Good morning. Tonight MPs may get the chance to vote on an amendment to the advanced research and innovation agency bill to restore the 0.7% aid spending target next year and, if they do, the Tory rebels supporting it are confident that the government will lose. That is what one of their leaders, David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, told the Today programme this morning. Asked if he was confident that that the government would lose if there were a vote, he replied:
Yes, I’m pretty sure. I am certain that there’s a majority of people who want the government to change this policy. Of course the whips do their worst. But I think they will still win.
Here is my colleague Patrick Wintour’s overnight preview story.
And this is what Patrick tweeted on this this morning.
But that does not mean a defeat is inevitable. In fact there are three outcomes that are all quite possible. They are:
1) Ministers could “buy off” the rebels by promising to reverse the aid cut next year. They have already said that the cut (from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%) is only temporary, but there are suspicions that by this Boris Johnson means temporary in the sense that income tax was temporary when William Pitt introduced it to fund the Napoleonic War.
2) The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, may decide not to put the amendment to a vote. Commons officials have allowed the amendment to be tabled, which suggests that it is within the “scope” of the bill (ie, not irrelevant to the topic it covers). But that does not automatically mean it will be selected, even though a large number of MPs want it put to the vote. The Speaker also has to make a judgment about whether it is relevant to the purpose of the bill, and if he concludes that it isn’t – because it would effectively turn a science research bill into an aid spending bill – he can reject it.
3) The government could push the amendment to the vote, and lose. Although this would be embarrassing for Johnson, there would be two consolatory bonuses: it would stop this issue overshadowing the G7 summit later this week, and it would reinforce Johnson’s claim to be a leader championing the wishes of the public (voters overwhelmingly support the aid spending cut) in the face of obstruction from a supposedly out-of-touch parliament.
There are two other outcomes that are less probable.
4) The government could push the amendment to a vote without offering any compromise – and squeak a narrow win.
5) Ministers could abandon the bill altogether.
The final option is highly unlikely although, given that the only person in government who was truly committed to setting up the advanced research and innovation agency was Dominic Cummings, Johnson must find the idea tempting. (One reason why he was willing to cut aid spending in the first place, despite the Tory manifesto saying it should stay at 0.7%, was because higher aid spending was a policy associated with David Cameron, another of his arch rivals.)
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes figures on vaccination rates amongst the over-70s by class.
10.30am: Dr Bola Owolabi, director of health inequalities for NHS England, speaks at a seminar on about vaccine confidence amongst people from African, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and Pakistani backgrounds.
12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Matthew Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Home Office, gives evidence to the public accounts committee about the Windrush compensation scheme.
2.30pm: Priti Patel, the home secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
2.30pm: Sir Keir Starmer gives a speech to the GMB conference.
After 3.30pm: MPs begin debating the remaining stages of the advanced research and invention agency bill. The amendment requiring the government to restore the 0.7% aid spending target next year may be put to a vote before 10pm.
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UPDATE: I have amended the paragraph starting 2) to say the fact that the clerks allowed the bill to be tabled suggested the amendment was in scope, rather than confirmed it. See 11.33am for more on this.