Majority of Britons believe that the Government should scrap 0.7% overseas aid target

1 October 2014. A new ComRes poll, commissioned by political communications specialists The Whitehouse Consultancy, has found that a majority of Britons (58%) believe that the Government should abandon its target to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, with seven in ten (69%) believing the aid budget should be spent on protecting British citizens from poverty before it is spent overseas.

The poll also found that 63% of Britons believe the Government should only give aid money to places experiencing humanitarian crises such as famines, conflict and natural disasters. Despite this, half of Britons (50%) believe that we should be proud of the UK Government’s commitment to the foreign aid budget.

The poll comes as Prime Minister David Cameron faces increasing pressure from both the Conservative Party and Ukip on the issue of foreign aid spending. Ukip leader Nigel Farage has called for the foreign aid budget to be redirected to the UK, arguing that “charity begins at home”, with a number of Conservative backbench MPs moving to derail a Bill that would enshrine the 0.7% commitment into law.

According to the poll, men (64%) are more likely to want to abandon the 0.7% target than women (53%). There was also broad consensus that the UK Government should only give aid to most impoverished places, with 60% of Britons agreeing that, except in times of humanitarian emergency, the aid budget should only be spent on countries that make up the poorest 25% worldwide.

Chris Whitehouse, Chairman of The Whitehouse Consultancy, said:

“As a developed nation we have an obligation to help those populations in need. That said, there is clear public scepticism about setting an arbitrary target for spending on overseas aid when other government departments are being required to make significant budget cuts, which has implications for service delivery at home.

“What these results show is that the British public is supportive of overseas aid when there is a clear and immediate humanitarian crisis, but that the government needs to show how UK aid is helping those in need, while making a stronger case for a spending target in a time of austerity.”

Chris Bain, Director of leading overseas aid agency CAFOD, said:

“Aid is not perfect and dealing with poverty is complicated with the poorest people often in some of the world’s most dangerous places.  But our aid budget makes a huge difference.  Child mortality rates have been halved since 1990.  British support for immunisation saves a child’s life every two minutes.  

In the years 2011/12 and 2013/14 British aid helped 10.2 million children to go to school.  Successes like this are the reality of British aid and why we should be proud of our contribution especially in these tough economic times.”

The Whitehouse Consultancy

The Whitehouse Consultancy is a Westminster-based specialist in public affairs and political communications.