Dr Rowan Williams warns Theresa May against scrapping UK foreign aid pledge

Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Credit: Nick Edwards for The Telegraph

Theresa May has been warned against abandoning the Government’s foreign aid pledge by the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a significant intervention in the general election campaign Dr Rowan Williams said the UK should wear its aid budget as “a badge of honour”.

The Prime Minister has so far refused to commit to maintaining the Government’s current policy of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid as speculation continues to grow over whether the figure will be included in the Tory election manifesto.

But Dr Williams has called on Mrs May to “hold firm on the promise we have made”.

Dr Rowan Williams. the former Archbishop of Canterbury Credit: Nick Edwards for The Telegraph

He said in a statement: “As we debate the future of our country, our relationship to the EU and our new relationship with the world, we should wear our aid budget as a badge of honour that sets a standard for others to follow.

“The British public are proud that our great nation hasn't turned its back on the world's poorest people.

“So, at a time when the world most needs our leadership and strength, we call on the leaders of all parties to hold firm on the promise we have made, and stand up for their belief in a bigger Britain.”

Dr Williams said the British are “known for standing up for the underdog and standing firm when things get tough”.

Dr Williams, who is also the chairman of Christian Aid, warned that the UK faces “great choices about the soul and future of our nation”.

Theresa May is yet to commit to the UK's existing foreign aid promise Credit: Reuters

He said: “The UK aid budget is at the heart of the choice between Little Britain and Global Britain.

“Our help to the world's poorest and most vulnerable people is something to be proud of, not a political football.

“Of course, the aid budget is not above debate; how we best and most effectively direct aid is a matter that needs discussing.  

“But we must be careful not to present people with false choices that set the needs of the most vulnerable in our own society against those of people living in long-term poverty and powerlessness overseas, whose priority is the capacity to decide their own future and secure their own well-being.”

Ministers have urged Theresa May to drop Britain’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on helping poorer countries, and have proposed diverting money to a new combined defence and security budget

Mrs May opened the door to the target being scrapped, telling The Sun: “You’ll have to wait, and read the manifesto when it comes, won’t you?

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