LONDON: UK MPs are “cautiously optimistic” that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be forced to abandon planned cuts to the country’s foreign aid budget.
The government has faced criticism from across the political spectrum for proposing a cut in foreign aid from 0.7 percent of national income to 0.5 percent.
A group of 30 Tory rebels, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, is promoting an amendment that would push through new legislation to make up the shortfall left by the cut.
Tom Tugendhat MP, who is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told Sky News: “We’re cautiously optimistic, but the reality is that what we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to make sure that Britain’s foreign footprint, that global Britain, really means something.
“I think that’s absolutely vital to making sure we achieve our ambitions and our potential. The reality is Britain has a huge opportunity to shape the world at the moment of extraordinary flux and this, along with our defense and diplomatic and trade capabilities, is part of that, so I’m absolutely committed to making sure Britain really is great on the international stage.”
According to The Sunday Telegraph, the rebel group has offered to drop the amendment if the government agrees to reinstate the 0.7 percent figure in 2022.
The government said that economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was behind the decision to cut aid expenditure.
Musician and activist Bob Geldof told the BBC that the planned cuts were “morally indefensible.”
He said: “It doesn’t make any sense economically, financially, politically, diplomatically and of course morally, or in the humanitarian consequences of it. I’m very much afraid that something we’re told is temporary will become permanent.”
Critics of the cut, including charities and high-profile business leaders, believe the reduction will result in thousands of deaths in some of the world’s most impoverished countries.
Geldof added: “We just don’t take the piece of bread from that child’s mouth in Yemen. We don’t do it. We don’t snatch the one textbook it’s ever had in its life from its only tin-shack school. We don’t fire the teachers and nurses from the tin-shack hospitals and it’s not in our interest to do that. We don’t do that. It’s political misfiring. Tory voters are essentially prudent, but they’re not cruel. This is cruel.”
A letter to the government from charities including Oxfam, Save the Children and WWF UK has claimed that the aid cuts could “undermine Britain’s credibility” ahead of the G7 summit this week.
Leaders of major countries, including Germany and the US, will travel to the UK for three days of meetings, with a focus on how the group can lead a global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.