Data from the Department for International Development showed £14.1billion of UK taxpayers’ cash was handed out to projects in developing countries, compared with £13.4billion in 2016. Pakistan was the largest recipient of UK aid, receiving £402million during 2017, the figures showed. Other big hand outs last year included £327million to Nigeria, £326million to Ethiopia, £314million to Syria and £282million to Somalia.
Projects in war-torn Yemen received £205million while a further £227million went to Afghanistan.
The total amount given by the UK each year rises in line with economic growth as the Government is committed to matching a United Nations target of spending 0.7% of national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on aid each year.
But critics have urged Theresa May to abandon the commitment so more of the cash can be spent on priorities at home.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The 0.7% spending target is a totally arbitrary and meaningless figure and it is preposterous that the British political elite remain so wedded to it.
“Fourteen billion pounds is a huge amount of taxpayers money which could be better spent elsewhere on public services.
“The spending target also fails to take into account the considerable amount that the British public give privately to help the most vulnerable people around the world.
“Britain’s over bloated aid budget has a poor record of promoting freedom in developing countries and is in need of dire reform.”
Figures in the report also showed that the UK was the world’s third biggest provider of overseas aid last year behind the US and Germany.
American taxpayers contributed £27.4billion to overseas aid projects during 2017, the figures showed.
A Government spokesman said: “The UK was at the forefront of delivering lifesaving aid in humanitarian emergencies around the world in 2017, from wars in Yemen and Syria, to the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, to famine in South Sudan.
“We are spending UK aid where it is most needed, saving lives and helping poorer countries prosper.
“Poverty reduction is at the heart of what we do but UK aid is also tackling global challenges like disease, terrorism and conflict, and creating a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for us all.
“This is a win for the UK and a win for the developing world.”
Figures in the report also showed £223million of UK aid was spend in Europe during 2017, an increase of 42.5% on the previous year.
“The most significant increase was seen in Turkey (£42million increase since 2016) to support displaced refugees in the Syria crisis with vital supplies, health and education,” the report said.
Tory MP Peter Bone described the £14billion spending on foreign aid as “absurd”.
He said: “Unfortunately, this policy is not going to change under Theresa May. When she goes, I want the next Tory leader to commit to cutting aid spending in half. That would give us £7billion to spend on much needed public services in this country.”