Select Committee on International Development First Special Report



Visits and Inquiries

93. The Committee has travelled overseas on a number of occasions during the last three sessions. These visits have varied in their length and purpose. They have included three visits to Brussels in connection with our inquiries into EC development policy, a visit to New York and Washington to meet UN, World Bank and IMF representatives, and one to Geneva and Paris to meet further UN bodies, the WTO and OECD. On two occasions — the crises in Montserrat and Kosovo — we have travelled to the area to examine the response to the humanitarian crisis. In addition, each year we have undertaken a two-week visit to developing countries where DFID is significantly engaged — Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda in 1998; India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1999; and South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia in 2000.

94. The two-week visits of the Committee have involved both meetings in capitals with Government representatives and FCO/DFID officials, and journeys to often remote areas to see DFID-supported work amongst the very poor. The Committee has on every such visit been concerned to meet representatives of multilateral bodies such as the EC, World Bank, IMF and UN. We have been as concerned to hold meetings and canvass the views of poor people themselves. Numerous scenes and events stand out in the memory — we would mention only two to give a flavour. One was a lively, and often very moving, public meeting for Monsterratian refugees in Antigua where they put their views to the Committee on the crisis and the UK Government's response. The other was the then Attorney General of Pakistan storming out of a meeting when questioned on the human rights of women in that country.

95. The Committee, and the Committee Chairman in particular, also receive a large number of visitors in Westminster. These are useful occasions in which the Committee can learn informally about organisations and development initiatives. They will often be from countries or projects which the Committee has previously visited and thus be an important opportunity to be updated on matters considered in past Reports.

96. In recognition of the fact that international development issues cross departmental barriers, the Committee has been keen to cooperate with other select committees. We have already mentioned our joint work on Strategic Export Controls with the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry Committees. The International Development Committee has also enjoyed excellent relations with the European Scrutiny Committee and has cooperated closely with it, especially in considering a number of key documents such as the Commission's development policy statement, proposals for the reform of the management of external assistance, and funding proposals for the Balkans and the Mediterranean regions. In its Fourth Report, Session 1999-2000, the European Scrutiny Committee referred to us a Commission Communication[72] which contained details of the Commission's proposals for its contribution of resources to the HIPC Initiative. The Committee considered the document in the course of its inquiry into Debt Relief — Further Developments,[73] and welcomed the proposal to allocate _954 million of unspent European Development Fund resources to the contribution of the European Community to the HIPC Initiative. More recently, the Committee participated in a joint evidence session with the European Scrutiny Committee and the Agriculture Committee on the Commission's "Everything But Arms" proposals for tariff-free access for least developed countries.

97. In the course of the Committee's inquiry into the Departmental Report of the Department for International Development, the Committee was one of two Committees to be assisted by the National Audit Office in examining the financial aspects of the Report.

98. In the course of its various inquiries, the Committee has frequently been accompanied on visits by the BBC "Scrutiny" programme. In view of the sensitive nature of the Committee's work and in response to potential concerns about disruption caused by filming or about the potential use of the footage, the Committee agreed a set of guidelines governing the coverage of Committee visits. Other select committees have since adopted the same guidelines to govern similar visits.

Meetings and Conferences

99. From its inception, the Committee has recognised the importance of the European Community in international development. The EC is the fifth largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the second largest multilateral donor. When the ODA of the EC and its Member States' bilateral programmes are taken together, they account for more than 40 per cent of world ODA. Furthermore, between 25 and 30 per cent of the budget of the Department for International Development is spent by the European Community. In an effort to improve coordination of donor programmes and scrutiny of the EC's development policy and activities, the International Development Committee organised a meeting of the various chairs of EU parliamentary committees concerned with development. The meeting took place in June 1997 and was attended by representatives from 11 national committees as well as the Development and Cooperation Committee of the European Parliament, NGOs, academics and journalists. The meeting was addressed by George Foulkes MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Commissioner Pinheiro, Philip Lowe, Director General for Development, and Gilles Fontaine from DG VIII. In the course of the meeting, it was agreed that similar meetings should take place under each presidency of the EU and, since 1997, similar meetings have taken place in Bonn, Helsinki and Paris. A further meeting is currently being planned to take place under the Swedish presidency.

100. Following the success of the European initiative, the Chairman of the International Development Committee, Bowen Wells MP, was approached by the World Bank to be involved in a similar initiative — a Conference between World Bank representatives and Parliamentarians. The meeting took place in May 2000 in The Hague. The World Bank plans to hold similar meetings each year. The next meeting is planned to take place in London, in Portcullis House in January 2001. Bowen Wells MP is a member of the steering group working on the initiative.

101. The International Development Committee hosted a seminar and informal lunch on "private investment flows to the developing world" in July 1999. The aim of the meeting was to examine the importance of, and issues surrounding, private investment in developing countries in advance of a possible Committee inquiry into the issue. Participants included government officials, private sector and trade union representatives, NGOs and academics. The Committee also hosted a lunch for 12 journalists and media representatives in May 2000 with a view to raising awareness of the Committee's work.

102. The Committee has, on a number of occasions, successfully requested debates in Westminster Hall on particular Reports.[74] These have been important opportunities to raise the profile of development issues and to question Ministers further on Government responses to these Reports. We deprecate the fact that the Government never found time for a debate on the Development White Paper. Both International Development and Trade and Industry Committees have recommended a debate on the Ilisu Dam in advance of any Ministerial decision on the provision of export credit.

72   European Commission Communication on Community Participation in the Initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries 26.10.00 (COM(1999)518 Final) Back

73   Fourth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1999-2000, Debt Relief - Further Developments, HC 251, para. 34 Back

74   To date, the following Reports of the International Development Committee have been debated in Westminster Hall: Sixth Report from the Committee, Session 1998-99, Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction (15.3.00); Seventh Report from the Committee, Session 1998-99, Women and Development (30.3.00); Second Report from the Committee, Session 1999-2000, The Future of Sanctions (29.6.00); Ninth Report from the Committee, Session 1999-2000, The Effectiveness of EC Development Assistance (23.11.00); Seventh Report from the Committee, Session 1999-2000, Strategic Export Controls: Further Report and Parliamentary Prior Scrutiny, HC 467 (14.12.00) Back

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Prepared 24 January 2001