Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 259)



  240. If we take the TACIS programme, which is for the 13 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, I wonder if you agree with this, I cannot quarrel with what they are attempting to do. It is things like, institutional, legal and administrative reform; private sector and economic development; changes in society through the collapse of the Berlin Wall; environmental protection; rural economy and nuclear safety. I cannot quarrel with us spending a lot of money on that. I cannot quarrel with the Secretary of State's department being the right department to deal with that, because I cannot see any other departments have got the skills. Do you agree with that?

  (Clare Short) I do agree completely. We do have programmes in transition countries. Clearly it is really important that countries of the former Soviet Union and of the Communist system are helped with sustained help to continue their reform effort to have a well managed market economy with good public services. Lots of them have not done well, as you know. We have programmes in most of these countries, as you will also know, and then part of our effort is to deploy people and quality inputs to try to make sure that the money that goes through TACIS is better spent. We have two inputs, and then do not put a lot of bilateral spend through my direct intervention, but try to put in people and influence to get the money that is spent through the EC better spent. That is what we do.

  241. I am trying to get what is the right focus, or what is the right emphasis on this. We are tending to see the money which is spent in Eastern Europe as the enemy of the money which is spent in the poorest countries. I wonder if that is the right approach, and what we should be saying is, "Yes, it is enormously important to the growth and security of Europe that money is spent on these activities, but can there be a clearer division in your department and in government focus between that and the ODA"?

  (Clare Short) But this is an argument about how aid is effectively spent, and what are the appropriate interventions in middle income countries and so on—it is connected. Spain, for example, is highly committed to the maximum possible spending in Latin America and in the Mediterranean for obvious historical and geopolitical reasons. I do not know whether we have shared with the select committee the report we have done on the most appropriate relationships with middle income countries. When do you deploy money? When do you deploy expertise and a reform effort to help countries build their institutions? Obviously the transition countries need a lot of help with building their institutions and so on; and they need appropriate resource transfers. The EC should of course not be turning its back, any more than the UK should. We must have programmes and help reform effort in these countries; but we should deploy money appropriately. It is disproportionate—the amounts that have been allocated to those countries—of the EC budget when you look at the needs of the world. I personally think, in this globalising world, this concept of near abroad is becoming really very foolish. Africa is Europe's near abroad anyway and has so many failed states within it, it is causing enormous human suffering and great danger; endless war and small arms and diamond smuggling, and all the criminality that causes human suffering but also is the place where you get the nasty, ugly forces hide themselves. After all, bin Laden was in Sudan before he went to Afghanistan. We should engage in a well managed world where all countries have the chance of improving the lives of their people and having a mature relationship with the rest of the international community. We must stick with the transition countries and help them to make that transition better; but we should then allocate money in proportion to need and where it most effectively speeds up the reduction of poverty. That allocation of the EC resources is flawed. David Dollar has done a lot of work in the World Bank on the World Bank's best allocation of resources, based on lots of studies of how spending money helps to reduce poverty. There is a study showing that the EC allocation is skewed away from effective spending of resources. It says: "Do you engage with the country? Yes. What kind of expertise do they need? What help do they need to build their institutions? How much financial allocation will help them?" We have also got the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We have also got World Bank programmes. Sometimes using lending well to generate reform is a better instrument. You have got to look at all the instruments you have got and then deploy them effectively to help countries move themselves forward.

  242. I have quoted two big bits but not the whole, by any means, of PHARE and TACIS, and the resources that go into this; but that whole area is largely unscrutinised, is it not, by this Parliament?

  (Clare Short) Since 1997 there has been more scrutiny. It has become a political argument. There has been probably more interest in this question in this Parliament than in many other European parliaments. As I understand it, the way in which other countries handle their contributions to the EC development programme vary. I think with the Scandinavians, who tend to think the same as us in general development argument across the world, it draws down on their budget differently; so they are worried about the Balkans because it is right next door to them.

