Ruth Jones – 2021 Speech on Foreign Aid Cuts

The comments made by Ruth Jones, the Labour MP for Newport West, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2021.

I would like to say that it is a pleasure to speak in this debate, but that would not be true. I am appalled that we are having to vote on this proposal at all. This cut to our international aid budget reflects badly on all of us, not just the Government, and portrays the UK as inward-looking and self-serving.

This is a Tory manifesto promise that will be broken, and broken very publicly, as the whole world is watching. I wonder how the Prime Minister can have the bottle to attend COP26 and call on other countries to raise finances for climate action, given that he is in charge of a Government who are cutting their own contribution—surely the ultimate act of hypocrisy.

If overseas aid funding was going to finance vanity projects, trips to the moon or high-flying, cutting-edge dodgy ventures, I could begin to understand the reasoning behind the decision, but none of the projects fall into those categories. They are basic health and social care projects that benefit millions of people across poorer countries on our planet. It funds basic projects such as polio eradication, sexual health advice, the clearing of landmines, education programmes, the provision of clean water and sanitation, and the prevention of sexual exploitation of women and girls. The money funds training programmes such as the NHS overseas training scheme, which trains 78,000 healthcare workers in Nepal, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Many projects will now come to an end, affecting lives in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Somaliland, Nigeria and many more. By cutting funding to those numerous projects the Government will cause many unnecessary deaths, which is a scandal. We must highlight that callous approach today. Before Government Members say, “Oh, it is just Labour Members whingeing again”, let us have a look at the people who are calling for a reversal of the cuts: Tory Ministers such as Ruth Davidson; Baroness Sugg, who resigned from the Government in November over the cuts; and the right hon. Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma).

World leaders have condemned the cuts, including Samantha Power, head of the United States Agency for International Development, and Malala, who calls on the Prime Minister to keep his promise of helping 40 million girls go to school, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who describes the Chancellor’s decision as “shameful and wrong”. Interestingly, every living former Prime Minister is opposed to the plan. These are big hitters, and their condemnation is clear. I therefore urge the current Prime Minister and the Chancellor to think again, go back to the drawing board, and plan a different route that does not disadvantage millions of people in countries less affluent than our own. This is not fair and it is not right. I want to be very clear: I will vote against the Government’s plan to cut the overseas aid budget by £4 billion this year, and I urge Government Members to do the same, because the world is watching.