Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 21 March 2013


It was very impressive that mired as we are in the economic doldrums the people of this country gave a record breaking £75 million to help people in Africa (and the UK) last weekend. It is very much to the credit of the organisers of Comic Relief, who make it so easy to give, but also shows the wonderful warm-heartedness of the British people.

Despite all of the problems facing this country, our problems are not those of absolute poverty, but more the consequences of societal breakdown, tragedy or illness. This is not the same oversees, where still so many children die of very preventable diseases every day.

Which takes us onto a topic that many of you contact me about: overseas aid. You cannot understand why we are spending so much on people in other countries. Let me try and set out the arguments to try and convince you.

First of all, our party made a political commitment in the last election campaign to increase the aid budget to 0.7% of GDP, which many governments had promised but never achieved. This year we will achieve it. Generally speaking, politicians keeping their promises is a good thing.

Even when we reach this figure, our government will be spending less than 1% of everything it spends on overseas aid. That means we will be spending over 99% on ourselves. That's fine.

I still maintain it is morally right to try and lift people out of abject poverty, but the argument does not end there.

It is also in the national interest. Two of the greatest challenges facing our children are mass migration and the fallout from poverty-induced conflict. Our aid, properly targeted, can help to tackle both. It is helping to bring stability and raise living standards in several African countries whose economies are now beginning to motor and whose governance is improving. Lenny Henry talked up some of these achievements on Comic Relief last Friday. It is working.

It is therefore helping to create new markets for British businesses, so it represents a smart investment.

Of course our aid has to be directed in the right way and we have made great progress in recent years in tackling abuse. We strictly measure what works and rarely fund governments direct. Much of our funding goes through much-loved British NGOs who have become expert at making sure it reaches its intended targets.

To me, all these arguments are compelling. Convinced?

posted by Gary @ 09:08