Overseas aid cut ‘perfectly lawful – British defense secretary

A UK Aid label is attached to a box containing kitchen sets
A UK Aid label is attached to a box containing kitchen sets Image Source: shropshirestar.com

dpa-PA Media/GNA – The British government remains confident that its decision to cut the foreign aid budget is “perfectly lawful,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Wallace said ministers would, however, study a legal opinion that warned the plan to abandon the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) on aid was illegal.

The opinion by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven on behalf Matrix Chambers, said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had no power to change the target that was enshrined in law by a 2015 act of parliament.

It was commissioned by senior Tories – including former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell – opposed to the decision to reduce aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GNI.

The opinion, reported in The Sunday Times, states: “The Secretary of State’s decision is unlawful, not because of a (mere) failure to meet the 0.7-per-cent GNI target, but because the Secretary of State has proceeded on the erroneous assumption that he has some power to alter the target itself.

“The illegality of the… decision is clear: the Secretary of State proceeded on the erroneous assumption that he was free to establish a ‘target’ for official development assistance which is below 0.7 per cent GNI. In truth, no such discretion was open to him.”

Appearing on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Wallace said: “The government will no doubt look at Matrix Chambers’ view.

“The Attorney General (Michael Ellis) will take a decision. Our view is that it is perfectly lawful what we have announced.”

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