New Clause 1 — The Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 5th December 2014.

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Photo of Gavin Shuker Gavin Shuker Shadow Minister (International Development) 10:30 am, 5th December 2014

Forgive me for teaching the hon. Member how this place works, but we vote for the principle of the Bill on Second Reading and then we go into Committee and vote for amendments that allow for the Bill to enact that principle. We viewed, on a cross-party basis, that this was the best way to go forward, and so I will move on.

On the calculation of ODA and GNI, the amendments dealt with the time frame of calculation, opportunities to synchronise aid reporting with financial accounting, and the detail of which payments should be included within the calculation of ODA. Given the hon. Members’ widely acknowledged preference for turning back the clock, I suppose we should not be surprised by the amendment changing the calculation for ODA to be based on the UK’s GNI from 1975—when, I am assured, a packet of Spangles cost just 2p. I was more perplexed by the move from the internationally accepted calendar year as the calculating period to the financial year of April to March, and of course in their amendment 19, their redefinition of “financial year” to a period of little over 100 days. I am sure the House will be relieved to hear that, again, the terms of this calculation form part of the same internationally agreed covenant.

That concern led to arguments on which payments should be included in the calculation of ODA, and specifically the hon. Members’ contention that this 0.7% figure should include payments to the EU, welfare benefits paid to foreign nationals and welfare benefits to UK nationals living abroad, among others. I am afraid ODA is officially defined and therefore this amendment would clearly frustrate the will of the Bill and the principle moved on Second Reading.

Finally, I come to the applicability and expiry of the Act and other technicalities, and the amendments concerning a public referendum, implementation once we have achieved budget surplus, and a sunset clause that limits this Bill to a period of just five years. I do not know whether the hon. Members are experiencing a personal crisis of confidence in their own representative capabilities, but they might be interested to know that 29.5 million of the British public give charitably each month, and that on average the British public believe we should give not 0.7%, but around 1.5% of our nation’s wealth to help development. I hope that will reassure Philip Davies in particular, who worries this Bill enjoys the support of only

“a few middle-class, Guardian-reading, sandal-wearing, lentil-eating do-gooders with a misguided guilt complex” and helps them to

“feel better about themselves”.—[Hansard, 12 September 2014; Vol. 585, c. 1232.]

I can also reassure him I have never voluntarily eaten a lentil.

Moving to the five-year time limit, the hon. Gentleman may be surprised to learn that I, too, want to reach a time where we are able to repeal this Act, not because I aspire to living in a UK that is less generous, but because I aspire to living in a world which is more equal, and where each country has the resources, institutions and industry that it needs to be independent of foreign aid. With the greatest respect, when this moment arrives it will be dictated by the humanitarian need that remains, not the diktat of a few Members of Parliament determined to frustrate the passage of this Bill.

We reject these amendments. It is time to pass this Bill.