Theresa May has said that she will maintain Britain’s commitment to spending 0.7% of its national income on foreign aid.
Speaking in her own constituency of Maidenhead, The Prime Minister said that the pledge ‘remains and will remain’, in one of her first firm manifesto commitments.
Mrs May said: ‘Let’s be clear, the 0.7% commitment remains and will remain.
‘What we need to do, though, is to look at how that money will be spent, and make sure that we are able to spend that money in the most effective way.
‘I’m very proud of the record we have, of the children around the world who are being educated as a result of what the British taxpayer is doing in terms of international aid.
‘The ability we had to be able to help in the ebola crisis, the work that we’ve been doing supporting Syrian refugees – I was in Jordan a couple of weeks ago, in a school, meeting some youngsters who are being given a good-quality education. That’s one of the things the United Kingdom is providing.’
The PM notably did not rule out changing the definition of aid – which could see funds diverted into defence spending.
Senior Tories have put the pressure on to scrap the commitment, which was enshrined into law under the leadership of David Cameron.
But Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, along with the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and a group of charities, encouraged Mrs May to keep the promise made by her predecessor.
Mr Gates told The Guardian yesterday: ‘The big aid givers now are the US, Britain and Germany – those are the three biggest and if those three back off, a lot of the ambitious things going on with malaria, agriculture and reproductive health simply would not get done.
‘Malaria has always been the disease we really want to take on and the UK has always in terms of research capacity and aid been a leader.
‘In terms of where the aid ambition gets set, the UK can be a huge leader in driving that malaria eradication, or the world may have to back off and not get started on that.’
Former Chancellor George Osborne, who recently stood down as an MP, tweeted his support.
Recommitment to 0.7% aid target very welcome. Morally right,strengthens UK influence &was key to creating modern compassionate Conservatives
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) April 21, 2017