Cutting foreign aid spending is bad for Britain’s reputation and makes it more difficult for the Prime Minister to bring the world together to tackle key issues, a former minister has said.
Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell claimed the foreign aid guarantee to spend 0.7% of national income was a small amount of money that had a “great” impact.
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday that Boris Johnson deserved credit for getting the other G7 leaders to focus on the “things that really matter”.
Mr Mitchell added: “Is there enough money to drive forward the vaccination of the world, which is the Prime Minister’s ambition and upon which our national interest and our welfare depend in the future?
“I think the jury so far is out on that, we’ll see whether the summit communique commits the richest countries to step up to the plate.
“I have to say it has been more difficult for the Prime Minister to do that when in the previous two global summits in Birmingham and in Gleneagles Britain really led from the front on development, on tackling poverty, on bringing the world together on that agenda.
“It has been more difficult to do that this time because Britain is the only G7 country that is reversing that, it’s cutting its aid when all the others are either increasing it or keeping it at the same level.”
When asked if the cut made the Conservative Party look like the “nasty party”, he added: “We are a big-hearted, broad party that really care about these issues.
“I worry that in the rather mean and almost Dickensian approach to our development spending, where we’ve cut it in the middle of a pandemic, in breach of the promises we all made, all 650 of us at the last general election, arguably in breach of the law, very senior lawyers in Britain have said this is unlawful because it is not missing the target, it’s changing the target to 0.5%.
“And also the promises we made to the United Nations and on the floor of the general assembly.
“I think it’s very bad for Britain’s image, but above all it’s bad for the party and it’s bad for our reputation, and our ability to move the dial in some very wretched and poor parts of the world.”
His comments come amid continued criticism of the Government decision to suspend the foreign aid guarantee to spend 0.7% of national income even though it is enshrined in legislation and was a Conservative manifesto commitment.
Boris Johnson’s administration cut it to 0.5% as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Mitchell said that the impact of the aid spending was not just felt in poorer countries but also on Britain’s reputation.
He added: “In comparison with anything else it’s a small amount of money but the impact it’s going to have, not just on the poorest people in the world which will be huge, but also on Britain’s reputation and Britain’s ability to move the dial of these very important international issues will be great.”
When asked if he was going to continue to try get the target restored, he said: “Yes, we are, and the Government should accept the olive branch we suggested in Parliament which was to bring back the 0.7% from January next year when the economy will have rebounded.”