC reduced infrastructure support for water, sanitation and roads from 35% of its budget in 1999 to just 8% a decade later. If the money is no longer going to support agribusiness or infrastructure, where is the CDC spending it? Let us begin by looking at some of its recent investments, such as Xiabu. I do not know about you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am partial to a takeaway on a Friday night—so, it seems, is the CDC, because it has provided thousands of dollars to the Chinese fast food chain Xiabu. That may be a good commercial investment, but is it the best use of the CDC’s resources? Can the Secretary of State set out what guarantees she has obtained that the UK’s increased contribution to the CDC will not go towards such projects?
While the Secretary of State is here, I would like to hear from her that the Government will seek assurances that in Africa the CDC will put more emphasis on food security than it puts into funding the building of new shopping malls at present. I have no doubt that the people of Accra are grateful for their brand new shopping mall, but what strategic role it plays in increasing life expectancy in Ghana is a mystery to me.
The people who were employed in the construction of those shopping malls in Accra—I have seen them recently—would disagree with the suggestion that that has not helped families in Accra and in nearby villages. Less than 1% of the CDC budget has gone on shopping and infrastructure, which provide a lot of jobs. Agriculture, which the hon. Lady talked about earlier, is incredibly important, but it is less important than it used to be in the modern economy in Africa, where there is a greater degree of diversification and urbanisation.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I know that he went around Africa in his previous role as a Minister, so he knows a lot about Africa, but there are parts of Ghana where there is no electricity and parts of Ghana where there is no water. Yes, middle-income families may enjoy going to malls, but while many people are living in poverty I do not think that a mall is the best use of CDC resources and money.
The examples that I have given lead me to my third and fourth questions for the Secretary of State. The Government propose to increase funding from £1.5 billion to £6 billion, with the option for the Secretary of State to raise it to £12 billion at a future date. But it seems she is putting the cart before the horse. As yet, the CDC has not published its investment strategy for 2017 to 2021. In the absence of an investment strategy outlining how the additional resources would be spent by the CDC, the Government are essentially proposing that we provide the CDC with a multibillion-pound blank cheque. In 2015, the coalition Government gave the CDC a cash injection of £735 million, and the Secretary of State published the business case for that increased funding at the time. Will the Secretary of State place in the House of Commons Library the full business case for the increase to £6 billion of funding to the CDC? Will she assure the House that if the Government wish to extend that to £12 billion, a business case will be brought to the House?
My hon. Friend was in the House when the Secretary of State gave me a very welcome assurance concerning Yemen, which we appreciate. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is so important that emergency and humanitarian aid should be ring-fenced and that any resources to the CDC—whatever they may be, after the business case has been prepared—should not take money away from that emergency and humanitarian aid, which is important in Yemen and in other parts of the world?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. Yes, humanitarian aid is paramount. In times of crisis, we need to know that that money will be ring-fenced to ensure that those who need it most will be able to get it.
During proceedings on the Bill, we will be setting the Government six questions, which we hope they will be able to address and gain our support. I began my response to the Secretary of State’s opening speech on Second Reading today by setting out the key principle that should guide us on international development funding—transparency. Indeed, the lack of transparency over the CDC’s work has created considerable scepticism about its activities and some of its investments. When spending taxpayers’ money on international development in an age of austerity, it behoves the Government to do all in their power to reassure everyone that their money is being spent properly and effectively. The Secretary of State would alleviate some of the concerns felt by Opposition Members—and, I am sure, in the country at large—if she were to insert a transparency clause into the Bill, which would meet the Government’s stated aim and their commitment to transparency, value for money and tracking development results.
That is particularly important when it comes to the CDC’s use of tax havens for its investments. It is extraordinary that the CDC has routed its investments through tax havens. The CDC and DFID have a moral duty to adopt the highest ethical standards if they are to have moral authority as the UK’s leading development actors. We should not be rewarding tax havens with UK taxpayers’ money, and the Government could and should lever the CDC away from the use of tax havens. Not a penny of the proposed £6 billion should find its way to a tax haven, and the Bill should be explicit in enshrining that principle.
Providing any organisation with £6 billion—and potentially £12 billon—is a significant step, and that is particularly true of an organisation with such a chequered recent past. The House would welcome a clear sense from the Secretary of State of how her Department has evaluated the costs and benefits of providing the CDC with such a significant sum of public money. There is a clear need for the Minister to set out how DFID’s investment plans for CDC have been informed. Has that been achieved by assessing other options for investing these resources. Has it been achieved by comparing their value for money and the potential for development impact?
There are two issues that the Secretary of State should address to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to transparency. At present the CDC is not subject to the scrutiny of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact. That is an anomaly, and it should be rectified immediately. Will the Secretary of State insert into the Bill a provision to enable ICAI to scrutinise and audit the effectiveness of the CDC, particularly given the significant increase in the CDC’s funding proposed in this Bill? Secondly, I would like an assurance from the Government that the CDC will not be sold off or privatised during this Parliament. It would, surely, be wrong for this House to provide billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, only for the CDC to be handed over to a private equity firm or suchlike company.
When the Colonial Development Corporation was established in 1948, it had bold ambitions. For much of its life, the CDC has achieved those ambitions, first as the Colonial Development Corporation and then as the Commonwealth Development Corporation. Lives have been saved and lives have been improved as a direct result of the CDC. Sadly, the CDC has lost its way in recent years. The ethos and values that drove its inception six decades ago have been lost, sacrificed on the altar of fast-buck economics. We are beginning to see some welcome reforms to the CDC, but history has taught us that we must remain vigilant.
As I set out at the beginning of my speech, the Opposition firmly believe in the principle of aid as a vehicle for improving the life chances of millions of people. The question the Government must answer before they gain our full support for the Bill is: will they provide the assurance and the guarantee to deliver what we all seek, which is a CDC that truly lives up to its mission
“to support the building of businesses throughout Africa and South Asia, to create jobs and make a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places”?
To achieve this, the Government must place the right safeguards in the Bill in Committee. If they do, and the Bill achieves the twin objectives of supporting the people who need it the most and of making the funding fully transparent, the Government will have our support.
I draw the House’s attention to my outside interests, which are listed in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
This is an extremely good Bill, and I hope it will be welcomed in all corners of the House. During my brief remarks, I very much hope to be able to satisfy the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), who leads for the Opposition, on the perfectly fair questions that she posed. The fact that the Government are able to bring the Bill before the House today shows the success of Britain’s development policies in general, and specifically the success of the CDC reforms that we introduced in 2010 and 2011. Today’s Bill is the fruit of those reforms.
It is worth reflecting a little further on the history of the CDC. As has been said, it was founded in 1948. It was the first development finance institution— another British lead—and an early example of Britain’s generosity and of recognising the importance of the private sector and of job creation. The CDC made a huge contribution in the years after the war to agricultural development in the poorest parts of the world with which Britain had a close connection. By 1997, the formula had become a little tired, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation, as it had become, was losing money, which was hardly a good example of private sector entrepreneurialism for poorer countries to emulate.
In 1997, the Blair Government considered privatising the whole CDC. That would have been a huge mistake, since the whole point of the organisation is to complement the private sector, not to compete with it. In the end, the Labour Government privatised the management, while leaving the capital in the public sector. The then Government turned it into a fund of funds: it invested in other people’s funding vehicles, while the private sector did what it is supposed to do, which is focusing on making money.
When I travelled as the shadow International Development spokesman, other countries’ development finance institutions would say to me that the transformation of the CDC after 1997 was a warning to other development finance institutions of what not to do. When I travelled in countries where in the past the CDC had generated enormous good will, people used to say to me, “Whatever happened to the CDC? It has simply disappeared.” Of course, that was right. As the CDC was investing in other people’s funds, it had simply disappeared.
In 2010, the coalition Government said that the CDC, this former great development finance institution, had lost its way. The CDC was under regular attack in the press—particularly in Private Eye—and my judgment, as the Secretary of State, was that the attacks were largely valid. It had been turned from a somewhat sleepy development corporation that was losing money into a city slickers private equity business. It was mostly staffed by the same people, who saw their civil service salaries soar to the exotic levels normally populated by very successful hedge fund managers and private equity investors. The central aim of the coalition was to re-inject the CDC once again with its distinguished development roots without losing the ability to earn a commercial return. Our aspiration on entering government in 2010 was that just as DFID is undoubtedly the leading development ministry in the world, so the CDC should become the envy of all other development finance institutions—the best Government-owned DFI anywhere.
We had three key aims. First, we wanted to regain control of investment expertise by bringing the responsibility for investment back into the CDC. In other words—Labour Members may care to take note—we decided to reverse the Blair Government’s privatisation by bringing the expertise back into the public sector. Secondly, we wanted to broaden the toolkit of financial instruments by which the CDC could achieve this. Thirdly, we wanted to shift the geographical focus of the CDC on to the poorest and most difficult parts of the world—Africa and south Asia. The CDC had previously focused on a loose collection of geographical locations in a very undifferentiated way. Of course, capital in such circumstances naturally gravitates to the areas of lower risk and higher return. That was exactly what we did not want it to do, because for the CDC and development, those are the areas of least value.
It was with dismay that I read in the Financial Times of all newspapers—it has a reputation for outstanding financial journalism, and should therefore know better—a rehash of a past that the CDC has long left behind completely. A moment of research would have shown Financial Times journalists that they were completely out of date. The Financial Times said that
“the government should place the CDC under the same broader level of public scrutiny as DfID.”
The CDC is overseen by DFID, the Treasury, the shareholder executive, the International Development Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and, as yesterday’s report shows, by the NAO. Perhaps in a rather better researched piece, those Financial Times journalists could explain who might be added to this already extensive list.
Contrary to the Financial Times view, the CDC is now well on its way to achieving a reputation as the best DFI in the world. The reforms that we introduced inevitably confronted vested interests, and involved an area of expertise that we did not of course have any right to expect within the civil service. We wanted the CDC to provide both pioneer and patient capital. We wanted pioneer capital because we wanted to show the reach of the private sector at its best in promoting economic activity, jobs, decent working practices, and the provision of key goods and services to the poorest in the most difficult places in the world. We wanted patient capital because it can take a longer view of the financial return and can therefore complement the private sector by adding what is often the key ingredient to the mix—funding that would not otherwise be available to generate jobs, whether in the power sector or in infrastructure—in, once again, the poorest places. All of that had the additional benefit of delivering value for money and a return for the British taxpayer, while having a substantial impact on poverty alleviation.
The Bill is part of the proof that these reforms have worked and that this new approach is succeeding. I do not think it is fanciful to believe that in 50 years’ time, the CDC rather than DFID will be seen as the embodiment of the UK’s strong support and success in helping the world’s poorest and most excluded people. The flow of CDC-type investments made by the developed world in the poor world is now overtaking, in quantum, the level of aid. I believe that the work the CDC is carrying out should command everyone’s support from the far left of the Labour party to the development-sceptic press.
To achieve this position, the CDC has faced the need for and delivered radical change. This would not have been accomplished without the high quality of leadership at the top that has prevailed throughout. We were successful in hiring Diana Noble as the chief executive. Diana Noble will retire next year, and the taxpayer and the development community owe her a great debt of gratitude. She has changed a passive organisation by recruiting outstanding new talent. People tell me that the spirit in the CDC has been transformed. She inherited an organisation of 50 people, a figure that was subsequently reduced to 40 but now stands at approximately 220.
Those extraordinary changes would not have been accomplished, either, without the skills and commitment of Mr Jeremy Sillem, a senior and experienced City financier who served as an adviser to DFID and was subsequently a non-executive director of the CDC while the reforms were implemented, and of Graham Wrigley, who now provides his expertise as the CDC’s chairman. That team, above all, has delivered those changes and deserves the gratitude and thanks of Parliament and the taxpayer. Their personal reward will be the transformation of the lives of very large numbers of extremely poor people.
Our reforms turned the CDC from a one-product business—a fund of funds—into a multi-product one. I am not a golfer, but if I may use a golfing analogy, the CDC was traversing the golf course of international development with only one golf club, that of investing in other people’s funds. We have now equipped it with a full variety of golf clubs, including equity and debt, direct investments, trade finance and infrastructure lending. We have also regained control of the golf swing rather than delegating it to others—I have probably pushed the metaphor as far as I should.
Inevitably, operating in markets such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia is accompanied by considerable risk. Along with development impact, the CDC considers whether it is truly bringing additional funds that are unavailable elsewhere to each investment. It always seeks to avoid the lurking dangers of corruption that are ever present in development. It is a young business that will not always get it right, but for a young banker starting out in the financial world, as I did in 1979, there are few more exciting places to aspire to work across the financial world than the CDC, whose employees deploy their financial skills in an area where they have the power greatly to elevate the social condition of some of the poorest people in the poorest areas of the world. By the way, salaries have been sharply reduced and are well below what the staff at the CDC would earn in the commercial world.
