Frustratingly, I was too far down the speaker list in yesterday's emergency debate on the International Development budget in the House of Commons to be called to speak, so I’ve published the speech I had prepared instead. You can read the full speech here >>
"Thank you, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate today.
I thank the Rt Hon Member for Sutton Coldfield for securing this debate, though it should not have been necessary for him to do so.
The Government appears to be wilfully ignoring the status of the 0.7% aid target in law. It is not a policy which can be changed at the will of a minister, but a legally binding commitment which is therefore a matter for Parliament as a whole.
UK aid matters.
It matters because it is an expression of compassion, solidarity and shared humanity.
And it matters because it bears an absolutely direct relationship to the most urgent and important global challenges we face – the climate and ecological emergency, the global refugee crisis, gender-based violence, poverty, education, pandemics of disease and violent conflict.
0.7%, our commitment to spend a fixed proportion of our gross national income on aid also matters because it says that the extent of our solidarity and compassion and our commitment to fight global injustice is constant, no matter our own fortunes.
It is a commitment to give the same slice of the cake, whatever the size of the cake.
It is a recognition that when things are challenging for the UK economy, they will be even more challenging in the Global South, and justice demands that we act.
And it is an acknowledgement of our interconnectedness, across international boundaries.
We cannot insulate ourselves from the impacts of climate change, disease or conflict by turning ourselves inward. These international challenges must be tackled through global cooperation and a redistribution of resources from the wealthiest nations to the world’s poorest.
The net total spend on UK aid was always going to drop this year as the UK economy has contracted due to the impacts of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. This Government has made a political decision to make this cut much deeper and more damaging by abandoning our commitment to 0.7%.
The list of aid programmes which will be instantly impacted by this cut is truly sickening to consider:
- Education funding cut by 40% with 700,000 fewer girls receiving an education. That isn’t an inconsequential change in a spreadsheet – it is a life sentence to poverty, exploitation and ill health for 700,000 precious girls and young women.
- Life saving water, sanitation and hygiene projects cut by more than 80% across the global south. People will die preventable deaths because of these cuts.
- £1.6 bn cut from humanitarian aid, in areas like Tigray in Ethiopia, with high food insecurity, the centre of the 1984 famine, currently riven by conflict and with hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation.
- An 85% cut to the UK’s funding of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency. Funding which would have prevented a quarter of a million child and maternal deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.
And there are many, many more.
The statutory commitment to 0.7% was hard won by millions of campaigners in community organisations and faith communities up and down the country. Because of their commitment, promises have been made in successive manifestos of multiple political parties. The British people voted for 0.7%.
The Government is breaking its promises to the UN and to the world’s poorest nations; and it is breaking its promise to UK voters too.
The Government’s cuts are callous, unjust and reckless. They are a betrayal of the generosity and internationalism of the British people.
I fervently hope that as a result of today’s emergency debate we will see that cutting UK aid is not the will of this House, and that this cynical political decision, with such devastating consequences, will not be allowed to stand."