Foreign aid spending won’t return to 0.7% for at least five years

Jeremy Hunt ruled out foreign aid spending returning to 0.7 percent of gross national income for at least five years.

The spending commitment was slashed to 0.5 percent in 2021 after the economy was hit by the Covid pandemic.

It was billed as a temporary measure that would be reversed when the public finances improved.

Appearing before the Treasury Select Committee today, the Chancellor insisted it would not be affordable to meet the goal of 0.7 percent in the next five years.

Mr Hunt said: “I don’t think the fiscal position makes it possible to do that.

“But I would say this, that we are very committed to do that when it is affordable to do so.”

As a backbencher, Mr Hunt had rebelled over the cut in aid spending.

He said the UK’s aid “is a very big statement of our values, makes a very massive difference all around the world and, absolutely, I’m committed to returning to 0.7 percent when it’s affordable to do so”.

But he added he “doesn’t believe it is possible to budget for that in the figures” in the next five years.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has based its forecast for the public finances to 2028/29 on the 0.5 percent aid spending level being maintained.

The Government’s aim of returning to 0.7 percent would cost about £6.3billion if it were met in 2028-29.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance welcomed the confirmation that foreign aid spending would not return to 0.7 percent in the next five years.

Chief executive John O’Connell said: “Taxpayers will welcome this healthy dose of common sense from the Chancellor.

“His promise to get spending under control would not be credible if he wasn’t even able to control foreign aid spending.

“Ministers should consider scrapping the 0.7 percent target altogether and focus aid spending on responding to genuine humanitarian emergencies.”

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