MINISTERS have been warned that cutting the UK’s aid budget would be “unlawful” according to a former Solicitor General.
Lord Edward Garnier warned Parliament must change the law before it can cut the aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of GDP.
In a leaked letter Lord Garnier said that the PM is under “a clear legal obligation” to uphold the binding target of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international development.
Boris Johnson would risk a large rebellion if he put the plans to a vote in Parliament that is being masterminded by Andrew Mitchell, the former Conservative Chief Whip and International Development Secretary – a supporter of the aid commitment.
Writing to Sarah Champion, Labour chair of the International Development Select Committee, Lord Garnier said: “Until Parliament changes that law on the statutory duty to meet the 0.7 per cent target the Government must aim to hit it.
“It cannot deliberately aim off or fire blanks. It can say it intends to change the law or substitute another target but, until the statute is repealed or amended, the Government is subject to that law.
“It cannot legitimise a failure to hit the target by announcing in advance its intention to fail.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last year he intends to slash the overseas development budget by £4billion.
Yesterday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned MPs the cut was necessary saying: “You have got to cut your coat according to your cloth.”
But he hinted he would support calls to cancel debt from developing nations.
Asked if he was advocating cancelling debt, Mr Raab told the International Development Committee: “I think that’s got to be part of the conversation about recovering and building back better, stronger, because for some of those countries they don’t have a chance without that.
“I’m a big fan of trading your way to middle income status and the rest of it but without a bedrock level of economic capacity, which you won’t (have) if you’re in a debt trap. I think it’s very, very difficult.”
On November 13, the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies announced that low-income countries hardest hit by the pandemic could get an extension on debt payments beyond mid-2021, and in the most severe cases a debt write-off.
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