John Major oversaw lowest foreign aid spending in 50 year span despite attack on Johnson
Brexit: Bernard Jenkin says he 'discounts' John Major's criticism
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This week, Boris Johnson’s Government won a key vote meaning foreign aid will be cut from 0.7 percent of national income to 0.5 percent. MPs voted by a majority of 35 in favour of the policy, but there were also a number of Conservative rebels who joined Labour in trying to maintain foreign aid spending. Prime Minister Johnson has argued that the cuts are needed to keep public debt down amid the pandemic. However, former prime ministers have criticised the impact the cuts will have around the world.
One person to attack the plan is Mr Major – he took aim at the Government for spending public money on a national yacht while claiming public finances need to be kept in order.
He said: “It seems that we can afford a ‘national yacht’ that no one either wants or needs, whilst cutting help to some of the most miserable and destitute people in the world.
“This is not a Conservatism that I recognise. It is the stamp of Little England, not Great Britain.”
However, Mr Major has been challenged on his criticism, given his government’s record on foreign aid spending and his own calls for a “Royal Yacht” in 1997.
At the time, Mr Major said: “We have taken that decision because we believe that a Royal Yacht is an important national asset and projects a prestigious image of Britain which adds powerfully to official occasions.
“We believe that a new royal yacht — a symbol of the nation’s pride — should be funded not by sponsorship or subscription, but by the nation.”
Mr Major also left office with foreign aid spending lower than it was under Margaret Thatcher and lower than it was in the seventies, as reported by Guido Fawkes.
The figures from the Department of International Development showed spending under Mr Major was at its lowest between the period of 1970-2020.
Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, also criticised the plans, saying this week: “We made a promise to the poorest people in the world. The Government has broken that promise. This motion means that promise may be broken for years to come.
“With deep regret, I will vote against the motion today.”
In 2020, the bulk of foreign aid spending – more than 55 percent – was used for bilateral aid in Africa.
The cuts will have a potentially massive impact on a number of people around the world.
Yemen is in the midst of a devastating humanitarian crisis – according to the UN, 80 percent of Yemen’s population is in need of aid, but the Government admitted that it did not do an impact assessment for its cuts.
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The UK pledged at least £87million for the country earlier this year, just over half the £160million it promised in 2020.
Meanwhile, charities working in Syria, including Syria Relief, Action Against Hunger and the International Rescue Committee, banded together to warn the Government that it was putting lives at risk when it announced in March that it was slashing its aid budget for the country by around a third to £205million.
They said UK aid supported food for 210,000 Syrians and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) interventions for 100,000 Syrian refugees hygiene) interventions for 100,000 Syrian refugees.
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