Boris Johnson was struggling to contain a conservative revolt when a Foreign Office minister resigned after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he would break a manifesto promise by cutting the foreign aid budget by a third and ending the Tory -Commitment to spend 0. 7% of gross national income for grants.
Lady Sugg, whose mandate includes sustainable development, submitted her resignation to Johnson in protest of the cut.
Sunak insisted that the cut reflected people’s priorities in a time of unprecedented economic hardship. But Sugg, a close ally of David Cameron and an avid advocate of girls’ education, did not appear in the Lords mailing box to answer questions about the aid cut, which was the most controversial measure in Sunak’s spending review.
In her resignation letter, she wrote: “Many in our country are facing major challenges due to the pandemic, and I know the government will have to make very difficult decisions in response. But I believe it is fundamentally wrong to give up our commitment to spend 0. 7% of gross national income for development.
“This promise should be kept in both difficult and good times. Given the link between our development spending and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already resulted in significant cutbacks this year, and I do not believe that we should further reduce our support at a time of unprecedented global crisis. ”
Sunak said in the House of Commons: “I strictly adhere to the 0 expenditure. 7% of GDP for foreign aid is hard to justify for the British people. “Aid spending would be 10 billion by 2020-21. GBP falling. The auxiliary target would be reduced to 0. 5%, confirmed Sunak and hoped for the 0. The 7% target could be restored if UK finances allow.
A number of senior MPs warned Sunak that he was jeopardizing government leadership at a critical time for the world, including the UK hosting the UN climate change conference next year.
Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative international development secretary, said the aid cuts « are causing 100. 000 preventable deaths, mostly among children. This is a choice I am not ready to make. Neither of us will be able to look our children in the eye and say we don’t know what we voted for. ”
Former Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt said, “If we cut our aid budget by a third in a year that sees millions more people find themselves in extreme poverty, not only will they but we also get poorer in the eyes of the world. ”
He added, “People will worry that we are giving up noble ideas that we were more committed to than anyone else. ”
Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Defense Committee, condemned the move, saying the UK cannot really claim to be the global UK « if our hard power doesn’t match soft power ».
Peter Bottomley, the Tory dad of the house, said he would work across party lines to block the cut.
Pauline Latham, the Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, said the aid budget will be decimated « leading to more child marriages, more cases of FGM in premature births, more domestic violence and we will not vaccinate millions ». .
The relief spending cut contrasted with a massive three-year increase in the defense budget, but Sunak clearly chose to brush aside warnings that Britain’s commitment to foreign aid symbolized an outward-looking and generous Britain.
Set the auxiliary outputs to 0. 7% was first set as a target by the UK in 1974 and was enshrined in law in 2015, two years after the target was first met. In practice, the law only requires the Foreign Minister to submit a report to Parliament explaining why the target was not achieved. The aid budget of 15 billion. GBP has already been cut by GBP 2 this fiscal year. 9 billion. due to the sharp decline in growth, but should recover in the next year along with the forecast 5. 5% growth in the UK economy.
Hope the target is cut to 0. Removed 5% temporarily in a measure that may not require primary legislation, as well as suggestions that a larger part of the aid budget could be redefined and passed on to other departments, including assistance with security and climate change, two requirements for development.
The demand for the introduction of primary legislation, however, offers the reformed Tory One Nation group the opportunity to show whether it can test the majority of the government with 80 seats.
Two weeks ago, the group published a pamphlet written by former Foreign Ministers Hunt and Malcolm Rifkind and Mitchell. Many Tory MPs also warned that Johnson’s business card would be thrown away on the world stage ahead of the UK’s G7 presidency this year and the venue for the UN climate change summit in Glasgow.
Sunak also resisted opposition from more than 180 aid groups, two former Prime Ministers – Tony Blair and David Cameron – and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There was also evidence of opposition from US Democrats, although the US itself never adopted the target.
The target’s abolition has long been sought by conservative right-wingers, who say it works well with swing voters at a time of domestic austerity. Many Tory MPs claim the number is arbitrary and leads to an increase in inefficient spending at the end of the fiscal year. The government’s aid watcher, the Independent Aid Impact Commission, dismissed this argument in a report released this week.
The 0. The figure of 7% was set as an international target by the General Assembly of the United Nations in October 1970 on the recommendation of the World Bank report. In 2005 the 15 EU countries agreed by 2004 to achieve the target by 2015, but in practice only a few.
The target was also the point of reference for the UK when it chaired the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, which was seen as the high water mark in international efforts to restructure unsustainable debt in the world’s poorest countries.
Sarah Champion MP, chair of the international aid selection board, said the aid cut was devastating. She said: « Within six months a specialized development government department was scrapped, this year’s budget has already been cut and more next year. « . I think we can say goodbye to the development superpower status that we’ve been proud of for so long. ”
Liz Sugg, Baroness Sugg, Aid, Rishi Sunak, Resignation, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Conservative Party, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
World News – UK – Foreign Minister resigns as Sunak cuts aid budget
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