The comments made by Sam Tarry, the Labour MP for Ilford South, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2021.
The Government’s decision to renege on their international obligations rides roughshod over those ring-fenced commitments and puts at risk the lives of millions across the globe. That is not in our national interest, and it is certainly not in our national security interest, and that is before taking into consideration our moral duty as a nation to alleviate global poverty.
Damningly, several former Prime Ministers, who proudly upheld our country’s aid commitments, have voiced their concerns about this Government’s handling of their international aid obligations. Indeed, we heard earlier that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) has committed to voting against a three-line Conservative Whip for the first time ever, so powerfully does she feel about this issue.
When the right hon. Lady spoke in this debate, she was crystal clear on what the aid cuts would mean, “fewer girls will be educated, more girls and boys will become slaves, more children will go hungry and more of the poorest people in the world will die.” A damning indictment from a former Conservative Prime Minister.
The UK has a long and proud track record of stepping up to support those in need. We cannot abandon our responsibilities to those around the world who are most poverty-stricken, least of all in a global pandemic. The UK is currently the only G7 country to commit in legislation to spending 0.7% of gross national income on international development, a target set by the United Nations, and it is the second largest international development donor behind only the US. That is right and proper, and it is a fact.
The extended families of many of my Ilford South constituents directly benefit from UK aid, lifting millions out of illiteracy and poverty and providing so much support to some of the poorest communities around the globe, including in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
However, instead of leading by example, this Government are now, shamefully, the only G7 Government to cut their aid budget this year. There can be no clearer argument against cutting aid than the devastating impact on the covid response. In April this year, when the delta variant was ravaging India, vital coronavirus research centres—including a project tracking variants in India—had their funding reduced by up to 70%, prompting the project lead to say that the cut would not only make vital projects unviable but would, in effect, kill them dead.
In May, the Tropical Health and Education Trust criticised the UK Government for slashing £48 million in global healthcare funding as part of their wider cuts. Indeed, the NHS’s plans to donate 6 million items of personal protective equipment to healthcare workers fighting new variants across the world were held up, yet again preventing the containment of the virus.
We have a duty to act, and we must do so now before it is too late for millions who rely on direct aid. This is not about giving a man a fish to feed himself but about giving him a net to provide for himself. It is about our historic obligation to lift up the global south using our nation’s far greater resources.
I welcome the actions of Conservative Members who will join us today in voting against this callous and awful manoeuvre by the Government.