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 absolutely agree. When DFID was created in 1997, the UK governorship of the World Bank shifted from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Secretary of State for International Development. That was absolutely the right thing to do. It has given us a strong voice in these multilateral organisations, including the World Bank.

Let me comment briefly on the three other areas that I identified—first, localisation. Victoria Prentis made this point earlier, and it is very important. We frequently take evidence from organisations that say that it can be hard for a smaller company or smaller non-governmental organisation to get access to some of DFID’s contracts and programmes. That applies whether those companies and NGOs are in this country or in other countries. Greater opportunity for those smaller organisations to access programmes is important.

Alongside that, it is important that we see more autonomy for DFID’s country offices. I was interested to listen to the Secretary of State when he came to the Committee last week, because he was proposing something quite radical in terms of greater autonomy for the country offices. He made an important point—it is something we said in one of our reports—about the concern that, in recent years, DFID has lost some of its in-house expertise in certain areas and made itself much more reliant on contracting for that expertise. Indeed, many of the people now getting the contracts used to be the in-house experts. The Secretary of State contrasted how much DFID spends on specialist country advisers on education or climate change with some of the other donors who spend a lot more. I welcomed him saying to us that he would look at that again, and all power to his elbow.