  243. We are not saying the ODA bit is not scrutinised—it is being done; but there are very large amounts of activity to which we contribute through your budget which are almost totally unscrutinised.

  (Mr Smith) As the Secretary of State was saying, in many other countries their finance ministry is responsible for all of the budget payments across the board and they do not have the system of draw-down on particular ministries for the relevant areas. When you speak to our equivalents in other countries many of them do not have the same immediate impact on their overall budgets that we have; and, therefore, tend not to perhaps be as motivated or as strategic in the way in which they deal with the issue.

  (Clare Short) TACIS money is virtually all ODA, but not PHARE.

Mr Walter

  244. Just sticking on the poverty focus, I was conscious from a number of foregoing discussions, also highlighted by the Chancellor on the radio this morning, on the question of the quantum of money available. I read in this week's European Voice that Romano Prodi is next week going to have a list of countries who are not up to speed in terms of the quantum of money that is being made available for aid up to the 0.7 per cent that we talked about. I wondered how you reacted to the Commission coming back and saying that the UK is in the sin bin on this sort of matter?
  (Clare Short) Actually there was no suggestion that the UK is in the sin bin. This is partly trying to ensure that the Financing for Development Conference is a success and I think it is important it is a success anyway but, post-September 11 I think it is even more important, because post-September 11 it is all about one world and we had better take responsibility for it. If at the first UN conference, when it says how are we going to finance development in the poorest countries, it goes sour, it could sour the international atmosphere in a really quite destructive way. We had this discussion with the Development Council who agreed, because the argument in the US is so anti aid and Japan, because of its difficulties, the second biggest economy in the world, is cutting its budget there is a real danger of a sourness at Monterrey. We were very keen for the EU to put forward an initiative to at least put the world on a forward foot; although Germany has got budgetary problems, and France is not proposing an increase. The UK is known to have turned the corner and be increasing. We are just coming up to the Comprehensive Spending Review and I hope you will all watch it with great care. Koos Richelle, Director General for Development, was charged with responsibility by the Development Council of visiting all the Member States and looking for what kind of package we might all be able to sign up to that would mean the EU's input to the Monterrey Conference would be a positive and forward-looking one and, therefore, try to prevent this international souring. He has worked on lots of different formulas. The Scandinavian countries who were up at 0.7 want more pressure on others to make that journey; but you cannot go for a demand that not all the Member States will sign up to. He has come up with a package and it is not putting the UK in the sin bin. We are seen now as a very effective player with a growing budget, and everyone wants us to grow it more, but that is the bin we are in.
  (Mr Smith) This is not public yet. I can say what we know and what his thinking is so far. It has to be discussed by the Commission as a whole later in the week. He was, on aid volume, looking first for agreement that at least those countries which are not yet at the EU average in terms of percentage (and the EU average is 0.33 per cent) those countries should move up to that figure; and then the EU should set a new target based on the new average because the average would have gone up at that point. You would have a mechanism for continuing forward progress.
  (Clare Short) He is looking for inventive formulas that will push the effort up so that everyone can sign up to it and that puts us on the front foot going to Monterrey.

Mr Robathan

  245. Secretary of State, you are being extremely candid and frank in your criticisms of the EU, talking about inappropriate relationships, ineffective programmes, throwing money at loads of problems, throwing money around in middle income countries, going backwards, and nightmare agendas and what is the role of the EU development effort. We heard Chris Patten yesterday and he put forward a very good argument as the commissioner for external relations of putting money in middle income countries, but you say it is ineffective. What value do you think EU programmes add over and above our own national programmes either in middle income countries or low income countries?
  (Clare Short) Let me just be clear because you will have been told when you visited Brussels and all the rest how much the reform agenda is moving forward, and I agree with that. We have worked for that and there is a reform agenda in place and I do not want to belittle that; but I want us to be clear about how long it is going to take to create benefit and how we have not cracked the argument about the distribution of the whole resource. I do not want to be unbalanced and say that it is not true. There is a commitment and a reform agenda.

