Shelagh Fogarty challenges Tory MP over plans to cut foreign aid

8 June 2021, 11:12

By Tim Dodd

Shelagh Fogarty has challenged a Tory MP who backs the Government's plans to cut the foreign aid budget by around £4 billion.

Speaking to Shelagh Fogarty, MP for North West Durham Richard Holden said: "I think this has got to be seen in a proper context. We're in the middle of a global pandemic.

"Britain's been at the forefront not only of developing the vaccine domestically but also ensuring that can be provided free in that international scheme we're a part of - and that wouldn't be part of our international aid - so [there are] specific calculations that have to be made on the 0.7%."

Mr Holden was referring to the legally-enshrined 0.7% of national income which the UK currently spends on foreign aid.

A vote on foreign aid spending was earlier denied by the Speaker of the House of Commons in a blow to Tory rebels hoping to reverse the cuts.

Mr Holden continued: "We're one of the very few countries who've really committed. Australia hasn't,

"Japan hasn't, America hasn't, but we've been there since 2013 providing 0.7%.

"But when we're in this horrific global pandemic when we're having to borrow unprecedented amounts of money, in the short term to say we need to get back into a stable place for now, I think that's a sensible way to go."

Shelagh then asked: "You can tell me now can you, that that £4 billion cut is entirely about using that money domestically, it is not about pleasing voters in the red wall seats?"

Mr Holden replied: "Exactly. We're spending an extra £400 billion this year compared to what we would've done before the pandemic. We have to look across the board at ways that we can ensure we have a real balance in our books and in the economy."

Shelagh then quoted the point made by MP David Davis, that if the aid cut is only a temporary measure "temporary doesn't mean much if you're a child whose water gets infected and that infection kills you".

Mr Holden responded by saying that much of the international aid the UK provides isn't counted in the budget.

"Whether it's the large number of British forces around the world, or indeed the vaccine programme. I think we've got to be realistic about what we can do at the time, and target our resources where they're best met today.

"We have to, in the longer term, be strong in order to provide that support in the long term.

"I don't think there's any question that we're going to withdraw from the world, in fact we're going back out into the world, we have to do it in a balanced and sensible approach."

In denying the vote, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle today said he expects "that the Government should find a way to have this important matter debated and to allow the House formally to take an effective decision".