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Mr. Newton: On the hon. Gentleman's final point, if people believe that, they will believe anything. As for the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I was not hitherto aware of the remarks to which he refers, but it is clear from what he said that they are based on a profound misunderstanding.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): As, on "News at Ten" last night, a director of Railtrack with responsibility for safety virtually confirmed that automatic train protection will not be installed across the entire rail network, which breaks a firm commitment that the Government have given the House and the country for the past six years; and as the departing British Rail chairman, Sir Bob Reid, has predicted that franchisees will become bankrupt if the rail privatisation plans go ahead-- indeed, he claimed that he personally would prefer to put his money into a butcher's shop--can we have an urgent debate on the grounds of safety, especially in view of the confusion reigning over what the Government's transport policy with regard to the railways is and, indeed, whether they have one?

Mr. Newton: On the first point, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is still considering the advice received from the Health and Safety Commission and from Railtrack, and will make an announcement in due course. Secondly, while many attempted interpretations have been placed on the interview with Sir Bob Reid, he made his support for privatisation very clear.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath): Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on early-day motion 774?

[ That this House expresses its disquiet at the continued domination of prominent Tories and Freemasons in appointments to top jobs in the National Health Service in Wales as witnessed by the appointment of Derek Morgan, President of the Bridgend Constituency Conservative Association to be Chairman of the largest NHS Trust in Wales, and of David Crosby, prominent Tory and

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Freemason to be Chairman of the Cardiff Community Healthcare Trust; recalls the ringing declarations of the Secretary of State for Wales and his junior Health Minister that these posts were being advertised and would be appointed on merit only; but notes that these two appointments are examples yet again of the same old names and the same old games; and consider that the breaking up of the NHS into several dozen businesses in this way has enormous attractions to this government in diverting tax payers money into the pocket of prominent Tory supporters to give sustenance to the party after its contemptuous rejection at the ballot box in the Islwyn by-election. ]

The motion deals with the appointment of Mr. David Crosby as chairman of the Cardiff Community Healthcare trust, when he is a prominent Conservative and a prominent freemason. Will the Leader of the House make available information on how many other freemasons have been appointed to quangos both in Wales and elsewhere? There is growing evidence that they are infecting the national health service especially. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that packing quangos with Conservatives is bad enough, but packing them with freemasons is positively sinister?

Mr. Newton: I do not think that I shall seek to respond to the sort of question that the hon. Gentleman has asked in the way in which he asked it, beyond saying that it seems to me that the right course is to appoint people with the appropriate qualifications to do the job that is required.

Mr. Ian Pearson (Dudley, West): Given reports today that Sir Robin Butler has found that the Secretary of State for Health breached Government rules on propriety because civil servants seemed to want to dash out and publish the right hon. Lady's speeches in Government-funded magazines, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the politicisation of the civil service, including the use of taxpayers' money for Tory propaganda?

Mr. Newton: I understand that Sir Robin said that he was satisfied that the purpose of the article was to communicate to NHS staff a policy statement relevant to their work, but he thought that the form of the article laid it open to the interpretation that it was publicising a party political event. I am sure that that was not intended. In any event, the Department of Health has assured Sir Robin that it will exercise rigorous scrutiny of such publications in future, and that is plainly right.

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Points of Order

4.7 pm

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On Tuesday, I took up with you the issue that had been raised by the apparent purloining of papers belonging to a Member, which were subsequently quoted by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) in the debate on the Gas Bill. I say "apparent" because I am in no position to make an objective determination of the facts, which is why I raise the matter with you. The same point of order was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw). You were good enough to say that you would examine the facts and make a statement in due time in response to the points of order raised with you. I was wondering whether you might now be in a position to do so.

Madam Speaker: I did have inquiries made. I understand that departmental documents relating to the debate on the Gas Bill were found by the tape machine in the Library Corridor. They were not stolen.

