I rise to speak on the merger of DFID with the Foreign Office. It is an estimates debate, but the decision as to whether International Development and the Foreign Office should be one Department or two is not about money. Even if it were, to expect it to happen now, at the height of the pandemic when civil servants should be focusing on the UK and world recovery, is an appalling waste of already overstretched resources. No, it is not about money: it is fundamentally about how the UK views its role in the world. It is about values and whether we pursue our obligations as a relatively wealthy country to do right by the poor and most marginalised of the world, while also pursuing our foreign policy, but as distinct objectives. I fear we will subsume those obligations to the poor of the world into the Foreign Office, whose priorities are not about development.
The Prime Minister indicated recently that there is now likely to be a reprioritisation of aid spending. He said
“We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, although the latter is vital for European security”.
He added that the UK must use its
“aid budget and expertise, to safeguard British interests and values overseas.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 677, c. 667-8.]
What are those values? To me, development is not about national security interests. I believe it is about how we demonstrate our moral compass in the world—