14 September 2017
Christine Allen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Christian Aid said:
“The situation in UK Overseas Territories like the British Virgin Islands, and many other places affected by Hurricane Irma, is awful. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people affected by these latest natural disasters. As ever it is the poorest people who have suffered the most.
It is absolutely right that the UK Government does all it can to support people affected by this devastation in its UK-governed Overseas Territories. This is a fantastic illustration of Global Britain in action. We have been able to respond rapidly because the UK Government is a world leader in disaster response; working alongside partners such as the Royal Navy. The UK is putting its skills and resources towards an incredibly important cause.
However, it is also right that the support we give should not come from our overseas aid budget but from other government sources of funding, as it would if the disaster happened on the British Isles. This isn’t because the poorest people on the islands are not in need, they are. But the overseas aid budget is quite rightly subject to serious scrutiny and a set of rules which ring fence overseas aid spending to ensure it goes to the poorest people in the poorest countries. Overseas Territories are not among the world’s poorest countries. In fact, the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven, has a higher GDP per capita than the UK.
It is disingenuous of some newspapers to call this 'madness' and for certain politicians to call for the rules to change during this crisis. The rules don’t need to change in order for help to be provided and there are other sources of funding that the UK Government is using to help victims. Pitting disaster relief in a British territory against aid to serve the world’s poorest countries is a false choice. We can, we should and we are doing both.
The UK Government, but crucially also the companies and investors that use tax havens like some of the British Overseas Territories, all have a role to play in rebuilding those communities have affected by Hurricane Irma."