‘Not democracy’ to deny MPs a vote on overseas aid cuts

Ministers are acting like some African states who defy democracy by denying MPs the chance to vote on overseas aid cuts, former minister Andrew Mitchell has said.

Downing Street has confirmed it will refuse to grant MPs a vote on the cuts despite a specific demand from the House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, after parliamentary procedure denied a vote on an amendment to restore the cut.

MPs forced the issue on to the agenda before the G7 summit this weekend, where Boris Johnson is likely to face questions from global leaders about the UK’s decision to cut billions from the aid budget, cutting the commitment from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) a 0.5%.

At a debate on the issue on Tuesday, Mitchell said rebels would have easily defeated the government on Monday, with opponents of the cut including 16 former ministers such as David Davis, Jeremy Hunt and Karen Bradley and a number of select committee chairs, including Tom Tugendhat and Tobias Ellwood.

Mitchell said they would continue to seek a binding vote in the House of Commons to overturn the cut. “We seek the meaningful vote whether the government can break our promise and arguably our law. I see Mr Speaker and I and my honourable friends are described as rebels. It is the government that is rebelling against its indisputable commitments," él dijo.

He said many senior MPs were backing his move to restore the cuts but also said new MPs were risking being “tarred and feathered by the government whips’ office” to speak out on the issue.

Mitchell said: “It is precisely because the government fears it would lose [a vote] that it is not calling one. That is not democracy. When countries behave like that in Africa, we say that they have got it wrong.

“The government and executive are accountable to parliament not the other way round … especially on issues of supply, and that applies in all circumstances whether the government is being run by Charles I or Boris Johnson.”

Mitchell said the cut was like “buying a car and shaking on £15k, then doing a runner while the poor fellow is counting the cash to find it’s only £10k. It’s not proper, it’s fundamentally un-British and we shouldn’t behave in this way.”

He also criticised comments he said he had heard in conversations with the government about the cuts that it was widely supported by the public. “The government thinks it’s popular in the red wall seats to stop money going overseas," él dijo, calling that a “very patronising attitude to people who live in those seats because when these famines and disasters and floods take place it’s the people in these seats who are the first to raise money though car boot sales and pub quizzes”.

Former prime minister Theresa May said she had been moved to oppose the cut particularly because of the impact it would have on tackling modern slavery, one of her flagship premiership themes.

She said the global fund to end modern slavery was having its funding cut by 80%, with programmes cut including those aimed at ending child sexual slavery. “The UK has been the world leader in tackling modern slavery. Now we see organisations having to go cap in hand to other governments to make up for the shortfall caused by the UK government decision," ella dijo.

She said the cuts would have an impact on the streets of the UK, including making it more likely people would seek asylum in Britain as well as cutting programmes with refugees undertaken by the Home Office.

Speaking for the government, Steve Barclay said £4.3bn was required to reverse the overseas aid cut. The Treasury minister said: “Decisions such as this are not easy. The situation in short is this: a hugely difficult economic and fiscal situation, which requires in turn difficult actions.

“Given our commitment to fiscal sustainability, we could offset that by either raising taxes or by cutting public spending – and to put that in context, a 1p increase in the basic rate of income tax or around a 1% increase in the standard rate of VAT, at a time when taxes are at an historic high.”

Mitchell, intervening, dicho: “The Treasury really must do better than that – 1p on income tax is worth nearly £6bn so it’s much less than 1p.”





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