Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 135 - 139)




  135. Glenys, thank you very much for coming and seeing us. Thank you very much also for the time you spent with us last night.
  (Mrs Kinnock) A pleasure. I enjoyed it.

  136. Colleagues have a number of questions, just really to provide this session with a structure. Perhaps I could start by asking what role does the Committee on Development and Co-operation play in setting the financial perspective for the development of co-operation and in the annual budgetary process? In other words, to what extent do you and your colleagues get involved in the detail of all of this?
  (Mrs Kinnock) Very involved. It is probably the most important task that the Development Committee undertakes during the year. Certainly for us in our political groups the budget is very important because that is how you can identify the priorities of the Committee and fight battles with other committees and other interests, particularly for instance on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where they will have more interest and more lobbying on Central, Eastern and Southern Europe and other areas of the world which are more directly under their remit. So we all of us try to go into the Budget Committee of the Parliament when the development budget is being discussed. We are always allowed to speak and participate and make our case. Every year we are presented with further cuts. The first time the budget appears, it is always with more cuts on our lines, and then we have to fight to reinstate the money on the lines, and there is a continual fight to say that you cannot keep making fine declarations at Council level about what the priorities of the EU are unless you are prepared to consider new money, but of course realistically we know that is not going to happen. On Kosovo, on Afghanistan, on whatever the emergency is, they will then try to shift money around, and often tend to look at the Category 4 budget and look at our budget lines for ways of finding the extra money. We certainly had that experience with Kosovo. It is very influential and it is the most important job we do and we are heavily lobbied by NGOs and other interest groups, but is a part of our work where you really feel you can make a difference.

Hugh Bayley

  137. I know you told us last night but for the sake of our formal record, can you spell out the arguments in favour of budgetisation of the EDF?
  (Mrs Kinnock) I have mentioned it in my submission and it is something that not only the Development Committee but also the Budget Committee of the Parliament have argued for. My main reason is because it would avoid the kind of duplication that you see because of two separate organisations and two separate pots of money. Often, realistically, it is not as clear cut as that, but that can happen and does happen. It does mean I think that if we had the EDF under the budget then Parliament would have more ability to follow it, more ability to make decisions about what happens under the EDF, and that would give us a serious role. I take the point that Adam Wood made last night, because if it did go into the budget we may face the danger of it being syphoned off in the way some of the budget priorities are, so that is something we have to take into account. We would have to ensure that if it ever was budgetised, which seems more possible than ever before, although maybe Adam disagrees with me, it would have to be ring-fenced in some way to ensure that they were not to make incursions into the EDF, the Cotonou, money, which they feel able to do on other budget lines.

  138. To change the subject slightly, when we took evidence from DFID officials, they said to us that the single most important or most significant innovation which needs to be made to EU programmes is to change the reporting mechanisms so the same DAC criteria are used as the Member States themselves use. Although that now is an EU objective, progress towards meeting that objective seems to me to be incredibly slow. The first annual report did not provide that kind of reporting. We are told now it will be two or three years before we get it. Why is it so slow and what could be done to speed it up?
  (Mrs Kinnock) It is not two or three years, they will be reporting next year on this year. What we did not have was the right computer software to deal with it and DAC understand that. I have here, which I can give you, a letter[1]—I do not know if you have seen it—from Nielson to Mr Miranda, where he does say that on 1 January 2002 they are now recording information beginning with the TACIS programme, so they will proceed to come forward with the same kind of recording of what we are doing for all the other programmes. DAC have insisted they produce something this year, even though they are not able to do what they consider to be really accurate and well-substantiated figures. There is a break down here which I can give you.

  139. That would be helpful, thank you.
  (Mrs Kinnock) It is what they have given to DAC. The DAC people are actually here today, maybe you could have seen them, but they are here today looking at these figures. It is not satisfactory but certainly in the negotiations for the budget this year we did have lots of meetings, particularly with Nielson's cabinet, on this and we did achieve a position which was quite helpful. Now the software is in place, everything can go ahead, and they have absolutely committed themselves for 2003 to give us 2002, and all the outputs will be properly recorded, and the reporting will be properly done and so on. Again, it is the case that this has never been done before. It is slow and it is hellishly frustrating. I asked this morning and, in terms of putting in place the quality support group, there are ten completed Country Strategy Papers which are now ready, and many more just having the finishing touches, so there are lots of things going on. We are heartened by those who say that we have to battle on many fronts but now everything is in place to do it properly, and it was the case that nobody ever thought these things were important before.

1   Not printed. Copy placed in the Library. Back

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