Rishi Sunak’s foreign aid U-turn savaged: ‘Waste of money after do-gooder pressure’ | Politics | News
Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak mocks Labour with ‘red flag’ jibe
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year faced heavy criticism for cutting aid spending from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of GDP, including from some within his own Conservative Party who said it undermined Britain’s global image at a time when it was trying to build new post-Brexit alliances. Mr Sunak made his announcement during the course of his Budget speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Official Budget forecasts on Wednesday showed the British economy bouncing back from COVID-19 more strongly than expected, allowing Mr Sunak to announce billions of pounds of tax cuts and new public spending.
The upbeat assessment also allowed the Government to predict it would be able to restore aid spending in 2024/2025 because the fiscal tests it had set for doing so would be met by then – earlier than previously forecast.
Rupert Lowe, a former Brexit Party MEP as well as the former chairman of Southampton FC – told Express.co.uk: “I think the pressure has come from what I call the do-gooders (and my grandfather always said, beware of do gooders, they’re more damaging than baddies) who want to feel good about themselves.
Rupert Lowe has criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak delivers his Budget speech in the Commons
“They have been pressing for this and I think first personally it’s a nonsense.”
Effectively, the country was running a massive deficit which was disguised by the mechanism called quantitative easing, which Mr Lowe described as “the Government diluting existing holders of cash and assets – which any private business can’t do”.
He added: “So what we’re seeing is the proliferation of the state. I think the budget is quite extraordinary.
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Rupert Lowe and other Brexit Party MEPs, including Nigel Farage, in 2019
“For the media to be saying that Sunak’s got £150billion to spend, when you look at the deficit we’re running, the deficit we ran last year and our accumulated debt, I think is completely farcical.
“And I can’t believe that we are sending 0.7 percent of our GDP to other countries around the world.”
He warned: “Most of the time that money is effectively misappropriated or wasted, there’s fraud – and at the end of the day what is the state got right recently?”
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David Jones MP said Mr Sunak had been “prudent”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the Commons
If Britain was running a trade surplus, a budget surplus and a balance of payments surplus, then maybe the national could afford to be “beneficent”, Mr Lowe conceded.
However, he added: “We don’t – we run a massive trade deficit. We run a budget deficit, we run a balance of payments deficit.
“And here we are handing out 0.7 percent of our GDP, which most of which gets spent on irrelevant things.”
Mr Lowe said: “To temper that, there is obviously a place for us to use our position to help when it is really justified.
Foreign Aid spending in 2019
“But I think this is the march of the do-gooders. And it’s only affordable because they have this bizarre new mechanism called quantitative easing – even though none of us yet know the long term effects of creating money from nothing.”
By contrast, Tory MP David Jones was much more sanguine about the prospect of increases to foreign aid spending.
Mr Jones, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) as well as the member for Clwyd West, admitted Mr Sunak’s announcement was “bold” – but added: “He’s shown prudence.
“We won’t restore the commitment until such time as we can afford it.”
UK national debt factfile
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sunak said the test for returning to 0.7 percent – a figure fixed in law by the Government of former Prime Minister David Cameron – was that “on a sustainable basis the Government is not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling”.
The Government’s spending plans set aside £5.2billion in 2024/25 to pay for the increase, but that remains conditional on the tests continuing to be met until that time.
The Budget documents set out in broad terms a shift in British aid spending towards bilateral aid programmes – part of recently appointed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s stated aim to tie her foreign policy more closely with Britain’s commercial, defence and security interests.
It did not set out details of any reduction in funding to multilateral agencies.
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