I am just being slightly mischievous, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that all those interested in a career in the CDC cannot expect to spend too much time on the golf course, either on a Friday afternoon or on any other day of the week?
Order. Before the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) replies to that intervention, may I just say to him that those of us who do not understand cricket are absolutely delighted to have had a golfing metaphor? It is so much simpler.
I do not play golf, but I assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) that the staff in the CDC work phenomenally hard, including on Friday afternoons.
There are only a few investors in the world with the skills and risk appetite to undertake such difficult but vital investments, doing the hardest things in the hardest places. In 2014, in response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, the CDC partnered with Standard Chartered bank to support lending to local businesses and help the country’s economic delivery. In 2013, the CDC made an investment in Feronia, an agricultural production and processing company in the DRC, which is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to invest. That investment would help people to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and provide much needed support to local agriculture, a sector that the hon. Member for Edmonton quite rightly mentioned. It should never be forgotten that the overwhelming majority of jobs are created by the private sector, not by Government, and having a job—being economically active—is how people all around the world lift themselves out of poverty. Of course, inevitably, not all those investments will succeed.
Since 2011 the CDC has focused its attention intensively on quantifying development impact. For example, this year it invested in a power plant at Virunga park in Matebe that is providing 96 MW of clean energy, creating around 100,000 jobs and boosting economic development. It is the first investment by a DFI in that region of the DRC since the 1980s. In 2015, the CDC invested in the largest independent power producer on the continent, Globeleq Africa, also bringing in Norfund, Norway’s development finance institution. That will add thousands of megawatts of electricity generating capacity over the next 10 years, addressing a massive gap. In my view, the CDC is the only DFI with the vision or appetite to undertake that type of work, including changing the whole strategic direction of the company and replacing the senior team and board.
The Bill ensures that the CDC can receive from the taxpayer the capital injection it will require to carry out the development work with which it is tasked. Many Governments are channelling development funding through DFIs such as the CDC because they use capital injection to address market failure, as the Secretary of State pointed out, and invest funds on a revolving basis in business in developing countries. The extent of the success of the CDC’s development investment means the Bill is required.
In its report published yesterday, the National Audit Office said:
“Through tighter cost control, strengthened corporate governance and closer alignment with the Department’s objectives, CDC now has an efficient and economic operating model”
with “thorough” governance arrangements. It also said that the CDC’s
“current portfolio of investments reflects the strategy it agreed with the Department in 2012…CDC has met the target for financial performance it agreed with the Department.”
Finally, the report made it clear that the CDC measures its effectiveness through financial return and development impact targets—targets that it has met. Measuring development impact is extremely difficult, partly because it is so long term. But above all it is about job creation. It is likely that the CDC is currently involved in investments that will create more than 1 million jobs. In any event, it is to be congratulated for the steps it has taken to quantify development impact and to be encouraged to go further.
For now, my advice to my successors in the Government is to leave the CDC to grow and deliver on the objectives we have set it and to hold it to account for what it does. However, probably the most anxiety-inducing statement the CDC team ever has to face is, “Government officials are coming round to interfere today in what you are doing.” When we hired the current CEO, Diana Noble, who has done such a brilliant job, I remember promising her that Ministers and officials would set the course for the CDC—as the shareholder properly should—but would then leave her to get on with the job and to deliver. I trust my promise is being honoured.
I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that before I begin my remarks on the Bill, you and the House will allow me to note that today marks the third anniversary of the Clutha tragedy, when a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha bar in Glasgow, killing 10 people. We remember them and pay tribute to them and to the first responders on the scene that night. We hope that, in due time, families and friends will get the closure they require and the answers they seek through a fatal accident inquiry process.
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.
The Bill is a rare piece of DFID-led legislation—the first in this Parliament, I believe—so I take this opportunity to welcome the new Ministers to the Government Front Bench and the shadow Ministers on the Opposition Front Bench. Lots of Scottish National party spokespeople seem to have been doing that in recent weeks and months, so at least there is consistency from our Benches.
Today’s debate gives us the opportunity to look in detail at the Government’s specific proposals on increasing the funding they can provide to what was the Commonwealth Development Corporation, now more regularly known as CDC Group or the CDC. In doing so, it is worth exploring how the Bill fits into the broader context of the UK’s aid spending and the direction the Secretary of State is setting, and how those fit with the global framework and consensus on poverty reduction.
Aid works. It has saved and transformed countless lives around the world. I have had the privilege of witnessing that with my own eyes in places such as Malawi and Zambia, and of meeting people from all over the world whose lives have been transformed by aid, when they have travelled to Scotland and the rest of the UK to share their testimony.
SNP Members happily give credit to the UK Government for meeting, in recent years and after 40 years of delay, the 0.7% of gross national income target for overseas development assistance spending. Despite the progress made in recent years, the need for aid spending has not gone away. As many analysts and institutions have said, including the International Development Committee, aid flows will need to continue to grow from the billions to the trillions if we are to meet the sustainable development goals—they are also known as the global goals—that have been agreed at the United Nations and if we are to tackle the challenge of climate change. The Secretary of State spoke about market failure. Lord Stern once upon a time described climate change as the biggest market failure of all, and that must be at the forefront of our minds.
I give credit to the Government for their leadership in negotiating and building consensus on the sustainable development goals, but the task is to continue to show leadership as the world works towards meeting them to end poverty and hunger, achieve universal education and gender equality, eliminate preventable disease and empower communities around the world. The first and most important question we must ask of the Bill is how it will help to meet those goals. What assurances can the Government give us that, in their agreements with the CDC and in setting policy direction, the investments that the CDC makes will be geared to the achievement of the global goals?
As a number of hon. Members have said, the Bill is tightly focused, which is perhaps a missed opportunity, because there is a chance to make more explicit in the Bill or the Commonwealth Corporation Act 1999 that poverty reduction is as much a duty of the CDC as it is of the Department for International Development. It is not clear in the Bill how much scope there is for amendments, but who knows how creative hon. Members will be in Committee?
Such a reassurance from the Government would help to make a stronger and clearer case for the role of development finance and for that specific development finance institution. The CDC is rightly proud of being the oldest such institution in the world. As a pioneer, it has had numerous successes, as we have heard, but it has also learned a number hard lessons over the years. To maintain support in the House, it will need to continue to do so. Stories of lavish expenses and inflated salaries, of channelling funds through tax havens, and of investing in luxury hotels and shopping malls, will not inspire confidence among the aid community or the public at large. As we have heard, the National Audit Office yesterday raised a number of concerns about transparency and impact measurement. Despite the progress and reforms of recent years, in 2013 still only 12% of new investments were made in the least developed countries of the world.
Since the Secretary of State’s appointment, she has made great play of seeking value for money for the taxpayer and increasing aid spending transparency. Will she commit to holding the CDC to the same standards as other stakeholders and recipients of DFID funding? She said in her speech that transparency would happen as part of the Bill, but I do not see it in the Bill, so how can we have those transparency guarantees? The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) asked who else could scrutinise the work of the CDC. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) rightly suggested that the Independent Commission for Aid Impact could continue to have a role. Perhaps that provision should be in the Bill.
DFID and the other bodies rightly face considerable scrutiny, which is as it should be, but we must ensure that it is extended and applied equally to all DFID stakeholders and all the resource that is spent. Perhaps there was an opportunity for the Bill to go further and to place statutory duties on the CDC to report on all its spending to the standards set by the international aid transparency initiative. I wonder what creative amendments might appear in that respect.
Let me be clear that I am not objecting in principle to the concept of development finance. There is a role for the private sector to play in stimulating the economies of developing countries and helping people into work—if carefully managed, it can support innovation and diversification. The Secretary of State’s letter to Members in advance of the Bill gave the example of the CDC’s early investment in the African mobile phone operator that eventually became Celtel. The investment was made when the technology was unproven and the market barely existed. I have seen first hand the impact that mobile phone technology makes in improving people’s lives across sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, I have been a customer and user of Celtel services on many occasions.
The Scottish Government recently launched their own development finance initiative as part of their international development strategy. The Minister for International Development and Europe, Dr Alasdair Allan, announced in October £1 million of Scottish Government funding to help Malawian businesses over a three year period, which will be match-funded by private investors, providing £2 million in total to invest in Malawi. Those investments will be managed by a new Scottish company, the African Lakes Company Ltd, which has been registered as a limited company for that purpose. The African Lakes Corporation was originally established in Glasgow in 1878 to develop trade as an effective way of displacing slavery in Malawi. More than a century on, that mission has been revived with a contemporary view to investing in Malawi’s future. Through their support for that venture, the Scottish Government aim to show that responsible investment can help Malawi and similar countries to reduce dependence on aid, support the growth of existing businesses and create sustainable livelihoods.
The question is therefore less about the principle of development finance and more about how it is managed and how it fits within the overall picture of aid spending. The Scottish Government commitment of £l million over three years represents just under 4% of their annual development fund budget. The figures proposed in the Bill are of a far greater order—the Bill proposes the quadrupling of the funding cap from £1.5 billion to £6 billion, which would take the total amount that DFID can invest to the equivalent of around half the annual aid budget. I take the Secretary of State’s point that that will not necessarily be invested in one go, but if my understanding of the Bill is correct, it could be invested in one go in principle, which is a concern to some of us. The new maximum, which will be decided by statutory instrument, could be £12 billion, which is approximately the total annual aid budget. It is therefore worth asking, as the hon. Member for Edmonton did, where those figures came from and how they were arrived at. Why £6 billion and not £5 billion or £7 billion? Where is the needs analysis behind that figure?
As we heard in Treasury questions today, total aid spending is very likely to fall as a result of a slowing economy. The 0.7% target is by definition a proportion of total GNI. With further economic uncertainty on the horizon, there is no guarantee that the current figures will remain stable, let alone increase. Would it have been more sensible for Ministers to express the funding limits in the Bill as a percentage, or through some kind of formula that relates to the total amount of aid funding, to make investment in the CDC relate more clearly to the total aid budget at any one time? Although making the cap a proportion recognises the importance of development finance, it also recognises that it is only one small tool in a box, as the Secretary of State said.
We have been presented with the Bill, which incidentally was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, without seeing the long-promised policy statements in the shape of the bilateral and multilateral aid reviews. We therefore have no real idea exactly how the increase in the investment cap fits with DFID’s broader policy direction and goals. The Secretary of State has said that no disbursements will be made to the CDC without a robust business case. Will she assure us today that such business cases will have poverty reduction and the sustainable development goals, and people rather than profit, at their heart? As I asked earlier, has she given any consideration to the opportunity for building that into the Bill as a statutory duty on the CDC? [Interruption.] If the Secretary of State is not here, I hope that at least one DFID Minister can answer those questions at the end of the debate.
I and many other Members are keen to explore in Committee and other stages the question of how that significant scaling-up of DFID finance to the CDC fits into its broader policy goals and the wider global aid agenda. If satisfactory answers are not forthcoming, and if the Government are not willing to offer the reassurances and amendments we suggest, we reserve the right to oppose the Bill in its entirety on Third Reading.
Greater clarity is urgently needed from DFID and the Government as a whole on the purpose of their aid budget and how they will achieve that purpose. A global consensus framework exists, which this Government, or at least the Government elected in May 2015, helped to negotiate and write in the shape of the sustainable development goals. I said last week in Westminster Hall that, despite what may be read in some of the gutter and right-wing press, there is still public and political consensus in the UK on the importance of aid and the need to tackle global poverty.
The Secretary of State talks increasingly about making aid work in the national interest, but that raises the question: what is the national interest and how is it different from the goal of poverty eradication? Surely meeting the global goals in and of themselves is in the national interest, otherwise there is the implication that previously aid did not work in the national interest or that we have a deeper interest in its effectiveness beyond what the SDGs aim to achieve. If that is the case, what is that interest? What better or more noble purpose is there than the eradication of poverty and disease and the building of peace and equality for all? Surely a global community where everyone’s basic needs are met, where education allows people to thrive and where health and wellbeing contribute to more peaceful societies is by definition in our own interests, as well as the interests of those we are seeking to help.
