Priti Patel moves the Second Reading of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill

29th November 2016

Priti Patel moves the Second Reading of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill which amends the amount of the limit on the total cumulative level of financial support that can be provided by the Government.

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 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 which 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.

 

Will the Secretary of State give way?

 

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 in order 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 of 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.

 

rose—

 

rose—

 

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.

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