Department for International Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:53 pm on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup Conservative, Erewash 6:53 pm, 1st July 2019

Let me start by referring the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. When I heard last week that we were going to be debating the international development budget, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to quiz the Minister on the Government’s commitment to continuing our funding to the Global Fund. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister must have read my mind, as she beat me to it; as other Members have done, I welcome Saturday’s announcement, which will be putting other countries on the spot to continue their commitment, too.

The Global Fund commitment means there will be an additional £1.4 billion spent over the next three years as the UK’s contribution to this important fund. It has been estimated that this will benefit many millions of people globally. It will provide life-saving antiretroviral therapies for 3.3 million people suffering from HIV; it will provide TB treatment and care for 2.3 million people; and 120,000 people with drug-resistant TB will now get appropriate treatment. When I visited Ethiopia earlier this year, I saw the grassroots work being carried out on multi-drug-resistant TB. My hon. Friend Stephen Kerr has already outlined the importance of tackling malaria, and the provision of 92 million mosquito nets is a simple, low-cost solution that provides a huge benefit.

Some of my constituents see 7p in every £10 of the public purse as a lot of money, and, as other Members have indicated, we do receive emails objecting to this amount, but I hope to illustrate that this 7p is leveraged time and time again. I have seen for myself during my visits to Rwanda in 2007 and 2008, and my more recent visit to Ethiopia, just how important the voluntary sector is. It has brought international development to life. Seeing how the 0.7% is spent on the ground has been very valuable, so I wish to thank my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, who is no longer in his place, for his vision in setting up Project Umubano. So many of us, including my hon. Friend Wendy Morton, know the importance of international aid on the ground. It is about building capacity and providing practical solutions for some of the most vulnerable in a country, and so often it is about giving children and young people a chance in life. I hope that, in a tiny, tiny way, I have played my part in doing just that.

During my first visit to Rwanda in 2007, I learned that when children first started school they needed to take their own pen and the parents sacrificed everything to make that happen. But of course that pen ran out and parents then had a choice: did they fund another a pen or did they put food on the table? So often that second pen was not funded because the food was necessary. I therefore set up a project called Pen4Life, whose goal was to give more children pens, because giving a child a pen means giving the child an education, which provides opportunity and a better chance in life. This caught the imagination of many people—many of whom I have never met—not just locally but across the country. I estimated that in a three-year period I collected about half a million pens, which I managed to get out to Rwanda. Donations came from Rotary groups, roundtables, Soroptimists, churches and schools, and from all across the country. One pensioner who lived locally to me bought a pack of pens every time he went to Asda— people can buy pens from other supermarkets—and brought them to me. Everybody came together to give some of the poorest in society a chance in life, and I am sure some of those pens are still being used today. Voluntary projects such as that add to the DFID spending and make it even more effective.

I have described how I have played a very small part in ensuring that children get an education, but there is more happening and more does need to happen. That is why I was delighted recently to learn more about the “send my friend to school” campaign. It was inspiring to talk to young people about their work on this amazing project, where they were playing their part in creating a positive change globally. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see how international aid is delivered at the grassroots level in Ethiopia. There were similarities between Ethiopia and Rwanda, but there were also differences. Some of these things are such simple measures, such as the WASH—water, sanitation and hygiene—programme, which is effective in reducing so many transmissible diseases. I also saw solar technology that was developed in Bognor Regis and is now helping to ensure the effective delivery of vats as part of a vaccination programme. In the middle of what seemed like nowhere, I was amazed to see a solar-powered fridge that is being used to keep life-saving vaccines viable. We need to do more to ensure that technology developed in the UK is effectively transferred to the developing world, and we need more cross-departmental work to ensure that that happens.

In conclusion, I feel very positively about the Government’s commitment to continuing the 0.7%—or 7p in every £10—funding target, but it is vital that that spending is transparent, provides value for money, allows measurable outcomes and is open to scrutiny. I commend all those involved, whether from the Government, NGOs or charities, for all the work they carry out on behalf of some of the most vulnerable around the globe.