Government was ‘forced’ to cut foreign aid budget ‘because of the pandemic’

Jacqui Smith clashes with Tom Bowers during foreign aid debate

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Steve Barclay said the Government was forced to reduce spending on overseas development because the pandemic crippled the economy. The Treasury Minister spoke out as furious MPs blasted Boris Johnson’s £4billion cut as “unethical”.

But Mr Barclay emphasised that slashing aid spending from 0.7 percent of national income to 0.5 percent – equivalent to £14billion down to £10billion – would be temporary until the UK prospered again.

He told the Commons: “We are absolutely clear about our intentions to return to 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid when the fiscal situation allows, but cannot do so yet. For now, the tough choice is the right choice.”

Former prime minister Theresa May urged Mr Johnson to change course to save lives.

She said: “This cut from 0.7 per cent will have a devastating impact on the poorest in the world and it will damage the UK.”

Tory MPs accused the PM of cutting aid to curry favour with voters in “Red Wall” seats.

Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell said the move was part of the wider “woke wars” to appeal to former Labour heartlands.

He said: “It’s not proper and it’s fundamentally un-British and we shouldn’t behave in this way.The Government thinks it’s popular in the RedWall seats to stop British aid.

“It’s also a very patronising attitude to people who live in the Red Wall seats.”

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