John Major has supported efforts to reverse government cuts in UK foreign aid.
Ahead of a possible Commons vote on the issue next week, the former prime minister said the UK must remain “a nation that keeps its word”.
In a brief but strongly worded statement, Major said he made his views known to ministers privately a few weeks ago. “Even at this late hour, I hope they honor their best instincts and let compassion prevail to help those in desperate need,” he said.
His intervention comes a day after another former Conservative prime minister, Theresa May, joined a revolt that seeks to reverse a cut in the overseas aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5% , justified by the government of Boris Johnson for economic reasons.
The rebellion focuses on an amendment to the Advanced Research and Invention Agencies Bill, which has its report stage in the House of Commons on Monday, introducing a new clause rescinding the cuts.
Thirty Tory MPs plan to sign the amendment, and with 40 needed to defeat the government if the amendment is selected for a vote, those leading the rebellion are confident they will have enough support.
Major said in his statement: “While I fully recognize our own budgetary difficulties, I do not think it is morally defensible to alleviate our own financial burden at the expense of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. , who have nothing – and nowhere else to ask for help.
Only a policy reversal would mean the UK could “reestablish itself as a nation that keeps its word and begin to repair our reputation as a global force for good,” he said.
Every living former prime minister is opposed to the plans. David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have already expressed their disagreement.
The Commons amendment is in the name of former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and former Foreign Office adviser and newly elected MP Anthony Mangnall.
Sources say the organizers behind the move had enough reassurance from other MPs to reach the victory threshold, and more names are expected to be revealed over the weekend.
Ministers charged for the reduction, which will mean a cut in aid spending of around £ 5bn, as a temporary measure caused by the economic damage from Covid. As such, they argue, it does not require a vote in the House of Commons, despite the 0.7% target in the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto.