B495 - Commonwealth Development Fund Bill - Second Reading

Opening Speech:

Mr. Speaker,

I am pleased to present this bill before the House today.

This Government takes our international development obligations very seriously, which is why we committed in our programme for governing to maintaining the 1% of GDP target. This money goes to some of the poorest regions on earth and makes a genuine difference in alleviating poverty.

However, some of those poor regions have deep historical links with the United Kingdom, and still do under the Commonwealth of Nations. For example, Uganda currently has a GDP per capita of $642, and has had trouble with poverty reduction despite significant economic growth (between 2000 and 2003, the country experienced average annual growth rates of 2.5%, but poverty increased by 3.8% over the three-year period.) UK aid could be the crucial difference here; economic growth does not always result in the best outcomes for all, but charitable investment in infrastructure can make it so.

94% of the population of the Commonwealth live in Asia and Africa, the two continents that currently receive the largest amount of UK aid. Therefore, this bill does not represent a huge alteration in the way we spend our aid money. It merely creates precautions so that when spending funds we do not forget those nations with which we have deep historical ties, so that we may be able to both help some of the poorest and most desperate people on earth, and continue to project soft power across the globe by strengthening Commonwealth bonds.

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