The Bill places a simple duty on a Minister to report to this House. The amendments fall into four categories. The first is those that seek to negate or reduce that reporting duty, or indeed place the burden of that reporting duty on somebody else—a new body or the OBR, or, indeed, make it subject to judicial review. I, however, prefer the simplicity and the authority of reporting to this House.
The amendments in the second category seek to change the means of calculation on which the report is based, either by changing from a calendar year to a financial year, by adopting a figure of 0.35%, by using the preceding year’s gross national income or by including other payments, such as those made to the EU. I, as a Minister, would find a couple of those amendments quite convenient, but I do not believe that it is the purpose of this House to make Ministers’ lives more convenient. As Gavin Shuker has said, these matters are defined internationally. The purpose of the Bill is to meet an international commitment, and to mess about with the calculation would be to undermine the fundamental purpose of the Bill.
The amendments in the third category are those that are mischievous—namely, those that would seek to reduce the salaries of Ministers if we were to fail to meet the commitment. We know, however, that those who have tabled those amendments would be glad that Ministers had not met the commitment—indeed, they would probably wish to pay them more for not having met it. The amendments in this category also seek to provide for a referendum, a sunset clause or some other such impediment to implementing the Bill.
The amendments in the fourth category are those that are, frankly, trivial. Those who have tabled them would have us argue today about the meaning of commonly understood terms such as “value for money” and “reasonably practical”. It is my estimate that none of the new clauses or amendments would improve the Bill. Indeed, they all seek to undermine it. I call on those hon. Members to withdraw them and, if they do not do so, I call on the House to reject them.