International aid budget could be SCRAPPED under plans drawn up by Rishi Sunak
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Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are understood to be meeting next week to discuss the UK’s commitments ahead of this month’s Government’s spending review. Mr Sunak is believed to be keen to suspend the foreign aid target which legally requires the UK to hand over 0.7 percent of national income on overseas projects.
Our economy was recovering over the summer, but started to slow going into autumn
The discussions come as figures showed Britain’s economy grew by a slower than expected 1.1 percent in September from August even before the latest COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.
The economy is being propped up by more than £200bn in emergency spending and tax cuts ordered by Mr Sunak.
The Chancellor said: “The figures show that our economy was recovering over the summer, but started to slow going into autumn.
“The steps we’ve had to take since to halt the spread of the virus mean growth has likely slowed further since then.”
The foreign aid budget, which was a flagship policy of David Cameron, is loathed by many Tory MPs.
The country forked out more than £15billion on foreign aid for the first time last year and some of the world’s richest countries, such as China and India, have benefited from UK taxpayers’ money.
Ministers will now have to decide whether to ditch the target altogether, meet it on a temporary basis or redefine what spending counts as aid.
In June, Mr Johnson scrapped the foreign aid department and merged it with the Department for International Development (DfID).
He said at the time: “The UK possesses the third biggest aid budget and diplomatic network in the world.
“We owe it to our people to make the best use of these assets.
“For too long frankly UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests or to the values the UK wishes to express or the priorities diplomatic political or commercial of the Government of the UK.
“The British taxpayer has a right to expect that we will achieve the maximum value for every pound that we spend.”
Earlier this year it emerged a staggering £71million of taxpayers’ money was given to Beijing in just one year, despite China having the second-largest economy in the world and its own space programme.
Some of this aid money was reportedly used to put Chinese firms in competition with their British counterparts.
Last month Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the aid budget must be in the interest of the UK.
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He said: “It’s right to say that when you invest in large sums of money in order to pursue a sustainable partnership, there needs to be something anchored to the UK national interest.
“So, we’ll look at all of the areas, whether it’s trade, whether it’s the military assets that were deployed, and see how we can effectively synergise all of those strains with the aid money going in.
“They’re not siloed, they shouldn’t be, whether it’s pursuing our moral interest or our national interest.
“We think that’s the right thing to do.”
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