MPs oppose aid cuts and seek transparency
The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, says the strength of feeling in the House against the government’s cuts to the aid budget is obvious from the large number of MPs involved against the cuts. 63 MPs signed an amendment on Monday which would have reversed the budget reduction. In addition, over 70 were hoping to speak in a debate on the subject on Tuesdayday – the majority of these speaking against the cuts.
Cross party MPs who signed the amendment to reverse the budget cut, which reduced aid spending from 0.7% of Gross National Income to just 0.5%, included a former Prime Minister, two former International Development Secretaries and numerous current Chairs of a wide range of Parliament’s select committees.
The aid cuts will be debated in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Sarah Champion MP said:
“The wide range of MPs opposed to the cuts from all parties shows that this issue goes beyond politics. It is simply wrong for us, as one of the richest countries in the world, to take money from our aid programmes which help people build better lives in poorer states.
“The cuts are savage. In the Central African Republic, for example, our direct (‘bilateral’) aid programmes were worth £24.7m in 2019. This year, that will be cut to zero.
“Countries can’t plan with yo-yoing budgets like that. At the same time, without careful planning, it makes it difficult for the UK to make sure our taxpayers get value for money from the aid programme”.
The Chair of the International Development Committee also expressed frustration that, as well as making deep cuts to the aid budget, the government has consistently refused to be transparent with the Committee about when and where the cuts will fall.
This was illustrated once again in a recent exchange of letters between Sarah Champion MP and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary, Dominic Raab MP.
Ms Champion’s letter of May 11, published here called on Mr Raab to give a breakdown over time for the various countries and organisations helped by UK aid programmes. But Mr Raab’s reply of June 3, here, failed completely to give that detail.
As just one simple example of the lack of clarity, an annex to Mr Raab’s letter is described by the Foreign Secretary as “the list of countries to which I have allocated bilateral Official Development Assistance this year”. But the annex is simply a list of countries without a single figure attached.
"This is a ridiculous way to inform Parliament”, Sarah Champion said;
“The list includes countries that are far apart in geography, economic development and countless other factors. There are small central African states and huge Asian ones on the list. But there’s not a single figure setting out the direct UK aid spend for any of them.
“We can’t tell if Afghanistan, say, or Somalia, are being allocated £1 or £10m.
“But we can see, unfortunately, that some of the countries most in need of assistance – such as Mali, which is suffering from political unrest and insurgencies - have been dropped from getting any UK assistance at all. Why? Mr Raab’s letter does not tell us.
“We cannot conduct Parliamentary scrutiny like this. We oppose these cuts and we oppose the irrational way the axe is falling.”