Chris Law MP (SNP Dundee West) (11 June 2019) Debate on UN SDGs, speaking as third party lead.

I welcome the new Secretary of State to his place. I have been in this role for two years, and I now face my third Secretary of State for International Development. However, I thank him for his humility regarding some of the issues that this country faces in trying to meet our sustainable development goals. He also talked about a third of the homes in his constituency not having an outside toilet when Willie Whitelaw was the MP, but only half of homes in Dundee had an outside toilet under Churchill. He was flushed out by an MP for the Scottish Prohibition party, which I was surprised to learn given that we are the home of whisky, gin and fine ale.

It is important to remember that, back when the sustainable development goals were adopted in 2015, all 193 nations committed to achieving a transformational development agenda by 2030 — a significant diplomatic achievement to say the least. It is also worth remembering that the Paris climate accord was agreed in the same year, so perhaps 2015 was a high point in recent times. The UN describes the SDGs as a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The rallying cry throughout the negotiations was “leave no one behind” yet sadly, from day one in 2015, the UK Government have been lagging in their commitment to implement and achieve the 17 goals.

The 2015 UK aid strategy did not refer to the SDGs. The 2016 bilateral and multilateral development reviews only briefly mentioned the goals. DFID’s 2017 report on the Government’s approach to the SDGs fell far short of the comprehensive implementation plan that the International Development Committee had asked for, while the Environmental Audit Committee stated that there was an “accountability gap” across Government.

Despite the lack of appropriate focus and co-ordination given to the SDGs, the UK will present its own voluntary national review to the UN at the high-level political forum on sustainable development. The VNR will assess the UK’s progress on the SDGs, indicating what the UK has done to date and setting out how it will push forward towards achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030. It is therefore important that we are having this debate today to draw attention to the significance ​of the SDGs and to spell out how vital they are in addressing the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice, and in ensuring a better and more sustainable future for all.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

The hon. Gentleman celebrates the fact that this debate is happening today, but should it not have happened a year ago and been followed up with 17 sectoral debates in which we could have discussed in depth how Britain is faring? This should have been a debate to wrap up and to prepare for how to present Britain to the UN with a united face. The problem is that this process has been a farce and has not been given the full weight that it deserved.

Chris Law

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The SDGs could be a comprehensive blueprint for each Department, regardless of who is in government, because they also provide the Opposition with an opportunity to contribute.

Furthermore, it is critical that people across Government listen to us today and use this opportunity to commit to a coherent and robust SDG implementation plan in order to achieve all 17 goals domestically and to support other countries to achieve them.

Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that it is important to raise awareness of the goals? Incorporating elements of them into the curriculum so that young people can fully participate would be an excellent idea.

Chris Law

I agree with my hon. Friend. In fact, I visited a local primary school in the past month or two to discuss global leadership, and I was impressed that the children were able to list all 17 goals. Getting the SDGs into the national curriculum across these islands is vital. The next generation will inherit both what we do right and what we do wrong, so now is the time to put this topic front and centre.

It is no secret that the SNP is working towards an independent Scotland, but crucially we want this process because we want to play our part as global citizens, to improve the lives of people at home and abroad, and to aim to be world-leading in everything we do. The Scottish Government’s actions on the sustainable development goals typify that. Not only was First Minister Nicola Sturgeon one of the first national leaders to commit publicly to the SDGs, but Scotland has continued to set the pace for the rest of the UK. The First Minister noted in 2015: “The national and international dimensions to poverty and inequality are interlinked. Scotland cannot act with credibility overseas, if we are blind to inequality here at home. And our ambitions for a fairer Scotland are undermined, without global action to tackle poverty, promote prosperity and to tackle climate change.”

The UK Government would benefit from listening to those words. Let me outline some evidence of what is being done. Commenting on the Scottish Government’s attempts to reduce inequalities, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations noted that “great efforts are being made to help Scotland progress towards the SDGs.”​ It highlighted the introduction of a new advisory council on women and girls as just one example of Scotland’s efforts to reduce inequalities.

