Official Development Assistance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:05 pm on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Labour, Putney 3:05 pm, 9th July 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Sarah Champion on securing this important debate. I have worked in the international development sector for 25 years—before DFID and during DFID—and I have seen the effects of DFID’s work around the world. I believe this is the wrong action at the wrong time.

I welcome the commitment from those on the Government Benches to the 0.7% support. We must keep the focus on the poorest, who have been campaigned for by people up and down this country for so many years. This is the wrong time because we have not yet seen the peak of the coronavirus in countries around the world. We should be working flat-out with countries, not on accounting changes and organisational charts.

The Government are engaging in organisational navel-gazing instead of taking and shaping our place in the world at this important time. We have COP 26 and the G7 presidency coming up. We should be concerned about these huge issues, not about transforming and merging Departments, which will take two to three years to bed in. We should learn from Norway; at the same time as doing its merger, it increased its aid budget. That contributed to the merger’s success, but also it was not a full merger; it was a light-touch merger. Given the timing of these changes, I think that is what we need.

We should not rely only on more and more multilateral grants, but on local, trusted, adaptive, speedy aid agencies. That is why we have seen over 200 aid agencies complain that this is not the right move. We should listen to them and work with them, especially in response to the pandemic.

We need Cabinet-level representation—a permanent secretary just for this Department. The International Development Committee and ICAI must be maintained. The UK public must see the accountability of this move. They must see that the spending is on the poorest, if there really are to be trade-offs between Zambia and Ukraine. It is in our national interest—our British interest—to eradicate poverty, and we must spend our resources on global changes that we can all be proud of.