Just before the Easter break for Parliament Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing asked the Prime Minister a Question following a statement that Johnson made under the title of “Integrated Review”. As that heading is not very clear these were the first few words in his statement which makes it a wee bit clearer. “I will make a statement on the Government’s integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, which we are publishing today”. Sadly the question from Mr Bottomley which had several aspects was almost entirely ignored and as is the case far too often in Parliament the responses from the Prime Minister or Ministers at sessions like this and the Prime Ministers Questions take that approach. Apart from the leader of the Labour Party everyone else gets one question and the Prime Minister gives one response and then someone else gets their chance to ask a totally different question. The inadequacy of many of the answers is probably why Johnson is so fearful of the rare occasions when he gets properly challenged by the Chairs of the various Committees in a more robust debate. The only prospect we can hope for is that some MPs or at least Peter Bottomley will bring this up again in the near future. The main focus of the question was.
The Prime Minister did not mention development much in his statement, and I ask him to meet us to have a discussion on it.
The question of meeting the 0.7%—70p in every £100 of our income—has been agreed; the Government said that that would be maintained. They now say that there will be a gap and it will be restored. We want that gap to be evaporated—to go away and not to happen. The aid goes down with our income; it should go up with our income, and we should meet the commitment we made in successive manifestos.
I leave it to the Prime Minister to say when those who are concerned for aid for Yemen, the Voluntary Service Overseas and others will get an answer as to whether they will be cut as well.
I want to stand beside the Prime Minister as well as behind him, and we want to do what he wrote in our 2019 manifesto and proudly meet that commitment.
And he is right, in the first section and first request for a meeting which as we will see shortly is totally ignored. Apart from the mention in the sub heading the only use of the word development in his 1256 words is as follows and he did not mention Aid at all.
By strengthening our armed forces, we will extend British influence, while simultaneously creating jobs across the United Kingdom, reinforcing the Union and maximising our advantage in science and technology. This Government will invest more in research and development than any of our predecessors because innovation is the key to our success at home and abroad, from speeding our economic recovery, to shaping emerging technologies in accordance with freedom and openness. We will better protect ourselves against threats to our economic security.
Strangely Boris did not refer to Research & Development in his sub title which is very different to the phrase development. As Peter Bottomley suggested, there was a reference in the 2019 manifesto to Foreign Aid which was on page 53 under the title of Promote our Values
We will 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.
So back to the answer or rather lack of answer from Boris Johnson – the following is all he said to the Father of Parliament.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his points. People listening to this debate might not grasp that this country is actually the biggest European donor to Yemen; we have given £1 billion over the past six years and £87 million this year. I do not think people grasp that we are giving £10 billion in international aid. We can be very proud of what we are doing. Of course, we will return to the 0.7% target when fiscal circumstances allow.
The reality is that our fiscal circumstances would allow us to make 0.7% now – there is no reason why not and it is vital that he and his team are persuaded to do what they said they would do in their manifesto. Let us hope that early in April this theme gets revisited.