PMQs: Keir Starmer urges Boris Johnson to 'listen to his own MPs' over Yemen aid cut

Boris Johnson (L) and Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons

Boris Johnson (L) and Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons - Credit:

Boris Johnson should "listen to his own MPs" before cutting the UK's foreign aid contribution to Yemen, Sir Keir Starmer argued during Prime Minister's Questions.

Grilling Johnson over a proposed 0.2% cut to Britain's foreign aid budget, Sir Keir said: "This week the government halved our international aid to Yemen. If the prime minister thinks this is how Global Britain should look like, he should think again. And if he doesn't believe me, or the UN secretary-general, he should listen to his own MPs.

"Just this morning, the Conservative MP for Bournemouth East said: 'Cutting support to starving children is not what Global Britain should be about. It undermines the very idea of the UK as a nation to be respected on the global stage.'"

Sir Keir also quoted the member for Sutton Coldfield, who had branded the move "unconscionable", and asked if Johnson would "do the right thing and reconsider" his position on the matter.

Johnson said the UK had given "a billion pounds" since the conflict in Yemen began, adding: "This year, we're contributing another £214million to support the people of Yemen. There are very few other countries in the world, Mr Speaker, who has that kind of record and I think in these tough, straightened circumstances - bearing in mind the immense cost of the Covid epidemic that has affected our country - I think the people of this country should be very, very proud of what we're doing".

Sir Keir replied: "Britain should be a moral force in the world. Just as the US is stepping up, the UK is stepping back. If the prime minister and chancellor are so desperate to press ahead with their manifesto-breaking cuts to international aid - cutting the budget to 0.5% - they should at least put that to a vote in this House."

Downing Street has so far refused to allow MPs to vote on the cuts.

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This comes after a number of Tory backbenchers urged the government to scrap the plans during a Commons debate on Tuesday.

Andrew Mitchell was one of the MPs to call stand up to No 10. The former shadow international development secretary warned that cuts to Britain's aid budget would affect those who needed it most, particularly those forced to survive an armed conflict, and would tarnish Britain's image as a moral leader.

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