Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Chair, International Development Committee 5:13 pm, 1st July 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Mr Robertson. I congratulate him on securing this opportunity to scrutinise in the main Chamber DFID and its work. I agreed with every single word that he said. His speech demonstrated that there is strong cross-party support for this commitment.

It is opportune that we debate the Department’s estimates this year because we are in the 50th anniversary year of the Pearson Commission, which was under- taken by the World Bank and which first suggested a commitment of 0.7% of gross national income for countries to follow. The United Kingdom met that target in 2013. As the hon. Gentleman rightly reminded us, we are alone among the major economies in the world in achieving that target and one of just eight countries to have done so.

The cross-party commitment is incredibly important. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the importance of the 0.7% commitment and the importance of DFID as a stand-alone Department—a voice for development in the British Cabinet, but also a strong British voice in international institutions. DFID has earned, rightly, enormous praise in international institutions as a strong leader on development. I also agree with him that those of us who support the 0.7% target and DFID have an added responsibility to demonstrate value for money, to call to task when there is not value for money, and to ensure that every penny of taxpayers’ money that goes to international development is spent wisely and efficiently.

Another point that we should make, although it is not a focus for today, is that if we are to achieve the sustainable development goals—the ambitious Agenda 2030 programme to which the world is committed—aid alone will not get us there. Aid will be a fraction of the resources required to achieve those goals around the world, but especially in the poorest countries. Mobilising other forms of capital, including private sector investment, will be vital. I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is vital that we assist those countries to develop strong tax collection systems so that they can collect taxes from domestic taxpayers and international companies operating there.