It is a pleasure to follow Mr Mitchell, a former Secretary of State, as he always makes a worthwhile contribution to our deliberations on DFID matters, although the David Cameron development consensus is a relatively new concept that I am not sure will catch on—but good luck! I also congratulate Mr Robertson on securing the debate.
We wait ages for DFID Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box for debates and then suddenly three debates come along at once. In the whole time I was the SNP’s DFID spokesperson, between 2015 and 2017, it would just be DFID questions every six weeks; we would be lucky to get the odd statement or debate in the Chamber—I know they are kept busy in Westminster Hall. After the SDGs debate two or three weeks ago, we are back again, which is very welcome, not least as Ministers are currently looking to secure legacies for themselves. Perhaps in discussing the Department’s expenditure as part of the estimates process, we can consider how Ministers might achieve that.
There is a clearly demonstrated passion on both sides of the House for the work of DFID and the value it brings around the world. Like other Members, I have had the huge privilege of visiting projects both before my election and since: peace villages in Rwanda, food security and nutrition projects in Uganda, climate change projects in Malawi—all transforming people’s lives on a daily basis thanks to the support of DFID.
That is because aid works. Despite the doubts in some people’s minds and the political expediency of saying otherwise, the reality is, as we have heard from speeches so far and will no doubt continue to hear, aid makes a difference around the world, which is why the 0.7% target came into existence in the first place. It was calculated in the 1970s that if all the wealthy countries contributed that proportion of their national income it would be enough to end poverty and inequality elsewhere.
In the decades since, OECD countries have not reached the target. It is commendable therefore that the UK has achieved a cross-party consensus and that the target was finally legislated for under the coalition, with massive public support and after years of campaigning. I do not have the exact statistic, but we worked out how many billions of pounds had not been spent in all the decades the UK was not meeting the 0.7% target, but it has been since 2013 and that ought to continue.