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, 14 November 2013


I get a lot of e-mails from constituents complaining that we are wrong to spend so much on overseas aid. I have not yet had anybody complaining about the fact we are spending over £5 million in our initial support to the people of the Philippines following the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

All of us have been horrified at the scenes of utter devastation on our TV screens and cannot imagine what those people have been through. When my office was flooded last year it was a minor irritation and disruption – these folks have had their homes, their livelihoods and their families swept away. We all believe we should do all we can to help them.

The UK government have made up to £5 million immediately available to provide crucial humanitarian aid for 500,000 people including temporary shelter and access to clean water. We have also sent advisers into the country to help co-ordinate the international relief effort. There have been so many disasters in the past where the countries of the world have been ready to help, but the organisation of the host country has been poor. In a crisis, we Brits are pretty good at organising things.

In addition to governmental help it is good to see all of the major international charities stepping up to the plate, including Shelter Box in Cornwall providing their emergency shelter equipment, and I know many people will be giving freely to support these charities.

I have puzzled over why so many people are unhappy with our level of foreign aid. It remains under 1% of all government spending and even if it was stopped completely and poured into UK health or education would we really notice the difference?

Perhaps the biggest problem facing the west is the pressure of mass migration, now and in the future. All developed countries face this because living standards in the west are currently so much better than they are in the two thirds world, the developing world. Long term solutions are necessary, and one of them is to help them improve living standards in their own countries. 

Aid to India and China is being phased out by 2015. We are much more robust about how our aid money is spent in Africa, avoiding corrupt governments. There are some success stories, like Ghana, and others will follow.

Emergency aid and long term development all have the same goal. We should support them both.

posted by Gary @ 13:57