I congratulate my hon. Friend Sarah Champion on securing this important debate. The merger of DFID and the Foreign Office, without consultation with stakeholders or any clear plan on aid transparency, has caused great concern. To allay that concern, I have three asks of the Minister.
First, transparency in aid spend is crucial to building confidence and international credibility. The latest aid transparency index ranks DFID very highly in comparison with how the Foreign Office spends its aid budget. There are serious concerns about how the recommendations of the index will be implemented in the new, merged Department, so I ask the Minister for assurances that those recommendations will be implemented in the new Department.
Secondly, the International Development Act 2002 requires the Government to be satisfied that their aid spend will contribute to a reduction in poverty. We need clarity and binding commitments from the Government that that will continue. Developing countries are threatened by the coronavirus pandemic due to pressures on already vulnerable healthcare systems, so this is no time for uncertainty over aid programmes. There are fears that the commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on international aid will be removed. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will continue to fund aid at 0.7% of GNI, and that they will commit to allocating resources to promote gender equality and publish reports on those efforts, as DFID does now?
Finally, DFID’s reputation and influence is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a real risk that the UK’s reputation in the aid sector will be diminished as a result of the loss of focus on international aid. We should be leading the call on the cancellation of debt and speaking up for developing countries such as Ghana, where DFID has 34 active projects. Ghana spends 11 times more on servicing its debts than on its healthcare system. Will the Minister confirm the Government’s commitment to debt cancellation?
Unless we have firm guarantees and a long-term commitment from the Government to transparency, direction and influence for international aid, the world’s most vulnerable will suffer.