As I am sure you are aware, during the 2010-15 Parliament, the UK became the first G7 country to enshrine in law a target to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid and did so with cross-party support. The development and improvements in hundreds of millions of people’s lives that have resulted from this commitment have been a credit to humanity. For example, from 2010-15, British aid supported 11 million children through school and helped more than 60 million people to access clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. UK support during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, meanwhile, halted the spread of the disease. Such achievements should be a source of pride for everyone in the UK. I therefore remain profoundly committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid.
I share people’s concerns at recent questioning of the UK’s foreign aid budget. It is worrying that while the Government has committed to maintaining the 0.7% target, its plans also suggest a shift away from the current cross-party consensus on international development. The Government has stated its intention to attempt to change international definitions of development assistance but if it fails to do this, it will change the law to allow it to use its own definition of development assistance. I am concerned that this is an attempt to use overseas aid intended for poverty reduction for things such as security and counter-terrorism, and to plug funding gaps in other departments.
It is vital that we continue to abide by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development definition of aid and use our overseas assistance to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Abandoning this global standard would undermine the purpose of the 0.7% commitment and send the wrong message to the rest of the world. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to defend the UK’s aid target and press for the correct use of the international aid budget.