Andrew Mitchell, Minister of State with responsibility for Development and Africa, makes a statement to the House of Commons on the new International Development White Paper.
International Development White Paper
Mr Deputy Speaker, since my statement to the House on 18 July, the Government have consulted extensively to secure evidence and ideas on international development that will transform our world. I pay tribute to the team of 15 officials who have worked night and day and most of their weekends for nearly six months on this, under the leadership of Nick Dyer and Annabel Gerry, and to Geraldine Bedell and the Richard Curtis team who have helped with the shortened version of the international development White Paper.
We drew on the sharpest and most expert minds from non-governmental organisations, academia, business, nearly 50 Governments around the world, and all political parties in the House. I particularly wish to thank colleagues across the House for their contributions to shaping this White Paper. This is an area of policy that does not belong either to the Conservative party or to Labour; it is a British policy and commitment.
As the whole House knows, development has helped transform the lives of billions of people. The UK can be immensely proud of our distinct contribution to this incredible success story. Two centuries ago, three quarters of the world lived in extreme poverty. When I was born, around half still did. By 2015, when the world met the millennium development goals, the proportion of a much larger global population had fallen to just 12%. Evidence shows that development works, but it also shows that we now need to think about how we do development.
After decades of hard-won but persistent progress, we live in a world facing a daunting set of challenges: a world that is seeing rising poverty, where progress is in retreat; a world where the UN sustainable development goals are nearly all off track for 2030; a world where faith in multilateral institutions is fading despite co-operation being desperately needed; a world facing a climate crisis, growing conflict and the prospect of further pandemics; a contested world, where unity and solidarity are increasingly important, yet ever more difficult to achieve. This White Paper sets out a road map to 2030, charting the path the UK must take to galvanise global attention and lead by example in the fight to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change and address biodiversity loss.
When it comes to international development, finance matters. The Government have been clear on our intention to return to 0.7% of GNI when the fiscal circumstances permit, but the White Paper also makes it clear that we will not achieve the sustainable development goals through business-as-usual official development assistance funding. We need a quantum leap in financing and investing, which only the private sector can provide. The private sector is an essential engine of development, giving communities the building blocks for economic independence. Self-sufficiency is development’s essential purpose, and our work with the UK private sector delivers back for taxpayers many times over.
British Investment International, formerly known as CDC, is already a core part of the Government’s offer on international development. It has an impressive track record, and now will go further and faster, investing in the hardest places. As was suggested by the International Development Committee, to whom I pay tribute, BII will aim to make more than half of its investments in the poorest and most fragile countries by 2030, while also enhancing its transparency, cementing its place as a world leader.
The White Paper presents our vision for much-needed reform of the international financial system, mobilising greater finance from the private sector and scaling up the lending capacity of the international financial institutions. The UK has pioneered the use of climate-resilient debt clauses, enabling vulnerable countries to hold off on debt repayments following an extreme weather event. Together with Prime Minister Mia Mottley and other supporters of the Bridgetown initiative, we are driving reforms of the multilateral development banks so that they can scale up financing for low and middle-income countries. We will also work with institutional investors such as pension funds to plug the SDG’s $3.9 trillion annual financing gap.
International development and climate action are inseparable. Climate change and nature loss are being felt everywhere, and their impact will only intensify over the next decade. It will be most acute in developing countries, reversing fragile development gains, increasing food prices and compounding insecurity and instability. To meet that challenge, we must mobilise more—and more reliable—finance. We will deliver on our pledge to provide £11.6 billion in international climate finance in the five years up to 2026. We will ensure a balance between adaptation and mitigation financing and provide at least £3 billion to protect and restore nature.
Britain’s work on women and girls is paramount. We cannot understand development unless we see it through the eyes of girls and women. Increasing access to education, empowering women so that they can decide for themselves whether and when they have children, and ending sexual violence are central to economic opportunity and growth. Those rights are universal and should be non-negotiable. The White Paper extends and reinvigorates that work. We will use research and diplomacy to end the preventable deaths of mothers, babies and children. We will deploy policy and investment to defend and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Effective development is rooted in respectful partnerships of equals, but the Government will continue to stand up for our values. We know that individual rights, the rule of law and strong institutions are essential to achieving sustainable development. Take for example the work of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to which Members of Parliament make such a substantial contribution. It is the UK’s leading champion of democracy globally. We are increasing our support for its work so that we can support fairer, more inclusive and more accountable democratic systems around the world.
We must also find better ways to anticipate and prevent humanitarian crises and the conflicts that often drive them. Conflict and instability are on the rise and hold back development: by 2030 up to two thirds of the world’s poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Humanitarian needs are at their highest since 1945, with twice as many people needing assistance compared with five years ago. The resulting devastation is spreading across affected regions, as seen at present in the Sahel and the middle east. The tragic events in Israel and Gaza bring home the humanitarian costs of conflict and violence, with women and children most directly affected.
I am therefore pleased to announce today that we will create a fund dedicating up to 15% of our bilateral humanitarian spend to support resilience and adaptation alongside our delivery of humanitarian relief, which we expect to amount to £1 billion next year. When I visited families in east Africa suffering the worst drought in 40 years, it was clear that the current focus on immediate relief comes at the cost of early thinking and building in resilience and adaptation for the future. The new fund will respond directly to that specific challenge.
