Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development) 7:00 pm, 1st July 2019

I would like to press on because I am coming to my key point.

We all know that what the right hon. Member for Tatton said is not the case. Although the right hon. Lady was quickly eliminated from the leadership race, the favourite to be next Prime Minister does not fare any better. Boris Johnson has previously said that aid spending should be used in the UK’s

“political, commercial and diplomatic interests”,

and has called for the Department’s purpose to be changed from poverty reduction to furthering

“the nation’s overall strategic goals”.

It could not be clearer. Those are not my words but those of the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, who is currently leading the race to be Prime Minister. I hope that that answers some questions.

Our future Prime Minister has little clue about either the importance of or the necessity for protecting the most vulnerable in the world and fails to see that it is in our strategic interests to do so. The Tory right can absolutely not be trusted to protect ODA spending, with the likely future Prime Minister calling for DFID to be mothballed and brought back into the Foreign Office. That flies in the face of the advice from a former head of the Foreign Office, Peter Ricketts, who said that DFID

“has established a worldwide reputation which is good for Britain. It was not a happy time when aid was part of the FCO: too easy to have conflicts of interest and aid badly used for political projects”.

Indeed, the 2018 aid transparency index, the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major development agencies, rated DFID as very good, whereas the Foreign Office, which the lead prime ministerial candidate led as Foreign Secretary, was rated as “poor”.

Let us be in no doubt that it is essential that the UK’s ODA spend must contribute in a focused manner to sustainable development and the fight against poverty, injustice and inequality internationally. It is vital that it is never allowed to be viewed through the prism of national and commercial interests and as part of pet projects such as Global Britain. The Department for International Development must remain dedicated to its core mission of helping the world’s most vulnerable people. Anything less is not only a complete dereliction of duty, but an absence of humanity.

To conclude, I cast my mind back three weeks to the debate in this House on sustainable development goals, when we were in agreement on the importance of tackling the massive challenges that we as a planet will face in the coming years—whether it be disease, displacement, food security, poverty or climate change. We are already in a position to have a significant impact on tackling these challenges, but only if DFID is adequately resourced and funded. We cannot let other Departments, Brexit or future right-wing Tory Prime Ministers derail that and we must be resolute in our defence of international development and the 0.7% commitment.