Boris Johnson ‘to deny Tory rebels vote on foreign aid cuts’

Boris Johnson will hold firm against a band of Tory rebels and deny them a vote on cuts to the UK’s aid budget, The Telegraph understands.

Whitehall sources said the Prime Minister was unlikely to give the 50 rebels a chance to reverse a £4 billion cut to the budget, despite reports that a vote could come before the summer recess of Parliament on July 22.

The MPs, who count Theresa May among their number, say the Government’s temporary reduction of Whitehall’s aid spend from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent will lead to deaths in developing countries that rely on it.

They point to a reduction in funding for polio vaccines, girls’ education, clean water and humanitarian relief in Yemen and Syria.

The rebels launched an attempt to sink the plans last month by tagging an amendment on the aid cuts to another bill, but were foiled by the Commons Speaker, who ruled that it was out of scope.

Foreign aid rebellion poll

Ministers say the budget must be trimmed to reduce the Treasury’s deficit, worth hundreds of billions of pounds, which was created by Covid bailout spending.

Despite reports Mr Johnson was willing to offer a parliamentary vote to the rebels to prevent another hostile amendment, government sources said any concessions were unlikely.

A source said no agreement had been reached with the rebels to time-limit the cut so the budget would be increased again next year.

The source also pointed to the limited number of days left in the parliamentary calendar before the summer recess.

It is understood that the aid cuts have been a point of contention between Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary.

Mr Sunak is resistant to any compromise between the Government and the rebels that could jeopardise the Treasury’s balance sheet any further.

‘Devastating impact’

The 0.7 per cent spend is a legal commitment, but only requires ministers to report to Parliament why it has not been met if the Government spends any less.

Ministers say the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the Government’s spending on vaccines in developing countries justifies the decrease.

But Conservative backbenchers say foreign aid should be exempt from any wider Whitehall cuts and point to a commitment in the party’s 2019 manifesto to maintain the 0.7 per cent spend.

The rebels believe they have the numbers to defeat the Government if the cut was put to the Commons in a vote.

Mrs May led the charge against the Prime Minister in Parliament last month, telling Mr Johnson the cut would “have a devastating impact on the poorest in the world and damage the UK”.

Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary, said it was ministers who are the true “rebels,” because they had torn up a “clear and indisputable commitment”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *