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Overseas Humanitarian Work

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of reductions in the UK aid budget on the UK’s humanitarian work overseas. (902992)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of reductions in the UK aid budget on the UK’s humanitarian work overseas. (903007)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of reductions in the UK aid budget on the UK’s humanitarian work overseas. (903013)

Humanitarian preparedness and response is one of the Foreign Office’s seven priorities under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and is a priority for the UK’s aid budget spend this year. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will spend £906 million to maintain the UK’s role as a force for good at the time of crisis. We have consistently been one of the largest bilateral humanitarian donors globally: since 2015, the UK has provided over £11.1 billion in humanitarian funding. However, it is not all about money. The FCDO is uniquely placed to bring together diplomatic clout and humanitarian expertise, to ensure the drive for more effectiveness in the response to humanitarian crisis through preparedness, and an example of that is the G7 famine compact.

In that case, what is the Minister’s message to constituents in Glasgow North who have donated in good faith to UK Government aid match programmes such as those run by Mary’s Meals or War Child, who have now been told that the match funding they were expecting for every pound donated by a member of the public will be delayed at least until next year? That is delaying and slowing down vital life-saving humanitarian work, so when are the aid match funds going to be released? Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. [Interruption.]

As my ministerial colleagues have just said, the hon. Gentleman answers his question in his question. I pay tribute to the generosity of spirit of the people of the UK—all parts of the UK—who have contributed to humanitarian relief causes. I also pay tribute, of course, to the excellent work of the FCDO members of staff who are based in East Kilbride; they do fantastic work .

May I ask the Minister specifically what support is being made available to the small island states? They have climate vulnerability—they are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events—and they have been devastated financially by the pandemic, but the metrics that are used to calculate whether they count as least-developed countries often do not take into account those particular vulnerabilities. What is he doing to ensure that aid will get to them, and that debt relief is also considered?

The hon. Member makes an important point, and we take our responsibility to small island nations seriously. That issue does not necessarily fall within the humanitarian spend, which is designed for more acute need, but we will of course, through things like COP26, take into consideration the factors that are difficult for small nations to deal with, whether they be island nations or otherwise, and that will always remain a serious piece of work in the FCDO.

The official development assistance budget, before it was cut, would have amounted to 1% of covid borrowing. We all know that the motion that was passed last week essentially spells the end of the 0.7% commitment. In the absence of the development strategy from the Department, which continues to be delayed, is it now the case for the Government that those who need help the most are relegated to the bottom of the pile to wait for everything else to be done, rather than being put front and centre of foreign policy?

The hon. Gentleman seems to disregard the fact that the UK will remain one of the most generous aid donors in the world, spending £10 billion to help some of the poorest people in the world. We are experiencing the worst economic contraction in three centuries, driven by a global pandemic beyond any of our control, but our commitment to get back to 0.7% has now been set out and the conditions for doing so are now public. We are proud of the work that we do supporting the poorest people around the world, and we will continue to be one of the most generous aid donors in the world.