Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Governemnt would cut down its commitment on overseas aid in 2021 from a promised 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 0.5 percent. Mr Sunak said: “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public service, sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people.”
Mr Johnson insisted the UK “will continue” to provide for the “poorest and neediest people in the world” despite the cuts.
The Prime Minister told MPs: “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.”
But shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds criticised the temporary cut in overseas aid spending.
She told MPs: “The measure of this Government won’t be the number of press releases it issued during this crisis or the number of pictures it published on Instagram – it will be the responsible action it took or didn’t take for the sake of our country.
“Next year the eyes of the world will be on the UK as we assume the presidency of the G7 and of the UN Security Council and host the COP26 summit.
“Yet now is the time the Chancellor has turned his back on the world’s poorest by cutting international aid.
“It’s in Britain’s national interest to lay the foundations for economic growth across the world. No wonder many British businesses have condemned his move.”
Ms Dodds said the Government is “always one step behind” given its “last-minute approach” as she called for the vaccine rollout to be well planned.
She said: “Next time we need a comprehensive spending review which takes responsible choices, to build a future for our country as the best place in the world to grow up in and the best place to grow old in, people should have opportunities on their doorstep, not at the other end of the country.
“Everywhere in the UK should feel like a good place to set up home. That’s what the Chancellor must deliver.”
Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the cut to foreign aid budgets was “morally repugnant”.
He tweeted: “No Chancellor, cutting aid to the world’s poorest is not a ‘difficult choice’ it’s an extremely easy one.
“Politically it will cost you nothing. It is morally repugnant, and an act of extreme political cowardice, but it will shift no votes so I guess it was a no-brainer for you.”
Writing on social media, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage added: “At last we have a Conservative Chancellor that understands Conservative voters on foreign aid.”