Boris Johnson scraps DFID
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has scrapped the UK’s overseas aid department after 23 years to the fury of opposition MPs, ex-ministers, and three former prime ministers.
The PM today announced that he has merged the Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign Office, creating a new department, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. The merge will also see the new department taking control of the UK’s £14.5 billion overseas aid budget.
Mr Johnson told the Commons: ‘We must now strengthen our position in an intensely competitive world by making sensible changes. And so I have decided to merge Dfid with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to create a new department … the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the announcement ‘a distraction’ from how poorly the Government is handling the pandemic.
Sir Keir said: ‘A few hours ago the ONS figures showed a fall of 600,000 people on the payroll. The economy contracted by 20% in April and we could be on a verge of the return to mass unemployment, something we’ve not seen for a generation.
‘We’ve also one of the highest death tolls from Covid-19 in the world, at least 41,700 deaths and likely to be far greater than that. And in the last.’
He added: ‘This statement is intended to deflect attention from all of that and can I assure the Prime Minister it will not work.’
Sir Keir said the UK cannot play a leading role in the world by abolishing Dfid, saying: ‘I want to see Britain as a moral force for good in the world, a force for global justice and co-operation, leading the world on global security, leading the global search for a vaccine, leading the fight against poverty, climate change and gender inequality. We don’t achieve that by abolishing one of the best performing and important departments.’
Former Prime Minister David Cameron said the decision to merge the two departments was a ‘mistake’. In a tweet, he said: ‘More could and should be done to co-ordinate aid and foreign policy, including through the National Security Council, but the end of Dfid will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.’
When asked about Mr Cameron’s comments, the PM said he ‘profoundly disagrees’. Mr Johnson told the Commons: ‘In all my experiences… alas, there is an incoherence in UK foreign policy which we can now rectify and have a better, more powerful, more positive voice for this country overseas which puts the idealism of development aid professionals at the heart of our foreign policy.’
Tony Blair called to move to axe Dfid ‘wrong and regressive’, adding that he was ‘utterly dismayed’ by the decision. ‘It is a leader in both programmes and thought in development, helping millions of the world’s most vulnerable to be relieved of poverty and killer diseases. The strategic aims of alignment with diplomacy and focus on new areas of strategic interest to Britain could be accomplished without its abolition.’
While Gordon Brown wrote on Twitter: ‘Dfid has lifted millions of people out of poverty, saved millions of lives, and helped millions more children go to school. It’s sad the government is abolishing one of the UK’s great international assets.’
Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, who served as international development secretary during the coalition government, said closing Dfid would be a ‘quite extraordinary mistake’.
The former Cabinet minister said: ‘First, it would destroy one of the most effective and respected engines of international development anywhere in the world.
‘Second, many of the senior figures who are key to Britain’s role as a development superpower will likely leave and go elsewhere in the international system – at a stroke destroying a key aspect of global Britain.
‘Third, it is completely unnecessary as the Prime Minister exercises full control over Dfid’s strategy and priorities through the National Security Council.’
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, said the PM is ‘ripping apart the structures of UK aid’. He claimed the merger would see the UK ‘wind down aid for the world’s poorest’.
‘If these are the values of global Britain, then they do not represent the values of the vast majority of the people of Scotland,’ Mr Blackford fumed.
The Prime Minister told the Commons: ‘This will unite our aid with our diplomacy and bring them together in our international effort.’
Earlier, Mr Johnson said the Government remains committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on aid. He said: ‘Those well-intentioned decisions of 23 years ago were right for their time.
‘They paved the way for Britain to meet the UN target of 0.7% of national income on aid, a goal that was achieved by the coalition government in 2013 and has been maintained… ever since.
‘Including this year and it remains our commitment.’
Work will begin immediately on the merger and the department will be formally established in early September, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in charge of the new-look operation.
International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will remain in post until the merger is complete.
Downing Street sources indicated that there would be no compulsory redundancies.
The target of spending 0.7% of GNI on development, which was part of the December manifesto and is enshrined in law, will remain, it has been confirmed