By Declan Carey
THE UK government has come under fire from all sides after announcing a cut in foreign aid spending yesterday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the decision to reduce foreign aid spending from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent in the House of Commons.
Following the decision, Tory Minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development Lady Sugg resigned, having held the position since February.
Responding to the Chancellor’s decision to cut foreign aid spending, Tory MP and former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the decision “will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children.”
The commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on foreign aid was first agreed internationally in 1970 by the United Nations General Assembly.
In 2010 UK foreign aid spending was 0.57 per cent, but the UK has hit the target every year since 2013.
Data from 2019 shows it was among a handful of countries to reach the 0.7 per cent target, along with Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Preet Kaur Gill, Shadow International Development Secretary, told Redaction Politics: “The politically motivated decision by the government to stop spending 0.7% of GNI to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable destroys a longstanding cross party consensus, breaks a manifesto commitment and sends a clear signal to the world that Britain is in retreat; showing our allies and detractors that Britain under Boris Johnson is no longer interested in fulfilling our responsibilities on the global stage
“During the pandemic the government have handed over millions of pounds of UK tax payers money to its friends and spent £12 billion on a COVID-19 test and trace system that still isn’t working. They are now making the world’s poorest pay for their failures.”
Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade attacked the government for sending the wrong message by announcing an increase in defence spending just days before the cut to foreign aid.
He said: “This is a terrible decision. It sends entirely the wrong message. It will be felt by many people in desperate situations, and could have dire consequences.
“Nobody can eat a gun. It suggests that ‘Global Britain’ will continue down the same path of pursuing an aggressive and militaristic foreign policy while building ever-closer political and military relationships with human rights abusers, regardless of the consequences.
“COVID has shown how interconnected our lives are. It should have led to a rethink in security policy and a focus on the biggest threats that face us, such as global inequality, climate change and pandemics.
“Our security is not advanced by throwing money at the military. It is strengthened by building fairer societies that support the most vulnerable, and by investing in our public services.”
However, a Foreign Office spokesperson defended the cuts as a necessary measure to deal with the economic impact of Covid-19.
They said: “The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on ODA.
“We remain a world-leading donor and will continue to use UK aid to support the world’s poorest people, tackle climate change and improve global health.”
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