Innovation is at the heart of our efforts to transform lives through sustainable growth. The wondrous creativity of science and technology can address problems that money alone will never solve. Only by sharing research and innovating together can we make the breakthroughs that our world needs. The world has never been so intimately connected, nor our fates so closely entwined. Although we can rightly be proud of all we have done to deliver international development, the UK and our global partners must redouble our efforts given the challenges that we faced to achieve those goals.
We asked in the White Paper what the UK could do. We were told to make a new development offer based on mutual respect, powered by finance at scale, and supported by a more responsive international system. We have listened: that is what the White Paper will deliver. The Prime Minister has launched the White Paper to do development more effectively and differently, and yesterday’s global food security summit was an example of that. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Minister for his statement, for advance sight of the White Paper, and for our frequent conversations about it since I was appointed to my post.
The catastrophe in Gaza is a strong reminder not just of the need for humanitarian assistance and expertise, but of the heavy responsibility that we all face to play our part in the world through the painstaking hard yards of diplomacy, and of the crucial role of development in providing the hope that breathes life into any peace process. I thank the Minister for his personal efforts to bring some energy and direction to this agenda again. In fact, I would go as far as saying that I do not believe that the House would be in a position to consider a new White Paper were he not in post—a view that I think is shared by many on the Opposition Benches.
However, to have an honest conversation about where we are heading, we need a frank assessment of where we have been. There was the mindless vandalism of the decision to take one of our most respected, influential contributions to the world—the partnerships, thought leadership and innovation—and trash the lot to deflect from a domestic crisis. There was the former Prime Minister who, shamed by a young footballer into abandoning his decision to allow children to go hungry in a pandemic, pulled the rug out from under the poorest people in the poorest countries. Make no mistake: that cost lives, but it also cost Britain its reputation as a gold-standard leader in the field. As the Minister said then, it was
“a strategic mistake with deadly consequences.”—[Official Report, 2 March 2021; Vol. 690, c. 118.]
He knows that I admire his determination to speak out against those decisions, and I know that he does not shy away from acknowledging the damage that they have done.
Although the former Prime Minister may be gone, his second in command, whose signature is scrawled across those documents, now sits in No. 10. His short words at the start of the White Paper leave me in no doubt that, although his posture has changed, his position has not. Frankly, asking the man who signed off the devastation of this vital agenda, only to breathe new life into it again, is like calling out the arsonist to put out the fire. For much of the agenda that the Minister set out today, he will have our support. The question is whether he will have that of his Prime Minister.
The Minister is right to recognise that the major obstacle to eliminating extreme poverty is the growing challenge of climate change and debt, but the key is how to resolve it. The multilateral system is strained—much of the world’s debt is owed to private creditors, and over recent decades China’s influence has grown—so we strongly welcome the recognition in the White Paper that Britain’s approach to development must sit in a multipolar world. However, multilateral aid will fall to just 25% of aid spending by 2025. Although the commitments in this White Paper are welcome, the Minister is prioritising multilateralism while his Department prioritises bilateralism. Which is it? We have a strategy at odds with the ambition.
The second problem is that to make the strategy work, the Minister will need to convince the world that Britain is a long-term reliable partner with serious commitment at the highest levels of Government, yet his own White Paper is silent on protecting the overseas development assistance budget from raids from other Departments, after 30% has been raided in the past year by the Home Office alone to pay for spiralling hotel bills and the cost of this Government’s chaos. What chance does he have of convincing the world that this area is a priority for the Government if he cannot convince his colleagues around the Cabinet table? I suspect that on the central issue—the need to deal with debt and finance constraints that block action on climate—he and I have more in common than he does with most of them.
There is much to welcome in the White Paper, but access to finance for many of the most heavily indebted countries is ultimately unachievable. He is embracing some of the new ideas on finance, but when it comes to the central issue of debt, where is the fresh thinking? The outsized role of the City of London compels us to do more. Now is the time not to cling to existing strategies, but to leave no stone unturned.
The problem of climate finance and debt for middle-income countries enables us to focus on low-income countries and the core task of eliminating extreme poverty, but there is far too little in the White Paper about how that can be achieved. We welcome the focus on conflict, but the route out of poverty lies not just in access to finance and in functioning economies, but in self-sustaining health, education and welfare systems designed and run by the people in those countries. What can he do to reassure the House that that is not a second-order issue?
Finally, the Minister and I have discussed the central importance of women and girls many times. They have been among the biggest losers of the decisions of recent decades. Empowering them is the biggest untapped driver of growth in the global economy, and there is no way of meeting the sustainable development goals without closing that shameful gap. That is why they must run like a thread through the whole agenda—not just in addition to it, and not a few pages in a document. Every single decision that comes across his desk must consider whether it does more to empower and enable women and girls to succeed, or less.
I welcome and support the Minister’s commitment to this agenda, but without the political backing, without the budget and without the priority in Government, he will not succeed. He is far more alive to the scale and nature of the problems that Britain and the world face than most of his colleagues, but the challenges of this era demand an end to old ways of thinking and an embracing of the new. I know he is open to it, but are his Government?