That is why the goals must be at the heart of the work of the CDC. Ending poverty should not be a happy or convenient by-product of profitable investments; it should be the other way around. If investments that create jobs and provide services that lift people out of poverty go on to make surpluses that can be reinvested in more of the same, all to the good, but it should not be assumed, especially in the context of fragile and developing countries and economies, that generating a return on investment will of itself provide a rising tide that floats all boats. Old-style aid-for-trade and trickle-down investment have left us with a world where we still need a 15-year timetable to meet the global goals, after 15 years working towards their predecessors, the millennium development goals; yet we live in a world of plenty with the knowledge, resources and capacity to meet and exceed all the targets in the goals. What is lacking is the political will. The Government must show they understand that and that their support for the CDC is but one small and proportionate intervention in the struggle for a fairer, more just and more peaceful world.
Every penny that the Government invest in the CDC is a penny not invested in traditional, proven methods of aid delivery, so they have to show why each of those pennies is not better spent on gender empowerment, nutrition, farming, education or any of the other programmes working in partnership, on a non-profit basis, with specialist and grassroots organisations on the ground in developing countries. If they want to maintain the consensus in the House on the use and purpose of aid, the Government must show willingness in the coming stages of the Bill to engage on the points that I and others have raised. I look forward to continuing that debate in the coming days.
I draw the House’s attention to my outside interests, among which are some financial interests in developing nations.
The scale of the development problem facing us is largely to do with the projected world population growth over the coming years, so it is right that the CDC focus on Africa and south Asia, as they are key areas of population growth. Twenty African nations are posting fertility rates in excess of five children per woman, and in some that figure is over seven. Africa is predicted to account for 80% of world population growth, quintupling its 1.2 billion population to add around 5 billion to the global population this century, while the number of Africans aged 15 to 24 is expected to nearly double by 2050 to 452 million.
These facts present some of the most outstanding challenges of our time: the impact on global warming, which we heard about earlier; environmental degradation; the impact on biodiversity and access to resources; and the potential consequences of war and migration, all of which can also have a big impact here at home. The only way to meet these immense challenges is to give people opportunities close to where they live, and that is what the CDC is helping to deliver: more job opportunities; better education so that people can take advantage of those opportunities; better health and reproductive care; and the involvement of women in the workforce. We should be helping other people to invest in these sorts of things.
The difference between the CDC and other kinds of aid is that these funds can be used to create businesses that can go on and have their own life and be recycled. Yes, some of the capital can come back to us, for us to reinvest, but, more importantly, these businesses can have a life of their own. If they are doing something well, they will be asked to do it again and again with their own capital, personnel and creativity. If we are to tackle these almost insurmountable challenges, they have to have their own life. The CDC can deliver that potential for scalability into the future and help us to cope with those challenges.
The CDC is also great because it presents an example of good governance and an opportunity for us to lead by example—to inspire entrepreneurs, to build capital and expertise in local markets, and to develop companies and structures capable of stewarding their own capital into the future. This is about building trust in the future in nations where often a pound tomorrow is worth a lot more than a pound in just a few years, because they do not have the necessary confidence in local structures, in the enforceability of contracts or in their politics. If we can build that trust into the future through these methods, we can help to create a virtuous circle that has a great impact.
This investment can also bring us opportunities in terms of commercial information and so on. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) made some great points about the way the CDC works and about some of the great people involved with it. This is about creating human connections and using this country’s abilities to help nations develop in a positive way, to break down the barriers to development, to tackle crony capitalism, to reduce regulation, taxes and subsidies and licences, which often favour particular operators, and to enable more rapid growth and greater flexibility in those economies. That will also give stable politics a better chance in these places. I will happily support the Bill, and I commend it to the House.
I have clearly touched a nerve with some of my comments about the Bill, which I am afraid I will not be giving the wholehearted support that some in the House have given it today.
The Government have attempted to portray the Bill as a minor technical matter, which should go through on the nod with minimal scrutiny and to which we should all give a big hurrah. What appears to be a minor technical two-clause Bill, however, is in fact far more significant and controversial. As we have heard, it proposes an immediate quadrupling of the limits on taxpayer funding of the CDC and then suggests a further doubling at the whim of the Secretary of State and without further primary legislation.
Now the CDC expansion, which has been significant from 1999 to the present day, has required only £1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money, a large amount of it in the recapitalisation that took place last year. By stark contrast, the Bill will permit an increase of up to £12 billion over an as yet undefined period, although the explanatory notes make it clear that the Secretary of State intends to
“accelerate CDC’s growth over the current Spending Round”.
That could imply giving three times extra to the CDC— £4.5 billion—in three to four years’ time than it has needed in the last 17 years. According to the explanatory notes, this is justified as a response to an as yet undefined or evidenced
“forecast market demand over CDC’s next strategy cycle and in order for the CDC to play a fuller role in the delivery of the UK’s international development objectives.”
Ministers rarely take powers without the intent to use them fully, and the transfer of powers to use secondary legislation should always be subject to robust scrutiny. I will explore in due course whether I believe this Bill, and the proposed increase for the CDC, meets three key tests. It is not whether it has met its plans as defined in 2012, but whether, first, it has demonstrated enough effectiveness to justify such a huge increase; secondly, whether it ensures an adequate focus on tackling poverty in the poorest countries; and thirdly, whether it acts in a coherent way with respect to the rest of DFID and indeed wider HMG policy.
Let me first suggest my own answer as to why such a huge increase has been proposed, and why now. One of the primary reasons may lie in a little noticed change to the reporting of our aid spending—official development assistance or ODA—last year, which saw the CDC’s contribution to meeting the 0.7% aid target dramatically altered. Until 2015, the investment activities of the CDC could either add to or subtract from our total aid spending. Simply put, we used to look at the net benefit of the CDC to developing countries by subtracting money flowing back to the CDC from the new investments it was making. In fact, this resulted in a positive contribution to our aid spending of £228 million in 2010; £91 million in 2011; £103 million in 2012; £100 million in 2013; and £42 million in 2014.
In 2015, however, there was a significant change. Instead of reporting with the same measure, which incidentally would, according to the House of Commons Library, have resulted in a negative contribution to the aid budget of minus £9 million, DFID changed its reporting so that the capital flow from the UK Government to the CDC is scored as ODA by DFID rather than the CDC scoring its own net disbursements as ODA. Instead of a negative impact on aid last year, the UK reported the capital increase reported to the CDC as aid, which was £450 million—a stark difference. We now looking at the total money DFID puts into the CDC counting as aid, regardless of which country or sector it ends up in, let alone whether it resulted in a net flow of resources to the poorest countries.
Why does this matter and how does it relate to the Bill? It matters because it would allow the Secretary of State to classify the entirety of future capital increases to the CDC as ODA or aid, potentially diverting, and effectively privatising, up to £12 billion of our future aid via the CDC, yet continuing to count it towards the 0.7% target. This is particularly important, given the different focuses and priorities of the CDC. I acknowledge that the differences have narrowed in recent years, and I shall come on to praise the work undertaken by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) in this area. However, the differences between the CDC and DFID’s objectives, and indeed its stated aims, are still significant, not least over whether our aid is focused on the very poorest countries that most need our support or on higher-income countries where we can more easily achieve quicker and bigger returns on investment. I shall return to this point.
The hon. Gentleman suggests that the aims are significantly different, yet 83% of the new CDC investments are in DFID partner countries and 56% of new investments are now in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Is that not in line with DFID’s objectives?
As I shall come on to explain more fully, there has been a significant change and there has been a narrowing, but there is still a significant difference. If we look at the bulk of the spending still being in India, we see a significant divergence from DFID’s priorities, as I shall come on to show. We were told that aid to India had ended, but apparently it has not.
This is also significant when coupled with an answer I received to a parliamentary question. I discovered that the amount of aid—ODA—to be spent by Departments other than DFID is set to increase from 18% this year to 26% in 2019. That is over a quarter of our aid spending going through Departments other than DFID. Even if we focus on the lower end of the implied proposal to spend billions extra via the CDC by the end of the spending review—let alone the £12 billion—we could be looking at anywhere from 35% to 45% of the DFID budget being spent, but not by DFID in the traditional sense. If the Secretary of State used her full power and more quickly than expected, it could be even higher. It is particularly ironic that the Secretary of State who promised us greater effectiveness, transparency and accountability in our aid spending appears to be willing to hand over billions of our aid funding to less transparent and less accountable parts of government.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be implying that aid spent through other Departments is a bad thing. He is shaking his head, which is good, because far from being a bad thing, I would view it as a good thing. If we are helping education institutions in developing countries, we should use the expertise in our Department for Education. If we are looking at tackling local government, it should not be looked at through the DFID lens, but should involve our expertise. The key thing is having the same standards across those Departments and meeting the high quality that DFID deploys.
I was shaking my head because I agreed with much of what the hon. Gentleman was saying, but my question is about the volume—the amount—and the fact that it is increasing so rapidly. It is well known that many other Departments have looked enviously at DFID’s budget and have attempted to take parts of its cash for many years. My questions are these. Is the aid being spent effectively; is it being used in accordance with the correct principles; and is it coherent across Government policy? As the hon. Gentleman will know, there are some fantastic examples of joint units involving the Foreign Office and DFID, but over a quarter of our aid budget is being spent on a massive increase, and that is a big issue.
Surely the hon. Gentleman can be reassured by the fact that the Government have a double commitment, applying not just to the 0.7% but to the way in which it is spent under strict rules. Of course, any money that is spent by another Department is subject to the full investigation and rigour of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which is a very important part of the equation. All ODA expenditure is subject to review and analysis by the development watchdog.
I have seen the NAO’s report, and what concerns me is the fact that it states:
“It remains a significant challenge for CDC to demonstrate its ultimate objective of creating jobs and making a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places. Given the Department’s plans to invest further in CDC, a clearer picture of actual development impact would help to demonstrate…value for money”.
Is that not the central problem? Does it not lie at the heart of the Bill?
The hon. Gentleman is a member of the International Development Committee. He will therefore be aware that the Committee has committed itself to scrutinising ODA whichever Department it is spent through and that the Secretary of State has confirmed that we should have full authority, and her backing, to do so. If he had attended the ICAI sub-committee meeting last week, he would have seen that, for the first time, we had before us a witness from another Department who was scrutinising its spending of ODA.
Indeed. I apologise for not being present at that meeting, but, as you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I had other commitments at the time. Obviously, the hon. Lady cannot attend all the meetings of all the groups in the House at any time either; she and I are both busy people. I hope that the Committees will investigate those matters, not least because of the volumes that we are talking about, but also because of the lack of transparency when it comes to documentation and the ability to scrutinise CDC’s spending, not least through its use of tax havens.
These dramatic shifts—under the cover of a “minor technical change” that we should all rush through in the House—must always set the alarm bells ringing for those of us who seek to scrutinise the Government and their decisions. I do not want to spend long on this, but we must feel additional alarm when we look at the agenda of the Secretary of State and consider what she has said about the Department being scrapped and about money being “stolen” and squandered. She does not like some of the headlines that have appeared in the Daily Mail. Obviously, she does not like the headlines that have appeared in newspapers such as the Financial Times. However, we are now seeing wild claims and accusations in the right-wing press which are clearly coming from her Department. Indeed, her special adviser has previously called for the 0.7% target to be abandoned, and in 2013 in The Sun described aid as an
“unaccountable, bureaucratic and wasteful industry”.
Why does all this matter to the Bill? I believe that, faced with the legislative and political constraints of the cross-party support for the 0.7% aid target, the Secretary of State has opted for a stealthier route and has chosen to undermine the Department by diverting and reclassifying aid. I appreciate that others may not share my sense of scepticism, so let me now deal with three practical objections to the Bill. The Secretary of State said that she wanted facts, so let us have some.
I should make it clear at the outset that I am not opposed to the existence of a development finance institution of the CDC’s nature, or to its playing its part in our portfolio of international development efforts. Nor, obviously, do I oppose the funding of private sector projects. The development of a vibrant private sector, key infrastructure and the support of new and emerging businesses in the world’s poorest countries should be a key part of any balanced portfolio of development assistance, alongside investments in basic public services such as health, education, water, and support for agricultural improvement to tackle hunger and nutritional challenges.
The Secretary of State likes to give us the impression that she is the only person ever to have realised the importance of private sector development and trade to tackling poverty and promoting economic development, but the fact is that both have been at the heart of DFID’s work since it came into being, under Governments of all political persuasions. Supporting trade is crucial to international development.
I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman’s point that economic development has been important to DFID, but does he agree with me that successive Governments have been wholly unresponsive to co-ordinated work on economic development, whether we call it prosperity or trade? Successive Governments have not pulled that together and grabbed the opportunity, which could really help to grow continents such as Africa out of poverty. Much more should be done, and this House should be holding the Government and future Governments to account on this, and ask them to do more, not less, with the private sector.
