Official Development Assistance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:56 pm on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 2:56 pm, 9th July 2020

I congratulate Sarah Champion on securing this debate, and on her superb leadership of the International Development Committee, which she chairs.

In 1997, there were only 165 Conservatives sitting on these Benches. When the incoming Labour Government announced that they were going to set up this new Department, I have to say that I was against it. However, without any doubt at all, Clare Short did a magnificent job as the first Secretary of State, and even though she led in Northern Ireland, I think she would say that that was what gave her the most pleasure in government.

I was particularly taken by what the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat, said. We have the letter from the Prime Minister dated 16 June, and I just hope it does turn out to be like that. I certainly do not want to see the present Secretary of State no longer sitting around the Cabinet table. It is very important that her voice continues to be heard.

We all know that some constituents will have said that what David Cameron did in dedicating the 0.7% figure was not on, because more money could be spent elsewhere instead, and that some people would say, “You shouldn’t bother about what goes on overseas.” Well, I have learned at first hand that investing in other countries where they face challenges brings us huge bonuses and we should continue to do that. I was very grateful for the briefing that UNICEF sent me.

I want to end with some special pleading. I have my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell sitting behind me. When he was Secretary of State, I remember going to see him to ask him for a bit of money, and in a very nice way he said no. I speak as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the Maldives and the all-party parliamentary group on the Philippines; any trips we have done are all in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The Maldives have tremendous challenges at the moment, not only with coronavirus—they are also treated badly in terms of tuna. Whereas other countries are getting a 5% tariff, they are still stuck with a 20% tariff, which is not acceptable. Also, thinking about the air bridges that the Government have announced, the Maldives have not been included. This is hitting the Maldivian people terribly hard in the two sectors they depend on.

As for the Philippines, what would we do in this country, during this coronavirus crisis, without all the Filipino nurses and doctors working everywhere to help us? That country has been hit very hard by hurricanes and other challenges. I do hope that we will intervene and see if we could just give a bit more development money to the Philippines.