Jeremy Hunt has admitted there is no prospect of restoring billions to Britain's foreign aid target in the next five years.
Despite the Tories boasting about the goal in their general election manifesto, the Chancellor said it was not "possible" with current budgets. It comes after Rishi Sunak slashed the overseas aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% as Chancellor in 2021 - wiping billions of pounds of support away from the world's poorest.
Speaking at the Commons Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday, Mr Hunt said it was still the Government's intention to restore the 0.7% target. Chairwoman Harriett Baldwin said "there are no provisions in the next five years" for the billions to be restored at the Autumn Statement last week.
Mr Hunt confirmed: "I don't think the fiscal position makes it possible to do that. But I would say this, that we are very committed to do that when it is affordable to do so." He added: "I don't believe it is possible to budget for that in the figures."
Chair of the Commons International Development Committee Sarah Champion responded: "The Tories knew when they made the statement to return to 0.7% 'when the fiscal situation allows' that the other conditions they attached made it almost impossible to meet. It was a con trick to silence their backbenchers and now the truth has come out."
Ex-PM David Cameron condemned the decision to abandon the 0.7% target in 2020, describing the decision as a "very sad moment" for the UK. He said it was "breaking a promise to the poorest people and the poorest countries around the world" and said the cut was a "mistake" by Mr Sunak.
But before rejoining Government as Foreign Secretary a fortnight ago Lord Cameron said he was a "realist" and accepted that "money is tight". In an article for the Daily Telegraph he wrote: “In 2020, the 0.7% commitment was broken. I said at the time that it was a mistake. But I am a realist. Money is tight. Yet the need for investment in developing countries is greater than ever.”
Andrew Mitchell, who now serves as International Development Minister, also said last year that the UK had lost its aid "superpower" status as a result of the cuts. As a backbencher, the Tory minister was a vocal critic of the decision to reduce the aid budget.
At the committee last year, he said: “I very much hope it will go back up to 0.7”, adding that if double this was spent, it would still be “really good value for taxpayers’ money”. "Today we are actually spending 0.55 and, you know, let's not beat about the bush, we are not a development superpower at the moment and that is something that is bemoaned around the world."