Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: Sustainable Development Goals

Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:30 pm ar 6 Rhagfyr 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

After section 15 of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 (limit on government assistance), insert—

“15A Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: Sustainable Development Goals

(1) The Secretary of State may only lay a draft of regulations under section 15(4) before the House of Commons if he has also laid before the House of Commons a review in accordance with subsection (2).

(2) A review under this subsection must provide the Secretary of State’s assessment of the extent to which the increase in the limit on the Crown’s assistance to the Corporation is likely to contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

(3) In this section, “the Sustainable Development Goals” means the Goals adopted at the United Nations on 25 September 2015.””

This new clause would require any draft regulations to increase the limit on government assistance under section 15(4) to be preceded by a review, also to be laid before the House of Commons, of the extent to which the increase in the limit will contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.—(Patrick Grady.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 10—

After section 15 of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 (limit on government assistance), insert—

“15A Condition for exercise of power to increase limit: assessment of contribution to Sustainable Development Goals

(1) The Secretary of State may only lay a draft of regulations under section 15(4) before the House of Commons if he has also laid before the House of Commons the documents specified in subsection (2).

(2) The document specified in this subsection is a report containing an assessment by—

(a) CDC, and

(b) the Secretary of State

of the extent to which the proposed use of the new investment enabled by the proposed increase in the current limit at the time will contribute to progress in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals.

(3) In this section—

“the current limit at the time” means—

(a) prior to the making of any regulations under section 15(4), £6,000 million,

(b) thereafter, the limit set in regulations made under section 15(4) then in force;

“the Sustainable Development Goals” means the Goals adopted at the United Nations on 25 September 2015.””

This new clause would require any draft regulations to increase the limit on government assistance under section 15(4) to be preceded by the laying before the House of Commons of assessments by both CDC itself and the Secretary of State of the extent to which additional investment will contribute towards progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

I have already explained why reporting requirements are important and we heard the Minister’s response. The new clause asks for a report on how increasing the limit on Government assistance would help to achieve the sustainable development goals. It is worth putting on record why that is important. The sustainable development goals ought to be the overriding framework that explains in more detail what poverty reduction and international development look like in practice in the 21st century.

As I did on Second Reading, I pay tribute to the work of the previous Prime Minister in leading the process that drafted and achieved the agreement of the global sustainable development goals by every country at the United Nations. The emphasis now has to be on meeting those goals.

I received correspondence from the Secretary of State in response to my contribution on Second Reading and she emphasised the CDC is working towards some of the specific SDG goals: number 8 on employment, number 5 on gender empowerment, number 7 on energy access and number 13 on climate change. But the SDG framework is holistic and it is important to show how progress is being made across the board, and that progress in one area is not being traded off against progress in another.

As with the previous requirement to report on poverty reduction that we had hoped for, this proposed new clause would help prevent any risk of backsliding. It would clearly frame the work of the CDC in a global context that would shape the global development agenda through to 2030. Even if the Minister is not willing to accept the new clause, here or on Report, it would still be useful to hear assurances on how the totality of the sustainable development goals are to be reflected in the CDC’s work through the additional funding of this Bill.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, De Caerdydd a Phenarth

I want to make some brief comments. As with the previous new clause proposed by the hon. Gentleman, it is helpful to align more closely the CDC to the overarching frameworks that apply to DFID and our aid budget. DFID has been a leader in going out to fight for the global goals, and in working with other Government Departments. However, the global goals do not apply only to DFID; they apply to our domestic Departments. They bring up important issues of coherence and focus, as I touched on earlier. If we are using them to apply to other areas of DFID spending such as our bilateral programme, funding through other multilaterals, the ODA being spent by other Government Departments and domestic policy on climate change, there is no reason to expect that the CDC should do any less.

We have heard the idea of micromanaging CDC discussed a few times. When we look at the sectors it is investing in at the moment, there are clear inconsistencies. I know the Minister does like me to bring up examples but I will because they are important and I want to understand why those inconsistencies arise. We could include a much clearer framework about poverty eradication around those 17 global goals that cover everything from hunger, health and wellbeing, the quality of education and affordable and—crucially—clean energy. It is slightly odd that the CDC seems to be investing in fossil fuels.

