Cutting overseas aid ‘tough choice but right choice’ says MP Steve Barclay 

Steve Barclay, MP for NE Cambs and Treasury minister, defending the government’s decision to cut the overseas aid budget.

Steve Barclay, MP for NE Cambs and Treasury minister, defending the government’s decision to cut the overseas aid budget. - Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PAWire

MP and treasury minister Steve Barclay says cuts to the overseas aid budget is the tough choice but for now “the right choice”. 

The NE Cambs MP was representing the Government in the Commons on Tuesday after MPs had failed the previous day to get an emergency debate on the subject. 

Mr Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, questioned how MPs proposed raising the £4.3 billion required to reverse the overseas aid cut. 

He said of the reduction: "Decisions such as this are not easy. The situation in short is this: a hugely difficult economic and fiscal situation, which requires in turn difficult actions." 

After he highlighted the scale of Government borrowing during the pandemic, Mr Barclay told the Commons: "Leaving the next generation vulnerable to the degree of fiscal threat that would be entailed with a high debt level is not itself morally sound. 

"At the same time, loading ourselves with more debt now might well damage our ability to spend on aid later." 

He told MPs an extra £4.3 billion was required to return to the 0.7 per cent target. 

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Mr Barclay went on: "Given our commitment to fiscal sustainability, we could offset that by either raising taxes or by cutting public spending. 

“To put that in context, a 1p increase in the basic rate of income tax or around a 1 per cent increase in the standard rate of VAT, at a time when taxes are at an historic high." 

Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell, intervening, said: "The Treasury really must do better than that - 1p on income tax is worth nearly £6 billion so it's much less than 1p." 

Closing his speech, Mr Barclay said: "We are absolutely clear about our intentions to return to 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid when the fiscal situation allows. 

But he said the Government cannot do so yet. 

“We will however keep the matter under careful and regular review,” he said. 

"But for now, the tough choice is the right choice." 

The government insists it has no plans to allow MPs a vote on reversing £4bn cuts to the overseas aid budget.  

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