Official Development Assistance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:40 pm on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls, Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls 2:40 pm, 9th July 2020

An awful lot of stuff has been said this afternoon, most of which I agree with. I come at this issue from two perspectives; the first is as the co-chair of the Conservative Friends of International Development. Like my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, I would not have wanted us to be in this position but, also like him, I do appreciate that we have to deal with the landscape as we find it. We have one or two suggestions. Following on from what my hon. Friend Harriett Baldwin said, Cabinet representation is incredibly important. It might be a good idea to have a chief secretary of international development, in the same way that we have a Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Similarly, a permanent secretary for international development in the FCDO might be helpful.

More important is the question of scrutiny, which the Chairman of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion, is absolutely right to raise—she was right to bring about this debate. As of Tuesday, I have taken over as the Chair of the Committees on Arms Export Controls. Although this is a slightly techy area of the whole thing, it is incredibly important to remember that DFID had a role to play in our arms export control process. Four Government Departments feed into our decisions as to whether to issue export licences: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DFID and the Ministry of Defence all feed up into the Export Control Joint Unit, which sits in the Department for International Trade. DFID has a role to play in deciding whether we issue arms export licences, and that is to make sure that those people who receive our aid are not going to be spending that money on fancy fast jets and diverting it away from what it should be doing. It is incredibly important to have that DFID role; I hope that the Minister will be able to define exactly what is happening to make sure that that happens correctly in the new FCDO.

There is also the issue of scrutiny by Parliament. One thing that troubles me is that the Committees on Arms Export Controls—CAEC—is made up of members of the four Select Committees that represent or analyse each of those four Departments that I mentioned. The problem that we have now is that as the International Development Committee will no longer exist, it will no longer be able to feed into CAEC. Wide Committees like CAEC include a number of Members who bring different perspectives to the analysis of this very controversial policy area. People from the Defence Committee see it from a military point of view, and there are those from the Foreign Affairs Committee and the International Trade Committee, but those people from the International Development Committee see it from a humanitarian position, an aid position, a compassionate position. We need to think carefully about how we get that element of membership of people who are passionate about international development and who can look at representations with regard to—if anyone is interested—criterion eight of the joint consolidated criteria for export licensing. How can we can get that specific expertise into CAEC?