I deprecate the fact that the papers were not returned to the Department right away. Instead, Members speaking in the debate on the Bill used sections of the material in an attempt either to embarrass the Minister or to tease him. It is up to the hon. Member to determine the reasons for that. I am sure that he will agree with me that the lesson to be learned is that Ministers should ensure that they or their officials are not so careless in future as to leave confidential documents lying around.

Mr. Davies: Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: No. I have given a ruling.

Mr. Eric Clarke (Midlothian): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have given you and the Minister concerned notice of it. During my Adjournment debate on 22 February--the subject was the Forth rail bridge-- the Minister misinformed the House due to wrong information about an inspection and a report subsequently prepared by the Health and Safety Executive on structural and engineering matters. It appears now that there was no such report and I have received a letter to that effect from the Minister. The findings were based on a 1992-93 report by British Rail before the new painting regime took place. That is an important facet of the argument. My hon. Friends the Members for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) were accused of scaremongering in respect of the state of the bridge. Madam Speaker, will you investigate the matter and seek an apology from the Minister on our behalf?

Madam Speaker: The hon. Gentleman did not give me notice of the detail of his point of order. He merely let me know that he was going to raise a point of order on the matter. The matter is difficult, but I believe that it is not a point of order for me. There is obviously a difference of opinion and I advise the hon. Gentleman that he must pursue it with the Minister concerned. I am sure that he has ample ways of attempting to do that and that he will do so.

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Medical (Professional Performance)

Mrs. Secretary Bottomley, supported by Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Mr. Tony Newton, Mr. Secretary Lilley, Mr. Secretary Lang, Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew, Mr. Secretary Redwood, Mr. Gerald Malone and Mr. Tom Sackville, presented a Bill to amend the Medical Act 1983 to make provision relating to the professional performance of registered medical practitioners and the voluntary removal of names from the register of medical practitioners; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 83.]

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Orders of the Day

Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

4.11 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): I beg to move, That the Bilbe now read a Second time.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation--CDC--is a statutory corporation which was established in 1948 to assist overseas countries in the development of their economies by investing in financially viable and developmentally sound business enterprises. The corporation provides loans, equity and management services in a wide range of economic sectors, operating on a quasi-commercial basis outside Government channels. It enables us to provide direct assistance to the private sectors in developing countries. Although now called the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the CDC was established by this Parliament. The members of the corporation are appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and it is funded by the United Kingdom Government.

At present, the CDC operates in 52 countries, 39 of which are members of the Commonwealth. A Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the CDC in 1992 concluded that it provided a particularly valuable form of assistance to economies in developing countries. Last year, the CDC invested around £240 million, a record level. Eighty per cent. of approvals were in the poorest countries, above the target agreed with Ministers. Its total investment portfolio stands at over £1.6 billion.

The corporation's task is to use the disciplines and practices of the private sector in order to promote sustainable development in countries. It invests only when projects are expected to make a positive contribution to national development; participates only when its involvement adds value; and structures its investments according to commercial criteria. The corporation actively seeks to improve the links with British and other private sector overseas investors, so that it can build on its traditional role as a catalyst for mobilising international finance alongside its own investment. The new focus in developing countries on private sector-led development is opening up new opportunities for the CDC, both in new and traditional areas. It might be helpful if I briefly give some examples of the range and scope of the corporation's activities. In Zambia, in October last year the CDC took a majority shareholding in Chilanga Cement Limited, the largest cement producer in Zambia and an essential component of the Zambian economy. The corporation has management responsibility for a major programme of rehabilitating and enhancing the productive capacity of that company. Notably, 30 per cent. of the company's shares are to be sold to local private

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investors, marking an important stage in the Zambian privatisation programme and the return of an active capital market in Lusaka. It is ironic to note that the CDC first become a majority shareholder in Chilanga in 1949, and has now returned to this position after a long period in which the company has been run by a Zambian state- owned company.

