MPs vote to reduce UK Aid budget
On 13 July 2021, MPs voted to reduce the UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI, potentially impacting millions around the world for years to come.
With less than 24 hours notice, the UK Government scheduled a debate and vote at Westminster on 13 July that would ultimately cement their planned cut to the ODA budget.
Despite a rebellion from 25 Tory backbenchers, including ex-Prime Minister Theresa May, the Government won the vote in favour of the Treasury statement that introduced a new set of tests for the economy that would, according to them, set out a path to the return of spending 0.7% of our gross national income on aid and development.
However, in reality, the narrow win ( by 35 votes) means the reduction from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI will remain until fiscal conditions allow a return to 0.7% in the future, which could be for many years to come.
Despite many more Tory backbenchers stating they wished to rebel against the cuts over the preceding weeks, it seems a significant number were persuaded back to the Government position at the last minute. after a so-called 'compromise'.
Particularly dissappointing from an Alliance perpsective is that all Scottish Conservative MPs voted with the Government, including Douglas Ross, the current leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Former leader, Ruth Davidson, immediately condemmed her ex-colleagues decisions, stating it was 'a bloody disgrace'.
The compromise introduced two tests for the economy, that if met, would reintroduce the 0.7 target. These were:
- the current deficit (borrowing for day-to-day spend) will fall below zero and;
- debt as a share of GDP will fall
It will be up to the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) to make a call on whether these tests have been met. Their own forecasts says it could be 4-5 years before this happens.
This ‘double lock’ is an incredibly strict test, Sarah Champion MP, chair of the IDC said. In the past eight years, she pointed out, these conditions have only been met once.
Ultimately, this decision goes against promises made in the Conservative Party’s manifesto and equates to roughly £4 billion less in aid & development spending this year alone.
With a similar increase (£4 Billion) to the UK defence budget announced only a matter of months ago, it is clear this cut is politically motivated, not borne out of necessity.
Read more from the ODI on why the rationale for the cuts just doesn't add up.
Lewis Ryder-Jones, Alliance Deputy Chief Executive said:
“July's vote result was devastating. The cuts will not only reduce support for millions of the most vulnerable people around the world but they also undermine the UK Government’s stated commitment to dealing with global challenges we all face, including the climate crisis and Global COVID recovery.
“The hard facts are simple. There will now be less funding to help girls access education, families fighting hunger, numbers of vaccines available and programmes combating climate change. This is unacceptable.
“The cuts in funding will also have a devastating effect on many of our members and will reduce their capacity to work with communities across the world.
“At a time when the world is still in the midst of a global health emergency, the UK Government’s short sighted political decision will damage the UK’s global reputation and goes against the very essence of what a caring, empathic society should do.
“As the UK Government turns its back and abandons millions living in poverty, we, alongside our members, stand together in opposition to such reckless decision-making.”