Andrew Mitchell emerged from his post-resignation exile on the backbenches this morning to defend his decision to sign off on a £16 million aid cheque to Rwanda on his last day in the International Development department. The former chief whip was summoned before the International Development select committee, where he described as ‘offensive’ the suggestion that he acted as a ‘rogue minister’ in funding development in the country.
Mitchell told the committee that Britain’s aid programme to Rwanda had been suspended because of concerns that its president Paul Kagame was funding rebel group M23 in the country’s neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said the Prime Minister had asked that aid only be reinstated if three conditions were met. When those conditions were ‘partially met’, the programme resumed. ‘The decisions were made entirely properly through cross-government consultation’, he said, adding:
‘The press have sort of suggested that a rogue minister can sign cheques under the bed clothes and bung them out to dubious leaders. That is completely untrue. It is very insulting. I take deep offence at the suggestion that I would ever behave in such a way, but it’s also a tremendous insult to the British civil service, who would never allow such a thing.’
Mitchell may have defended himself robustly – and politely – on this matter, but his successor, Justine Greening, has made clear that she is a reluctant player in what Fraser calls ‘Mitchell’s Millions‘, where Andrew Mitchell’s old department panics not about spending cuts, but about the risk that it could spend under £11 billion a year – or £30 million a day. Her approach to certain aid programmes is already proving to be very different to her predecessor.