British lawmakers have voted to support a contentious cut to the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget, a move that has slashed billions from programs helping some of the world’s poorest people.
The decision came in a 333-298 House of Commons vote that saw some members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party join with the opposition against the government.
Johnson’s government announced in November that it would cut the share of national income set aside for foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5%, citing the blow to Britain’s economy from the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the reduction, which amounts to about 4 billion pounds ($5.5 billion) this year, is temporary and aid would be restored to 0.7% of national income “as soon as circumstances allow.”
High-profile Conservatives, including former prime minister Theresa May, joined opposition politicians, United Nations agencies and aid groups in criticizing the budget cut.
They say it will lead to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in developing nations and that it damages Britain’s reputation, just as it is trying to bolster its international influence in the wake of Brexit.