The Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) Bill was debated for a final time in the House of Commons on Tuesday 10th January.
The CDC is a ‘development finance institution’ owned by the UK Government, which invests in private and commercial enterprises in developing countries with the aim of creating jobs and promoting development. Many countries in Europe have a development finance institution for this purpose, and the Scottish Government has recently announced a £1million investment fund for businesses in Malawi.
A number of criticisms have been made about historical practices of the CDC, including the level of salaries paid to its senior staff and the kind of investments it has made. A recent report from the National Audit Office found that while some progress had been made in these areas, there was still room for further improvement.
SNP MPs repeatedly raised these concerns during the debates on the Bill, and worked on a cross-party basis to support amendments to the Bill which would have reduced the amount of money the Government would be able to give to the CDC, for it to be clearer about how the work of the CDC helps to reduce poverty overseas and meet the Sustainable Development Goals, and to improve the transparency of the CDC and to stop it using offshore tax havens in its investment processes.
The UK Government used its majority in the House of Commons to stop these amendments, and as there was no prospect of the Bill being defeated, no vote was taken at the final ‘Third Reading’ stage. However, the UK Government did commit to publishing robust business cases before providing any more funds to the CDC. The SNP believes that there is a consensus behind the need for continual improvement of the CDC, and we want to support that consensus. We will use every opportunity we have in the House of Commons to hold the UK Government to account for the commitments it has made.
Please be assured that the SNP is fully committed to the target of spending 0.7% of the country’s wealth on international aid. The White Paper on Independence for Scotland, Scotland’s Future, even said that an SNP-led government of an independent Scotland would look in time to go beyond this target. We recognise the moral duty on wealthy countries to help our sisters and brothers in greatest need overseas. You may be aware that the Scottish Government has an International Development Fund of around £9million each year, which supports projects tackling poverty and hunger in countries like Malawi. The Scottish Government has also recently announced a contribution of £250,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for aid to Yemen.