International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat 2:00 pm, 27th February 2015

My Lords, Amendment 22 is in similar terms to an amendment tabled in Committee, and Amendments 24 and 27 are new. Noble Lords will recall that in Committee we debated an amendment—at that point Amendment 25, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, Lord Hollick, Lord Lawson of Blaby and Lord Lamont of Lerwick—which called for an independent inquiry into the independence, efficiency and effectiveness of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact. We then debated their concerns about the operation, and we now return to their call for that to be the statutory body. I do not believe that they have made a strong case to reconcile the two aspects of it today, either.

Let me address the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, because I actually agreed with a large amount of what he said about the need for proper scrutiny. The Minister responded to all those points. The purpose of the Bill, however, is to create a requirement not only that there is independent evaluation—it is important for that to be in the Bill anyway—but that it is the duty of the Secretary of State to report how that independent evaluation is being carried out. These are two very significant powers that the legislation will be providing. They strengthen the existing process for the 2006 Act, which is now on the statute book. We have seen a number of the annual reports presented under the basis of that Act; they will be even stronger.

As the Minister indicated, the mechanism that we wish to assume would be in place is ICAI. The question is whether ICAI can carry out its functions as an advisory NDPB, answerable to this specific sub-committee of the Commons International Development Committee, or whether it is required to be on a statutory footing for the exclusive purpose of this evaluation. From my own position, I believe that it is not flexibility but good governance which allows the structure in place to be taken forward—with of course the view, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, indicated, that there is sufficient scope in future to improve that process even more. That will of course have to take place anyway in May 2015 because the memorandum of understanding between the Department for International Development and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact is due to be renewed, as is the framework agreement under which it operates and is accountable to Parliament.

I think that I should highlight this, because it may address some of the points which I think have been erroneously cited about whether DfID is effectively being judge and jury when it comes to evaluating this. The memorandum of understanding states very clearly that under its principles, in paragraph 2.1, ICAI should:

“Ensure independence of staff, decision-making and the process of undertaking evaluations, reviews and investigations”.

Further, in paragraph 2.5, the memorandum says that DfID should:

“Respect the independence of ICAI staff, decision-making and reports”.

Any change to that would have to be brought to Parliament—to the Commons IDC—which I have no doubt would be scrutinising it, in addition to the very fact that the renewal of this memorandum and the framework will be brought to Parliament anyway.