Mon, 26 February 2024

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Penny Mordaunt says aid spending target 'unsustainable' and DFID should raise more private cash

2 min read

The Department for International Development should focus more on drumming up private charity donations than spending taxpayers' money, Penny Mordaunt has told the Cabinet.

Both The Sun and The Times report that the International Development Secretary told colleagues that the Government's target of spending 0.7% of the UK's GDP on overseas aid was "unsustainable".

The Tory high-flyer - tipped as a possible successor to Theresa May - should "move from being a spending department to a fundraising department".

Her comments came as the Cabinet minister briefed colleagues on the upcoming government spending review, which will see departments set out their case for fresh Treasury cash over the next few years.

Britain's aid budget currently stands at £13.9bn - but Ms Mordaunt is said to have told fellow ministers that a "national conversation" was now needed to try and draft in philanthropists, big banks and the general public to cough up more in private donations.

The International Development Secretary meanwhile set out a string of changes to the way DfID uses aid money, including a push for more programmes jointly-funded with other departments and a closer link between the aid budget and the Government's national security plans.

She is also said to have pressed for an overhaul of international rules prohibiting profits generated by private contractors that spend DfID funds from counting towards the UK's 0.7% target.

The Cabinet minister was slapped down by Theresa May late last year when she pushed for Britain to follow US President Donald Trump's lead and axe funding for UNESCO, the United Nations' education and cultural body.

But her call for an overhaul of the way DfID spends money is likely to be cheered on by Conservative backbenchers, who have long criticised the department.

Former Cabinet heavyweight Boris Johnson told the Financial Times earlier this month that he believed DfID should be folded back into the Foreign Office, arguing that Britain "can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO".

But a source told the Times: “British aid helps millions and is a powerful statement of global Britain’s place in the world. It protects our interests: by building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world, we can protect our own people from disease, conflict and instability.

"This is the right ambition for a country with a global outlook, so we will maintain the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies."

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