LONDON: UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab hinted on Tuesday that a reduction in the aid budget could be extended beyond 12 months, amid calls to release the legal advice supporting his claim that the cuts are lawful.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to reduce the foreign aid budget from 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to 0.5 percent by 2022 following the economic havoc wrought by the pandemic.
Former Conservative minister Baroness Sugg, who quit last year in protest at the cut, has pressed Raab to publish his legal opinion after warnings that the move was unlawful.
She also asked the foreign minister if he agreed that “primary legislation is definitely needed” if the government’s commitment to spend 0.7 percent of national income was not met for more than a year, The Independent newspaper reported.
The calls came after the government was accused of hiding the full extent of its foreign aid cuts.
Syria, Libya and Lebanon are among the countries set to lose more than half of their UK funding, according to a leaked report seen by The Independent, but a statement by Raab did not specify which countries would face the steepest cuts.
He rejected calls to release the legal advice.
“The government doesn't share regularly its legal advice," he told a House of Lords committee. “Of course there’ll be different views, there’s good reasons for that – you want to be able to have thorough and frank discussions.”
When pressed on whether the cut could be extended beyond a year, Raab added that he did not think the situation was as “straightjacketed” as being able to put a timeframe on it.