‘Don’t be hoodwinked’: Aid cuts will be permanent if government wins vote today, Tory rebel warns

‘Frankly, if the government get their way today that we can kiss goodbye to the 0.7%’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 13 July 2021 11:13
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Tory MP Andrew Mitchell warns of permanent aid cuts if Government wins vote

The £4bn-a-year overseas aid cuts will become permanent if the government wins a crucial vote today, the leading Tory rebel is warning – urging MPs not to be “hoodwinked”.

Andrew Mitchell poured scorn on a new Treasury plan that, ministers claim, would restore the cuts when the economy improves, branding it “a fiscal trap”.

One analysis has concluded the tests – no unsustainable borrowing for day-to-day spending and falling underlying debt – will not be passed before the next election, scheduled for 2024.

Mr Mitchell said: “Any of my colleagues who are satisfied by that, frankly, are being hoodwinked. The terms the Treasury have set are a fiscal trap

“Frankly, if the government get their way today that we can kiss goodbye to the 0.7,” he said – referring to the legal commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid.

Aid has been slashed by around £4bn a year – breaking a Tory manifesto pledge and, potentially, the law – with no date for restoring the “temporary” reduction, which could be years away.

In a major U-turn, MPs have been granted a binding vote, on Tuesday, to reverse the cuts from next year, but threatened with tax hikes and other spending cuts if they defy the government.

Around 50 Tory MPs are thought ready to rebel – enough to win the vote – but Mr Mitchell stepped back from expressing confidence that they will win, saying: “We will see what will happen today.”

Some potential rebels are believed to have jumped sides – but there are also allegations of dirty tricks and suggestions that some were never expected rebels in the first place.

Mr Mitchell pointed out that every MP had been elected on a manifesto of spending 0.7 per cent of income on aid, a proportion that has now been slashed to 0.5 per cent.

“It is frankly staggering, that the government’s only cut – the only cut the government has made – is to spending to help the poorest people on the planet.

“In the middle of a pandemic, when this amounts to approximately 1 per cent of the borrowing on Covid in the last year.”

Peter Ricketts, the former Foreign Office permanent secretary, backed the rebels, saying: “If MPs accept the Treasury’s conditions for restoring 0.7 per cent, it would mean that the only part of government spending that is dependent on the performance of the economy is the part that goes to help the world’s poorest in the middle of a pandemic.”

And Daniel Willis, campaigns manager at the campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “Despite this government’s repeated attempts to deny MPs a vote on aid cuts, democracy has finally won out.

“But ministers are using every trick in the book to avoid a humiliating defeat in the Commons, rushing this debate through the House with virtually no notice on the same day as major health legislation – and with no clarity on whether it will be amendable.”

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