It is a mixed record. We had a joint DFID-DTI—as I think the Department was called then—Trade Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), who did a lot of good work in trying to bring those things together, ensuring investment went to key infrastructure projects, different corridors in Africa and elsewhere, but it is a mixed record and the hon. Gentleman makes an important point.
There are many CDC investments that I and others welcome, which are well run and have delivered poverty-reducing outcomes in the poorest countries. We have heard about some of them today, such as those in Sierra Leone and Uganda. Indeed we were with the National Audit Office earlier today talking about some of the projects it had visited which clearly do justify our investment.
But where is the robust business case for such a large increase of billions of pounds of taxpayer spending? Why has this Bill been published before a CDC investment strategy? In the explanatory notes, the Secretary of State describes forecast market demand as the justification for the Bill. However, she has not explained this at all there; neither has she done so today, and nor did she in answer to a parliamentary question I put to her. I asked her to explain this concept of forecast market demand, but instead of an assessment that might justify this spending of up to £12 billion of taxpayers’ money, I was given some classic development waffle, such as:
“As set out in the UN’s Global Goals, urgent action is needed to mobilise”.
The answer did not go into any level of detail that we would expect on the spending of such a considerable sum of money.
Let me also be clear that, as Members may have gathered earlier, I am also critical of a whole series of actions and policies at the CDC that I am sorry to say occurred under the previous Labour Government; the sell-off of Actis was mentioned, and there was also excessive remuneration, and massive investments made in markets that already attracted foreign investors—which incidentally is still going on. These are just some of the issues that should have inspired tougher intervention. To give credit where it is due, many of the actions that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) took in agreeing that new strategy took us away from some of the mistakes made in the past, but my question is whether they have gone far enough in justifying such a huge increase in the funding.
We should look at what the NAO said. Yesterday’s report noted:
“Our previous scrutiny of the Department’s oversight of CDC led to important, positive changes.”
It points to improvements in financial performance, organisation and prospective—let us return to that issue in a moment—development impact, as well as the clamping down on executive remuneration. The NAO also agrees that the strategy set by the Department in 2012 has been met.
However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) pointed out, the question for the House today is not merely whether the CDC has made improvements on a previous record deeply mired in controversy, or whether it is now adhering to the strategy set for it—which we can argue was right or wrong—in 2012; the question before us is whether a good enough case has been made that the CDC is performing so well and so effectively that it should receive that volume of increase in funding versus other potential outlets for that development spending.
It is common sense that asking any institution, let alone one with a history of recent problems, to take on a significant increase in its funding over a short space of time may lead to less optimal outcomes and, at worst, failure. Were we proposing an additional £12 billion for those dangerous campaigning NGOs or the dastardly World Bank, or worse still the EU development funds, I have no doubt that the Government Benches would be crewed by the anti-aid brigade warning of the risk of our aid being “stolen” or squandered. But because it is for a more obscure part of our development finance architecture and has the words “private equity” and “private sector” associated with it, we seem to be willing to accept a lower level of assuredness.
Did the hon. Gentleman also read the bit of the report that says:
“Through tighter cost control, strengthened corporate governance and closer alignment with the Department’s objectives, CDC now has an efficient and economic operating model”,
“governance arrangements of CDC are thorough”?
I did; I have read the whole report. It also states:
“It remains a significant challenge for CDC to demonstrate its ultimate objective of creating jobs and making a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places.”
It goes on to make other serious criticisms. On reporting impact, the NAO says:
“Changes in reporting development impact over the last four years have made it difficult for CDC and the Department to set out a consistent picture of what has been achieved.”
It criticises the CDC’s failure to deliver on the evaluation contract, which was a key part of the business case for the last recapitalisation involving more than £700 million. It criticises the CDC’s claim to have created 1 million jobs, stating that
“in 2015 it reported that more than one million direct and indirect jobs had been created…CDC does not attribute these jobs directly to the investment it makes in the company. Since 2012 it has been considering how to measure job quality but has not yet established an overall methodology to do so…its progress has been slow”.
Worryingly, the NAO warned that
“recruitment and retention challenges remain a significant risk to CDC’s operations.”
That is crucial for an organisation planning a massive financial expansion.
The CDC has indeed clamped down on excessive pay, although the CEO still takes home more than £300,000 a year, which is significantly more than the Prime Minister. However, the NAO also reports that
“the Department and CDC will shortly be negotiating a new remuneration framework”.
Could we expect salaries to go back up? Particularly worrying, one would think, for a Secretary of State who thinks that most of our aid is being “stolen” or squandered is some of the NAO commentary on the CDC’s efforts to tackle fraud and corruption. The NAO tells us that the CDC has
“only recently established systems to consolidate records of all the allegations it receives…This made it harder for it to provide comprehensive reporting to the Department. ”
The NAO report states that DFID’s own internal audit team concluded that the figure of just four allegations of fraud and corruption at the CDC in the entire period from 2009 to 2016 was “surprisingly low”. At the very least, the CDC is worthy of the same level of robust scrutiny and criticism that is levelled at other development funding outlets.
The hon. Gentleman asks where the business case is. Has he seen the letter of 23 November from the Secretary of State? In it, she says:
“No new capital to CDC would be released without a business case subject to full Ministerial scrutiny and approval and the agreement of CDC’s board.”
That might be reassuring to the hon. Lady, but it does not reassure me, not least because the CDC has not even let the evaluation contract that was a key part of the last business case.
Let me turn to the disjoint between DFID’s priority countries and those in which the CDC operates. That disjoint is likely to grow even larger with such a significant uplift in funding. Even with the refocus in 2012, the list of 63 countries in which the CDC is allowed to invest is significantly larger than the approximately 35 countries on which DFID normally focuses its efforts. The list includes many countries to which DFID has ended its bilateral funding. The CDC can invest in India, South Africa—albeit with caveats—the luxury Indian ocean islands of the Seychelles, the Maldives and Mauritius, and many countries across north Africa including Egypt. Despite their problems and challenges, those countries would not normally be regarded as among the poorest in the world.
According to the House of Commons Library, the CDC spends more in gross aid and official development assistance than DFID does in certain—often middle income—countries and regions, including some rather odd examples such as Algeria, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa and Thailand, as well as the more expected locations such as Cameroon, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire. Even if we discount the pre-2012 legacy investments in Latin America, the CDC is still investing the largest amounts in higher-income countries, according to data released to me in another parliamentary question.
At the top of the CDC investment list are India, which has received £760.5 million since 2009, South Africa with £194 million and, oddly, Egypt with £53.6 million. If we include the pre-2012 legacy investments, we find even more odd examples. India, South Africa—with caveats, as I said—and Egypt remain on the list of eligible countries for CDC investments, which is rather remarkable, given the fact that the last three Conservative Secretaries of State have made a huge meal of the fact that aid to India was ending. I find this strange. I took a long time to be convinced of the need to end our aid programme in India. There is clearly severe poverty in a whole series of Indian states. It is odd that a lion’s share of the CDC’s investments continue to go into a country that is not exactly the kind of frontier place for investment that the Secretary of State was talking about earlier. Is she really saying that India struggles to attract private investment capital and that we should be there at the forefront of those giving aid? I would find that hard to believe.
The House of Commons Library has found that the share of new investments in the poorest least-developed countries increased, but from just 4% to 12%, and the increase was from less than 1% to just 4% in the lower-income countries. The lion’s share of the CDC’s investments remained in the lower middle-income countries. The CDC’s own annual report for 2015 admits that its top four highest country exposures are India with 23%; China with 14%; Nigeria with 7%; and South Africa with 6%. It also tells us that just 6% of its investment goes into agriculture and just 6% into education. Bizarrely, those are not far ahead of real estate and mineral extraction. Focus has clearly improved, but the easiest and quickest returns for the CDC remain in certain sectors that are far removed from traditional, vital development impacts and in huge markets such as India and South Africa, not the world’s poorest countries. If the Secretary of State’s agenda is all about building a bilateral trading relationship with India in the post-Brexit environment and if we need to push our aid that way to sweeten deals, we should come clean about that. Many people feel that things are headed that way. Funds are not going towards the Department’s original development objectives.
Why does the CDC require such a potentially massive capital injection of taxpayers’ money when it managed perfectly well without one until last year? It recycles 100% of its profits and has total net assets of £4 billion, which rose by 16% in the last year, and an investment portfolio of £3 billion. Why does it need additional money in such large volumes?
Turning to tax havens and coherence, the Chancellor told us in last week’s autumn statement that the Government are committed to tackling tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning, and today the Business Secretary told us all about Government plans to crack down on corporate governance. The Government have repeatedly claimed that they have attempted to crack down on tax havens—not least in the aftermath of the Panama papers. Yet we find the CDC’s investment vehicles in those very papers. No less than 11 CDC subsidiaries are located in the Cayman Islands, 40 in Mauritius, and five in the Channel Islands. Oxfam points that three quarters of CDC investments in 2013 were routed through jurisdictions that feature in the top 20 of the Tax Justice Network’s financial secrecy index. Christian Aid has also been critical of the CDC, stating that it
“has been shown to be a heavy user of secretive tax havens, which serve both to obscure what is really going on with its investments and can also reduce the amount of tax its investee companies pay in poor countries”.
Even if Ministers, the International Development Committee or others wanted to scrutinise properly what is going on, the lack of transparency and detail provided by the CDC and the fancy shell companies make it incredibly difficult.
Our wider development and sustainability policies might also be incoherent. Many CDC projects are clearly coherent with DFID objectives and the sustainable development goals. We heard about electricity in Uganda and other excellent examples of investment in micro-finance, so there are clearly many high-quality projects, but there are some odd inconsistencies. The CDC apparently invests £29.2 million in GEMS Education Africa, the website of which describes a network of private fee-paying schools and education providers in “leafy, residential” locations that charge anything from around 582,000 to 1,287,000 Kenyan shillings a year—up to £10,000. The CDC also holds a 22.8% share in Rainbow Children’s Medicare Private Ltd, a fee-paying private hospital group in India that the NAO visited as part of its inquiry, saying that the investment was apparently in the whole company and not even focused on improving access for the poorest, for example. The former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), mentioned Feronia Inc. in which the CDC has invested £15.1 million. The main boast on its website is of replanting 13,000 hectares of palm oil, a commodity which is linked to deforestation, habitat degradation and climate change.
Without being able to get more detail from the CDC’s documents, it is difficult to know where the money is going and what it is being used for, but those are odd examples of spending going towards wonderful development objectives. The CDC continues to operate free from day-to-day policy guidance and intervention from Ministers. Oxfam points out that the CDC was assessed as poor in the aid transparency index in 2012, but there have been few improvements since then. All who support the cause of international development and poverty eradication face a tough task in justifying that spending to the public—however small a proportion of overall Government spending it remains. I am sorry to say that the task is not helped in any way by the misleading spin put out weekly in tabloid newspapers by the current Secretary of State, which was not a hallmark of her Conservative or Labour predecessors.
I am normally able to make a case for our development spending by appealing to moral duty and our national interest, not least when it comes to dealing with countries of conflict or instability, or with the huge migration flows we see. I am heartened by those among the younger generations who care about the prospects of our fellow humans around the world. I recently visited Moorland Primary School, in one of the more deprived areas of my constituency, where children told me that they wanted me to speak to Ministers to get more money provided for education in the poorest countries and to ensure that children are able to go to school and that they have healthcare and clean water. I will struggle to explain to those children why the Secretary of State wants to spend billions of our taxes handing money to what is, in effect, a privatised firm that does not need this amount of money; that gives large portions of it to countries that do not need it; that pays its chief executive officer more than £300,000 a year; and that invests through tax havens. It has some laudable aims, but it is not proving its effectiveness.
In conclusion, the Bill massively increases that funding to CDC and it fails three crucial tests. The first of those is the effectiveness test; the NAO assessment simply does not provide the evidence needed to back up such a huge increase in funding—has CDC even requested it? Secondly, it fails the poverty-focus test, as CDC remains massively focused on higher-income countries and high-return sectors, rather than on those that we should be pushing our efforts into. Thirdly, it fails the coherence test, given the continued use of tax havens and projects that simply do not sit comfortably with our wider development objectives. In its current form, this is a bad Bill. That does not mean that I do not support the continuation of the CDC and that I do not recognise that much of its work is good, but this level of increase is a stealthy way of diverting money away from our work in DFID, alongside the diversion to other Departments. We ought to scrutinise the Bill very carefully in Committee.
