Britain hits UN's 0.7% aid spending target for a third year
Britain has hit the United Nations target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid for the third year in succession, according to figures from the Department for International Development.
Annual statistics released by DFID showed that the £12.1 billion of overseas development aid in 2015 represented exactly 0.7% of the UK's gross national income (GNI).
However, spending on aid fell below the target when measured by new international accounting standards adopted in 2014, which put the level at 0.66%.
The Government has pledged to meet the new standards - which came into effect after spending plans for last year were set - in its aid spending for this year.
Total aid spend in 2015 was up by £437 million (3.7%) compared with 2014.
Leading recipients of UK bilateral aid in 2015 were Pakistan (£374 million), Ethiopia (£339 million), Afghanistan (£300 million), Nigeria (£263 million) and Syria (£258 million), with India coming in ninth on £186 million.
All of the top 20 recipients were in Africa - which took almost £2.8 billion (55%) of the total - or Asia - which received around £2.1 billion (41%).
Just 3% of spending went to the Americas, 1% to Europe and 0.2% to the Pacific region.
Some Tory backbenchers have been critical of the amount the Government spends on overseas aid, particularly when it goes to countries with booming economies like India.
A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) earlier this week said aid is still being given to middle-income countries despite the Government giving the impression that support was being phased out.
The ICAI report said : "While DFID's public statements on the subject have been accurate, the earlier publicity given to exit from China and India potentially created an impression that all aid was being phased out.
"Against that background, the reasons for continuing and then scaling up assistance have not been clearly communicated to the UK public."
In response to the ICAI report, DFID said: "We are disappointed that ICAI has rushed the publication of this inaccurate report that simply does not tell the whole story.
"As countries build upon their economic development, Britain is determined to strengthen strategic partnerships that facilitate trade, boost business and combat poverty.
"DFID's work supports these partnerships in a manner that provides value for money, always helps the world's poorest and is open and transparent to the British public."
A DFID spokeswoman said: "Our development budget is an important part of securing Britain's place in the world, alongside our world-class diplomatic service, 2% commitment on defence spending and permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
"UK Aid has a life-changing impact and we are leading the way in combating poverty, preventing the spread of disease and reducing the pressures of mass migration, all of which is in Britain's national interest."