International Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 13th May 2004.

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Photo of Mr David Stewart Mr David Stewart PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department for Transport 11:30 am, 13th May 2004

What plans he has to increase expenditure on international aid in the coming spending round; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

UK development aid has doubled since 1997. It has risen from £2 billion to more than £4 billion, and will rise from 0.26 per cent. of gross domestic product to 0.4 per cent. by the end of the spending round. As I announced in the Budget, we will not cut aid in the new spending round, but will continue to increase the resources that we give to the poorest countries.

Photo of Mr David Stewart Mr David Stewart PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department for Transport

Will my right hon. Friend reassure the 700 young constituents whom I recently met at Culloden academy, Inverness, and who called for an end to child poverty throughout the world, that this Government are committed to increasing international aid and to meeting their millennium goals?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, whose interest in this issue has been shown not just in Parliament, but in the campaigns that he has run in his own constituency. I can assure him that our commitment is that every child be given the chance of primary education, and that that goal be achieved over the next 10 years, with 120 million children who do not receive education being given that education as a result of our proposals. Our commitment is to cut by two thirds child and maternal mortality, and to halve poverty over the next few years. We will do that best by the world coming together to make resources available. In our view, that will be best achieved through the international finance facility, and we are ready to talk with all our international partners about how we can tackle poverty in the poorest countries by increasing the resources that the richest countries give.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister, Shadow Minister (London)

In addition to increasing international aid, the Chancellor will surely appreciate that it is important to target it, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. What steps has he taken to ensure that we root out corruption? Clearly, it is a major problem that much international aid goes to several war-torn sub-Saharan countries, so what steps has he taken to ensure that we target international aid money to best effect?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As I said just a few minutes ago, the protocol signed with Ethiopia made it a requirement that, before further aid would be given, the country had to sort out human rights issues, problems of corruption and the misuse of resources. Also, under measures agreed with the IMF, two centres have been set up in Africa to advise on the proper preparations of fiscal and monetary policy, which the hon. Gentleman would accept is important. It is a condition of the international finance facility and, indeed, the Monterrey consensus, that countries receive the proposed development aid only if they show that they are tackling problems of corruption, lack of transparency and those associated with fiscal and monetary stability as well as opening up to trade and investment.

At the same time, we want to encourage the better use of aid. We should remember that aid to sub-Saharan Africa has been cut from the rate of $33 per person 20 years ago to only $20 per person today—a savage halving of aid at a time when needs have become even greater. We have not only untied aid, but, for the first time, $1 billion of aid is going directly to Africa and to the projects that the hon. Gentleman would support—in health and education.

Photo of Mrs Diana Organ Mrs Diana Organ Labour, Forest of Dean

If the Government are proposing to provide future aid through the international finance facility, does my right hon. Friend agree that, in order to prevent aid flows from falling after 2015, when the millennium development goals are due to be met, the Government must make a clear commitment to reach and maintain an aid budget of 0.7 per cent. of the UK's gross national income?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I know that my hon. Friend has taken a big interest in this matter. I can reassure her that we are committed to reaching that 0.7 per cent. target. We will announce in the next spending round what we can do in the next few years. I have to tell my hon. Friend, however, that even if we reached that 0.7 per cent. target tomorrow, the amount of resources created for the international community would be about £3 billion. The additional resources created by front-loading aid under our proposals could, if the whole international community came together, amount not to £3 billion, but $50 billion.

Given the scale of the problem and the ambition of our proposal, the best way forward is to persuade countries effectively to double their aid while at the same time subscribing to a long-term and predictable flow of aid. That is the best means by which we can encourage the poorer countries to invest where they should be investing—not in military arms, but in health, education and anti-poverty programmes.