Happy new year, Mr Speaker. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has a new strategic framework for official development assistance that focuses on poverty and delivery of sustainable development goals. Specifically, our priorities will be climate, biodiversity, covid, global health, girls’ education, science and research, open societies, conflict, humanitarian assistance directly and trade.
I am grateful to the Minister for his response. With international development spending already falling in line with the country’s drop in gross national income, and given the Chancellor’s deplorable plan to slash the UK’s commitment to the world’s poorest still further, it is more important than ever that UK ODA spending directly reaches developing countries and the communities and individuals in those countries who need it most. Could the Minister explain what criteria are being used to ensure that poverty alleviation is prioritised in decisions on spending? How are the Government planning to consult civil society on this?
I can reassure the hon. Lady that the UK Government remain one of the most generous donors in relation to ODA, with more than £10 billion focused on poverty reduction. Clearly, we will consult with civil society and non-governmental organisations; Lord Ahmad has recently done that, and we will all continue to do that. In addition, £1.3 billion has been focused specifically on covid, and more than 300 programmes have been repurposed to deal with covid issues.
Global poverty has risen for the first time in more than 20 years, and by the end of this year, it is estimated that there will be more than 150 million people in extreme poverty. Against that backdrop, the UK Government recklessly abolished the Department for International Development, they are reneging on their 0.7% of GNI commitment, and they do not even mention eradicating poverty in the seven global challenges that UK aid is to be focused on. Can the Minister explicitly commit to eradicating poverty within the new official development assistance framework, rather than pursuing inhumane and devastating cuts as part of the Prime Minister’s little Britain vanity project?
The hon. Gentleman knows that we share a passion for international development. These specific targets do aim to alleviate and eradicate poverty, but the causes of poverty and the solutions to it are complex. That is why the merger of the Departments works, dealing with development and diplomacy alongside one another to overcome the scourge of poverty, which, sadly, has increased not decreased as a result of covid. The joined-up Department will help in the objectives that he and I care so passionately about.