In Uganda, the Development Finance Company of Uganda--DFCU--has the CDC as a leading shareholder. The demand for asset finance in Uganda is high. Many businesses are growing rapidly and require quick access to finance for new plant and equipment. The corporation and DFCU have promoted the Uganda Leasing Company which opened for business in January. The corporation will provide 21 per cent. of the equity and a loan to the new company. The managing director has been seconded from the CDC.

Because of Uganda's history, there is a low level of savings, and many would-be entrepreneurs are frustrated by being unable to raise finance for their projects. The Development Finance Company of Uganda has now set up its own venture capital fund. It has enabled mortgage business for house construction and house purchase to expand, and with it the prospect of respectable profits and regular dividends. The DFCU has nine investments in parastatal companies made in the 1960s, and has thus been well placed to play an important role in Uganda's privatisation programme. The DFCU was centrally involved in the privatisation of East Africa Distilleries, in which it had a 23 per cent. stake. In 1992, the DFCU and the other minority shareholders persuaded the Ugandan Government to sell its 51 per cent. stake to International Distillers and Vintners, which has taken over the management and turned the company round in a matter of two years.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington): May I ask the Minister a question? I am not trying to be especially mischievous; I genuinely want to know the answer. He will know that my hon. Friends were deeply opposed to privatisation of the CDC, but why did the Government decide not to privatise it in the end? What were the pressures on the Government not to privatise, and what interests did they have in mind when they made that decision?

Mr. Baldry: We considered that it would be far better for the CDC to remain in the public sector. We considered all the options, and that was the conclusion to which we came.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: Why?

Mr. Baldry: Because we believed that that was in the best interests of the CDC and those whom it seeks to serve.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: That is just a general response. In principle, we do not believe that the CDC should be privatised, but there must be reasons why the Government have come to the same conclusion. There must have been some argument in the Department, and the case put against privatisation must have been

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overwhelmingly convincing to Ministers. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us something of what the debate in the Department was about?

Mr. Baldry: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is being mischievous after all, or whether he is teasing. Unlike the Labour party, which has a dogmatic opposition to the word "privatisation", we are not driven by dogma. The CDC serves a valuable purpose, and it was obviously right that there came a time when we considered whether it should not remain in the public sector. However, having regard to the particular work that the CDC does, we concluded that it would be better for it to remain in the public sector.

Also in Uganda, the CDC and the International Finance Corporation, with other companies, are developing Uganda's first cellular telephone network, covering 15,000 subscribers in Entebbe, Kampala, Jinja and Tororo. Using the most advanced digital cellular technology, the company will provide high-quality digital telecommunications services, including mobile communication and interconnection to the Uganda Post and Telecommunications Corporation fixed-line network and international gateway.

In India, the CDC has made available a £25 million loan to the Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd. The HDFC was the first housing finance corporation of its kind in India and has been a leader in developing that sector, with currently 387,000 borrowers and 210,000 depositors. Seventy- five per cent. of its business is with individual home buyers and, with the CDC's financial backing, the HDFC is continuing to expand its business as opportunities grow with the liberalisation of the Indian economy.

In Sri Lanka, the CDC has approved a second loan of US$30 million to the National Development bank to finance the expansion of its existing operations in term lending, leasing and other financing for predominantly private sector industrial clients in Sri Lanka. Overall demand for term finance has been growing at an average of 30 per cent., and is expected to continue in that way.

The CDC's first investment in South Africa is scheduled to be made through the establishment of a fund to make equity and quasi-equity investments in franchise operations mainly owned or operated by previously disadvantaged groups. Nedbank investment bank will be contracted to provide management and technical services to the fund management company, and the CDC's involvement will be purely equity of nearly £2 million.

Throughout the world, the CDC is investing and helping developing countries to promote their economies.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East): The list of projects that the Minister has given is very creditable, and will be welcomed by all hon. Members.

As the Minister knows, the Prime Minister recently returned from a visit to the middle east, where I understand that he visited both Gaza and the west bank. As far as the Minister is aware, is there any reason in

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principle why the CDC should not support projects in those areas? If there is no such reason, is he aware of any such proposals?