I thank the hon. Lady for her co-operation and her kind personal remarks. She will know that, in order to get buy-in from our friends and experts around the world and from the civil service, the White Paper needed to run to 2030. In the unlikely event that my party is not in government after the next election, any other Government would, I hope, build on it to make it a huge success.
I note the hon. Lady’s remarks about the merger of DFID into the Foreign Office. My task, which the Prime Minister gave me, was to try to make the merger work. That means there needs to be an ability within Government to focus on global public goods and delivering them into the 2030s. That is what I am trying to do. She rightly asks how we get the balance right between multilateralism and bilateral funding. The answer is that we use either, depending on what delivers for our taxpayers and what delivers results on the ground. That is the yardstick; there is no ideology. We go with what works and what is best.
The hon. Lady pointed out the increase in spending in other Departments of ODA money and the development budget. It is true that that has gone up, but every penny is spent within the rules laid down by the OECD Development Assistance Committee. We brought in the innovation of the ODA star chamber in Whitehall, co-chaired by the Development Minister and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. There is already clear evidence of that ratcheting up the quality of ODA, as the hon. Lady would wish.
The hon. Lady talked about access to finance for poor countries, which is incredibly important. Mitigation projects in middle-income countries are easy by contrast; when it comes to poor countries and adaptation, it is much more difficult. She will see the emphasis in the White Paper on accepting the advice from the Select Committee on increasing the amount that British International Investment does in poor countries. She will notice, too, the emphasis on social protection, and the fact that 62% of the budget will now be spent in fragile and conflict states.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked about debt, where she is right that we need to do far more. It is absurd that a country such as Ghana can borrow only for seven or eight years, yet our children can get mortgages for 30 years. Ghana borrows at 7%, and our children borrow at 2%. That is clearly completely wrong, but there is a lot of new thinking. She will have seen the climate resilient debt clauses launched by Britain and the work we are doing on the G20 common framework to increase access for countries. It is also important to ensure that the private sector is bound into debt settlements when they affect sovereign states.
I welcome the White Paper and its focus on using ODA to leverage private sector investment in the way that my right hon. Friend has described. Whether the MENTARI programme for energy transition in Indonesia or the guarantees that the UK provides to the African Development Bank on climate finance, does he agree that it is the combination of aid and British business that is a real force multiplier in this area?
My right hon. Friend knows a great deal about this area from his past ministerial posts, and he is absolutely right. The key trick is to secure the status money, whether provided by the multilateral banks or the development finance institutions, and to marry it with the private sector and the $60 trillion of pension funds out there. If we can marry the two, de-risk through using that status money, and show pension managers what the real risk and the scale of the returns are, we can achieve the holy grail of getting enormous amounts of more money into climate finance, mitigation and adaptation, which is what the Bridgetown agenda is all about.
I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.
The Minister has consulted widely, and he truly has a refreshingly collaborative cross-party approach. We in the SNP broadly welcome the tone of it and some of the detail around mutual respect, listening to local partners, the recognition of civil society and the potential role of diaspora communities. However, the Minister will not be surprised that we want him to go further, and I will list a few of the things I would like to hear more about. SNP colleagues will have more to add on that.
The first and probably the most important thing is the fact that there is no concrete recommitment to 0.7%, as recommended by the International Development Committee. In the entire document of 154 pages, there is one mention of 0.7%, where the White Paper states that the Government will recommit to it
“once the fiscal situation allows.”
If the fiscal situation currently allows for tax cuts, I would say that that moment has arrived. The new Foreign Secretary was instrumental in getting us to 0.7% in the first place, so I hope that he and the Minister will expedite that intention.
Secondly, there is no recommitment to the restoration of programmes that have been cut since 2021, including in Yemen, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan, all of which had cuts of more than 50%, taking several million pounds of their support away. Those nations are all suffering significant repercussions from the climate crisis and the fallout from conflict.
Although I am pleased that women and girls and gender equality are to be put at the centre of bilateral funding, stakeholders have said to me this morning that it is short of the transformative approach espoused by others, including the Scottish Government. Let us not forget that the cuts I just mentioned extended to girls’ education programmes, which is estimated to have resulted in 700,000 fewer girls receiving an education. That is one of the greatest scandals of our lifetime.
Finally, I was surprised that there was nothing in the White Paper about public perception of international aid and how we can challenge and change it. I have my own thoughts on that, but if most right-thinking people understood the role that their Government and their predecessors had played in some of these countries over centuries, and the ongoing legacy of that, they would understand that we have moral obligations. I know the Minister agrees, so I would appreciate his assurance that the omission of that point was simply an oversight. I look forward to continuing with the collaborative approach that he has brought to the role.
