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Multi-party rebellion against Johnson government's aid cuts

British government plans to cut £4 billion (US$5.5bn) from aid budget sparks protests from philanthropists and politicians

Civil society activists who joined forces with opposition MPs and Conservative rebels to force a parliamentary vote on 13 July on the British government's plan to cut its international aid budget by £4bn may now be able to secure concessions.

In the latest move in the campaign, the big philanthropic organisations – such as George Soros's Open Society Foundation and the Gates Foundation – say the cuts could put tens of thousands of lives at risk and are pledging about £100m to replace the lost British government aid if needed.

Pressing Boris Johnson's government into holding a vote is one thing, but defeating it would require the biggest Conservative party rebellion since the December 2019 general election. Some government insiders are talking up the prospect of a compromise deal to defuse the rebellion.

Should enough Conservative rebels, led by former International Development secretary Andrew Mitchell, combine with opposition lawmakers to defeat Johnson's government, ministers say that aid spending will revert to 0.7% of gross national income next year.

The move to cut the aid budget to 0.5% of GNI, worth around £4 billion, was instigated last year by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to compensate for the budget deficit left by more than £300bn of new domestic spending in response to the Covid–19 pandemic (AC Vol 62 No 4, Far from obvious).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is proposing to link increases in aid spending to two conditions: a fall in public debt and UK public accounts being in surplus for a sustained period. It is also asking the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to advise on whether the aid budget should be increased.



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