Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about the government’s decision to break its public commitment, enshrined in law since 2015, to spend 0.7% of UK GNI on international aid.
UK aid has made a difference to the lives of millions of people across the world. One of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government was founding the Department for International Development (DfID), which the Tories sadly dissolved earlier this year.
As you will know, the international 0.7% target has been a cornerstone of UK aid policy for decades, and in 2004, it was a Labour government that set out the clear and achievable timetable which allowed that target to be reached by 2013.
The Tory Party have in the past backed the cross-party consensus behind 0.7%, albeit treating that target as a ceiling in the years after 2013, leading to damaging annual cuts in the DfID budget whenever its spending looked set to exceed that share of GNI.
Now, under Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, they are taking a further backward step by cutting UK aid back to 0.5% of GNI, breaking the law passed in 2015 and the promise they made to the British people in their 2019 manifesto, and slashing £4 billion from the overseas aid budget.
I agree that the Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis which is creating huge financial pressures both in Britain and in every other country. But that makes it exactly the wrong time for the UK to backtrack on its commitments to the poorest people in the world.
To do so at any time would be shameful, but to do so during these incredibly difficult times – with hardship and suffering on the rise around the world – is nothing short of a disgrace. As Preet Kaur Gill, Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary, has said in response:
“This move will damage the UK’s reputation around the world and will only show our allies and detractors that Britain under Boris Johnson is no longer interested in fulfilling our responsibilities or leading on the global stage.”
Please be assured that the Labour Party remain committed to our manifesto promise. When we are in government, Labour will live up to our global responsibilities, restore our pledge to the poorest people in the world, and spend 0.7% of UK GNI on international aid.
Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. If you have any further points you would like to raise about this issue or any other, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade