Penny Mordaunt wrote a powerful piece laying out the case for UK aid in The Daily Express today.
The International Development Secretary argued “Britain has a moral responsibility to help lift people less fortunate out of poverty”.
But she also highlighted how UK aid’s work was making the UK itself “more secure and prosperous”.
She added: “It helps reduce pressure on our NHS and Armed Forces and helps to mitigate the crises of the future.”
Ms Mordaunt’s words were her response to a Daily Express petition calling for cutbacks in aid spending, which the newspaper delivered to Downing Street on Thursday, 8 February.
Here is the full comment piece:
This Government is committed to making sure the country lives within its means. Since 2010 we have taken some tough, but necessary, decisions to bring public spending under control. The results are clear: the deficit has been cut by two thirds and we have the lowest unemployment for 40 years. But we’ve also protected certain budgets from belt-tightening – including the NHS, school funding and UK aid.
As part of the UK government, I am a servant of the people. So when concerns are raised I listen. Ensuring UK aid money is “spent well” is not enough. We must show that it “could not be spent better”. I strongly believe we are right to stick to our commitments on aid. Let me explain why.
Some of the major challenges Britain and the world face – terrorism, deadly diseases, and conflict – can only be mitigated and pre-empted by the work the Department for International Development and its partners do.
Without UK aid, the world would be a very different place. If we do our job well, often people don’t notice. But what if Britain didn’t help in the wake of natural disasters, pandemics, famine and drought abroad? What if we didn’t ensure people had access to clean water and emergency food supplies?
Our efforts are making a very clear difference to people here at home in the UK.
UK aid is helping to stop deadly diseases – like plague, Ebola and Zika – coming to our shores. What if that healthcare expertise was not available? Last year UK aid helped to stop an outbreak of plague in Madagascar, saving lives and preventing its spread.
Should we stop helping to improve the trading infrastructure in developing countries such as Kenya and Uganda, which is helping British firm to grow their business there? Our aid is helping to create Britain's trading partners of the future - crucial for our long-term prosperity as we forge a new future outside of the EU.
What if we stopped investing in research? UK aid is supporting pioneering work on antibiotic resistance, which threatens thousands of lives here in the UK.
What if we ended our work, alongside our armed forces and security and intelligence agencies, to tackle organised crime and the illicit money flows which fund terrorism?
Our aid helps make us more secure and prosperous, it helps reduce pressure on our NHS and our armed forces, and helps to mitigate the crises of the future.
Without UK aid our world would be a lesser place and Britain’s interest would be poorly served.
There is also a moral argument for UK aid.
The Daily Express said itself last week that its readers agree Britain has a moral responsibility to help lift people less fortunate out of poverty. Brits are compassionate people who stand up for what’s right. We have made the world a better place by fighting for those who can't fight for themselves. We stand up for our national values of freedom and fairness. In Britain, we believe we have an obligation to look after the vulnerable and the poorest.
I want you to know that the message this petition sends is not being lost on the Government. I shall never take for granted the fact I’m accountable, that I have had the chance to serve as an MP and stand up for what I believe in, whether it is fighting for Brexit, prosperity or security. But I want others across the world to have the same opportunities and freedoms we enjoy.
The whole of humanity, and, crucially, the UK will be better off as a consequence.