A Foreign Office Minister has resigned following the announcement of a cut to the UK’s foreign aid budget.
Baroness Sugg, a junior minister who has served as the Minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development since February this year, has resigned after the foreign aid budget was cut to 0.5% of gross national income.
In her resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Baroness Sugg said: “I believe it is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good”.
In their 2019 General Election manifesto, the Conservatives had committed to funding the foreign aid budget at the equivalent of 0.7% of gross national income.
Announcing the decision to cut the budget on Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs that sticking to the 0.7% would be “difficult to justify” to the British public in light of the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic.
A number of MPs have criticised the decision, including Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds. Former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair also warned against the decision before it was announced.
The 0.7% target has been legally binding since 2015, however, there has been opposition from some politicians and members of the public in recent years who have claimed the money may be better spent on domestic priorities.
In 2016, the UK spent £13.4 billion on overseas aid, in line with its commitment of 0.7% of gross national income. Foreign aid spending supports a range of projects helping the world’s poorest populations. The money has previously been spent on humanitarian aid, crisis relief and bilateral aid through organisations such as the United Nations.