Preet Kaur Gill – 2021 Speech on Yemen

The speech made by Preet Kaur Gill, the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, in the House of Commons on 2 March 2021.

The Government’s announcement yesterday at the high pledging conference discarded the British people’s proud history of stepping up and supporting those in need. In the middle of a pandemic, when millions stand on the brink of famine, the Government slashed life-saving support to the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, halving direct aid to Yemen weeks after they announced £1.36 billion in new arms licences to Saudi Arabia. This is a devastating reminder of the real world impact that the Government’s choices to abandon their manifesto commitment on aid will have on the most vulnerable people and shows that this Government just cannot be trusted to keep their word.

After six years of brutal conflict, two thirds of the Yemeni population rely on food aid to survive and thousands of people in the country are at risk of famine. Cutting aid is a death sentence that this Government have chosen to make, so will the Minister take this opportunity to apologise? Alongside this cut in humanitarian support, the UK continues to sustain the war in Yemen. Will the Minister follow the lead set by President Biden by stopping all UK arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition, so that we can use our role as the penholder on Yemen to help bring this brutal conflict to an end?

If the Foreign Secretary is willing to brazenly slash support to people living in the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, despite claiming for months that humanitarian crises were a priority, then the question is, what is going to happen to the rest of the aid budget on other priorities? The Minister has refused

“to talk to the aid and development community about what will be cut”

because he is ashamed. He is ashamed that the Government’s cuts will put millions of people’s lives at risk. This Government cannot continue to pretend otherwise. So will they publish a full list of the cuts made in 2020 and of the cuts to be made in 2021 by the end of this week?

What we saw yesterday are not the actions of global Britain. That phrase rings hollow. Make no mistake: as the UK abandons its commitment to 0.7%, it is simultaneously undermining our global reputation. Does the Minister believe that he has the support of this House to make this appalling cut and, if so, will he bring forward a vote on the 0.7% commitment? Tomorrow, the Chancellor has a choice. He must reverse his decision to make the UK the only G7 nation to cut its aid budget. He must reverse his Government’s retreat from the world stage and celebrate Britain’s proud history as a country that stands up for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable in society. That is the true test of global Britain.