Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-439)|
9 JUNE 2004
Q420 Dr Turner: Yes, that is almost generic
as far as PPPs are concerned, is it not?
Mr Cameron: Yes.
Q421 Dr Turner: Perhaps partnerships
with NGOs might be more appropriate in developing countries.
Mr Cameron: I think that is so
and I think it needs to be partnerships with the professional
bodies in those countries who have a great interest in developing
in-country capacity. 
Q422 Dr Turner: Before we leave the subject
of the strategy, could I ask the rest of the panel what they think.
Dr Cotton: The one area that comes
out is climate change. I think there is definite scope in there.
I also agree with Peter's remarks that a concern in the other
areas is that some of the infrastructure issues which are actually
underpinning the developments may get lost. That is not saying
that it should be frontline technology or engineering research
but that it should be part of the considerations. That would be
my concern, that it comes into the equation.
Q423 Dr Turner: Clearly climate change
has to be a significant one, because if developing countries are
industrialised on the basis of fossil fuels there is no hope for
any of us. What is your view of the effectiveness of programmes
such as REED and DFID's involvement in those?
Mr Cameron: I am sorry?
Q424 Dr Turner: Renewable Energy Emerging
in Developing countries. The Government is involved in this. It
is an international development which brings micro-generation
to village houses and this kind of stuff.
Mr Cameron: I know very little
of that. I know that some of our bigger energy companies are investing
money in decentralisation of electricity generation and beginning
to show some substantial potential gains for providing energy
to rural areas. I think that is terrific and needs to be encouraged.
It needs to be brought back into the DFID programme to see how
that can interrelate properly with other work that is going on.
Q425 Dr Turner: It does seem to be one
of the most important avenues of addressing the climate change
Mr Cameron: Yes.
Q426 Mr McWalter: Andrew you nearly said
in evidence that the commitment of DFID to training and capacity
building in engineering and technology has reduced over 20 years.
I said "nearly said" because you put a "seems"
in there to slightly dodge the issue, but I take it you really
meant that you thought it had reduced. What is the evidence for
Dr Cotton: The evidence is primarily
from our own Masters programme which has been running since 1980.
I think the Committee has heard before about the change in the
funding that went through, so that was one aspect of that. The
argument is: We should not be doing it here, so do it in-country
or, even better, do south-to-south transfers on some of this work.
I think the danger in that is that you can end up with good project-specific
training programmes in relation to individual projects and programmes
that are going on. I think you lose from that the more generic
aspects of it. How do you take it up one level? What happens when
you move away from a particular project in terms of its implementation?
I would start from the next generation of engineers. I think that
is actually where you will start to see outcomes in terms of reducing
poverty. One can see why it went to be more focused in terms of
project-based training, but I think in doing so it lost out on
some of the longer-term benefits. For example, the Dutch government
still, I understand, have a more substantial system of scholarship
funding, which has been going on for many, many years and they
have stuck with that, through major institutes there like the
Institute of Hydraulic Engineering in Delft.
Q427 Mr McWalter: You indicated in your
evidence that it is your own institution which say, "Is anybody
looking at the overall picture?" and highlighting some data.
If DFID are funding MSCs, how many did it used to be and how many
is it now? How many of those come from overseas? Are those data
available and, if they are available, why was that not part of
your evidence? If they are not available, do you not think something
should be done so we do have an effective monitoring of this position?
Dr Cotton: I think it would be
important to have an effective monitoring of the position.
Q428 Mr McWalter: So those data are not
Dr Cotton: I can provide data
from my own institution on that. I can provide a breakdown historically.
Q429 Mr McWalter: This is a pretty sorry
story really but what is the reason for it? Peter made the point
just now that maybe we ourselves have not been sufficiently pushy
about the role of engineering and improvement of infrastructure
and so on. Is the reason partly that you have not been pushy enough?
Is it partly that the engineering profession itself is desperately
fragmented, so there is never a voice for engineering, there are
always 20 voices seemingly saying different things? Or is it that
there has been a history of government neglect since 1980 which
is carrying on really, at least in this regard.
Dr Cotton: I think you make two
important points there, and I agreeI mean, as a chartered
engineer myselfthat engineers are not pushy enough. They
are often, if you will forgive the expression, too gentlemanly
about these things.
Q430 Mr McWalter: One can see it in these
documents: "One could say . . ." rather than just something
as it is.
Dr Cotton: I regret that is probably
the sort of academic tendency that always allows for the possibility
Q431 Chairman: You are just shrinking
Dr Cotton: I actually think we
have not been pushy enough. One of the reasons, again as you said,
Peter, in terms of the consultation, is we are not upfront enough.
We are not blunt enough and I guess we do not access the right
Q432 Mr McWalter: On your left is the
voice of engineering. Could he not be blunt enough?
Professor O'Reilly: Thank you
for gracing me with that, but I think the Royal Academy of Engineering
and various engineering institutions might feel they had a voice
as well, of course.
Q433 Mr McWalter: We cannot get a peep
out of the Royal Academy at the moment. Does that surprise you?
We are doing our best to try to get them to come off the shelf.
John, you are a bit of a Council expert.
Professor O'Reilly: Ex-member.
Q434 Mr McWalter: Ex-member. Can you
not get them to take a bit of an interest in these matters?
Professor O'Reilly: I will take
Q435 Chairman: Could I bring this part
to a halt now by asking a last question on the word "sustainable".
The Millennium Development Goals focus predominantly on issues
such as alleviation of poverty and hunger, primary education and
maternal and infant health, all of which we would want to do something
about and which something should be done about, but that does
not really augur well for a longer. sustainable improvement programme,
does it? It sounds like a short-term political whim and that is
it. What do you think?
Mr Cameron: I think there is a
responsibility on engineers to make sure that whatever programmes
we implement are sustainable. As an example, we have seen recently
that there are some roads in Cambodia (I believe) that have been
reconstructed (about five years ago) and now we are reconstructing
them again. We have to make quite sure that the contracts providing
that sort of infrastructure clearly underline the need for sustainable
development. It is in part also related to capacity building,
inasmuch as we should make sure that any infrastructure provision
that is being made should involve the indigenous population
to help construct it so they understand it, so they learn about
it, so they can then maintain it and then it becomes sustainable.
Q436 Chairman: So the answer is yes,
it is too short term.
Mr Cameron: It has been but I
think that is beginning to be recognised and changed.
Q437 Chairman: Who by?
Mr Cameron: I think by the professional
Q438 Dr Turner: Could I go back to this
question of climate change. I mentioned the REED programme and
I have just remembered that the REED programme was actually initiated
by the Foreign Office and not by DFID at all, which you might
think slightly strange. I do not think DFID had very much involvement
with it. It is very curious that they should not, and very curious
that it should not have come to your attention during that consultation
process. There seems to be a certain lack of connectivity going
on between government departments here.
Mr Cameron: I understand that
DFID have now organised or have been running for a little whileand
I cannot remember the exact title of ita sort of information
sharing website which it is hoped will be shared by government
Q439 Chairman: How many hits does it
get a week?
Professor O'Reilly: I do not know.
1 Note by the witness: Indeed, as well as the
excellent links ICE has with many NGOs, it has assisted the Institution
of Engineers Bangladesh to move towards becoming a qualifying
professional body, and has Agreements of Co-operation with sister
professional institutions around the world. Back
Note by the witness: and professionals. Back