HC Deb 12 May 1999 vol 331 cc301-2
3. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South)

What assessment she has made of the roles of (a) advisers and (b) deliverers in the disbursement of development assistance funds. [82949]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

In its latest review of the United Kingdom development programme in November 1997, the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development praised the UK for its strong multidisciplinary skills and innovative aid management approaches". It added that those make us one of the most professional and innovative aid agencies in either bilateral or multilateral sectors". I have said before that I am very proud of my staff, but that is praise indeed. Our running costs are modest—currently about 2.5 per cent. of total programme expenditure—but we have committed ourselves publicly to reducing them further.

Mr. Chapman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that value for money and the reduction of overheads are important, particularly in the international development business? Notwithstanding the record of the Department for International Development, does she agree that there is room for improvement in other organisations, both multilateral and non-governmental? What will she do to encourage use of DFID' s best practice measures among those organisations to strengthen the international development delivery system?

Clare Short

I agree with my hon. Friend in two ways. First, since aid began, there has been an obsession with input measures, such as how much is being spent, with absolutely no measurement of output and effectiveness. We are trying to have the international system turned around so that it is driven by output—by international poverty eradication targets, statistics that show progress in one country as opposed to another and effectiveness.

Secondly, the international system is full of agencies—the World bank, United Nations agencies, bilateral donors and regional development banks—and we need much more collaboration to prevent agencies from tripping over each other as they duplicate each other's work. Much more effectiveness could be achieved in the international system by rationalising provision, and we are working on it.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Following endorsements of the highly effective United Kingdom aid programme, is it not the case that we need neither the advice of the Commission of the European Union nor its intervention to secure the best value for British taxpayers' money from the development of the poorest countries of the world? Will the right hon. Lady redress the imbalance that exists to ensure that our funds are better spent to alleviate poverty?

Clare Short

As I have explained to the hon. Gentleman before, the Government whom he sometimes supported committed a third of the development budget to be spent through the European Commission. Much of that spending and its management is very ineffective. The needs of the poorest are not prioritised. I am desperately trying to remedy the faults of that Government. We are working hard at it and have a published programme for improvement. The Select Committee on International Development, chaired by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), has made an important contribution. The criticism is right, but, because the money is already committed, the answer is to make the institution effective, or the money will be wasted.

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