  246. And a good DG development?
  (Clare Short) Indeed. I tried to answer the question you ask now in my preliminary remarks. There are two answers to this: you could say the EC is so ineffective let us just work for a reduction in the amount of money that the EU Member States put through the Commission. You do get a muddle in the public debate here. I think a lot of people think that what the EC spends is additional, so it is more aid; and they are in favour of it even if it is poor; but they do not realise the Member States' measurement includes the amount which goes through the EC, so you get a muddled debate there. If it is additional income it is not very good. "We're in favour of it",says the development lobby. You can either conclude it is hopeless and unreformable and we should renationalise (a phrase in Germany) the aid budget; or do you try and reform it. I am back to my original argument: one, we have to try and reform it because we could not renationalise it in the short-term anyway; two, not all Member States might agree, even if the UK concluded that we might not get the consensus. Three, an EC effort that was well organised would be a phenomenal force for good in the world. 60 per cent of worldwide ODA is the Commission and the Member States. In terms of a role for the Community acting together in the world, given that the US is not comfortable with this agenda, that could be an enormous force for progress and development across the world in trying to make sure that failed states do have a better future, and poor and middle income countries are included in benefits and economic development and so on. I think the case for really trying to get to improve the Commission's effort as part of a really important contribution the European Union could make to the future safety and security and decency of the world is the overwhelming argument and worth a lot of effort and we are trying.

Mr Colman

  247. You mentioned earlier on about UK development NGOs working with similar NGOs across Europe to have a poverty focus in the EU development budget. When BOND came to give us evidence they said their big campaign was to work with European NGOs, not just the EU ones but pro-development NGOs in accession countries, to see a situation where, as those countries accede to the EU, that the budget which was allocated to them on the development budget should in fact go to the 38 per cent, the ODA budget. They said there was a standing conference in Vienna of all the parties, as it were, which was actually moving forward on this. I have to say, when we went to Brussels the European Parliament Development Committee did not know about this going forward—I am sure you do. Is this a campaign you would back? Do you think it has any hope in terms of success so that we can repatriate the 62 per cent which is in the development budget which is not going to developing countries, to actually go to developing countries?
  (Clare Short) It is the first I have heard of the campaign, which may say something. As I have said, I think challenging the ever-smaller proportion of the EC budget, taking EDF and budget together which goes to low income countries is an overwhelming imperative for reform. I am not at all sure that campaigning for the accession countries to say, "Money you had should now be given to someone else", is the best way of winning countries' support. They will continue to get funding to make their adjustments, just as Portugal, Spain and Ireland did (so successfully in the case of Ireland); so I think the psychology of it might need changing a little. If you ask countries to say once you join you get no money and it goes to the poorest—

  248. I think, Secretary of State, they were suggesting that that funding should clearly come under the structural funds budget going forward; and that should take that on board, and the development budget should therefore revert to being solely used for ODA purposes.
  (Clare Short) As I tried to make clear at the beginning, it was not the last Comprehensive Spending Review it was the one before that, the first one after we had formed our government. When this issue came up, some money was allocated to my budget that was not ODA for the reasons I described earlier. I do hope that when those countries join that extra funding for them ceases to go through my budget because I think it could end up swallowing it up; but that part of the money will then be sliced away from my budget. No Treasury will say, "Now we have changed you can keep all the money you had before". I do not think that would work.

  249. Clearly BOND need to bring you on board in terms of their campaign.
  (Clare Short) Maybe they need to refine their campaign a little.

