The government’s decision to abandon its legal responsibility to spend 0.7% of our national income on aid to the world’s poorest, is a decision as mean minded as it is short sighted.
Four former Prime Ministers from both main parties, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron, have come together to oppose it.
And to make matters worse Boris Johnson has abolished the Department for International Development and merged it with the Foreign Office, which suggests to me that this is an issue they do not really care about.
Well in Chester that is a view many folks don’t share. Because there is a strong tradition of supporting aid and development to bring the poorest people and countries out of poverty.
It is now over twenty years since Chester became the first Fair Trade City, led by my predecessor as MP, Chris Russell. And under the leadership of Heather Swainston fair trade is still thriving here.
In our schools, our children know the importance of development aid. The annual ‘Send My Friend to School’ week is supported by many of our primary schools, and previously I have visited primary schools such as Cherry Grove and Grosvenor Park to hear how pupils there are learning about the plight of youngsters the same age who are denied education because of poverty and other factors.
At Upton High, they have fantastic school clubs focussing on overseas aid led by the inspirational Karen Smale.
At the other end of the education system, Chester University has a strong reputation for development studies, such that Gill Miller who coordinated the course was recently elected President of the Geographical Association for the whole of the UK.
And bringing it all together is the Chester World Development Forum, representing campaign groups, churches and many people who just want the word to be a fairer place.
The tragedy is that because of the coronavirus pandemic, we would be giving less money anyway: if the UK economy shrinks, the 0.7% is worth less anyway. So reducing it even further, when we are in the middle of global pandemic, seems mean. Covid is a global problem, so it isn’t over everywhere until is defeated everywhere.
I think it’s right to fight poverty across the globe. But if you really don’t think we should support poorer countries, then think on this: if we do not help, then our adversaries, like Russia and China; and our enemies like Al Qaeda and IS/Daesh, will do so. And they will use that influence to make the world a more dangerous place.
The government has got it wrong on this one, and should cancel plans to cut development aid.