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Harriett Baldwin responds to debate on international development spending

1st July 2019

Harriett Baldwin responds to a debate on the Department for International Development’s spending and the UK’s 0.7% commitment - that is 7p in every £10 - to international development.

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

May I start by saying what an absolute privilege it is to respond to the debate, and to have had an extended period of time for scrutinising the Department for International Development’s spending? I therefore sincerely congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), my constituency neighbour, on securing the debate. We have heard a range of really excellent contributions. I also salute my hon. Friend for his sterling work—it is not often noticed in this Chamber—as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is interesting to note how many times Ethiopia has been mentioned in the debate.

While listening to the contributions, I was struck by the consensus that emerged on the importance of the 0.7% commitment, and our pride, as British citizens, that the UK was the first major country to put that into statute, which has gained us remarkable recognition around the world. I am very happy to be part of the Government who put that into statute. I also want to make the point right at the beginning of my speech that at the last general election all major parties made a commitment to that figure in their manifestos.​

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) suggested that this is no longer a political issue, but I submit that it is, because although all parties elected to this Parliament stood on manifestos that included the 0.7% commitment, the party that has recently been topping the polls has announced that it would halve international development spending. I therefore think that this relates to the important political commitment that we have made democratically to deliver Brexit on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom. If we do not, we stand to lose seats to a party that does not believe in the 0.7% commitment. That is where I diverge from the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law), who I do not believe has ever seen a referendum result that he wanted to respect. It is really important that we, as democrats, respect referendum outcomes.

I can reassure colleagues that I do not think there are any more than a few voices in my party who believe that 0.7% is an inappropriate target; I do not believe that in this Parliament there is any chance of it being at risk. I also happily support having an independent voice at the Cabinet table for development spending, which has been very important for delivering on the spending commitment.

We have had an excellent debate, with first-class contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who for so long provided the Department with such great leadership, and the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady). My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), in a really excellent speech, brought us back to the powerful moral arguments for development assistance. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) spoke of his exceptionally generous constituents, who also want us to be thrifty.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire continued a valuable campaign that she has been involved in for many years, focusing on the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, and the need for the UK to show leadership in combating it. She will be pleased to read in Hansard tomorrow that, following the most recent story about Oxfam in the newspapers over the weekend, we have checked and do not believe that any DFID funding is involved. As the House will know, we hold our suppliers to account.

My hon. Friends the Members for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) and for Erewash (Maggie Throup) paid tribute, as did other hon. Members, to the important work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We were so proud to announce at the G20 over the weekend that we are increasing our contribution to the Global Fund, because literally millions of lives will be saved by that important contribution.

I want to tackle some of the common themes that emerged during the debate. First, everyone agrees that transparency is a good thing, that there is a lot of transparency in overseas development assistance spending, and that it is important that we focus 50% of our spending, as we do, on the most fragile and conflict-affected states. In the next spending review we aim to keep 75% of overseas development assistance spending within the Department for International Development—I put that down from the Dispatch Box this evening. We can follow that with interest as we go into the spending review.​
It is early days for the prosperity fund, but we have seen some very good outcomes in the multilateral agreement that was delivered by the fund to return stolen assets to countries such as Nigeria—$321 million will return to Nigeria through our small amount of spending in the prosperity fund. There have been very good examples of spending from the conflict, stability and security fund. For example, through anti-human trafficking work in Kenya, 90 victims of trafficking and sexual abuse have been rescued. There have been some really good examples from the Newton Fund, which is spent by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on the feasibility of creating a vaccine for the Zika virus. There are some really good examples, and these funds publish their annual reports on spending. I think that we can all agree that transparency is very valuable.

Points were made consistently about the value of small charities and civil society organisations. We have done a lot to try to make it easier—for example, through the small charities fund and Aid Match for specific programmes—to ensure that some of those fantastic smaller charities get the chance to deliver projects with overseas development assistance. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact and the importance of its work were cited a few times. It has done some very good scrutiny of our multilateral spending, and I think we have all been able, through multilateral initiatives such as the Global Fund, to see the value of spending through such organisations. We try to publish as much as we can on our own website as well, as through those multilateral organisations, to show how that money is spent.

Jim Shannon

One of the things that many of us spoke about, and which I spoke particularly about, was education. Through DFID we will be able to increase levels of education, achievement and attainment, and thereby opportunity, particularly for young girls and young women.

Harriett Baldwin

Indeed. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of—and, I am sure, champions in Strangford—the opportunities that come through Connecting Classrooms. We will all have been lobbied by the wonderful “send my friend to school” campaign, which my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash mentioned. I love that campaign, and I wish I were in a position to announce more than the fact that we will continue our championing of the important work that is being done on education in difficult areas and refugee camps.

Another theme that came up was the importance of our being able to help with tax revenues. Experts within Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have been able, via spending through another Government Department, to deliver huge increases in tax revenues in some countries. That is proving to be one of the very best ways in which we can spend the overseas development budget. In addition, there is the work that we have done through funding posts within the International Trade Department and the National Crime Agency. We are seeing some real benefits, with money going back to developing countries for them to spend on their priorities. Some really valuable contributions are being made.

A number of Members mentioned the CDC and the amazing number of jobs that it has created. It is important to point out that it has not invested in any new coal ​projects since 2012, although it does have some investments in fossil fuels. When it is making its policy, it examines whether that is the right thing to do going forward. Obviously, it will make that decision independently. We need to recognise that a lot of the developing world lacks access to energy, which is sometimes an important part of their being able to develop.

We heard about the Scotland Malawi Partnership. I always love paying tribute to that, because it is such a rich partnership. The hon. Member for Glasgow North made a sensible point about trying to map the range of different ways in which civil society links with the developing world.

My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell made a moral point about development. He mentioned UK Export Finance and some of its support for fossil fuel. He may want to raise that with the Department for International Trade with regard to some projects.

I can tell the House—I do not think this got anywhere near the media coverage that the Global Fund announcement got—that the Prime Minister also announced at the G20 that in future all our overseas development assistance will be deployed in line with our Paris commitments. That is a really big announcement that did not get much coverage, so I am pleased to be able to mention it from the Dispatch Box.

A range of other important points were made today. We heard about malaria and work against AIDS, and the number of people whose lives will be saved. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling mentioned the Chinese belt and road initiative. We do take a different approach to development—there is no question about it—but we find that there are some occasions when our development priorities may overlap, and we are open to looking at those occasions when they arise. We spend a lot of time encouraging the deployment of development assistance from China in the same kind of way that we would deploy it, for example, to multilaterals such as the Global Fund—specifically, at the moment, with the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it would be wonderful to see a bigger contribution to the World Health Organisation from Chinese development assistance.

If I may, I will take just a couple more minutes, Mr Deputy Speaker, but you are giving me that look, so—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle)

Just to help the Minister, we all agreed to 10 minutes each. I have no problem with that, but the list for the education debate has just been added to, and that is what I am bothered about. I am just trying to make sure that we get equal time.

Harriett Baldwin

In that case, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will be very brief in summing up.

Our annual report is going to be published next week, on 11 July. That will be a very good way in which we can summarise all the different ways in which the 0.7% commitment is saving lives, making a difference to our world, and giving our children and our grandchildren a brighter future. We do this very proudly as the UK, with deep expertise and a real commitment not only morally but in statute to continue to lead in this important area.


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Harriett Baldwin
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