Boris Johnson has falsely claimed that MPs were offered a vote on his huge overseas aid cuts – yet “mysteriously” chose not to take it up.
An “estimates” vote was held last week – but this was on all government spending and could not be used to reverse cuts that will means “thousands of children will die”, Tory rebels are protesting.
Voting down the estimates – effectively the Foreign Office’s budget – would have left the key department with no funds at all, it was suggested.
Nevertheless, the prime minister told the Commons: “The House was given a chance to vote on this matter on the estimates vote, but it mysteriously chose not to.”
In fact, the government is still refusing to grant a specific vote – breaking a promise made last year – because, the rebels say, ministers know they would lose it.
Aid has been slashed from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of national output – swiping around £4bn a year – and there is no date for restoring the “temporary” reduction, which could be years away
At the weekend, ex-Scottish leader Ruth Davidson joined the battle, warning Mr Johnson that the Tories will again be seen as the “nasty party”, as the “horrific pictures” of famine in Ethiopia repel voters.
In the Commons, the former Cabinet minister David Davis: “This year, thousands of children will die because of the government’s dramatic cuts in international aid.
“Top lawyers in the country advise us that this policy is unlawful and it’s never been presented to this House for approval. When are we going to get a binding vote?”
The Tory rebels are demanding that the aid cuts are reversed from the start of next year, but ministers have hinted they will last for much longer than that.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, asked if the cut must be for one year only, to comply with the law – if no fresh legislation is passed – said, in April: “I don’t think it is quite as straightjacketed as that.”
Last week, the prime minister dismissed a warning that “hundreds of thousands of people” will die from tropical diseases because of his aid cuts – despite it coming from the World Health Organisation.