Yemen: Aid Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:38 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 12:38 pm, 2nd March 2021

The Minister is a decent fellow and will not have enjoyed what he announced yesterday. Last night, he will have heard the United Nations Secretary-General tell him that, for Yemen,

“cutting aid is a death sentence.”

Cutting it by 50% is unconscionable. As Sir Mark Lowcock, a senior and respected British official at the UN, said, millions of Yemeni children

“will continue the slow, agonising and obscene process of starving to death”.

I understand that I remain the only European politician who has recently been into Sa’dah in north Yemen to see an acute malnutrition ward in the hospital there, part-funded by the British taxpayer—life-saving work, which will now be halved. My right hon. Friend told the House just last month that

“Yemen will remain a UK priority”—[Official Report, 8 February 2021; Vol. 689, c. 31.]

and yet the fifth richest country in the world is cutting support by more than half to one of the poorest countries in the world—and during a global pandemic.

Every single Member of this House was elected just over a year ago on a promise to maintain the 0.7%. Aid has already been cut under that formula because our economy has contracted, but the Government told the House that they would protect seven strategic priorities, including “human preparedness and response”. No one in this House believes that the Foreign Secretary wants to do this. It is a harbinger of terrible cuts to come. Everyone in this House knows that the cut to the 0.7% is not a result of tough choices; it is a strategic mistake with deadly consequences.

Mr Speaker, this is not who we are. This is not how global Britain acts. We are a generous, decent country. The 0.7% is enshrined in law. This House must surely have a vote. We must all search our consciences.