Watch Essex MP Priti Patel’s debut as a cabinet minister at the despatch box

Priti Patel. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Priti Patel. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Essex MP Priti Patel made her debut at the despatch box as a cabinet minister with a warning she will clamp down on money from Britain’s aid budget which is “stolen or wasted on inappropriate projects”.

In a busy day for the new International Development Secretary, Ms Patel was also forced to say she no longer supports the death penalty when she later appeared in front of a Commons select committee.

Ms Patel U-turned on her support for capital punishment after being questioned on how views she aired in 2011 were compatible with her Cabinet role, in which she will aim to advance human rights globally.

At the time, she told the BBC’s Question Time programme that she would “support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent” to “murderers and rapists” who re-offend.

She has previously refused to disown the comments but under sustained questioning from Labour MP Stephen Doughty at the Commons International Development Committee, Ms Patel said she did not support the death penalty.

Asked by Mr Doughty whether she supported the death penalty, the minister replied: “The answer is no, I’ve made that very clear.”

She went on: “I have made this clear as well in my other roles in Government, I could not be any clearer about that, and let me again state for the record what my view is, which is in answer to your question, no.

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“And also secondly I have worked in other roles in Government departments, across the Foreign Office, where I have gone internationally as well and had to raise many of these challenging examples.”

Ms Patel, who was made international development secretary by the prime minister in her reshuffle before the summer recess, stared the day saying she was “infuriated” by the apparent squandering of taxpayers’ money that is meant to be spent on helping the world’s poorest people and called for reform of the global aid system.

The MP for Witham, who was part of the Vote Leave campaign, said that leaving the European Union provided an opportunity to use the fund to invest in poorer countries and “deliver better value for UK taxpayers”.

Writing in the Daily Mail ahead of her appearance before the Commons International Development Committee on Wednesday, Ms Patel praised Britain’ generous contribution to global aid, hailing efforts to tackle the migrant crisis and the fight against Ebola.

“But we need to face facts,” she said.

“Too much aid doesn’t find its way through to those who really need it. And too often, money is spent without a proper focus on results and outcomes that allow the poorest to stand on their own two feet.

“Some participants in the aid debate are resistant to criticism and sometimes unwilling to understand or even acknowledge genuine concerns.

“It rightly infuriates taxpayers when money that is intended for the world’s poorest people is stolen or wasted on inappropriate projects. I am infuriated.”