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Bishop of Worcester tells Lords of dismay at failure to remedy international-aid cut

20 March 2024

Parliament TV

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, speaks in the House of Lords on Monday

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, speaks in the House of Lords on Monday

THE Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, has expressed dismay that the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has not used “fiscal headroom” to restore the international-aid budget to 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI).

Dr Inge spoke in a House of Lords debate on Monday on the Spring Budget (News, 8 March; Comment, 15 March).

He said that there were “many good things in the Budget”, such as “the continuation of the Household Support Fund, the reform of non-dom status, the increase in public-services spending by one per cent above inflation, and the welcome reduction in National Insurance”.

The Bishop was “very disappointed by one lacuna”, however: “that the aid budget was not increased”.

He continued: “The Government have consistently maintained that they would restore the UK’s aid budget to 0.7 per cent of GNI ‘when fiscal circumstances allow’. I believe I speak for very many in expressing dismay that the Chancellor did not use any of his fiscal headroom to do so, thus restoring a manifesto commitment.

“The dismay is felt because of the impact of the cuts, which have been set out by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact. It noted that cuts have led to less focus on poverty reduction in trade programmes, and that programmes focused on gender equality in places where this is much needed have been heavily impacted.”

The cuts to the aid budget had fallen most heavily on least-developed countries, Dr Inge said: the amount of bilateral overseas aid going to such countries had dropped by £961 million in 2021: a 40-per-cent cut.

“That is far greater than those to lower- and middle-income countries, which received a cut of £339 million, or 29 per cent, and upper-middle-income countries, which saw reductions of £117 million, or 17 per cent.

“Of the ten countries that received the biggest cuts, six were lowest-income countries. This is surely a heart-breaking way to prioritise overseas-aid spending. As if the cuts were not bad enough, we now know that they were focused on countries least able to respond to or mitigate a reduction in funding.”

Continuing to break the 0.7-per-cent commitment was a disservice both to the poorest people on the planet and to the UK’s international reputation, he concluded.

Responding for the Government, Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Secretary at the Treasury, did not reply to the points made by Dr Inge, but said: “I will write to the Right Reverend Prelate on official development assistance.”

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