Foreign aid cuts: 'Tory rebels could defeat bill' says expert
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As many of 30 Tory MPs are backing an amendment that would force a vote on the Prime Minister’s decision to cut foreign aid from 0.7 percent to 0.5. The cut was announced last year with ministers saying the temporary reduction was necessary in light of the pandemic and would be returned “when the economic situation allows”.
MPs from across the House, as well as all living former Prime Ministers, have been critical of the cut.
In the 2019 election manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to maintain spending at the higher rate.
The spending is committed to in law but does allow for the Government to miss the 0.7 percent target in exceptional circumstances.
A group of Conservative rebels have plotted to submit an amendment to a Bill today which would require the Government to seek the support of the Commons to cut the spending.
Backbench MPs have been looking for months for a piece of legislation thought to be relevant enough to foreign aid to cease upon and exploit.
They are hoping to capitalise on Government legislation needed to set up the UK’s own Advanced Research and Invention Agency to force a vote on the aid budget.
The Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, will this afternoon decide whether the amendment submitted is within the remits of the legislation being voted upon.
Former international aid minister Andrew Mitchell is responsible for the planned rebellion.
As many as 30 Tory MPs understood to already be supportive of the amendment, including ex-Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mrs May’s former Damian Green and Johnny Mercer, who recently resigned as defence minister, have also backed the amendment along with ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis.
It places the vote on a knife-edge with Mr Johnson on the brink of defeat.
A rebellion of around 40 Tory MPs would be enough to land the blow to the Government.
Mr Mitchell said tens of thousands of people across the world would die because of the budget cut and said the UK stood alone amongst the world’s largest economies.
“There’s no question that far more than 100,000 avoidable deaths will take place as a result of these terrible cuts,” he told Sky News.
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“For two decades now, Britain has been a development leader, not just putting its money where its mouth is but corralling others into the right policies to tackle these egregious levels of want and deprivation which disfigure our world.
“And frankly, to go into the G7 conference which Britain is chairing with that record, with every other G7 country maintaining or increasing their level of expenditure, I think it is an error of judgement by the Government.”
Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the decision to cut the aid budget in light of the pandemic.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show said: “I think it is reasonable at a time of enormous economic challenge as well as, of course, the health challenge, to take this action.
“We’ve had a once-in-300-years economic interruption.
“This proposal is to be temporary, but we also have this enormous cost here that we have to deal with so that we can keep investing, for instance, in the NHS and expanding that investment, which we are doing, but also part of my argument is there’s many more things that we are doing around the world.”
In real terms, the cut equates to almost £4billion a year, but ministers have pointed out the Government will still spend more than £10billion on the budget.
Mr Hancock added the AstraZeneca vaccine currently being distributed across the world “at cost” price did not officially “count as aid”.
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