David Cameron Labels Boris Johnson's Decision To Scrap Aid Department A 'Mistake'

In a highly unusual move, the former PM warns the UK will lose respect around the world due to Johnson's decision.

Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.

David Cameron has described Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap the foreign aid department as a “mistake” that will cost the UK respect around the world.

In a highly unusual move for a former prime minister, Cameron criticised the PM’s decision, stressing it would mean “less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas”.

It came as Johnson was warned by an MP that the decision was “particularly shameful” in the context of the Black Lives Matter protests, as the department for international development’s (Dfid) work often addresses inequalities that are sometimes a legacy of the British Empire.

Cameron, who as PM pledged the UK to spending 0.7% of national income on foreign aid, said: “The prime minister is right to maintain the commitment to 0.7% – it saves lives, promotes a safer world and builds British influence.

“But the decision to merge the departments is a mistake.

“More could and should be done to coordinate aid and foreign policy, including through the National Security Council, but the end of Dfid will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna meanwhile questioned the timing of the move when UK aid helps many former British colonies around the world.

Replying to Johnson’s Commons statement announcing the move, she said: “Given the vital work of Dfid in addressing inequalities and underdevelopment, some of which I must say are a legacy of the British Empire, is this not a particularly shameful moment for you to abolish the department that is trying to address those inequalities?”

The plan was also criticised by some Tory MPs.

Former development secretary Andrew Mitchell, seen as an ally of Johnson, said closing Dfid would be a “quite extraordinary mistake”.

In a statement to the PA news agency, the former cabinet minister said: “First, it would destroy one of the most effective and respected engines of international development anywhere in the world .

“Second, many of the senior figures who are key to Britain’s role as a development superpower will likely leave and go elsewhere in the international system – at a stroke destroying a key aspect of global Britain.

“Third, it is completely unnecessary as the prime minister exercises full control over Dfid’s strategy and priorities through the National Security Council.”

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood meanwhile questioned the timing of the announcement during the coronavirus crisis and before the planned defence, security and foreign policy review.

He told the Commons: “I am concerned about the timing of this because there is an enduring emergency that must be the government’s priority.”

Johnson said the move “will unite our aid with our diplomacy and bring together our international effort”.

“One cardinal lesson of the pandemic is that distinctions between diplomacy and overseas development are artificial and outdated,” he said.

“And yet today a dividing line between aid and foreign policy runs through our whole system.”

He added: “For too long frankly UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interest.”


What's Hot