Integrated Review: Development Aid

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Excerpts
Wednesday 28th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble and learned friend, but we must again be strict with the time limit.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Desai. Lord Desai?

For a third time, I will try to call the noble Lord, Lord Desai. Perhaps the noble Lord needs to unmute? If he is not here, I will move on to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl) [V]
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I am trying to unmute. Someone has to unmute me, I am sorry.

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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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We can hear you, please speak now for your two minutes.

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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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My Lords, we will resume. Would the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, continue her speech from where she was interrupted?

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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As I was saying, the total ODA budget, dependent as it is on GNI, will be substantially lower anyway. The added cuts will affect those programmes that can least withstand budget cuts. This includes the support of women and girls in those countries most severely threatened.

Despite the astonishing gains made by women in Afghanistan over the last 20 years or so, the Taliban has made it clear that there is little change in its worldview, belief systems and patterns of ruling. What is at stake is not only a return to violence, terror and, above all, savage repression of women but the potential for ethnic division. In the current context in Afghanistan that will mean a war against all non-Pashto-speaking or non-supportive groups by the Taliban. A civil war on this level would be devastating and set Afghanistan back several decades—a religious war engulfing south Asia and probably well beyond.

The UK, which, in supplying some of the more hard-line mujaheddin groups with arms in the 1980s, contributed to the formation of the Taliban, surely would not wish this kind of legacy. While the UK, even working with its allies, will not eradicate the Taliban, its consistent commitment to building the institutions of democracy has definitely had an impact. It would be heartbreaking and irresponsible to see these gains lost in a matter of months.

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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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My Lords, we will now resume and continue with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, the second major part of this debate refers to the Government’s assertion that we will return to this duty, which they are reneging on, when the fiscal situation allows. This is what the Minister told the House on 16 March. I have asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, three times in the Chamber what those fiscal criteria are and I have not received an answer. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, specifically asked the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the same question today and I hope that there will be a reply. As I said in our debate on the integrated review, the Government either know what the criteria are, and are actively and deliberately withholding them from Parliament, or they are simply using disingenuous language. The Minister must tell us which it is today; he has 20 minutes and there is no reason not to spell this out in his response to the debate, because he has been asked that specific question.

There are, then, two areas of unlawfulness. One is the setting of the new 0.5% target that the Minister has referred to. Can he also state where in legislation it allows the Government to set a target at 0.5%?

One of the themes of this debate, which has been heartbreaking, is that the Government have not carried out humanitarian impact assessments for the extent of the cuts that they are making. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, also refused to answer a question from me about whether the cuts for Yemen came after an impact assessment. Chris Bold, the development director for Yemen, admitted to a House of Commons committee:

“We have not done an impact assessment.”


If the Government believe that the cuts are popular—though not based on evidence and without having carried out an impact assessment—why are they not simply being honest and straightforward in telling us what the criteria are, and what the impact is likely to be?

I said at the outset that I would not cite the broken Conservative manifesto commitments, but I will cite another manifesto, if the Committee will allow me:

“we wish to see the breaking down of barriers to international trade. Greater freedom in international trade will assist the underdeveloped countries who need markets for their products. We support the principle that in accordance with the Pearson Report Britain and other countries should contribute 1 per cent of Gross National Product of official aid to developing countries as soon as possible. We are totally opposed to all forms of racial and religious discrimination.”

That was the Liberal manifesto for the June 1970 election, which predates the UN resolution of October 1970. I cite it not because I am proud that my party has stood the test of time with this commitment but because it was a global consensus on which, after many years, there was a political consensus in the UK between the parties and beyond parties, with Gordon Brown as Chancellor and Tony Blair as Prime Minister, and later under David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Theresa May, which has now been dashed by this Government.

A journalist reported in 2019:

“Penny Mordaunt gave a presentation on foreign aid in which she said 0.7% in the current form is ‘unsustainable’.”


On 29 January 2019, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, replied:

“I hope this is incorrect. The 0.7 per cent commitment isn’t simply about charity. Spent properly, foreign aid makes the world safer, more sustainable and more stable. It benefits us all.”


