Boris Johnson has been spared an immediate Tory revolt over cuts to Britain’s overseas aid budget after a Commons move to reverse the decision was ruled out of order by the Speaker.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle ruled the proposed change to the Bill setting up the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria) – which would have forced the new body to make up the funding to meet the target to spend 0.7% of national income on aid – was outside the scope of the legislation.
However he rebuked ministers for not giving the Commons the opportunity to vote on the decision to suspend the 0.7% goal, which was enshrined in legislation.
He indicated he would consider applications for an emergency debate on the issue on Tuesday.
“I expect that the Government should find a way to have this important matter debated and to allow the House formally to take an effective decision,” he said.
“I should say that, on an exceptional basis, I will consider whether to hear any Standing Order Number 24 applications at 5.30pm today, for a debate to be held tomorrow.”
Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, who led the rebellion, said the Government could have lost by up to 20 votes if there had been a division, despite a working majority of more than 80.
“The Government frontbench is treating the House of Commons with disrespect,” he told MPs.
“They are avoiding a vote on the commitments that each of us made individually and collectively at the last general election, on a promise made internationally, and in the opinion of some of Britain’s leading lawyers the Government is acting unlawfully.
“Had we secured a vote on the new clause tonight, I can assure the House it would have secured the assent of the House by not less than a majority of nine and probably of around 20 votes.
“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.”