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MPs vowed to fight the closure of Britain’s aid department “every step of the way” amid fresh fears a controversial Whitehall merger will see scrutiny of the government “cut to the bone”.
Dominic Raab confirmed in June that the Department of International Development would be scrapped and merged with the Foreign Office.
Boris Johnson drew fury from MPs, charities and his own backbenchers after saying the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) would stop the UK being used as a “giant cashpoint in the sky”.
Opponents say the UK should be strictly neutral when spending to eliminate poverty but the government says money could be better used to “promote British influence around the world”.
The department is being created as the UK breaks from the EU and develops its own trading policy but Raab, the foreign secretary, has insisted no aid will be “tied” to contracts or trade deals.
But a letter from Raab to the Lib Dems has prompted fresh concerns about oversight of the merger and the new department’s policy objectives.
Raab revealed the integration will be overseen by Mark Sedwill, despite the cabinet secretary leaving Whitehall in September.
He also failed to outline how aid will be distributed in future, stoking concern that international development cash will in fact be tied to trade.
The letter says only that the new department will be “guided by” the International Development Act and citing “a commitment” to poverty reduction – which was a key strain of DfID’s mission.
The minister says spending 0.7% of national income on aid is “enshrined in law”, but adds “we will continue to look at how this money can be spent most effectively in our national interest”.
It was also unclear whether the government’s aid spending would be scrutinised by Independent Commission for Aid...