POLITICS

UK Aid Should Promote Capitalism And Free Trade, Says Ruth Davidson Endorsed Report

Scottish Tory leader rejects calls for development spending to be slashed.

05/07/2017 07:13
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Theresa May has been urged to put promoting capitalism and free trade at the heart of its international development spending.

A report by the Policy Exchange think-tank published on Wednesday and backed by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said while it was right to maintain the government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid - the money needed to be better spent.

Writing the forward to the report, Davidson said there was a “strong centre-right case for putting overseas aid at the centre of a Global Britain”.

And the Scottish Tory leader, who backed Remain, said Brexit made it even more vital the UK did not cut back on foreign aid.

Robert Halfon, a former minister and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, has urged May to dump Britain’s commitment to aid and divert the money to giving pay rises to teachers, nurses and police officers.

But Davidson, who has said the only job she would have any interest in taking in Westminster would be that of international development secretary, rejected this argument. 

She said in the report: “I believe passionately that international aid is not just in the interests of the countries that receive aid, but is in our national interest too. UK aid is a great projection of our soft power, helps steady chaotic regions, and reduces the risk from pandemic diseases, terrorist recruiters or destabilising migration.

“While there are some who say we should scale back our global commitments, I believe that Britain is a country that has always shouldered its share of the burden in the world.

“As the United Kingdom chooses to leave the European Union, it is vital that we demonstrate to friends in the international community that we will continue to lead on tackling global challenges.”

“As this report argues, there is a strong centre-right case for putting overseas aid at the centre of a Global Britain, working alongside our commitments to strong defence and becoming a global champion for free trade.

“To defeat poverty, we will need to support both aid and trade, markets and global public goods - not create an artificial dichotomy between them.”

Richard Howard, Policy Exchange’s programme director, said it was “not just the size of your aid budget but what you do with it that counts”.

“In recent years, too many international NGOs have become involved with domestic politics or pushed misleading narratives about global inequality. Elements of the NGO community still fail to recognise that capitalism and free trade are part of the answer, not part of the problem. Free trade is vital to alleviating global poverty,” he said.

Policy Exchange used its report to call for the creation of an Office for Aid Effectiveness to asses how development aid was spent.

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