Select Committee on International Development First Special Report



3. The Committee has attempted to cover the range of DFID policy, expenditure and administration over the last three sessions. All of its Reports have been agreed unanimously.

Scrutiny of DFID and Government policy

4. The Committee has dealt with the key issues facing DFID and development policy generally. This has resulted in wide-ranging "thematic"reports on Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Women and Development, The Future of Sanctions,[2] and a forthcoming Report on HIV/AIDS. These inquiries have taken a number of months and have dealt not only with DFID policy issues but also with many matters which come within the remit of other government departments and multilateral organisations.

5. The cross-cutting nature of developmental issues has meant that the Committee has commented on policy across Whitehall. We have constantly encouraged developmental sensitivity in other government departments and this has borne fruit in, for example, serious discussion of development issues in the annual reports of departments other than DFID. Sometimes a department other than DFID has been the lead department for a committee inquiry — for example, the FCO, for the inquiries into the Lomé Convention inquiry and the Future of Sanctions. On one occasion — the Committee's second inquiry into debt relief — the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development gave evidence together. It is now frequently the case that departmental committees require evidence from Ministers other than those from their 'own' department. We believe the Liaison Committee should make clear its view that Ministers should treat invitations from all select committees with equal seriousness. This concern that other government departments take on a developmental perspective meant that we contributed in two Reports to the Review of the Mission and Status of ECGD (First Report, Session 1999-2000, The Export Credits Guarantee Department and Developmental Issues, and the Sixth Report, Session 1999-2000, ECGD, Developmental Issues and the Ilisu Dam).

6. The Committee has also demonstrated its ability to respond at short notice and speedily to humanitarian crises. We have produced Reports on Montserrat (First Report, Session 1997-98), Sudan (Seventh Report, Session 1997-98), Kosovo (Third Report, Session 1998-99) and Mozambique (Fifth Report, Session 1999-2000).

7. The Committee also conducted a short inquiry into the one White Paper in the last three Sessions where DFID had the lead — Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century [Cm. 3789]. The White Paper on Globalisation recently published — Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor [Cm. 5006] — will be the subject of a similar short inquiry in the new year.

Scrutiny of Multilateral Development Agencies

8. There is one important fact about DFID's expenditure which has had a fundamental effect on the nature of the Committee's work — about one half of DFID's budget is spent not by DFID but by multilateral development agencies to which DFID contributes. Of these it is the European Community which takes the greater part of such multilateral funds, but considerable sums also go to various UN bodies, to the World Bank and to Regional Development Banks. From the outset the Committee considered it imperative to examine how organisations to which DFID contributes were fulfilling their responsibilities.

9. Thus we have examined the development policy of the EC in three Reports (Fourth Report, Session 1997-98, The Renegotiation of the Lomé Convention; First Report, Session 1998-99, The Future of the EC Development Budget; Ninth Report, Session 1999-2000, The Effectiveness of EC Development Assistance). Similarly, we have examined the work of the IMF and World Bank in debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries in three Reports (Third Report, Session 1997-98, Debt Relief; Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, Debt Relief and the Cologne G8 Summit; Fourth Report, Session 1999-2000, Debt Relief - Further Developments). In response to two humanitarian crises we considered in detail the performance of UN bodies — the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the case of Kosovo (Third Report, Session 1998-99, Kosovo: The Humanitarian Crisis) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the case of Mozambique (Fifth Report, Session 1999-2000, Mozambique).

10. In addition, the Committee considered the work of multilateral organisations in more general "thematic" inquiries such as those on Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction (Sixth Report, Session 1998-99) on Women and Development (Seventh Report, Session 1998-99) and on The Future of Sanctions (Second Report, Session 1999-2000). The Committee also produced a Report on the World Trade Organisation (Tenth Report, Session 1999-2000, After Seattle: The World Trade Organisation and Developing Countries).

11. Not only is this the first time that a Committee of this House has considered in such detail the work of these multilateral development agencies, it has also become clear that these bodies are unused to such scrutiny from national parliaments. It has been gratifying to see their willingness to appear before the Committee — in almost every case there were initial concerns about giving evidence since these bodies are not directly accountable to national parliaments. These concerns were allayed and the Committee has taken formal evidence from EU Commissioners, from Mike Moore, Director-General of the WTO, from James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and from high ranking UN officials, including the heads of UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Furthermore, in the case of our Reports on Kosovo and on Mozambique, the relevant UN agency (UNHCR in the case of Kosovo and OCHA in the case of Mozambique) sent the Committee a detailed response to our conclusions and recommendations, which were included in the special reports containing the Government responses. The Committee enjoys good relations with a number of multilateral organisations, not least the World Bank.

DFID Expenditure and Administration

12. The Committee has produced Reports on each of the three departmental annual reports produced in this Parliament. The Reports have examined in detail the provision of information in the departmental report, DFID's target-setting, staffing and departmental procurement policy. In the context of the Committee's inquiry into the DFID 2000 Departmental Report, we took evidence from DFID officials on the Department's plans for the introduction of resource accounting and budgeting. The Committee also followed the resource accounting and budgeting process through consideration of departmental letters and memoranda throughout the relevant period.

Legislation and Treaties

13. The one piece of legislation for which DFID has had lead responsibility in this Parliament has been the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999. The Committee conducted two inquiries — the first entitled The Future of the Commonwealth Development Corporation,[3] which considered initial Government proposals to transform the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) into a public/private partnership, and the second on The Provisions of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill [Lords],[4] which considered the actual provisions of the Bill. The Committee has also considered the process whereby replenishments to the World Bank Group and Regional Development Banks are agreed, through the House debating and approving affirmative statutory instruments. At our request, the Government has agreed to notify the Committee when the boards of these Banks agree to seek replenishment, thus giving the Committee, if we so wish, the chance to take evidence in advance of debate in the Delegated Legislation Committee.

14. In our Report on the Renegotiation of the Lomé Convention, we considered the draft negotiating mandate proposed for adoption by the EU Member States prior to the negotiations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries on a successor to the Lomé Convention. The Government, in its response, stated that "The Government ... believes that the Committee's analysis contributed to the successful conclusion of the mandate".[5]

2   Sixth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1998-99, Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, HC 55; Seventh Report from the Committee, Session 1998-99, Women and Development, HC 160; Second Report from the Committee, Session 1999-2000, The Future of Sanctions, HC 67  Back

3   Eighth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1997-98, HC 936 Back

4   Second Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1998-99, HC 212 Back

5   Fourth Special Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1997-98, Government Response to the Fourth Report from the Committee, Session 1997-98: The Renegotiation of the Lomé Convention, HC 1068, p. xi Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 24 January 2001