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Government Is Facing A Major Tory Rebellion Over Foreign Aid Cuts

Boris Johnson is facing a backbench revolt of the plans to cut foreign aid funding (PA)

2 min read

The government is facing a significant backbench rebellion over their decision to slash the UK's foreign aid budget.

Tory MPs could inflict the first defeat on Boris Johnson's government on Monday after a raft of senior figures vowed to overturn the government's plans.

It comes after it was announced earlier this year that the UK's foreign aid budget would be cut from 0.7% of national income each year to 0.5%.

Ministers said the "temporary" cut was needed as a result of pressure on the nation's finances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, adding the scaled-back programme would focus on the government's "core priorities". 

But senior Conservative MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, have given their backing to an amendement which would force the PM to reverse the planned cut.

It comes after widespread criticism from aid groups and civil society leaders who claimed the decision could put tens of thousands of lives at risk in countries which are currently supported by UK aid funding.

Conservative former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, who is leading the Commons effort, has already won the support of 30 of his colleagues – just short of the 40 MPs needed to defeat the government.Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood said he was "confident" that the group would secure enough support to overturn Johnson's 85-seat working majority.

The group plan to use an amendement to legislation needed to set up the new "high-risk high reward" Advanced Research and Invention Agency to reverse the cuts, setting the stage for a major Commons clash on Monday.

The amendment has also received backing from fromer foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, former aid minister Sir Desmond Swayne and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat.

Former Tory minister Caroline Nokes, who has signed the amendment, said it had taken "quite a lot of manoeuvering to find an opportunity to actually have a vote on this".

"I feel really strongly that we legislated for the 0.7% commitment and the cuts are affecting women and girls," she 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."

She added: "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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