The news this week that the Government has announced it will merge two of its Departments when they are supposedly working flat out to resolve issues related to COVID-19, BREXIT and their 2019 Manifesto seems very strange. Given that the merger will also frustrate many people who are working on the frontline of overseas agencies suggests that they are determined to create as many problems as they can to either justify their own failures elsewhere or distract people from other issues. Stephanie Draper who wrote this tweet is the Chief Executive of Bond which is the UK network for organisations working in international development across the rest of the world. Given that Bond was not consulted nor the organisations within their network regarding the merger this seems very concerning. However she is not alone as many other people working in a range of settings are deeply angry that such an act is being proposed. In addition there is no indication in the 2019 Manifesto that there would be any mergers for Governmental Departments and in the context of Foreign Aid which is what DfID does for our nation there was the statement in the manifesto:
We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development, and do more to help countries receiving aid become self-sufficient.
This clearly does not easily match the more recent suggestions of painting planes and building ships for the Royal Family and the Prime Minister to enjoy travelling on which have been discussed by Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt.
Then as I wrote a few days ago, when it comes to the petitions raised for the Government using its own system, Jacob Rees-Mogg explained on Sunday why around 30 petitions that have gained over 100,000 signatures, in a number of cases well over 3 months ago will not be discussed in Parliament for the forseeable future. This is despite the fact that the terms of the petitions laid out by the Government are that when they get 100,000 signatures, they will be considered for debate and indeed the Committee which is responsible for coordinating the debates raised concerns a month ago that the debates need to take place. In writing to one MP Rees-Mogg states in the letter:
It is important to state that the government acknowledges the important part that petitions and debates on petitions play in, as you say, allowing people to scrutinise the government on their own terms…. However as you would no doubt agree, we are in extraordinary times. As I have set out to the House, the priority has been to reconvene physically in accordance with government guidelines so that Parliament can resume its vital work of scrutinising the government and passing legislation in a thorough and effective fashion…. This means that hard decisions have to be made about how to best use Parliaments resources and which business ought to be prioritised. It is clear to me that the government’s legislative agenda, which gained a democratic mandate at the 2019 General Election, must be a priority.
However just to clarify what he said yesterday in Parliament:
As regards the merger of DFID and the Foreign Office, this is an absolutely brilliant policy. It is one that commands support across the country, because it is putting British interests first.
So it would be interesting to find out why this is not something that was identified in October when the 2019 manifesto was published, and indeed why so many people who are not happy including the agencies most impacted who were never consulted. Also yesterday Dominic Raab explained:
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced that they will merge to become the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I can tell the House that the process will start immediately and will be completed by September.
On the same day in the House of Lords, Lord Jay of Ewelme stated:
My Lords, I am glad that the Prime Minister paid tribute to the staff of DfID in his Statement; that was well deserved. Of course, foreign policy and aid, and FCO and DfID staff at home and abroad, need to be closely aligned, but a merger between the FCO and DfID is somewhere between a distraction and a mistake.
Which seems to be a very good way of ending this blog as I agree with this view he has expressed and it is interesting to know that he is a Crossbench member of the House of Lords who was previously the Ambassador to France and also the Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office so he is well informed on such a theme in a way that neither Dominic Raab, Penny Mordaunt, Jacob Ree-Mogg or Boris Johnson will ever understand.