Many thanks for your correspondence regarding foreign aid.
No one has been more vocal in criticising wasteful spending in foreign aid than I have been. On multiple occasions I have criticised civil servants for their poor spending decisions. To name just one example, over £9 million in taxpayers’ money has been spent on an Ethiopian pop group.
I have also called for an audit on our foreign aid to the Middle East as representatives from some of the most persecuted communities there tell me that, despite great need, they have never received a penny from the Department for International Development (now wisely merged back into the Foreign Office).
The way we spend our foreign aid budget has been far too arbitrary up to this point. I am open-minded about the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid because I have heard first-hand how, in years when the economy grows more than expected, civil servants are left trying to find projects to spends millions on at the last minute in order to meet that commitment. This is a disaster for accountability and for value for money.
While the overwhelming majority of aid is audited and goes to the very poorest, our foreign aid spending needs root-and-branch reform. But it needs to happen with the advice and consent of Parliament following a thorough debate on the subject. Control over spending sits at the heart of the development of our tradition of parliamentary democracy and the Commons needs to keep a close eye on both the level of spending and what we prioritise spending money on.
Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch and I hope this gives you a fuller picture of my views on foreign aid.
EDWARD LEIGH MP