Boris Johnson faces huge Tory revolt over foreign aid cuts

Boris Johnson faces huge Tory revolt over foreign aid cuts with MPs ‘confident’ they can force government to bring back 0.7 per cent spending target next year

  • Boris Johnson is facing a Tory revolt over the reduction to foreign aid spending
  • Aid was cut from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent after pandemic
  • Amendment backed by Conservatives could see level restored from next year  

Boris Johnson is facing a huge Tory revolt over slashing foreign aid – with MPs ‘confident’ they can force the government to bring back the 0.7 per cent spending target next year.

Senior Conservatives are backing an amendment that looks set to be the subject of a dramatic Commons vote next week.

Mr Johnson has come under fire after declaring foreign aid will be temporarily cut from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent due to the pandemic hammering the economy.

Conservative former chief whip Andrew Mitchell is leading a parliamentary push to ensure new legislation makes up the shortfall left by the cut to the UK’s official development assistance.

A further 14 Tory backbenchers, including former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and ex-aid minister Sir Desmond Swayne, have backed the amendment so far – with many more expected to come on board. 

Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was ‘confident’ that there would be enough rebels to defeat the government. Around 40 are needed to overturn the government’s huge majority. 

But in a round of interviews this morning, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins defended the aid cut – pointing out that even with the reduction the UK is still allocating more than £10billion this year, making it one of the largest donors in the world. 

Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday) is facing a huge Tory revolt over slashing foreign aid – with MPs ‘confident’ they can force the government to bring back the 0.7 per cent spending target next year

Mr Johnson has come under fire after declaring foreign aid will be temporarily cut from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent due to the pandemic hammering the economy. The chart shows IFS estimates of the projected change in spending

Mr Mitchell has tabled an amendment to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria) Bill, a piece of legislation which establishes a new ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research agency backed with £800million of taxpayers’ cash to explore new ideas.

The explanatory note of Mr Mitchell’s amendment to the Bill says: ‘This new clause is intended to reaffirm the duty in the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 for UK official development assistance (ODA) to amount to 0.7 per cent of gross national income each year.

‘It would require Aria to make up any shortfall in that proportion from January 2022.’

It will be up to Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to decide whether the amendment is selected for consideration when the Bill returns to the Commons for further consideration on Monday June 7.

It could be considered outside the scope of the legislation.  

The Government has blamed economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic for its aid decision.

But critics believe the cut will result in tens of thousands of deaths in other parts of the world.

The Government has also come under fire for making the change without holding a Commons vote.

Ms Atkins told Sky News the UK could ‘hold our head up high in terms of international development’.

‘The Prime Minister has made clear that this is a temporary measure,’ she said.

‘In 2019, no one could have foreseen the extent of the pandemic and the measures we were going to have to take as a country in order to deal with this; it has had a huge impact on our economy.’

And she added: ‘So we’ve had to make some very, very difficult decisions.’

But she said: ‘Even with this small temporary reduction, we are still one of the largest donors of aid in the world, spending more than £10billion on aid.

‘And so I do believe we still have a record of which we can very much hold our head up high in terms of international development.’

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy wrote on Twitter: ‘On Monday, just days before world leaders arrive in Cornwall to discuss the global response to the pandemic, the Government faces defeat over its short-sighted and self-defeating decision to slash aid.

‘The Conservatives should do the right thing and reverse this cut.’

Conservative former minister Caroline Nokes, one of the amendment signatories, told ITV’s Peston: ‘It’s taken quite a lot of manoeuvring to find an opportunity to actually have a vote on this.

‘I feel really strongly that we legislated for the 0.7 per cent commitment and the cuts are affecting women and girls.

‘I am chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, the cuts of 85 per cent to family planning, the cuts to girls’ education – what we know from that is that if girls are not educated they won’t be empowered, they won’t be empowered if they are pregnant too early.

Conservative former minister Caroline Nokes, one of the amendment signatories, criticised the government for failing to have a vote on the change

‘Women will die because of these cuts to family planning so I have joined forces with colleagues to make sure we can have a vote on it and I will be voting to keep that 0.7 per cent.’

Asked if the amendment would be binding on the Government, Ms Nokes said: ‘I think it’s very unclear at the moment and what we’ve seen the Government do so far is what I’d describe as cuts by stealth.

‘So there hasn’t been an opportunity for Parliament to express its view on this with a vote.

‘I very much hope it will be binding.

‘I don’t want to see the Government try and find a way out of a commitment that we all signed up to just a few short years ago.’ 

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