This country has been and always will be open and outward-looking, leading in solving the world's toughest problems and striving to be a force for good in the world. Whether it is stepping up to support desperate Syrians and Yemenis in conflict zones, leading the fight against Ebola and Malaria, or supporting millions of children to gain a decent education.
Nevertheless, we must be honest about where we are. The UK is currently experiencing its worst economic contraction in 300 years because of the pandemic, with a budget deficit double that caused by the 2008 financial crisis. At this time of unprecedented crisis, tough choices must be made, which is why the Chancellor announced a temporary reduction in the UK’s ODA budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of the UK's Gross National Income (GNI).
I am encouraged that the UK will be spending more than £10 billion in 2021 on its seven ODA priorities, as set out by the Foreign Secretary – climate change and biodiversity; global health security, including Covid-19; girls' education; responding to humanitarian crises, such as those in Yemen and Syria; science and technology; resolving conflicts and defending open societies, including human rights; and promoting trade.
As one of the most generous aid donors in the G7, with a commitment considerably higher than the OECD average, and coupled with our expertise and convening power, the UK remains a development superpower.
The UK is, for example, the biggest bilateral donor to the Global Partnership for Education, the largest fund in the world dedicated to improving education in developing countries; and the World Bank International Development Association, which works to accelerate progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, our contribution to the COVAX AMC is amongst the largest and will contribute to the supply of at least 1.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, already reaching over 135 countries and economies.
I have been assured that the UK will return to 0.7 per cent as soon as the fiscal situation allows.
That is, as the Chancellor clarified on 12 July, when the Government is no longer borrowing for day-to-day spending and when debt is falling. I believe this is the most economically prudent way in which to return to satisfying the 0.7 per cent target in light of the prevailing economic circumstances.
I welcome that the Government, recognising the strength of feeling felt by many Members across the House on this matter – and even though it was not necessarily obliged to do so by the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 – gave Parliament a meaningful vote on its decision. I am glad that Parliament, recognising the need to manage the public finances responsibly and maintain strong investment in domestic public services, voted to approve the Government’s plans by a handsome margin.