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  • Ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis: ‘No other country in the G7 is cutting aid in this way’
  • ‘It’s going to have devastating consequences across the world’

LONDON: The UK government’s decision to cut its overseas aid budget could lead to increased child mortality in the worst affected regions, according to a senior Conservative politician who called the move “morally devastating.”

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis is among 30 MPs, including former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, planning to vote against the government’s proposal to cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to 0.5 percent — around £4 billion ($5.6 billion) — despite committing to maintaining the 0.7 percent figure in its 2019 general election manifesto.

Syria, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon are among the countries set to be hit hardest by the proposal.

The UK government has said the cut is a temporary measure due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but has offered no timeframe for returning to the 0.7 percent target.

Davis told BBC Radio 4 that potentially lifesaving schemes had already been cancelled as a result of the move. 

“It’s going to have devastating consequences across the world. Historically I’m a critic of aid spending, but doing it this way is really so harmful,” he said.

“You’ve got massive cuts in clean water which kills more children worldwide than almost anything else — 80 percent cut there,” he added.

“If you’re a small child and suddenly you get dirty water, you get an infection from it and you die, temporary doesn’t mean much.

“If you’re going to kill people with this, which I think is going to be the outcome in many areas, we need to reverse those immediately.”

Davis, speaking ahead of the UK-hosted G7 Summit this week, said the UK cutting aid at the tail end of the pandemic would damage its reputation among its fellow G7 members and beyond.

“We’re unique in the G7 — no other country in the G7 is cutting aid in this way,” he added. “We’re throwing away enormous influence … But this, morally, is a devastating thing for us to have done.”

Davis condemned the government’s attempts to avoid a vote in Parliament, saying: “The government, if it wanted to do this, should’ve brought it to the House of Commons and said, ‘This is in our manifesto but the duress we’re facing now means we have to do this,’ and so ask the house to approve it. It didn’t. The reason it didn’t was because the majority of the house doesn’t agree with it … And I’m afraid that that’s frankly, in my judgment, a morally poor position for the government.”

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