What’s going on?
Yesterday, MPs voted to cut Britain's aid budget indefinitely. With a majority of 35 votes in favour of the Government, new ‘fiscal rules’ have passed. These rules mean we’re unlikely to return to investing 0.7% of national income in aid programmes for many years.
These are programmes that keep children safe, healthy and in school.
What you may not remember is that this cut breaks the Government’s promise to voters – to us. And at a time when support for aid and international collaboration is at an all-time high.
In fact, support for aid is also high in the House of Commons itself. This issue has been in and out of the papers, caused divisions in the Conservative party, and challenged their 80-seat majority.
During yesterday’s debate, many MPs bravely spoke out on the issue. Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative former international development secretary, said the country is “trashing our international reputation” and the cuts are “literally the equivalent of taking food away from starving people”.
Every living former prime minister also opposed these cuts. Theresa May made a powerful speech before voting against the motion - "We made a promise to the poorest people in the world. The government has broken that promise. This motion means that promise may be broken for years to come."
Is this bad news for children?
Yes, which I know hurts. You and I are here because we care about children, which is why we can’t let this go unnoticed.
Kirsty McNeill, our Executive Director of Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns, summed up what these cuts mean for children yesterday:
“Today MPs have endorsed a proposal that will almost certainly mean the 0.7% commitment does not return for this parliament, and cuts to aid will be indefinite. Children will die as a result.
We have seen already the immense damage caused in some of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries – from 40% cuts in aid for Yemen to 85% cuts in British support for family planning. The vote today means that the cuts will not stop there.
Faced by the biggest humanitarian crisis in a generation, the UK has stepped back when it needed to step up, and the consequences will be felt for years to come.”
In short, yesterday’s decision means thousands of children and their families won't be reached by humanitarian assistance, that health centres will close, and that girls will miss out on an education.
So, what can we do?
This is a blow to us all, as so many of us came together to protect British aid at a time when children need it most. Thousands of us signed petitions and wrote to our MPs, making sure the Government faced a wave of opposition to these cuts.
Thanks to our supporters, MPs heard just how damaging the cuts will be. People power made this more challenging than they anticipated.
Yes, yesterday’s news puts children around the world at risk. But this isn’t the end of the road.
It was the power of campaigning that got our aid commitment into law to begin with. Together, thousands of people across the UK convinced MPs that a legal commitment was the best way to protect children’s futures.
That’s why our supporters campaign, because it’s powerful. We’ll keep fighting for a Global Britain at its best – generous, forward-thinking, and compassionate.