Kate Osamor MP: I have the experience and internationalist values necessary to lead Parliamentary scrutiny on international development

Posted On: 
28th January 2020

If UK aid is to stay focused on the world’s poorest, we need effective parliamentary scrutiny like never before, writes Kate Osamor MP

International cooperation of the Albatros Plan in Dominica after Hurricane Maria, set up by France, England and the Netherlands, September 2017
Credit: 
Julien Mattia/Maxppp/PA Images

International development in the UK is at a crossroads: alongside a new Parliament and an aid sector still in need of reform, the Department for International Development’s own future is uncertain. But if UK aid is to stay focused on the world’s poorest, we need effective parliamentary scrutiny like never before. That is why I am standing to serve as the next chair of the International Development Select Committee.

Former committee chair Stephen Twigg leaves enormous shoes to fill. He showed that the next chair must have the depth of knowledge and experience to hold government to account. As shadow secretary of state for international development from 2016 until 2018 and as a backbencher, I have consistently done that. I challenged the government on the detail and effectiveness of aid spending by other government departments outside DfID. I called out aid agencies when they got it wrong, including for example Oxfam on sexual exploitation and Adam Smith International after allegations from BBC Panorama. I pushed too for a swifter response to the Caribbean hurricanes in 2017, and for DFID to be both ‘greener’ and better set up to tackle climate change.

The next chair must also be ready to grapple with the detail of aid policy and Official Development Assistance spending. I wrote the Labour party’s 2018 green paper, ‘A World For the Many, Not the Few’, in which I set out a vision for UK aid to reduce inequality and get back to focusing solely on helping the world’s poorest. To do that, I convened and chaired an expert Labour Task Force on International Development to take public testimony in Parliament from sector leaders and to scrutinise evidence from NGOs and social movements.

Parliament also deserves a committee chair who has demonstrated they can collaborate with colleagues from across the House of all political persuasions. I have seen DfID’s and FCO’s development and humanitarian work first-hand, whether working collaboratively with members from other parties on visits to countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Iraq and Vietnam, or meeting with people left devastated by the hurricanes in Dominica and Barbuda in 2017. I have been proud too to chair the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria, and to work with colleagues from all parties to strengthen Britain’s relationship with Nigeria. I am delighted that Andrew Mitchell, former Conservative secretary of state for international development, has already decided to back me in this campaign.

Ever since my parents came to Britain from Nigeria and brought me up with strong working-class values, internationalism has been in my blood. I studied international development – what was then called Third World Studies – at the University of East London. I spent much of my career working in the NHS and on social justice issues like homelessness but am not beholden to aid agencies. I am ready to now serve Parliament and hold government to account, and I hope fellow MPs will place their trust in me.   

Kate Osamor is Labour MP for Edmonton