Wednesday, October 20

Conservative rebellion fuels cuts to UK aid spending | Conservatives


The government faces a growing rebellion over aid spending cuts, and senior conservatives say it is likely to be defeated if it asks MPs to vote on the issue.

Cuts to UK aid to Yemen, which is facing a humanitarian crisis, are said to have galvanized secondary opposition to broader cuts, which is now enough to cause the government serious difficulties in passing a vote in the Commons. or the Lords.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said the government should vote as soon as possible to test the opinion of MPs.

“This week’s announcement on Yemen has further alienated the view of breaking a promise to the poorest and the overt commitment by which we were all elected,” he said. “It is the first cut that will come, but many more will come. Now, instead of the story being “British Leadership Fighting Poverty”, the story is “Britain cuts its support and keeps cutting back.” It has made people feel and think. “

The UK has announced that it will give Yemen around £ 87 million in aid this year, down from £ 164 million in 2020. On Wednesday, Boris Johnson blamed the pandemic for the decision to cut spending, saying it was due to the “current difficult circumstances,” and said, “I think the people of this country will think we have our priorities right.”

In last year’s spending review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the UK would temporarily cut its aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income. MPs have said the decline is likely to become permanent, with one MP describing the idea that the government would one day choose to increase aid spending again as “for the birds.”

The 0.7% target is enshrined in law, which means the government should advance a vote to lower it, but no timetable has been announced.

In this week’s budget, the Office for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development, which has subsumed the Department for International Development, had its departmental budget cut from £ 12.7 billion to £ 9.9 billion.

Rogue conservatives who oppose the aid cut are not expected to move in the vote on budget resolutions, but they may seek to amend the finance bill, although sources acknowledged that it may be difficult to pull off.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defense select committee, said many backbenchers would find it difficult to support a cut that would be seen as a withdrawal from the international stage.

“With 2021 as an opportunity to step forward, after several years in which we have been hesitant and risk-averse and perhaps neglected traditional global leadership, this was the year we are chairmen of the G7 and hosts of the Cop26, which can reinvigorate our international resolve, and this does not sit well with cutting the aid budget, which has already had an impact on support for Yemen, ”he said.

“There is no question that many backbenchers have focused on domestic issues, but we are witnessing a rejuvenation of the American determination to play a much more responsible leadership role. And it doesn’t feel good when we are normally absolutely aligned in our political courage to work together with the United States.

“However, we are still exporting to the war in Yemen, we have not followed the example of the US. [in suspending arm sales to Saudi Arabia]. There is a determination to see Britain go a couple of speeds, particularly emerging from this pandemic, and take a fresh look at the world. I hope this resonates with the government. “

On Thursday, Edward Leigh, a former chairman of the public accounts committee and a deputy generally associated with the right-wing conservative party, went into hiding to say he would oppose the cuts, saying the aid had been “good for our international position.”

Leigh criticized Sunak for not addressing the issue on the budget. “The ministers have not published anything about the cuts already made. Neither was anything released along with Rishi Sunak’s budget yesterday or the spending review last November, “Leigh wrote in the Evening standard.

“The only statements made by [foreign secretary Dominic] Raab to parliament have been his priority areas. Nothing about the failures or failures of the aid budget and nothing to show that 0.7% [aid spending target] It has not offered a good value for money “.


www.theguardian.com

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