THE Government admitted this week that British overseas aid as a percentage of gross national product has fallen to an all-time low. Despite United Nations guidelines that developed countries should donate 0.7 per cent of the GNP's to overseas aid projects, Britain's 1987 figures, released on Tuesday, show the figure to be less than 0.3 per cent.
Despite assurances from the Minister for the Overseas Development Administration, Catholic MP Chris Patten, that the level will eventually be raised, the percentage has been halved since Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979, and is now just 0.28 per cent.
Eight years ago Britain led the league table of the seven major industrialised nations, but now only the USA gives less aid as a proportion of its GNP. Moreover, of all the 18 Western aid givers Britain has dropped from sixth in 1979 to 15th.
Many aid agencies would like the UN guideline to be raised to one per cent of the GNP. The diocese of Hexham and Newcastle currently donates one per cent of its annual income to Third World projects.