Boris Johnson has been accused of an “inordinate” decision to cut aid to war-torn Yemen, in a short-tempered PMQ in which the prime minister accused Keir Starmer of prioritizing the Arab country over the United Kingdom.
The UK has announced that it will give Yemen only around £ 87 million in aid this year, down from £ 164 million in 2020. The Labor leader said there was widespread outrage over the decision to cut aid.
“The UN has said that Yemen faces the worst famine the world has seen in decades. And the secretary-general said on Monday that cutting aid would, in his words, be a death sentence for the people of Yemen. How the heck can the prime minister justify arms sales to Saudi Arabia and cut aid for the starving people in Yemen? he said.
Johnson blamed the pandemic for the decision to cut spending, saying it was due to “current difficult circumstances” and added: “I think the people of this country will think we have our priorities right.”
The UK, which is a leading provider and supporter of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Yemen war, has come under direct criticism from aid agencies for cutting aid while arms sales continue.
Britain pledged £ 87 million on Monday – 54% of last year’s donation of £ 160 million, and just 40% of the total funding the UK provided in 2020, something former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said it was “an unimaginable decision … to starve hundreds of thousands of children.”
Conservative MPs’ displeasure with the decision may be a rebellion as the government advances planned Commons votes on the decision to cut aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income.
“Britain should be a moral force for good in the world,” Starmer said. “But just when the United States is taking a step forward, the United Kingdom is taking a step back. If the prime minister and the chancellor are so determined to go ahead with their cuts that they break the manifesto on international aid and cut the budget to 0.5%, they should at least put it to a vote in this chamber. “
Johnson then struck back at Starmer for focusing his questions on the crisis. “He cannot even address a question about the issues of the moment … He could have asked anything about the coronavirus pandemic, instead he has focused his questions entirely on the interests of the people of Yemen.”
Britain faced fresh calls to end unrestricted arms sales to Saudi Arabia earlier this week after the United States released a CIA assessment that concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of journalist Jamal. Khashoggi.
The Biden administration has already said it will stop sales of weapons to Riyadh that could be used in the long-running war in Yemen.
Starmer urged the prime minister to take the same action, saying that the UK was “increasingly isolated in its approach, especially after the investigation into the Khashoggi assassination.
“We sold £ 1.4 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia in three months last year, including bombs and missiles that could be used in Yemen … I have to ask, what would it take for the prime minister to suspend arms sales to Yemen? Saudi Arabia?”
Johnson said the international coalition was following the UN resolutions. “We continue to scrupulously follow as humanitarian guidance, which are among the toughest measures anywhere in the world, with respect to all weapons.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism