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Official Development Assistance

I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the matter of the 0.7% official development assistance target.

I seek this emergency debate today because, for reasons that Mr Speaker has clearly set out, the much anticipated debate over a technical amendment—new clause 4—to restore the 0.7% target through the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill will not now go ahead. I make it clear to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that I very strongly support the Bill; indeed, the House will have noticed that the effect of the new clause, had it been selected, would have been to stuff the Bill with an enormous amount of 0.7% money, which of course it could have spent.

We now face a situation in which Parliament has not had its say on this vital matter. That is not right. Had the new clause been selected, it would have passed the House by at least nine votes, and probably around 20; I have some experience of these matters, and I assure the House that that is correct.

The problem for the Government is that the House of Commons maths is not going to go away. We have seen over recent days a massive outpouring from civil society about the damage that is being done by these cuts. An organisation called Crack the Crises, which would have had far more attention had it not been for covid, is following in the footsteps of Make Poverty History and will have an immense effect on opinion in our constituencies. I remind the House that paid-up members of environment non-governmental organisations and charities, and of development NGOs and charities, average out at 10,000 per constituency; there are not 10,000 in every constituency, of course, but there are very many of them.

It is the view of lawyers including Lord Ken Macdonald, the warden of Wadham College, that the measures taken by the Government are unlawful. A promise was made at the United Nations before the G7 about what Britain would do, and we have heard what the senior official Mark Lowcock has said about the Government’s failure to stand by their promise. That is a promise that every Member of this House—all 650 of us—made at the last general election.

This is a humanitarian aid cut. It will cut global health security in a pandemic by more than 14%, it will cut funding on HIV/AIDS by 80%, and it will cut the Prime Minister’s flagship policy on girls’ education by 25%. None of that should go ahead without the matter being considered by the House.

I very much hope, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you will consider granting my application under Standing Order No. 24 because of the seriousness of the issues involved.

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