A number of constituents have contacted me regarding New Clause 4 of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency Bill relating to foreign aid.
I can confirm that I will abstain on the amendment (if it is selected by the Speaker) because I do not believe it is in scope with the aim/purpose of the Bill or the right place to have this discussion. Fundamentally, it should not be the place of ARIA to make up the temporary shortfall in the commitment toward 0.7%.
Whilst not in favour of specifically linking aid (or any government spending for that matter) to GDP, I agree that there are a huge number of positives to providing aid to less-economically developed countries and regions around the world, especially when it comes to targeted projects that have a proven benefit to both the country in question and the wider international community.
Linked to this, I have put my name to New Clause 2 (which I don't think will be selected) which would mandate that the primary mission of ARIA is to support scientific research into human health and the development of new medicines and health technologies. I believe that this would be a much better use of the Bill and would actually have greater impact when it comes to solving health challenges being faced around the globe. As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Access to Medicines & Medical Devices, I frequently have conversations with politicians, civil servants, academics, and companies across the globe about the role that closer collaboration in the medicines field across research and regulation could play in helping those most in need of support and access to vital medicines. For obvious reasons, this is an issue that has come into significantly greater focus given the events of the last 18 months.
The debate around the UK’s legal commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid is certainly one worth having and I very much welcome it returning to the House in a more appropriate format at a later date. On this occasion, I simply do not believe that the ARIA Bill is the correct place to have this discussion.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me.