The Government has been urged to drop its drive for increasing aid to help developing foreign countries by a group of Lords.
The government has pledged to put into law an obligation to spend at least 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid.
International development was one of just two departments not to have its budget cut in the coalition's austerity drive. Some have been annoyed at money leaving Britain during times of economic hardship at home, particularly when it's channelled into countries with booming economies like India.
The target was set by the U.N's Millenium Project. The UN has praised Britain's ring-fencing of its overseas aid budget, saying:
"Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, despite this very difficult economic crisis, has boldly proved that it is possible to meet global commitments and domestic fiscal needs at the same time. I applaud the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron."
According to the influential Lords Committee on Economic Affairs, the government should "drop" this commitment.
The committee wrote in its report that the target would "deprive future Governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances at home and abroad."
The Lords added that the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell "not put forward any case for legislation other than the Government’s political commitment to it."
In reaction to this report, Mitchell said: "The British Government makes no apologies for sticking to its commitments to the world's poorest people.
"Spending less than one per cent of our national income on aid - an internationally agreed target - will create a safer and more prosperous world for the UK. And it will get 11 million children into school, vaccinate 55 million children against preventable diseases and stop 250,000 newborn babies dying needlessly.
"Going back on this promise would cost lives" he warned.
Professor Philip Booth, from the Institute for Economic Affairs, told the Huffington Post UK that there is "no scientific basis" for the target, which was "originally set 40 years ago".
"Foreign aid has a very poor record. It may be do better in the future. It could be better managed. However, the very worst way to manage a successful government is to select an arbitrary target for inputs and rapidly raise spending"
He disagreed with the "silly" idea from Andrew Mitchell that dropping the target would cost lives.
"Aid itself costs lives, 40% of arms in Africa were financed by government aid, redirected from its intended purposes." he added.
Booth argued that the government can "still on a project by project basis" decide whether it will invest, without a target that would "bind future parliaments".
Max Lawson, Oxfam's Head of Policy, said:
“Reneging on our aid promises would deprive millions of the world’s poorest people of life saving medicines, clean water and the chance to go to school.
“The Committee is guilty of presenting a false choice between delivering high quality aid and increasing its quantity – the Government can and should do both.
“Ministers deserve real credit for keeping our commitments to the poorest during these tough times – it is one of the things that allows Britain to hold our head high on the world stage.”