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

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development) 10:36 am, 18th June 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Sarah Champion for her important urgent question.

“The effectiveness with which DFID is able to deliver aid is because the Department has decades of honed experience in understanding the most effective and targeted ways of spending taxpayers’
money”—[Official Report, 10 June 2020;
Vol. 677, c. 276.]

—not my words, but those of the Secretary of State for International Development, last week, who now appears to have simply been completely overruled.

Scrapping a Department that is crucial to global vaccine development provides health care and aids the world’s poorest in the middle of a global pandemic is irresponsible and counterproductive and wrong. The Government should be totally focused on steering our country through the challenges we face right now. We have had one of the highest death tolls from covid-19 in the world. Millions of children are out of school and face the worst unemployment crisis in a generation, which will hit young people and the lowest-paid the hardest; and these challenges are global too.

Instead, the Prime Minister has decided to undertake a large-scale restructure, which will cost millions of pounds of public money, and he will abolish a Department that is the most transparent, the most effective and a global champion at delivering value for money for British taxpayers. Instead, UK aid will be spent through Departments, which, TaxPayers Alliance found,

“neither” contribute

“to poverty reduction or the national interest.”

So can the Foreign Secretary tell me: when did the Prime Minister decide this matter? Why did he not wait for the conclusion of the integrated review? Did the decision go through the National Security Council? Which civil society and development partners were consulted? How much will the reorganisation cost and what legislative changes are planned? Will the DFID budget be ring-fenced in the new Department?

The Foreign Secretary also mentioned trade envoys. What role now for the Department for International Trade? Multiple former Prime Ministers, from both sides of the House, have criticised the decision. A former Conservative Secretary of State for International Development said:

“Most British diplomats lack the experience and skills to manage 100 million pound development programs…Trying to pretend these two very different organisations are” the same

“damages both.”

Laurie Lee, the chief executive of Care International, said,

“this is the worst decision on aid since the Pergau dam scandal” and

“In the middle of a national crisis, the Prime Minister has chosen to spend time, focus and effort on fixing a problem which does not exist…it’s not too late…to think again.”

This is not global Britain. This retreat from the global stage is a mistake, and we firmly oppose this attempt to abolish the Department. It will not only have a life-threatening impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, but it will reduce our ability to make the world safer, fairer and better for all.