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Cutting UK Aid To Yemen By Half Is A “Strategic Mistake With Deadly Consequences”, House Of Commons Told

The UK has cut the amount of aid it is pledging to Yemen by half (Alamy)

4 min read

A former International Development Secretary has condemned the UK's decision to cut the amount of aid the UK pledges to war-torn Yemen by half.

Andrew Mitchell heavily criticised the move, which was revealed at a UN conference last night, saying it was a “strategic mistake with deadly consequences”. 

“This is not who we are, this is not how global Britain acts,” he added. 

He said it was “a harbinger of terrible cuts to come” after the government dropped its commitment to spent 0.7% of total GDP on aid going forward.

Mitchell was speaking in the Commons after he was granted an Urgent Question on Tuesday following middle east minister James Cleverly's the announcement to a virtual donors' conference on Monday.

Cleverly said "recent global challenges" had "meant a difficult financial context for us all” after revealing the UK will provide "at least" £87 million to Yemen this year, a drop from £164 million pledged in 2020.

Yemen has been mired by a devastating conflict for six years, with 20 million people – two-thirds of the population – dependent on humanitarian assistance. Around two million children are acutely malnourished. 

Addressing Cleverly directly in Parliament Mitchell said: "Last night, he will have heard the United Nations general secretary tell him that for Yemen, and I quote, 'cutting aid is a death sentence, cutting it by 50% is unconscionable'.

"As a senior and respected British official at the UN, Sir Mark Lowcock, said 'millions of Yemeni children will now continue the slow, agonising and obscene process of starving to death'."

The veteran Tory MP, who was secretary of state for international development between 2010 and 2012, said of the move: “It is a harbinger of terrible cuts to come. 

“Everyone in this house knows that the cut to the 0.7% [target] is not a result of tough choices. It is a strategic mistake with deadly consequences.

“This is not who we are, this is not how global Britain acts. We are a generous decent country. 

“The 0.7% is enshrined in law, this house must surely have a vote. We must all search our consciences.”In response Cleverly suggested the UK would end up spending more than the figure he quoted last night: “I would remind the house that the commitment we made at the pledging conference represents a floor, not a ceiling.

“The figures that we've ultimately distributed in previous years, have in every one of those years exceeded the figure pledged.”

The minister said the UK will remain “one of the most generous” countries in the world, and to Yemen “we still remain one of the largest donors to that humanitarian crisis”.

But former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said halving the aid budget to Yemen goes against "British values”. 

"The UN has regularly said this is worst humanitarian crisis on the planet - it may be the worst one we have ever had," he told Sky News. 

"It is incredibly disappointing at a time like this, when we are the senior country in the UN responsible for Yemen, that we have halved our aid contribution – I just can't understand why we would ever do that."Ahead of the urgent question foreign secretary Dominic Raab had been accused of "betraying hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children as he chose to leave them to starve” by Labour's Preet Kaur Gill.

"In November the foreign secretary told this house that humanitarian crises were one of his priorities, yet he's cut funding to the largest humanitarian crisis in the world by 60%," the shadow secretary of state for international development said during foreign office questions.

"Clearly the foreign secretary's commitments are worthless. Does he agree that his government's actions have shown our allies and our detractors that his word cannot be trusted?"

Raab replied: "Under the last Labour government they never hit 0.7%, they only hit 0.5% twice and over the last five years in relation to Yemen including for 2021 we've been between the third and fifth highest donors.

"We will keep up that effort, we've provided more than a billion pounds of funding to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen since the conflict began and of course we fully support Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy's efforts to find peace there."

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