Foreign office minister James Cleverly has repeatedly refused to say whether MPs will be given a vote on a multi-billion pound cut to the UK’s aid budget.
The row comes after the government reneged on a manifesto commitment to maintain overseas aid spending at 0.7 per cent of national income, cutting the budget to 0.5 per cent — around £4 billion.
Ministers have insisted the cut is temporary until the economic crisis recedes, but have given no timeframe for the budget to be restored — leading to concerns the cut will become permanent.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, last year told MPs that legislation would be required if the government “cannot see a path back to 0.7 per cent in the foreseeable, immediate future”.
Addressing the issue on Tuesday, the former de facto deputy prime minister during Theresa May’s premiership, Damian Green, told Mr Cleverly: “The legislation allows the government to miss the 0.7 target in an emergency but not to plan to miss it for an indefinite number of years ahead.
He asked: “Can my right honourable friend give a commitment today that further cuts won’t be made until that necessary legislation promised by ministers to this House to enact this policy has been put to a vote?”
However, the minister replied: “The foreign secretary is looking carefully at the requirements of the legislation and I can assure him from this position at the despatch box this government is well able to listen to the mood of the House without the need for legislation on the issue.”
Pressed again by the Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall, who also urged the government to bring forward of a vote on the highly-contentious issue, Mr Cleverly added: “The foreign secretary is looking at the legal requirements around this situation.
“I can completely understand his passion but I would remind him and the House that we remain one of the largest humanitarian donors to this crisis.”