Last week, the Chancellor unveiled his Spending Review — essentially a statement of how much money the UK Government will spend on public services in the next financial year.
There are a multitude of reasons to be disappointed with the Chancellor’s plans. There’s a lack of proper economic stimulus funding. The Chancellor has failed to match Tory NHS rhetoric with the cash that it actually needs. There is no solid focus on a strong, fair and green recovery. The Chancellor refuses to introduce a proper Real Living Wage which doesn’t discriminate against young people, and public sector workers are facing pay freezes. And that's far from everything.
One of the most disappointing announcements was the abandonment of the UK's 0.7% pledge to foreign aid, cutting it to 0.5% of gross national income. Make no mistake, this will have a profound impact in the developing world. Balancing the books on the backs of the poorest people in the world will have very serious consequences.
The Chancellor has rightly faced criticism from across the political spectrum. I made my own feelings known during a debate in Westminster Hall last week.
So stark was the announcement, that it prompted former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to speak out against the cut.
I deeply regret today’s decision to break our promise to spend 0.7% of GNI on development. Here’s why: pic.twitter.com/Yv9XDhPCNs— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) November 25, 2020
The repercussions of this decision are best explained by the numbers. The cut means that up to 5.6 million fewer children won’t get vaccinated, something that could result in as many as 100,000 deaths. 3.8 million people could lose access to clean drinking water.
The cut to aid is a complete betrayal to some of the poorest and most vulnerable who have not only been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but by the impact of climate change.
Rather than recognise the global threat posed by these and a myriad of other challenges, the Tories are instead shirking their responsibility. Their rhetoric of ‘Global Britain’ rings hollow.
It isn’t just politicians who are incensed by the decision. A number of respected public figures, NGOs and charities have also voiced their concern.
Cutting the #aid budget would mean less support for the poorest communities when they need it most. At a time of rising #poverty, this will have serious implications in the global fight against #COVID19 #SaveUKAid pic.twitter.com/JjgJGnczJ7— Oxfam (@oxfamgb) November 25, 2020
Cutting the aid budget makes no sense, and will in the long run end up costing us more. The Director ot the UK's One Campaign, Romilly Greenhill, has explained: “This move doesn’t just hurt the world’s poorest people, it has a real impact on people here in the UK as well. It’s bad economics that will end up costing more than it saves, and bad foreign policy that reduces Britain's influence around the world."
Some have sought to defend the Chancellor's decision by saying that we need to cut costs in order to pay for the pandemic. The problem with that argument is that it simply doesn't square with other spending announcements, like record sums of money being pumped into the defence budget.
At this time of great crisis, it isn't right for the UK to renege on its duty to the poorest people on the planet. We must do what is morally right. The UK Government must listen to the sheer breadth of opposition on this issue and immediately announce a U-turn.
Judging from the emails I've received from my constituents about this matter, it is clear that the insular attitudes at Westminster do not reflect Glasgow East's values or our ambitions.
Throughout the pandemic, the kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion shown by ordinary people right across the East end has been inspiring. That spirit extends beyond local boundaries. The people of Glasgow East have a strong tradition of being caring global citizens. Simply put, the Chancellor is not acting in our name or in our interests.
Global Britain must be more than a slogan. We need action and real leadship. The Chancellor has failed to rise to the challenge.