A group of prominent conservative party Members of Parliament (MPs), including the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, attempted on June 7, 2021, to use a technical procedure in parliament to force the UK government to go back to allocating 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA).
There was high drama in parliament on the week that the UK is hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, as a group of up to 40 highly prominent, rebel Conservative MPs, led by Andrew Mitchell MP, the former Conservative International Development Secretary, proposed an amendment be attached to the parliamentary bill creating the UK’s new Advanced Research and Invention Agency, that would mandate the new agency to make up any shortfall in ODA spending if the government missed the 0.7% target.
Conservative MP rebels were confident that if the amendment was accepted by the House of Commons Speaker, they would have had the numbers (along with opposition party MPs) to vote it through. However, the proposed amendment was rejected by the House of Commons Speaker at the last minute, on the grounds that it was not sufficiently in the scope of the bill.
Tensions have been mounting for months over the legality of the UK government’s decision to temporarily not meet its legal commitment to deliver 0.7% of its GNI as ODA and reduce the ODA budget to 0.5%. Originally the UK government has noted that the move would require the law to be changed with MPs given a vote, but a couple of months later (and in the face of growing opposition to the move) the government said that the law allowed for provisions in a temporary reduction and did not require MPs to vote on it. Rebel MPs, however, have challenged this interpretation of the law.
The Speaker was though was sympathetic to the demands of the MPs, and called for the government to bring the cut to the ODA budget to parliament for a vote and noted that he would look into other ways to give MPs a binding vote if the government failed to do this.