Similarly, in the 2018 “Measuring Up” report by UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, Scotland’s target to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by 2030 through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 was praised as “ambitious” and the Child Poverty Action Group’s “The Cost of the School Day” programme featured as a case study for UK best practice. We should just think how that compares with the comments made by the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston. He said that the UK’s social safety net has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos” and that the UK Government have inflicted “great misery” on their people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies. How did the UK Government reply? Denial.

The priorities of this Conservative Government have been laid bare by the fact that the only SDG target for which the UK has received a green rating is under goal 8, on decent work and economic growth: “Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and to expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all.”

That is almost laughable, because I do not think a single Member represents a constituency that has not been affected by local bank closures on the high street. Surely this serves only to demonstrate that the UK Government are focused on boosting the financial services sector while ignoring working people.

As well as work at home, the Scottish Government have been striving to support other countries to achieve the SDGs overseas. It goes without saying that SDG 4, on quality education, is one of the most valuable tools in the fight against global poverty, yet some of the world’s most vulnerable people remain without access to education. The SNP Scottish Government have been working to meet this goal by empowering people in developing nations and giving them the skills and opportunities to improve the lives of themselves and their communities.

We have backed programmes such as the Pakistan scholarship scheme, which has helped to support more than 400 women and more than 1,400 schoolchildren to continue their education. Also, more than 73,000 Malawian children have been helped to stay in school through support given to a feeding programme, while the Livingstone fellowship scheme allows doctors from Zambia and Malawi to come to Scotland for specialist training, which they will take back home for the benefit of their communities. Last week I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State commend Scotland’s partnership with Malawi and the many projects it upholds.

SDG 16, on peace and justice, is one of the UN’s five priority goals this year. As well as welcoming people from developing countries for training, Scotland has been a place of refuge for those fleeing conflict. Scotland, which has less than 10% of the UK’s population, has taken almost 20% of the UK’s intake of Syrian refugees.

The Scottish Government are also playing a role in the Syrian peace process. The SNP has long shown its determination to put women at the heart of government ​and politics. Recognising this, the UN special envoy to Syria invited the First Minister to provide support in training female peacemakers in negotiation and communication skills. Indeed, since its launch, the programme has trained more than 150 female peacemakers from Syria, Libya, Palestine and other conflict zones around the world. These are clear examples of the Scottish Government’s ambitions being met in Scotland and overseas, and I now turn my focus to the UN’s fifth focus goal for 2019, namely SDG 13 on climate action.

Crucially, many of the sustainable development goals will be rendered unachievable, and existing development gains that have been made will be reversed if we do not tackle climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of autumn 2018, the UK Committee on Climate Change report of May 2019 and the International Development Committee report of this month all reach the same conclusion: we have too little time to prevent Earth’s temperature from increasing by more than 1.4° without radical solutions and clear political leadership. By way of example, Mongolia and Tibet are already experiencing 2° above pre-industrial levels.

The demonstration by Extinction Rebellion and strikes by young people in our schools serve to focus us on and remind us of how urgent action is needed. There is no doubt that we face a climate emergency. The world will be less safe, resources will be sparse and ecological and demographic crises will be unmanageable. What good is our work on education, inequalities, peace and justice if it is undermined by natural disasters, civil unrest, disease, displacement and mass migration caused by climate change, which pushes 100 million more people into poverty?

I was interested to hear the Secretary of State affirm last week: “There should be no distinction at all between the work that we do on international development and the work that we do on climate and the emergency.”

That is commendable, and I am sure he will look to how the Scottish Government have approached the issue, and have become a world leader in their response to climate change. The Scottish Government have rightly called a climate emergency. Scotland has outperformed the UK as a whole and is one of Europe’s leading countries in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Our target is to cut those by 90% by 2050, compared with the UK’s target of 80%. Also, a publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company to deliver renewable energy will be established as part of the strategy to reduce emissions.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)

It might be worth reflecting — the Secretary of State might be interested in this — that the water company in Scotland is in public ownership, and has managed to achieve at least as much success as the privatised system down south, but with all the benefit being retained for the public purse.

