I was hugely disappointed to hear that the Department for International Development is to merge with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is an internationally recognised development agency, with serious, heavyweight power and a committed and expert team. There is no doubt that DFID has led the world in its commitments to reducing poverty, saving lives and transforming countries around the world. It is consistently the best-performing Department, delivering real value for British taxpayers.
Not only does the Department provide humanitarian support, but it ensures access to clean water and sanitation; responds to global health threats by contributing to disease surveillance—something we must certainly appreciate, given our current situation; and fosters strong governance across the globe, tackling corruption and supporting peace efforts worldwide.
In addition, aid is paramount in tackling climate change in some of the world’s poorest countries, from small-scale renewable energy projects in Uganda to conservation in Latin America. Climate justice comes as a priority and must certainly be recognised. I worry that this merger will water down some of those rights and will detract from the use of our aid budget.
I am deeply concerned by the calls from some Members on the Government side for us to scrap the 0.7% commitment, and very pleased to hear from those taking part in this debate that there is that commitment still. I am very pleased to hear so many Members state that. The UK provides an enormous amount of aid for this money and, for the reasons I have just highlighted, gives a lot of bang for its buck.
I want to talk about fair trade as well, because it is hugely important and it has made such a huge difference, especially to women in developing countries. That is why I listen to the words of the Fairtrade Foundation chief executive, Michael Gidney, who said that now is not the time to reduce Britain’s aims and ambitions on the world stage, and that downgrading the role of the internationally respected, global aid powerhouse that is DFID is a backward step.
I conclude by calling on the Government to protect the aid budget and give priority to protecting programmes and achieving the best and greatest results in reducing poverty. This country and, indeed, the world are changing rapidly, and two decades’ worth of experience must not be thrown to the wayside. I urge the Government to retain the Select Committee to scrutinise the work and expenditure in that field.