Rishi Sunak revealed today that the UK will re-up its spending on the world’s poor – but delayed the increase.
But the Chancellor today confirmed that the 0.7 per cent rate would return, telling MPs that faster than expected economic growth allowed it.
However critics pointed out that it would be brought back in 2024/25, before the end of the Parliament but a year after it was expected to bounce back in 2023.
The Treasury also confirmed that the pledge would be reviewed annually, raising the prospect of it being scrapped if the economy deteriorates.
The Chancellor today confirmed that the 0.7 per cent rate would return, telling MPs that faster than expected economic growth allowed it.
However critics pointed out that it would be brought back in 2024/25, before the end of the Parliament but a year after it was expected to bounce back in 2023
Mr Sunak told MPs: ‘I told the House that when we met our fiscal tests, we would return to spending 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid.
‘Some people said this was a trick or a device. I told this House – it was no such thing. And based on the tests I set out, today’s forecasts show that we are, in fact scheduled to return to 0.7 in 2024/25 – before the end of the Parliament.’
But Stephanie Draper, chief executive of Bond, the UK network for organisations working in development, said: ‘Despite the Chancellor’s commitment to get back to 0.7 per cent of GNI spent on UK aid in 2024, what matters is what the Treasury is doing to ensure that the UK shows up in the world right now.
‘It now looks certain that the Treasury will use accountancy trickery to make the aid budget pay for re-channelling Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), excess vaccine doses and debt relief, so the government is once again balancing the books on the backs of the poorest and jeopardising trust in the UK around the world. There will be even less funding for humanitarian and development programmes and potentially a third round of cuts to life saving work.
‘With such strong messages about the strength of our economy, it’s sad that the Chancellor can’t be as generous as the British public towards those suffering the most from the pandemic and climate change. This makes the UK’s standing in addressing global inequality even more questionable, whilst severely undermining crucial COP26 negotiations.’
The UK has long been one of the few countries that sticks to the international target of committing 0.7 per cent of national income to aid spending.
But the government cut that level 0.5 per cent in July, equating to a £4 billion decrease.
The Government won a vote on cutting the aid budget from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5 per cent after a stormy debate in the Commons, 333 votes to 298, a majority of just 35.
In the end 24 Tory MPs rebelled, but their number included some big-hitter former ministers including Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, David Davis and Tobias Ellwood.
Mr Johnson pledged that the rate would return but not until the public finances stabilise from pandemic damage.
The PM pointed out that the UK’s liabilities are around 100 per cent of GDP and the next generation will have to foot the bill for the ‘once in a century catastrophe’ of Covid.
But Mrs May was among the Conservatives declaring they would vote against the government, something she has not done since leaving No10 in 2019.