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Conservatives rebels have been among those calling on the government to reverse its plan to cut foreign aid.

Since 2015, it has been enshrined in UK law for the country to give at least 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to lower and middle-income countries to aid their development.

The plan to reduce the UK’s contribution to foreign aid to 0.5% of GNI – despite a United Nations target of 0.7% – has been met with widespread domestic and international criticism.

Here, we look at how much the UK gives in comparison to other countries.

Who gives foreign aid?

Most richer countries give aid, including some that are classed as middle or lower-income.

But the 0.7% target applies to countries that are on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC).

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These 30 countries are made up of many in the European Union, the UK, US, and other highly developed nations like Australia and New Zealand.

A couple of other countries are participants on the DAC, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bulgaria and Romania.

Last year, the UK was one of only seven countries reporting to the OECD that met the 0.7% target, giving the equivalent to $17.4bn – exactly 0.7% GNI. Out of European countries, only Germany spent more than the UK on aid in absolute terms ($27.5 billion or 0.73% of GNI). But several OECD countries gave more as a percentage of GNI.

In 2020, the proportion of GNI given by countries varied significantly from country to country, despite the UN’s target.

What is the money spent on?

The aid from DAC countries is called Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is intended to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries, according to the OECD.

In 2020, the last year for which net flows of aid were reported, member countries sent $161bn to those developing countries, an increase of 7% in real terms compared to 2019. About three-quarters of that came from G7 countries.

Broadly, this falls into one of four categories: 1. Bilateral projects, programmes and technical assistance, which represent just over half of total net ODA; 2. Contributions to multilateral organisations (about a third of total ODA); 3. Humanitarian aid; and 4. Debt relief.

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This can include grants that fund improvements to the health of people in developing countries, such as vaccination programmes, but it can also include programmes that can benefit donor countries, such as infrastructure projects that allow greater levels of trade and investment.

Many countries, such as Japan, offer a sizable proportion of their aid in the form of loans.

How has the UK been doing up until now?

In 2013, the UK achieved the 0.7% target for the first time.

It came about after the Conservative Party committed to the target in its 2010 manifesto, when it also proposed setting up a dedicated department for international development to help achieve its aim.

It has maintained the commitment in subsequent manifestos, including in 2019 when it pledged to maintain the proportion of spending.

In 2010, then leader David Cameron defended the move, telling business leaders at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London’s Guildhall that it saved lives, prevented conflict and was the “most visible example of Britain’s global reach” for millions of people.

Since 2015, the Government has also been under a statutory duty to meet the 0.7% target, as a result of the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act.

But, in the wake of the impact of the pandemic, ministers want to slash the proportion to 0.5% saying that, while it is only a temporary measure until the nation’s finances are repaired, it will save £4bn.

If the UK had spent 0.5% of GNI in 2020, as it plans to in 2021, it would have ranked 10th in the world for its aid spending as a proportion of GNI, instead of seventh, according to the House of Commons Library.

How did the 0.7% target come about?

A target for international aid was originally proposed as far back as 1958 – at first by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, which suggested a 1% of GDP figure would be appropriate, and the idea was then circulated to all United Nations delegations at the 1960 General Assembly.

The 0.7% target was first agreed by the DAC in 1970 and it has repeatedly been international endorsed.

Among the key moments at which the 0.7% figure has been backed are the 15 countries that were members of the European Union by 2004 agreeing the following year to reach the target by 2015 and the 0.7% target serving as a reference for 2005 political commitments to increase ODA at the G8 Gleneagles Summit and the UN World Summit.

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In 2017, the UK government said it wanted to modernise the ODA rules to include some peacekeeping-related spending.

Currently, spending on military equipment or activity, including peacekeeping expenditure and anti-terrorism operations, are excluded, apart from the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Aid that relates to nuclear energy can be included as long as it is provided for civilian purposes.

Do countries outside the OECD provide international aid?

OECD countries are not the only ones that provide foreign aid, in its widest definition.

