Sir John Major lashes out at Rishi Sunak over ‘politically unwise’ foreign aid cut

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Sir John warned the Chancellor his move would “hurt many of the poorest people in the world” as Mr Sunak announced his decision to axe the £10billion a year spend. Mr Sunak said he would find it “difficult to justify to the British people” meeting current targets during a time when the nation is “seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record”.

But Sir John hit out at the “morally wrong” decision.

Ahead of the Chancellor’s announcement, the former Tory leader told The Times: “Cutting our overseas aid is morally wrong and politically unwise.

“It breaks our word and damages our soft power. Above all, it will hurt many of the poorest people in the world. I cannot and do not support it.”

Sir John joined a rally of former Prime Minister’s, including Tony Blair, Theresa May and David Cameron, who urged Mr Sunak to keep the UK’s current foreign aid commitments.

During this afternoon’s statement, Mr Sunak confirmed the overseas aid budget would be cut to 0.5 percent of gross national income in 2021, but said the Government’s “intention” was to return to 0.7 percent when the fiscal situation allows.

He told the Commons: “”I have listened with great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target.

“But at a time of unprecedented crisis government must make tough choices.“During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services. Sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid, is difficult to justify to the British people especially when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record.

“I want to reassure the House that we will continue to protect the world’s poorest: Spending the equivalent of 0.5 percent of our national income on overseas aid in 2021, allocating £10 billion at this Spending Review.

“And our intention is to return to 0.7 percent when the fiscal situation allows.

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He made the comments as he announced a one-year spending plan dominated by the huge hit to the country’s economy and its public finances from the coronavirus crisis.

Ahead of his statement British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government was taking tough decisions now to try to make the economy bounce back from the damage done by COVID-19.

In parliament, he said the government had been able to provide funding during the pandemic “because we have a government that understands how to run a strong economy and makes sure it takes the tough decisions now that will allow our economy to bounce back”.

When quizzed over plans to cut the foreign aid budget during this afternoon’s Prime Minister’s Questions, he said Britain should be proud of what it spent adding “that will continue”.


Mr Johnson said: “I think this country can be incredibly proud of what we have delivered for the poorest and neediest people in the world, that will continue… on any view this country is one of the biggest… donors overseas in all its form; I think we’re the second-biggest in the G7 on any view, whether in percentage terms or in cash terms and that will continue.”

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