No 10 slaps down Penny Mordaunt over plan to end Unesco funding
Downing Street today rebuked Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt over her rumoured plan to pull Britain out of global cultural body Unesco.
According to the Times, the International Development Secretary had been preparing to end the UK’s £11.1m annual payment to the UN education and culture scheme, on the basis that it is bad value for money.
But today a spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted that the funding would continue, saying: "There has been no change to our commitment to Unesco."
“Since 2016 the UK has made efforts to drive reform and improve performance at Unesco and we have seen positive developments. However, more progress is required,” they added.
“We're committed to ensuring UK aid goes to the highest-performing multilateral agencies that deliver on achieving the UK's core aid objectives and value for money for taxpayers."
US president Donald Trump cut Unesco funding last year - as did Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu over claims of anti-Israel bias.
Former international development secretary Priti Patel first proposed an end to Unesco funding in 2016 but the suggestion was vetoed by Theresa May.
The reemergence of the plan under the tenure of Ms Mordaunt is believed to have alarmed Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove.
A Whitehall source said Unesco was the worst performing multilateral agency the Department for International Development works with and suggested the cash the Government sends to it could be better spent elsewhere.
Earlier this year Ms Mordaunt said the Government had increased the "spending bar" when it comes to the quality of scheme it is willing to plough taxpayer cash into.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “If Penny Mordaunt was truly worried about the organisation’s financial difficulties, she would stay inside it and help reform an organisation that Britain helped create.
“To just walk away instead is an act of political petty-mindedness and shameless cultural vandalism.”