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Flooding (UK)

Volume 576: debated on Wednesday 5 March 2014

5. What consideration she has given to making funds from her Department’s budget available to people in the UK affected by flooding. (902823)

The Government fully understand the need to help those in the UK affected by recent flooding, but Britain does not need to make a false choice between spending money to tackle flooding in the UK and spending it to save lives overseas through the aid budget. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has pledged that all immediate practical support and assistance will be provided to deal with the floods in the UK.

When natural disasters take place in other parts of the world, the Government are always quick to respond. At a time when money is tight and the Department’s budget is the only one not under any financial pressure, surely if people in the UK need aid following a natural disaster, the aid budget should be made available to them. Charity begins at home, and the Government should not treat people abroad more favourably than people in this country.

I quite understand what my hon. Friend says, and I fully share his wish to give proper assistance to those in the UK affected by flooding. The international development budget, within our 0.7% of gross national income commitment, has to be used for official development assistance as defined by the OECD. It is not possible for us to redefine ODA in a way that would allow it to be transferred immediately to domestic purposes. The assumption in his question is therefore a false choice. I am pleased to say that the Government can help flood victims at home as well as abroad.

We know that the greatest risk that the UK faces from climate change is flooding, but the developing world will be hit even harder, so we all need a global climate deal. Will the Minister commit the Prime Minister to attending Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in September, as other world leaders will, and to pushing for a stand-alone climate change goal in the post-2015 process?

The hon. Gentleman strays ever so slightly from the question on the Order Paper, but I understand his point. I am not privy at this stage to the Prime Minister’s diary, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the priorities that we set in our overseas aid programmes focus on climate change to a large extent and are doing an enormous amount of good.

The clue is in the name—overseas aid. I am sure the Minister agrees that organisations such as Tearfund, of which I am a vice-president, that work with flood-prone communities to build capacity can help to save both lives and livelihoods at home and abroad.

I have no doubt that Tearfund is lucky to have my right hon. Friend as its vice-president. I can confirm that a lot of expertise can be shared by countries across the world, and I like to think that the Department for International Development is very much in the lead in ensuring that flood defences and preparations and emergency response are of the best sort.

The coalition Government should be proud of having finally achieved 0.7% of gross national income going to international development. Alongside that, instead of having false arguments such as this, could we look, with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, at the £30 billion tax gap and do even more to clamp down on tax evasion?

I understand the issue, and we have addressed it on many occasions in this House. Part of our activities abroad is to ensure that we build up the tax base of impoverished countries, so that from their own resources they can ensure that their rich people pay a fair share of their income, and so that they can help their own poor people.