UK government avoids vote on aid cuts — for now

Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker of the U.K. House of Commons. Photo by: Jessica Taylor / UK Parliament / CC BY-NC

The United Kingdom’s Parliament will not be voting on the aid budget Monday, after a legal amendment designed to restore the country’s 0.7% aid spending target was ruled out on technical grounds.

The government was bracing for a vote to take place after Andrew Mitchell and Anthony Mangnall, two Conservative members of Parliament, tabled an amendment to legislation relating to the launch of a new science institution, which would have forced the government to restore the aid spending target to 0.7% of national income in 2022.

But House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle did not select the amendment, saying it was outside of the scope of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill.

“The House should be given the opportunity to make an effective — and I repeat, effective — decision on this matter.”

— Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the U.K. House of Commons

Hoyle, who holds a nonpartisan role in the Commons that allows him to choose legislative amendments, as well as to run debates and enforce parliamentary rules, said he shared the frustration of MPs who were not given a chance to vote on the aid cuts to 0.5% of national income, which have taken place despite the legal protection of the 0.7% spending target.

“It is quite right that this House should not continue to be taken for granted, but we must do it in the right way,” said Hoyle. He called for the government to bring a parliamentary vote on the aid cuts, saying, “The House should be given the opportunity to make an effective — and I repeat, effective — decision on this matter.”

He said that “I hope the government will take up that challenge and give this House its due respect that it deserves,” adding: “I wish and hope very quickly this is taken on board. ... I don't want this to drag on. And if not, we shall find other ways to take this forward.”

UK government faces surprise vote on aid cuts

Rebel Conservative politicians opposed to the aid budget cuts have sprung a surprise legislative maneuver designed to force the government to return to the 0.7% aid target in 2022.

Mitchell said the government was treating MPs with “disrespect” by avoiding a vote on the aid cuts. He said: “Had we secured a vote on the new clause tonight, I can assure the House it would have secured the assent of the House by not less than a majority of 9 and probably of around 20 votes.”

Hoyle said he knows that Mitchell has “worked very hard” at looking at a potential court case to determine whether the aid cuts were unlawful.

An emergency debate on the aid cuts is expected Tuesday.

NGOs hoping for a resolution on the aid cuts reacted with disappointment. A statement from Bond, the network for U.K. NGOs, called the government’s attempts to avoid a vote “nothing short of shameful,” while Sam Nadel, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam, described the decision as “bitterly disappointing.”

“As the country prepares to welcome G7 [group of nations] leaders,” Nadel wrote, “The Government continues to undermine the UK’s credibility on the international stage while its commitments to the world’s poorest are abandoned.” The U.K. will host the next summit of the G-7 in Cornwall, England, from Friday to Sunday.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.