Chris Law

That is absolutely correct. If you look across these islands, Scottish Water covers all of Scotland, which is one third of the landmass of the UK. Most people sometimes imagine Scotland to be a small periphery; it is actually a huge part. Considering the number of ​water companies across the UK and their different rates and tariffs, and the fact that people have to measure the amount of water they consume to keep their costs down, it really is a great benefit to us that our water in Scotland is nationalised. Furthermore, Scotland’s ban on diesel cars will begin in 2032 — eight years ahead of the UK Government’s — and unlike the UK Government, the SNP does not support fracking, or a return to nuclear energy.

In addition to that progress at home, the Scottish Government have distributed £21 million through the world-leading climate justice fund, which is now supporting projects in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. Through that, more than 100,000 people have been provided with training on climate change and water rights issues; over 100,000 trees have been planted; and over 200 village-level committees have been established to support water management, to prevent or mitigate the negative impact of climate change.

Let us be in no doubt: tackling climate change is a universal imperative. The UK Government can take lessons from the Scottish Government, and must recognise the imminent impact that climate change will have on international security and humanitarian access to fundamental resources, both at home and abroad.

In a report that I mentioned earlier on UK aid for combating climate change, produced by the International Development Committee, we concluded that climate change must be placed at the centre of each strategy and funding. Our report urged a minimum spend of £16 billion annually, and a halt to funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries unless it was possible to demonstrate that they supported transition to zero emissions by 2050.

Disappointingly, we often heard evidence suggesting that Government Departments were not taking climate change seriously, and that there was not joined-up thinking across Whitehall. When I asked the prosperity fund what proportion of its spend supported the use of fossil fuels, I was told that it could not provide that percentage. Similarly, when I asked whether any assessment had been made of the carbon footprint and potential climate impact of its spend, I was told that it did not have specific indicators on carbon footprint. That was surprising and extremely worrying. Unfortunately, that incoherence and lack of focus appears to be common across Government, with policy in one area often undermining delivery in another. Nothing exemplifies that more than the fact that fossil fuels made up 99.4%, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden), and renewables a mere 0.6%, of UK Export Finance’s energy support for low and middle-income countries; those are the countries most likely to be adversely affected by climate change. There is a long-term tie-in to those countries, because once fossil fuel energy supplies are established, they can go on for decades, fundamentally undermining our goal of reducing CO2 emissions globally.

Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, in low and middle-income countries, UK Export Finance provided £2,360 million-worth of support for exports in the fossil fuel energy sector, and less than £2 million-worth of support for exports in the renewables sector. It is therefore no surprise that this policy incoherence has impacted on the UK’s ability to deliver the sustainable development goals.​

In their “Measuring Up” report last year, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development found that out of 143 relevant SDG targets, the UK’s performance was “inadequate” or “poor” on 76% of them. Astonishingly, that is more than three quarters, for those of us of a certain age who work on the pre-decimal. The UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development has also stated that there is little evidence of tangible progress from Government Departments, or the Prime Minister, or even within the Cabinet.

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)

Last night, I watched with horror a programme called “War on Plastic” with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. One of the things he said was that although we think we are recycling plastic here in the UK, it is being shipped to developing countries—Malaysia was mentioned because it is the largest recipient. Often, that plastic not only pollutes their water supplies but is then burned, contributing again to CO2 in the atmosphere. Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the fact that when we think we are doing the right thing and recycling, we are actually causing even more damage? We need to take urgent action on single-use plastics and our relationship with them.

Chris Law

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The idea that getting rid of little plastic stirrers and straws is really tackling the problems with plastics is farcical. Frankly, it is paying lip service. When China stopped importing plastics in 2013, Malaysia become the biggest importer, but Malaysia is now looking to stop importing plastics, so things need to move fast and radical action needs to be taken. There needs to be a co-ordinated plan from the Government.