I suspect I am going to have the privilege of serving on the Committee with the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). I will not go into this at the same length as he did, but he should beware: we are both supporters of DFID and of the 0.7% budget, but our enemies out there will use his comments and his narrative to criticise the fundamentals we believe in. I do not want to stand in the way of proper scrutiny, but hon. Members on both sides of the House should be very careful about the tone of the language we use, because we do now have consensus going forward.
I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and say from the outset that I am incredibly proud of our 0.7% commitment and of the work that the CDC does. I would find it strange to find any Conservative MP standing to support the work of Clement Attlee and Clare Short in one sentence, let alone one debate, but we do stand united in this work, despite the blips over the years, many of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) has resolved or has at least been able to point in the right direction.
My experience of the CDC has been substantive over time. I was a young banker in a small place called Nhlangano, one of the poorest places in Swaziland. It was CDC investment in the Shiselweni Forestry Company, my main client, that really generated wealth for that area. It put food on the table for the thousands of citizens and the hundreds of other clients that I had as a banker in that country. Over the years, Swaziland has been helped by 16 different CDC projects. The one for which I was the banker has now moved on—it is profitable and continuing, but not under a CDC auspice—but the CDC is still in the forestry sector in Pigg’s Peak, Swaziland.
In the Ivory Coast, I was interested in delving into a francophone country, looking beyond the Commonwealth, to see what we were doing in developing middle-income countries that can provide inspiration and trade throughout the geography of west Africa. Although I did not have any clients from the the CDC, I used to work for Banque Atlantique Côte d’Ivoire, now part of the Atlantic Bank Group, in which the CDC has invested. The small bank I was a member of had only about 30 employees. I am not sure exactly what has happened subsequently, but during that investment period that small bank has become much larger, with banks in Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Senegal and Cameroon. Those countries—a real mix of countries—are hard for British development aid to reach, but are a really good example of where the CDC can assist.
I wish to mention, as other colleagues have, the great work of Diana Noble, who took on the job at a difficult time and who has transformed the organisation and led a very strong team. I wish her well in her future beyond the CDC.
To those who work at the CDC, I say thank you, because in many ways they are between a rock and a hard place. People involved in African private equity feel that those at the CDC are putting development before profit and are not earning lots of money. The non-governmental organisations think that they are putting profit before development. In truth, they are in a sweet spot in the middle, and they do exactly what Clement Attlee wanted: to do good without losing money. In many ways, this is the gift that keeps on giving. Comparison has been made between a pound that goes into traditional aid and a pound that goes into the CDC. The main difference is that the pound that goes into aid is spent immediately, which is very positive, but the pound that goes into the CDC is retained—it is an investment that grows, whether that is by the 7.8% that we have seen over the past five years, or by a slightly more modest investment target of 3%, which focuses more on the development aspect.
As a former banker, I am perhaps the only Member in the House who can get thoroughly excited about compound interest, but, over time, this is a growing pool of money. There are those who will wonder why we are talking about £1.5 billion, when the assets of the CDC are nearly £3.9 billion. That shows the power of investment—of retaining the money. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
I, too, have looked at the investment in palm oil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 9,000 workers are employed. I have dealt with places such as the DRC and Burundi—other colleagues have interacted with them—and they are horrendously difficult places in which to work. They are also politically difficult for the UK Government, but the CDC, through its intermediaries, provides inspiration in those places.
The CDC also actively targets countries that are low on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, of which I am a great advocate, as a way of proving that business can be conducted more effectively if one can speed up the ease of doing business.
Celtel has been mentioned. Indorama in Nigeria is fantastic. Like Sir Paul Collier, I very much believe that the real benefits and advantages of economic development in Nigeria will come through Port Harcourt and not through the oil industry.
This is, to reiterate a point I made in an intervention, a progressive Bill. I do not share the concerns of the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth that it is a Machiavellian way of diverting money. A business case will come. I do not believe that the Secretary of State will bring forward a business case to spend the full £6 billion over the course of this Parliament. Even if she does, it will still only be 8% of the overall DFID budget for those years. Obviously, the £12 billion of investment is compounded over time. It should not be compared with the slightly larger figure, which is our annual investment in the budget. We need to be careful that our enemies do not take advantage of our criticisms and use the similarity of the figures to make it look like there has been a sea-change on this Bill. If this Bill was about taking money from the poor and making money for the sake of it in India and South Africa, I would not support it.
I will not take the intervention, because I want to conclude.
I strongly support the CDC. It is the right move and it is a progressive move. I hope that Members from both sides of the House will agree to have a proper debate in Committee and to support the Bill on Third Reading to start to grow Africa in particular but also Asia out of poverty.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge). The hon. Gentleman was very robust in saying that the CDC is a gift that keeps on giving, as the aid keeps getting recirculated, but I would gently suggest that if it was as simple as that we would not need international aid at all, because we could just have that gift keeping on giving. It is quite clear that we still need international aid and we need to protect international aid budgets.
It is clear that there is consensus across the House that the principle of the CDC is a good one; a not-for-profit private sector company that encourages growth and additional investment in developing countries is very welcome. We have heard that it has stimulated growth and investment with varying degrees of success over a long period of time. We have also heard that it is not infallible; it has had issues and is starting to address them in a welcome way. Yesterday’s National Audit Office report shows that there are still further issues to address, so I agree we need a robust debate in Committee to try to pick up on them.
We have heard about salaries, and excessive salaries have clearly hit the news in the past. Yesterday’s report welcomes progress on reducing average annual salary costs from a high of £154,000 in 2009 to £90,000 in 2015. That is still quite a decent average salary; I think most people could live off that. The report acknowledges that the CDC has expressed concern about staff attrition and difficulties in recruitment as a consequence of lower salaries, but the report also notes that the staff attrition rate has plateaued at about half of its peak in 2012. I also note that salaries have increased again year on year from 2013. That suggests that a balance has been reached between staff attrition and salaries, but we need to watch that salary levels do not keep on increasing year on year. As we have heard elsewhere, £300,000 for a chief executive is a good salary. It is higher than that of the Prime Minister or of the Secretary of State for International Development. That chief executive’s salary has exceeded £300,000 for two years running now.
I note the right hon. Gentleman’s comments and, yes, if she took a massive reduction in salary that is clearly welcome, and the overall salaries have reduced, which sets a marker for the future if Diana Noble chooses to move on. At least there is a lower salary peg, and she has led the way with that. I accept that, but we need to recognise that it is a substantial salary. That cannot be forgotten.
The NAO report also states that there is now a greater focus on investing in poorer countries rather than markets that already attract foreign investors. That is welcome, but according to a Library paper investment in the poorest countries has increased from 4% to only 12%, with 4% of investment in the next income tier countries. Investment in the upper middle income countries exceeds the combined total of 16% in the lower two tiers. More work needs to be done and a measurable target should be put in place to encourage investment in the lowest income countries.
The NAO report also confirms that, as regards its financial performance, the CDC’s annual return on its portfolio ranges from 4% to 18% against a target of 3.5%. Normally, when a target is massively exceeded that suggests that it is too low or, as seems to be the case here, the returns are too high. If the returns are too high, either more money is being returned from the countries that have been invested in than is necessary or not enough marginal projects are being invested in. That needs to be considered. I accept that some of the historical returns are due to legacy projects that were invested in and had much higher returns because of the hedge fund system, so I hope that that will continue to be addressed and that we will see lower returns and the right investment in projects.
Although the NAO report says that there is a robust cost basis and that the CDC is in a good place to go forward, as has been mentioned by some hon. Members, what stands out is the need for better assessment and reporting of outcomes and the planned impact of investment. A more accurate assessment of the jobs created is required, as well as
“a clearer picture of actual development impact”.
That is crucial. To this end, it is clear that the NAO recommendations on performance targets and an evaluation contract must be implemented as soon as possible.
The NAO believes that the absence of a measure of additionality is a flaw, as additionality is a core principle of the investment strategy. That needs to be remedied. The Department should consider making it mandatory for the CDC to report on the four indicators outlined in paragraph 2.23 of the NAO report, which correlate to the CDC business case.
As has been mentioned, several organisations have expressed concern about the CDC’s tax transparency. “Transparency” is a buzzword that has been used by both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. If the CDC does not lead by example, it does not encourage other investors to avoid the use of tax havens. Worse still, the use of tax havens reduces the tax take of developing countries, preventing their Governments from generating additional revenue that they could invest in capital schemes, services or revenue support schemes. As long as the CDC has a model whereby it re-invests profit, it cannot adopt the “profit at any cost” ethos of the worst of the private sector. That becomes self-defeating, and smaller returns resulting from paying its full tax dues should not be a matter for debate.
It is clear that the use of tax havens takes away from the sustainability of developing countries. It is some five years on since the International Development Committee advised that transparency is essential for the public to hold the CDC to account. At present, the CDC is still some way off best practice and the transparency that the Government aspire to. The CDC scored “poor” in the 2012 aid transparency index, so for the Government to commit huge amounts of extra funding before improvements are made is not consistent with the Secretary of State’s stated aim of improving transparency across the aid budget. Aid cannot work in the national interest if three quarters of the CDC’s investments are routed through jurisdictions that feature in the top 20 of the Tax Justice Network’s financial secrecy index. That cannot be in the long-term national interest.
Oxfam has highlighted this issue, as well as other concerns about transparency, suitable investment and the use of tax havens. In addition, Christian Aid, which is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 Churches and organisations engaged in humanitarian assistance, has called for an end to the use of tax havens. It is clear that the practice must be ended.
The founding principles of the CDC are good. Some of its working needs to be fine-tuned, and it is important that this happens before any more Government money is funnelled in. It needs to be explained what share of the overall aid budget this increase constitutes and what other types of aid might be reduced to make way for this investment. As others have asked, why have the Government introduced this Bill before publication of the CDC’s investment strategy for 2017-21? I note that the autumn statement last week shows a net decrease in overseas development assistance of some £80 million next year and a further £210 million the following year. It is crucial, therefore, that an arm’s-length company is not funded at the expense of other required aid. As the NAO report states,
“It remains a significant challenge for CDC to demonstrate its ultimate objective of creating jobs and making a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places.”
We must not forget that. We need put in place everything that is necessary to allow that to happen.
Although this is a relatively straightforward Bill, which I had hoped would have the support of all Members of the House, it is worth examining some aspects of the strategic background to our DFID commitments.
I associate myself wholeheartedly with the wise and experienced words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) when they touched on the transformation of the CDC’s work over the past half-decade or so. I must confess that I did not recognise some of the rather more jaundiced views of its work, as set out in the rather long contribution from the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty).
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the selective quoting of the NAO report by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, who is no longer in his place, did not do justice to its conclusion that, overall, DFID’s grip on the CDC is strong and that the CDC has made radical improvements since the NAO’s last report in 2008?
I agree with everything my hon. Friend has to say.
I am glad that the Secretary of State is now back in her place, and I wholeheartedly support her somewhat expansive approach, which has been criticised in certain quarters during the debate. She appears determined to ensure that the UK utilises all its assets, including the DFID budget, to secure an optimal deal for the nation, not just as we extricate ourselves from the EU, but in the years to come.
That must mean extending DFID’s reach beyond the traditional aid referred to in the debate to broader development and infrastructure and to things such as security, but also to community sustainability and resilience across the globe. That change is long overdue, and I should like briefly to set out some of the somewhat negative ways in which DFID’s culture has developed since the Department was established in 1997, which I sincerely trust the Bill will help to address.
DFID was originally seen as a key component of an ethical foreign policy, centralising in a single Department overseas aid moneys that were previously in the budgets of the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office. The result was that those major Departments of State were left at that time with little or no financial autonomy on key international projects—regrettably, in my view.
Instead, a new culture of programming took hold in DFID, which managed out what was seen as inappropriate spending that could cause presentational problems for the Government of the day. Cautious mandarins became more risk averse, and DFID project money was routinely awarded to known international bodies, such as the World Bank or UNICEF, rather than to smaller, nimbler UK organisations and businesses.
That ensured that the Government would not be seen to be promoting corporate Britain abroad under the cloak of humanitarian assistance, but it also left those recognised brands to deal with any fallout, should questions be raised about the success of particular programmes. Indeed, the very respectability of those organisations tended to mute any testing questioning about the effectiveness and impact of what has become an ever-larger amount of British aid money. That shift, I fear, went hand in hand with the emergence of increasingly professional bidders, who learned to speak the language of DFID programmers to win contracts.