Mr Walter

  250. I think it is quite clear from some of the discussions that have gone on there is not absolute clarity in terms of the EU's development budget. I think one of the problems with development assistance is that whilst much of it is funded from Category 4 External Action, this category includes other spending as well, and it does lead to some confusion as to both the objectives and the priorities affected by these different pots of EU money. I wonder what your view is, Secretary of State, on having a single separate budget category within the EU labelled "development assistance"? Whether or not this would lead to greater clarity, and whether you think that is a likelihood in the near-term?
  (Clare Short) I will ask Anthony to come in on Category 4 overall. This question is linked to the question of what people call budgetising EDF, which I have an open mind about but people get very passionate about it. I think it is not going to happen immediately, so one has to work with what you have got even if you think that is desirable in the longer term. I am tempted to say, yes, it is a highly desirable thing to argue, because then we might get a more intelligent allocation of resources; but I am not sure that a technical fix would not lead to the better allocation because the political desire to spend the money is so great. Before I bring Anthony in on the whole Category 4 business, part of our problem and the reason why it will take a long time to get any reform in reality is that the EC goes geographically and makes an allocation and a settlement and a programme for the Med, or for Latin America, or TACIS, or whatever and then it is tied down for a number of years. Therefore, even if you get the best commitment in the world to reform it is going to take quite a lot of years before you modify the allocations, because it goes through the geographical allocations.
  (Mr Smith) I think that there a few things in Category 4 which are clearly not development spending. There is money for fisheries agreements; there is sometimes money for trade promotion; there is talk about money for programmes to prevent migration, or to return illegal migrants. Internally in the UK, DFID in its annual negotiations with the Treasury has been pretty successful in saying that should not be for DFID to pay for, and that goes to the appropriate department. On the whole, Category 4, when the money is spent in developing transition countries, there is a pretty big overlap between development objectives and other objectives. The Mediterranean for example, these are all developing countries and the objectives are, broadly, political stability, poverty reduction and promoting trade access. It would be difficult to say what bit of that should be for a development budget and what should be for a foreign policy budget. I think the key thing is, how much money should you spend in those regions to achieve the objectives that we have got? That goes back to the argument and the point the Secretary of State was making before. It might be that there is a high political priority for the Union in dealing with the Mediterranean, because it is a neighbouring region, whatever the logic of that might be; but, because of the high political priority does not mean you throw money at it in an ineffective way. You need to deal with effectiveness rather than trying to separate the budgets in some way. It would be impossible to do that.

  251. I wonder if I could move on to Activity-Based Budgeting within the EU, and whether we can focus somewhat greater there on poverty reduction. I wonder if you could just explain what the motivation is for the implementation of Activity-Based Budgeting; and whether or not you think that that will help to clarify what proportion of money is intended for poverty reduction?
  (Clare Short) This is presumably part of the Kinnock reforms which, bravely, he has fought for but will take time.
  (Mr Smith) I wish I could say I was a great expert in financial management—I am not. Activity-Based Budgeting, briefly, is part of a reform of the accounting and financial management systems of the Community. It follows a pattern of changes that have been made in other countries and institutions, including in the UK, where you move to a system of resource accounting, which perhaps the Committee will be looking at when it looks at DFID's annual report next year. The mechanism is that, with each annual budget, instead of just having a line with the name of the programme, Mediterranean, and an amount of money, you have a text which describes the objectives of that activity and should include indicators which show how you tell whether or not that expenditure has been successful. That is one element. The second element is that you relate parts of your running costs to activities. Instead of just having a programme budget and an administration budget, you say for the activities around the Mediterranean, for example, we will use the following staff and other administrative resources for those purposes. You can get an overall picture of what your effort is in resource terms.
  (Clare Short) Public financial management systems across the world are trying to move to a better capacity to measure outputs. In education reform, health reform, everywhere, people say, "How much are you spending on it?" How can you make the systems better measure the effectiveness of the spend?

  252. Are you already doing that domestically within the Department?
  (Clare Short) Absolutely. With our own programme, but also because of course we put money into the World Bank, the UN system and so on, it is no good having the perfect British programme if the rest of the international system is not functioning, it was part of our campaign to get everyone signed up to the Millennium Development Goals and then to get better statistical capacity and measurement into the thing; so that country by country, year by year, we can measure how effective the reform is being in terms of how many children are in school, is maternal mortality reducing, is infant mortality increasing. Both with our own efforts and with the whole international development system we have been struggling to turn it round and measure its effectiveness by these outputs. We have now got the world lined up. We need to improve the measurement systems across the international system, but that is what we are trying to do and have made some progress.

