Secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs Dominic Raab announced today that the government will be seeking to bring forward new legislation that will allow the UK government to cut the amount it spends on official development assistance (ODA) from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% of GNI.
Speaking in the commons, Raab stated that the move was required in order to make the aid cuts that chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday.
He also said that the legislation would be required in case of continuing economic uncertainty, saying “given that we cannot at this moment predict with certainty when the current fiscal circumstances will have sufficiently improved, and our need to plan accordingly, we will need to bring forward legislation in due course.”
Considering that the cuts made by Sunak, which will see the 0.7% commitment be slashed to 0.5% in 2021, was itself the breaking of a manifesto commitment, and the hazy references to continuing economic pressures, parliamentarians, NGOs and others are worried that this legislation could see the ODA budget cut permanently.
Our CEO Stephanie Draper said:
“It’s sad to see the same government that passed the International Development Act and the 0.7 commitment, with cross-party support, now break their promise to the world’s poorest and abandon their manifesto commitment needlessly. Aid had already been cut as GNI fell, and thousands more lives will now be lost if the proposed legislation gets through parliament. If government gets the proposed changes to the Act through parliament, at a minimum, they should include a sunset clause that would return the 0.7% commitment automatically, rather than continuing to play politics with the aid budget.
“The Foreign Secretary also seems to have forgotten the “bottom billion” as there seems to be very little change left in the purse to help them based on what has been said today. Though we hope he makes good on his commitment to abide by the OECD-DAC rules, “targeted foreign aid” seems to mean taking aid away from the most vulnerable and directing it towards short-term, self-serving priorities.
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“It’s these types of broken promises that have tarnished the reputation of UK aid in the eyes of the British public and now the world.”
Bringing the legislation to the house
The government will bring legislation to the house early next year. With many conservative MPs speaking out against the cuts, there is still a chance that the legislation will not pass through the house.
Along with our members, we will be working with allies in parliament to resist this change to the international development act.