VoteClimate: International Aid: Treasury Update - 13th July 2021

International Aid: Treasury Update - 13th July 2021

Here are the climate-related sections of speeches by MPs during the Commons debate International Aid: Treasury Update.

Full text: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-07-13/debates/92FD1E80-7F3E-461D-AC25-F6B79E503131/InternationalAidTreasuryUpdate

12:53 The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson)

We are devoting £11.6 billion, double our previous commitment, to helping developing countries to deal with climate change, including by protecting their forests and introducing green energy. I can tell the House that this vital investment will be protected.

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13:02 Keir Starmer (Labour)

This cut will also reduce UK influence just when it is needed most, and of course it risks leaving a vacuum that other countries—China and Russia, for example—will fill. At a time when Britain will host COP26 and has hosted the G7 we should be using every means at our disposal to create a fairer and safer world, but we are the only G7 country that is cutting our aid budget—the only G7 country. That is not the vision of global Britain that those of us on the Labour Benches want to see, and I do not think it is the vision of global Britain that many on the Benches opposite want to see either.

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13:22 Chris Law (SNP)

Those are just three examples that cover women’s reproductive rights, disease prevention and urgent humanitarian assistance, but cuts are happening across the board. Programmes to eradicate poverty, to prevent conflict or even to combat climate change—in the year that we will host COP26 in Glasgow—are all suffering a similar fate. Each budget reduced, each project scaled back and each programme cancelled results in a loss of hard-fought progress, a loss of expertise and, fundamentally, a loss of trust. This so-called temporary measure will inflict long-term damage and long-term pain and suffering, which is why the cut must be urgently reversed. The Government are pretending that there is no other option than to cut from 0.7% to 0.5%, but we know that that is not the case. In fact, it is blatantly not the case.

It is simply a matter of political priorities, and this Chancellor and this Prime Minister have shown where their priorities lie. Let us not kid ourselves that this is being spent on health, welfare and education at home because it clearly is not. The Chancellor chose to take money away from preventing famine and malnutrition, conflict prevention, and protecting our planet and marginalised communities from the devastating effects of climate change. Instead—I am glad to see the Chancellor in his place—he chose to spend the money on enhanced cyberweapons, AI-enabled drones and, the biggest folly of all, increased stockpiles of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, after he delivered a windfall for the defence budget—in the very same month the cut from 0.7% to 0.5% was announced.

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13:56 Wendy Chamberlain (Liberal Democrat)

Slashing development spending is deeply harmful to the notion of global Britain and to us at home. The cuts to this funding also mean cuts to spending within the UK, a fact that I think is sometimes lost. ODA funding goes to many places, including our universities that are doing research into how best to tackle the entrenched causes of global inequality and how to support developing countries to be self-sufficient. St Andrews University in my constituency is looking at up to 50% cuts to some of its active projects, which will impact on the poorest today. These cuts harm not only those in need around the world but our own research and innovation industries, which are vital to our response to Brexit and to facing the climate crisis.

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14:15 Ruth Jones (Labour)

This is a Tory manifesto promise that will be broken, and broken very publicly, as the whole world is watching. I wonder how the Prime Minister can have the bottle to attend COP26 and call on other countries to raise finances for climate action, given that he is in charge of a Government who are cutting their own contribution—surely the ultimate act of hypocrisy.

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14:20 Geraint Davies (Other)

There is no economic or moral justification for cutting overseas aid from the richest to the poorest at this most desperate time in the eye of the pandemic storm, which spreads death, disease and hunger like a wildfire through developing nations. Let us imagine looking at our children starving in front of us, huddled in a tent in the blistering heat of Afghanistan, Yemen or Syria, as we think about the cars, houses, fridges and Netflix that people have in the west. Let us imagine looking at our daughters who could help create a better world with an education but will not get one, or our parents who have just died from covid. We can help alleviate such poverty, ignorance and disease by reinstating the aid budget. As host of the G7 and COP26, we should take moral leadership.