Mr. Baldry: In principle, there is no objection to the CDC's operating in any part of the world. In practice, when it wishes to operate in a new country, it asks the permission of Ministers. As far as I know, it has made no application or proposal in relation to Gaza or the west bank; if it did so, any such application or proposal would be considered on its merits.

The CDC has recently been granted permission to operate in a number of countries. There is nothing ideological about our attitude: we want to ensure that the CDC is put to the best possible use wherever it operates.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding): Is my hon. Friend satisfied that, when the CDC makes an equity investment in some enterprise in the developing world, it is every bit as rigorous and aggressive in insisting that that enterprise is run on commercial lines, that opportunities for efficiency gains are taken and that waste and overmanning are eliminated--and in resisting local political pressures to adopt a non- commercial course--as a genuine private sector investor would be when shareholders' money was at stake?

Mr. Baldry: Yes. As the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs discovered when it examined the CDC's work, it has an impressive record of ensuring that its money is put to the best possible use, and that the companies and equities in which it invests use that money in the best possible way. I know of no CDC scheme that has been the subject of public criticism, either in the country concerned or in this country.

In the past, the CDC's resources have been found almost entirely through concessional loans from the British Government. The returns made on the proceeds of its investments have been available for further investment. In 1993, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced that the CDC would no longer receive net new loans from Government, but would no longer be required to pay interest on new and existing loans. As a result of the repayment of outstanding interest and capital on loans and other realisations, an increasing amount of new investment is being made, at decreasing cost to the aid programme.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West): My hon. Friend has been describing a British success story--the story of an organisation which, as I think he will agree, has successfully transformed itself from a colonial supporting organisation to an organisation that is worldwide, or at least which operates in many interesting and important parts of the world.

Will my hon. Friend clear up two points? First, is he confident that the loans straitjacket will be sufficiently loose for the CDC to be able to borrow effectively and support its work without cost to the British taxpayer? Secondly, how can we more effectively promote the CDC's image internationally? This success story--this British-grown international finance corporation--is very little known outside its client base.

Mr. Baldry: The answer to the first question is yes. As for the second, in the countries that I visit--

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Pakistan, the Dominican Republic and other countries where the CDC operates--its work is widely recognised and appreciated. People realise that it is an instrument with which the British Government are helping to develop and sustain private enterprise in those countries. It has a high standing, which is also to the credit of the United Kingdom.

Although the interest rate was lowered to nominal levels in 1994, a full interest waiver for the CDC requires an amendment to the existing Act, which is proposed in the Bill. The Bill also recognises the CDC's continuing need for external borrowing. Last December, the CDC obtained funds from a source other than the British Government--in this instance, the European investment bank.

It is also exploring the possibility of borrowing from other lenders. Its total level of borrowings is already very close to the existing statutory limit of £850 million, and an increase in that ceiling is essential to ensure the corporation's future financial health.

Counted within the limit is the borrowing of CDC's overseas subsidiaries, which will increase roughly in line with the overall increase in its portfolio. The Bill proposes an increase initially to £1,100 million, and then, following the further agreement of Parliament through an affirmative resolution, to an overall ceiling of £1,500 million. That should be sufficient to provide a firm basis for the CDC's future investment programmes well into the next century.

It is a reflection of the CDC's success that the overwhelming majority of new investments will be financed from the returns on existing investments. In 1993, equity realisations of £27 million were made, allowing an overall level of £48 million to be transferred to reserves. It remains the intention of the CDC to unlock the very substantial level of assets held in some long-standing investments so as to secure resources for further expansion of its work in developing countries.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): There is no real controversy about the Bill. Any controversy is about whether it goes far enough. If this is a British success story, why is such a marginal increase being made in the resources which are available? I am confident that those resources will be inadequate in the pretty near future. Why are not the Government backing the success story more fully?

Mr. Baldry: With respect, only a member of the Labour party could describe an increase in borrowing limits from £850 million to £1,500 as marginal. It is a substantial increase in the CDC's borrowing powers. Certainly, the CDC is confident that the increase will enable it to operate well into the next century.