Too often, the result has been ponderous, expensive and wasteful programming, and I know that that culture is very much in the sights of the Secretary of State, who wants to eradicate it. In part, DFID programmers have often been overloaded with cash, which has been increasingly bundled off to the international bodies I mentioned. I am therefore absolutely delighted that the Bill increases the scope for money to be used by domestic bodies that are within the Government’s control and able to enact the Government’s priorities in the new world rapidly unfolding before us.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield laid out the way in which the CDC rightly operates. There is rightly oversight from not just the Government but a range of Select Committees, but we ultimately leave the organisation to get on and do the job that it is best able to achieve.
We need, above all, to ensure that DFID is not as process driven as it has perhaps been in the past, which has reduced our agility in this field and risked the benchmark for the success of our development aid being simply the amount spent, rather than the added value delivered, as has been referred to. That does not make our ongoing 0.7% commitment to overseas aid wrong—some of my right hon. and hon. Friends would probably disagree with that—and I am absolutely supportive of it, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East. Indeed, the case for extending Britain’s reach in this field grows stronger every day as we are confronted domestically with problems whose roots start many thousands of miles away.
I do, though, question whether, particularly as we leave the EU, large parts of DFID’s budget should not now be made available to the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence or the Department for International Trade, all of which should, necessarily and rightly, come under some scrutiny and oversight from DFID, but there should, none the less, be that sense of joined-up co-operation within the Government. That would enable and authorise those on the ground, whether in overseas embassies, military bases, or part and parcel of our intelligence services, to spend sensibly, carefully and locally against agreed objectives rather than within the rather ham-fisted DFID programming process.
I am listening very carefully to my right hon. Friend and agree with everything he has said so far. Does he agree that there are still some savings to be made by bringing all those agents and representatives of Her Majesty’s Government abroad under one umbrella? Too often we see competing officials from the different Departments who, to save money, should all come under the umbrella of, probably, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
You can take the boy out of the Foreign Office but obviously, when it comes down to it, you can’t take the Foreign Office out of the boy. I suspect that this will be a live debate going forward. I know that my right hon. Friend feels very strongly about such matters.
My right hon. Friend is quite right to slap down the former Foreign Office Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire), on his implied suggestion that we should go back rather than forwards and put DFID under the Foreign Office: that is basically what he was saying. We have long ago said that that is the wrong way to proceed. Let me point out that there are already pooled funds of the type that he describes. In my day at DFID—I have every reason to believe that this continues—whenever there was eligible funding under the ODA rules that the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office wanted to spend, they would always have access to those funds. The huge amount of DFID money that goes through the Foreign Office now bears testament to that.
Just to clarify this, I am not sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) was correct in saying what I was proposing. I was certainly not suggesting that the Department should come back within the Foreign Office. I was merely saying that I saw huge synergies to be achieved overseas where we have representatives from many Departments, including the Ministry of Defence, DFID and the former Department of Energy and Climate Change and that we should look towards making greater savings so that we can spend the money where it is needed.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield was not wilfully misleading anyone on these matters. I am going to be slapped down myself by the Whips if I am not careful, because I need to make a little progress.
I hope that in further empowering the CDC, which, as has been pointed out, is 100% owned by Her Majesty’s Government, we are now making way for a more cross-departmental approach, with the DIT and indeed the FCO able to access CDC funds for projects within the key Commonwealth states, particularly in Africa and South Asia.
In this very dangerous and uncertain world, the importance of integrating our foreign aid with military, diplomatic and trade commitments cannot be overstated. To prevent crime, to curb new waves of immigration and to stop the spread of disease, our efforts can be made more effective by concentrating on the source of an issue. Hunger relief and health programmes may of course be laudable in their own right, but British people want urgently to understand how DFID money benefits them personally, and so there will no doubt be widespread support for more money being channelled through bodies such as the CDC rather than—dare I say it?—virtually unaccountable international organisations that have previously received millions of pounds in UK aid. We should also, as a matter of course, communicate how strengthening our ties with developing countries will be of huge benefit in terms of our trade, energy and security interests in this post-Brexit era. By moving away from a situation where too much of DFID’s budget and powers has been placed in the hands of international non-governmental organisations, I firmly believe that we will be able better to fulfil many more of our nation’s broader strategic interests.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field). It is quite pleasant to be in the Chamber listening to the debate, because even though we appear to have differences over tactics and policies, there does seem to be some agreement on the overall objectives that we are trying to achieve, and I very much welcome that.
As far as I can recall this is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) said, the first opportunity we have had in this Parliament to discuss the wider strategic direction of the Department. I welcome the fact that the Government have achieved the 0.7% target. I commend them for doing so and providing an example to the rest of the world, particularly to our partner nations, to encourage them to do better with their aid budgets. Now that the Secretary of State is back in her place, I congratulate her and welcome her conversion to supporting her Department’s aims, rather than continuing with her previous attitude.
I was first exposed to the idea of international development as a kid at school in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when my mum was an enthusiastic participant in Christian Aid Week. I remember her spending a lot of time trying to raise money for Christian Aid to support projects in southern and eastern Africa. That was a long time ago, when I was very young, but I thought it was remarkable that, despite the fact that many people in my community lived in straitened circumstances, there was a common decency—people understood that there were always others who were worse off and that they had a common humanitarian responsibility to make some effort to assist, no matter how small.
Even in those days, there were critics of aid—of Christian Aid, Oxfam and all the others—who took a less selfless and more parsimonious attitude. Their criticism was twofold. They questioned whether the aid was actually going to the people in the destination countries who needed it most, and there was a continual suggestion that the people working in aid and organising the efforts were lining their own pockets.
Many of our NGOs—Christian Aid, Oxfam and others—have had to work for the last 40 years under the veil of those accusations. They make quite sure that they can counter those accusations and demonstrate that they are directly involved in projects in the countries that need it and that they work with the people in those countries to achieve sustainable development. They have also had to make public details of their organisation and cut their administrative costs to the core, so that they can demonstrate that they are delivering the maximum number of pennies per pound for the purposes for which that money was given.
I commend all those NGOs for doing so, but here is the problem with the CDC that we need to address. This does not apply to the majority of the projects in which the CDC is engaged, and it is not the CDC’s objective, but in quite a few cases, and not just occasional instances, public money—taxpayers’ money—has been used for purposes that people such as my mum would have difficulty comprehending. How can we justify, for example, the use of $3.5 million to support the development of a gated community in El Salvador for the super-rich? How can we justify the development in Nairobi of the Garden City Village and the shopping malls—$24 million, in that instance? How can we justify the development in Mauritius of the ocean village, with apartments costing a minimum of half a million dollars? It is difficult to hold those examples up and say that we are doing the right thing.
We need to make sure that that does not happen again. I have had arguments with people who justify such projects on the basis of the trickle-down theory. They say, “It may be a five-star hotel in an area of desperate deprivation, but look at the jobs that are being created.” Anyone who seriously thinks that an investment of $20 million or $30 million to create 50 low-paid service jobs in a hotel is an efficient use of aid money needs to re-examine their priorities. Let us assume that we do not have to engage with that neo-con argument.
I am not simply talking about things not being achieved; the situation is worse than that. By spending money on such projects and making mistakes with them, we may replicate and ingrain some of the structural problems that prevent us from raising the lot of the mass of the population in the first place. We need to be absolutely clear that such projects should not be some sort of international welfare scheme for capitalism, where we allow people to get super-rich while the poorest stay where they are or, in relative terms, possibly become even worse off.
In that context, I want to mention the whole question of salaries and remuneration within the CDC. This is not to criticise or castigate any individual in any way, but I thought the Secretary of State did well to keep a straight face earlier in the debate when she talked about the chief executive’s salary being reduced to just £300,000 per year. Most people would question whether it is right that someone leading an organisation whose ostensible role is to combat global poverty should get that level of reward in that job. I accept that part of the game is to play the private equity markets and to try to lever in funds, and we need to let people play such games. However, I welcome the education from the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who described the renationalisation of a part of government that was privatised under the Blair Administration. That was right because, while these people are engaged in private equity schemes and trying to play capitalism at its highest level, they should remain public servants. Their ethos and their remuneration—how they are rewarded—should be as part of the Government operation that is working for such people on behalf of this Parliament. They should not be cut loose and allowed to pretend that they can operate like private bankers. I very much hope that we can have a solid look at the level of remuneration that operates in the CDC.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) has mentioned, yesterday’s National Audit Office report says a number of things. I was struck by the fact that it says—the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield remarked that people working in the organisation looked over their shoulder with some apprehension when the Department’s officers came to call—there is a need to clarify that the Department should not be involved in individual project decisions and should distance itself. I agree: you do not own a dog and then bark yourself. If we are to hire people to do the job, particularly where it entails taking risks, we should let them get on and do it. I accept that, but the corollary is that we need to be much more hands-on in determining the strategy within which they operate and about the objectives that they are trying to achieve with their individual decisions. I therefore think it is probably putting the cart before the horse to have a discussion on this Bill before we have seen the CDC’s strategy for 2017 to 2021, which I presume is in preparation somewhere. Will the Minister tell us in his response whether we will be able to look at the strategy when it comes to the House?
The other point I want to make is about transparency. In 2013, three quarters of all the money going through the CDC’s accounts went to fund projects in the top 20 least transparent countries, where we are trying to improve things. Back when we discussed the Panama papers earlier in the year, the then Prime Minister and Government were very explicit about how we would try to clean up this mess and about how Britain would lead a campaign for financial transparency throughout the world. The absence of such transparency of course creates the conditions for illegality and for corruption in many of the target countries that we are trying to get aid to. I presume that that attitude has not changed and that we are still trying to lead a campaign for financial transparency. I therefore think it is very important, through the realm of the CDC, to make sure that when we try to lever in deals in these countries, we do so in a completely transparent way. We could start by making a commitment that the CDC will pay all the taxes due on projects in the countries in which it operates. We should also make sure that we use whatever pressure we can apply through third parties to advance the campaign for transparency.
That is pretty much all I have to say, except that we still live in a world where we have tremendous challenges and problems of extreme poverty, malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. I accept the need to play international capitalism at its own game and to try to lever in funds—to operate in the way that the CDC has been doing—but the end objectives must always be to make that situation better: eradicating poverty, combating illiteracy, eradicating disease. When we come back to look at the strategy document, we must set ourselves the challenge of making sure that everything the CDC does—every project it gets involved in—can, at the end of the day, be justified by attaining those objectives.
It is a pleasure to speak in support of a Bill that will strengthen one of the world’s oldest and most respected development organisations. The Commonwealth Development Corporation has always enjoyed cross-party support and has been an important part of the transition of Britain from colonial power to leader of international development. The Bill is a sign of the focus this Government have given to the CDC and to our overseas development programmes across the board. We can be proud of our commitment to supporting overseas development in all its forms.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) said, when this Government took office in 2010 the CDC was a byword for strategic confusion and mismanagement. Everyone from the National Audit Office to Private Eye could find something to object to in either its structure or its activities. Thanks to the work of this Government, initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) and followed up by his successors, the CDC and the way DFID manages it have evolved and improved. The CDC has radically transformed its approach over the past five years, following new objectives agreed with the UK Government. It targets investment where it is most needed, has the greatest impact for the poorest and delivers value for money for the UK taxpayer.
Many of the fears about the Bill and criticisms of the CDC that have been aired today belong to a different era. Some of my constituents have raised the issue of the amount of money that we spend on foreign aid. It is important that that money is spent wisely and transparently in helping countries to develop economically. A strong country will provide for its citizens, meaning that there will not be the economic migration that we have seen over the past few years.
By channelling money through the CDC, we can clearly see where it is going and where it is working. Although the National Audit Office report published yesterday identified some further room for improvement, it was very positive about the work done by DFID and the CDC, as the Secretary of State laid out. I am pleased that Members recognise the great improvements made since the 2008 NAO report and the criticisms of the CDC made by Select Committees in the 2005 Parliament.
I will focus on the reality of the CDC, the future of its work and the potential we will create with the passing of the Bill. The long-term aim of overseas development policy is to build economies and societies like our own—educated, free, and politically and economically stable. The philosophy behind the CDC has always been the same: give someone a fish and we feed them today; teach them to fish and they will eat for a lifetime. In particular, investing in women, where much of our aid is targeted, is investment in a generation, as every mother puts money towards educating their children.
The CDC currently invests in more than 1,200 businesses in more than 70 countries. Those investments supported more than 1 million jobs in Africa and Asia in 2015, almost 25,000 of which were created directly last year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Marcus Fysh) said, there is a virtuous circle of investment, job creation, tax revenue generation for the host Government, creation of sustainable businesses and reinvestment by the CDC at the end of the cycle.
