‘Cruel and short-sighted’ Sheffield MPs on foreign aid cuts ahead of vote

Sheffield MPs have spoken on cuts to foreign aid ahead of a vote next week that could reverse the government’s decision.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 4:31 pm

A growing number of rebel Tory MPs including former prime minister Teresa May, promised to back a bid to increase foreign aid spending in 2022.

MPs across political parties said they want to restore aid spending to 0.7 percent of national income from next January after ministers reduced it to 0.5 percent this year – a cut of almost £4 billion.

They are hoping to use a technical procedure, involving an amendment to a new law setting up the UK’s ‘high risk’ science agency, to bring about the change.

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Mirian Cates MP.

The aid reduction meant millions of pounds less is being spent on supporting girls’ education, reproductive health, clean water, HIV/AIDS, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and Syria, and hundreds of other projects.

Charities warned millions of women and children would not receive food and support and predicted more than 100,000 people could die as a result of the government’s decision.

The vote in the House of Commons next week comes in the same week the government hosts world leaders at the G7 summit.

Gill Furniss, Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, said: “Cutting foreign aid is cruel, short sighted and undermines the UKs position ahead of the G7.

Gill Furniss MP.

“The Tory Government push for a ‘global Britain’ all while turning their back on the world’s most vulnerable people.

“Foreign aid saves lives and helps communities and economies to rebuild. The cuts come in the middle of a global pandemic, while the UK could be helping deploy the vaccine to the poorest countries the Government are slashing the aid budget.”

Olivia Blake, Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “This isn’t a case of what we can or can’t ‘afford’. Cutting foreign aid is a political decision – the Government have chosen to stop providing aid to the world’s most vulnerable people during a global pandemic, a decision which will risk lives. It is about time the Government listen to MPs and the public and reinstate our commitment to 0.7%.”

But Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said despite the “temporary” cut, the UK remained “one of the largest donors of aid in the world”.

She said: “The UK leads the world in assisting developing countries. Much of the assistance we provide, for example through our armed forces or the recent COVAX programme, is not currently counted as foreign aid under existing rules, and yet this assistance contributes enormously to improving wealth and welfare around the world.

“We shouldn’t get hung up on particular figures and percentages of GDP – after all, even with a temporarily reduced foreign aid budget we will still be one of the biggest donor nations in the world.

“Instead, we should focus on what the world needs and how we can help. Right now, getting vaccines to developing countries is the most important assistance we can provide. That’s why I am incredibly proud of the UK’s approach to sharing vaccinations, which has been one of generosity and openness.”