Government obstructing scrutiny after misleading MPs on impacts aid cuts have on women and girls
8 March 2022
A leaked copy of the Government’s Equalities Assessment indicates that the Government was aware that women and girls, and others with protected characteristics, were more likely to be harmed by its far-reaching aid cuts.
- The leaked copy of the Equalities Assessment, dated March 2021
- Correspondence with the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs regarding Gender equality in UK aid spending - 8 March 2022
Making a Point of Order in the House of Commons on International Women’s Day, Sarah Champion stated that the Committee had been obstructed in its pursuit of scrutiny. The Committee has the power to send for papers and records, for it to undertake its scrutiny of the Government, yet the Committee was denied access via official means to the Equalities Assessment. In evidence to the Committee on 22nd April 2021, then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab assured members that “[the assessment] showed no evidence that programmes targeting those with protected characteristics were more likely to be reduced than other programmes.”
The leaked Equalities Assessment shows that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) knew that there were likely to be particular impacts upon the poorest and most marginalised people, such as people with disabilities. The Government was also aware that cuts to gender-based violence programmes and sexual and reproductive health were likely to impact upon girls’ education.
The Committee has been informed of severe cuts to programmes as a result of the revised aid budget, such as through the Committee’s Future of UK aid inquiry last year. For example:
- An 85% cut to UNFPA will mean 250,000 more maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions. This is further exacerbated by cuts to Access and WISH programming implemented by the International Planned Parenthood Federation and MSI Reproductive Choices
- Cuts to girls’ education programmes are estimated to result in 700,000 fewer girls receiving an education, including 360,000 girls in Bangladesh
- The Speak! Out Project in Rwanda, supported by Action Aid, had been working to prevent violence against girls before its funding was cut in its final year. As a result of the cuts, seven shelters for girls escaping violence at the hands of partners or family members faced closing down for good, meaning hundreds of girls who have been abused would miss out on counselling.
International Development Committee Chair, Sarah Champion MP, said:
“Our Committee was denied access to the Equalities Assessment seemingly for ministers to dodge the humiliation of admitting their own aid cuts undermined the Government's key development objective: to support women and girls.
“We will not sweep this under the carpet. We will keep championing the rights of women and girls: for them to access education, sexual and reproductive health services, gender-based violence programmes, and other schemes that empower them.
“It is appalling that we have been left with no other choice but to publish a leaked document of the Government Equalities Assessment. From Erskine May to the Ministerial Code, the Cabinet Manual to the Government’s own guidance in the Osmotherly Rules: all emphasise the importance for Government to provide Parliament with information to support scrutiny.”
Image: Crown Copyright