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Development Assistance Target

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 12th January 2011.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central 11:30 am, 12th January 2011

If he will bring forward legislative proposals to make binding the 0.7% target for official development assistance as a proportion of gross national income.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell The Secretary of State for International Development

The Government are fully committed to meeting the United Nations target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid from 2013, and will enshrine this commitment in law.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply, but may I ask him whether he intends to change the definition of what the UK reports as official development assistance, and specifically whether the Government intend to include expenditure on overseas students and refugees within that 0.7% target?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell The Secretary of State for International Development

The Government's position is absolutely clear. Aid is defined by the OECD development assistance committee, and those rules are very clear indeed and strictly laid down. The Government have made it clear, as previous Governments have done, that our aid spending will be defined in that way, and only in that way.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

The Secretary of State will know that a significant part of the existing aid budget goes to the Government of Tanzania. Does he share my concern about the recent actions of that Government and of President Kikwete, who have arrested Opposition leaders who currently reside in prison? Will he call for their early release?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. It is not entirely clear what that has got to do with the UN 0.7% target for official development assistance, but if the Secretary of State can find a way briefly to demonstrate that, I shall be happy to listen.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell The Secretary of State for International Development

Well, my hon. Friend, who takes a close interest in these matters, is right to identify the element within the 0.7% that is spent by Britain in Tanzania. We are in close contact with the authorities about the recent events and are of course reinforcing the importance of the rule of law being followed.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow Minister (International Development), Shadow Minister (Transport)

In maintaining the target of 0.7%, will the Secretary of State ensure that the issue of corruption, which keeps coming to the fore in relation to overseas aid, will be at the forefront of his mind as we go forward?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell The Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is right to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend Stephen Mosley in the first question today, which was about the importance of bearing down on corruption. Corruption not only deprives poor people of the services to which they should be entitled, but undermines and saps the confidence in donor countries of taxpayers who see their money being wasted.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Shadow Minister (International Development)

Following the two-year freeze in the overseas aid percentage which was announced in the spending review, there will have to be a sharp increase in 2013 to reach the 0.7% target. Can the Secretary of State tell the House what percentage increase in the overseas aid budget in 2013 will be needed to fulfil that commitment?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell The Secretary of State for International Development

As the hon. Gentleman knows, next year we are spending 0.56% of gross national income on development. Over the four-year spending period the figures will be 0.56, 0.56, 0.7 and 0.7%. Many in the House would wish to advance further on this important cause, but the public finances are inevitably constrained by the appalling economic position that the coalition inherited.