Top Archbishops accuse Government of ‘broken promise’ over foreign aid cut

In a dramatic intervention, the spiritual leader of the Church of England and his Roman Catholic counterpart urge Boris Johnson to U-turn, saying: “Balancing the books during a pandemic on the backs of the world’s poorest is not acceptable.”

Cuts in aid to Yemen and other countries in crisis are “doing real damage”, they say. They warn it is a question of “morality”, adding: “We must not walk by on the other side.”

It is rare for the most senior archbishops to enter such a politically-charged row, but they say the pandemic has exposed how the fates of countries around the world are interconnected. 

Reacting to vague assurances in the Government’s recent Integrated Review of defence and diplomacy, they warn: “Saying the Government will only do this ‘when the fiscal situation allows’ is deeply worrying, suggesting that it will act in contravention of its legally binding target. This promise, repeatedly made even during the pandemic, has been broken and must be put right.”

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Their call threatened to deepen a Conservative rebellion against the cuts.

Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary co-ordinating rebel MPs, said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster are joining the former Conservative Solicitor General and former Director of Public Prosecutions in calling on the Government to respect the law of the land.

“Our international reputation for tackling poverty and misery, is now being destroyed as the Government implements unlawful cuts to humanitarian aid – including unconscionably cutting support for women and children during a famine.

“This is the image of Global Britain that we are now allowing to be seen around the world “

Backbenchers stepped up pressure in the wake of the article.

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the Defence Select Committee, described the aid cuts as “an extraordinary act of self harm”. 

He said: “The recruiting sergeants for Hezbollah, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, ISIS and other terrorists and armed militia will be the immediate beneficiaries of cuts to the UK’s humanitarian programmes.”


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