Critics crushed as UK to ‘remain one of the most generous countries’ after foregin aid cut
Foreign aid cut 'does not diminish the UK' says MP
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MPs will vote on Tuesday on the Government’s decision to cut funding for official development assistance (ODA) from 0.7 percent of gross national income to 0.5 percent. The commitment to 0.7 percent is written in law and was restated in the 2019 Conservative manifesto, but was ditched as the Government attempted to save money in response to the economic carnage caused by coronavirus. Conservative MP Alicia Kearns has slammed critics of the proposal and insisted that other countries have not met the target in previous years.
Speaking to BBC, Ms Kearns said: “Honourable members have criticised the government arguing that other members of the G7 countries are not temporarily reducing their budget reduction but in 2020, we’re one of only two G7 countries to meet that target and the only one to do it since 20213 every year.
“Perhaps it’s because those countries have not met their commitment in normal times but they do not now need to make a temporary reduction.
“Indeed they have no plans in the first place to meet the 0.7 percent they promised.
“With this temporary reduction, we will still exceed the funding provided by every country bar one.
“We remain one of the most generous countries in the world, this is a temporary measure.
“It is one that recoginises the fiscal duty we have to our children and the government has defined the fiscal circumstances in which we will return to 0.7 percent.
“This does not diminish us as a country.”
The 0.5 percent level means £10 billion will be spent on aid this year, about £4 billion less than if the original commitment had been kept.
The move has met fierce resistance on the Conservative benches, with former prime minister Theresa May and ex-international development secretary Andrew Mitchell among prominent opponents of the cut.
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On Tuesday MPs will vote on a statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak setting out that the 0.7 percent target will only be restored if the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) believes the UK is not borrowing to finance day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling.
Shadow international development secretary Preet Kaur Gill said: “Labour opposes this shameful attempt by the Government to weasel out of their commitments to supporting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable during a global pandemic.
“The Chancellor’s proposal would lead to an indefinite cut to the aid budget and is not in our national interest.
“Cuts to international aid will leave the very poorest weaker in the fight against the threats of poverty, climate change and the current pandemic.
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“In return this will have a negative impact on the Government’s ability to keep our country safe and secure, and limit our ability to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.”
Mr Mitchell warned his colleagues not to be “hoodwinked” by Mr Sunak’s statement on the conditions for the return to 0.7 percent, arguing it was a “fiscal trap”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is, frankly, staggering that the only cut the Government has made is to spending to help the poorest people on the planet in the middle of a pandemic, when this amounts to approximately 1 percent of the borrowing on Covid in the last year.”
Mr Mitchell said he would rebel, telling Times Radio: “I think I’ve only rebelled against my own party and government about three times in the 34 years since I was first elected to the House of Commons, but I shall do so today with conviction and with enthusiasm, because I think it’s the most terrible thing to break our promise.”
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