Tom Tugendhat – 2021 Speech on Foreign Aid Cuts

The speech made by Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2021.

I am delighted to be called, and I pay enormous tribute to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is sitting on the Front Bench today. The Chancellor demonstrated during his career before reaching this place that we can do well by doing good. In working for the Children’s Investment Fund Management, he proved that finance and capitalism can support the world’s poorest and change lives, but he will also recognise that even an impressive fund such as that is built on a stable platform created by Governments and guaranteed by organisations, international bodies and others. I am very sorry but for that reason I will not be able to support him today, because that platform is so important. That confidence and ability to rely on a stable platform for the future is essential. Instead of that continuity and that guarantee of an enduring future, we are sadly going back towards the yo-yo policy. That is not just bad because of the variability; it is bad because it costs more and delivers less. Frankly, it is inefficient, it is an error and it undermines our capability.

Nobody in this House is more passionate about global Britain or Britain’s place in the world than me. Nobody believes more that we should have a place at every table and a voice in every room. But we need to know that we are no longer buying that with gunboats; we are buying it with the aid and the effectiveness that we bring.

Anthony Mangnall

My hon. and gallant Friend is making an impressive speech. He talks about global Britain; the point of global Britain is diplomacy, trade, aid and defence. Those four things are interconnected with one another: if we reduce one, that has an impact on all. That will be detrimental to everything from the integrated review to our outside approach.

Tom Tugendhat

My hon. Friend is completely correct. Of course, the reality is that we are not living in a vacuum—we are not taking these decisions with nobody watching. Our friends are watching and our rivals are watching. As we make this decision, as we change our policy on Afghanistan, and as we buy different seats at various UN tables through our diplomacy in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America, we know that we are changing the rules by which we live. We are literally changing the standards of our modern world through how we buy support, develop allies and partner around the world.

As Members have said, this debate is of course about the world’s poorest, but it is not just about the world’s poorest. Fundamentally, it is about Britain and how we protect ourselves. How do we shape this world? How do we get the standards that make sure that British businesses succeed, British finance shapes the world and British rules are those that the world lives by? We do that by making sure that we win the votes at the UN by making sure that we have the voices around the table—the voices of the Foreign Ministers of countries around the world. We can do it; I know that because we have done it. For 20 years we have won debates, shaped arguments and defended our position. We have done it by doing well and by doing good—exactly as the Chancellor demonstrated in his pre-political career.

I can understand why the Government might say that these targets—these ambitions—are too high and that they wish to set a different spending limit, but that is not the argument they are making. The argument that the Government are making is the Augustinian argument: “Lord, make me chaste—but not just yet.” If you wish to be holy, choose sanctity; if you wish not to be, be frank with what you are choosing.