Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 5:32 pm, 1st July 2019

I am most grateful to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate, and indeed to follow the Chairman of the International Development Committee, Stephen Twigg, who does the job so very well and in such an open and transparent way. I draw the House’s attention to my interests, which are documented in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

In discussing these estimates, I want to make the point that DFID is one of the most transparent Departments of State. Almost all its expenditure, from a very low level, is in the public domain. When it comes to transparency and the ability really to scrutinise where money is going, DFID is not surpassed by many, if any, Departments in Whitehall. I am particularly pleased about the level of agreement, although we must be wary when the House of Commons appears to agree in almost every corner—we must remember the words of the late Harold Macmillan, who said that when the House of Commons is in complete agreement, there is probably something wrong—so we must maintain self-criticism in spite of such agreement. I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr Robertson on launching this debate, and doing it with his customary efficiency, good sense and judgment.

I am very pleased that the issue of development has not been caught up in the leadership election that my party is going through, and that what I would call the David Cameron development consensus continues to motivate and define British policy in this very important area. With all the Brexit distractions, global Britain is something that, across the House, we are very keen to see driven forward in the post-Brexit era. In many ways, the progress being made at the moment in respect of global Britain is almost entirely in this area, as I will come on, I hope, to demonstrate.

The Department for International Development contains many leading international experts who are respected around the world. It is important to underline just how respected this relatively new Department is. Hon. Members of all parties have emphasised this afternoon the importance of its remaining a separate Department. I do not think that anyone is suggesting that it should not be a separate Department, but let us be clear that it does not need to be part of another Department because of the National Security Council. That is the link between diplomacy, development and defence. The policy is beaten out and agreed there, and that provides the right level of co-ordination and underlines the importance of keeping DFID as its own area of expertise, which makes such a large contribution internationally.

United Kingdom leadership is about not just DFID, good though the Department is, but many of the academic institutions throughout the UK, which, through their academic work and thought leadership, lead on development policies around the world. Development is of huge interest to the younger generation. I am able to do a little bit of work at Cambridge University, Birmingham University and Harvard on the matter, and I am struck by how many of the next generation are united in a determination to tackle the appalling inequalities of wealth and opportunity that disfigure our world, about which our generation and theirs can do so much through technology, globalisation and so on.