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

He is shaking his head before he receives the answer—I thought we were going to have a sensible debate about the pros and cons of this change. I listened carefully to what he said, so he might do me that courtesy in return. We had an integrated approach, and we brought the alignment as far as we conceivably could on covid, the repatriation of nationals, the hunt for a vaccine, and keeping supply chains open. However, this situation has brought to light and made clear to us how much more effective we can be if we integrate through this merger.

The hon. Gentleman asked when the Prime Minister made the final decision. Obviously he spent weeks considering it, but he announced the change on Tuesday, swiftly after the conclusions had been resolved. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the aid budget will be protected, and we are committed to the figure of 0.7% of gross national income—I think that reassures those who are concerned that somehow the aid budget will be cut as a result of this change, which is not true.

The hon. Gentleman asked about DIT and trade, and as the Prime Minister made clear on Tuesday, we will ensure that our trade envoys are responsible for formally reporting to ambassadors and high commissioners in their respective countries. More broadly, the International Trade Secretary, who answered questions in the House a few moments ago, is doing an exceptional job in striking those free trade deals, which are a great opportunity for businesses and consumers in this country. That will continue. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned third party support. There has been widespread agreement on this from the Chair of the Select Committee, from my predecessor as Foreign Secretary, and from the HALO Trust, which is a charity that deals with landmines and welcomes this move.

I will leave the hon. Gentleman with one thought: of OECD developed countries, only one has a separate Ministry of Development. Indeed, the tide has been in the direction of integrating foreign policy with aid and development, as that is the progressive thing to do. I understand why the Labour party, which set up DFID, feels proprietorial about it, but what matters is the effectiveness of foreign policy. What we have learned during coronavirus is that this merger will ensure that we can be as effective as possible, and deliver more efficient value for taxpayers’ money.