The Independent Newspaper has alleged that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, is to break a promise that he made to let Parliament have a vote on whether the foreign aid budget should be cut. The Government has said that the aid budget will be cut by £4 billion per year, breaking a previous manifesto commitment to maintain the UK’s foreign aid budget of 0.7% of GDP.
The newspaper quoted Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, who condemned the budget cut, saying “The government is breaking its promise and going back on its word. Such a significant cut must be properly debated and voted on in parliament – it is our job. This cynical political game has real consequences. Lives are at stake, education hangs in the balance, and the rights of women and girls could go back to the dark ages across the Global South”.
Lady Sugg, a Foreign Office Minister, resigned in November 2020 following the announcement by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to cut the aid budget. In her resignation letter, Lady Sugg said:
“Many in our country face severe challenges as a result of the pandemic and I know the government must make very difficult choices in response. But I believe it is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development.
This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good. Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises.”
The Treasury said in November 2020:
“The UK will spend the equivalent of 0.5 per cent of gross national income (GNI) as overseas aid in 2021. SR20 therefore provides £10 billion of ODA in 2021-22. This settlement will ensure that the UK remains one of the largest ODA spenders in the world and well above the OECD average. At a time of emergency, sticking to 0.7 per cent is not an appropriate prioritisation of resources. The government intends to return to the 0.7 per cent target when the fiscal situation allows.”