Thank you for contacting me regarding scrutiny of UK aid.
The new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will place UK Aid at the heart of what it does, leveraging the development expertise of Department for International Development (DFID) through the reach of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) global network. The new department launched on the 2nd September and is led by the Foreign Secretary.
I am proud that the UK has been at the heart of the international effort to tackle Covid-19, which shows the good that this country can do through our international engagement. The current crisis shows just how important it is that development and diplomatic efforts are fused together more closely, in order to maximise our international impact and make the biggest difference to people’s lives.
I hope this merger will mean that, within the new Department, we will still see all the idealism and sense of mission that came from DFID, alongside an understanding of the need to project UK values, UK policies and UK interests overseas. Our values are not just right in themselves, but also the best route to lasting stability and growth.
I will follow closely the Prime Minister’s assurance that this is not about rolling back commitments on international development, but about pursuing them with greater effect, and that reducing poverty will remain central to the UK’s international work. The five ODA priorities are: bottom billion poverty reduction, climate change, girls' education, COVID-19 and Britain as a force for good.
I believe the role of scrutinising these commitments should be performed by a separate International Development Committee (IDC). This is something I have called for and continue to do so. With a multi-billion-pound ODA budget, it is appropriate that a separate committee scrutinises the efficacy of how that money is spent.
The structure and remit of select committees is a matter for the House and I have been reassured that the FCDO will reflect carefully on the recommendations of the International Development Committee and the Liaison Committee on this. I understand that when this issue comes before the House, it will be a free vote which I welcome.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has been told to prioritise producing tangible, evidence-based recommendations to ministers to drive effective overseas development spending. The Foreign Secretary has commissioned a review of the ICAI to make sure ICAI’s remit, focus and methods are effectively scrutinising the impact of UK aid spend.