Let us be clear: we can afford to help those in greatest need more, not less because the cost of UK borrowing is down, not up, since the pandemic. Why? Global interest rates are down, so our borrowing costs are down—from £37 billion in 2019-20 to £23 billion in 2020-21. That is a saving of £14 billion in spending on debt interest for the UK, but aid spending is still being cut by £4.4 billion. The Prime Minister has just said that every pound we spend on aid has to be borrowed. We can afford more aid now because our borrowing and debt interest costs are massively down. Now is the time to invest and to build back better out of the pandemic in the developing world, and to invest in climate change adaptation, with new green industries that will help all our environments.

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14:34 Alicia Kearns (Conservative)

Even with the reduction in UK aid, we remain the second largest donor in the G7. The taxes of residents of Rutland and Melton will continue to go towards saving lives, disaster relief, peacekeeping, and tackling climate change. We should be proud of that, and I hope that the reorganisation of the FCDO can augment our capacity to respond to crises outside of the ODA budget through the new conflict centre.

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14:58 Kenny MacAskill (Alba)

First, like others, I wish to pay tribute to individuals on the Government Benches who have brought us here because of their tenacity. They have shown the courage of their convictions, convictions the Government claimed to hold but, despite the obfuscation of the Prime Minister, are seeking to renege on. That is why this debate is so welcome. It is an opportunity to rehearse the arguments we have had before. As others have said today, they remain—the principles still remain and the arguments still apply. It is still in our own economic self-interest to ensure that we remain committed to 0.7%. It is environmentally necessary, especially with the spectre of COP26 arising. It is also the case that international aid is a right, not a charity given by us. It is something we need to repay for historical acts.

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15:06 Tim Loughton (Conservative)

Global Britain is not just about projecting military and diplomatic influence, or pursuing new trading and investment partnerships beyond this continent. Complementary to global Britain is the exercise of soft power, which is hugely important and has proved highly influential and effective for UK plc. Our world-leading commitment to 0.7%, enshrined in law, is an important and, I have to say, very cost-effective part of that. Climate change is a major focus of it—we are chairing COP, for goodness’ sake. What message does this reduction to 0.5% send to the rest of the world? This is a false economy at the wrong time.

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15:13 Tobias Ellwood (Conservative)

We face an unpredictable, uncertain decade, with growing authoritarianism and extremism on the rise, an ever assertive China and Russia, and, of course, climate change increasingly wreaking havoc across the world. The Government acknowledge that in their own integrated review, but hard and soft power are two sides of the same coin, as we learnt to our peril in Afghanistan. Cutting our soft power will have operational, strategic and reputational consequences. The sheer scale of global challenges was acknowledged at the G7 summit, yet here we are debating the reduction in our soft power profile—the only G7 nation to do so. In contrast, China is using its aid programmes as part of a long-term strategy to advance its own global reach. Look at what is happening across Africa and Asia. A new global soft power war is taking place. This, to me, is the face of a cold war that is slowly emerging, but we in the west have yet to wake up to its reality. China is weaponising its immense soft power to significantly advance its influence and reach and to promote its own interpretation of the international rules-based order, and it ensnares dozens and dozens of countries into its sphere of influence. That is why we should not be diminishing our own soft power.

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15:21 Anthony Mangnall (Conservative)

The Government’s proposal is a short-termist approach. Like many Members, I have seen the value of what we spend in foreign aid, whether that is on women’s education, AIDS programmes, deradicalisation or climate change. I believe passionately that the UK leads by example in those policy areas, so I will not apologise for voting against the Government tonight. I will not apologise for the fact that I will be standing up on behalf of the NGOs and experts who are based in the UK but operate around the world and who lead by example and help other organisations to follow suit. For that, I offer no apology, but I remind Members of this House that we make an extraordinary impact in the world and to shirk from it for a short-term decision is something that we should all be appalled by.

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15:31 Rachel Reeves (Labour)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and he speaks powerfully of what he has seen. What has guided former Prime Ministers and Ministers is a moral compass, and I ask the Chancellor what moral compass guides the Prime Minister and Ministers today, as we cut the lifelines of support, and in the midst of a global pandemic as well. For several decades, we have recognised that the world is increasingly interdependent, and that overseas aid helps tackle poverty, infectious diseases and climate change, and reduces conflict, terrorism and the need for people to flee their own countries and seek refuge elsewhere. The Chancellor himself made that point in 2015, arguing that

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