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Poverty Reduction: ODA

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2020

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, the work of the UK to reduce poverty remains central to the objectives of this Government. The way we use ODA will continue to be guided by our responsibilities under the International Development Act 2002, including our commitment to poverty reduction. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will enhance our ability to be a force for good and partner to countries in need that seek support to help them climb the ladder of the sustainable development goals towards being strong, peaceful, economic states.

This Government cannot be trusted to tackle poverty here in the UK, and nor can they be trusted to tackle poverty overseas. In the middle of a global pandemic that is pushing millions into poverty, this Government have shut down the Department for International Development and dissolved a dedicated parliamentary Committee so that they can avoid scrutiny of aid spending. Will the Secretary of State please inform the House of how aid will be scrutinised from now on?

This Government remain absolutely committed to the 0.7% commitment, which is enshrined in law, and that will continue in the framework of the new Department. On scrutiny, clearly it is a question for Parliament how that scrutiny takes place and what the new framework of Committee assessment might be. However, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are absolutely clear that scrutiny should continue to be an absolute focus. It is incredibly important, and all of us as parliamentarians know just how important it is that we watch over, and can provide insight and broader reflection from all those we talk to, to make sure that Government do their best possible. The Government are continuing to support that, and the Foreign Secretary will set out where he hopes to do that in due course.

It is with great disappointment that this is the last DFID orals, and I want to pay tribute to all those officials in the Department for their work. I want to assure all those who recognise the importance of development and of supporting the world’s poorest that we in the Opposition will not follow the misguided path of the Government.

In recent weeks, we have heard the Secretary of State and hundreds of non-governmental organisations contradict the Prime Minister’s claims that there was

“massive consultation over a long period”—[Official Report, 16 June 2020; Vol. 677, c. 678.]

of time ahead of his announcement that he would scrap the Department. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether the Prime Minister misled Parliament, whether she misled the Select Committee last week and when an apology will be forthcoming?

I concur absolutely with the hon. Member that all those who serve—now and in years past—have brought a commitment to helping the UK do as much as it can to support poverty reduction. That commitment will continue and those who are making that their life’s work will continue to be part of the FCDO.

The Prime Minister was clear, as I have been, that any announcement is always brought to Parliament first. The ongoing consultation is now working continuously, and Baroness Sugg is leading that. However, consultation with NGOs was going on before that in relation to all sorts of other issues. That relationship with our NGOs and civil society organisations is something we take very seriously, and we will continue to do so.

The decision to axe the Department was done on a whim by the Prime Minister to try to distract from his handling of the pandemic. That is why there are still no details of what the new Department will look like, how it will operate or how it will be scrutinised to guarantee value for money for UK taxpayers who are rightly proud of the work DFID has done in tackling poverty around the world. Will the Secretary of State guarantee that funds will be focused on the world’s poorest and that any cuts to the aid budget come from funds that currently go to middle and upper-income countries or have been found to have limited development impact, such as those outlined in the ONE campaign’s real aid index?

DFID it is world renowned for its focus and programme expertise, and that will continue to be the case. Poverty reduction will continue to be a critical focus on how we spend the 0.7% that the Government continue to be committed to. We enshrined it in law and it will stay: the Prime Minister is absolutely committed to that. Interestingly, I think there is a real challenge with the sustainable development goals—there are 17 of them—and the ability to help a country become self-sufficient and climb up that ladder will absolutely continue. We will continue to commit to the 0.7% target, based on GNI.