Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has criticised Rishi Sunak’s cut in Britain’s foreign aid budget, arguing the move makes the UK “less safe and less prosperous”.
Mitchell, who served in David Cameron’s cabinet between 2010 and 2012, said the chancellor’s decision to cut foreign aid was a “shameful mistake” that would hurt Britain’s world standing.
Sunak announced Britain’s foreign aid budget would be cut to 0.5% of GDP from the legally binding 0.7% during his spending review speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The move – which will strip £4 billion out of the budget and put towards a UK-focused ‘levelling-up’ fund – has prompted outrage from several Tory backbenchers and even led to the resignation of a junior minister.
Sunak has said the cuts had been a “difficult decision” but were necessary to plug a gaping hole in public finances caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mitchell’s comments come as Sky News reports he organising a rebellion against legislation aimed at enforcing the cut when it comes before the Commons in January.
Speaking on talkRADIO, Mithcell explained why he disagreed with the decision: “We’ve already had a big cut in development spending this year. Development spending helps make Britain safer and more prosperous.
“The cut that has taken place has happened because the economy has contracted.
“Already something like three billion has been taking out and this cut would be four billion.
“Now, what is the effect of that? The effect is that probably we will have 100,000 avoidable deaths; 7.6 million women and girls will not get access to contraception – which we have previously promised, and we’ll probably take one million girls out of school.
“This makes the world less safe and less prosperous. It will also make Britain less safe and less prosperous.”
Mitchell argued that the 0.7% commitment had been a “solemn promise to poorest people in the world”.
“We do not break a promise like that to the poorest people in the world,” he went on.
“It’s true, for example, that we and Germany spend the same amount of money and we spend a lot less than America, but this was an area of British leadership.
“Over the last 20 years, Britain has driven by the living standards of people in the most desperate parts of the world. We have been a beacon of light at terrible times… and to row back on that commitment to the extent that we have today is a shameful mistake.”