Boris Johnson 'to spare foreign aid department' as he pares back plans for major Whitehall shake-up

Posted On: 
7th January 2020

Boris Johnson has ditched his plans to scrap the foreign aid department, it has been reported.

Number 10 had been considering plans to merge the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office.
Credit: 
PA

The Prime Minister had been widely-expected to wield the axe on the Department for International Development as part of a wide-ranging shake-up of Whitehall prompted by his election victory.Mr Johnson, who served as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, had previously backed a report which argued for DfID to be merged with the Foreign Office for the first time since the 1990s.

But, according to the Daily Mail, Number 10 has pared back plans to merge a host of ministries to instead focusing on improving performance in existing departments. 

Tan Dhesi MP: This Gov't must cease further efforts to downgrade DFID & slash overseas aid

Baroness Sheehan: Government must defend DFID’s autonomy and its commensurate expertise

Penny Mordaunt says aid spending target 'unsustainable' and DFID should raise more private cash

The paper meanwhile reports that ministers have shelved proposals to create a new borders and immigration department separate from the Home Office, with a "pared down" rejig of Whitehall now expected in February.

The move to spare DfID comes after more than 100 charities teamed up to urge Mr Johnson not to wield the axe.

A coalition of major aid groups last month said closing the department would give the impression the UK is "turning our backs on the world’s poorest people".

The proposals also prompted warnings from former Conservative development ministers, with Andrew Mitchell saying it remained "the most effective and respected engine of development anywhere in the world, and a huge soft power asset for Britain".

DfID currently oversees the UK's £14bn annual overseas aid budget. 

The latest Conservative manifesto says the party will "proudly maintain" a longstanding pledge to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. 

But Mr Johnson has previously said overseas aid spending should be "more in line with Britain’s political, commercial and diplomatic interests".

Responding to today's report, Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children said "An effective and well-funded Foreign Office and an expert, independent Department for International Development will both be vital tools, playing distinct roles to advance the UK’s national interest and the interests of the world’s poorest people.”