UN International Day of Education

28th January 2021

Andrew Mitchell calls on the Government to rethink its cut to the 0.7% of GNI development spending commitment.

Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con)
I am a humbled to be the first man to take part in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) on her brilliant opening speech, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) on her important new appointment.
There are many interventions we can make to fundamentally change the world. We can ensure that people have clean water. Dirty water and water-borne diseases still kill thousands of children every day. We can vaccinate children, which is a UK priority. In the last Parliament, British taxpayers vaccinated a child in the poor world every two seconds and saved the life of a child in the poor world every two minutes from diseases that, thank goodness, our children do not suffer from today. We can exhort contraception and family planning, allowing women in the poor world to decide whether and when they have children.
But for me, education, and educating girls in particular, is top of the list of ways we can change the world. If we educate a girl, she will almost certainly marry later. She will ensure that she educates her own children. She is likely to be economically active. She will adopt a leadership position in her family and her community, and these women are increasingly seen in national government. The UK has been a leader in this area under both parties, and our Prime Minister eloquently extols the importance of every girl having 12 years of education as a critical way of improving the world. We see in Africa the extraordinary way in which education is valued by parents and children as the ladder out of poverty. They walk so far every day to get an education and wrap their textbooks in the brown paper that shows their value.
When so many children cannot go to school here and in the poorest, most deprived parts of the world, this is not a time for Britain to renege on its promise to the poorest through the 0.7%. Every Member of this House was elected on a promise to stand by the 0.7%. It is just 1% of the debt we have racked up this year. The 0.7% is already reduced by nearly £3 billion, because gross national income has gone done so much this year. If these cuts persist, it will mean that 1.6 million fewer Toggle showing location ofColumn 642children go to school, 12.6 million of the poorest women in the world will not have access to contraception, 3.4 million starving and hungry people will not get humanitarian support, 9.3 million children will not get vaccinated and 6.3 million who would previously have got access to clean water and sanitation will not get it.
If the Government try to protect one or more of those areas, the effect on the others will be even worse. It is a dismal start to the UK’s presidency of the G7 to cut this budget, when we have seen the United States increase its aid spending as a priority just this week. We know from the pandemic that we will not be safe here until we are safe everywhere. It is a terrible mistake to cut the 0.7%, and I urge the Government to think again.