Former prime minister Theresa May has joined a growing Conservative rebellion to force Boris Johnson to reverse his policy to slash foreign aid.
With his Conservative predecessor putting pressure on the prime minister to avert a Commons revolt, the number of Tory MPs planning to back a rebel amendment has doubled to 30.
Mrs May’s former deputy Damian Green and Johnny Mercer, who recently resigned as defence minister over spending cuts, have also joined the rebellion led by former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell.
The rebels believe they have enough support for new legislation that will see aid spending increase by 2022 – instead of reducing foreign aid from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% as Mr Johnson plans to do.
As of Wednesday evening, 14 Tory backbenchers including former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and ex-aid minister Sir Desmond Swayne were supporting the amendment.
The prime minister has been criticised by MPs on all sides for temporarily reducing foreign aid – shelving his 2019 manifesto commitment to maintain spending at the higher rate.
The MPs have tabled an amendment that would force the government to reinstate its initial 0.7% spending target, which is legally binding.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will then decide whether the amendment is selected for consideration when the bill returns to the Commons for further consideration on Monday.
The government blames economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic for the aid cuts and expects just under £10bn to be allocated to departments for aid spending in 2021 and 2022.
But critics of the policy believe the government’s decision will result in tens of thousands of deaths in other parts of the world.
The government has also come under fire for not having a commons vote on the decision.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the Conservatives should reverse the cut.
“On Monday, just days before world leaders arrive in Cornwall to discuss the global response to the pandemic, the government faces defeat over its short-sighted and self-defeating decision to slash aid,” she tweeted.
“The Conservatives should do the right thing and reverse this cut.”
Conservative former minister Caroline Nokes, one of the amendment signatories, said it has taken “quite a lot of manoeuvring to find an opportunity to actually have a vote on this”.
“I feel really strongly that we legislated for the 0.7% commitment and the cuts are affecting women and girls,” she told ITV’s Peston.
“I very much hope it will be binding. I don’t want to see the government try and find a way out of a commitment that we all signed up to just a few short years ago.”