International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:40 pm on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Lawson of Blaby Lord Lawson of Blaby Conservative 1:40 pm, 27th February 2015

My Lords, I shall speak mainly to my Amendment 24, which is grouped with the amendment that has just been proposed so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Hollick. However, I shall first say a few words about his amendment, for which a very strong case can be made. The Economic Affairs Committee of this House took evidence from representatives of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, and I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Tugendhat is in his place because he was a member of the committee at the time. The ICAI was a useful innovation which was introduced by Andrew Mitchell when he was Secretary of State. However, we did not find the evidence very impressive—but that was in late 2011 or early 2012, when the commission was very new. I hope that the commission has subsequently improved because a strong ICAI is badly needed.

Clause 5 is headed, “Independent evaluation of official development assistance”. That independent evaluation is, as the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, said, absolutely essential. The promoters of the Bill know that it is absolutely essential—otherwise they would not have put it there. I have produced a different way of achieving this independent evaluation, which will certainly be familiar to my noble friend Lord Purvis because it was drafted not by me but by his right honourable friend Michael Moore and was an essential part of the Bill as introduced in the other place. I admit it is rather a long amendment, but that is how it was drafted by Mr Moore, and it was an integral part of the Bill as originally introduced. In Committee, the Minister proposed an amendment taking out the clause, giving the following reason:

“We will do significant damage, perhaps dealing a fatal blow, to the Bill if we leave clause 5 in it, because the clause opens up the scope to further amendments by any number of those who are opposed to the passage of the Bill and want to delay it on Report”.—[Official Report, Commons, International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill Committee, 11/11/14; col. 34.]

That is very honest but it is also very shabby: it is no reason for taking out something which is essential and integral to the passage of the Bill. It shows a rather regrettable attitude to Parliament, which we have the opportunity to put right.

Clause 5 did not go altogether; it is still there, but it is an empty shell. It just says, “Independent evaluation of official development assistance”, but gives no indication of how that independent evaluation—which all noble Lords who have spoken, on all sides of the House, agree is essential—will be achieved. It could be achieved in one of two ways: either by the means in the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, through ICAI, as it is known to the aficionados, the buffs or whatever they like to call themselves, or by setting up this new body, the independent international development office. However, the Government must choose. I would be very happy if they chose the route suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hollick—but, one way or another, this independent evaluation has to be assured.

It is absolutely no use saying, as no doubt the Minister will, that ICAI—the independent commission on aid evaluation or whatever it is called—is there all the time. Unless this is put on a statutory basis, in the Bill, it does not take the trick. It has to be one thing or the other, and part of the Bill. Mr Michael Moore was of course well aware of this. He knew that the ICAI was there anyway. But he realised that this was not adequate so he put in the Bill this new body and the schedule setting it up, giving its duties, composition and so on. He was quite right to do so. That is what we have to have. We have to have either one or the other in the Bill.

I hope therefore that my noble friend the Minister will, on reflection, say that she can accept either the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, or the one that I have tabled—which in effect is not mine but came from her right honourable friend Michael Moore—because one or the other is essential.