On Friday The Times published an article under the headline ‘Taxpayers rushed into £500m aid giveaway’ – criticising a payment made by the Department of International Development to the Global Fund in a race to meet our aid target of 0.7% of national income. I believe that this is very misleading, not least because it ignores the critical role the Global Fund plays in saving lives and ridding the world of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. At the end of 2013, programmes supported by the Global Fund had saved 13.7 million lives. Britain’s support for the Fund is saving a life every three minutes and will dramatically improve the lives of millions of people.
When we announced our support to the fund back in September 2013, we explained that we would give our contribution to the fund over three years – so long as others joined us in ensuring it meets its target and our contribution came to no more than 10 per cent of the total replenishment by the time that three year period ended. This is exactly what we are doing. The claim by The Times that the UK has breached our own rules on donations is just plain wrong.
The Global Fund has already saved millions of lives and Britain’s support is turning that success into long lasting change that brings us one step closer to a world free from AIDS, TB and malaria. This is in all our interests and is something readers of The Times, and people across Britain, can be proud of.
Every week there is some story or other in the papers designed to undermine our international aid programme and suggest that it is a waste of money. When I read this latest story I was visiting some of the poorest people in the most awful circumstances, people that we are seeking to help by giving them a livelihood and hope. This is in our national interests: it stops people trying to risk the desperate journey to try and get a better life by illegally entering Britain; and it stops others from turning to terrorism.
When constituents complain to me that we are spending 0.7% of our income on overseas aid, I remind them that this means we are still spending 99.3% on ourselves.