Well besides the so-called Conservative-DUP “broken” deal, Theresa May further “joined up” ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International Development (DFID) with two ministers of state “joint up” or working in both departments. They are the Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE and the Rt Hon Alistair Burt.
This isn’t explicitly a merging of both departments but definitely drawing the work of both ministerial departments together. This is the first time since 1997 (and this year being DFID’s 20th anniversary) that DFID’s junior ministers hold a double post, especially from the department the department it once split from. Even under the very first Theresa May government, DFID junior ministers were specifically just DFID ministers. Clearly, this could be due to the ‘new’ Conservative party viewing aid more geared towards UK taxpayer’s desires and national security.
This “joint-up” through junior ministers has naturally received criticism, first of from the fist Conservative Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell and parliamentary questions on their ministerial responsibilities and their time spent between the FCO and DFID. There was also a House of Lords debate (debate here and here with members arguing for and against a joint-up FCO and DFID.
Cries of merger and back to the early 1990s (where DFID was the Overseas Development Association under the FCO) may do no good as this shadow joining up takes place. One key example is the UK boosting its ‘aid’ to Nigeria, and Boris Johnson tweeting how the new High Commission would “bring FCO and DFID staff under one roof.” Nevertheless, one of these joint ministers, Alistair Burt, stated that there is no desire by the current Conservative, or Conservative-DUP coalition (no DUP Ministers in the government) to merge DFID under the FCO. The news article, however, mentions how pompous (my view) Boris Johnson said “It was a colossal mistake in the 1990s to divide DFID from the Foreign Office” (see The Sun. Yes that’s a leading right-wing, tabloid newspaper, but that’s Boris Johnson’s view.
Time wil tell how this new joint-up Ministerial or joint DFID-FCO work will mean for international development.