PM puts our reputation - and lives - at risk across the world - Ian Murray

Global co-operation has never been more vital.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 7:00 am
Maize rations being delivered in Malawi. Boris Johnson's bid to cut foreign aid is a stain on Britain's reputation around the world, argues Ian Murray MP.

As part of the UK, we have a permanent seat at the top table and can help shape the future of our planet.

Unfortunately, for now, we also have Boris Johnson in the hot seat.

He’s not a man known for listening to sensible advice, but given his fascination with past Prime Ministers, perhaps he will listen to some of his predecessors.

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Back in 2005, when the G8 was held in Gleneagles, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown used the UK’s presidency to tackle global poverty.

There was an historic ‘Make Poverty History’ agreement of more than £34billion in new international aid, and debt cancellation for many of the world’s poorest countries.

These decisions transformed lives.

Tens of millions more children are now in school, healthcare has improved, and extreme poverty has declined. Health crisis such as HIV infections have fallen dramatically.

But the Covid pandemic has put progress at risk.

That’s why Blair and Brown are among those calling on the G7 to pay two-thirds of the near £50billion needed to vaccinate low-income countries.

We haven’t defeated Covid until the world has defeated it.

As Gordon Brown said, this is ‘the best insurance policy in the world’ at just 30p per person per week in the UK.

As hosts of the G7, the UK has a responsibility to show global leadership on this.

I hope the Prime Minister will listen to his predecessors.

And that includes past leaders of his own party, namely Theresa May.

She has rightly called on Johnson to restore the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on international aid, warning that his savage cuts will ‘have a devastating impact on the poorest in the world and damage the

UK’.

It’s one thing to renege on a manifesto promise to the British people as he has done; but to renege on a commitment to the world’s poorest is unforgiveable.

The 0.7 per cent was written into law with cross party support. That means the PM has to bring a vote to Parliament to reduce it beyond what the emergency Covid powers allows.

There is strong cross-party support for the 0.7% spend and much anger that the PM has broken his promise.

The cuts are already having such a devasting impact in many of the poorest countries that the PM would lose.

Government backbenchers tried to force a vote this week but it was ruled out of scope by Mr Speaker, so an emergency debate was sought and granted. The Commons made its strong feelings well known.

The PM has not only put our global reputation at risk – he has put lives at risk.

Johnson is fond of writing about figures from British history.

But when it comes to his own entry in the history books, if he continues with this cut, he will be remembered for betrayal and callousness on top of his incompetence.

Many will say “charity begins at home” but this isn’t charity. Above doing the right thing, morally it is in our economic and cultural national self-interest to help those most in need. Covid has highlighted that more than ever.

Ian Murray MP is the Labour member Edinburgh South