Evidence has been presented that China, India and Russia – which are classed as middle and upper-middle income countries – provide aid that would qualify under the ODA rules, but the amount they provide is not subject to the degree of transparency of DAC aid budgets.

US research group Aid Data has examined the Chinese loans paid to developing countries for a wide range of projects and businesses, with tens of billions in ODA payments given to lower or middle-income nations.

The vaccine diplomacy engaged in by Russia and India illustrates how two other countries outside the OECD offer one form of help.

And the World Bank reported that Russia’s ODA was $1.2bn in 2017, the last year for which figures were available, and India’s Ministry of External Affairs says it has offered “lines of credit” to 64 countries, worth $30.6bn.

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Tories warned Mark Menzies misuse of funds claims ‘constituted fraud’ but whistleblower told there was no ‘duty’ to report it

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Tories warned Mark Menzies misuse of funds claims 'constituted fraud' but whistleblower told there was no 'duty' to report it

The Conservatives were warned ex-Tory MP Mark Menzies’s alleged misuse of party funds may have constituted fraud but the whistleblower was told there was no duty to report it

Mr Menzies, the MP for Fylde in Lancashire, gave up the Tory whip in the wake of reports in The Times that he misused party funds. He disputes the allegations.

The allegations came about after Mr Menzies former campaign manager, Katie Fieldhouse, spoke to the newspaper.

Mark Menzies pictured in Peru  in 2020
Pic: AP
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Mark Menzies pictured in Peru in 2020. Pic: AP

In a new interview with The Times this evening, Ms Fieldhouse, 78, claims she was told the Conservative Party was aware the allegations were potentially criminal.

She says the Conservative Party’s chief of staff “told me that when they first took over the investigation [from the Whips’ Office] they had consulted solicitors”.

She added: “He told me on the phone, ‘the solicitor said it is fraud but you are not duty-bound to report it because it’s not Conservative Party money’.”

The whistleblower said she was told the decision not to inform the police was made because it was donors’ money and not the party’s.

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A Conservative spokesperson said: “The party is conducting an investigation into the claims made and has been doing so for several months.

“We will of course share any information with the police if they believe it would be helpful to any investigation they decide to undertake.

“Suggestions the party has not been seriously examining this matter are demonstrably false.”

Lancashire Police said today it was “reviewing” information about Mr Menzies after Labour asked for an investigation to take place.

In a statement, the force said: “We can confirm that we have now received a letter detailing concerns around this matter and we are in the process of reviewing the available information in more detail.”

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Ruth Davidson on Mark Menzies allegations

The party’s chief whip, Simon Hart, is said to have been made aware of the claims in January, when the former campaign manager reported what had happened.

Sky News understands there has been an investigation ongoing by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) since the allegations were first raised, but further information came to light this week and Mr Hart acted immediately.

Speaking tonight, Labour’s chair Anneliese Dodds said: “The Conservative chairman and chief whip must urgently come out of hiding and explain what they knew and what advice they received.

“If, as reported, they or Conservative officials​ were warned about potentially fraudulent activity and chose not to go to the police, this would be indefensible.”

Mr Menzies, who has served as an MP since May 2010, is reported to have phoned his 78-year-old former campaign manager at 3.15am last December, saying he was locked in a flat by “bad people” and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, the newspaper says.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Fieldhouse said: “I am feeling dreadful because I am a devout Tory and as I have said to everybody else, I reported his actions to the chief whip… it is now the middle of April.

“Come to your own conclusions [about] what is happening.”

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Asked if she was disappointed with the way the complaint was being handled, she said: “Yes.”

Mr Menzies said on Thursday: “I strongly dispute the allegations put to me. I have fully complied with all the rules for declarations. As there is an investigation ongoing I will not be commenting further.”

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Mark Menzies: Tory activist who reported MP over alleged misuse of funds disappointed by party response

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Mark Menzies: Tory activist who reported MP over alleged misuse of funds disappointed by party response

A Tory activist who reported an MP over claims he misused party funds has told Sky News she is disappointed by the way her complaint has been handled.

