Foreign aid backlash: Minister resigns after Boris announces major cut

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Baroness Liz Sugg has resigned from her junior ministerial role after the Government announced plans to abandon a Conservative manifesto commitment to fund the foreign aid budget. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he would cut the budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent.

In a lengthy letter to the Prime Minister, she said it was “fundamentally wrong” to abandon the commitment to spend 0.7 percent of “gross national income” on development. 

She wrote: “This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good.

“Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crisis.

“For me, as for many in our Party and the country, it is a source of great pride that the United Kingdom has been a development superpower and contributed so much to the world.

Baroness Liz Sugg resigns from Foreign Office

Baroness Liz Sugg resigns from Foreign Office (Image: Getty)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces foreign aid cut

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces foreign aid cut (Image: PA)

“Our support and leadership on development has saved and changed millions of lives.

“It has also been firmly in our national interest as we tackle global issues, such as the pandemic, climate change and conflict.

“Cutting UK aid risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right.

“I cannot support or defend this decision, it is therefore right that I tender my resignation.”

READ MORE: Well done, Boris! Brexiteer celebrates foreign aid cut – ‘Ignore them’

Boris thanks Baroness Sugg for her work

Boris thanks Baroness Sugg for her work (Image: Getty)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “extremely grateful” for her service as a Government minister.

He wrote: “Your work has made a difference to millions of girls around the world, and will stand us in good stead for the Global Partnership for Education replenishment event next year.

“In addition, your leadership and rigour in the lead up to and during the Africa Investment Summit made it the enormous success it was.

“Your passion and commitment to your work has been clear to civil servants and ministerial colleagues, and I know that the FCDO will miss you.”

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on foreign aid

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on foreign aid (Image: Getty)

Her resignation comes after the Chancellor told the Commons the economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic meant “sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people”.

Under legislation passed by former Prime Minister David Cameron, the UK is committed in law to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on foreign aid every year.

Last month, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the foreign aid should be “anchored” to the UK national interest.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Raab said: “It’s right to say that when you invest in large sums of money in order to pursue a sustainable partnership, there needs to be something anchored to the UK national interest.

Rishi Sunak cuts foreign aid budget

Rishi Sunak cuts foreign aid budget (Image: Downing Street)

“So, we’ll look at all of the areas, whether it’s trade, whether it’s the military assets that were deployed, and see how we can effectively synergise all of those strains with the aid money going in.

“They’re not siloed, they shouldn’t be, whether it’s pursuing our moral interest or our national interest.

“We think that’s the right thing to do.”

In July, it was revealed a staggering £71million of taxpayers’ money was given to Beijing in just one year, despite China having the second-largest economy in the world.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron

Former Prime Minister David Cameron (Image: Getty)

The staggering figure was buried in the Department for International Development’s annual report.

The report found the £71.6million payment to China was sent via a combination of direct British aid and a share of funding the UK gives to the likes of the United Nations and EU, who then distribute it.

Mr Raab said £3billion would be cut from the aid budget next year, with the axe falling on countries such as China.

Baroness Sugg’s resignation comes after several high-profile civil servants and senior aides have left their position.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson’s most senior aide Dominic Cummings announced he was stepping down from his position just days after ally Lee Cain also resigned.

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