Official Development Assistance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:24 pm on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 2:24 pm, 9th July 2020

The House will understand why I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me an extra minute, but I have learned during my 30 years in Parliament that, in politics, there is limited point in spending one’s time howling at the moon. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision, it has been made, so I will turn now to how best it can be implemented, with the least damage to Britain’s brilliant work and reputation.

I draw the Minister’s attention to the excellent paper produced by Stefan Dercon, who was the chief economist in the Department when I was Secretary of State. I know the Foreign Secretary has had a chance to look at it. I hope the Foreign Office will bear in mind the constructive comments made in that wise and thoughtful paper on how to make the merger work. First It is important to ensure a whole-of-Government approach to the spending of development money. Different Departments spend it, but not consistently, and most of the spend that attracts hostile comment in the press—the spend in China, for example, or the Newton fund—is not spent by DFID. In my first hour as Secretary of State, I stopped all spending to China, unless it was legally incurred. There is a danger that mis-spending by other Departments brings the budget into disrepute with our constituents, and I urge the Government to focus on that point.

Secondly, to ensure an emphasis on the quality of the spend, the ICAI looks at all spending. Its annual report comes out tomorrow, and I urge colleagues to read it. ICAI was set up in the teeth of opposition from the development sector, but it is extremely important for holding to account the quality of spending. It is the taxpayers’ friend, and we must drive up the quality of ODA spend across Government.