Mark Menzies voluntarily quit the Conservative parliamentary party this week after a report in The Times claimed he called his ex-campaign manager Katie Fieldhouse, 78, early one day to say he was locked in a flat by “bad people” and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, the newspaper said.

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But despite the incident taking place in December – and Ms Fieldhouse submitting her complaint in January – the Fylde MP had remained part of the parliamentary party and as a trade envoy for the government until the press reports surfaced.

He has now lost the Conservative whip and was suspended as one of Rishi Sunak’s envoys.

Mr Menzies strongly disputes the claims, which also include accusations he used campaign funds to pay his personal medical bills.

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Speaking to Sky News’ Frazer Maude, Ms Fieldhouse said: “I am feeling dreadful because I am a devout Tory and as I have said to everybody else, I reported his actions to the chief whip… it is now the middle of April.

“Come to your own conclusions [about] what is happening.”

Asked if she was disappointed with the way the complaint was being handled, she said: “Yes.”

And asked if Mr Menzies should step down, she added: “It is for his conscience and the party to deal with. I have put my faith in the party, it is for them to deal with it.”

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Mr Sunak was also asked by reporters on Friday whether his former colleague should quit the Commons, and why it had taken until now for the party to act, but he said he would not comment while an investigation was being carried out.

Instead, the prime minister said: “It’s right that Mark Menzies has resigned the Conservative whip. He’s been suspended from his position as a trade envoy whilst the investigations into those allegations continue.

“For our part, I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation while it’s happening and he’s no longer a Conservative MP.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has written to Lancashire Police to demand an investigation into allegations of fraud and misconduct in public office.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters that the Conservatives “seem to have sat on their hands” over the allegations.

He added: “If they thought they could sweep this under the carpet somehow they were obviously very mistaken and that is why I think there are very serious questions now that need to be answered – not just by the individual but also by the government on this.”

And the Liberal Democrats have called for the ministerial ethics adviser to investigate chief whip Simon Hart’s handling of the complaint.

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Labour blames ‘shoplifters’ charter’ for surge in retail crime

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Labour blames 'shoplifters' charter' for surge in retail crime

A “shoplifters’ charter” has seen thefts rise significantly – to about one offence every minute – but police are charging fewer people, according to Labour.

The party said data showed a record 402,482 shoplifting offences in England and Wales in the year to September 2023.

However, offences resulting in a police charge fell from 20% to 15% between 2018 and 2023, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Labour said offenders were getting off “scot-free” as the fall had not been matched by a rise in other penalties.

More than 54% of shoplifting offences are also dropped with no suspect identified, according to recent Home Office figures.

Labour partly blamed the situation on a 2014 move to introduce a “low value” shoplifting category for items worth under £200 in total.

Theresa May, then home secretary, brought it in to speed things up and allow police to deal with these offences by post.

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But Labour and others, such as the British Retail Consortium, said it meant officers have deprioritised shoplifting.

The rise in shoplifting and attacks on staff have caused some retailers to lock away – or put security tags on – everyday products such as meat, butter, chocolate and coffee.

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Shoplifter ransacks Co-op

Co-op’s food business lost £33m in just six months last year as shoplifting cases surged.

A recent British Retail Consortium survey said the number of annual customer thefts across the UK had doubled to 16 million – far higher than the Home Office data.

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Shadow home secretary Yvette Copper said Labour would change the law as criminals are “getting away with it and more local businesses are paying the price”.

“The Conservative government has decimated neighbourhood policing, leaving our town centres unprotected, and they are still refusing to get rid of the £200 rule, which is encouraging repeat offending and organised gangs of shoplifters,” said Ms Cooper.

“Labour will scrap the Tories’ shoplifters’ charter and bring in a community policing guarantee, with 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs to crack down on shoplifting and keep the public safe.”

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Home Office minister Chris Philp said the “reality” was people in Labour-run areas were 20% more likely to be a victim of shoplifting, and 40% more likely to be a victim of crime, than those in Conservative areas.

“This month, Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives announced that serial or abusive shoplifters will face tougher punishments and we are making assault of a retail worker a standalone criminal offence,” Mr Philp added.

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