Today’s Daily Express front page story (26 October, 2017) reported on claims that the costs of health tourism should be met by the international development budget.
In response DFID would say the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on aid does not direct any resources away from the NHS.
Hitting this annual target does not mean we face a stark choice between spending on either international development or social care.
At a time when conflict, migration and disease know no borders, our aid investments make the UK safer and are a key part of Global Britain’s future direction following the decision to leave the EU.
The Department of Health, along with a number of government departments, spends Official Development Assistance, and are accountable for their programmes.
This includes using UK expertise to help vulnerable people in the poorest countries defeat the world’s worst infectious diseases, which can affect the UK as well.
The Daily Express story focussed on the “£2billion a year cost of health tourism” to the UK, and referred to expectant mothers who come to the UK from abroad to give birth.
It included a comment from a former NHS doctor Meirion Thomas that this should come out of the foreign aid budget.
The Department of Health, which took the lead on this, told the paper: “We need to make it clear to any prospective mother planning on having their antenatal care and delivering their baby on the NHS that, if they have not paid, we will follow up with them to recover costs.
“Anyone with a debt to the NHS of £500 or more can be denied a future visa or stopped from re-entering the UK on their existing one.”
International Development Secretary Priti Patel wrote a robust piece in The Daily Express earlier in the week outlining why development spending is do crucial to the UK.
UK aid is making a difference around the world: saving lives, wiping out disease and helping refugees flee brutal conflicts.
We are making the world a better, safer, healthier and more prosperous place – and helping protect Britain from diseases and threats as we do so.
But we all know the money spent by Ministers and civil servants does not belong to them.
It belongs to you – the UK taxpayers who have worked hard for it.
People are right to be angry when they hear stories about wasted aid.
That is why under my leadership, my priority is to make sure aid delivers value for money.
During my time at the Department for International Development, I have acted ruthlessly to clamp down on misspending.
I closed down the programme, involving the Ethiopian band Yegna, which this paper highlighted yesterday.
My approach is about maximising value for money.
It is crucial we are absolutely accountable and transparent to British taxpayers about where their money goes.
My Department For International Development is responsible for 74% of the UK Government’s aid budget.
Earlier this year I ordered a review of suppliers to ensure you, the UK taxpayer, are getting value for money.
We carried out an efficiency review which is planned to save close to £500 million by 2019/20.
30% of our funding to the United Nations and its agencies will now depend on them taking steps to reform and improve results.
I am calling on other Government departments, which collectively spend the rest of the aid budget, to use the same ruthlessness to improve their aid spending.
This government deplores waste. But we firmly believe it is right to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on aid.
Firstly, it is our moral duty to help out less fortunate people, doing our bit to save and improve lives for families around the world who are trying to survive on just £1 per day.
But secondly, our aid spending increases Britain’s global reach and influence. It enhances our reputation.
It allows us to play a key role in helping to solve the major problems which the world is facing: diseases, terrorism, wars and mass migration.
These global challenges have no respect for national borders. If we don’t do our bit to solve them, they will come to our shores.
UK aid has changed and saved lives in recent years.
Between April 2015 and March 2017 DFID aid reached 17 million people, including 7.3 million women and girls, with humanitarian assistance.
In the last two years, our support has meant around 28.7 million children were immunised, saving 475,000 lives.
DFID led the international fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, helping to stop the virus spreading around the world, claiming countless lives.
Thanks to our leadership, polio is on the verge of becoming only the second human disease after smallpox to be eradicated from the world.
These achievements matter for the UK. Tackling disease and the threat of terror worldwide makes Britain safer. But taking these positive steps also enhances our global reputation.
When people across the world see UK aid supplies arriving in their village or refugee camp – marked with the Union flag – they know that Britain is on their side.
As the evil regime of Daesh fell last week in Raqqa, UK aid was soon on the ground, giving hope to survivors after years of brutality.
Our work is making a difference around the world, from Nigeria, to Afghanistan, to South Sudan and the hurricane relief efforts across the Caribbean.
The UK is now committed to exiting the EU. Britain needs to be more, not less, outward-looking and engaged on the world stage, as we look to secure new trade deals.
Intensifying our efforts as a global leader in international development is a crucial part of securing Britain’s place in the world, post-Brexit.
Express readers can be assured that while I am at DFID, I will do all I can to get value for money for them, as we shape a better and safer world.