The CDC opened a new office in South Africa last year. This year, it plans to open offices in Mozambique and Uganda. The CDC has helped to establish a venture capital fund in Tanzania, which it also manages. It provides risk capital for local businesses, and complements efforts to establish a local equity market.

In South Africa, even with its far more highly developed capital market, development capital funds for small entrepreneurs can still be very difficult to obtain. Following the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime

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Minister last September, the CDC is announcing this month an investment of £9 million in a new development capital fund in Johannesburg.

Clause 1 of the Bill increases the statutory limits on the total amount outstanding in respect of sums borrowed or guaranteed by the corporation from £850 million to £1,100 million, with provision for an increase by order for a sum not exceeding £1,500 million. Clause 2 provides the powers necessary to ensure that the terms of existing aid loans for the CDC should become interest free. Clause 3 enables the Secretary of State to determine the remuneration of members of the corporation. The Bill makes no change to the Secretary of State's powers to appoint members of the corporation.

Clause 4 gives effect to the repeals set out in the schedule, and clause 5 makes provision for the title and extent of the Bill. The House last reviewed and agreed new borrowing limits for the CDC well over a decade ago in 1982. Hon. Members on both sides of the House agreed then on the value of the CDC's work for developing countries and for Britain.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: Will the Minister give way before he concludes?

Mr. Baldry: I am sure that the House will again agree to endorse the work of the CDC, to place it on a sound financial footing to carry it into the 21st century and to enable it to continue its excellent work in promoting the private sector's investment and jobs in developing countries. I commend the Bill to the House.

4.27 pm

Miss Joan Lestor (Eccles): I welcome the opportunity to express general support for the work of the Commonwealth Development Corporation and to congratulate the Minister on the concise way in which he went through the clauses. I am afraid that he went through them so quickly that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was unable to intervene. I hope that my hon. Friend will have the opportunity to speak later in the debate.

Not a great deal divides us on the Bill, but I should like to raise one or two important points. As the Minister said, from its inception under a Labour Government to the present day, the CDC has provided much-needed investment in the poorest countries of the world. In 1993, 72.9 per cent. of total investment went to the poorest countries, of which almost 30 per cent. was allocated to sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody could possibly disagree with that.

Initially, that investment was concentrated in former colonial countries, which subsequently became members of the Commonwealth. Last year, when things had to be changed, as the Minister said, permission had to be sought and was granted for CDC involvement to extend to El Salvador and, indeed, to South Africa--countries, as we would all agree, in need of, earning and deserving the support of this country and of the CDC.

In such countries, where inward investment is essential but private investors are often very hesitant, the CDC carries out its vital work: pump -priming local economies, meeting the needs of some of the poorest

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people of the world for vital infrastructure, contributing to economic and political stability, and sending out positive signals for the rest of the world to follow, which I hope is especially true in the case of South Africa, Mozambique and others.

As the Minister has said and the reports have told us, the CDC is not only effective but has been very efficient in the years that it has operated. In the past, its investment funding has been largely self-generating, supplemented by long-term, low-interest loans. The Minister mentioned the Chilanga cement project in Zambia. I am pleased to tell the House that I shall be visiting that project next week when I visit Zambia. The CDC offered me the opportunity to see the project, and I look forward to it very much indeed.

In the financial year 1994-95, there was a net flow from the CDC to the Government of £7 million and, at the same time, £1,677 million was invested. Final audited figures, I understand, for 1994 are not yet available, but the 1993 figures show that the net cash injection from the Government represented less than 5 per cent. of the level of new investment and 0.5 per cent. of external aid spending. This Bill is interesting not so much for what it says as for what some of it fails to say. We can all support the move to raise the CDC's borrowing limits, given its good track record and the enduring needs of developing countries, particularly in sub- Saharan Africa. I am not so sure, however, about the recommendations to remove Treasury controls over salaries, pensions and allowances.