Dr Cameron

I thank my hon. Friend for being so generous in giving way. On his point about sustainable development and the use of plastic, I had the opportunity to visit the Copenhagen fashion summit just a couple of weeks ago, and some of the big training-shoe manufacturers are doing innovative work on reclaiming plastics from the sea and making them into training shoes. That is a good idea not only for reaching out to young people but for recycling. Does my hon. Friend think that such ideas should be supported?

Chris Law

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. She has reminded me of another point: Scotland now has the world’s first company to look into the re-tarmacking of roads without using oil. Recycled plastics will be used instead. In the past couple of weeks, it was announced that a cul-de-sac in a building development was the first road to be surfaced with such material.

It is clear that the UK Government have not developed a focused strategy to address the sustainable development goals seriously and needs to start to deal with these issues with the urgency that they deserve. Although DFID is co-ordinating the voluntary national review, which is commendable, and is also responsible for its overall drafting process, the delivery of specific goals is spread across a variety of Departments. Despite that, the UK Government are failing to communicate the SDGs across those Departments. Witnesses have told the International Development Committee that they did not know about the SDGs until the VNR process began—that is shocking—and that there is still limited knowledge of the goals among officials. If I have one ​thing to say before I conclude, it is that all Departments need to understand what the SDGs are. They should be front and centre in everything that we do.

Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)

May I take the hon. Gentleman back to the discussion about plastics? So many people will have seen that moving “War On Plastic” film last night. Will the hon. Gentleman take a moment to thank the colleagues from all parties who took part in the campaign at Lent to raise awareness of and support Tearfund’s work on setting up sustainable plastic-recycling facilities in developing countries? That campaign was match funded by the UK Government, under DFID, and has raised millions, and it is expanding into many other countries.

Chris Law

Indeed, on the issue of plastics, the environment and the climate, we share common views throughout the House, and I am of course happy to reflect that, as well as the great work that Tearfund has done.

As the Select Committee stated in its letter to the Secretary of State in April, given that the UK signed up to achieve the SDGs in 2015, nearly four years ago, the current situation just is not good enough. It is becoming increasingly clear that, given the all-encompassing nature of the SDGs, DFID is not the Department most suited to ensuring that they are embedded in everything that the Government do. We cannot afford not to take the SDGs seriously and instead to treat the whole process as a box-ticking exercise that can be forgotten about once the VNR has been and gone.

We have a unique opportunity to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, combat catastrophic climate change and protect our natural environment by 2030. We simply cannot pick and choose which goals are important to us and which ones we can disregard. Sadly, it does not appear that the UK Government have used the opportunity of the VNR to make the SDGs better known in the UK or to take their own responsibilities more seriously. For example, in a letter on 6 June, firms and charities called for the Government to promote international development through their international trade policy. If the UK wants to do that, it should follow France’s example and call for the USA to return to the Paris agreement before it starts any trade talks.

Instead, in the same week, we saw the UK Government roll out the red carpet to President Trump, a climate change denier, in a desperate attempt to secure a trade deal, with anything up for grabs.

Going forward, it is expected that the Prime Minister will attend the first four-yearly Heads of State meeting on the sustainable development goals at the UN General Assembly in September. Should that Prime Minister be the current Secretary of State for International Development, I would welcome hearing whatever he is likely to say in September. Of course, as of yet, we have no idea who that Prime Minister will be. Although the Secretary of State understands that we face, in his own words, a climate cataclysm and would like to double the amount that DFID spends on climate and the environment, sadly the same cannot be said of several of the other candidates also vying to become Prime Minister.

One candidate endorsed a report that recommended that the UK should spend 0.7% of its income on aid only if it “gains the freedom to define aid as it sees fit.” He also said that aid spending should be used in the UK’s “political, commercial and diplomatic interests” and called to change the Department’s purpose from poverty reduction to furthering “the nation’s overall strategic goals.”

