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Tue, 26 January 2021

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Backbench Tories Are Threatening A Rebellion Over Threats To The Overseas Aid Budget

Backbench Tories Are Threatening A Rebellion Over Threats To The Overseas Aid Budget
3 min read

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell is understood to be rallying backbenchers to vote down any reduction to the 0.7% overseas aid budget.

Speculation is mounting that tomorrow's spending review will include a temporary reduction in the UK's overseas aid budget from the long-held commitment of spending 0.7% to 0.5% of naitonal income. 

The pledge is enshrined in law through the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act and any change may require fresh legislation.

Ahead of tomorrow's announcement, expected to be made by chancellor Rishi Sunak, Tories are understood to be rallying their numbers in anticipation that they may need to vote down any changes. 

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab is expected to make a final round of calls this evening to try and appease Tory colleagues. 

Mr Mitchell told PoliticsHome: "I totally support the Chancellor's desire to be fiscally responsible and to make clear to the markets that he has a plan but tampering with 0.7% is the wrong thing to do, it's not just a manifesto promise, it's a promise to the poorest people in the world.

"A 30% cut would effectively take a million girls out of school in the poorest parts of the world and lead to 100,000 avoidable deaths. 

"Britain is about to take the chair of the G7 group and reveal from the Integrated Review what Global Britain means. In my view, it doesn't mean this."

Former international development secretary Justine Greening, who stood down as an MP in 2019, has also told PoliticsHome on the eve of the Spending Review that she is against a cut.

She said: “Levelling up, creating access to opportunities so that people can have a better life and fulfil their potential isn’t just a domestic challenge, it’s a global challenge alongside delivering on net zero. 

“Britain must lead from the front and continue its commitment to 0.7%. If levelling up is a priority at home, it must hold that it remains a priority abroad.”

Chair of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood, tweeted that "reducing our soft power programmes fuels instability & our absence is exploited by hostile competitors, incl. China, diminishing UK influence & potential future trade."

Former first secretary of state Damian Green said he would oppose any cut to the overseas aid budget. 

Chair of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat has also signalled he would be against a reduction in the budget. 

A Tory source said: "The scale of the row that would result over this is undoubtedly a threat to the government's majority. 

"Andrew Mitchell is a former chief whip and he will know what he is doing with the numbers."

Nearly 200 UK humanitarian, development and domestic charity leaders, including Save the Children, Greenpeace UK, UNICEF UK and Friends of the Earth, are calling on the government to reconsider plans to reduce the proportion the UK spends on aid.

The speculated drop in the aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income would amount to around £4bn. 

A government spokesperson said: "The government is absolutely committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people. Our priority is to ensure every pound we spend on development goes as far as possible and makes a world-leading difference."

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