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Official Development Assistance Budget

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of reductions in the official development assistance budget on poverty in the global south. (912755)

What the (a) timetable and (b) scope is of his proposed changes to official development assistance spending. (912770)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of reductions in the official development assistance budget on poverty in the global south. (912771)

The Government remain firmly committed to helping the world’s poorest people. Our aid budget will continue to serve the primary aim of reducing poverty in developing countries, including in the global south.

The Government have made the appalling decision to slash life-saving support for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people in the middle of a pandemic, and an equally appalling announcement yesterday about Yemen highlighted a blatant disregard to fulfilling their moral duty. Will the Minister and the Foreign Secretary press the Chancellor to use this week’s Budget to rebuild Britain’s proud position as a country that supports those in need by reversing his decision to make the UK the only G7 nation to cut its aid budget?

I am sorry the hon. Gentleman thinks that £10 billion is a small sum of money. He mentions Yemen; we should be proud that, since the start of that conflict, we have contributed £1 billion, and at the pledging conference yesterday, a further £87 million. That is activity from this Government, and we are proud of that activity.

It is reported that cuts announced to international aid spending will not come in until after the G7 summit. This merely delays rather than avoids humiliation on the world stage, while the absence of a timetable for when the cuts will take place leaves charities trying to plan ahead in limbo. Does the Minister agree that this unsustainable position will be detrimental to project outcomes, and would it not be preferable to reverse this shameful decision now?

I just do not recognise the timescale that the hon. Member speaks of. We work with partners on an ongoing basis on the delivery of programmes, and we will continue to do so. That is what I do on a daily basis, among other Ministers.

Britain holds the pen on Yemen, but as the senior country is it not our duty to lead by example, and is not cutting aid by 60% at a time of acute humanitarian crisis a terrible example? The UN Secretary-General said that reducing aid was a “death sentence”. Is he wrong?

Another person who does not think that £1 billion is a lot of money—[Interruption.] Well, £87 million is a lot of money. We are doing exactly what the hon. Gentleman is saying and we are standing up. This is the fifth largest pledge to Yemen, and he should be proud of that, not attacking it.

I am hearing a lot of bluff and bluster. This Government are pressing ahead with the deepest and most devastating cuts to the aid budget at the worst possible time, and in doing so they are reneging on the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid, which is enshrined in law. When I asked the Foreign Secretary about that, he said:

“We want to respect that legislation, and we will.”

With press reports speculating that cuts will take place from April, and that the legislation will not be amended until July, will the Foreign Secretary refuse to implement those cuts before the legislation is passed? Will he resign if he breaks the law—yes or no?

As the Foreign Secretary said earlier, we will look carefully at what is required by law, but the law envisages that 0.7% target potentially not being met in any given year, in view of the specific fiscal and economic circumstances. We will abide by that law. Furthermore, the legislation allows us to report to Parliament on what we are doing, and we will stick to that.

I was ashamed yesterday when this Government more than halved their contribution to the humanitarian support in Yemen—the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet. I hope that is not the global Britain we want. What consultation has the Minister had with non-governmental organisations, recipients, and partners in the global south, to minimise the impact of changes to the UK aid budget? When will the Government publish their forthcoming country allocations for official development assistance spending?

The process the hon. Lady mentions regarding the decisions on publication has not yet been met. Our focus has been on looking at country plans and the programmes centrally, and on doing that through countries. By extension, part of that will be looking through delivery partners, including the NGOs that play an excellent role. We are engaging with them as early as possible, including through embassies to where a lot of this relationship is devolved. That is essential, and we remain committed to doing that.