Food Insecurity in Developing Countries due to Blockade of Ukrainian Ports - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:58 pm on 21st July 2022.

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Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 2:58 pm, 21st July 2022

I have inadvertently united the House.

She said in her defence that it is “ludicrous” to believe the same things when you are 46 as when you were 17. I joined my party when I was 16. One of the reasons I joined it is that we were committed to spending 0.7% on international assistance. I not only believe that now but worked with colleagues to legislate for it; I am a passionate advocate of this. It is not ludicrous to believe in some of the things you believed in when you were 16 and started to be politically active.

The debate on the UK response to this global humanitarian situation is not just on the security aspect but on development assistance. Last week the Government announced £156 million for the financial year for the humanitarian crisis in east Africa. That is welcome, but in 2017-18 it was £861 million. I would be grateful to know where the funds are being secured for this £156 million. Is this included in the unlawful 0.5% target or is it over and above that, given the circumstances of the crisis?

On support for the World Food Programme, in June this year a Downing Street press release heralded, “PM Pledges New Support for Countries on the Food Security Frontline”, which announced £130 million to the World Food Programme. People welcomed it, and they should, but I looked back on the Government’s performance agreements with the World Food Programme. In the year in which we legislated in this House for 0.7%, UK support for the World Food Programme was £264 million—literally double. In this debate we have identified the global need as considerably higher than it was then, so why have the Government halved their support for the World Food Programme, given that the need is so enormous?

Let us look at one individual country that has been raised frequently in this debate. Here I welcome the right reverend Prelate to the House and the speech he gave. He and his right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans, who has worked with dedication on these areas, mentioned the Horn of Africa and Somalia. Support for children in Somalia is critical. In 2019-20 UK support was £260 million because we recognised that this was a priority area. That fell by £120 million to £141 million in 2020-21. I raised concerns about that, and was shocked to realise that it fell again to £91 million in 2021-22. It is scheduled to go up to £116 million, but it will be down to £58 million in 2023-24. All the extra support that the Government have announced will not even get close to matching the gap in funding of £370 million, just for humanitarian support for the people of Somalia, that we have seen cut within just two years. On top of that, we have seen bilateral aid slashed in so many areas.

The fault of all this is not with the British Government; it is with Putin’s aggression, and Russia should be held to account for it. However, the response for the people who are suffering the most can be in our hands. It is in our interests as a country, geopolitically and strategically, and on defence and security, that fewer people starve and fewer people fear hunger, which will prevent them becoming internally displaced people, or moving to Europe and this country. It is in our benefit but, even more, it is in the benefit of those people, to see the UK—one of the richest and most privileged countries in the world—as having a moral basis that is the opposite of Putin’s aggression, and to see the UK stepping up support to ensure that those victims have a friend. I want this country to be their friend.