Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 2:23 pm on 9 January 2015.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission, Chair, Public Accounts Commission 2:23, 9 January 2015

I oppose this Bill. I know where my hon. Friend Mr Chope is coming from, but hypothecating the expenditure of a Department in legislation is economically illiterate. It makes no sense at all, and we cannot right one evil by creating two evils. Although I am strongly in favour of the 2% commitment on defence expenditure, the Treasury must approach the defence budget in the same way as it approaches all other budgets: we decide what we would like to do, we decide what we can afford to do and we live within our means. Whatever our views on international development, I am strongly in favour of spending on humanitarian aid and of many other aspects of our budget. However, while we are going to cut expenditure on Lincolnshire police by £3 million, and we cannot afford to have more than one patrol car operating in my 600 square mile constituency at night, it seems that, because of the growing economy, we can afford to increase international aid development by £1 billion. I cannot believe that that is the right way to run the economy.

I understand why my hon. Friend has introduced this Bill. He is drawing attention to an appalling hole into which we are digging ourselves. We must get out of it and proclaim the principle that we believe in defence spending, international aid and all the other good things that we want to do, but, as a Government, we must live within our means and spend what we can afford to spend.