International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 am on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Lawson of Blaby Lord Lawson of Blaby Conservative 10:15 am, 27th February 2015

My Lords, I give my full support to the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has just moved. He pointed to the names of noble Lords who have put their names to this amendment, all of them former Permanent Secretaries to the Treasury, Cabinet Secretaries or, in some cases, both. In all my 23 years as a Member of your Lordships’ House, I cannot remember this ever occurring before, and it may well be that it is unprecedented. There is a reason for that.

I pay tribute personally to the noble Lord, Lord Butler. I have known him for many years. When I first became Chancellor, he was Permanent Secretary in charge of public expenditure at the Treasury, a duty that he fulfilled impeccably and has done over the years. We are very lucky in our senior Civil Service. He has been an outstanding public servant in a number of ways over a large number of years, and we ignore what he says at our peril.

The amendment is fundamentally about good government. I do not know whether this is still the case, but in my day the Treasury used to be known as “the central department”. It was called that because it had a responsibility that went beyond the question of the management of the economy, in so far as one is capable of doing so; it also had a responsibility for good government. We in this House also have an overarching and overriding responsibility for good government. However well intentioned, the Bill, for the reasons outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, is the antithesis of good government. It is gesture politics. Good government really matters, and the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Butler, goes to the heart of that issue. I warmly support it.