Commonwealth Development Corporation

– in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 4th March 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 2:30 pm, 4th March 2002

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to ensure that CDC Capital Partners, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, continues its development work to support the poorest of the poor in the third world.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, the CDC has met the investment policy targets in 2001 and continues to mobilise private finance for investment in some of the poorest countries of the world. The Government will continue to support the CDC in this challenging process.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is it not a fact that the company has closed offices in most of the poorest countries and opened them only in richer countries, such as Nigeria and Mexico? Aid previously went directly to farmers, but instead that money is now being put into investment—into shares and businesses. That is surely not the way to help the really poor people, in Africa in particular, who farm and live off the land.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, the CDC operates within a clearly laid down investment policy. The important points of that policy include a requirement that the CDC should make 70 per cent of new investments, measured over a five-year rolling period, in poorer developing countries and that each year it should seek to make 50 per cent of new investments in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Those are the parameters within which the investment policy operates and the CDC is meeting those investment parameters.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Blackburn Lord Taylor of Blackburn Labour

My Lords, who makes the policy for the CDC to carry out?

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, that is laid down in statute. Ultimately, the investment policy of the CDC falls within a remit laid down by the Secretary of State, particularly with regard to the investment requirements that I spelt out. Noble Lords will acknowledge that whichever sections people come from, the Government's record on overseas development issues has been outstanding.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister agree that one reason why many noble Lords supported the passage of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill was that we saw it as a means of increasing the development potential of the CDC? The investment targets that have been set and the removal of offices from countries such as Mozambique give the impression that the CDC is now interested in profit rather than development criteria.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, offices open and offices close; there are changes. An office recently opened, for example, in Nigeria, which I am sure we all acknowledge is a country in which investment strategy is extremely important. I reiterate that the CDC is only one part of the Government's overall overseas development strategy—it cannot be seen in isolation. One of its key remits is to demonstrate that even in the poorest countries of the world it is possible to make commercial investments in order to attract increasing numbers of companies to do precisely that. In that respect, as part of the Government's overall development strategy, it is extremely important.

Photo of The Bishop of Lichfield The Bishop of Lichfield Bishop

My Lords, the issue that the noble Baroness raised about agriculture is very immediate to me—I so happen to have just come back from Uganda, where I served. There is no doubt that agriculture needs focused support in such countries. People want to work and till the land themselves, and agriculture is a crucial priority. What is the CDC's relationship specifically to the agricultural issue?

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, agriculture is extremely important in development policy. However, it is not the only area in relation to which investment in developing countries is extremely important. For example, who is to say that the development of a particular agricultural business is more or less important than investment in the communications that will enable those products to go to market? I could read out the various headings of the CDC's investment portfolio. However, I reiterate that, as well as agriculture, there are many areas in which investment is important.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, does the change in name from "the Commonwealth Development Corporation" mean a change in purpose? Is Tanzania still included in the excellent work that the CDC was previously doing in the agricultural field? I feel strongly about the comments of the right reverend Prelate on the importance of agriculture from the CDC's point of view—that is the job that it was created to do. Does the Minister agree that it would be very sad if that job had changed?

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, one of the key changes three years ago was to provide more emphasis on demonstrating to private companies that they can properly invest—and successfully invest—in some of the poorest countries in the world. That is precisely the point that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State Clare Short made at Second Reading of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill. She said:

"If the CDC was bigger and could make investments that achieved a rate of return attractive to the private sector, it could demonstrate that the private sector could invest successfully in countries that it currently shuns".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/5/99; col. 40.]

Therefore, this is a very important part of the work of international development but by no means is it the only part.

The investment that takes place in many parts of Africa, including Tanzania, is extremely important. The CDC joint-manages nine funds in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Zambia. Those countries are extremely important as part of the CDC's strategy.

Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Convenor of the Crossbench Peers

My Lords, the Minister will be well aware of the excellent work of the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology ManagementCPTM—and the pioneering developments of smart partnerships. Will he seek to encourage and support links between CPTM and CDC on programmes designed to enhance transnational growth in southern Africa; for example, in developing the Maputo Corridor and peace parks in the region? I declare that I am an unremunerated fellow of CPTM.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord draws attention to an extremely important part of investment policy. Again, he refers to a part of Africa. I can only say time and again that at all levels—not only the Secretary of State and the Chancellor have been involved but the Prime Minister himself—the enormous importance that this Government attach to the development of Africa south of the Sahara and to putting right some of the wrongs of recent years has been emphasised. That strategy will continue.