Another candidate has spoken of her desire to halve the UK’s overseas aid budget and abandon the UK’s commitment to the UN target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid. When I saw that on “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday morning, my chin literally bounced off the kitchen table. Although the Government will cherry-pick their examples of progress on the SDGs in this debate today, it has been evident that their implementation of the sustainable development goals has been shambolic and the future could be bleaker should some in the Conservative party get their way.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Richard Curtis, film writer and director responsible for films such as “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, and “Love Actually”. Importantly, he was in front of the International Development Committee today, because he is also UN advocate for the SDGs and co-founder of Project Everyone and Comic Relief. He summed up precisely what needs to be done by this UK Government when he said: “The UK is reputed for campaigns such as Live Aid and Band Aid — those of us in this Chamber who are old enough, which is most of us, will probably remember them — as well as Make Poverty History, yet what we need is one person who is thinking about this all the time. We need real leadership.”

Whoever becomes Prime Minister next month, they need to learn the lessons of the UK’s implementation of the SDGs so far. We are nearly one third of the way from the adoption in 2015 to the target date of 2030. I urge the UK Government to use the VNR to mark the beginning of a more thorough and serious approach to implementing the sustainable development goals — a starting point with proper leadership and proper cross-departmental engagement — and to look at some of the examples that I have mentioned and that have been demonstrated by the Scottish Government.

Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) (10 Sep 2015)

I must start by declaring my interest in the subject of this debate. In a previous life, before I entered the House in May—that seems a long time ago—I undertook 27 international assignments, mainly in the poorer countries of the world, often working with United Nations agencies of one sort or another. Perhaps more important, given the one contribution I want to make to the debate, is the fact that I was recently elected as the chairman of the new all-party parliamentary group on explosive weapons. In the light of that, I should like to build on the important contribution made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), which dealt with places that have previously suffered from conflict.

I would generally be supportive of the development goals, but there is a sad and extremely important omission. This goes beyond what the hon. Gentleman was saying. After a conflict, we often find that a desert has been created, and we cannot describe that desert as peace. I have been extraordinarily impressed by the debates on refugees over the past two days, but one point that some Members made deserves to be revisited today—namely, the assumption that when the military had left the scene, peace would break out and it would be an easy task to return refugees to the area. It is not going to be like that.

What we will see in Syria will in many ways be like another Cambodia. It will take years and years to clear up the detritus of war. When the military has left the scene—the theatre of war—the conflict has not ended; tens of thousands of people are killed and maimed annually because of the explosive weaponry that is left around. We will not be able to tackle some of the goals on education, health and the like until we have cleared the detritus of war from those areas. The impact of war is huge and profound. War is probably the best way known to mankind to create poverty. It destroys not only people, but infrastructure. As somebody who, at one stage, worked on a water project in Namibia, I know only too well the difficulty in starting from scratch and in trying to build up simple resources of providing clean water to people.

After conflict comes the development. Often we have to reconstruct things from the ground, and that is so much more difficult if people are walking on landmines and tripping over explosive weapons that have been left behind. I wish to see more of that work being done by the UK and added to the development goals. I know that, as we speak, there are people in Libya who are helping to clear up some of the explosive weapons that have been left behind, and I pay tribute to them, but unless we do more on that front, it will be a much slower task to engage in the capacity building that is needed.

I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr. Cameron) who mentioned some of the health challenges that are faced by different societies. After a period of conflict, there are huge levels of mental health problems, particularly among the citizens who have remained in those lands throughout the period of conflict. There is a huge need for counselling to help people see the world anew. We need to ensure that, in all our approaches, we pay particular regard to those states that have suffered from conflict and from the increasing complications that they bestow on them.

Chris Law MP (1 July 2019) (Summing up speech during Estimates Debate on International Development)

I thank all those who have made such huge and valuable contributions today.

