Bill to ensure government spends 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid is misguided, says Lord Lawson

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph today, the former Tory Chancellor and Labour's Lord Lipsey say a private member's bill that would enshrine the commitment in law would deprive future governments of flexibility on the issue

Lord Lawson of Blaby
Lord Lawson of Blaby

Plans to make all future governments spend at least 0.7 per cent of national income on international aid are not in the "interests of people in poor countries", according to a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In a joint letter published in The Daily Telegraph today, Lord Lawson of Blaby, who was Conservative Chancellor between 1983 and 1986, and Labour peer Lord Lipsey say that the commitment would "deprive future governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances" and "wrongly prioritises the amount spent rather than the results achieved".

The criticism comes before a debate in the House of Lords today of a private member’s bill that seeks to enshrine in law the coalition government’s commitment to spend at least 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product on international aid.

In the letter, the peers reiterate the findings of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee – they say that in 2012 it "unanimously" opposed legislating for the 0.7 per cent target.

Even before the target has become enshrined in law, the two peers say, the government has "shoved money out of the door to meet the 0.7 per cent". They argue that the bill needs to "defanged".

In 2013, the government spent £11.4bn, or 0.72 per cent of GDP, on international aid.

Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond, the UK membership body for interntional aid organisations, said it supported enshrining the 0.7 per cent target in law. "We were delighted that the International Development Bill secured huge cross-party support in the House of Commons last year, reflecting the manifesto commitment of all the main parties.

"Enshrining 0.7 per cent into law moves the debate from how much to spend to how we can have the biggest impact."

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