Mark Hendrick MP: The people snared in poverty’s grip can’t afford inaction

Labour & Co-operative MP Mark Hendrick explains why he has put forward a private members’ bill to enshrine 0.7% of GNI to international aid in law, a key aim of the international development and co-operative movements.

The world is in a state of constant change; reshaping economies, new governments forming but the one constant, the stain on the conscience of the developed world, is poverty.

After succeeding in the Private Members’ Ballot I have decided that my Bill will seek to ensure that the Government’s commitment to enshrine the UK’s spending of 0.7 per cent of gross national income into law is honoured. This pledge was made in the election manifestos of all three parties and the Coalition Agreement. My Bill will also seek to toughen the remit of the independent body established to monitor the effectiveness of aid spending.

Andrew Mitchell has stated that the Government Bill is drafted and ready to go with the only delay being limited parliamentary time.  I am giving the International Development Secretary the opportunity to do this, even offering to use his draft Bill as a basis for my own. This will not only reaffirm Britain’s commitment to the worlds poorest but will take party politics out of the debate about aid spending on a long-term basis.  I want an all-party approach; this issue can’t be kicked into the long grass because of ideology or electioneering. Politicians from all sides of the House must realise that, by supporting this Bill, they support the hope and trust that millions of the world’s poorest have put in Britain to make their lives better.

I have written to Andrew Mitchell and Malcolm Bruce, Lib Dem Chair of the International Development Select Committee, proposing an all-party approach.  At the time of writing this article I have received no response but I hope to hold talks with them in the coming days and weeks.

In times of economic hardship for Europe and the world’s wealthiest, it is easy to dismiss a commitment on International aid spend, yet these problems pale into insignificance as people in the third world battle for basic survival.

For the Co- operative Movement and the Labour Party, putting a commitment to international aid into law is a fulfilment of our values and beliefs, helping those who need help the most. Our party’s history is built on the battles against injustice and until we make commitments backed by action, we will continue to let down those most in need of our assistance.

Imagine an inability to pay for the necessary drugs to help a sick child, or the medicines not available at all, not knowing where your next meal will come from, war-torn countries with no basic infrastructure to support communities.  The problems are vast, the solutions not easy but we can’t shirk from our responsibilities nor shrink from the monumental task before us. The people snared in poverty’s grip can’t afford inaction.

It is right that during a time of hardship, we continue the fight against poverty. I urge the International Development Secretary to grasp this opportunity and support my Bill. Fulfilling a pre-election promise but most importantly fulfilling a promise to fight and one day eradicate poverty.

Mark Hendrick is Labour & Co-operative Member of Parliament for Preston

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