The goals also include sustainable cities and communities, climate action, peace, justice, strong institutions and partnerships. The crucial issue is, who is involved in development and taking decisions? Are these measures just done to people in developing countries by corporations or investors or do they involve people living in poverty or excluded in some way in decisions about their future? Those are admirable goals and should form a guiding framework for the work and spending of our aid money, whether that is by an NGO, DFID directly or the CDC.

I hope the Minister will accept new clause 2 in good faith. It is not meant to constrain or restrict. It is about ensuring that the CDC adheres to stated Government policy. The global goals are important. We need to ensure coherence across Government and the new clause would be very helpful in achieving that.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (International Development) 3:45, 6 Rhagfyr 2016

I associate myself with comments made by the SNP Front Bench team and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth. I am not going to repeat what has been said, but I will make two additional points. The CDC should work towards the SDGs as much as possible, but as we stand, there is some confusion around their overall monitoring. Those criteria have not been released and I urge the Minister to consider that.

The other option, not the least option open to the Minister—and I am sure he will give assurances—is a matter that can also be dealt with through the business case and the strategies enshrined in that, to make sure the most effective way of contributing to the SDGs is laid out before Parliament.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Department for International Development

This is an example of a clause where we strongly agree that SDGs are central to what the CDC should be doing. We are already delivering on these things. In 2015 alone, 326 women received jobs through the CDC investments; that is SDG 5. We provided 56,000 GW of electricity; that is SDG 7. SDG 8 on economic growth is, of course, central to everything the CDC does.

The bigger argument is that, as the SDGs were presented, people talked about a $2.5 trillion demand per annum for investment in the world’s poorest countries. The CDC is the major instrument that will be used by the British Government to deliver that kind of investment into the private sector.

However, to respond to the shadow Minister’s point, I think this is a good way of focusing the Department’s mind and making sure that, as we develop the strategy for the CDC going forward over the next five years, the SDGs are baked into that process. We take the SNP spokesman’s suggestion that it is important to understand the SDGs as a holistic set: that we do not simply look at them goal by goal, but that we group them together.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, De Caerdydd a Phenarth

The Minister made helpful comments earlier on about capping aid to India. Is he willing to consider looking at restricting, for example, the CDC’s ability to invest in fossil fuels, as this seems at odds with the global goals?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Department for International Development

It is a good challenge. We invest enormously in renewable energy. We have just made a difficult investment in solar energy in Burundi and the Central African Republic—not a place where most people want to go into investment. Unfortunately, Africa’s need for energy is extraordinary. We do not invest in coal, for example, that is not something we go into, but we support some gas-powered stations through Globeleq. That is a difficult trade-off, but we believe Africa is currently falling behind. As I have mentioned before, China has been building about 8 GW of power in a two-month period, with Africa delivering 6 GW of power over a decade.

I feel that we have to get the balance of our investments right and I respectfully disagree with the argument put. I do not think it would be responsible for economic development in Africa to put us into a position where we cannot invest at all in any conventional energy source. With that, I would ask that new clause 2 be withdrawn.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

What the Minister said at the end was disappointing, because, in fact, there is an opportunity for Africa and many parts of the developing world to leapfrog the technologies that have polluted our skies and buildings and all the rest of it over so many years. Surely, if the CDC’s investment is for anything, it should be in innovative, clean technologies. That is what we are trying to get to with the various amendments and new clauses we have been tabling, to make it clear in statute that this is its duty and not to allow it space to make excuses such as “Well, it’s difficult” and “We have to do this” and that jobs are more important than the longer-term viability of the planet. I am not convinced that is the case.

That is why we continue to seek assurances. Again, if we withdraw this new clause, we hope the Minister will reflect on the points made over the course of the debate in Committee. When the Bill comes back to the House on Report there might yet be ways in which it can be strengthened to take some of the points on board and reflect them going forward. On that basis, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 3