I do not doubt that that will result in substantial gains for some members of the corporation--an outcome synonymous with the privatisation process. Indeed, I am sure that I was not alone in thinking that the CDC was at some point being lined up as a candidate for privatisation, on the grounds that it would give it the commercial freedom that it seemed to be seeking. I therefore welcomed the Foreign Secretary's statement in May ruling out privatisation. The Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington did not make it terribly clear why privatisation was ruled out. There was a recognition that a privatised CDC would have aims, objectives and a financial structure inconsistent with its development role. From reading the report, that seems why privatisation did not go ahead, and I am very glad that it did not.

In the Minister's winding-up speech, would he tell me why the argument that the CDC could obtain the commercial freedom it sought without privatisation was in contrast to the argument and action over the Crown Agents, which has just been debated in another place, where it was argued that only by the removal of the Crown Agents from the public sector could they have the greater financial freedom that they sought and needed to expand?

I find the argument inconsistent. What was the difference? The Minister, in all fairness, has not explained the reasons. I agree with the Minister and the report that it is inconsistent to deem that privatisation could rule out, hamper or in some way limit the aims

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and objectives of the CDC. It would be interesting to know why the Crown Agents were treated rather differently.

Speculation about the future role of the CDC continues to grow. This Bill does not answer all my concerns, which were fuelled by recommendations in the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1993, the CDC's own five-yearly review and various odd comments from Ministers. Reference was made in the review to the "wider world in which the CDC now operates".

During debates in this House in 1992, before her elevation to another place, the Minister for Overseas Development mentioned "the expanding role which I hope it"--

the CDC--

"will have in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union . . . There is nothing to stop CDC work in eastern Europe provided there is sensible risk".--[ Official Report , ; Vol. , c. .]

I hope that any possible involvement in that direction will not be at the expense of our commitment to Commonwealth countries. Will the Minister give us that assurance? It is particularly important, given the Government's endorsement in 1993 of the quinquennial review recommendation to drop the operating target for the proportion of investments in the Commonwealth.

I also ask the Minister to assure the House that any such initiative will be funded separately, and that the poor of South Africa, Mozambique or wherever the CDC intends to operate will not be paying for investment programmes in the former Soviet Union. That is a concern that we all share about the aid programme, and the widening operation of the CDC.

In some ways, this Bill is unfinished business, and we will be looking again at the role of the CDC, especially as it expands. There are many areas of investment in which it is prohibited from action--the provision of schools, hospitals and colleges, for example--and although I am aware that it is not, strictly speaking, an aid organisation, the social spin-off of projects should be one of the guiding factors determining their acceptability. Surely that is not too much to ask.

The Government's track record on aid and development is increasingly tarnished, and typified by scandal and mischief, from the misuse of aid funds for the Pergau dam to the wrecking of the Lome negotiations and the deterioration in the aid budget. While it does not redress the balance, the sound reputation of the CDC makes a different contribution to aid and development projects. I trust that Ministers will bear that in mind during the coming months. 4.36 pm

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West): I will not take up more than a few moments of the time of the Minister and the House, because there is such broad unanimity on the Bill. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government and the Commonwealth Development Corporation on this tremendous British success story. I am particularly interested in the expansion of the CDC from Commonwealth countries into other needy countries worldwide. Of course, it was a lapsus linguae on the part of the Opposition spokesman on aid, the

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hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), to mention Mozambique, which I do not believe is a member of the Commonwealth. I appreciate her view that the poorest of the poor should not suffer with expansion in eastern Europe, the countries of the former Soviet Union and Russia. The CDC has broadened its remit very dramatically indeed, which is to be welcomed because private investment in countries in difficult economic circumstances cannot be bounded by old colonial boundaries, however attractive that may seem historically. I very much hope that the CDC will investigate China and Russia, and I want it to find ways to help some of the poorer countries in the middle east, such as Yemen. The investment in Johannesburg in the wake of the abolition of apartheid is going to be one of the most wonderful developments, and is very exciting indeed.

