LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers failed to force a vote Monday on the government's cut to foreign aid spending, but may get a chance to debate the contentious decision on Tuesday.
The non-partisan speaker in the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, ruled that an attempt to reverse the decision via an amendment to a bill going through parliament was not appropriate, saying it's “outside the scope of the bill."
However, he rebuked the government for not having put to a vote its decision last November to cut the proportion of national income set aside for foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5%. The original target had been enshrined in legislation.
He encouraged lawmakers to bring forward a separate motion for an emergency debate on Tuesday and said the government should bring the decision to a vote soon.
“I expect that the government should find a way to have this important matter debated and to allow the House formally to take an effective decision,” he said.
Lawmakers from all sides, including members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, are angry at the cut.
Critics, which include Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and former Cabinet ministers Andrew Mitchell and David Davis, say the cut will lead to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in developing nations and damages Britain's international reputation. They also say it undermines Johnson in the run-up to his hosting of a Group of Seven leaders summit on Friday.
Mitchell, a former international development secretary who led the rebellion, said he was confident that the numbers were there to overturn the government's 85-seat majority in the House of Commons. He said the government was treating the House of Commons with “disrespect.”
Britain's Treasury has argued that the cut was necessary to free up cash to spend domestically at a time when the British economy is trying to recover ground lost during the coronavirus pandemic. It also has said it's a temporary measure.
Johnson hosts the leaders of the G-7 wealthy nations for a June 11-13 summit in Cornwall, England. Johnson has been promoting the meeting as an opportunity for Britain to assert itself on the global stage following the nation's departure from the European Union. The U.K. will also host a major environmental summit later this year in Scotland.
Some 1,700 charities, academics and business leaders have written to Johnson to warn that the UK’s “credibility and voice on the international stage will be undermined,” even as he prepares for his first in-person meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.
“It’s a life-and-death issue," former Labour Party Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC. “We’re actually deciding who lives and who dies, particularly at this point where if we withdraw the money for vaccination it’s the equivalent of pulling away the needle from a kid or from an adult who is sick.''
Solicitor General for England and Wales Lucy Frazer said the pandemic had forced the government to make “tough decisions.”