DFID-FCO Merger

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:36 am on 18th June 2020.

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Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 10:36 am, 18th June 2020

I thank the hon. Lady. It is good to hear that she is championing global Britain, and I agree with her on her points about the centrality of UK aid to our foreign policy, including our soft power. I totally agree with her on that. Her instincts and ours are entirely aligned.

I have explained and set out in my answer to her question exactly why we are doing this now. Covid-19—the crisis, the challenge—has forced us to align and integrate more closely than we have done before, and that was a positive step, but it has also shown how much further we can go if we integrate the formal decision-making structures. The discussions about and consideration of this have been going on for several weeks and months, but it has been under debate for considerably longer.

The hon. Lady asked about the financial repercussions of the merger. Of course, there are opportunities to save administrative costs, but as we have made clear, there will be no compulsory redundancies or anything like that. We are committed to the 0.7% of GNI commitment, which is something she asked. I can give her reassurance about that. We want the aid budget and the development know-how and expertise that we have in DFID—it has done a fantastic job, including under respective Development Secretaries—at the beating heart of our international decision-making processes.

The hon. Lady asked about the Select Committee. It is ultimately, I believe, a matter for the House, but certainly the Government’s view is that normally the Select Committees would mirror Government Departments. However, as I say, that is a decision for the usual channels and, ultimately, for the House.

The hon. Lady then asked about the National Security Council. Ultimately, the Prime Minister leads the foreign policy of the day. He does that, in practical terms, through his chairmanship of the National Security Council. The role of Secretary of State for the new Department will be to make sure, in an integrated and aligned way, that aid is right at the heart, not just of the Foreign Office, but of Cabinet discussions and NSC discussions.

The hon. Lady also mentioned the Gavi summit. The Gavi summit is an exceptional example of why it makes sense to integrate our decision-making processes in this way, because it links our development means and goals with our wider foreign policy goals. We want a vaccine for the people of this country, but we also know, as a matter of moral responsibility but also good sensible foreign policy, that we must do more to uphold the most vulnerable countries and help them weather the crisis, so that we do not get a second wave of this crisis.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa has just come back from a virtual meeting on Yemen. Yemen is another exceptionally good example of where our foreign policy interests in bringing an end to that terrible conflict align with our development and aid goals—with trying to alleviate the humanitarian plight. I would hope that is something that Members in all parts of the House could get behind.