Home   News   National   Article

Raab insists aid budget is ‘absolutely’ safe as new department is launched


By PA News

Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.



Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has insisted the overseas aid budget is safe as he launched his new department with a pledge to tackle famine and the coronavirus pandemic.

He was speaking as he took the helm of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on Wednesday after the axing of the Department for International Development.

The merger provoked widespread criticism, including from charities and three former prime ministers, that it would harm the world’s poorest people.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Permanent Under Secretary Philip Barton arrive at the newly named Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office in King Charles Street, Westminster (Alastair Grant/PA)
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Permanent Under Secretary Philip Barton arrive at the newly named Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office in King Charles Street, Westminster (Alastair Grant/PA)

Wednesday’s launch of the new department also coincided with renewed speculation that the Government could ditch it commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on foreign aid as it seeks to balance the books in the wake of the economic hit from the pandemic,

But asked if the 0.7% target would survive the merger, Mr Raab told reporters in London: “Oh, absolutely.”

And asked about a Times report that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is seeking to divert billions of pounds from foreign aid to pay for upgrades to the UK’s intelligence and defence capabilities, Mr Raab said: “Well, there is loads of tittle tattle, rather colourful, in the media and I am not going to prejudice the comprehensive spending review.”

There is loads of tittle tattle, rather colourful, in the media
Dominic Raab

Earlier, Mr Raab said in a statement that the UK would use diplomacy and the aid budget to alleviate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, conflict and climate change.

He said: “Global Britain, as a force for good in the world, is leading by example and bringing the international community together to tackle these deadly threats, because it’s the right thing to do and it protects British interests.

“We can only tackle these global challenges by combining our diplomatic strength with our world-leading aid expertise.”

He pledged that a £119 million package, to come from the existing aid budget, would help alleviate extreme hunger for over six million people in Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Central African Republic, the Sahel, South Sudan and Sudan.

Although the aid budget is not popular with some Tory MPs, others on the Government benches have reacted angrily to suggestions that ministers could axe the 0.7% commitment.

Downing Street has dismissed the reports as “speculation” but there have been concerns among Conservatives nonetheless.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “With the ink hardly dry on our manifesto, I don’t think the House of Commons would easily agree to balance the books on the backs of the poorest women and children in the world.”

Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee Tobias Ellwood said the cut would be “shortsighted in failing to appreciate how well-targeted aid can strengthen relationships and open up new markets – thus helping the Treasury”.

The merger means the former international development secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has returned to the backbenches.

No 10 confirmed she would be entitled to a pay-off because of the closure of her department.

Conservative former prime minister David Cameron previously warned the merger was a “mistake” and that it would result in the UK commanding “less respect” on the global stage.

Tony Blair, the Labour former prime minister whose administration created the department in 1997, said he was “utterly dismayed” by Boris Johnson’s decision.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

Keep up-to-date with important news from your community, and access exclusive, subscriber only content online. Read a copy of your favourite newspaper on any device via the HNM App.

Learn more


This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More