Labour will not “mirror” new government plans put forward by Boris Johnson this week to scrap the Department for International Development, LabourList can reveal.
In an exclusive interview with LabourList, Shadow International Development Secretary Preet Kaur Gill said Labour remains “absolutely committed to an independent DfID”.
The shadow cabinet member explained: “Labour is not prepared to mirror what the government is doing – because we just absolutely do not believe in that.”
Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that the government would be abolishing the Department for International Development, which he called a “giant cashpoint in the sky”.
It is understood that Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, will lead the new department, and there are no plans for a second Secretary of State or a Deputy Foreign Secretary.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan will remain International Development Secretary until early September, when the new department will be formally established. Work is starting immediately on the merger.
But Preet Kaur Gill has suggested to LabourList that the opposition party will not abolish her role or the shadow international development team, and would pledge to re-establish the department at the next election.
“It’s really important that we maintain the independence of DfID, that we absolutely recognise its global reach and reputation and expertise that it has and I’m really pleased that Keir is very much committed to that,” Gill said.
“He absolutely is a champion for global social justice and so we will continue as we are, and we will continue to hold the government to account. I think that’s absolutely right. It’s the very thing that Labour members would expect us to do.”
She added: “For Labour, what we are very clear on, we’re internationalists… Four years is a long time in politics, a lot can change. But I absolutely know that Keir and the Labour Party are absolutely committed to an independent DfID.
“Because, like I said, it’s been unnecessary for the government to take this course of action. That’s going to be our position, and I think it’s really important that we retain that. I think most people will feel confident that we will have an independent DfID.”
The Shadow International Development Secretary noted that “many” Tory MPs were unhappy with the merger. “Not only do they feel it’s unnecessary, but they understand that this is a Prime Minister who is just in retreat.”
Asked whether Labour would work with Tory MPs opposing the move, she said: “Absolutely. This is an opposition party that is going to work constructively with the government, it already has and will continue to do so.”
“There is really good relations with those people who have been quite vocal, people like Andrew Mitchell for example, who has come out quite scathing of the government.”