I thank the hon. Lady for her party’s collaboration and for the tone and content of what she said. She mentioned that the 0.7% figure does not feature extensively in the White Paper, but the White Paper is about doing development in a different way. We are ratcheting in, through these new mechanisms, billions and billions of pounds, which makes a huge difference. In many ways, it dwarfs the difference between the 0.51% or 0.52% that we are spending at the moment, and the 0.7%. She will have seen at the time of the autumn statement last year that the Treasury estimate of when the two fiscal tests would be satisfied was 2028-29—in March, it was 2027-28. All of us hope that the two tests will be satisfied as soon as possible. As far as I am aware, there is no difference between the policy of the Government and that of the official Opposition on the restoration of the 0.7% target. She talked about cuts in programmes, but the White Paper explains how many of the programmes will be increased. She specifically mentions South Sudan. As the budget is now in much better shape, next year the bilateral programme spending in South Sudan will increase from £47.9 million to £110 million, which is an increase of 130%. The Kenyan bilateral programme spending will increase by 225% and the Jordanian one will increase by 130%. So we are now able to do more through our bilateral programmes. She asked in which areas we would be specifically restoring funding where cuts had been made; she will see in the White Paper that the International Citizen Service is set to return and our aid match will increase. As for the humanitarian work we will do next year, we expect to spend £1 billion on humanitarian relief, plus we have the new resilience and adaptation fund, which will produce an extra 15% on that. The White Paper is long and to many of us it is a most exciting read. A short form is available—I have a copy here—as I mentioned. Thanks to the Richard Curtis team, it is also an excellent read. She chides me for not having made the point about civil society and the platform, but I am delighted to tell her that although I did not mention it in the statement, it is in there; UKDev—UK International Development—is a platform to achieve precisely what she said needs to be achieved in that bridge between civil society and Government and state work.
May I push back gently on what was said by the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), because many Conservative Members are passionate about this issue, have been supportive of the Minister through thick and thin and really welcome this White Paper? We are hoping that it will be a stepping stone to 0.7% ODA spend. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a symbiotic relationship between our economy and our security, and that our security is dependent on stability abroad? When we step back from helping fragile states, that void is too often filled by authoritarian regimes pursuing a very different agenda.
My right hon. Friend is right on that, and of course he was one of the 26 Conservative Members who voted not to cut the 0.7%. I hope that he will be energised by the alternative means we have found—the multipliers to ratchet in enormous amounts of money. He is right in what he says about the link between defence, development and diplomacy. When he gets a moment to read to read this White Paper, he will be enthused by the lines it is taking.
The right hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour, knows that I admire much about the mission he has set out in this White Paper, but chapter 3 needed to say a lot more about the money. He could have said more about doubling the fraction of the special drawing rights we share, as Japan is doing, which would have provided an extra £4 billion of development assistance. He could have said more about using the money we get back from the European Investment Bank to invest in building a bigger World Bank in order to unlock $200 billion of concessional lending over the decade ahead. He could have said more about leading a global initiative to keep the interest rate on special drawing rights down so that the International Monetary Fund remains as lender of last resort, rather than China. Those are practical steps that we could work on together—otherwise we end up with all mission and no model, which will not help the world’s poorest.
If the right hon. Gentleman reads with care the chapter to which he referred, he will see that it is one of the most brilliant chapters in it—that is my biased opinion. The reason for that is that we have in Washington an extraordinary team of young and brilliant officials who have enormous influence in the World Bank, and he is a considerable expert on this area. As for the multipliers and making sure that we sweat the balance sheets of these multilateral banks to ratchet in huge amounts of more money, he will see a great deal to please him. If these reforms are implemented, as I believe they will be, driven hard by Britain through the multilateral sector, we will see a vast increase in funding. As for what he says about the SDRs, using them creatively is something we are keen to do. He will recall that at the spring meetings the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that Britain would use its SDRs to the tune of £5.3 billion to elevate the two IMF funds that directly deal with poverty and international development.
“People, planet, prosperity” is summed up entirely in this document, and I commend my right hon. Friend on the White Paper, particularly chapter 5, which I am passionate about. Building on chapter 3, it is vital that we accelerate the transition and support the Bridgetown initiative. Countries are getting terribly frustrated that although the talk is done and the UK is exceptional, there is a need to make sure that banks are getting the money to the people so that the projects can deliver for people, prosperity and planet.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the tremendous contribution she has made on the matters she is addressing. Chapter 5 directly addresses tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, and delivering economic transformation, and I am glad it has her approval. Chapter 3 deals with mobilising the money and what I described in my response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), the former Deputy Prime Minister, as the “multipliers” and how we ratchet in private sector money. Those will make a fantastic difference and we also have to make sure that this money reaches the poorest people in the world. Britain’s role in the G7, in these international organisations, has always been to focus on the poorest people in the world. We are proud of doing that and the House would expect us to do it. This White Paper amplifies that mission.
I call the Chairperson of the Select Committee on International Development.
Let me start by giving my huge congratulations to the Minister. I hope that the whole House has recognised his personal involvement and the tenacity with which he has got this document out. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I also congratulate our civil servants, who for the past three years have been doing an amazing job in challenging circumstances. I really hope that this White Paper re-establishes our position on the international stage. I particularly welcome the embedding of localism; more money to the poorest; debt relief; and the focus on atrocity prevention. The White Paper outlines several initiatives aimed at increasing the amount of climate finance available for vulnerable countries such as small island development states, which is welcome. The Minister referenced biodiversity loss a couple of times in his statement, but will he explain why no specific mention is made in the White Paper of the loss and damage fund, which I predict will be at the centre of COP28 in the coming weeks?
