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International Development Questions

Andrew Mitchell answers questions on subjects including increasing transparency with regard to overseas aid, ensuring value for money and the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit.


Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): What steps he is taking to increase the transparency of arrangements for distribution of overseas aid. [16515]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): The new UK aid transparency guarantee will deliver a step change in the transparency of British aid. Under the guarantee, we will publish full and detailed information on our projects and policies, strengthen accessibility and feedback, and press international partners to follow our lead.

Andrew Selous: Hard-pressed British taxpayers will be pleased to have heard what my right hon. Friend has said, but could he tell us how transparency will be assured for the fairly large part of the British aid budget that is spent through the United Nations, the World Bank and international development charities?

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend is right about this, because there are some 44 international and multilateral aid agencies through which we spend British taxpayers' money. All of them are being looked at under the multilateral aid review, which we set up immediately after this Government took office. The review will report by the end of January next year and we will decide upon our spending allocations in accordance with the results that we are achieving, which will be examined by that review.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): Given the positive response to the annual report arising from the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006, will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to ensure that the report goes directly to Parliament and that we have an annual debate on the Floor of this House?

Mr Mitchell: The right hon. Gentleman has some credit for having masterminded and pioneered the Bill that became that Act through the House of Commons. He is right to underline the importance of the transparency that the Act ushered in and the importance of the House of Commons being able to discuss it, with Ministers being accountable to this House for that. So I can assure him that, through the usual channels, I will underline the point that he has made.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): The Select Committee on International Development warmly welcomes the Secretary of State's initiatives to make aid more transparent, and will co-operate with him and with Parliament to ensure that we give effective voice to that. Does he acknowledge that there are some concerns that ensuring that everything is transparent means that we might sacrifice longer-term, less measurable outcomes for shorter-term ones? Can he assure me and the Committee that that compromise will not undermine the effectiveness of British aid?

Mr Mitchell: As the Chairman of the Select Committee rightly says, transparency is about accountability not only to our own taxpayers in Britain, but for the people whom we are trying to help in the poor world; it is about enabling them to hold their own leaders to account. On the nature of evaluation, to which his question also referred, it is important that this should be about not only value for money and the accountancy-driven approach to that, but development expertise. As he says, a lot of development is very long-tailed, so we need to meld both those two streams of expertise together to achieve the right results.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for yesterday's written statement on the UN millennium development goals summit, which highlighted the decision to record all the commitments made. Making sure that everyone can see and track the progress towards the MDGs is vital, because international effort is simply not enough right now. Those goals can be met, with the international will to do so. Following the summit, can he tell the House what further steps he and his Government colleagues will be taking to increase momentum?

Mr Mitchell: May I welcome the right hon. and learned Lady to her new position? I think I hold the record for having shadowed this portfolio for the longest time-five years-and I wish her every success in beating my record. The whole House knows of her passion for gender equality and I am sure that we will work well together on that. We put girls and women at the heart of development, and I look forward to progressing that policy with her. Frankly, we are delighted that someone so senior on the Labour Benches is now shadowing this portfolio.

As she said, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has set in train work to bring together all the commitments that were made by different countries at the summit. ECOSOC-the Economic and Social Council-which is the relevant body of the UN, will be monitoring this on an annual basis and we will ensure that other countries that have made commitments stand up for those commitments and fulfil them, just as Britain must fulfil its commitments.

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Value for money

Joseph Johnson (Orpington) (Con): What mechanisms are in place to monitor value for money derived from overseas aid; and if he will make a statement. [16516]

10. Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): What mechanisms are in place to monitor the value for money derived from overseas aid; and if he will make a statement. [16524]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): We are moving from a focus on inputs to a focus on outputs and outcomes-the results our money actually achieves. We will gain maximum value for money for every pound we spend through greater transparency, rigorous independent evaluation and an unremitting focus on results.

Joseph Johnson: Will the Secretary of State say what assessment he has made of value for money from the more than £2 billion that the Department has given to the International Development Association over the three years ending June 2011, indicating whether he intends to match past commitments in the next funding period-that is, the 16th replenishment of the IDA?

