All MPs need to stand up and challenge the call by Rishi Sunak to end the promise set out in the Conservative manifesto less than a year ago under the title of Promote our Values to “proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development, and do more to help countries receiving aid become self-sufficient.” There was no way of understanding at that time how much damage would come from a condition like COVID-19 to our Gross National Income, but that damage to our GNI from both COVID and our departure from the EU will both set out serious limitations to what we can do through the the aid provision over the next decade. However to cut the sum from 0.7% of our GNI to 0.5% of our GNI is deeply mistaken. For the moment we continue to be the 6th or 7th largest economy in the world and we need to continue to set a very strong commitment to assisting much weaker parts of the world we live in. Indeed arguably, our commitment should be to increase the proportion right now, rather than cut it. As Elizabeth Sugg expressed in her resignation from the FCO
“This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good. Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy. the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises.
Although in the past I have disagreed with some of the actions by Ms Sugg in response to questions from Steve Bassam, on this occasion I applaud her for resigning and hope that in due course all of the other MPs and Lords in Parliament will stand up and call for a reversal of this deeply mistaken decision. It was deeply concerning that when the statements were made by MPs including Andrea Leadsom, that the focus was on how much we contribute which is based on our economy. The image above shows that we were already 7th on the list and although the reduction retains us in that position as I have already suggested we should now be looking to extend our role, not place us less than 1% above the next nation. Along with Liz Sugg the Archbishop of Canterbury has tweeted “The cut in the aid budget – made worse by no set date for restoration – is shameful and wrong. It’s contrary to numerous Government promises and its manifesto. I join others in urging MPs to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.” and Peter Bottomley MP has tweeted “I share in the desire that poorer countries have the opportunity to work and to trade their way out of poverty and that we meet our national commitment for providing 0.7% of our national income as aid, a commitment we made in 2019 and 2017. A percentage of GDP is flexible enough.” The 2019 manifesto stated at the heading of the section within which the previous statement was included:
From helping to end the slave trade to tackling modern slavery, the UK has long been a beacon of freedom and human rights – and will continue to be so. We are proud of our peace-building and humanitarian efforts around the world, particularly in war-torn or divided societies, and of our record in helping to reduce global poverty. We will continue to support international initiatives to achieve reconciliation, stability and justice across the world, and in current or former conflict zones such as Cyprus, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, where we maintain our support for a two-state solution.