The U.K. government will not grant members of Parliament a vote on cuts to the aid budget, according to Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons.
MP Mark Pawsey asked if changes to the legally enshrined spending target for aid — 0.7% of gross national income — could be made after a parliamentary vote.
Rees-Mogg replied that development legislation “sets out very clearly” what happens if the 0.7% target is not met.
“It requires the secretary of state to make a statement to the House — that is the proper parliamentary procedure. It’s been laid down in statute, and that is what will happen on occasions when the 0.7 target is not met. And that’s quite proper. But it doesn’t require any vote beyond that,” he said.
But legal opinions have differed. Lord Edward Garnier, formerly a senior government lawyer, advised MPs in January that the government “cannot legitimise a failure to hit the target by announcing in advance its intention to fail.”
Why does it matter? In November, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that the government would be bringing legislation to ensure the legality of the aid cuts. “It’s very clear [that] if we cannot see a path forward back to 0.7 in the foreseeable immediate future and we can’t plan for that, the legislation would require us to change it, and [we] would almost certainly face legal challenge if we don’t carefully follow it,” he said at the time.
But a rebellious group of Conservative MPs has been organizing against prospective new development legislation. Parliamentary mutineers said they were “quietly confident” they had the numbers to defeat the government, which has experienced rebellions on other issues in recent weeks. That could force the government into an embarrassing U-turn on aid cuts — but without a vote, options are more limited.