Tory MPs in foreign aid rebellion

A BACK bench Tory rebellion has failed to stop a Bill committing the UK to a legally binding minimum spend on foreign aid clearing the Commons.

Shipley Conservatove MP Philip Davies

Shipley MP Philip Davies was among a small number of conservatives to try to scupper the Bill aimed at binding future Government’s into a 0.7 per cent minimum spend.

The Tory MP spoke for more than an hour as he and a hand full of colleagues sought to talk out the Bill, forcing vote after vote throughout the day.

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Mr Davies said he opposed the minimum aid level because “for lots of people around the country, overseas aid is the taking of money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries.”

He added: “What they see is millions of pounds siphoned off by dictators around the world for a new fleet of Mercedes or whatever it may be and think the Government may as well include a Mercedes catalogue with the aid they are giving to some of these countries.

“My concern about overseas aid spending ... is that first of all it doesn’t actually work. We have been pouring billions and billions of pounds into countries in Africa which are no further on than when we started pouring billions and billions of pounds into them.”

Mr Davies was up against Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh, among others, who made the moral case for intervening on a global scale.

The shadow international development secretary said Britain’s international development spending was not only “morally right”, but in Britain’s national interest.

She added: “Few votes in this place can with certainty be said to save millions of lives. This one will.”

Despite the limited opposition, Michael Moore’s International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill enjoyed front bench support around the Commons.

Mr Moore told MPs: “By enshrining this commitment in law, the parties represented in this chamber honour the election commitments of 2010, the Coalition honours the Coalition Agreement.

“But perhaps more importantly than either of those, we give predictability to our aid expenditure, critically for our partners and the recipients of the assistance.

“We show leadership internationally which can be used to press other rich countries to join us, the first G7 country to reach the UN target and we move the debate on to focus on how we allocate our overseas development aid, not how much we spend on it.”

The Bill will now be sent to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. If it is amended and returned to MPs, there are five more days before the election to agree a finalised Bill.

If peers make no changes and pass the Bill, it will become law.

With experts warning that the Government’s latest economic blueprint will mean spending cuts in the UK “on a colossal scale”, David Cameron is under mounting pressure from many Tory activists, as well as Ukip, to remove the ring fence protecting aid from cuts.

Dissent over the scale of spending will be further inflamed by the need for the Government to find more money than expected to meet the target because of a recent recalculation of GDP that pushed the UK’s national wealth higher.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister supports the Moore bill, but the PM was did not take part in the Commons vote.