Charities 'bitterly disappointed' by government refusal to allow vote on aid cuts

08 Jun 2021 News

The government’s continued refusal to let MPs vote on international aid cuts is “nothing short of shameful”, Bond said yesterday.

Ministers are pushing ahead with plans to reduce aid spending without a vote in parliament, even though the cuts break a promise made in the Conservative’s 2019 general election manifesto.

Bond, which represents more than 400 international development bodies, said that the government was “stepping back” from its global responsibilities.

The latest attempt by MPs to force a vote in parliament, through an amendment to existing legislation, failed on Monday when it was rejected by the House of Commons speaker.

There will be an emergency debate on aid cuts in parliament today instead, although this vote will not be binding on the government.

Manifesto pledge broken

The Conservative manifesto, published in the run up to the 2019 general election, pledged to maintain aid spending at 0.7% of gross national income (GNI).

However, the government abolished the Department for International Development (DFID), which oversees most of this spending, in the summer. It later announced that aid spending would be reduced to 0.5% of GNI, leading to cuts to programmes all over the world.

The government has said that the move was justified because of the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. Responding to the programme cuts at the time, campaigners said they were already having “an enormous and damaging impact on small charities”.

Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative DFID minister, tried to introduce an amendment to legislation yesterday which would have allowed MPs to vote on aid cuts, but the House of Commons speaker did not choose that amendment for debate.

Responding to that decision, Bond said: “It is regretful that the amendment to reinstate the 0.7% aid target has not been picked today. 

“The government’s continued attempts to prevent parliament from having a meaningful and effective say on whether the aid cuts should be reversed is nothing short of shameful. 

“Too many aid and development programmes helping the most marginalised people have been closed down, taking away the basics, clean water and sanitation, vaccinations or education for children, food and shelter during conflict.

“How can the UK expect other G7 nations to step forward, when we ourselves are stepping back, despite knowing there is no economic need for us to balance our books on the backs of the world's poorest people? 

“The government should live up to its manifesto commitment and reverse cuts to the aid budget urgently or give parliament a say.”

Action Aid: Disappointed

Action Aid said on Twitter that it was “bitterly disappointed” by the latest setback.

Oxfam: Government must keep its promise to voters

Sam Nadel, the head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam GB, said: “It is bitterly disappointing that parliament missed today’s opportunity to vote on keeping its promise to voters and the world’s most vulnerable people by restoring the 0.7% pledge. 

“Devastating cuts to the UK’s aid budget risk the lives of thousands of people already struggling to survive in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises as well as cope with the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.

“As the country prepares to welcome G7 leaders, the government continues to undermine the UK’s credibility on the international stage while its commitments to the world’s poorest are abandoned.”

Future votes

Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, called on the government to allow MPs to vote on the cuts.

He told parliament: “The House [of Commons] has not had an opportunity for a decisive vote on maintaining the UK’s commitment to the statutory target of 0.7%. 

“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.”

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