On 2nd September 2020 the Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, asked a question to Government on its commitment to the 0.7% GNI development aid target. The Minister had given a commitment to the fulfilling the Government’s obligations under law to the target in earlier exchanges:
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I have personally seen through the Anglican Communion’s worldwide partnerships the positive impact that the UK’s overseas aid has made to alleviating poverty. I share the concerns of other Peers about the reports of the Government’s intent to overturn the legal commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid. At the risk of tedium, I hope that the Minister will continue to give this House assurances that the Government have no such plans, which would reduce the UK’s impact under the UN sustainable development goals. Continue reading “Bishop of Bristol asks Government for assurances that 0.7% aid commitment will stay”
On 13th July Lord Chidgey asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of (1) the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) desert locusts, on food security in countries in east Africa, and in particular in (a) Sudan, and (b) South Sudan”. The Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury asked a follow up question, focusing on overseas aid.
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: With the economy of Sudan collapsing and inflation rocketing, the Anglican Archbishop of Khartoum said recently that people would rather die of Covid-19 than of hunger. In South Sudan the Anglican Archbishop of Juba said that mortality rates were already high and, in response to the virus, hygiene and social isolation are difficult—indeed, almost impossible. The diocese of Salisbury has a long-standing partnership with the Anglican churches in those countries and we have launched an emergency appeal this month for at least £50,000 for hygiene and food. What are the British Government doing to support the improvement of hygiene and food in those countries? What does the Minister think we are learning about the motivation for our giving aid to these countries?
On 18th June 2020 a Government statement on the proposed merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office, was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, responded:
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for answering questions on this matter. On these Benches, we affirm the Government’s right to organise themselves as they think best for the common good. We look forward to greater integration between foreign and development policy and values, and we warmly commend the continued 0.7% commitment. I am grateful to have heard the noble Baroness’s assurance that the Government will remain committed to the OECD DAC rules—it would be lovely to have that repeated. Can we have another assurance that the Government will preserve the primary focus of UK aid as poverty reduction? Continue reading “Bishop of Peterborough welcomes Government continuing commitments to UK aid”
On 18th May 2020 a virtual sitting of the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Sugg, “That the Virtual Proceedings do consider the international response to COVID-19.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, and the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, thankfully, the virus appears to be spreading slowly in most African countries, with Lesotho declaring its first case only last week. However, the World Bank forecasts that Covid-19 could push 49 million people into extreme poverty. The economic impact on some poorer nations could be more detrimental than the health threat. The aid Her Majesty’s Government committed at the international pledging event will be vital for the poorest nations, but our international response must be sustainable, which requires trade, not simply aid. What actions have Her Majesty’s Government taken to ensure that good free trade agreements are made with poorer nations?
On 13th May, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, received a written answer from Lord Agnew of Oulton on the debt of developing countries.
Bishop of Leeds:HL3475To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure private creditors comply with the agreement reached by G20 leaders on 15 April to suspend debt payments owed by 77 of the world’s poorest countries, in particular those debts that fall under UK jurisdiction.
On 12th May, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, received a written answer from Baroness Sugg on the debt of developing countries.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds:HL3476 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with other G20 leaders to extend the agreement reached on 15 April, to suspend debt payments owed by 77 of the world’s poorest countries, to include the (1) the World Bank, and (2) the African Development Bank.
On 6th February 2020 Lord Suri asked the Government “what plans they have to ensure the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief in their international development plans.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, following the previous supplementary question*, I understand that in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, there is a champion for promoting freedom of religious belief at director-general level. In the light of the report just mentioned, commissioned by the previous Foreign Secretary, will the Minister consider appointing a similar champion to influence policy formation at the most senior level in her department?
On 4th February 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question he had tabled to Government on food security and scarcity in areas affected by locusts in East Africa:
East Africa: Locusts
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) food security, and (2) food scarcity, in areas affected by locusts in East Africa.
The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Sugg) (Con): My Lords, we are deeply concerned about the devastating locust outbreak in east Africa. It is destroying crops, livelihoods and essential food supplies. Millions of people already face food insecurity and acute malnutrition caused by humanitarian disasters in the region, and more are displaced by conflict. An outbreak exacerbates these challenges. Anticipatory action is needed to reduce the risks to the upcoming agricultural seasons; UK aid is supporting the UN in controlling the outbreak. We are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to help further.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. It is perhaps appropriate that a Member on these Benches is raising issues about plagues of locusts, but a humanitarian crisis is unravelling in front of us. In some parts of Ethiopia, 90% of the crops have already gone and 20 million people face no food. Last Thursday, the UN said that we need $76 million now to begin to address the problems. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to ensure immediate food aid if it is required and, in the longer term, that there is seed for next year’s crops so that people have security?
On 25th September 2019 the House of Lords took note of the Government’s Spending Round 2019. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, contributed to the debate:
Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, like others, I welcome the fact that we are able to hold a debate on the spending round 2019. When the political point-scoring is redacted from the Chancellor’s original Statement, as I note it is on the GOV.UK website, there are aspects to welcome in the overall spending increase and some of the specific commitments. I am pleased that the Chancellor recognised in his speech that in the nation there are anxieties and divisions,
“between regions and communities, rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old”,—[Official Report, Commons, 4/9/2019; col. 180.]
and between black and white. The test for me is always around the impact of spending on the most vulnerable in our society. It is this that leads me to ask some questions.