Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 22nd April 2021.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) 12:36 pm, 22nd April 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for taking this point of order. You will be aware that yesterday the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office issued notice of a written statement, confusingly entitled “FCDO Update”, which quite frankly could refer to anything. It was not released until 5 o’clock yesterday and its nature was not clear, but it turned out to be an announcement on some of the detail, but far from all, of the huge cuts in official development assistance, leaving a range of international bodies, partner countries and humanitarian organisations in a totally confusing and unacceptable situation. This was done at the end of the day, beyond the deadline for submitting an urgent question, which of course is 1 pm.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be aware of the deep disquiet in all corners of the House about the nature of the announcement, the way it was made, and the breach of the manifesto promise on 0.7% and the cross-party consensus at a time when we face a global pandemic, millions on the brink of famine, conflict and instability from the Sahel to Yemen, including in regions where our armed forces are stationed, and a climate crisis—it is Earth Day today. The UK is about to host the G7 summit and is, of course, seeking new trading and partnership opportunities around the world. The announcement has been resoundingly criticised today by the former national security adviser, the United Nations humanitarian chief and 200 of our leading humanitarian organisations.

Is it in order to put out an announcement of such magnitude at the end of the day without the ability to scrutinise it in this Chamber? How might Members from across the House—many senior Members from across the House want to ask questions on it—secure the presence of the Foreign Secretary in this Chamber to answer questions at the earliest possible opportunity?