Chief executives of 27 biggest companies in the UK, including BP and Vodafone, today joined the boss of English football's Premier League in appealing to Prime Minister David Cameron to keep his commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of national income on international aid.
With Britain staring at a fresh bout of recession, Cameron is under pressure from some members of his own Conservative party to reduce the coalition government's international aid commitment, but business leaders insisted that sticking to the funding target would not only be a "smart investment" but also the "right thing to do".
The request comes as International Development Secretary Justine Greening prepares to outline plans to boost British business involvement in developing countries.
In an open letter to Cameron, published by the Financial Times, 27 bosses wrote "as chief executives of leading British companies we believe that this is not only the right thing to do, but that it is a smart investment. It is both humanitarian and in the interests of the country for the Prime Minister to do this and the case for continuing, well-targeted aid is beyond doubt."
"Aid has contributed to improving education, health, sanitation and other public services in many of the world's poorest countries. This investment in human capital is fundamental for a functioning economy," the letter said.
In a speech tomorrow, Greening is expected to state the Government's plan to work with developing nations to create stronger tax systems and more investment-friendly business environments.
Ahead of this month's budget, FTSE 100 companies like BP and GlaxoSmithKline and retailers, including Morrisons, Dixons and IKEA, joined the Premier League in putting their names to an open letter, insisting it is in Britain's interest to meet its aid pledge.
Charity leaders welcomed the support from business leaders. Justin Forsyth, Save the Children's chief executive, said, "We are delighted that some of Britain's best known companies have recognised the remarkable progress of British aid and what it is helping to achieve for the world's poorest people."
"Giving children the opportunity to live, to learn and to thrive will be of enormous benefit to the UK in the long term. Aid is working and Britain deserves enormous credit for delivering on its promise to the poorest, hungriest, and most vulnerable people in the world," he added.