David Cameron hits out at Boris Johnson’s DFID-Foreign Office merger plan
Former Prime Minister David Cameron has hit out against Boris Johnson’s plans to merge the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office, calling the decision a “mistake”.
Writing on Twitter, Cameron said: “The Prime Minister is right to maintain the commitment to 0.7 (the percentage of national income spent on global aid) – it saves lives, promotes a safer world and builds British influence.
“But the decision to merge the departments is a mistake”.
He added: “More could and should be done to co-ordinate 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”.
The new department, which Johnson announced today, will be called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and ministers are aiming to set it up by September.
The merger has been long-proposed in Conservative party circles, with speculation earlier this year the merger would happen in Johnson’s post-election cabinet reshuffle.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Johnson said the merger, which he called “long overdue”, would “unite our aid with our diplomacy”.
The UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on global aid will remain unchanged, after the merger is completed.
Cameron’s criticisms were put to Johnson in the chamber, who said he “profoundly disagreed”.
He added that the merger gave the UK the chance to rectify the “incoherence” in its foreign policy.
Tony Blair, the prime minister responsible for creating DFID in its current form in 1997, said he was “utterly dismayed” by the decision, calling it “wrong and regressive”.
He added: “The strategic aims of alignment with diplomacy and focus on new areas of strategic interest to Britain could be accomplished without its abolition”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the change “the tactics of pure distraction”.
He said the announcement was intended to distract from figures released today showing more than 600,000 people have lost their jobs in the last month and the UK’s Europe-leading Covid-19 death toll.
He also denounced the change as “damaging a huge soft power asset” for the UK.