UK lawmakers seek to reverse government’s foreign aid cut

LONDON (AP) — Lawmakers from Britain’s governing Conservative Party said Thursday they hope to force a vote in Parliament next week that could make the government reverse a contentious cut to the U.K.’s foreign aid budget.

The British government dropped a long-standing commitment to spend 0.7% of the U.K.’s gross domestic product on international aid, citing the coronavirus pandemic’s blow to the economy. It says the cut — to 0.5% — is temporary.

United Nations agencies and other international organizations say the reduction will hurt programs that help some of the world’s poorest people.

Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell says he has enough support to win a vote on Monday, just days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations for a June 11-13 summit in Cornwall, England.

The vote will only happen if the speaker of the House of Commons allows it, which is not guaranteed. But the growing list of Conservative lawmakers supporting Mitchell nevertheless could pressure the government to change course.

The government hopes to use the U.K.’s G-7 presidency this year to help forge a post-Brexit “Global Britain” role for the U.K. Critics say the aid cut undermines the goal of Britain playing a bigger role in world affairs.

British lawmaker Caroline Nokes, one of the Conservative rebels, said the decrease would affect programs supporting girls’ education and family planning around the world.

“Women will die because of these cuts to family planning, so I have joined forces with colleagues to make sure we can have a vote on it, and I will be voting to keep that 0.7%,” Nokes told broadcaster ITV.

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