Britain needs to consider options to repair public finances, says minister

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain, September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will consider its options to help repair the country’s public finances, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Tuesday, after media reports that ministers were considering a temporary cut to its aid spending.

The Times newspaper said the government had drawn up plans to reduce the proportion of Britain’s gross national income spent on aid from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent to make savings after spending hundreds of billions to fight COVID-19.

Asked whether the government would make the cut on aid, Jenrick told LBC radio: “The Chancellor (finance minister) will have to think very carefully about whether this is something that he wants to deploy at this unique time.

“We have a great reputation for the work that we do through our international development agencies now part of the Foreign Office, so we wouldn’t want to compromise that in the long term. But I think there’s a legitimate choice for the UK as to whether in the immediate situation we find ourselves in, we want to consider our options.”

The Times reported that finance minister Rishi Sunak was pressing for the move to be announced in next week’s comprehensive spending review, but that foreign minister Dominic Raab was opposed to the move.

On Monday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was not aware of any change to policy and that Britain remained committed to helping the world’s poorest people.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Michael Holden