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Harriett Baldwin responds to a debate on the future of the Department for International Development

27th February 2019

Harriett Baldwin responds to a debate in Westminster Hall on the future of the Department for International Development.

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) on securing today’s debate. It is worth highlighting that we have had a range of excellent speeches, eight of which were from Conservative and Democratic Unionist party colleagues, while there are five Labour Members here. The way in which the issues were raised in the debate, and the endorsement that the Conservative manifesto at the last election gave to the 0.7%, sets our record straight right off the bat, in terms of our commitment and our pride in being part of the movement that put 0.7% in statute—we are the only country in the world to have done that so far—and to the Government’s policy to retain the Department for International Development as a stand-alone Department. The reasons for that were well articulated by a range of Members.

I am a Minister in both the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That makes a great deal of sense because, to highlight just one, South Sudan, of the worst humanitarian crises—where some of our biggest DFID budgets are—we can see that it is entirely a man-made conflict, and we need to work not only through providing humanitarian assistance, but by doing what we can on the political track to try to bring that conflict to a resolution. That is why it makes sense for me and the Minister for the Middle East to be in both Departments.

We have heard a range of excellent speeches, many of them focused on history and some of the lessons we have learned through history on how to do what we do more effectively. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who spoke eloquently about the role of the Department, many of the people who have served in the Department over the years, and the role of overseas development assistance in soft power and Global Britain. His characteristic modesty did not allow him to mention that he, I think, came up with “UK aid—from the British people”. That is now widely used in our projects—I saw it on an Ethiopian water tank only last week. We should pay tribute to him for that; I know Ministers would like to see more of it.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) spoke about M-KOPA and CDC. I was glad to hear that, because I have not always heard a consistent message of support from Labour Members on CDC, the private sector development arm. It brings a great deal of private sector capital into development issues and M-KOPA, which he highlighted, is a particularly good example.​

The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund plays an important role. I reassure colleagues that 100% of our 0.7% spending comes in a form that is approved by the Development Assistance Committee. We have pushed to change some of the rules over the years and have been successful in doing that, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) highlighted one of those successes. We have also been able to get the allocation for peacekeeping up from 7% to 15%. The role of the UN peacekeepers is important and the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund providing the foundation of peace and security for development is vital.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) rightly highlighted the important work that has been done through the aid budget to tackle a wide range of diseases, not just malaria and neglected tropical diseases but diseases such as polio. He spoke of the need for long-term development funding, which we do primarily through the World Bank now. He is making a powerful case for the UK to have its own bank. He rightly highlighted the importance of the Small Charities Challenge Fund and the aid match projects that allow us to match one-to-one the wishes of the British public with spending.

Gareth Thomas
The Minister will be aware of the SheDecides global movement, which supports the right of every girl and woman to make the decisions that only they should make. SheDecides Day is coming up fast. Will the Minister tell the House why the Secretary of State has not agreed to be an ambassador for the movement?

Harriett Baldwin
I cannot, because I was not aware of it, but I know that there is no one who women and girls around the world can count on more than our Secretary of State for her championing of the need to put women and girls first. It is putting women and girls first, and creating an environment where they do well, that enables the rest of the country to do well. That is vital and is incorporated in all of our programming.

The hon. Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas) also raised the issue of corruption, which is an example of where cross-Government working is so important, so that we can work with the National Crime Agency to tackle some of the financial flows and corruption that flow from some developing countries where we are spending overseas development assistance, through the UK courts and UK financial system. It is a good example of where we need to work across government.

Members discussed the fact that some other Departments spend overseas development assistance. Of course they do, for a range of things, whether that is trade, development, the work of the National Crime Agency, the work on ​the environment and plastics through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or the work that we do on tackling climate change, which needs to be joined-up across government. There was a wide outbreak of consensus on that.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) raised an important, underlying function: for us to save lives through what we do with aid. He was absolutely right to highlight that. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) highlighted the importance of value for money and being able to tell the British taxpayer that we are getting it. The debate has allowed us to highlight some excellent examples of value for money.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey), who I thank for the excellent work he did as my previous Private Parliamentary Secretary—he would be welcome back any time; he just needs to support the withdrawal agreement—highlighted that it is not just that the money should be spent well, but that it could not be spent better. The hon. Members for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) and for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) also made supportive comments.

I am glad to be able to reassure hon. Members that it is indeed Government policy to continue with the excellent stand-alone work of the Department for International Development. We can point to a strong track record of delivering results. We will continue to work across Government in a joined-up way in trying to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030. We have heard a lot about the past of the Department. The future of the Department must surely be about focusing on achieving the sustainable development goals and on spending more of our money in areas of extreme poverty.


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Harriett Baldwin
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