Senior Tories turn on Boris Johnson over plan to abolish department that helps world's poorest after election win

Two former ministers speak out - warning both efforts to relieve global poverty and keep UK secure will be hit

Boris Johnson gives speech outside 10 Downing Street

Senior Tories have attacked Boris Johnson’s plan to axe the department delivering Britain’s foreign aid, warning efforts to help the poor – and the UK’s security – will suffer.

Two former ministers spoke out as the prime minister ordered a major Whitehall overhaul, expected to see the department for international development (DfID) swallowed up by the foreign office (FCO).

The move would confirm an idea first mooted by Mr Johnson almost a year ago, to end the “inevitable waste” of the department set up by Tony Blair’s government in 1997.

Alistair Burt, a former Dfid minister who stood down at the election, said: “My advice would be not to merge DfID and the FCO. DfID as a standalone department has given the UK an outstanding reputation. It runs very well.

And Andrew Mitchell, a former international development secretary, urged Mr Johnson to think again, saying: “DfID is the most effective and respected engine of development anywhere in the world, and a huge soft power asset for Britain.

“Tackling insecurity and building prosperity directly affects our wellbeing in the UK. British leadership in this area is a core part of Global Britain.”

Save the Children has also criticised a “deeply damaging move that risks endangering the impact big-hearted Britons can have around the world”.

“DfID multiplies the impact of British kindness, whether by ensuring we get value for money from every pound spent or guaranteeing our brave aid workers support from a government department that cares only for their safety and success,” said Kevin Watkins, its chief executive.

Government sources have confirmed to The Independent that a major shake-up of Whitehall departments will go ahead in the New Year, once the UK has formally left the EU on 31 January.

It is expected to create a powerful new business department – absorbing the international trade department – in a bid to secure greater inward investment to the regions, despite Brexit.

A new economic “super-ministry” is likely to take responsibility for broadband and artificial intelligence – and the department for energy and climate change recreated.

Backing scrapping the aid department earlier this year, Mr Johnson said: “If ‘Global Britain’ is going to achieve its full and massive potential then we must bring Dfid to the FCO.”

He also accused the department of “inevitable waste as money is shoved out of the door in order to meet the 0.7 per cent target” – raising fears its budget will be slashed.

He also told the Financial Times: “We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO [non-governmental organisation].

And he added: “It is perfectly possible to boost global development in a way that coheres much better with UK political and indeed commercial objectives.”

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