According to Andrew Mitchell, “every penny” of the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget is used for purposes that serve the country. Spending has now been reduced to 0.5% of GDP, or around £11 billion annually.
Speaking to the International Development Committee today, Mr. Mitchell stated: “The 0.7 percent was the figure which the developed world settled on, it’s now 0.5 percent and very much hope it will go up to 0.7 percent.
“But every penny of this budget is spent in Britain’s national interest because tackling conflict and building prosperity not only help people in the poor world but they make us more prosperous and less subject to the effects of external conflict.
“Every penny of it is spent in Britain’s national interest and our job is to accept the figure we have and drive it to maximum effect and get best possible value for money for UK taxpayers.”
However, Mr. Mitchell acknowledged that he was “rather surprised” to find that Britain continues to spend foreign aid in China and that this may do “great damage” to the budget’s image.
When asked about the funding flowing to the second-largest economy in the world, he informed MPs: “I was rather surprised to see about the aid spending in China.
“By and large, bilateral programme spending in China has stopped, but the areas where it is continuing, and which does great damage to the reputation of the development budget, include Chevening scholarships, for example, and the British Council and most people would say that both of those two types of spending were a good thing to do.”
Mr Mitchell went on to say that justifying government spending in China and India was “virtually impossible.”
During his presentation, the development minister also said that the UK has lost its role as a “development superpower,” which is “bemoaned around the world.”
He said: “When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were in government, we spent 0.51 percent on international development and we were without question a development superpower.
“I would argue that in 2012 when David Cameron was our prime minister, we were also spending 0.51 percent and in my view, we were without question a development superpower.
“Today we are actually spending 0.55 percent and, you know, let’s not beat about the bush, we are not a development superpower at the moment and that is something that is bemoaned around the world.”
Mr Mitchell believes the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office requires institutional adjustments (FCDO).
He stated: “My view is that that requires some structural changes within the merger.
“I’m not in any way wanting to unpick what is settled government policy, but I think that there are structural changes which can be made and should be made and there is a discussion going on within and outside the Foreign Office about what they should be.”
The former international development secretary, who was recently re-appointed by Rishi Sunak, was highly critical of the Department for International Development’s merger with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2020, and later led a parliamentary revolt against the reduction in foreign aid budget.
It follows Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement in last month’s autumn statement that the international assistance budget would not be restored to its previous level of 0.7 percent of national revenue “until the fiscal system allows,” despite Mr Mitchell’s best efforts to urge him to do so.