Motion to Take Note

Part of EAC Report: Development Aid – in the House of Lords at 7:54 pm on 22 October 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Lawson of Blaby Lord Lawson of Blaby Conservative 7:54, 22 October 2012

My Lords, I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me if I do not address the points he made in his contribution to the debate. We are strongly constrained for time, which unfortunately prevents us having a debate in the real sense of the word.

As the first member of the Economic Affairs Committee of your Lordships' House to speak after our chairman, I start by paying a large tribute to his outstanding chairmanship. He pointed out that in this tricky area we produced an absolutely unanimous report. I think that the main reason for our unanimity, if I may say so, was because the weight of evidence that we received was so overwhelming-evidence that noble Lords who have spoken so far seem to regard as of no account. However, his outstanding chairmanship also played a part, and I thank him.

This country's aid programme stands out in at least three ways. First, as my noble friend said, we give more in overseas development aid than any country in the world with the sole exception of the United States. Secondly, while in order to achieve sadly necessary fiscal consolidation, all other public expenditure programmes are being either frozen or cut back, the UK overseas aid budget is roaring ahead-at a time when most other countries are slowing down on this front. Thirdly, we are doing this explicitly in pursuit of a pledge to meet the 42 year-old United Nations target of spending 0.7% of our GNP on aid by next year; and, unlike any other country in the world, and in contrast to all other areas of public expenditure in this country, we have said that we will introduce legislation to bind this and all future UK Governments to maintaining this level of spending in perpetuity.

As my noble friend Lord MacGregor pointed out, the principal conclusion of our report, although not the only one, was that, far from making it a legal obligation, we should abandon this antique and wholly arbitrary target altogether. He admirably set out why we unanimously reached that conclusion. In particular, he pointed out how the 0.7% target prioritises the amount spent rather than the results achieved, and thus makes the achievement of the spending target more important than the effectiveness-if any-of the programmes. The Government's pathetic response to our report was that the 0.7% commitment was a solemn pledge by all three political parties, and that is that.