Senior Tory MP denigrates PM's 'abhorrent' cuts to foreign aid

22 April 2021, 15:49

By Fiona Jones

Senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale denigrated the Government's "disgraceful decision" to cut the foreign aid budget "at the very moment countries need the help most."

Boris Johnson's Government has released the first details of how it intends to impose as much as £4 billion worth of cuts to international aid, prompting campaigners to accuse the government of having “lost its moral compass”.

The statement on planned spending for 2021-22 did not explicitly explain future commitments for countries or programmes, but its new plans on how it will distribute £8.1 billion imply a "tragic blow" to key areas.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7% of the national income to 0.5%, which Sir Roger Gale branded a "disgraceful decision."

Sir Roger said, "The 0.7% GNI (Gross National Income) is enshrined in law, it was put there for good reason. It is affordable. We are one of the strongest economies in the world and frankly, if we cannot find 0.7% of a reduced GNI...then I fail to see how we can describe ourselves as a powerful nation post-Brexit - which is what we keep being told we are."

He pointed out that we are in exceptional times, "and because we are in exceptional times the poorest people in the world near more not less help."

The MP for North Thanet told Shelagh he opened an email from his constituent who comes from The Gambia, Africa, and "they are desperate for vaccines, they can't get it."

"We can help and we should be helping them. We shouldn't be cutting, pulling the rug out, at the very moment they need the help most."

He questioned how the UK will look at the G7 Summit with Germany and the US increasing foreign aid "when we are talking about cutting it."

"We can afford this...we will recover," he said, "if anything we should be increasing it."

Shelagh asked: "Do you believe this is a decision that's aimed at soothing a particular constituency in the country?"

"There is a body of opinion that says charity begins at home, we should be looking after our own, we shouldn't be giving lots of money to 'bloody foreigners' is the attitude. I think that is abhorrent."

The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols condemned the plans to cut foreign aid on LBC: "We must look at how we behave...what this decrease from 0.7% to 0.5% means is our overseas aid has dropped by a third.

"Where does 'our own' stop? Does our own stop at the Channel? Are we not a global community? Don't we depend upon each other?"

He opposed the Government for "deserting the children of Yemen" during their devastating humanitarian crisis.

Separately, minister James Cleverly admitted there has been "no assessment" carried out by the Government as to how the foreign aid slash will affect the people of Yemen.

Read more: Foreign Office minister Baroness Sugg resigns after foreign aid cut