MPs and peers urge government to reconsider cuts to overseas aid for water projects
A cross-party group of more than 60 MPs and peers has asked the government urgently to reconsider plans to cut UK overseas aid for lifesaving water projects to the poorest nations.
In a letter to foreign office minister Wendy Morton, they said such a move is “particularly disappointing” in the middle of a pandemic where handwashing is a frontline of defence against coronavirus.
The 29 MPs and 37 peers wrote that Britain has a proud record of “standing up for the most vulnerable and stepping in to help those in need”.
Their letter, sent on Wednesday and seen by Sky News, said: “If we decimate our support for life’s most basic essentials, we abdicate our responsibility and do neither.
“The British people support aid for water and sanitation because it saves lives and stops the spread of disease. We urgently ask that you reconsider these proposals which will impact most those who have the least.”
The plea came after it emerged last week that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office plans to cut direct funding to countries on projects involving access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) by 80% to around £35m.
Overall WASH-related funding – including on multilateral schemes – is set to fall by 64% as part of swingeing cuts of more than £4b to the UK’s overseas aid budget.
Boris Johnson chose to reduce the spending target for aid to 0.5% of national income from 0.7%, in breach of a manifesto promise and despite it being enshrined in law.
The prime minister has called the move “temporary” because of the economic hit from the pandemic. But it has triggered fury from aid agencies and MPs, especially as the impact of the cuts are starting to emerge.
They include significant reductions in funding for programmes to help the world’s most vulnerable and hungry children, the ability for millions of women and girls to have access to birth control and a reduction in support for families caught up in conflict in Yemen and Syria.
Among the signatories to the letter to Ms Morton were Lord Lansley, a former Conservative health secretary, Sarah Champion, the Labour chair of the International Development Committee and Neil Parish, Conservative chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
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