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 Davies of Stamford Lord Davies of Stamford Labour 10:15 am, 27th February 2015

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in his normal way, spoke extremely powerfully. His arguments are extremely strong, his logic is irrefutable and his experience is something that no one would wish to challenge.

The trouble is that I think he has missed the essential point of the Bill, which is that it is a quite exceptional measure designed to send an exceptional message to the world. First, it says to the developing world, the poor countries containing the 4 billion or 5 billion people in this world who live on less than $1,000 a year per capita income, that we care about inequality and are making a fundamental qualitative change in order to demonstrate the authenticity, the reality, of that commitment and a desire to make a new move in that direction. The second reason is of course to send an equally unmistakable signal to other developed countries and to set an example that we hope they may follow.

The trouble with the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for all the quite sincere compliments that I have just paid it, is that it undermines completely that sense of authenticity. If it is clear that at any time the Treasury can decide in a given year that our obligation to spend 0.7% of GDP on international development no longer applies, then the whole commitment that we are trying to make will simply be emptied of its content. The message will not have any strength at all for either the developing world or the rest of the developed world, and that is the basis on which, very sadly, I feel I have to oppose the amendment.