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25 November 2020 22:32

Spending Review Chancellor of the Exchequer HM Treasury

Foreign office minister Baroness Sugg resigns after aid budget slashed by £5bn in spending review

A Foreign Office minister has resigned over the Government cutting overseas aid spending. Baroness Sugg, who is minister for the overseas territories and sustainable development, quit after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that foreign aid expenditure would be cut from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent. "Many in our country face severe challenges as a result of the pandemic and I know the Government must make very difficult choices in response," said Baroness Sugg in her resignation letter. Baroness Sugg also warned in her letter to Boris Johnson: "Cutting UK aid risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the cut to foreign aid was "shameful and wrong" while Conservative former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said it would be "the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children".

Meanwhile Tory peer and former overseas development minister Baroness Chalker of Wallasey said the cut was "a sad day". When announcing the cut to the aid budget in the Commons, Mr Sunak said: "Sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people, especially when we're seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record." A Foreign Office minister has quit following Chancellor Rishi Sunak's announcement of a cut to the UK's overseas aid spending. Baroness Sugg resigned from her junior ministerial role after the government abandoned a Conservative manifesto commitment to fund the foreign aid budget at the equivalent of 0.7% of gross national income. Announcing the foreign aid cut at his one-year spending review on Wednesday, Mr Sunak said the government would instead spend 0.5% of gross national income on overseas aid. The chancellor told the House of Commons the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant "sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people".

Mr Sunak told MPs a cut in foreign aid spending in 2021 would be followed by an "intention" to return to the 0.7% commitment "when the fiscal situation allows". In her resignation letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Baroness Sugg wrote: "I believe it is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. She also told the prime minister that cutting foreign aid "risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right". In his reply, the prime minister said he was "very sorry" to have received the peer's letter of resignation, as he thanked Baroness Sugg for her "outstanding service". The UK is committed in law to spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid every year, under legislation passed during Mr Cameron's time in office.

Conservative former cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt claimed the foreign aid cut would make the UK "poorer in the eyes of the world, because people will worry that we are abandoning a noble ideal that we in this country have done more to champion than anyone else". Philip Davies said people in the "real world" would support the cut, adding: "I suspect that the vast majority of the British public won't be asking why has he [Mr Sunak] cut so much, they will probably be asking why are we still spending so much." A Foreign Office minister has resigned in protest at the Government's decision to cut the overseas aid budget, saying such a move is "fundamentally wrong". Baroness Sugg, whose brief included sustainable development, said promises should be kept in the "tough times as well as the good". Outlining the £5bn cut - from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent this year - as part of the comprehensive spending review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was necessary because the country faces an "economic emergency", and at a time of "unprecedented crisis the government must make tough choices". He said: "I want to reassure the House that we will continue to protect the world's poorest, spending the equivalent of 0.5 per cent of our national income on overseas aid in 2021, allocating £10 billion this spending review.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Barones Sugg wrote: "Many in our country face severe challenges as a result of the pandemic and I know the Government must make very difficult choices in response. "Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises." Foreign Office minister Baroness Sugg has handed in her resignation over the deicison to slash overseas aid, branding it 'fundamentally wrong'. Today Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed foreign aid will be slashed from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP next year as part of a spending review to help pay for the coronavirus pandemic. But Baroness Sugg, minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development, is a long time supporter of sticking to the target, which the Conservative Party promised to keep in their 2019 election manifesto. In her letter to the Prime Minister, she says: 'Many in our country face severe challenges as a result of the pandemic and I know the Government must make very difficult choices in response.

'But I believe it is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. 'One of those causes is tackling extreme poverty, so to cut our aid budget by a third in a year when millions more will fall into extreme poverty will make not just them poorer but us poorer in the eyes of the world, because people will worry that we are abandoning a noble ideal that we in this country have done more to champion than anyone else.' However Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies said in the 'real world' people support the cut in foreign aid. He told MPs: 'Can I support the Chancellor's decision to cut the overseas aid budget, which I think will be widely welcomed across the country in the real world, even if not always in here.