Our contribution to making the world safer, more sustainable and more stable is being reduced, by an unlawful cut, by one-third this year and next, and there is no transparent commitment for the year after. As was said recently in a meeting chaired by the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, which I attended, we are not cutting aid, we are cutting co-operation. We are not a lesser donor, we are a more unreliable partner—but not in my name or that of my party.

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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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My Lords, we will now resume. We will continue with the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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By bringing down the budget to 0.5%, the Government will be making it impossible to maintain the order of priorities to deliver the objectives of the integrated review. However, the reason these cuts are so dangerous is not just because of their size: it is also because of where they will fall and their speed.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his excellent introduction, mentioned the leaked memo. Other noble Lords have mentioned the cutting of funding for life-saving access to clean water by 80%. However, the Power of Nutrition, of which the FCDO is a founding partner, is set to have its funding slashed by more than 50%—I declare an interest as co-chair of the Nutrition for Growth APPG. Nutrition represents the biggest multiplier in development. We have been a leader around the globe on nutrition; it is appalling that these cuts are taking place. UNAIDS, which is at the forefront of tackling HIV globally, has had its funding cut by 85%. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has been told that it will receive just £5 million from the FCDO this year, a cut of 95%. Save the Children estimates that last week’s announcement will result in 3 million fewer people receiving life-saving assistance. Is this really the kind of country that we want to be?

I hope that the Minister will be able to answer questions this afternoon. Can he assure the House that he will honour the financial commitments that his department has made to multilateral organisations, such as Gavi and the Global Fund? Will he, if he intends to give just £5 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative this year, make up for the shortfall in subsequent years? Will he commit today to honouring his Government’s commitment of £400 million by 2023? Can he tell us the budget allocated for nutrition programmes over the next year and, if he cannot today, when will he be able to tell us?

The speed of these cuts is also dangerous. It seems incredibly unlikely that the department would have had sufficient time to consider their impact and prioritise effectively. We have already received confirmation—my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws raised this—that no assessment had been made of the impact of aid cuts in Yemen. Without effective exit strategies, there is now a huge risk that the previous achievements will be thrown away. The speed of these cuts has meant that the Government have been unable to consult civil society and the aid sector properly. As a result, organisations have been unable to plan effectively to respond to the cuts. Can the Minister detail how the Government are engaging with the aid sector, and what representations have been recently received?

To think that our reputation will be intact after the Government ignore their own manifesto commitments and their own laws in breaking the 0.7% is absolutely ridiculous, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has said. Our closest allies—the US and the rest of Europe—all accept that a global crisis requires more support, not less. My noble friend Lord Khan has made this point. President Biden announced an increase of more than $5 billion for USAID. In the past year, France and Germany have increased development spending by 11% and 14% respectively. Japan, which the review refers to as

“one of our closest strategic partners”

is also spending more on aid than ever before. If the Government are serious about strengthening our alliances, then the answer is not to move carelessly out of step on development. The Government must offer a positive vision for international development.

The greatest framework for this is the UN sustainable development goals. I too pay tribute to David Cameron: his leadership on the SDGs was vital, building on the leadership of Gordon Brown on the millennium development goals. That leadership has, I am afraid, been abrogated. We must provide that positive agenda. The 2030 agenda, if achieved, will end extreme poverty, hunger and gender-based violence, and ensure that every individual has access to rights including safe drinking water, quality education and clean energy. But the Government have abandoned those previous efforts to lead on the SDGs; the drastic reduction in development aid is only further evidence of that.

The integrated review is welcome, and I hope the whole House would support the idea of the UK being a force for good. But the Government will not achieve this for the UK by withdrawing from the world, reducing UK development aid and making cuts in all the worst places. There is no question that by following this path, the Government will make the world a more dangerous and less predictable place, making the review’s emphasis on security and resilience completely meaningless. We all want Britain to succeed on the world stage but for the integrated review to be worth the paper it is written on, the Government need to end the contradictions and inconsistencies between their words and actions. That starts with supporting once again the principles of sustainable development.

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Motion agreed.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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My Lords, the Grand Committee stands adjourned until 5.35 pm. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.