Hugh Bayley

  253. Although it is more complicated than cash accounting, Activity-Based Budgeting may not provide an answer to what I believe to be the most pressing question—that you can make a comparison between EU aid spending and the aid spending of Member States using the same criteria. It will not, of necessity, produce that; it will only produce that if the activities, which they define and they report upon, are the activities which are compatible to match up absolutely with the DAC criteria. Secretary of State, do you agree with me that this single most important change we need from the EU is that they adopt DAC reporting on a comparable basis; and until we get that we simply will not know whether the new poverty focus policy, that the EU has, has been effective?
  (Clare Short) Does not DAC report on the EC spending?
  (Mr Smith) It does. I think Mr Bayley is making a slightly separate point, which is the way in which, for example, the UK's programme is recorded in categories about poverty and change in environment, and the EC is just developing that system and needs to use the same categories as everyone else.
  (Clare Short) Indeed, and there is a big push in the Parliament. Richard Howitt has been working very hard to get reporting against objective, because the Parliament has tended, for the best of reasons, not to be an ally in all of this. The way it saw its power was to demand a new budget line—a budget line for NGOs. You can see why they went down that road, but then you had even more complex allocations of funding into more and more ineffective spend. That all needs to be turned around to, what are the objectives measuring the effectiveness. That is a struggle, but Richard Howitt, in particular, is trying to take it forward. There is a seminar, and you will have heard of this probably in your travels, about to be organised by the Parliament to try and take this argument forward. On the Kinnock reforms, they are very important. Prior to these reforms, not only was the money badly allocated, it could not be spent; it was like concrete. Because there have been problems abroad over the years, there were so many checks on the spend. There is a famous trolley that had to go to 42 different people to sign to change any one thing where the money had been notionally allocated before; I think that is down to six or eight now. Improving the financial systems is important but it will not deliver different political priorities. You need to improve the financial systems so that they can follow the shift in political priorities. That is an important reform agenda, but if we do not win the political argument about where aid is best allocated we will just have a more efficient way of measuring spending that is skewed against the poor.

