MPs join the rebellion against UK foreign aid cuts

Rebellion against government plan to slash UK aid grows as MPs support amendment to restore 0.7% aid spending by 2022
3 min read
03 June, 2021
Thirty Tory rebels support amendment to restore 0.7% gross national income on overseas aid by 2022.
Rumours of rebellion come from cross-party distain over the government's plan to slash the Overseas Development Fund [Getty Images]

A rebellion against the UK government's plan to slash UK’s overseas development aid is growing, as 30 Conservative MPs supported an amendment to reverse the spending cuts by 2022.

The Tory rebels are led by former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and include former Prime Minister Theresa May.

The amendment, which was tabled on Wednesday night, will oblige the government to meet its manifesto pledge to spend 0.7 percent of the gross national income (GNI) on overseas aid by next year.

Several charities, including Save The Children, have criticised the government’s proposed cut saying it will put tens of thousands of children at risk of malnutrition and famine in places like Yemen and South Sudan.

With our economy returning to growth, there is no justification for balancing the books on the backs of the world’s poor

Plans to slash the aid budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent GNI, due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, were announced as a temporary measure last November.

Despite backlash from several of the UK’s leading charities and aid organisations, the government continued with its proposal which could see £4 billion directed away from overseas aid programmes.

This would lead to the UK cutting assistance to Syria by almost a third and Yemen by nearly 60 percent, according to Devex.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the 0.7 percent expenditure will be restored when the situation allows it but gave no indication of when that might be.

The House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will not decide whether the amendment is tabled for discussion. The amendment would add a new clause to the Advance Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) bill, which has its report stage in the House of Commons on Monday.

Voices

The bill needs 40 plus Conservative rebels to defeat the government’s proposed cut. 

In a statement shared with The New Arab, Mitchell said: "More and more of my colleagues in the House of Commons are supporting this move to stand by our manifesto promise. With our economy returning to growth, there is no justification for balancing the books on the backs of the world's poor."

His statement referred to the G7 summit next week, where Boris and Carrie Johnson will host several world leaders in Cornwall.

Mitchell said this is an opportunity for the UK "to reclaim our rightful place on the global stage.

“Britain’s national interest is not being served by the devastating impact these cuts are already having on the ground and the unnecessary loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. We urge the government to think again."

Health Secretary Matt Handcock, who is in Oxford at the G7 health submit, told Sky News: "We have a very generous international aid programme. We have very difficult fiscal times here in the UK because of the pandemic."