International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:45 am on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat 11:45 am, 27th February 2015

Perhaps I may now restore the tone and tenor of the debate and respond to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and the invitation of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, to address the drinkers in the Black Bull on how they would understand this to work.

I can answer that by quoting the Permanent Secretary at DfID. On 4 February, he was asked specifically by the International Development Committee about the consequences of moving from an annualised basis to a three-year rolling programme. He said to the committee:

“If you take a rolling three-year programme, what that means is for years one and two you have a lot of flexibility. In the third year, by definition, you have to hit a precise number, because it is the end of the rolling three-year period. In the fourth year, you also have to hit a precise number, because you are dealing with what you had in years two and three. In the fifth year, you are dealing with years three and four. In a rolling programme, you get the benefit in the first year and possibly the second year, but not at any point thereafter. You are locked in after that”.

We now have the annual target and the framework of accountability, involving both the ICAI and Parliament. Now we have moved on from understanding that we are seeking to meet the target, we have a degree of stability. That is a very strong argument. However, of course, we are not starting from this year as a base. The target was in the 2010 spending review, which built on the spending review in the previous Administration. That type of long-term planning already existed.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, understands that there is not only that spending review strategic planning to maintain the target going forward but there are the annual controls with regard to the relationship to the annual estimates that Parliament scrutinises and the international reporting on our undertakings. We also now have DfID’s monthly reporting of the programmes that are under way for which ICAI provides independent evaluation.

The final point raised related to multilateral giving and whether or not this skews the way that the profile of expenditure has been delivered.