Conservative Members of Parliament have been accused of attempting to filibuster a Bill set to go through Parliament next Thursday, which seeks to enshrine the commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on aid. Outspoken Tory MP Philip Davies said the bill was not conservative. He and his colleagues have tabled over 50 amendments in an attempt to stall the Bill’s passage.
In 2010 the Coalition government announced an ambition to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on foreign aid. So far that target has been met – last year, Britain spent £11.4 billion, or 0.72 percent of GDP on foreign aid, according to the Telegraph.
However, Liberal Democrat Michael Moore has put forward the Private Members Bill which would enshrine the target in law, which is supported by both the Conservatives in government and the Labour party. This would make it much more difficult for a future government to drop, as it would have to repeal the new law.
Tory backbenchers including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Philip Davies, David Nuttall and Christopher Chope have tabled more than 50 amendments between them, including suggestions that any increase in aid spending would be subject to a referendum, and introducing a five year sunset clause.
Mr Davies denied trying to “talk out” the Bill, but said he would vote against it. “It’s idiotic ‘gesture politics’ of the worst possible kind,” he said.
“I can’t say anyone who is a Conservative thinks we should be judged on how much money we spend. We believe in outcomes, not input. It’s not possible to be a Conservative and support it.”
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of Conservative think tank The Bow Group told Breitbart London: “Mr Davies is absolutely right, no conservative would support a bill that both writes a blank cheque without demanding tangible outcomes, and does so against the wishes of the people of Great Britain. This can never be acceptable, and certainly not at a time the United Kingdom is £1.4 trillion in debt.
He said that enshrining the commitment in law in perpetuity is “nothing other than a flagrant abuse of power and assault on our democratic tradition. All genuine conservatives know that charity is a noble aim, but charity using other people’s money is no such thing.”
“As long as the Conservative members blindly follow their leadership on this fool’s errand, so their seats will be under threat from UKIP and anyone else that advocates common sense and democracy in this issue.
Conservative whips, keen to avoid an embarrassing rebellion on the matter have only issued a one line whip on next week’s vote, rather than insisting that their members vote in support. However, for Harris-Quinney, the very fact that the Conservative leadership was not opposing the Bill outright was illuminating.
“Conservatives should be leading the charge to constrain government to undertake actions which are to the demonstrable and tangible benefit to the nation, and for which government has a mandate.
“From my point of view the only utility to bills like this and the Same Sex Marriage Bill is to provide clarity as to who on the Conservative benches are conservatives and who are careerist metropolitan hangers-on,” he said.
The party’s falling out over the proposed Bill comes at the same time as revelations that Britain is set to pay a further £1 billion to poor countries in aid this year as changes to the way that Britain’s economic outlook is calculated have given a more favourable financial picture.
The Office for National Statistics altered the way in which GDP is measured in order to bring it in line with European states, but the alteration has led to an increase in official GDP, causing the aid budget to have to rise in order to keep up with the target.
According to figures from the Financial Times, Britain will have to spend an extra £400 million this year, and £550 million next year to meet the current target. Tory MPs said that it was “completely ludicrous” to increase the budget thanks to a statistical recalculation.