The CDC has reached the ceiling of current Government backing—the Government’s investment of £735 million last year took it up to the limit of £1.5 billion. Through the reinvestment of past profit, it has built up a bigger portfolio, standing at just under £4 billion. It is therefore clear that the CDC is able to support development and recycle the returns to support further investment. We should not be reluctant to enable the CDC to do more and unlock potential. The NAO is clear that the CDC now has an efficient and economic operating model that is working and has improved its procedures for recording allegations of fraud and corruption.
With the clear investment strategy agreed under this Government, the aim is to make the great majority of new investment directly into businesses. If we want to achieve the global goals for sustainable development by 2030, we need to mobilise the private sector and work together. That helps the CDC in two ways. It allows it to help target its involvement at areas that genuinely meet the remit of supporting businesses that struggle to attract private sector investment. It also helps it to meet one of the goals set out in yesterday’s NAO report, namely better tracking of the success rate of the CDC’s investments. The CDC now concentrates on the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, where business finds it hard to attract stable and responsible investment from the private sector. It is right that the development finance institutions lead the way in those countries, and we should not be shy about it.
We invest more in aid overall than our European partners and invest less through development finance institutions. The CDC estimates the investment gap of unmet demand for capital investment in Africa to be more than $100 billion. If we want to bring jobs and growth to the poor, we must help them to help themselves. This simple and, I hope uncontroversial Bill does that. It is not an approval or a commitment to give the CDC access to £6 billion immediately, but to give it when there is a strong, robust, accountable and transparent business case that will provide the best value that aid can provide. I hope the House supports the Bill.
Sitting through the debate and listening to so many informed contributions has been informative, even the speech from the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). Perhaps it was a little overlong in duration and repetitive in argument, but none the less it was a valuable contribution to the overall debate. Many of us welcome his general support for the direction of travel in the Bill and his points about oversight were well made.
Although I fully support the 0.7% commitment to aid, I do not agree with its statutory underpinning, which I believe will lead to unintended consequences. One reason why I welcome the Bill is that it helps in that respect. I fully and wholeheartedly welcome the Secretary of State’s introduction of the Bill for three principal reasons: it is modern; it will prove to be effective; and most importantly, it sets a tone of mutual respect between the United Kingdom and those countries and peoples who are the recipients of our DFID budget. The Bill will do that by harnessing the power of entrepreneurs around the world. It is those people who hold the key to so much in terms of the improvement of lives in less developed countries.
The CDC is an institution in which taxpayers can trust. We have talked about oversight and past concerns—as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) said, they are in the past. We should also recognise that the CDC has been around for 60 or 70 years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) spoke of his experience as Secretary of State, when he saw people’s recognition of the brand’s strength. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), who is no longer in his place, spoke of his ministerial experience. Trust in our DFID budget is important. It is not enough for hon. Members to say, “It doesn’t matter. Everything’s fine. We all agree.” Out there in the country, there is tremendous scepticism—it is fuelled not only by the press—about the amount of money, whether it is being spent in the right way, and whether we should continue with the 0.7% commitment. Having institutions that we can trust to spend the money wisely is important. The Bill gives us that and is a big step forward in restoring trust.
The Bill is modern. As I have said, I am not knowledgeable about DFID issues in general, but I was drawn to the 2015 speech by Bono at Georgetown University, when he said:
“Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid…of course, we know that.”
He was correct. Through the Bill, we must counter some of the pre-scepticism about the role of the private sector in developing countries in achieving some of our development goals. We must put our foot down on the accelerator of supporting the private sector through institutions such as the CDC.
I am tempted to quote Sir Angus Deaton from Bloomberg—he is the Scottish-American economist who won the Nobel prize last year. He said:
“Aid funded projects have understandably done much good…but the negative forces are always present: even in good environments, aid compromises institutions, it contaminates local politics and undermines democracy”.
The greatest bulwark against the corruption of political institutions, and one of the greatest defenders of democracy, is the opportunity for people to have a stake in something. People having a stake in a small business can preserve and protect freedoms, as well as enhance economic wellbeing. Human happiness is not solely a matter of one’s GDP; once one gets above a minimum, other issues start to matter, such as freedom and social environment.
Having that stake is also effective. The CDC and its work as a fund of funds created a distinctive expertise in investing in first-time funds in some of the most challenging investment environments across the world. We should be proud of that track record. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield for explaining the move to direct investment. I had been sceptical, thinking it was drawing the CDC away from a pivotal part of its success, but I now better appreciate the role of direct investment, thanks to his contribution. The CDC nurtures investment talent. Growing entrepreneurship and private enterprise is not just about entrepreneurs; it is about developing people to spot the talented entrepreneurs from the less talented, and in that the CDC does a tremendous job.
That said, I have some questions and concerns about the Bill. Will the Minister explain how, if we are to give more money to the CDC, the skills within it can be developed and monitored? As many hon. Members have said, the worst thing is to pile money in if the team investing the money does not have the skillset, capacity or capability to invest it. What will we do about the investment focus areas? Contrary to other comments, perhaps, I am keen to see the investment focus move into more modern areas that provide opportunities for companies in developing countries to trade with the UK, as well as provide domestic support. Will the CDC be able to lever investors from other countries into its fund to develop further its capital for international development? Will he comment on the likely value of the CDC in the near term, given the comments by President-elect Trump on international development and the likely impact of the rising dollar on turbulence in local currencies in many developing countries?
Finally, I support the Bill because it will create mutual respect. It is time for us to recognise that development in developing countries is a matter for many UK citizens through the diaspora. There is no imbalance in that relationship: a British Nigerian sees themselves as a British subject and, on an equivalent basis, looks to their heritage in Nigeria. The work of DFID should reflect that equivalence in its treatments. The Bill is perhaps a first step towards promoting mutual respect. Other possible measures are turning back protectionist intellectual property restrictions between developed and developing worlds, using the opportunity of Brexit to lower trade barriers, and creating more and effective ways to harness remittances between ourselves and developing countries.
This is a small but important Bill because it sets the tone in the right direction. It sends a message that this organisation, which had a long history of effectiveness, went through a period of turbulence and is now back on the right course, can have the confidence of the British people as it continues to pursue its development goal for people in the poorest countries of the world.
On behalf of other members of the Select Committee, I inform the House that many of them are abroad on a visit to the middle east but would have spoken in the debate had they been here. It would be wrong for me to indicate how they would have spoken or whether, like me, they support the Bill, but I will put on the record one or two comments previously made by members of the Committee. As long ago as 2011, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) said in a debate on the CDC:
“It is extremely important that the Government should continue to support CDC.”—[Official Report, 14 July 2011; Vol. 531, c. 169WH.]
An IDC report on jobs and livelihood in the last Parliament stated:
“We are encouraged that CDC has followed our recommendations and has refocused on job creation.”
A final Select Committee example is a recent report on the sustainable development goals, which stated:
“The Government must ensure that the work it carries out to encourage private sector investment, through CDC…is focused on developing and fragile states”.
It went on to mention
“a positive impact on the achievement of the SDGs”,
which the CDC had the potential to achieve. It was interesting to note that in response the Government stated:
“CDC’s mandate is aligned with achievement of the Goals”.
Before I touch on a few of my prepared remarks, I would like to deal with some of comments made by another member of our Select Committee, the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). He mentioned his concerns about the effectiveness, the poverty focus and the coherence of the CDC’s work, and I would like to respond to these.
The hon. Gentleman said that there should be more emphasis on health and education. However, the CDC’s development impact is amplified by the billions of pounds in local taxes that are generated by the companies it invests in. These help to support the public services such as health and education in developing countries. Over the past three years alone, these companies have generated over £7 billion-worth of local tax revenue. It is important to remember the impact that these taxes can have on those kinds of essential services.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about coherence, and he and others have mentioned transparency, but DFID works very closely with the CDC to ensure that it is at the forefront of global standards of transparency in development impact. Information about all the CDC’s investments is available on a comprehensive database on its website, with details of the name and location of every investment in the portfolio. I am sure that further information would be made available if members of the Select Committee requested it. If DFID is working, as we know it is, with the CDC on a new results framework, this will result in an even better capture of the broader impact of investments on development—even beyond job creation and tax revenue generated.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman raised his concerns about investment by the CDC in a private, fee-paying hospital in India, stating that this might be at odds with DFID’s general approach towards the expenditure of UK aid. However, I clearly remember the Select Committee visiting a private, fee-paying school in Africa not so long ago, and Committee members agreed that DFID’s support for that school was, in fact, well spent, particularly when there was no other option for children in that area to obtain an education. I believe these issues need to be looked at in context, and I am not so sure that support for this hospital is so out of line with DFID’s general approach.
The hon. Lady raises the issue of private fee-paying education and health. The issue is about where we focus our efforts. Does she not accept that if we continue to support the expansion of private healthcare and education as opposed to supporting public systems that enable free access to healthcare and education, we will effectively supplant countries’ ability to provide national healthcare and education systems that support all their citizens, including the poorest?
As with so many of these cases, it is not an either/or. It is often both when the need is clearly there and the money can be well spent.
I shall move on to my few prepared remarks about the Bill. I absolutely support the Bill and speak in favour of it. It is essential to look at how to support capital investment in countries where there is a paucity of it. A 2014 report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development calculated a £2.5 trillion annual investment gap in key sustainable development sectors, so the CDC has a very important role to play. It is important to remember that the Bill will allow DFID and the British people, as the CDC’s motto states, “to do good without losing money” on an even greater scale than hitherto. I cannot believe that anyone, even aid sceptics, could really object to that.
The NAO report, published yesterday, chronicles the many positive steps that the CDC has taken and the many improvements that it has made. We have heard many references to the report. It says that through
“tighter cost control, strengthened corporate governance and closer alignment with the Department’s objectives, CDC now has an efficient and economic operating model.”
This morning I spoke to NAO officers who had produced the report over eight months and had visited many projects, including some in Africa. They said that DFID now had a really good grip on the CDC’s work, that there were good lines of communication between the CDC and DFID, and that DIFD’s in-country know-how was being utilised, while it was rightly not interfering in day-to-day management. They identified several cases of CDC investments in areas where the private sector would not have initially dared to go, but three years later private sector money had come in. Indeed, in several instances they saw the results of what they described as “catalytic” investments. They said of the 13 or 14 funds they had inspected in Africa that, with one exception, they were “transformational”. I think that we have a really positive report on which to act.
Of course, there are views about previous investments, but I think it encouraging that 98% of investments are now in Africa and south-east Asia and 82% are in one of the seven priority sectors identified in DFID’s key objectives, which were devised in 2012, following the excellent review conducted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell).
Without further ado, I shall end my speech, although there is much more that I would like to say in praise of the CDC.
It is a pleasure to follow so many distinguished speakers in all parts of the House. I thank them all for their contributions.
Let me begin by paying tribute, like many others, to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), the former Secretary of State for International Development, for the good work that he has done. He gave us an eloquent history lesson, explaining how the CDC began. I accept much of what he said, but I think the whole House is united in accepting that his important reviews of the CDC back in 2011, and the strategies and policies that developed as a result, have left the CDC in a better place than it was in four years ago.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) rightly reinforced the House’s commitment to the 0.7% target. He also made an important point, which has not been made enough today, about the implications for our strategic development goals. He welcomed the National Audit Office report, as do I, but urged caution in respect of its findings on transparency and the impact of monitoring, about which I shall say more later. He rightly pointed out that we are still awaiting the important multilateral and bilateral aid reports. However, the Secretary of State has assured me that they will be published on Thursday, and I am grateful for that speedy response.
I think the whole House agrees that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) is a passionate advocate, and he demonstrated that again today. He made some very important points about the sheer level of funding, another issue about which I shall say more later. He also drew attention to three boxes that needed to be ticked. I agree with him that the case has yet to be made.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), as always, made a passionate speech in his own style. He made an important point about the strategy and policy investment that was not forthcoming, and, like many Members, suggested that we were virtually putting the cart before the horse.
We on this side of the House want to reaffirm our commitment to poverty alleviation, which should be at the centre of DFID’s work. We recognise that the development of businesses around the world has a strong role to play in international development, through building economies by improving infrastructure and helping to put money into people’s pockets at the end of a hard day’s work, which is one of the surest ways of alleviating poverty. We also recognise that it has a strong role to play in the achievement of the eighth sustainable development goal: promoting economic growth, productive employment and decent work. It is therefore right that during the passage of the Bill we scrutinise both the Bill itself and what it will do, or will not do, for developing countries and the ability of the CDC to deliver for them.
Despite the Bill’s small size, it will have huge ramifications for the developing world and the UK’s development agenda. As previously outlined by my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State, we have several important points that we would like to see addressed.
The first is the worrying concern about the sheer size of the increase in assistance that DFID will be able to give to the CDC. In 2015, the previous International Development Secretary committed an additional £0.7 billion of funding to the CDC, but the Bill seeks to dwarf that by a large measure, by increasing the assistance to £6 billion. Moreover, the Secretary of State seeks the power to increase the limit to £12 billion through a statutory instrument, creating unease on the Opposition Benches that the Secretary of State will easily be able to extend the limit by £6 billion just through an SI, a move we believe to be wrong in principle.
We acknowledge that the assistance limit may have been reached—a substantial limit that has stood for just as substantial a period of time—but increasing assistance to this level has the potential to result in a considerable movement of ODA spending away from DFID in the traditional sense. That is particularly troubling given that the answer provided to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) stated that 25% of ODA will be spent outside DFID and that the Secretary of State repeatedly states an intention to move DFID’s focus towards trade over traditional aid and development. If the Government want to move so much of DFID funding through the CDC, we need assurances that it is not a mechanism through which they can effectively privatise development, placing more money in the hands of investment funds whose main focus at the end of the day is not poverty but profit, while at the same time moving it out of the hands of development NGOs.
This takes us on to the next issue that we have raised today: for what purpose does the CDC require further assistance? After all, the current £1.5 billion assistance limit has stood a strong test of time and the CDC’s business model sees it largely self-financing, with healthy profits reinvested in projects. Therefore, if we are to support this Bill throughout its passage, we need to see updated documents provided and published by the CDC—namely, a new strategy for 2017 onwards, alongside a new investment policy for the next five years, both of which must set out what the CDC intends to do with such massive assistance being made available to it. Essentially, we must avoid a situation in which we would be putting the cart before the horse by granting funding assistance before actually seeing what purpose it will be used for.
Another area of concern raised is the scrutiny and oversight of the CDC’s development impact. On this issue, we note the findings of yesterday’s NAO report. The accuracy of the CDC’s self-assessment through its development grid and its declaration of the development impact of its investments cannot be guaranteed, because it assesses their prospective impact rather than the actual impact. Consequently, the CDC might believe that it is having a positive impact, but the actual impact could be very different. If DFID wants to increase its assistance to the CDC, it must carry out full, frequent and regular assessments of the development impact, beyond the CDC’s own measuring criteria.
We on this side of the House have raised concerns over the use of tax havens by the CDC, and our concerns are well founded. In 2013, £180 million of the £375 million given to investment funds by the CDC went to funds domiciled in notorious tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey. That is almost 50%. This use of tax havens denies tax revenue to developing countries, avoids capital gains tax and deepens existing governance and corruption issues in developing countries. This is happening despite the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of a crackdown on the use of offshore tax havens in the wake of the BHS scandal, and it is exactly the opposite of the kind of work that the CDC has a duty to carry out.
We have outlined our substantial and genuine concerns about the Bill, and we hope that the Government will give us a genuine response to those concerns and to the six questions that the shadow Secretary of State set out earlier. We look forward to hearing their response. We will not oppose the Bill’s Second Reading this afternoon, but if we do not receive adequate assurances or see positive steps being taken by the Government to address our concerns, we reserve the right to withhold our support for the Bill on Third Reading. Facilitating economic growth is of course important in the developing world, but development should always be the focus, and we on this side of the House will work to ensure that it remains so.
I want to say a great thank you to all the hon. and right hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. I particularly praise the tone set by the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) and the way in which he picked up on the good atmosphere in the Chamber. I also pay tribute to the tone set by the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) and by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain), and to the constructive way in which they have approached this short but quite technical piece of legislation.
Four major types of concern seem to have been raised today, and I will try to deal with them briefly, with the aim of stopping at exactly 5.20 pm. Those questions were as follows. Why are we focusing on private sector-led economic development? How do we balance the private and public inclusion in that development? Why are we using development finance institutions and, in particular, what quantity of money are we putting into them? Why are we specifically putting money into the CDC? That last question relates to concerns that have been expressed about the governance and transparency of the CDC. I shall try to deal with those four types of challenge in turn.
The first is a general concern about the weight that we place on the private sector’s role in economic development in general. That concern was expressed by a number of people today, particularly Members on the Opposition Benches. The shadow Secretary of State used the word “profiteering”, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh East talked about international capitalism. The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) spoke of distracting our attention away from humanitarian concerns, and the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) was worried that some of the investments might be made at the cost of other potential investments. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) emphasised the fact that aid is needed as well, and the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) emphasised the importance of health and education.
The way in which to deal with these generic concerns about the role played by the private sector in economic development—and with all the matters in the general portfolio of the Department for International Development —is to state that what we are talking about today is just a part, not the whole, of what DFID does. Economic development is absolutely vital—I will come on to that—but it is currently less than 20% of the Department’s overall portfolio. The shadow Secretary of State quite rightly raised water and sanitation as important elements of our Department’s strategy—they are—but they are not primarily delivered through development finance institutions. The £204 million that we spent in 2015-16 came from other parts of the Department’s budget. As for the humanitarian concerns mentioned by the right hon. Member for Leicester East, the £2 billion that we are spending over this period on Syria alone comes from other parts of the departmental budget.
However, as pointed out by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Marcus Fysh), poverty alleviation cannot happen without economic growth, and that relies on the private sector. It relies on the private sector for jobs, for Government revenues and for the services that the sector provides. It is not a zero-sum game. The hon. Member for Glasgow North issued a challenge when he talked about investments coming at the cost of others, but it is not that kind of zero-sum game. To take a specific example, we were criticised by one Member for some of our investments in electricity, as opposed to other forms of infrastructure, as though that was somehow at the expense of other developmental objectives. However, that electricity not only delivers jobs through the business side, but allows us to deliver our objectives in health and education. We cannot have a decent education service and get children into school if there is no electricity and they have to go 10 miles to pick up firewood. We cannot deliver decent healthcare in Africa unless there is refrigeration for immunisation drugs and unless we have the electric lighting that allows doctors to perform surgery in the clinics.
We are delivering on the STGs, particularly goals 7 and 8 on energy and economic growth. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is both a distinguished international civil servant and a President of an African state, has said that poverty in Africa cannot be eliminated without private sector growth. That also reflects the demands of Africans themselves. I was taken by the statements of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) about mutual respect. Recent surveys conducted in sub-Saharan Africa show that sub-Saharan Africans identify energy and jobs as two of their top three priorities at a level of 80% or 90%. We should respect their wisdom and desires when we talk about the kind of development investments that we make.
The next question is how to balance the roles of the public and private sectors in delivering development. I do not want to talk about this too much, but it is clear that there are serious constraints on the public sector’s ability to deliver all forms of commercial activity, partly because it often lacks the skills to ensure that those things happen. It lacks the skills to understand the market dynamics, the logistics, the productivity and the efficiency. We have all seen well-intentioned charitable and Government development projects attempt to set up businesses that have not worked. However, as Opposition Members have pointed out, the private sector cannot do it on its own—there are clear market failures. Returning to electricity in Africa as a good example, the private sector has clearly failed. If the private sector had been able to do things on its own, we would not be in a position where only 6 GW of power generating capacity has been built in Africa over the past decade. In China, 8 GW of capacity is built every one to two months.
That brings us to the question why we are putting money into DFIs, which was the particular challenge of the shadow Minister. The shadow Minister and the hon. Members for Glasgow North, for Cardiff South and Penarth and for Edinburgh East focused on the quantity of investment. The response is that I am afraid that some people still confuse stock and flow—in other words, the annual overseas development spend and the creation of a capital fund. The second response is that it is an option, not a commitment. What we are doing is raising the ceiling for what CDC, through rigorous business cases, can request; we are not imposing this on CDC. Over a five-year period, even if the maximum were drawn down, we would be talking about 8% of the total anticipated ODA spend, which is smaller than the amount I calculate the Scottish Government appear to be putting into a similar instrument in proportional terms.
There have been challenges on strategy. The strategy will be produced in line with departmental practice at the end of this year, but this Bill is enabling legislation, so we are putting the horse before the cart. We need the enabling legislation in place—we need the ceilings to be lifted—before we can look at individual business cases that wish to draw down on that money.
That brings us to the overall question why use DFIs at all, and I wish to pay a huge tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who provided perhaps the most powerful explanation of why we go into these mechanisms in the first place. The answer of course is that they bring together the very best of the private sector and the very best of the public sector. They provide the discipline of the private sector in insisting on returns that produce sustainable enterprises and sustainable revenues; and they provide freedom from political interference and they provide leverage. To respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, let me say that they also allow us, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) pointed out, to draw in other forms of capital behind. Some £4 billion of investment from the CDC has drawn an extra £26 billion into our investments in Asia and Africa. In addition, this approach provides good value for money for the taxpayer.
The Minister is talking about the capital that this approach has brought in, but that has not always been in areas where capital has not been available—I think of places such as India. Given that he is about to publish the bilateral aid strategy, will he consider forcing the CDC to look more closely at the lower-income countries in Africa and elsewhere that need the investment the most?
I am trying to move towards my 5.20 pm conclusion, but let me deal with that quickly. As I was saying—and this partly answers the point—we are combining the best of the private sector incentives with the best of the public sector, because we are exactly able to prioritise maximising development impact. That is where our development impact grid, which, with respect, the hon. Gentleman is not providing enough focus on, answers his question. Members on both sides of the House should be aware that that grid targets explicitly countries with the lowest GDP per capita, countries where investment capital is not available and countries where the business environment is worse—that is the Y axis of the grid. On the X axis of the grid, we have sectors in which the maximum employment is generated. Every business case since 2012 has been assessed exactly against those criteria, which is why, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield has pointed out, many of the criticisms made today—the idea that somehow the CDC has lost its way—are not appropriate for the CDC of 2106; they are appropriate for the CDC of 2012 or 2010.
Let me deal with a few of the objections. An investment in Guatemala was mentioned, but all investments in Latin America stopped in 2012. An investment in Xiabu Xiabu in China was mentioned, but all investments in China were stopped in 2012. The issue of pay was raised, but, as has been pointed out again and again, the pay of the chief executive has been reduced by two thirds, to a third of its predecessor. Tax havens were mentioned, but we no longer, in any way, ever invest for reasons of tax or secrecy; we invest only to find secure bases for investment and to pool other forms of capital. All our investment goes simply into locations that meet the highest OECD transparency standards. On development impact, our DFID chief economist, Stefan Dercon, has worked with some of the most distinguished academics in the world, from Harvard and elsewhere, to create exactly the kind of impact that people are pushing for.
That is why right hon. and hon. Members should support this Bill. It is not only because of the history of the CDC, to which the shadow Secretary of State paid such good tribute to in her opening remarks: its experience of 70 years; the culture it has developed; the extraordinary brand that the institution has in Africa and south Asia; and the focus that my right hon. Friend has brought to this institution since 2010—its rigour and its narrowness of focus, which makes it very unusual among DFIs. It is one of the only DFIs in the world to be spending so much in conflict-affected states. It is accountable directly to DFID, which owns 100% of its shares. The examples of its performance today can be seen in the DRC; in places such as Burundi, where off-grid power would not be built without the CDC; and in its investment in energy through Global in Africa.
In conclusion, we should take pride in this institution; it is a very great British institution. In its historic evolution it has gone from a past where it was dominated in the 1950s by ex-military officers interested in building rafts and going into jungles to its current leadership under Diana Noble, a chief executive who exemplifies much of the best in development thinking and some of most progressive intuition in the British Government. She ensures that we are delivering in Pakistan gender-based programming that affects workers’ rights and that we have an institution that is today highly relevant and that faces and solves some of the greatest development challenges in this century.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill: Programme
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill:
(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 8 December 2016.
(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading
(4) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion three hours after the commencement of proceedings on Consideration.
(5) Any proceedings in legislative grand committee and proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion four hours after the commencement of proceedings on Consideration.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.
(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—(Andrew Griffiths.)
Question agreed to.
Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill: Money
Queen’s recommendation signified.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill, it is expedient to authorise:
(1) any increase in payments out of the National Loans Fund or money provided by Parliament resulting from provisions of the Act—
(a) increasing the limit in section 15(1) of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 to £6,000 million; and
(b) conferring power to increase that limit to an amount not exceeding £12,000 million;
(2) any increase attributable to those provisions in the extinguishing of liabilities in respect of guarantees under the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999; and
(3) any increase attributable to those provisions in payments into the National Loans Fund or the Consolidated Fund.—(Andrew Griffiths.)
Question agreed to.