London, Jul 13 (Agency) UK opposition lawmakers and some rebels from the ruling Conservative Party on Tuesday lost their bid to make the government reverse its decision to cut foreign aid and re-establish the 0.7% figure until early next year. The government’s proposal was backed in the House of Commons by 333 votes against 298, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured his fellow lawmakers that the cut in overseas aid will be “temporary.”
In November 2020, finance minister Rishi Sunak announced a temporary reduction in the UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of the country’s income, citing the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy, but without giving parliament the opportunity to vote on the issue. Five months later, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab set out the allocations for the overseas development assistance spending for 2021-22, confirming the government’s decision to slash 4 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) of its annual foreign aid commitment.
The announcement had been met with broad criticism from the charities and non-governmental organizations which claim that the cut would add up to the suffering of millions of people who depend on the UK’s foreign aid. Opening the debate on Tuesday, Johnson pledged that the cabinet will return to the 0.7% as soon as the UK is no longer borrowing to cover current or day-to-day expenditure, and the public debt is falling as a share of Gross Domestic Product. “This pandemic has cast our country into its deepest recession on record, paralysing our national life, threatening the survival of entire sectors of the economy,” the prime minister said. After winning parliament’s support by a majority of 35 votes, Sunak told the House of Commons that the victory has made the government’s commitment to return to the 0.7% “more secured.”