Labour MP Mark Hendrick has used a private members bill to propose a binding legal commitment to ensure that 0.7% of UK GDP is spent on international aid. Writing to David Cameron this week he called for the Prime Minister to strongly support the measure, given concerns that the bill would fail to gain sufficient parliamentary time. In the letter dated 14th Feb three Labour MPs, Mark Hendrick, Martin Horwood & Jeremy Lefroy called on the Conservatives in parliament to back the bill which puts a previous commitment to ring fence the aid spending target into law:
‘…we would ask you to throw your full weight behind the Private Members’ Bill. As you know, there was a cross party pledge to introduce the 0.7% target at the last General Election, which was included in the Coalition programme and is underpinned by a moral commitment to help the poorest people in the world…’ – the Labour MPs’ letter to Cameron
The 0.7% commitment remains an important milestone internationally, and it is right that Britain should lead the way among G8 countries in fulfilling that commitment to keeping up spending on development. However a commitment to 0.7% is not a panacea. To begin with, as has been has been said on this blog before, the Coalition’s failure to restore meaningful economic growth in the 3 years since the election inevitably means that the existing aid spending commitment, whilst ring fenced, is an effective cut since it is 0.7% of a smaller GDP total. As well as focusing on the absolute level of spending LCID believes that aid could and should be made more effective (in line with international agreements at Paris, Accra and Busan). Despite repeatedly talking about aid effectiveness the Conservative record at DFID has seen cuts to DFID staff that have crippled the department’s ability to innovate or to lead the way on reforms to aid delivery and effectiveness, as they have done in the past.
‘I think that 0.7 percent of our gross national income, I don’t believe that is too high a price to pay for trying to save lives.’ – David Cameron speaking at a press conference in May 2011
Nonetheless Mark Hendrick’s private members bill is an important step towards cementing a lasting UK commitment to international development. Labour hopes that the bill will move to Committee stage on March 1st but if not the Prime Minister should use the Queen’s Speech in May to include the commitment into the government’s agenda for the next parliamentary session.
Cameron has stood up to his party on ring-fencing 0.7% before. Let’s hope the Prime Minister remains true to his word and gives his full support to the bill.