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

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. I would argue that all taxpayers’ money spent by DFID—all the overseas development aid budget—is in Britain’s national interest. It helps to make other countries safer and more prosperous, which has a direct effect on making us safer and more prosperous.

What should our priorities be now? I want briefly to mention four. First, we should recognise the importance of tackling conflict. It is conflict above all that mires people in poverty. Britain has been a huge provider of humanitarian relief in Syria—it has provided more humanitarian relief to the poor suffering people of Syria, within its borders and without, than the whole of the rest of the European Union put together, as we try to absorb the humanitarian shock of the massive failure of policy that is the Syria conflict. I am a tremendous critic of the Government’s shameful policy on Yemen. Nevertheless, humanitarian aid to Yemen is helping many tens of thousands of people who, without it, would starve. If we look across sub-Saharan Africa, stretching from northern Nigeria through the Central African Republic to Sudan, where the number of displaced people is so immense, and through to the horn of Africa and up into Yemen, we see a belt of misery that is destabilising for the world. This is where international development and Britain’s commitment can make a real difference.

If the first key task is tackling conflict, the second is building prosperity. That is about building good governance and having a free media. I am very pleased that the Foreign Secretary is holding an international conference to espouse the importance of a free media. We keep politicians and powerful people on the straight and narrow through having a free media and the rule of law. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby, the Chairman of the International Development Committee, made the point that the CDC has a huge impact on building prosperity. Its annual report, published today, makes clear two extraordinary statistics. First, in 2018 alone, CDC investments—CDC is the 100% British taxpayer-owned investor of pioneer and patient capital—led directly to the employment of 852,130 people. That is an enormous number of families who have a breadwinner and who are being fed. The investments made by CDC in the poor world have led to tax of $3.2 billion being paid into the Exchequers of those countries over the past year. That is an extraordinary impact. That money may not always be well spent once it arrives in the Exchequers of those countries, but it shows that investment in enterprises in poor countries is not only employing people but yielding tax revenue.

The third priority is the absolutely prime importance of demonstrating to our hard-pressed taxpayers that their money is really well used. We should always strive to get more out of each taxpayer pound that is spent. We owe it to our constituents, who are stumping up the money, to show them that they really are getting in 100 pence of value for every pound we spend. We cannot do too much as politicians and Ministers—the Minister, I know, will agree—to make the case and explain why the money is so well spent.