Northeast Conservative Richard Holden has defended Boris Johnson’s decision to cut aid budget – as the PM faces a rebellion from senior Tories determined to force him to turn back.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May and former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell are calling on Mr Johnson to reverse his decision to cut £ 4.3 billion in aid to the world’s poorest countries.
David Davis, a former leadership candidate, is also among the rebels.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mitchell called the cut “unethical and illegal treason”.
And he said Mr Johnson’s government was cutting life-saving aid because he believed the move would be popular with voters in the so-called “red wall” seats in the North and Midlands.
But Mr Holden, MP for North West Durham, one of the seats on the Red Wall, explained why he supported the Prime Minister.
He said: “The UK is a world leader in international aid, having been the only major developed country to have consistently achieved the 0.7% target since 2013.
“In this time of economic and health emergency in the UK, we need to be able to get our economy and public finances back in order as quickly as possible.
“Those who want to see aid spending increase immediately should explain either the taxes they would increase or the spending they would reduce to achieve it. At the moment, I don’t see any good or sane options in a way. or the other. “
The Conservative Party pledged in the 2019 general election to devote 0.7% of the country’s national income to overseas development. Other parties have made similar promises. But the government is now reducing that figure to 0.5%, saying it needs to save money due to the Covid pandemic.
The Tory rebels had initially hoped to organize a vote in the House of Commons demanding a turnaround. They say they would have won, because Conservative backbenchers would have joined with Labor and other opposition parties to vote against the government.
But their attempt to force a vote on Monday was ruled out of order. Instead, backbenchers got a debate today, where they demanded the government allow them to hold a legally binding vote. They also aim to put as much pressure as possible on Mr Johnson ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, which begins on Friday, when the Prime Minister meets with other world leaders.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Ms May warned the government that cutting aid spending “will have a devastating impact on the world’s poorest and hurt the UK”.
She said: “I urge the government to restore the 0.7% – this is what it has promised, it will show that we are acting according to our values and it will save lives.”
But Treasury Minister Steve Barclay defended the cut, saying borrowing increased during the pandemic. He said: “We are absolutely clear on our intentions to return to 0.7% of our national income on foreign aid when the tax situation allows, but we cannot do it yet. We will, however, keep the matter under close and regular examination.
“But for now, the hard choice is the right choice.”