As we heard from the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), who is my esteemed colleague on the International Development Committee, from the ​hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), and not least from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), who is not in his place at the moment, back in 1970 the UN General Assembly adopted the 0.7% GNI aid target for donor countries to contribute to overseas development assistance. The original proposal envisaged that the target would be met by 1980 at the latest, and that the need for such aid would no longer be required by the end of the century. Sadly, as we know, that was not to be the case: only a handful of countries have ever met and maintained that level of aid spending. The UK is one of those countries, having first endorsed the target in 1974, having met it for the first time in 2013, and having enshrined it in law in 2015. The UK has taken great strides ever since, as we have heard from many great examples, not least from the hon. Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup).

I reiterate the obvious: the Scottish National party’s support for the 0.7% spending commitment is absolutely resolute and clear. Although a number of questions have been asked today about how the money is spent, what concerns me the most is the legally binding commitment, which seems highly likely to come under threat. All Members present are here for one reason, which is to support 0.7% spending on aid, but that is not the case for every Member in this House, as I shall come to later. It is imperative that we use this opportunity to defend the 0.7% target vigorously; to highlight the need for the spending to be part of a focused strategy, aligned with Departments across Government to achieve the sustainable development goals; and to stress that we cannot allow the commitment to be put in jeopardy by the hard right of the Conservative party and to be compounded by the desire for a disastrous Brexit.

The SNP has always been clear that development spending must be focused on helping the poorest and most vulnerable, and on alleviating global poverty. In addition to maintaining the 0.7% ODA spending commitment, we want the entirety of that amount to be spent by the Department for International Development, not spread among other Departments. The proportion of aid spending in other Departments has been steadily increasing over recent years. Currently, some 27.5% of ODA funds is spent in other Departments, such as the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence—a 9.2% increase since 2016. This is worrying, because other Departments do not report their aid spending with the same level of detail and do not necessarily have poverty reduction as their main focus. A recent National Audit Office report concluded that aid spending outside DFID was not transparent enough.

Let me give just one example of how spending in other Departments brings the system into disrepute. The International Development Committee heard that in 2016 some £46.9 million of UK ODA allocated funds had been spent by the Foreign Office on diplomatic activities in China. That is absurd; such abuse of funds must end. Similarly, the Select Committee’s subsequent report found that aid delivered through the cross-Government prosperity fund was
“insufficiently focused on the poorest”.

This appears to be common in other instances of ODA funds being spread across several Departments. For example, just last month the Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s report on the current state of UK aid suggested that the UK needed​ “a stronger strategic direction for its conflict-reduction work, and a more integrated approach across humanitarian, peacebuilding, development and international influencing efforts, especially in protracted crises.” At the same time, the estimates show that DFID’s allocation from the cross-Government conflict stability and security fund will see a reduction of 45% from last year. The current situation is clearly not working. How on earth can we expect to meet the objectives of strengthening peace, responding to crises and helping the world’s most vulnerable when the Department that is meant to be responsible is not taking the lead and being held to account on ODA spending?

DFID’s strategic ability to deliver on its aims is further threatened and undermined by the Brexit shambles that is unfolding. Public money has already been taken away from Departments and public services to prepare the country for the disastrous prospect of leaving the EU, and the Department for International Development has been unable to avoid this. DFID has already sent more than 50 staff to other Government Departments in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, and could deploy another 170, according to a letter to the International Development Committee from the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), in March. It has since been reported that officials at DFID were told that up to 600 of just 3,000 — that is, 20% of their numbers — may have to be redeployed to Departments that are suffering from staff shortages because of their Brexit workloads. It is unacceptable that public money that is committed to vital priorities that the UK has subscribed to under international agreements is already being used to pay DFID staff to manage the chaos of a hard Tory Brexit. Let us not forget that this money saves people’s lives and alleviates the worst aspects of poverty, vulnerability and chaos in some of the most hard-pressed countries in the world.

