Labour’s Preet Kaur Gill has warned the government against reducing spending on international aid ahead of the upcoming spending review as the move would “damage the UK’s reputation around the world”.
Speaking out ahead of the statement to be delivered by Rishi Sunak after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the Shadow International Development Secretary reflected on the impact of the reported cut to the funding.
Highlighting public spending during Covid, she said: “During this pandemic the government have handed over millions of pounds of UK taxpayers’ money to its friends yet are now turning their backs on the world’s poorest.”
The remarks from Preet Kaur Gill follow reports, which emerged earlier this month, that the Chancellor is set to announce a cut to aid spending from the legally binding 0.7% of gross national income target to 0.5% in the spending review.
She added: “This move will damage the UK’s reputation around the world and will only show our allies and detractors that Britain under Boris Johnson is no longer interested in fulfilling our responsibilities or leading on the global stage.
“Labour are committed to spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid to tackle global poverty and injustice and will oppose any attempt from this government to damage this country’s reputation by breaking that commitment.”
The current commitment is enshrined in law by the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act and the Tories pledged to maintain the 0.7% baseline in their 2019 general election manifesto.
187 charities and aid organisations wrote to the Prime Minister last week after reports of the cut to international aid emerged, including Save the Children, Greenpeace UK, Christian Aid, VSO International and others.
The chief executives of the international development organisations wrote: “A time when 115 million people look set to be pushed back into extreme poverty, now is the time for an international, collaborative response to Covid-19.”
Keir Starmer used his response to the parliamentary statement made by Johnson on defence spending, in which he announced the biggest investment since the Cold War, to highlight the 0.7% spending commitment.
The Labour leader told the Prime Minister that a decision to cut UK development aid, which he reminded him was protected in the Tory manifesto last December, would “not only undermine trust but also hugely weaken us on the global stage”.
Reports that the Treasury wants to cut funding for international aid to 0.5% in the one-year spending review emerged earlier this month. The aid budget was £15bn last year, of which 80% was spent by the Department for International Development.
The switch to the lower proportion of gross national income would result in billions being cut from the budget. The ultimate amount of funding would depend on the overall growth of the UK economy.
The government merged DfID into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier this year. Labour vowed to “oppose retreat from the global stage” at the time and Preet Kaur Gill told LabourList the party would not “mirror” the move.