Sir Desmond Swayne among 15 Conservative rebels against international aid cuts
SIR Desmond Swayne is among 15 Conservative MPs rebelling against moves to cut foreign aid.
The New Forest West member has backed an amendment that proposes reversing a mooted cut in aid spending from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% - which in real terms equates to more than £4bn.
Sir Desmond is the former international aid minister who previously forced through a bill that set the level at 0.7%, and confirmed to the A&T this morning (Thursday) he was with the rebels, declaring: "I am a signatory to the amendment."
Acknowledging many people complain about overseas aid, believing it to be "charity", he argued it was actually "an investment we make in the expectation that we may prosper and trade in a more stable and secure world, less prone to insecurity and waves of migration".
Sir Desmond continued: "It is also a ‘soft power’ by which we project our influence abroad. In this respect it is much more versatile and deployable than our investment in our military capability to project power.
"I do not doubt that our retention of a seat at the UN security council owes more nowadays to the fact that we are the world’s second largest donor, rather than that we remain a nuclear power."
He acknowledged he would like aid reforms: "Just for starters, it needs to be even more focussed on economic development and ability to trade; when I was the minister I would constantly remind people that ‘aid is all about jobs’."
The move was tabled in the House of Commons on Wednesday night by Andrew Mitchell, a former international development secretary, and has cross party support. If it is selected for debate and a vote there is a real chance it could inflict a shock parliamentary defeat on the government.