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Foreign Aid: Caroline Nokes issues warning over plans to cut budget

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The Prime Minister is under pressure to reverse his decision to slash its foreign aid budget from 0.8 percent of national income to 0.5 percent. Over a dozen Tory backbenchers are rebelling against the plan, including former Prime Minister Theresa May. The rebels are hoping to force new legislation to see aid spending increase by 2022.

The group, led by Andrew Mitchel, the former Tory Chief Whip, have tabled an amendment that would force ministers to reinstate a legally-binding target of spending 0.7 percent of national income from next January.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will decide whether the amendment is selected for consideration when the bill returns to the Commons for further consideration on Monday.

A total of 45 Tory MPs are needed for the amendment to pass.

Mr Mitchell said: “Every single member of the House of Commons was elected on a very clear manifesto promise to stand by this commitment.

“I have repeatedly urged the Government to obey the law and implored ministers to reconsider breaking this commitment.

“The cuts are now having a devastating impact on the ground and are leading to unnecessary loss of life.”

He added: “We urge the Government to think again, or we shall be asking Parliament to reaffirm the law as it stands so as to oblige the Government to meet its legal commitment, keep its very clear pledge to British voters and uphold Britain’s promise to the rest of the world.”

Other rebel MPs include Mrs May’s former deputy Damian Green and Johnny Mercer, who recently resigned as defence minister over spending cuts.

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Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and ex-aid minister Sir Desmond Swayne are also supporting the amendment.

Last year Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the UK would cut aid spending from 0.7 percent of national income to 0.5 percent – a reduction of more than £4billion.

The Government said Covid meant tough but necessary decisions were needed as the pandemic had badly affected public finances.

Mr Johnson had committed to maintaining foreign aid spending at the higher rate in his 2019 election manifesto.

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The cuts to aid were condemned at the time and critics have said the decision will result in tens of thousands of deaths in other parts of the world.

The Government was also criticised for not having a Commons vote on the decision.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy has called on the Government to reverse the cut.

She wrote on Twitter: “On Monday, just days before world leaders arrive in Cornwall to discuss the global response to the pandemic, the Government faces defeat over its short-sighted and self-defeating decision to slash aid.

“The Conservatives should do the right thing and reverse this cut.”

The Prime Minister has defended his decision, claiming it was needed to repair the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A Government spokesperson told the BBC the pandemic had “forced us to take tough but necessary decisions” on foreign spending.

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