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World News

'We are turning our backs on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world': Christian charities condemn cut on foreign aid

by Marcus Jones

Government plans to reduce the amount of money given in aid overseas has passed through the House of Commons.

MPs voted by a majority of 35 to back the reduced level of funding and a new test which critics have warned could mean spending never returns to its target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

The move, which has been brought about as a result of the financial cost of the pandemic, has been widely criticised with former Prime Minister Theresa May warning that some of the world's poorest will die as a result of the slashed spending.

The reduction to 0.5 per cent of GDP means more than £10 billion will be spent on aid this year, around £4.4 billion less than if the original commitment had been kept.

Responding to today's vote on the aid cut, Pete Moorey, Christian Aid's head of UK advocacy and campaigns, said: "This reckless and controversial vote will essentially decimate aid for years to come. It beggars belief that, in the middle of a global pandemic with extreme poverty rising, we are turning our backs on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
 
"Rather than listening to current and former Archbishops, Cardinals and church leaders across the UK, this last-minute vote speaks of a government trying to escape its responsibilities to the world's poorest people.
 
"This decision will do untold damage to Britain's standing and reputation at home and abroad. We will continue to oppose these cuts. Now more than ever, the UK should be leading the way in tackling crises such as climate change, Covid, and conflict that are affecting so many of the world's poorest communities."

World Vision has been equally scathing.

A spokesperson said: "We're deeply disappointed that MPs have voted not to return the UK aid budget to 0.7 per cent of GNI.

"Cuts to #UKaid will result in the world's most vulnerable children paying the price. We stand ready to support children and their communities to mitigate the impact of these cuts."

The Church of England has also spoken out.

Dr John Inge, lead bishop for international development said: "I am very disappointed that Parliament has not seen fit to honour this country's laudable promise, enshrined in law, to devote 0.7 per cent of GNI to aid.

"As Andrew Mitchell commented this morning, it is not right that the world's poorest should be the only ones to suffer from a reduction in spending following the pandemic.

"The commitment was one of which the Conservative party could be proud, and I hope it will be restored very soon.

"It is a matter of some concern that the criteria which the Government has now set out for a return to 0.7 per cent are so stringent that it risks making permanent rather than temporary the reduction in our overseas development."

The Prime Minister has defended the cut, stating he will push to return to the Conservative Party Manifesto promise of 0.7 per cent as soon as possible.

Speaking at the start of the Commons debate Boris Johnson said: "I believe that on this vital subject there is common ground between the Government and honourable members on all side of the House in the sense that we believe in the power of aid to transform millions of lives, and that's why we continue to agree that the UK should dedicate 0.7% of our gross national income to official development assistance.

"This is not an argument about principle, the only question is when we return to 0.7% per cent and my purpose today is to describe how we propose to achieve this shared goal in an affordable way."

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