Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 9 January 2015.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 2:18, 9 January 2015

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is my third contribution today to the manifesto development of the Conservative party for the next general election, and this Bill was inspired by the Bill of Michael Moore to introduce a target of 0.7% of GDP for international development expenditure. It occurred to me that if the Government are in favour of that Bill, surely they must be in favour of a similar Bill on defence expenditure, in line with the communiqué from the NATO conference in Cardiff and what has been enunciated on numerous occasions by Defence Ministers from both the main parties. If NATO’s policy is that each country in NATO should spend a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence and we support that, why are we not prepared to incorporate it in statute?

The argument traditionally deployed against such a move is that the Exchequer should not fetter its own discretion, and therefore it would be unreasonable to have various areas of earmarked expenditure. As the Government have abandoned that principle in favour of having earmarked expenditure incorporated within statutory limits, as in the case of overseas aid, why not do the same in respect of defence expenditure? This is a straightforward proposition and, as far as possible, the drafting of this Bill is designed to mirror that in the similar Bill on overseas aid.