I thank the Chair of the International Development Committee and, through her, all of its members, who bring their expertise and enthusiasm to this subject with eloquence and skill. She mentions the importance of debt relief and localism, and she is absolutely right on that. She also mentions the work on atrocity prevention, which we have particularly been doing in Sudan since the crisis emerged there. That work is very important and we are finding new ways of amplifying it. What she says about biodiversity may well be true. The White Paper runs to 148 pages. If she and I had our way, it would have been longer, but we have to draw a line somewhere and I yield to no one on the importance of the point she makes about biodiversity. She will know that there has been argument about loss and damage, and a holding position has now been secured, ahead of the COP. That is very important, but loss and damage must do two things. It must get a broader spectrum of where the money is coming from, otherwise we will just be reorienting it within the international development budget and that will be robbing Peter to pay Paul—there is no sense in doing that. The other thing is that it must bring in a wider group of countries, not just the narrow OECD ones that account for aid—it must be wider than that. Those two things are required to make loss and damage work.
I very much welcome this White Paper, which reiterates the importance of eliminating gender-based violence. Last week I worked with parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth, thanks to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and my right hon. Friend’s Department, and we resolved that there is a real need for international leadership to effectively challenge what are still called cultural norms—things such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and rape. Will he join our calls for eliminating gender-based violence to be at the heart of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Samoa next year?
My right hon. Friend makes a very interesting point about the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Samoa next year; I will take that away and see what we can do on the matter. Gender-based violence, for the reasons she has often said, is central to what we are doing. We cannot understand all these matters unless we see international development through the eyes of girls and women, so she is absolutely right about that. On gender-based violence, she will be well aware of the work led by my noble Friend Lord Ahmad in the other place, which he continues to do with great vigour and success.
I welcome the White Paper, but I want to put on record very clearly that it is lukewarm and tepid. It shows how much wreckage has been done in the last three years. I welcome the Minister moving it forward, but we are not moving forward enough.
I have three short questions. First, the Minister referred to the Prime Minister asking him to try to make the merger work. We all know it has been a disaster. It was in the press last week that there was no rationale or reason for it to have happened in the first place. I would like to know why there is no thought put behind restoring that separate Department, because it was world-class, and the world looked to it for leadership.
Secondly, the Minister talked about ODA being legal. It might be legal, but one third of the budget—over £3.7 billion—is being spent on domestic issues of asylum seekers, not on extreme poverty, which he just said is a priority.
Lastly, to reiterate the point made by the Chair of the International Development Committee, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), loss and damage was not mentioned. Two years ago in Scotland, we were world-leading, with the first pledge made by the Scottish Government. When I was at COP27 last year, the UK Government asked me to go and speak to partners on this. I am happy to do that when I am at COP28 in two weeks’ time.
In terms of where the money needs to come from, we need to get behind the Make Polluters Pay programme, which is across the world and is about the largest oil and gas companies that are most responsible for fossil fuels. If we have collective support from this Government and Governments around the world, we will find the money.
On the hon. Gentleman’s last point about loss and damage, I set out the position of the Government. Some progress was made against expectations a couple of weekends ago. Expanding the pool from which the money comes—the payers—perhaps in the way he suggests and trying to find a deeper pool than just the development budget is extremely important.
The hon. Gentleman’s second point was about the percentage of the development budget that goes to pay the first-year costs of asylum seekers. He will know that that is absolutely part of the rules on the way in which the budget is administered. We would be asking for a change in the OECD Development Assistance Committee rules, which is very difficult to achieve, as we have to get 30 countries to agree. We decided not to do that. We did get an extra £2.5 billion out of the Treasury to compensate for it, and he will have noticed that the figure being spent on that has been quite sharply reducing over recent months.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the merger. My views on the merger before I entered Government were fairly lurid, but surely the right thing to do now is to focus on whether we can create an entity that will deliver the global public goods we all support for the 2030s. If we can, that will be building on when we had two Departments. I notice that the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), who speaks for the official Opposition, is nodding at those remarks.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend. This is a comprehensive document that contains some really important strategies. I particularly pay tribute to him for the sections on biodiversity, which he knows I regard as enormously important for a variety of reasons. Climate change and the restoration of nature are all part of an essential task that the world faces over the coming years.
My right hon. Friend mentioned civil society, which plays a really important part in all aspects of development. He knows of my involvement in and support for one of Africa’s leading conservation NGOs, which does valuable work on the ground in Africa. What routes will be available for that organisation and other civil society organisations in the developing world to access the support set out in this White Paper? What channels should they be using?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about the importance of nature and biodiversity, which are very prominent in the White Paper. He asks how civil society can access support. The section of the White Paper about the new platform, UKDev, which I hope he will read with interest, talks about engagement with civil society, but there are a number of programmes that meet his suggestion, including the UK Aid Match programme. Where good charities are using their own money, if the taxpayer puts similar amounts of money alongside that, we are getting two for one—we are getting double the results for the taxpayer’s money.
