Development minister Baroness Sugg has resigned from the government over Rishi Sunak’s decision to abandon the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid.
The chancellor announced on Wednesday the commitment would be cut to 0.5% from next year, breaking a Conservative manifesto 2019 commitment.
Boris Johnson promised voters at the election: “We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on development, and do more to help countries receiving aid become self-sufficient.”
Sugg was minister for overseas territories and sustainable development at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The FCDO was created when Johnson shut the Department for International Development (DfID) and merged it with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Sunak said sticking to to the 0.7% commitment was “difficult to justify to the British people” during the economic “emergency” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But it has been widely criticised by Tory MPs, opposition parities and the aid sector.
In her resignation letter, Sugg said it was “fundamentally wrong” to abandon the 0.7% pledge.
“Cutting UK aid risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right. I cannot support or defend this decision,” she said.
Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative international development secretary, sad the move would cause “100,000 preventable deaths” mainly among children.
“None of us in this House will be able to look our children in the eye and claim we did not know what we were voting for,” he told MPs.
Conservative Tobias Ellwood, the defence committee chair, claimed China and Russia were likely to extend their “authoritarian influence” as a result of the “vacuum” created by the UK “downgrading” its soft power programmes.
Outside the Commons, the Archbishop of Canterbury attacked the Government for its “shameful and wrong” cuts.
The criticism follows interventions ahead of the statement from former prime ministers John Major, David Cameron and Tony Blair, as well as Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.