Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on foreign aid?

Part of a series which compares how the main Westminster parties approach particular issues ahead of May’s election.

For some godforsaken reason, the UK’s foreign aid budget is increasingly under attack as a wasteful and ineffectual use of taxpayer money. Oppositionists to foreign aid have either called for a drastic reduction in money sent overseas, or a total cancellation. On the other side, some are calling for a higher foreign aid budget to meet international standards.

In 2014, the UK’s Department for International Development sent £2.4 billion to African nations, £1.5 billion to Asian nations, and £44 million to American, European, and Pacific nations. These figures are down from 2013, except for aid to African nations, which rose slightly.

The Conservative Party: From the manifesto…

  • “Aid helps prevent failed states from becoming havens for terrorists. It builds long-term markets for our businesses, by promoting global prosperity, and reduces migration pressures” (pg. 75)
  • “We have delivered on our promises to meet the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income as aid and to enshrine this in law. We will continue to meet the 0.7 per cent target, maintain an independent Department for International Development and keep aid untied. Our aid budget meets the OECD aid rules, and we will actively engage in international discussions to ensure that these rules fully reflect the importance of peace, stability and effective institutions for reducing poverty” (pg. 78)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 5.

The Labour Party: From the manifesto…

  • “We are proud that Labour MPs passed the historic law that commits Britain to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on international development. Labour will use that commitment from the British public to transform the lives of the world’s poorest people, whilst ensuring value for taxpayers’ money” (pg. 80)
  • “The private sector is essential to long-term development, and is often a positive force for change. We will extend the sharing of tax information to developing countries, increase DFID’s help to governments to collect more of their own taxes, tackle corruption, and ensure good governance” (pg. 80)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 5.

The Liberal Democrats: From the manifesto…

  • “[We will] continue to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on international development aid, helping the poorest in the world” (pg. 19) “[We have delivered] for the first time on the 40 year old UN ambition for developed countries to spend 0.7% of national income as Official Development Assistance” (pg. 142)
  • “[We believe] international aid should seek to advance human rights and democracy throughout the world” (pg. 153)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 5.

The UK Independence Party: From the manifesto…

  • “Taxpayers could get so much better value for their money if we […] made reasonable cuts to the foreign aid budget” (pg. 5)
  • “[We will] reduce the overseas aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GNI, matching the percentage contribution made by the USA. This change will be phased in so projects in progress can be completed and contractual obligations met. Annual savings will increase to £11 billion by 2019/20 and money for bilateral aid projects will not be languishing in EU bank accounts” (pg. 8)
  • “UKIP wants to help lift people out of poverty through trade, not aid” (pg. 68)
  • “UKIP will repeal recent legislation committing aid spending to 0.7 per cent of GNI” (pg. 69)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 0.

The Green Party: From the manifesto…

  • “[We will] fight for the writing-off of international debts for the poorest countries and limiting repayments from other low-income countries, to ensure they can fund decent public services for their people” (pg. 73)
  • “[We will] increase the overseas aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 1.0% of GDP over the Parliament, costing around £6 billion a year by 2019. Aid will not be tied, and will be distributed in ways that are focused on poverty reduction, supporting grassroots initiatives, women’s rights and environmental sustainability while respecting local priorities” (pg. 73)

Progressive-o-meter: 9.

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