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 thank the hon. Gentleman, who served with distinction on the Committee until relatively recently. This is always a challenge when we undertake visits, because we are there to scrutinise how the money is being spent, so we are often somewhat in the hands of DFID about where we go, but there is a case to separate ourselves from that sometimes to get to hear those voices and to work with organisations such as VSO, so I thank him for that suggestion.

The final thing I want to address is what the hon. Member for Tewkesbury focused on, which is the fact that roughly 25% of official development assistance now goes not through DFID, but through other Government Departments. He made the case well. He asked whether it is too high or too low. I think the test is not so much whether it is too high or too low. For me, the test is whether it is as effective as the money spent through DFID. The current DFID permanent secretary, Matthew Rycroft, when he was before us a few months ago, said he felt that the DFID share should not go below 75%. That sounds about right to me and I think that is about where it is at the moment.

DFID has an important role to play as a driver of all the spending, and we have said as a Select Committee that DFID should sign off all ODA spending, including what goes through other Government Departments. We were supported in that in a recent report by the TaxPayers Alliance, which recognises that DFID has a stronger record than the other Government Departments. For me, it comes down to this. When we look at the Newton Fund, which the hon. Gentleman referred to; the prosperity fund; the conflict, stabilisation and security fund; or individual programmes by other Government Departments, is it absolutely focused on poverty reduction and, in particular, on creating jobs and livelihoods in the poorest parts of the world? Those programmes are perfectly capable of delivering that, and some of them do, but I do not think that is yet in the DNA of those other Government Departments in the way that it is in the DNA of DFID. By putting DFID in the driving seat, we can ensure that that is the case.

I am really pleased to have had the opportunity to speak in this debate. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman again. I finish by mentioning again the sustainable development goals and the voluntary national review that we will undertake this month. There is an opportunity here for us to ensure that we take these important issues out there and engage and re-engage with the great British public. I think there is a huge generosity in the British public—that is seen in the charitable donations when there are appeals during emergencies—but there is a scepticism about whether we are really getting value for money in aid spending. I believe, based on the evidence, that in most cases we are, but we have an opportunity as parliamentarians, on a cross-party basis, to get out there and persuade our constituents and the wider public that some fantastic things really are being done in their name.