Official Development Assistance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:50 pm on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes 2:50 pm, 9th July 2020

It is a privilege to speak in this debate. I stand here as chair of the all-party group on preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative. I thank Sarah Champion for her work as the Chair of the International Development Committee, including the recent work on the effectiveness of aid, which has been an exceptional insight into how we can provide better resources for our overseas projects. I am also acutely aware of the extraordinary levels of knowledge and influence in this House, from previous Secretaries of State to perhaps forthcoming Secretaries of State—I thought that was a fine interview.

Let me discuss something that my right hon. Friend Dr Murrison started with. In this House we are all discussing the value of aid. We have to go back to the doorstep to defend this at a time when we are in debt, almost to second world war levels. We have to be able to go out there to help define and make people understand the value of what we are trying to achieve overseas. That is a very difficult task at present. So we should not be afraid of the forthcoming changes in terms of this merger, and I say that as a sceptic. I was very sceptical about the benefits it may have for our country.

If we can harness the ability and knowledge of all those who work in DFID, with the experience of those in the Foreign Office, we can end this Janus-esque approach, where we give with one hand and take with the other—where a country may have multiple delegations of British diplomats visiting and helping on a diplomatic level, but we are then giving or taking away on an aid project, whichever the case may be.

The other point to make relates to the need for ICAI and the International Development Committee to continue. My hon. Friend Mark Garnier made an apt point about the value of accountability and harnessing the understanding and knowledge of different Members of this House on different Committees. I propose that we continue to see ICAI operate, to have the IDC sitting and to have regular meetings of the IDC and the Foreign Affairs Committee every quarter—or however often they decide it should be—to discuss the projects that have been undertaken.

The last point I wish to make is about gender-based violence. During the covid crisis, we have seen this violence rise, both in the UK and abroad. This is the area where I am undertaking work in this House, so I hope the House can forgive me for being blatantly opportunistic in raising it, but we have an opportunity to start ring-fencing spending and funding on this issue. If there is one problem that I have always identified with DFID, it has been its shortcomings on multi-year funding on projects that could make a huge difference. We have the opportunity now to be strategically forward-thinking in delivering projects that I believe will make a significant difference and we can start by tackling gender-based violence.