Dominic Raab and his ministerial colleagues have “blood on their hands” over the £4 billion foreign aid cut, MPs have warned.
The SNP’s Hannah Bardell made the allegation after Conservative former cabinet minister David Davis cautioned that the aid cut has “potentially the fatal consequences of a medium-sized war”.
Raab, the foreign secretary, came under sustained fire during a Commons questions session over the Government’s decision to reduce spending to 0.5 per cent of national income rather than the 0.7 per cent pledged in the Conservative Party 2019 general election manifesto.
But Raab hit back at the “pretty unsavoury” language aimed at the Government and defended its aid spending.
Ministers have repeatedly stated the reduction to 0.5 per cent is a temporary measure until the nation’s finances are repaired following the coronavirus pandemic, although no timetable has been outlined.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Bardell (Livingston) asked: “I think the real question is does this Tory Government even care? Even one of his own backbenchers has admitted that these cuts will kill.
“The other G7 countries have stepped up their aid budget, but the UK’s the only one to cut it, it’s utterly shameful… how does he and his Tory Government sleep at night knowing that they have the blood on their hands of some of the poorest people in the world?”
Raab replied: “I think that was pretty unsavoury from (her)… We sleep at night because we’re the third biggest ODA (Official Development Assistance) contributor in the G7.”
Earlier, Davis said: “I understand full well this is a policy imposed by an unintelligent Treasury edict, nevertheless it has potentially the fatal consequences of a medium-sized war.
“On Ethiopia, where the UN tells us 350,000 faced imminent starvation, the minister for Africa yesterday could not tell the House the size of the cut in our aid.
“I understand from impeccable sources we propose to cut that aid by £58 million, more than half.
“Can the Foreign Secretary confirm the size of that cut and tell the House what we intend to do to reduce the hundreds of thousands of deaths arising from our policy?”
Raab replied: “The UK will spend £10 billion in ODA in 2021, making us the third highest bilateral humanitarian donor country based on the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) data.”
He added: “I don’t accept the proposition he’s put forward, as a global leader in ODA, and we continue to be a global leader in ODA, we stretch to put as much in as we possibly can, of course we’ve got temporary financial exceptional circumstances, but we will get back to 0.7 per cent as soon as we can.”
SNP MP Steven Bonnar (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) said: “Can the Foreign Secretary not see that this is not about left or right, it’s about right and wrong, does he recognise that this is not propaganda, this is about life and death for the most vulnerable people. So will he now U-turn on this decision before it is too late for them?”
SNP MP Chris Law (Dundee West) asked: “Thinking of those children, will the Foreign Secretary finally commit to reversing the decision or is he willing to let the ink dry on the death sentences of these innocent lives?”
Elsewhere, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy claimed the Government had compelled its MPs to “support preferential trade deals with countries who commit genocide”.
Raab replied: “Can she name a single country with whom the United Kingdom under this Government is engaged with FTA (free trade agreement) negotiations that has committed anything close to genocide?
“Of course it’s unthinkable, of course we wouldn’t do it.”