Labour secretly axes £1 billion from overseas aid budget

Well, well – will Labour never learn? They’ve axed around £1 billion from the UK aid budget (official development assistance) – and then tried to keep it secret.

So here’s the story in black and white. Two pieces of jargon first: “Official development assistance” is what people normally think of as the UK’s overseas aid budget, whilst Gross National Income is a measure of the country’s total wealth.

And on to the evidence.

Exhibit A, from the Treasury’s own website: the 2004 Spending Review which stated: “Total UK official development assistance (ODA) … will have risen from 0.26 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in 1997 to 0.47 per cent in 2007-08.”

Exhibit B, also from the Treasury’s own website: the 2007 Pre-Budget Report which boasted of: “an increase in overseas aid as a share of national income from 0.37 per cent in 2007-08 to 0.56 per cent in 2010-11.”

So, having promised in 2004 that aid levels would be at 0.47% in 2007-8, they’ve now cut that figure to 0.37% – which is equal to around £1 billion.

As it was an international development debate in Parliament today, I raised the issue of this missing £1 billion which would have gone to help the poorest in the world.

And what did Douglas Alexander have to say? Well, nothing much. He just dodged the issue of spending levels here in 2007-8.

Not impressed! If you’re going to cut a billion like that Mr Alexander – at least have the guts to admit it and defend it in public rather than dodging around and talking about other spending levels in other years.