Former minister slammed by Oxfam over call to cut foreign aid spending

Posted On: 
30th June 2017

Robert Halfon has been blasted by Oxfam after he suggested ministers cut back on overseas aid spending in order to up the wages of low paid public sector workers in Britain.

Robert Halfon said changes to the pay cap should be a priority over overseas spending

The Tory backbencher urged the government to end the squeeze on the lowest paid public sector staff - stopping short of a call to ditch the cap outright - but that it should not come at the expense of a hike in spending.

He told Radio Four’s Today Programme that calling a temporary halt to the protected funding of so-called “sacred cows” could free up enough cash to lift the 1% limit.

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"I think we have to look, potentially, at sacred cows. What I'm suggesting is that we look at some of the overseas aid budget, which is going to be over £13 billion in the coming year,” he said

"I think we face a particular difficulty in our country where many public sector workers have had to struggle, particularly those on lower pay, so I think temporarily, while the economy remains difficult, while we get down the deficit, I think we need to look at sacred cows like the overseas aid budget and use that to help the lowest-paid public sector workers."

Responding to the claim, the global anti-poverty charity’s head of policy, Richard Pyle, insisted Britain was in the position to ditch the cap while continuing to provide the “vital lifeline” for poverty stricken countries.

"Britain can afford to give our teachers and nurses a decent pay rise without taking money from the poorest people on the planet," he said.

"Too many people in the poorest countries still die for the lack of basic healthcare and British aid provides a vital lifeline of which we can all be proud."

Mr Halfon’s comments follow a week of turmoil for the government, after on Wednesday Downing Street said moves to scrap the cap were being considered, only to U-turn on the move a matter of hours later.

The mix-up was followed days later by twenty senior backbenchers marching to No 10 to demand the Prime Minister abandon the cap in the Budget later this year.

According to The Sun, they were given an assurance by Mrs May's chief of staff Gavin Barwell that the salary review bodies which advise ministers on public sector pay will be told they can recommend an uplift of more than 1%.

Tory chairman Grant Shapps and ex-justice minister Andrew Selous were reportedly among the raft of backbenchers pressing the Prime Minister to drop the cap, which the party insisted would remain in place until 2020.

Conservative MP Will Quince took to Facebook earlier today to echo the calls of his colleagues, while remaining cautious about a rise in public spending.

He said: “We must also be mindful that we still have a £52bn annual deficit - we are still living beyond our means and to lose control of our public finances would put all of our public services in jeopardy.

"If a decision is taken to lift the cap (although this is above my pay grade) and taxes are raised to pay for it, I hope all of those people today criticising me and the Government will be defending the decision."