I echo the words of thanks to the Minister for his assiduous engagement, which is incredibly welcome. There is a lot to welcome in this White Paper, including the focus on the SDGs and the climate crisis. From our conversations, he will know that the Liberal Democrats continue to have concerns about the fact that we are not immediately returning to 0.7% and about the restoration of the Department, because this is not just about money—on that we agree; it is about culture. I met an official in one of our east African embassies who told me that, at the moment, the D in FCDO is silent. While no one would question the Minister’s commitment to this, it must go beyond one man. What are he and his Department doing to change the culture within the FCDO, so that the D is no longer a whimper but a roar?
I think the D is a good deal less silent than it was. I thank the hon. Lady for what she has said. On the immediate return of the money, she is right; that is the stated policy of the Government and, I think, of the official Opposition. On restoring the Department, I draw her attention to what the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), have said, which is that they have an open mind on this, and they are trying to see where we get to by the time there is a general election, were they to come into government. If we can produce something that is better than the two separate Departments and delivers global public goods in the 2030s, that might well be seen by everyone as a step forward.
The hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) is right about the cultural point. To make a merger work—there is no such thing as a merger; one side wins and one side loses, as I learned many years ago in the City of London—the culture is very important. If development practitioners and experts are respected by the traditional British Foreign Office and they work together, as they have done on putting this White Paper together, that is a very great strength indeed.
One reason the SDGs are off track is that they have not to date recognised that leaving someone behind, whether out of education, a job, healthcare or otherwise, simply on account of their religion or beliefs means they will be poorer. Discrimination and persecution are drivers of poverty, affecting millions globally. I warmly congratulate the Minister on listening and including clear recognition of this in several places in the White Paper, but words need to be turned into action. What action is planned to ensure that religious minorities are taken into account in the design of development assistance programmes and in the forthcoming review of the SDGs?
I am very glad that my hon. Friend—who is, after all, the Government’s envoy on these matters—has already read the White Paper so assiduously. She will, as she said, have noted that there is a clear commitment to do what she sets out, and I have every confidence that working with her, the Government will be able to advance that important agenda.
I also add my congratulations and broad support for the progress in the White Paper, but may I draw the Minister’s attention to the position in Gaza, particularly in relation to humanitarian relief? On top of the 13,000 civilian deaths, half of whom are children, nearly all power plants, hospitals, and water desalination and sewage plants have been destroyed. Does the Minister agree that 20 to 30 trucks of humanitarian assistance a day is a drop in the ocean compared with the 450 a day that were being delivered previously, and that what is really needed is a ceasefire and a peace process resulting in a safe and secure Palestinian and Israeli state?
I think everyone is praying that a peace process will start as soon as possible. We need to get a political track, and as the hon. Lady will know, we are pressing for humanitarian pauses to achieve what she wants us to achieve. I provided a statement to the House last week, and indeed the week before; both went on for an hour and a half and involved 70 Members asking questions, so I do not wish to try Mr Deputy Speaker’s patience by addressing that point directly. However, in the White Paper, the hon. Lady will be able to see Britain’s commitment to humanitarian relief.
The White Paper is a great blueprint for the UK to once again be a global leader in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, but as my right hon. Friend knows very well, we cannot do this alone. Will he work with his global counterparts and use the White Paper as a platform ahead of the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on AMR, so that we can build the global consensus to tackle it head-on?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of AMR, and we certainly aspire to be a global leader in that area. As he knows, I spoke about AMR when I was in New York earlier this year, and we are guided specifically by Sally Davies, the master of Trinity College Cambridge and former chief medical officer, who is an expert on this matter. AMR is now the world’s third biggest killer after strokes and heart attacks, and we will be prioritising it in the way that my hon. Friend suggests.
There is a welcome change of tone in the White Paper—the language about partnership, for example, will not be unfamiliar to those of us who have worked with the Scotland-Malawi partnership for many years. However, in all the “Britain is great” language, I cannot see much recognition of the incredible work that has been done over many years by the devolved Administrations, particularly the Scottish Government, who have ambitions further to the UK Government’s on the empowerment of women and girls and, indeed, loss and damage. Can the Minister confirm that the work of the devolved Administrations in international development, and particularly the work of the Scottish Government, is recognised, accepted and valued by the UK Government, given that they count that spending towards the ODA target?
First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution to the White Paper, and for bringing the expertise that he deploys in the International Development Committee to bear on it. We did indeed consult the devolved Administrations; I myself had, I think, two very useful discussions with the Government of Scotland. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I share his view that the work Scotland has done in places such as Malawi is highly effective.
This outstanding White Paper focuses on a locally led approach to development because, as the Minister has said, co-operation and partnerships are the way forward. As chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to increase grant in aid to the WFD’s partnerships for fairer, more inclusive, and accountable democratic systems around the world. For the benefit of my right hon. Friend and the House, may I also highlight that the Cabinet Office’s conflict, security and stability fund recently scored all 103 of its successful bidders, and the WFD came top?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he does as chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. He will know that the team that put together the White Paper looked carefully at what the WFD does, and recognised the unique contribution it makes, supported as it is across the House and in the other place. I am very glad that, following the public accountability process—which, as my hon. Friend knows, is going on at the moment—we expect to be able to substantially reinforce the funding for the WFD.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran), our foreign affairs spokesperson, I welcome many aspects of the White Paper. However, as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Afghan women and girls, I was interested in the case study in the paper that stated that the Government
“will invest further to support women’s full participation in all political dialogue”.
