Are the Tories right to cut foreign aid?
Today the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the Conservative government is set to cut the UK’s Foreign Aid budget from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5% from 2021 onwards. He made clear that the cut was set to be temporary, and would return to the 0.7% level when the fiscal situation allowed for it.
There is much support for maintaining the 0.7% spending commitment amongst the political class, and even within the Conservative party. Rishi Sunak made clear in his statement he had difficult conversations with some of his Conservative colleagues at length regarding his decision to cut the budget, and the cut has prompted immediate backlash in some quarters.
The editor of Conservative Home, Tim Montgomerie, argued that Britain's reputation for keeping its word was at stake.
However, polling from YouGov suggests the public overwhelmingly believe that too much taxpayers money is being spent on aid. In response to the question 'What sector is the UK government spending too much on?' 60% of respondents have consistently told the pollster they believe one of those sectors is foreign aid, compared to just ~2% who say the same for the NHS.
However, the temporary cut announced today would still see over £10Billion being spent on Foreign Aid in the 2021 fiscal year.
Daily Mail columnist Dan Hodges said of the cut ‘Be clear. The cut to Overseas Aid is a purely political statement. The practical savings, in this context, are minuscule.’
It’s hard to disagree with the above statement, the cut does seem to be optical and political, rather than practical, given the scale of aid spending which will survive the cut. This cut will go down well in Red Wall areas, and make it difficult for Starmer to oppose on that basis, while also causing conflict within the Labour Party, where MP's overwhelmingly support the 0.7% spending target.
We want to know what you think on Foreign Aid, do you support or oppose this cut? Would you like to see it go further, or just the opposite? Vote in our poll and have your say