This Bill will bring some modern structures into the CDC. I welcome the move, for example, to have the chief executive on the board. Like the hon. Member for Eccles, I welcome the fact that we will look more sensibly at salary levels.

I want to consider enlarging the British Government's publicity machine for the CDC. I have been fortunate to visit a number of CDC projects in operation in India and parts of Africa and, as someone who has been to some of the poorer areas of the world, it has been a great joy for me to see an organisation so deftly picking up investment opportunities, staying with a company while it begins to flourish and then withdrawing.

No commercial organisation could ever carry out that sort of operation. After all, the Commonwealth Development Corporation is asked by the Government only to wash its face, not to make a profit, and any profit is ploughed back into the organisation. It is an altruistic attitude, and it is right and proper for a national Government body to achieve that.

I regard the Commonwealth Development Corporation as the silent partner of the Overseas Development Administration's major humanitarian aid effort, and all I ask the Minister is that we should somehow discard that over- humble attitude. We should stop it being the silent partner and try to get its wonderful developmental work known much more widely among the British people.

After all, its work is sponsored through the taxpayer--or is it? Will the Minister assure us that the borrowing levels will not be inhibited by the Treasury? Internationally, the wider borrowing requirements take a burden off the British taxpayer while assisting people in poorer developing countries who need loans, development and, above all, British expertise, which is carried out superbly as only the CDC seems able to do.

I ask the Minister again: will he please think hard about publicity about the CDC? It is a wonderful organisation. It is the United Kingdom's home- grown international finance corporation. All I ask is that we should shout a little louder on its behalf.

4.40 pm

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): I am glad to see that we are debating this Commonwealth Bill because I thought that this year we would debate a different Commonwealth Bill, which

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would rule out the Commonwealth Institute. I am pleased to see that the Government have backed off from the Commonwealth Institute Bill, because they would never have got it through this House or the House of Lords. I congratulate the Government on recognising more than they did in the past the value of the Commonwealth.

This could be a golden age for the Commonwealth, now that we have got rid of some of the problems of the past, like apartheid in South Africa and Baroness Thatcher, and moved on so that some good can come out of Commonwealth initiatives. I know that the CDC covers a wider area than just the Commonwealth, but it is good to see Commonwealth initiatives; I was particularly pleased about the current initiative in Sierra Leone.

The CDC is well thought of and extremely successful. The central problem remains, however, of why more is not done to bring it to the attention of the British public and expand it more fully. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) asked a good question, which has not yet been answered. I hope that the Minister will find time later to say why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office seems to be giving the CDC such a modest push. When other small achievements are trumpeted, those of the CDC are not.

May I start by making a couple of quibbles about the CDC? In its annual report, it appears to be a London-based quangocracy of some kind. The board appears to lack balance, and I hope that the Government will take that into account when considering how it is developed. There is an absence of women among senior members of the board. That is a major weakness, given that development in many parts of the world is led by women. Their perspective should be included on the board.

I wonder how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office assembles the board of the CDC. Judging by the annual report, it simply has a whistle down the road to the Overseas Development Institute or Chatham House, and says, "Who have you got here?" or goes around its pals in the banking world. I have nothing against the ODI and Chatham House, as I support both organisations, but the CDC board seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut, as it includes no one from Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Do those parts of the Commonwealth not get a look in when it comes to appointments to the board? Much of the best development is now done by major British non-governmental organisations operating in the same parts of the world as the CDC, but they are not represented on the CDC's board.

I also wonder about the CDC's right-wing tilt. Not only does the text of its annual report have such a tilt but it is the only annual report I have ever seen in which the pictures of board members are tilted to the right as well.

More seriously, the chairman's report on page 8 is worrying, as it says:

"CDC's prospects are aided by the wide-spread acceptance of IMF/World Bank led policy reform".

Where is that widespread acceptance? This is one of the consequences when a country does not send its Prime Minister to the social summit, because he and all those associated with him get out of touch.

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