Boris Johnson has said he does not think parliament’s international development committee should be scrapped, amid fears that scrutiny of overseas aid is set to be diminished.
The Independent reported in August that the committee, which is chaired by Labour MP Sarah Champion, was engaged in a tussle with Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg over its continued existence.
Mr Rees-Mogg was understood to be keen to shut down the body because of the government’s impending merger of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development.
Parliament normally has a single committee shadowing each government department, and on this basis the committee would be merged with the Foreign affairs committee under Mr Rees-Mogg’s plans.
But MPs had argued that without a dedicated committee, overseas development aid would get less scrutiny – potentially leading to aid cash being spent unwisely.
Asked on Wednesday whether he was scared of parliamentary scrutiny of development aid, Mr Johnson replied: « No, not at all! I relish it. I think it’s extremely important. »
The prime minister went on to say that he did not endorse the « suggestion » the committee should be abolished, but that the ultimately decision was up to parliament.
« I perfectly understand parliamentarians should want to have a separate group that can look at development issues even if you are ultimately interrogating people from the same department [as the foreign affairs committee], » Mr Johnson told MPs on the liaison committee.
« That’s often the way in life anyway, it’s a matter for parliament and I won’t impose my own views on parliament but I have sympathy with that approach. »
The prime minister’s decision not to whip Conservative MPs to abolish the committee means it is likely to survive.
Ms Champion had told the Independent that the absorption of the UK’s £15 billion overseas development aid programme by the Foreign Office made continued scrutiny all the more vital.