Official Development Assistance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:58 pm on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 2:58 pm, 9th July 2020

I congratulate Sarah Champion on calling this debate. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Sir David Amess. I will try to make three or four points as briefly as possible.

The idea that foreign policy is separate from aid has been well and truly kicked into touch by my hon. Friend Robert Courts. Whether we like it or not, there is a link between them, and it is better to recognise that, to understand that foreign policy should be moral as well as aid and to understand their combination.

I would ask the Minister three things. First, can we look at strategy as part of global Britain? We have the National Security Council. However, I feel that since the end of the cold war we have been a little complacent in preparing for future problems.

We need a national strategy council to permanently look five and 10 years ahead, whether that is into pandemics, the behaviour of nation states such as China and Russia, or climate change. We are not forward-thinking enough, and that is one of the contributions I would like us to make to understand how we can bring strategy more into our forward-looking policy.

Secondly, when it comes to overseas spending, when I was writing the “Global Britain” document last year that the Prime Minister very kindly wrote the foreword for, we tried to understand where our overseas money was going. Some of it was being spent by the Department for International Development, some by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, some by the Home Office and some by the Foreign Office—quite badly, often. I can congratulate DFID on the quality of its spending, no doubt about it. We do not have an audit of our overseas spending, and I believe that we badly need one. There is no doubt in this House that poverty alleviation is critical—it is moral; it is right; it is good. Grassroots development is critical—it is moral, right and good.

My hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall talked about gender-based violence. I was involved in the campaign against ISIS when we were trying to liberate Mosul and it haunts me still, and makes me deeply upset still, that we knew that we were trying to liberate a city where not only were people being tortured, but women were being raped until their internal organs were collapsing and dying. These things are deeply worrying, and we need strategy. We need DFID and the Foreign Office to be working together on this, but there is a lot of DFID spending that is not on priority areas and spending that is justifiably questionable, so can we please have an audit of overseas spending?

In the 30 seconds I have left, I say that we do need to look again at ODA. We are permanently trying to revise the rules on ODA and we should not be ashamed to do so. For example, we can fund a coal-fired power station but we cannot fund the BBC to develop civil society. I believe that the BBC World Service should be funded from ODA.