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The UK’s overseas aid budget will be cut from 0.7 percent of GDP to 0.5 percent, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced. The decision has sparked fury among charities, with Oxfam warning that it will “lead to tens of thousands of otherwise preventable deaths abroad”. Stephen Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, disagreed with the assessment, telling Sky News that Britain will still be spending “much more” than French President Emmanuel Macron, for example.
He said: “We will still be spending £10billion on aid next year.
“It will be the second-highest as a share of income in the G7.
“The 29 other countries in the DAC spend on average 0.38 percent.
“When Labour were in power between ’97 and 2009, they spent 0.39 percent, we’re going to be spending 0.5.”
Mr Barclay continued: “You’re taking in isolation soft power distinct from hard power. One’s got to look at the two together.
“For example, when our military goes on peacekeeping operations, when they respond to a natural disaster, that is often not classed as overseas aid.
“Next year together we’ll be spending £56billion on that, building also on the fact that we have the third-largest diplomatic network in the world.
“The UK’s reach and support and outward-looking focus will continue.”
The MP added: “We’ll be spending more of a share of our income than France, than Japan, than Canada, than America.
“So I think you’ve got to look at it in the round, it’s still a significant investment.
“But it recognises what we’ve started the package with, the fact that next year we will be borrowing billions and we need to take that into account.”
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It is believed that a one-off cut to the aid target would make a saving of about £4billion.
However, fears have arisen that the temporary reduction could be made permanent.
The commitment to spend 0.7 percent of UK income on foreign aid was enshrined into law in 2015.
Foreign aid spending is linked to the UK’s gross national income, which has badly hit by the pandemic.
It is understood Mr Sunak’s reforms will require new legislation to be passed by Parliament.
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