THE UK’S AID BUDGET must be put beyond the reach of the Home Office and ringfenced to spend in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, the International Development Committee is urging.

In a concise report of 14 paragraphs, the Committee sets out the evidence to demonstrate that the world’s poorest countries are being short-changed as a result of other Government departments raiding the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO’s) aid budget. Meanwhile, the aid budget has been cut to 0.55 per cent of Gross National Income and aid programmes which support the world’s poorest people overseas have been disproportionately cut.

Despite the Committee’s attempts to seek information through parliamentary questions, written evidence and an evidence session featuring Ministers from HM Treasury, the Home Office and FCDO, the Government has refused to provide up-to-date statistics on how it spends aid in the UK. Parliament cannot adequately hold the Government to account when the information provided is “woefully inadequate and wilfully opaque” say MPs.

Now, figures just published in the Government’s Supplementary Estimates show a substantial £1.7 billion reduction in Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending from FCDO compared with the initial budget, “to support the reallocation of ODA budget across government”. The figures show an increase of almost £2 billion in ODA for the Home Office, compared with this year’s initially estimated budget. Those figures show a huge wealth transfer from the FCDO to the Home Office to pay for hotel accommodation for refugees.

The UK Government’s approach to spending ODA in the UK is incompatible with the spirit of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee rules, says the report. Most countries take a conservative approach, recognising that the ODA budget is for spending that “promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries.”

This makes the Government’s choice to spend a significant and increasing proportion of the ODA budget in the UK a “political choice”, says the Committee. It is a self-defeating decision which is likely only to increase the number of refugees arriving in the UK.

The Chair of the International Committee, Sarah Champion MP, said: “Supporting refugees is the right thing to do. Supporting people in the world’s poorest countries is also at the core of the UK Government’s international development strategy.

“These figures tell a story but it’s not the full picture. The haemorrhaging of funds from the FCDO’s budget to the Home Office is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“There has been a determined effort to prevent us from seeing the full picture. The Government has wilfully attempted to prevent us carrying out our scrutiny role. Our attempts to access straightforward information about how the Government is spending the ODA budget in the UK hit a brick wall.

“We have to wonder why this information is not readily shared by the respective departments. With the latest information from the Supplementary Estimates, we begin to see why. The Home Office raid on the UK’s aid budget is running unchecked. It’s time to face up to Ministers and say hands off the aid budget – vulnerable people in the world’s poorest countries are being short-changed.”

Working with the most recent data published in the Government’s Statistics on International Development from 2021, the recent increase in the proportion and sum of ODA disbursed on supporting refugees in the UK is unprecedented and unsustainable.

  • More than £1 billion of UK’s aid budget was spent on refugees in the UK in 2021. This represents almost 10 per cent of the total budget for ODA or £1 in every £10.
  • UK aid spending per refugee in the UK almost tripled increasing from £6,700 per capita in 2019 to £21,700 per capita in 2021, according to most recent three years of available data. This exceeds any other OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) country during 2018-21 and is around three times the DAC average of £7,400.
  • In 2021, UK bilateral aid spending in least developed countries (LDCs) decreased to £1.4 billion, which represented around 12 per cent of the aid budget. That 50 per cent decrease in aid to LDCs amounted to a more than £900 million cut in UK aid spending.
  • Looking ahead, the Centre for Global Development (CGD) estimates that the amount of aid spent on in-country refugee costs in 2022 could exceed £3 billion, an increase of more than 300 per cent since 2020. Save the Children estimated that those costs could be as high as £4.5 billion in 2022-23, accounting for one-third of the entire aid budget.

* Read: Aid Spending in the UK here.

* Source: International Development Committee