Official Development Assistance

26th November 2020

Andrew Mitchell condemns the decision to break the 0.7% ODA promise.

I thank the Foreign Secretary very much for his courtesy over recent months, for his extremely welcome support for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, and for his kind comments about Lady Sugg, who was a brilliant Development Minister. I hope that everyone in the House will read her principled and moving resignation letter, which she released yesterday.

My right hon. Friend and I both know that, seen from the Biden White House, this is a dismal start to our G7 chairmanship. As the former Prime Minister said yesterday, the 0.7% is a promise that we as Tories do not need to break. My right hon. Friend knows, does he not, that taking a further 30% out of the development budget will drive a horse and cart through many of the plans that the British Government have so strongly supported for eliminating poverty. It will withdraw access to family planning and contraception for more than 7 million women, with all the misery that that will entail; 100,000 children will die from preventable diseases; and 2 million people—mainly children—will suffer much more steeply from malnutrition and starvation as a result of these changes. In spite of what he says about prioritising girls’ education, which is extremely welcome, under the existing plans probably 1 million girls will not be able to go to school. I hope that he will bear in mind that these reductions make little difference to us in the United Kingdom, but they make a massive difference to them.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who was a fantastic Development Secretary. We have talked at length about these issues since our time in opposition, and will continue to do so. He mentioned a number of points. He read out some statistics. With respect, I do not think it is possible to talk with the precision that he did about the implications, because we are not going to take a salami-slicing approach and just say, “We’re going to cut a third from all areas of ODA.” That is not what we are going to do. We are going to take a strategic approach. We will safeguard those areas that we regard as an absolute priority, including many of the things he mentioned, particularly public health and international public health, alongside covid, climate change and girls’ education.

My right hon. Friend talked about ICAI. As he knows, I am committed to reinforcing ICAI’s role; we welcome the transparency and scrutiny. Finally, he talked about the US. With respect, I disagree. At 0.5% next year, we will still be spending a greater proportion of GNI than the US. Given the widespread cross-party concerns in the US about defence spending within the European context, I think they will welcome the fact that we are increasing our security and defence budget.