Government should not slash Britain's aid budget - Welby

Christian Aid worked with faith groups in Sierra Leone when the country was threatened by Ebola.(Photo: Christian Aid/A D'Unienville)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed to the Government not to cut billions from Britain's international development budget.

Archbishop Justin Welby told the Observer that lives had been "genuinely" changed by Britain's overseas aid. 

The Treasury has come under fire after it emerged that cuts of over £4bn are being planned, despite the Tories pledging in their manifesto to commit 0.7% of gross national income to aid spending each year.

Welby said it was important that Britain stands by poorer nations in "tough times as well as the good".

"I've seen the good done by UK aid around the world," Welby told the newspaper.

"Our generosity and strategic input has genuinely changed lives and communities for the better. In his teaching, Jesus tells us we mustn't limit our concept of neighbour simply to those close by to us.

"We need to heed that message in the tough times as well as the good.

"A global recovery from the economic consequences of the pandemic requires a global response. Keeping our aid commitment is a strong signal that the UK is a reliable partner for long-term economic, social, environmental and educational advancement across the globe."

Jeremy Hunt is among the Tories who are opposed to the cuts. In a letter to Boris Johnson last week, he said cutting aid would "send the wrong signal out to the world about our values as a country."

Dozens of aid agencies, including Christian Aid, Tearfund and CAFOD have urged the Prime Minister not to go ahead with the plans.

"When 115 million people look set to be pushed back into extreme poverty, now is the time for an international, collaborative response to Covid-19," they said in an open letter to Johnson.

"It is a time that requires increased, not decreased, engagement from the British government in its efforts to make the world healthier, safer and more prosperous."