During next week’s spending review, the Chancellor is widely expected to lower the UK’s commitment of spending 0.7 percent of national income on overseas aid to 0.5 percent in order to raise billions of pounds. But Sir Bob, who is widely recognised for his activism surrounding anti-poverty efforts concerning Africa branded Rishi Sunak’s plans as “unconscionable.”
Sir Bob joined former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair as well as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Sir Bob said: “It is unconscionable after such a wide cross-party commitment to the planet’s most marginalised people that this promise should be under threat now.
“What expertise does Mr Sunak bring to this, save a seemingly callous ignorance of what he is effectively asking the PM to do – pull the needle from the sick child’s arm, grab the meagre crust off the plate, sack the teacher in the tinshack school and send these children back to the place of no hope.”
He claimed the Conservative Party hds long taken the view that “lending a hand to the world’s most vulnerable people” was a moral imperative.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Sir Bob continued: “It is also an act of political and economic self-interest.
“We need to keep spending whatever it takes to get COVID in check, until the bright day dawns when we may all breathe freely once more.”
He stressed when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, “we must not discover that it cost the lives and hopes of poor people whom we never needed to harm. “
He added: “We have lost much over these months — must we lose our values?
“There is no need for the chancellor to raid this piggy bank for pennies. Boris Johnson must drop this plan now.”
In another significant intervention, Mr Welby added to the Observer: “I’ve seen the good done by UK aid around the world
“Our generosity and strategic input has genuinely changed lives and communities for the better. In his teaching, Jesus tells us we mustn’t limit our concept of neighbour simply to those close by to us. We need to heed that message in the tough times as well as the good.
“A global recovery from the economic consequences of the pandemic requires a global response. Keeping our aid commitment is a strong signal that the UK is a reliable partner for long-term economic, social, environmental and educational advancement across the globe.”
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In response, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman drew attention to the fact that the legislation enshrining the 0.7 percent target in UK law explicitly acknowledged it might not always be met.
Mr Sunak is set to outline a plan for vast spending to recover from the nation’s finances from the coronavirus crisis, but has warned high levels of borrowing cannot go on “indefinitely” next week.
The Chancellor is expected to unveil a £100 billion plan for long-term infrastructure investment and a £3 billion package of new spending to support the NHS in recovering from the pandemic.
But in an interview ahead of his spending review on Wednesday, he warned that the nation is experiencing an “economic shock” that must be paid for somehow.
The Treasury said that the NHS will get £1 billion to address backlogs by catching up on checks, scans and operations that were delayed by Covid-19.