As of now, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development (DfID) have merged to become a new Government department: the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). This comes amid reports that the amounts the UK spends on foreign aid could be reduced, even though the Government is denying that that is going to happen at the moment. Labour MP and former DfID Secretary, Hilary Benn, railed against Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the decision as he appeared on the BBC Radio 4’s Today show.
Mr Benn said: “I think it’s a mistake and so does David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
“DfID is the most effective and respected engine of development anywhere in the world, and it’s been a reputation built up because we have had an independent department.
“But what really worried me was when the Prime Minister made the statement in the House of Commons, he referred to DfID as ‘some giant cashpoint in the sky’.
“Now anybody who says that, clearly has absolutely no understanding of the work that DfID does and is respected for around the world.”
He added: “What a phrase to use and that’s what really makes me anxious about this.”
Host Martha Kearney pointed out that in practice the same development work would continue despite the departments being merged.
Mr Benn acknolwedged that this was “absolutely true”, but was more concerned about the motivation behind the change.
He told the BBC: “In that statement, the Prime Minister also talked about UK producers getting ‘a crack of the whip’.”