I was intending to speak in yesterday’s debate on Overseas Development Assistance, but unfortunately I was not called. What I was planning on saying is posted below:
Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to the honourable member for Sutton Coldfield and colleagues on both sides of this house for securing this important debate. My tribute to all organisations and individuals that have campaigned against these brutal cuts including Global Justice Now, Save the Children, British Red Cross, Oxfam and others.
The world is facing a catastrophic pandemic and unless we take an internationalist view, we will never overcome this tragedy. It is truly shameful that this government made a political choice to abolish DFID and merge it with the FCO at the height of the pandemic. DFID was a global leader in development issues and one of the best examples of Global Britain.
During these pandemic times, it is often said that no one is safe until everyone is safe, but the government’s actions speak louder than words. This government has cut vital coronavirus research, including a project tracking the variant in India by 70%. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic.
Mr Deputy Speaker, recent media reports informed us that the Treasury delayed plans to send surplus PPE equipment to India over a dispute regarding allocation towards overall aid spending. These unnecessary delays have deeply negative consequences. Cutting aid will have almost no impact on the UK’s own finances, but is likely to heighten poverty in some parts of the world.
In addition, there has been a £48 million cut to the NHS overseas training scheme, the scheme that trains medical staff in some of the poorest countries. This scheme works with 500 health facilities across Africa and Asia in places that suffer a deficit in medical staff. The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine would have seen NHS staff provide training to 78,000 healthcare workers in Nepal, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The UK has 820 Bangladeshi nationals working in our NHS, 118 Ethiopian, 572 Ugandan and 1,988 Nepalis.
The CDC Group, which promotes privatisation and unaffordable private hospitals in the global south, is due to receive £779 million this year. It seems the cuts only apply to projects that support development. Disgracefully, aid spending targeted at meeting “strategic priorities” will only be cut by 37%, and funding to the much criticised Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which last year was found to have supported brutal police squads in Nigeria, has fallen by only 19%.
Mr Deputy Speaker, this multi billion pound cut to ODA has a momentous human cost – there is no question that these cuts will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths. Cutting programmes including humanitarian aid, global health, girls’ education, water and sanitation, food security and malnutrition, and sexual and reproductive health have real consequences.
The UK must return to 0.7% of GNI as ODA under the internationally agreed definition. But also, the government must bring a meaningful vote to the House on this decision. Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for allowing me to contribute.