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

I am delighted to take that intervention from my friend Jeremy Lefroy, whom we miss on the Committee. He is an extremely eloquent and powerful voice for international development in this House and beyond, not least through his role in the World Bank parliamentary network. I am very sympathetic to his point about having our own development bank. I have just come from an event with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which performs some of those functions, but I know that he argues for a distinctive UK development bank, and I hope that he will have an opportunity to elaborate on that later in the debate.

I will comment briefly on five areas, all of which were covered by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury: humanitarian versus development; multilateral versus bilateral; localisation and small organisations; scrutiny; and addressing some of the issues with non-DFID official development assistance.

We know that the world is facing some huge crises. Some of them are global, such as climate change, and some are a consequence of natural disasters, but many of them are man-made—person-made—and often a consequence of conflict. We look at Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the crisis affecting the Rohingya people of Burma, most of whom now live in neighbouring Bangladesh. In that context, the distinction between what is a response to a humanitarian situation and what is development is increasingly irrelevant. People are escaping conflict and living as refugees or internally displaced people for large parts of their lives. Children are spending their entire childhoods displaced. They need humanitarian assistance, but they and their communities also need development support.

That is why the International Development Committee has focused so much on the importance of investing in global education. As the Minister well knows, we have consistently called on the Government to devote a larger part of the UK’s development assistance to education. I welcome the commitment that she made recently—at the last but one DFID Question Time—to the UK increasing our commitment to Education Cannot Wait, the multilateral fund aimed at supporting children and young people in emergency situations. I encourage her to put today, or quite soon, a figure on that commitment—and for it to be a high figure—because the earlier we make a pledge on Education Cannot Wait, the more likely other donors are to follow so that we can ensure that that excellent fund can play its part to support education in emergencies.

That brings me on to the broader issues around multilaterals and bilaterals that the hon. Member for Tewkesbury set out fully. First, let me strongly echo my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty: we hugely welcome the commitment that was made on the Global Fund over the weekend. It is really excellent news that the Government have made that commitment to replenishment, and have made it early, which has lessons for replenishments in other areas and again demonstrates strong leadership in this field. The last-but-one Secretary of State—I think we are on the fourth Secretary of State since I took over the Chair of the Committee four years ago—oversaw the multilateral development review. That was a very thorough piece of work by the Department looking at the relative strengths of different multilateral institutions and showing that some of those working in the health field, notably the Global Fund, came out very strongly.

Interestingly, other institutions that came out very strongly—Priti Patel oversaw the review—were the European ones, including the European Commission. I have been encouraged by the responses that we have had from Ministers about the issues that we will face in the event of Brexit and about ensuring that the excellent programmes that are provided through European institutions, like the European development fund, do not suffer as a result of Brexit. What we should have uppermost in our minds is the needs of those who are benefiting from those programmes. I urge the Minister, and the Government more generally, in deciding whether to continue to work closely with and fund European development programmes after Brexit, to follow the best evidence as to what is good for the beneficiaries. I hope that whoever the Prime Minister is, the Government will not be guided by an ideology that says, “We can’t work with European institutions.”