Johnson Wins U.K. Parliament Backing for Cut to Overseas Aid

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson defeated a Conservative Party rebellion over cuts to foreign aid, averting a potentially damaging threat to his authority that would have undermined his government’s plans to rein in a peacetime record budget deficit.

Rebels including former Prime Minister Theresa May and former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell had sought to overturn Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s cut to overseas aid spending to 0.5% of gross national income from 0.7%.

But they ultimately failed, with the government winning the vote on its policy by 333 to 298 in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Whilst not every member felt able to vote for the government’s compromise, the substantive matter of whether we remain committed to 0.7% target -- not just now but for decades to come -- is clearly a point of significant unity in this house,” Sunak told Parliament. “Today’s vote has made that commitment more secure for the long term, whilst helping the government to fix the problems with our public finances,” he said.

The chancellor is trying to tackle a budget deficit that swelled to about 300 billion pounds ($414 billion) as a result of his emergency pandemic measures, a peacetime record.

May -- who suffered multiple rebellions during her tenure -- said ahead of the vote she would break almost a quarter of a century of voting with her party to rebel for the first time.

“This isn’t about palaces for dictators and vanity projects,” May said in the House of Commons. “It’s about what cuts to funding mean: that fewer girls will be educated, more girls and boys will become slaves, more children will go hungry and more of the poorest people in the world will die.”

Later Tuesday the government suffered another sizeable rebellion, with 30 Conservative MPs voting against plans for compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for care home workers in England. The move was ultimately approved by 319 votes to 246, and will come into force in October.

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