There are compelling reasons for foreign aid

Women in Somalia with aid
Women in Somalia with aid
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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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Every week I get letters from constituents arguing, quite reasonably, that we shouldn’t be increasing the amount we spend in international aid at the same time as we are cutting spending at home.

I suspect many of you will agree.

After all, if the local council is struggling to keep up with the potholes in Portsmouth, why should we send grain to Gambia?

For me there are three compelling reasons why we must give out foreign aid.

Firstly, while people don’t like the idea of increasing the aid budget, one of the main topics I have my ear bent about when I do street surgeries is immigration.

Surely it’s reasonably plain that the two issues are linked?

Why do we think so many people from poor countries are desperate to come and live in the UK?

Well, because they’re poor and have very few prospects.

So if the UK can take an international lead and make it more likely that other rich nations meet their international obligations and provide 0.7 per cent of their GDP in international aid, our contribution can make a real difference to how hundreds of millions of people live and die.

In turn, that means that they will feel less need to come to the UK.

Secondly, and by the same token, aid spent in poor countries where the UK is not popular (for a whole host of reasons both historic and current) might also help improve our security situation in the future.

If we can truly help poorer nations emerge stronger and more responsive to their own people’s needs, then we may just find that our own international standing improves somewhat.

So there are two good strategic reasons to keep up our aid programme.

If we are careful where we spend (the arguments about China and India are perfectly reasonable), what we spend on and on whom we spend, this is something we can all benefit from.

The final reason?

Well, it’s simply the right thing to do.