Amongst all the positive measures the Chancellor set out to support the UK’s covid response and economic recovery the announcement to cut the International Aid Budget did not sit at all well with me. There is no doubting the Chancellor’s commitment and quick thinking to ensure people have been helped and supported to financially weather the pandemic but there is no need for this to be at the expense of the world’s poorest people. This is why I was one of the first 15 MPs to support legislation on Monday in Parliament the week to reverse the cut. It was the Conservative-led Government that committed in law the Foreign Aid Budget of 0.7% of the UK’s annual growth. Already the cut has led to unnecessary deaths and set back some very important British-backed initiatives. If UK aid had been maintained for the Reproductive Health programme the UN estimate 250,000 maternal and child deaths could have been avoided. Girls education in the world’s poorest countries has dropped by 25%, the UN’s Children’s fund has been cut by 60%, funding for clean water by 80% and WaterAid suggest 10 million people will lose out on gaining clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities this year. These are all things we take for granted and, whilst I recognise that many feel that the foreign aid could be spent a lot better, now is not the right time to cut our support for developing countries as they seek to beat covid and then surface after the pandemic. No other G7 member is cutting aid. The US, France and Germany are all increasing foreign aid and I believe that West Cornwall, as the location for the G7 Summit where these challenges will be wrestled with, has the right to expect better of the Chancellor.
This time next week the G7 Summit will all be over and I’m hopeful we can call it a success. Not just that Cornwall has hosted this critical Summit well but also that significant lasting commitments will be made that cause people to refer to the Cornwall or Carbis Bay Agreement in years to come. In the meantime I want to express my gratitude to the thousands of police and support staff for the task of keeping both the guests and local community safe. Thank you to the NHS staff and GPs who had to step up once again to ensure the vaccine rollout is not interrupted (especially in St Ives) and that our hospitals are prepared for any eventuality. My gratitude to the many others who have been working behind the scenes to ensure the Summit goes without a hitch and a massive Thank You to everyone in Carbis Bay, Lelant, St Ives and beyond whose daily routine has been significantly interrupted once again.
The G7 Summit is getting the blame for the sheer number of people in West Cornwall. For a short period yes, but the numbers are here for the duration of our tourist season. With Staycations the impact on our environment, our roads, public services and housing provision must all be understood. Challenges that will not go away any day soon.