North East Derbyshire MP defends foreign aid budget cuts arguing reduction has 'little resonance' with constituents
The MP for North East Derbyshire Lee Rowley has defended his decision to vote for the foreign aid budget reductions and argued the cuts have ‘little resonance’ with his constituents.
The Government’s annual foreign aid budget has been reduced from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% – a difference of around four billion pounds.
For the first time since 2013, the UK will not meet the UN’s recommended target of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Dozens of charities and UN agencies submitted evidence to Parliament's international development committee, regarding the impact of the cuts on their services.
However, the Government has said the aid budget reduction is temporary and will return to 0.7% of GNI when the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that the government is not borrowing money for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling as a percentage of national income.
MP for North East Derbyshire Lee Rowley supported the Government’s decision for a reduction in the aid budget and voted in favour of the motion.
While speaking as part of a debate about the issue in Parliament, he said much of the discussion and debate in Westminster, which focused on opposing the aid cuts, had little resonance with his constituents.
“Probably what makes today’s debate so frustrating for people out there who may be watching and who do not share the consensus that is generally coming across is that in certain speeches”, he said.
After the debate, Mr Rowley commented: “I realise that aid spending is a very contested matter with people having strong views.
"Given the unprecedented circumstances we are in, and the huge amount of support we are providing around the world on coronavirus in addition to our usual development work, it seems reasonable that our spending on aid is reduced for a period to try to start getting our national finances back on track.”
The North East Derbyshire MP also raised concerns about the origins and justification of a fixed, unchangeable, percentage for the UK’s foreign aid contribution – after the 2019 Conservative manifesto committed to the 0.7% GNI figure.
Mr Rowley emphasised the need to align spending with the country’s domestic finances and argued that Parliament was “becoming fixated on a single number” rather than on how effectively the aid is spent.
He added: “I sat on the Public Accounts Committee a couple of years ago and some very interesting reports came through on value for money in this area.
"I accept that it is a very difficult issue to judge, but we may wish to turn to it with as much frequency and as much depth as we talk about this single percentage.”
Following the vote, the North East Derbyshire MP commented: “It is absolutely vital that going forward spending decisions by the Government are considered with our current economic situation in mind and that is why I think the Government has made the right decision and why I supported the motion.
"There are no easy answers here, and aid offers many benefits around the world, but the first principle has to be that the decisions we make on spending reflect our national finances – and that is why I supported the reduction for 2021.”