THE BISHOP of Worcester has suggested the controversial cut in international aid approved by in Parliament ‘could become permanent’.
Dr John Inge spoke out after MPs voted by 333 to 298 in favour of the motion despite a significant Tory rebellion which included West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin.
Under a motion approved by the Commons, spending on international development would only be returned to 0.7 of the national income if the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) believes the UK is not borrowing to finance day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling.
The Government claim the cut to 0.5 is needed because of the devastation to public finances because of the pandemic but critics have poured scorn on the decision and pointed out spending on aid would fall naturally if national income fell. A commitment to retain aid spending at 0.7 per cent was part of the Conservative manifesto at the 2019 General Election.
Bishop John, the Church of England’s lead bishop for international development, said the Government’s test could be so stringent that it risked making the cut permanent.
“I am very disappointed that Parliament has not seen fit to honour this country’s laudable promise, enshrined in law, to devote 0.7 percent of national income to aid,” he said.
“As former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said, it is not right the world’s poorest should be the only ones to suffer from a reduction in spending following the pandemic.
“The commitment was one of which the Conservative party could be proud and I hope it will be restored very soon.
“It is a matter of some concern that the criteria which the Government has now set out for a return to 0.7 per cent are so stringent it risks making permanent rather than temporary the reduction in our overseas development.”