I place on record my thanks to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee for inviting former Afghan MP and Deputy Speaker Fawzia Koofi to appear before it. What steps is the Minister going to take to ensure that full participation? Is he speaking to Afghan female leaders here and in Afghanistan, and how is that happening in the context of budget cuts in the region?
As the hon. Lady knows, next year, we will increase bilateral funding to Afghanistan to £151 million. We are able to do that because the budget is much more carefully targeted and is now properly cultivated to deliver results. On the subject of education and of the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan, which is absolutely abhorrent, we do everything we can through various mechanisms, including the Afghanistan World Bank trust fund, to boost those important objectives. As the hon. Lady would expect, we focus on trying to win results with that money—which is paid by the British taxpayer—in the best way we possibly can.
As this excellent paper sets out, the rise in autocratisation, the rise in humanitarian need, and the row-back of women’s rights are all terrifying. They are often linked, and it is women’s voices that are being silenced across the world. A woman’s right to education, to employment and to contraception are basic, fundamental rights. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we really care for the world’s most vulnerable women, we should set aside our party political differences in this House, and get behind this White Paper and make sure its objectives are delivered for women?
My right hon. Friend speaks with great wisdom; from what we have heard today, her final point is clearly being achieved, which is very welcome. What she says about women’s voices being silenced and their fundamental rights being fettered is, I fear, absolutely right, and the White Paper addresses that head-on. We are finding ways of stopping impunity and calling to account those people who abuse human rights in a number of new ways that target accountability, and which I know my right hon. Friend—who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Sudan and South Sudan—welcomes.
I thank the Minister for his important statement and White Paper. He has stated that humanitarian needs are at their highest level since 1945, and has also rightly stated that the devastating events in Israel and Gaza bring home the humanitarian cost of conflict, which was so powerfully expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams). He will agree that humanitarian and development co-operation are key to British foreign policy, so could he outline the Government’s commitment to supporting the ongoing work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the important development and humanitarian work in the middle east, particularly with UNRWA having lost so many staff in Gaza? That ongoing work is needed, both now and for the long term.
The hon. Lady makes an extremely good point about the increase in humanitarian need—as she rightly, says, it has increased significantly—that I set out in my statement. That is why we have found £1,000 million to allocate in a budget for tackling humanitarian need next year. If she has a chance to look at the White Paper, she will see that it includes the resilience adaptation fund, which is designed to ensure that when crises take place, we can do things such as provide for greater irrigation, water retention and reservoir capacity in a drought, so that in the event that such crises take place again—which, alas, happens all too often—their impact is not as great as before.
The hon. Lady asks specifically about UNRWA. As we know, a very large number of UNRWA humanitarian workers have lost their lives, along with others, in the Gazan conflict. Any attack and any loss of life by a humanitarian worker is deeply to be regretted. Those are people who have put themselves in harm’s way for fellow members of humanity. They are unarmed and just trying to do good to their fellow citizens. On the humanitarian need overall, climate change has particularly exacerbated that, and it is of course the poorest who are hit first and hardest, as the White Paper emphasises.
The lack of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries particularly affects women, especially during childbirth, when they are routinely prescribed prophylactic antibiotics, and a greater number of women suffer from urinary tract infections when toilet facilities are absent. What discussions will the Minister have with partners at COP28 to further the WASH—water, sanitation and hygiene—agenda?
I anticipate, along with my colleagues, having many such discussions, and not only at COP but in other fora. My hon. Friend is entirely right that the absence of water and hygiene facilities hits girls in particular and stops many from going to school. He will know that Education Cannot Wait—an international fund strongly supported by the British taxpayer, to which we allocated £80 million earlier this year—is able directly to help people caught up in conflict in that way. We want them to go to school and they often cannot do so, for the reasons he has given, and Education Cannot Wait tries to alleviate that directly.
I welcome the White Paper and commend the Minister for his persistence on this issue. Does he agree that, in order to maintain public support for programmes such as those outlined in the White Paper, we need to clamp down vigorously on any misappropriation of funds—in the past that has happened in some of these nations—so that the money goes to those who need it, not those who have easier access to it?
The hon. Member is right to make it clear that corruption is the cancer in international development spending. That is why we always ensure that, if there is any hint of that, we intervene immediately to stop it. It is also one of the reasons why we so seldom work directly through budget support, where we cannot track so easily the way taxpayers’ money is being spent, but allocate very directly in a way that we—and, more importantly, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact—can properly hold to account.
I, like the Minister, find this White Paper to be an enlightening and exciting read. It goes a long way to setting out our stall for what we want to do on international development, and I commend the civil servants and special advisers for their work on it. It identifies localism, partnership and transparency as being at its core, but could the Minister just say a little more about mobilising finance through British International Investment, and whether more risk needs to be taken in less economically developed countries? As chair of a group supported by HALO and of the Conservative Friends of International Development, I also welcome the focus on conflict prevention and the opportunities to build resilience and adaptation. Could the Minister please say a little more about that, and how this fund is going to work to help in those areas?
