LONDON – The UK government will propose new laws to ease its target of spending on foreign aid, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab confirmed Thursday.
Currently, International Development Law 2015 commits Britain to spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance.
Raab said the decision to introduce the new law was made because the government “cannot predict with certainty when the current fiscal situation will improve sufficiently.”
It happened a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government would do it does not meet the legal spending target of 0.7% next year. The government claims the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic means it needs to focus on domestic spending, but says there is “intention” to return to 0.7% “when the fiscal situation allows.” Raab was unable to provide a precise definition of what he meant when asked on Thursday.
“We have taken advice very carefully on this,” said Raab. “Very clear [that] if we can’t see the path forward returning to 0.7 in the near future and we can’t plan for it, the law will ask us to change it, and [we] we will almost certainly face legal challenges if we do not follow them carefully. ”
However, critics fear the government’s decision to introduce new laws marks a permanent shift from 0.7% spending commitments.
There has been much criticism of the decisions from both political parties, with former Secretary for Conservative International Development Andrew Mitchell already reportedly organizing a revolt against planned changes.
The government needs to pass new laws in Parliament, which some lawmakers believe will be a challenge.
Raab also will not commit to making an impact assessment of the planned cuts, nor will it take the details to Parliament for parliamentary elections.
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“Our traditional allies and our critics will heed this move. This government has crushed longstanding cross-party support for spending 0.7% of GNI on eradicating global poverty and breaking their promises to the British people, ”said Preet Kaur Gill, the shadow development secretary.
He said the government had “turned away” from mothers, newborns and children who died from preventable diseases, girls who had dropped out of school and people suffering from malaria and Ebola.
“Britain and the world deserve better than a foreign minister who lets the aid budget cut, leaving our global reputation lying [in] in tatters ahead of a year England hosted the G-7 and COP26, “added Gill.
However, for some, planned changes were not enough. Some Conservative MPs suggested reforming the rules for international aid spending set by Organization for Economic Cooperation and DevelopmentThe Development Assistance Committee, in particular to allow more ODA to be used for peacekeeping.
Tom Tugendat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the secretary of state “to look at a slightly different way of calculating, because we all know the 1970s rules on the DAC need reform.”
He continued: “I am not alone in saying this, the French government said it, the Dutch government said it, the German government said it … Can we not count the very large number of him. [the foreign secretary] is spending on the vaccine task force … the UN task … Can’t we count that stability as our ODA capability … and then maybe we can look at a bill that might be forced to introduce and make sure it’s not an open bill, but has a sun clause setting, in black and white, which we also vote on. “
November 26, 2020: This article has been updated with additional reporting.
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