THE JOHNSON government faces a substantial rebellion in the House of Commons today and it could be facing defeat, with more than 30 Tory rebels, including several former ministers including ex-PM Teresa May, set to vote against the foreign aid budget cuts.
Last year, Tory ministers decided to reduce this year’s spending on overseas aid from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%, saying it was hard to ‘justify’.
The Johnson government announced the cut without changing a 2015 law, which had made the 0.7% of GDP target for foreign aid legally binding.
The rebel Tories, including Damian Green, Stephen Crabb and Johnny Mercer, are seeking to reverse the cuts by voting to amend legislation related to a new scientific research agency.
Their amendment – which will need the support of more Tory MPs to pass – would oblige the agency to make up any shortfall from the 0.7% target from January 2022.
It will be up to the House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to decide today whether the amendment is within the scope of the bill and whether it should be put to a vote, although yesterday’s bourgeois press was predicting that he is expected to do so.
Dozens of charities, including Oxfam and ActionAid UK, wrote to Johnson over the weekend, saying the cuts have caused ‘devastation’ that could undermine the UK’s credibility at the upcoming G7 summit.
In the letter they said there is ‘no justifiable economic need’ for the cuts worth almost £4bn a year.
The charities, including Save the Children, WWF UK and Cafod, said the reduction has already led to the closure of feeding centres and clinics – and forced the cancellation of projects including water sanitation and training for healthcare workers.
The letter was sent as the UK prepares to host leaders from the G7 group of major economies to a summit in Cornwall this week.
Leaders from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will join three days of face-to-face meetings from Friday, during their first visit to the UK since the pandemic was declared in March last year.
In their letter to Johnson, the charities said the foreign aid cuts will ‘cast a shadow’ over the UK’s ability to persuade G7 partners to pursue development goals, and any calls to do more on issues such as education and famine prevention would ‘ring hollow’.
‘While other G7 countries have stepped up their aid budget, the UK is the only one to have rowed back on its commitments,’ they said.
‘As a result, families are going hungry, girls are not going to school, women’s rights are being sidelined, persons with disabilities are being further left behind, vaccines are expiring on shelves, and diseases are being allowed to spread and we are reneging on our commitment to lead from the front on tackling climate-change.’
The letter was signed by more than 1,700 academics, charities and business