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 Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 10:15 am, 27th February 2015

My Lords, I rise to support this amendment for non-Treasury reasons, which may be a relief to noble Lords. We all know that the Treasury is full of very clever people, but frankly the Treasury is not always right and therefore there would have to be good reasons, other than the very fine reasons put forward by noble Lords who have already spoken, for urging that there should be an extra annual check on this programme and target.

My reason is simply that other, more effective, ways of promoting overseas development, eradicating poverty and meeting development goals are emerging all the time. The concept of ODA was invented 30 or 40 years ago, possibly more, and many new ideas have developed for promoting development and for contributing to development in more effective ways since then. The truth is that in looking at this Bill and the idea of the 0.7%, your Lordships are really dealing with an old agenda. These were fashionable views 20 or 30 years ago. Aid and development techniques have moved on rapidly.

Official development assistance—the ODA concept that we are dealing with—is rapidly becoming irrelevant. The complex challenges the world is now facing require a radically different financing model, one that requires a comprehensive approach to financing, embracing all sources of public and private finance available to developing countries. Tying the development effort unconditionally and without annual review into an “ODA-able” programme is bound to divert resources from far more productive ways of helping the poorest and encouraging development in today’s conditions.

One of the major contributions developing countries need is peace and security through military assistance, techniques and training, none of which is “ODA-able”. We are deliberately limiting our capacity to help the development process in the conditions of the 21st century, so the case for annual review and revision by the Treasury to keep our development spending programmes up to date and effective seems unanswerable.