Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury 4:41 pm, 1st July 2019

The hon. Lady raises a good point. I think it was Tony Blair who set up the separate Department, which provided it with focus. Thinking back before that, however, most right hon. and hon. Members would acknowledge the excellent work carried out by Baroness Chalker, even though the Department was then within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

I suppose there are two ways of looking at it. When I travel and meet DFID officials abroad, I often meet officials from the FCO, and maybe also from other Departments linked to it. Overall, I agree with the hon. Lady that this is such an important subject, and it obviously should have close ties to the Foreign Office, and probably to other Departments, too. As I say, 25% of the overseas aid budget is spent by other Departments, so there has to be a close link. I am probably persuaded that that should be the case. I will talk to the successful leadership candidate, whoever they are, about this issue in due course.

I mentioned that other Departments spend about 25% of the aid budget, and that proportion has increased significantly—it was 11.4% in 2013. That spending can be a good thing, because it draws on the expertise of those other Departments. In certain cases, money is provided that might not have been so quickly forthcoming if those Departments had to queue outside the Treasury for it.

However, the spending raises the question of whether these other Departments quite have DFID’s experience and expertise in delivering aid. The Department of Health and Social Care, for example, might be expert in handling health-related issues—I am sure it is—but DFID has that experience of delivering projects abroad. There is a question mark over whether we have got to the right level. Hopefully the Minister will give us some guidance.