Grant Shapps and Oliver Dowden explain their votes for foreign aid budget cut

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps - Credit: Office of Mr Dowden/ Office of Mr Shapps

Our MPs have defended their decisions to vote in favour of a foreign aid budget cut earlier.

The annual aid budget was reduced to 0.5 per cent of national income down from 0.7 per cent, after the voted passed 333 in favour to 298 against on July 13.

The government cited the financial strain the pandemic has caused as the main reason for temporarily lowering the aid.

The budget will return to 0.7 per cent when national debt is falling and borrowing is no longer used for day-to-day spending.

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps revealed the reasons behind his decision to vote for the cut, explaining difficult economic circumstances were behind the decision but that the government's "commitment to international aid remains incredibly strong".

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He said: "This country has been and always will be open and outward-looking, leading in solving the world's toughest problems and striving to be a force for good in the world.

"Nevertheless, we have to be honest about where we are. The UK is currently experiencing its worst economic contraction in 300 years, due to the pandemic. At this time of economic uncertainty, tough choices must be made - which is why the Chancellor announced a temporary reduction in the UK’s overseas aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of the UK's Gross National Income.

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"This means that UK will still be spending more than £10 billion in 2021 on its seven priorities, as set out by the Foreign Secretary – climate change and biodiversity; global health security, including COVID-19; girls' education; responding to humanitarian crises, such as those in Yemen and Syria; science and technology; resolving conflicts and defending open societies, including human rights; and promoting trade."

Mr Shapps also referenced the contribution to the COVAX that will help supply at least 1.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, reaching over 120 countries.

The money spent on helping develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and then manufacturing it at cost is another reason the Transport Secretary believes the government is continuing to help across the globe despite the vote.

He added: "So our commitment to international aid remains incredibly strong. In fact, once this country’s financial situation improves, we are committed to raising the level of foreign aid back to 0.7 per cent.”

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden believes keeping the percentage at 0.7 would see a raise in tax for the public: "The huge impact which the pandemic has had on our economy has meant that this government has had to make some difficult decisions. One of these was to temporarily reduce our international aid spending from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent.

"We will still be the third largest donor in the G7 though and will still spend more than £10 billion this year to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people and to combat climate change globally.

"This is a temporary cut though and Tuesday’s vote was about ensuring our overseas aid spending returns to 0.7 per cent as soon as our economy improves. I think that is the right approach rather than to increase it sooner by raising taxes on the general public at a time of great hardship for many."

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