In two weeks, the UK will present its voluntary national review of the sustainable development goals to the UN at the high-level political forum on sustainable development. At a time when we should be using our aid funding and resources to ensure high-quality education around the world, reduce inequality and tackle the climate emergency, it beggars belief that the UK Government are wasting resources attempting to manage and mitigate the needless damage of Brexit. It is something we simply cannot allow to happen, so I am pleased to have added my name on behalf of the SNP in support of the amendment, tabled by the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) and the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), that would have stopped the mobilisation of departmental spending to facilitate a no-deal Brexit.

Worryingly, it is not just Brexit that threatens the UK’s international development work. The commitment to 0.7% ODA spending is under threat from the right wing of the Tory party, which believes that aid spending should be slashed, and would heartlessly endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Stephen Kerr

The hon. Gentleman misjudges the whole debate with the speech he is delivering. How would it help the world’s poorest people to block any further spending on international development, as that ​amendment would suggest? Both candidates for the leadership of my party are committed to honouring the 0.7% target, so the hon. Gentleman is presenting a wholly spurious argument and ruining the tone of the debate.

Chris Law

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed: the amendment was not about blocking spending on development. Furthermore, I shall develop the point —

Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle)

Order. I should just say that the amendment was not selected, so we do not need to worry about it. That might help us.

Chris Law

As I further develop my argument, the House will find that one of the two Conservative party leadership candidates does not share the view of the hon. Member for Stirling, although he and I do share the same view on the 0.7% target.

Let me put this into perspective: that 0.7% is 7p in every £10, as we have heard several times, or 70p in every £100. That is our commitment. When I visit schools and ask children, who are a great litmus test of where society is, to disagree with that spending, none of them raise their hand; in fact, they often suggest that we should spend more. Why, then, do the leadership candidates for Prime Minister support such brutal and callous action? For example, the one-time leadership candidate the right hon. Member for Tatton (Ms McVey) said that the UK should halve its aid spending, and blamed the Government’s failure to fund the police on their aid commitment.

Alec Shelbrooke

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Law

I would like to press on because I am coming to my key point.

We all know that what the right hon. Member for Tatton said is not the case. Although the right hon. Lady was quickly eliminated from the leadership race, the favourite to be next Prime Minister does not fare any better. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has previously said that aid spending should be used in the UK’s “political, commercial and diplomatic interests”, and has called for the Department’s purpose to be changed from poverty reduction to furthering “the nation’s overall strategic goals”.

It could not be clearer. Those are not my words but those of the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, who is currently leading the race to be Prime Minister. I hope that that answers some questions.

Our future Prime Minister has little clue about either the importance of or the necessity for protecting the most vulnerable in the world and fails to see that it is in our strategic interests to do so. The Tory right can absolutely not be trusted to protect ODA spending, with the likely future Prime Minister calling for DFID to be mothballed and brought back into the Foreign Office. That flies in the face of the advice from a former head of the Foreign Office, Peter Ricketts, who said that DFID “has established a worldwide reputation which is good for Britain. It was not a happy time when aid was part of the FCO: too easy to have conflicts of interest and aid badly used for political projects.”

Indeed, the 2018 aid transparency index, the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major development agencies, rated DFID as very good, whereas the Foreign Office, which the lead prime ministerial candidate led as Foreign Secretary, was rated as “poor”.

Let us be in no doubt that it is essential that the UK’s ODA spend must contribute in a focused manner to sustainable development and the fight against poverty, injustice and inequality internationally. It is vital that it is never allowed to be viewed through the prism of national and commercial interests and as part of pet projects such as Global Britain. The Department for International Development must remain dedicated to its core mission of helping the world’s most vulnerable people. Anything less is not only a complete dereliction of duty, but an absence of humanity.

To conclude, I cast my mind back three weeks to the debate in this House on sustainable development goals, when we were in agreement on the importance of tackling the massive challenges that we as a planet will face in the coming years — whether it be disease, displacement, food security, poverty or climate change. We are already in a position to have a significant impact on tackling these challenges, but only if DFID is adequately resourced and funded. We cannot let other Departments, Brexit or future right-wing Tory Prime Ministers derail that and we must be resolute in our defence of international development and the 0.7% commitment.