Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 1st July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 6:36 pm, 1st July 2019

Indeed, and I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s contribution. We have been discussing many aspects of the various goals that, as a Parliament, we are united in supporting, and climate change is part of that mix.

We have been reminded that the delivery of aid is not an end in itself; it is the means by which we commit to working in partnership with global and local organisations to eradicate the conditions that trap millions of people in extreme poverty. Aid should provide a ladder, and it should be the means by which we give our brothers and sisters in less fortunate circumstances a hand up, not just a handout.

Our objective should lead to actions that ultimately lead to a day when there is no requirement for international aid on the scale that is now needed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Alec Shelbrooke, who reminded us that the case for international aid needs to be made over and again. It is an easy headline in certain newspapers to be critical of international development, but to assume that everyone agrees with that would be a grave political mistake. We should be deeply proud that the 0.7% budget speaks loudly to the kind of country we are.

We make and keep our commitments in this country, and we are a dependable partner. If our reputation and influence in the world is based on one thing, it is based on trust. That is why the UK is recognised as a global superpower in soft power. The UK has played a principal role in the post-war era in laying the foundations of the rules-based international order. Whatever disparity there may be between the words and actions of other nations, we in the United Kingdom must be true to our word and stand by the poorest people on the planet.

I do not have the expertise and experience of others who have spoken in this debate, but I am keen to add my voice, and I think the voice of the vast majority of my constituents in Stirling, to those in this place who advocate positively for our international aid budget. It is right that the United Kingdom takes deep pride in its contribution in these areas. UK aid has a momentous global impact, but it is also right that we continue to apply all the necessary scrutiny of how our aid budget is spent and what it is being spent on, because it should be evaluated in the context of the essential work it is charged to deliver. We must measure the aid budget in terms of value for money in reaching its strategic objectives. In other words, although we may talk about how money is spent, it is vital that we measure outcomes.

These activities, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield alluded to, cannot be viewed in isolation. It is a fundamental problem of all Governments that Departments tend to work in silos, and the work of the Department for International Development needs to be seen in conjunction with the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Ministry of Defence has been mentioned, but the Department for International Trade has not. There is a vital interplay between aid and our diplomatic influence, between aid and trade, and between aid and global security issues.

I, for one, welcome the Secretary of State’s introduction to the voluntary national review of the progress we are making towards the global goals, which was mentioned a few minutes ago. In that introduction, he pointed out that the UK played a key role in the creation of the global goals, which are aimed at making the world a fairer, healthier, safer and more prosperous place for everyone, everywhere by 2030, and that the Government are responsible for achieving the goals here in the UK, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire, and for contributing to the goals in developing countries.

In his introduction, the Secretary of State described the goals as neatly fitting into five Ps: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. He said those five Ps cover the most pressing issues of our time.

I am privileged to have seen some of the impact of the work being done with the money devoted to international development by this House. During a trip to Kenya last summer with Malaria No More, the hon. Members for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) and for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd), my hon. Friend Andrea Jenkyns and I stood on the frontline in the global fight against malaria. We visited outlying hospitals that lack even what we might consider the most basic essentials, but what they did not lack was love and compassion.

We saw mothers nursing their very poorly small children, including babies. It was a moving scene that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It did not half give us a real-world perspective of the challenges that we face, and that we obsess about in this place. It is not possible to experience what we experienced in Kenya in that one trip without leaving with two overwhelming resolves: first, never to lose sight of our need always to count our blessings; and secondly, strongly linked to that, a firm determination to do everything in our power to make sure the fight against malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis is consistently brought back to the forefront of our collective consciousness whenever and however possible.

A child dies every two minutes from malaria, and the global fight against malaria has stalled. That was part of the case for the sixth replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, and the case for investment has never been more compelling. It was with no small sense of emotion that I heard the Government’s announcement at the weekend that we have committed £1.4 billion to the Global Fund over the next three years to provide life-saving therapies and treatments to more than 3.3 million people with HIV, to provide TB treatment and care for 2.3 million people, to provide 120,000 people with treatment for multi-drug resistant TB, to distribute 92 million mosquito nets to protect children and families from malaria, and to strengthen health systems and promote global health security.

I feel grateful and proud to say that the UK has answered the call to action, by uplifting our commitment to the Global Fund by the 15% that was asked for. The richest nations on Earth should make the same commitment, and they should keep that commitment. Two million lives will be saved because of the UK Government’s announcement.

Behind these statements and commitments, I can still clearly see the dedicated community health volunteers, doctors, nurses and families we met in Kenya—the real people we need to help. Seeing the impact that the UK has made on this challenge gives me a sense of pride. Not only are the teams of specialist medics, logisticians, geographers, academics and many more mostly comprised of British subjects, but the money committed by the UK is a major contributor to the accomplishment of this work. It is also a field in which innovation is happening because of the work of UK aid and its partners. Since 2002, the Global Fund has helped save more than 27 million lives and reduced deaths from the killer infectious diseases of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by more than a third in the countries in which it invests.

We must not be in any doubt about what other countries are doing in international development. China has its belt and road initiative—BRI—which is about much more than just building roads; it is about building all kinds of infrastructure around the world. China is doing this to gain essential access and influence in some of the countries that most need help. The Chinese model for international aid, the BRI, uses Chinese labour and Chinese finance for these projects, many of which are done on the basis of commercial or sub-commercial loans. UK aid works alongside local communities to develop aid projects and pursues proper development. I would hope that the Minister might add something in her wind-up on what we will do in response to the BRI and explain our strategy for meeting its challenge, particularly in Africa.