Mr Mitchell: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the next replenishment of the World Bank IDA funds. As I mentioned in answer to the last question, the multilateral aid review will be the body that looks at value for money. At the last replenishment-IDA15-as anyone who follows these things closely knows, Britain was the biggest contributor and that contribution was £2 billion. What I what from the next replenishment is for people to know to what extent we are getting clean water, sanitation, basic education and health care to the people at the end of the track, who do not have them in our world today.

Andrea Leadsom: Value for money is, of course, crucial, but there is another issue, which is getting the money to the front line once it has been allocated. Will my right hon. Friend explain what steps he will be taking to ensure that money gets to the front line, unlike in Haiti where, I gather, the vast bulk of aid that has been allocated has yet to reach the areas where it is needed most?

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend makes an important point about the effectiveness of emergency relief. There are undoubtedly lessons for us all to learn from what happened in Haiti. That is why I have set up an emergency review of the way in which Britain does emergency relief, which is being chaired by Lord Ashdown. That review will focus on all aspects of how Britain does relief and how we co-ordinated with the UN cluster system, and it will focus particularly on the importance of the immediacy of that relief, getting shelter, food and medicine through to people in such desperate circumstances.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): How much money is spent on external consultants to monitor the effectiveness of British aid?

Mr Mitchell: Monitoring the effectiveness of British aid in the future will, at least in part, be done by external evaluation in the independent evaluation agency that we have set up. To some extent, evaluation should be built into all projects and into all the work that we are doing, and we are trying to ensure that that happens in the future.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): Given the success of the global development engagement fund, what steps will the Secretary of State take to reinstate that fund to ensure that the good work done in schools and communities throughout Britain and Northern Ireland can be continued?

Mr Mitchell: We are reviewing the way in which such development awareness work is done. I am looking specifically at trying to ensure that global citizenship is enshrined in the work that schools do. In general, however, I do not think that British taxpayers' hard-earned money meant for development should be spent in the UK. It should be spent helping the poorest in the world-those whom it is the intention of the House that we should be assisting.

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Millennium Development Goals

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): What assessment he made of the outcomes of the recent UN millennium development goals summit in New York. [16522]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): The summit in New York achieved real progress and resulted in global commitments to save 16 million women and children, reverse the spread of malaria and tackle hunger and under-nutrition. The UK's leadership, and in particular the Government's commitments on aid and results, was noted by all our international partners.

Claire Perry: My right hon. Friend mentioned malaria. I am sure he is aware that today 4,000 people in the world will die from that disease, 75% of them under the age of five. Can he please assure the House that he is putting malaria prevention and treatment at the heart of his Department's programmes?

Mr Mitchell: The fight against malaria will be included in every bilateral programme where it is relevant as a part of the bilateral aid review, but I can tell my hon. Friend- [Interruption.] My comments on the fight against malaria do not usually get such a warm reaction from the House. In 10 African countries Britain is committed to halving the number of malaria deaths by 2015.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): What steps will be put in place to monitor the outcome of the summit and ensure that year on year we try to reach the targets set through the summit?

Mr Mitchell: The hon. Gentleman is right. It is extremely important that people should be held to their commitments. That is why the Secretary-General is pulling together all the commitments that were made at the summit, and why every year ECOSOC will make sure that we have an assessment of the extent to which those commitments have been met.

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Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): What discussions he has had with international organisations on relief and reconstruction following the floods in Pakistan. [16525]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): The situation in Pakistan remains extremely difficult. In some areas of the country early recovery is beginning, while in other areas emergency relief is still needed, particularly in Sindh province. My Department continues to monitor the situation closely to identify and deliver aid appropriately.

Mr Bain: A new report by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank estimates the losses in crops, property and infrastructure caused by the floods to amount to $9.5 billion. Will the Government continue to make representations to the International Monetary Fund and to the World Bank to increase the assistance available for the reconstruction of Pakistan?

Mr Mitchell: First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his elevation to the post of shadow Environment Minister. Secondly, I assure him that we will continue to lead from the front on Pakistan. In particular, in respect of food security, crops and livestock, which he mentioned, we have made a specific intervention with the recent announcement of £70 million of emergency aid for Pakistan.

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