Johnson blocks Commons vote on overseas aid cuts

Downing Street has signalled that Boris Johnson has no intention of giving MPs a vote on its decision to cut Britain’s overseas aid budget despite growing anger among some Tory MPs.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said ministers were acting within the law in suspending the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on aid – even though it is enshrined in legislation.

The move puts the Government on a collision course with the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle as well as many of its own backbenchers, who are seeking to reverse the cuts.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said MPs should be given an ‘effective’ say on aid cuts (House of Commons/PA)

On Monday, Sir Lindsay ruled an attempt by rebel Tories to amend an unrelated Bill going through Parliament to force the Government to backtrack was out of order.

However, he made clear he believed MPs should be given the opportunity to take an “effective decision” on the cuts.

He suggested that if ministers were not prepared to allow a vote, the Commons would “look to find other ways in which we can move forward”.

However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted the Government was acting in line with the International Development Act 2015, which allows for the suspension of the 0.7% target in exceptional circumstances such as the pandemic.

Theresa May
Theresa May is among the Tory rebels (House of Commons/PA)

“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.”

The warning is likely to intensify anger towards the Government among Conservative rebels – including former prime minister Theresa May – who have warned its actions may be unlawful and will lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

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The rebel leader, former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, said if there had been a vote on Monday the Government would have lost by up to 20, despite a working majority in the Commons of more than 80.

MPs will vent their concerns in an emergency three-hour debate – although any vote would be purely symbolic as it would not be binding on the Government.

Nevertheless, the row is potentially embarrassing for Mr Johnson has he prepares to host world leaders at the G7 summit in Cornwall later this week.