I am not remotely surprised that my hon. Friend has already read the whole paper—all 148 pages. It is two pages shorter than the White Paper produced in 2009, but I beg to suggest that it is a rather better read. On BII, we have taken the advice of the Select Committee, recognising that it could do more in the poorest and most difficult countries. BII is investing in a port in Somalia, which, as he will understand, is quite a gritty thing to do, but we will see the funding to the poorest countries from BII rise in the period to 2030 from about 38% to 50%. That is a very significant increase, and one that the Select Committee has urged us to embrace. HALO is a brilliant charity that does work far beyond just dealing with high explosives, and we give it our strong support.
The White Paper’s focus on fragile and conflict-affected states is to be welcomed, but the Minister will know that, due to their very nature, these can be the most difficult places to operate in. Will he commit to reporting annually to the House so that we can monitor progress on the strategy?
Conflict-affected and fragile states are indeed the most difficult places in which to operate, but they are also two of the most important types of place in which to operate. The hon. Member will be interested to know that, while over half of the development budget goes to the least developed countries, something like 62% goes to fragile and conflict-affected states. There is no doubt that the Select Committee and ICAI will ensure that the focus he requests is maintained.
I welcome the Minister’s statement and the White Paper. Having had just one or two months to speak to my constituents, I know that many of them felt a real sense of dismay about the lack of global action and national leadership on these issues. The welcome return to the focus on the development goals and recognition of the importance of co-ordinated action on the causes and consequences of climate change globally will go down very well with many of my constituents. Although I welcome the recognition of the challenges posed by the barriers to finance and the burden of debt mentioned in the White Paper and the Minister’s remarks, I fear that a lack of ambition in this area may undermine some of the goals set out today. Can the Minister commit to bringing forward in due course further legislative action to ensure that we tackle that burden appropriately, including on private finance, and so have the real ambition we need to see on this agenda?
Ambition is not lacking, but driving these things forward takes an enormous amount of time and is subject to international co-operation, as the hon. Member suggests. However, if he looks at British leadership on climate resilient debt clauses, for example—we introduced them and UK Export Finance, which is the export credits guarantee department of the British Government, is championing them—he will see that these clauses make an enormous difference. For example, if the Government of Ghana are hit by a pandemic, they need all their liquidity to look after their own citizens, but they have to pay interest and capital on their debt. What these clauses mean is that they would get a two-year window during which they can spend their liquidity on their own citizens. That is a small but vital and very impactful innovation. Britain has produced these clauses, and we have done the right thing on that.
The Minister is absolutely right to say that international development and climate change are inseparable, and I commend him for his work in this area. However, many of my constituents have written to me to express frustration about how little the Government are doing at home to attain the sustainable developing goals, and they rightly ask how we can ask other countries to do what we are not doing ourselves. So what does the Minister think I should say to my constituents who are so concerned about the absence of any measures in the King’s Speech against fossil fuels and about tackling poverty at home?
The hon. and learned Member will have seen the huge commitment that Britain has made through the Green Climate Fund internationally. I think that we can be very proud of the leadership that we are giving through the green climate fund, of which we are now the co-chair. On UK achievement of the SDGs, she may recall that in 2019 there was an audit of how Britain was doing. Britain came out very well from that audit, and we will of course have a further audit in due course.
I very much welcome the Minister’s commitment to ensuring that women and girls have the same opportunities within the labour market as men. That could potentially add trillions of pounds more to global GDP in 2025. What steps will and can the Minister take to ensure that women and girls internationally have the means necessary to improve the societies they live in and to accelerate their development, which we all wish to see?
The former Foreign Secretary unveiled Britain’s new women and girls strategy in Sierra Leone this year. It is a very good read—if I may add it to the hon. Member’s reading on international development. I was not an unalloyed fan of the merger, as he knows, but when I got back into the Government I saw that the Foreign Office had completely internalised the importance of putting girls and women right at the centre of everything we do in this area, and it is to be commended for that.
The Minister is exactly right to say that little development happens in the absence of security. Speaking in 2014, before he joined the Government and during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, he said that a ceasefire in Gaza should be made permanent before talks move on to addressing wider issues in the middle east peace process. Does he now agree that talks addressing the underlying grievances of the moderates would be part of a successful counter-insurgency campaign, part of bringing about greater security, and hence would foster international development in the middle east?
The quote that the hon. Gentleman found from 2014 was made in very different circumstances, but he is right to say that development will almost always fail where there is no security. Indeed, as Sir Paul Collier memorably said, conflict is “development in reverse”. On the middle east and Gaza—that is not, of course, the subject of the statement, Mr Deputy Speaker—the sooner we can move to a political track in the region, at the United Nations and in the international Assemblies, and start working on what a future two-state solution would look like, with a state for both Israel and Palestine, the better.
That concludes the statement on the international development White Paper. I thank the Minister for yet another marathon question and answer session.