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Christian MP among Tory rebels voting for return to 0.7% foreign aid commitment

by Cara Bentley
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The Christian and Conservative MP Derek Thomas is planning to vote against the Government next week over foreign aid, telling Premier "I don't believe we should prioritise one human being over another". 

Former PM Theresa May has also joined the cohort of around 30 rebel Conservative MPs who want to see a return to 0.7 per cent of gross national income being given in foreign aid, a proportion which was reduced by the Government to 0.5 per cent because or Covid's damage to the economy. 

The vote is in the form of an amendment to the 'advanced research and invention agency bill', with the amendments being proposed by Andrew Mitchell, former international development secretary, and Anthony Mangnall MP. The bill has been through the committee stage so is now being sent back to the Commons for the report stage on Monday.

A Government spokeswoman said: “In 2021 we will spend more than £10 billion to improve global health, fight poverty and tackle climate change.

“While the seismic impact of the pandemic has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, the Government is committed to returning to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI (gross national income) on aid when the fiscal situation allows.”

Conservative and Christian MP Derek Thomas told Premier that a concrete time commitment is needed: "because of the way that our contribution to the foreign aid budget works, it [aid] would have dropped, we think, by about £7 billion in this financial year. Now, that is one massive amount of money...people will die, pain will be caused, countries will be set back, progress that we've invested in will be hindered, which seems self-defeating. 

"They'll be lots of people that believe that we could spend the money better and I would always argue that that's the case. But to cut it by that much is frankly the wrong thing to be doing at any time, but particularly when actually the world's poorest countries have suffered Covid in a way that we can't even imagine - and we've had it tough."

It is also happening in the same week where the UK is hosting the G7 leaders to talk about how the world will recover from the pandemic. President Biden, Macros and Merkel will all descend on Carbis Bay in Cornwall, in Thomas' constituency. 

Thomas told Premier the timing could help the rebels' cause: "we believe it's an opportunity to really demonstrate our commitment to some of the most difficult and horrendous situations that we're facing in the world, and in these countries that we would normally have bent over backwards to help."

In response to the argument that foreign aid should remain at the lower level because there are people struggling in the UK to afford rent and food, Thomas said: "I do accept that argument, I don't ever believe that we should prioritise one human being over another. So, I believe that we should look to help people around the world because, actually, we can provide the tools and provide the help to let them build their own lives and their own destiny - and that's really important. It's not just about keeping them in their poverty. What I've loved about the way foreign aid is developed since the David Cameron is that it actually is much, much more about empowering communities to get over some of these challenges."

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