Tories could 'temporarily cut foreign aid' to help pay for coronavirus bills

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questio

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The foreign aid budget could reportedly be cut temporarily after the UK’s public finances took a hit dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, despite foreign secretary Dominic Raab insisting the government was “absolutely” committed to the 0.7% target.

The Times reported plans had been drawn up to pare back the commitment to spend at least 0.7% of national income on foreign aid to 0.5%, and the move could be announced in the chancellor’s comprehensive spending review next week.

A Treasury official did not deny the report but declined to comment on speculation about fiscal events.

The UK has already said it would be cutting its global aid budget by £2.9 billion this year due to the economic hit of the coronavirus crisis, but that the 0.7% commitment towards international development would still be met.

The spending on Official Development Assistance was set to be £15.8 billion this year before the Covid-19 crisis emerged.

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Boris Johnson wants the cut to last no longer than a year, the Times reported.

The gross national income of the UK in 2019 was £2.17 trillion, meaning a drop from 0.7% to 0.5% would account for more than £4 billion.

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The 0.7% target was first agreed by the United Nations in 1970, and the UK Government has met the target since 2013. It was enshrined into law in 2015.

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