UK Government ‘on the run’ from moral responsibilities

Ian Blackford challenged the Prime Minister over his plans to cut foreign aid spending.

UK Government ‘on the run’ from moral responsibilities House of Commons

The UK Government is “on the run” from their moral and legal responsibilities on foreign aid, according to Ian Blackford.

At PMQs, the SNP’s Westminster leader accused Boris Johnson of walking away from millions of people still struggling from the impact of coronavirus and a poverty pandemic.

It comes after MPs earlier this week were denied the chance to vote on the Prime Minister’s plans to cut the UK’s international development spending from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%.

On Wednesday, Blackford told the Commons: “Later this week the Prime Minister will walk into the G7 summit as the only leader cutting development aid to the world’s poorest.

“At the very moment when global leadership is needed more than ever, this Tory Government is walking away from millions still struggling from the Covid pandemic and a poverty pandemic.

“The Prime Minister has been hiding on this issue for months. This is a Government on the run from their own moral and legal responsibilities, and on the run from their own backbenchers.

“But, the Prime Minister can’t hide from this issue any longer and he can’t run from democracy in this House.

“Will he stand up today and commit to a straight vote in this House on his inhumane cuts, as demanded by the speaker? Prime Minister, it is a very simple question: yes or no?”

Responding, Johnson said that you should not believe “lefty propaganda” over spending.

He said: “I think the answer is clear, the people of this country… were given a vote on this and many other matters very recently and I think they adjudicated very firmly in favour of the balance the Government is striking.

“We’re in very, very difficult financial times, but you shouldn’t believe the lefty propaganda that you hear from people opposite. We’re spending £10bn overseas.

“All they want to do is run this country down when we’ve increased spending on girls’ education alone to almost half a billion pounds.

“That is a fantastic sum of money to be spending in difficult times. We should be proud.”

Blackford told the Prime Minister that now is the time to support each other, not to walk away from those in need.

He said: “I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the previous prime minister (Theresa May) call the leftists propagandists.

“The simple fact of the matter is that every single party, every single member of this House, stood on a manifesto commitment to 0.7%.

“The Prime Minister has reneged on that and the speaker has indicated that the Government should allow a vote on it, it’s pretty basic stuff.”

He added: “After a year dealing with a deadly virus, why can’t the Prime Minister get this? In a pandemic, no-one is safe until everyone is safe.

“Now is the time to support each other, not to walk away from those in need. People are dying and they need our help.

“The Prime Minister has the nerve to brag about the Government’s support for the vulnerable and at the very same time, he is slashing £4.5bn from the world’s poorest.

“In the week of the G7, what kind of world leader washes their hands of responsibility by cutting water and hygiene projects by more than 80% in the middle of a pandemic?”

Johnson responded: “I think that the last contribution was absolutely disgraceful because the people of this country have gone through a very difficult time, we’ve had to spend £407bn supporting jobs, families, livelihoods throughout the country and yet we are continuing to support international vaccination, £1.6bn this country has contributed to GAVI, I think £548m to COVAX.

“And let me just remind him of the statistic I mentioned earlier, one in three of the vaccines being distributed around the world to the poorest and the neediest come from the Oxford-AstraZeneca supply, thanks to the deal this Government did, or does the name Oxford-AstraZeneca continue to stick in his craw?”

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