Chris McCafferty

  254. Secretary of State, given that it is very widely accepted that development aid is most effective when it is targeted at the poor, you have told us this morning that EU aid is now down to 38 per cent for low-income countries and, I suppose, by that measure it cannot be very effective, but has the Department made any other assessments of the relative effectiveness of EU and UK aid programmes and, if so, what criteria have been used and what are the indicators? It sounds very complicated. You have told us that the recording mechanisms are clearly very different in the EU, but is it the same criterion as for the UK aid programmes and are there difficulties in making these comparisons?
  (Clare Short) With the programme we had in the past, there were not even any reporting systems where you could properly see broken down into detail effectiveness of spend. We have just achieved an annual report for the first time, which is a pretty terrible document if you look at it, but at least we have got to the notion that there should be a report and that it should track right down where all the money is spent to try and increase the accountability, so we have been working on that and I think they really are trying to get a better one for this year. I want to comment on your first point, that it is now widely accepted that aid is most effectively deployed when targeted at the poor. That might be accepted notionally by some, but it is not politically accepted throughout the international system. On the needing of an extra 50 billion of ODA, if the existing money in the system was deployed according to its greatest effectiveness in reducing poverty by untying it and allocating it to where there are poor people and where there are reformers and taking different strategies for non-reformers—you cannot ignore them, it is no good throwing money at a non-reforming country—we could probably double the value in terms of poverty reduction of the money we have got in the international development system. So it is accepted here across party, but it is not accepted in all countries and we have got more to do to win people over to that. In the EC, and again I will bring in Anthony, it was essential to fight for evaluations of EC programmes even to generate the willingness to reform. I used to travel and get people pleading with me to get the EC to stop offering them money for something. I remember when I was in Tanzania, there was a very impressive guy in one region and he had had an offer from the EC for water reform and he said, "Oh, this is a real problem" and I said, "I will get on to them in Brussels", to which he said, "Please don't. Please get them to withdraw their offer because I can't get any help from anyone else and when they have offered, it never flows". So you get stories like that and you go back to Brussels and you say, "This isn't very good", and people would say, "You're knocking the EC". That was how the old argument used to be, so then there was a big struggle to get some evaluations and the evaluations came in and were very critical indeed and that opened the door then to more seriousness about the reform effort. We are some way from the kind of level of reporting that we have tried to have in the UK, but we are moving down that road now and I think there is a commitment to the annual report and to the reporting and this effort that is going on in the Parliament. I do not know if you want to add.
  (Mr Smith) Maybe just two things. One is that there are of course the DAC peer reviews which take place and the one in 1997 in the EC was very influential and it then led to the overall evaluations which the Secretary of State has just referred to, and of course if you want to look at the UK's evaluation reviews, you can alongside them. The EC is in the middle of being reviewed again by the DAC, so that should come out later this year, and the UK of course has just been reviewed, so there is a comparison. The second thing, going back to what Mr Bayley said, is that in order to be clear about the effectiveness of the multilateral institution, you really need to get the institution to have an effective performance management system in place and the EC does not. It does not have corporate objectives for what it wants to get out of its programme. It has an overall development policy now for the first time and that was a real advance. You never knew what the objective was and now the objective is poverty reduction and that is clear, but not a system in management terms for measuring progress against objectives at a corporate level and then you would work down to programme and country level and indicators as well and the DAC reporting system in terms of categories will be an essential underpinning to measuring progress against objectives, but we need to get the objectives, I think, as well and that is partly what that Parliament seminar is about.

  255. Secretary of State, can you tell the Committee what is DFID's policy regarding spending through multilaterals?
  (Clare Short) I touched on it before. I think in the past there was a sort of "bilateral is best" mentality. "Oh, what a pity we have to give money to the World Bank, and the EC" of course, and we understand that one, "to the UN agencies, or whatever and we want to have a lovely British programme". We shifted that and of course we want a quality, state-of-the-art, leading-edge British programme and we both should have a British programme to contribute to the whole effort and also to learn from it, so you can feed the lessons of better practice back into the multilateral system, but the biggest and best possible British programme will not function in every single corner of the world, whereas a well-functioning World Bank, Asian Development Bank, American Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, UN system and so on is reaching every corner of the world. Therefore, we have put a lot of effort into reforming the effectiveness of the multilateral system and our part within it and I am sure that is right. As I say, we really did this big push to get everyone to sign up to what we used to call the "international development targets", and now the same things, but known as the "millennium development goals" because we had the big success of the Millennium UN conference attended by more Heads of State and Prime Ministers than any previous UN meeting who signed up so clearly to the goals, so we worked very hard to improve the effectiveness of the multilateral system in order that there is a system which will be working in every single country of the world and that no one is left out.

Hugh Bayley

  256. When we took evidence, Secretary of State, about our response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, one of the things you told us was that the UK was one of the first to respond with a pledge and, perhaps even more importantly, it was one of the first to get cash in the hands of the people on the ground. There are some benefits, as we know, to multilateralism, but it does mean that folders have to be signed off by six or eight people and that slows things down. How quickly do you think the EU responded (a) to the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and (b) in relation to putting resources into the longer-term reconstruction of Afghanistan?
  (Clare Short) This is ECHO of course and in the past it has been very bad at deploying the resources. This happens throughout the international development system. When there is a crisis, people will make pledges on the television and it is a very varied speed with which they are delivered on to the ground in different countries in different systems. We are fast because we have got arrangements within the Department where our Conflict and Humanitarian Unit has discretion to deploy funds without reference to Ministers if necessary. If there is a crisis over the weekend, obviously there are budget ceilings and we manage them, but you have to give discretion in order to be very fast and you need to know what your policies are and you give the discretion within the policy. ECHO has improved, but is not that fast, but I simply make the point that you do not have to have eight signatures and it is a matter of will and choice how you set up your systems, whether there is enough discretion to go there. I am not sure that I am aware of how rapid it has been. There has been improvement in ECHO, we know that. As to how rapidly any ECHO commitment got through on to the ground in Afghanistan, Anthony?
  (Mr Smith) Their commitment of course goes through other organisations, NGOs and UN agencies. They certainly committed very quickly, but I do not know off-hand.
  (Clare Short) I think I should check. Our Conflict and Humanitarian Unit will be aware and of course this is true for all of us. The food that was getting into Afghanistan was being carried by the World Food Programme and then delivered out of warehouses to people by what are called NGOs, a lot of which were Afghan community organisations. When that term gets used, one gets images of Northern NGOs, but a lot of them were Afghan community groups. The point is to be able to put it into the hands of the World Food Programme so that it can order the aeroplanes and it knows the money is coming so that everything can move forward more quickly and I think ECHO has improved, but could still be better is my sense of it, but I think we should get you an expert assessment of how they did and we can easily do that. The second part of your question was about the commitment to the reconstruction. There was a battle over this. Of course it is connected to the low allocations to Asia, so there was not so much funding available to allocate to Afghanistan, and a lot of countries were saying that the European Union should only make a one-year commitment and we were of the view and Chris Patten was very much of the view that we must commit multi-years to Afghanistan. The cameras will move away and this country cannot reconstruct itself in a year. It is just too cynical for words to make one-year commitments when the cameras are on and there was a real battle in Brussels before we went and then we met with Chris Patten who was co-chairing the conference on behalf of the European Union and we pushed the commitment pretty strongly. Obviously the budgetary commitment needs to be followed through year on year, so he was not allowed to say the billion euro that he was advocating, but he pretty well said it and it is the determination of some of us to make sure it will be delivered in future years, but that was a political battle. People were worried that if we committed years ahead to Afghanistan, it would take money away from the Med, Latin America and so on, some countries were worried.


  257. Can I say, Secretary of State, in parenthesis, because you have mentioned Afghanistan, that we have secured a Westminster Hall debate on the 28th February, for the whole of the afternoon, to debate this Committee's Report on the matter of Afghanistan because there has been some concern about whether the aid is getting through fast enough. This Committee intends to take just a formal evidence session from NGOs a couple of days before that on the 26th February and if your Department were able to bring us up to date by way of a further memorandum[2] on your perception of what is happening on the ground, questions of security and so forth, I think we would be very grateful as that sort of help would help inform the debate which is to take place on the 28th.

  (Clare Short) I am sure we can. I get a weekly report. I hope, when you take the evidence, that you remember how inaccurate some of the NGO complaints were during the crisis.

  258. We are specifically going to seek to take evidence from those NGOs who are actually active on the ground.

  (Clare Short) Yes, but I simply repeat that some of those who are active on the ground mis-described the situation during the crisis.

  259. We treat all evidence with due caution.

  (Clare Short) It is very, very important to see whether food is getting through and how everybody is doing, but to get the information is also difficult. Yes, I am sure we can give you a report. Catherine Bertini from the World Food Programme, I think she has given evidence to you before, she has just been on a visit because obviously the World Food Programme has to stay engaged and there is still no food being grown and there is a real danger of another year of drought, but we need to modify the way it is being delivered as the situation unfolds, but yes, we will do that[3].

  Chairman: Then there is budgetisation. We ask some of these questions about budgetisation simply because we need to try and understand which bits of the secret garden we need to be concerned about and which bits of the secret garden we can ignore.

2   Ev 99. Back

3   Note by DFID: It has since been established that there was no formal report of Miss Bertini's visit. Back

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