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Furious Tory MPs say Boris Johnson is slashing foreign aid as part of ‘woke wars’ because he thinks Red Wall voters like the idea – as PM dismisses demand from Speaker Lindsay Hoyle for Commons to decide
- An emergency debate being held in the Commons over the foreign aid target cut
- Lindsay Hoyle rejected rebel bid to hijack legislation on research body yesterday
- Speaker has demanded the government calls a vote on the change in the target
Furious Tory MPs today accused Boris Johnson of slashing aid to curry favour with Red Wall – as the PM defied Speaker Lindsay Hoyle’s call for the Commons to take the final decision.
During an impassioned debate on the policy, former chief whip Andrew Mitchell branded the cut to the 0.7 per cent target an ‘unethical and unlawful betrayal’.
And he suggest that the move was part of the wider ‘woke wars’ designed to appeal to former Labour heartlands.
‘It’s not proper and it’s fundamentally un-British and we shouldn’t behave in this way,’ Mr Mitchell said.
‘It’s about the Red Wall seats. The Government thinks that it’s popular in the Red Wall seats to stop British aid, money going overseas. It’s also a very patronising attitude to people who live in the Red Wall seats.’
Ex-PM Theresa May also waded in, saying that Mr Johnson must change course to ‘save lives’. ‘This cut from 0.7 per cent will have a devastating impact on the poorest in the world and it will damage the UK,’ she said.
Sir Lindsay yesterday killed off a bid by Tory rebels to hijack legislation for a new research agency in order to force a return to the target of allocating 0.7 per cent of national income to aid.
However, he made clear he expects ministers to give the House a binding vote after the commitment – enshrined in legislation – was lowered to 0.5 per cent in response to the pandemic.
That idea was given short shrift by the PM’s official spokesman this afternoon.
‘We are acting in accordance with the act as set out. It explicitly envisages the circumstances which we now face which is this global pandemic,’ the spokesman said.
‘There are certainly no plans to bring forward a vote.’
Senior MPs including Theresa May (right) and ex-Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell (left) turned their fire on the government over slashing spending in an emergency debate in the Commons this afternoon
The IFS has estimated how much spending is set to fall if the lower aid target is maintained
Motions for emergency debates must be neutral, typically stating that the Commons has considered a question, but the session should give an indication of the mood of MPs.
Rebel leader Mr Mitchell, a former international development secretary, has claimed that the government would have lost the hoped-for vote last night by up to 20 – despite a Tory majority of more than 80.
He told MPs ministers were ‘riding roughshod’ over Parliament.
‘In the week of the British chairmanship of the G7, the Government’s failure to address this issue will indisputably mean that hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths will result,’ he said.
While there was relief in Downing Street at avoiding the showdown last night days before the summit in Cornwall, the issue is not going away.
A Government spokesman said that its actions were in line with the International Development Act 2015 which explicitly envisaged there may be circumstances when the 0.7 per cent target is not met.
The spokesman said they remained committed to restoring the target ‘when the fiscal situation allows’.
‘The impact of the pandemic on the public finances has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions on how we spend taxpayers’ money, including temporarily reducing the aid budget to 0.5 per cent of GNI (gross national income),’ the spokesman said.
‘In 2021 we will still spend more than £10billion to improve global health, fight poverty and tackle climate change – making us one of the biggest aid donors in the G7.’
Sir Lindsay (left) yesterday killed off a bid by rebels to hijack legislation for a new research agency in order to force Boris Johnson (right) to return to the target of allocating 0.7 per cent of national income to aid