Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he is to scrap the Department for International Development (DfID), as he no longer wants Britain’s aid spending to be “some giant cashpoint in the sky”. Mr Johnson decided to merge the DfID with the Foreign Office and hand control of aid to Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, after losing patience with the way the department was allocating taxpayers’ cash. The Prime Minister is expected to rip up rules governing aid spending, which are set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, when a Government review reports back in the autumn.
Instead of sending money to countries such as China and India, both of which are wealthy enough to have their own space programmes, the money will be used to “maximise British influence” on the world stage.
The decision was immediately attacked by three former Prime Ministers – Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron – who said it was a grave “mistake”.
On the other hand, the move was hailed by many Tory MPs, who have for years been calling for a fundamental review of the way aid money was spent.
One of them is Home Secretary Priti Patel, who had already called for the DfID to be abolished four years ago.
In 2016, Ms Patel, who at the time was International Development Secretary, insisted in a column for the Daily Mail that despite the efforts of her predecessors to get better value for money, urgent improvements were needed.
Ms Patel wrote: “We need to face facts.
“Too much aid doesn’t find its way through to those who really need it.
“And too often, money is spent without a proper focus on results and outcomes that allow the poorest to stand on their own two feet.
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She said: “Some participants in the aid debate are resistant to criticism and sometimes unwilling to understand or even acknowledge genuine concerns.
“A well-financed aid budget is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
“It is there to deliver tangible results for the world’s poorest people, helping them stand on their own two feet so they don’t need aid in the future.
“And in so doing, build a safer, more prosperous world for the UK.”