Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

Foreign aid vote TODAY: Rebel Tories plot to force humiliating defeat on Rishi Sunak

Jacqui Smith clashes with Tom Bowers during foreign aid debate

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Last year the Government announced it was cutting the budget from 0.7 percent of Gross National Income to 0.5 percent in light of the pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged the measure would be temporary and the spending would once again increase when “the fiscal situation allows”.

However, the decision sparked anger across the House with Conservative MPs demanding a vote on budget cut.

Rebel Tories have threatened to force a vote on the matter for weeks, joining with the Labour Party to force defeat on the Government.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has also been vocal in criticising ministers for failing to hold a vote and threatened to take steps to ensure MPs had a say if the Government failed to schedule a debate on the issue.

Yesterday Mr Rees-Mogg said the Government was calling the rebels’ bluff by holding a vote on the matter today.

He told MPs: “The motion will be that this House has considered the written ministerial statement relating to the Treasury update on international aid, which was laid before this House on Monday 12th July.

“The debate will be for three hours and the decision will be binding upon Her Majesty’s Government.”

Making the announcement he warned there would be “consequences” if MPs voted in favour of a return to the 0.7 percent.

The timing gave Conservative backbenchers looking to defeat the motion less than 24 hours to try and persuade colleagues to back them in the vote.

Hinting at tax rises if MPs vote against the Government, he said: “Votes have consequences and if the motion were to be negative that would be a significant consequence for our fiscal situation.

“I would remind the House the over £400billion has had to be spent because of the coronavirus pandemic and yet we remain one the most generous nations in terms of overseas aid.”

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Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative former chief whip, is leading the rebellion against the suit in aid contribution.

He has previously claimed he has the numbers to defeat the Government in a vote.

Up to 50 Tories are thought to be against the decrease in spending, including former Prime Minister Theresa May.

In a bid to reach a compromise to kill the rebellion, the Treasury has this evening set out the circumstances for returning to 0.7 percent in the future.

Officials say the Government is committed to increasing spending again once “the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s fiscal forecast says that, on a sustainable basis, the UK is not borrowing to finance day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling”.

They say setting out the criteria is proof ministers are serious about returning to the 0.7 percent at a future date.

The UK is bound to spend 0.7 percent of GNI on international aid by law.

However, ministers have said the legislation includes provisions for the target to be met in extraordinary circumstances.

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