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International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:30 am on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Reid of Cardowan Lord Reid of Cardowan Labour 10:30 am, 27th February 2015

My Lords, I suspect I am in a minority on this side so I start by declaring an interest. I was involved in negotiations with nine departments of state as a Minister; none of them was the Treasury. Two, defence and health, were huge spending departments. Several others were also spending departments. I therefore bear the scars on my back from many discussions with the Treasury. Do I think that was a useful function? Yes, I do. It was necessary because there is an obligation on us all to ensure that, however well motivated a Minister, a Government or a policy is, it is subject to continual scrutiny. That is why there is merit in the amendment that has been moved.

I should make it absolutely plain that I fully support a 0.7% target and not only in politics. When I was chairman of a football club, we unilaterally adopted the same target for giving to charity. It is worthy, moral and has an element of leadership, as my noble friend Lord Davies said. However, for two reasons it would be quite wrong to have that target completely bereft of scrutiny by other departments, particularly the Treasury.

The first is to ensure that the 0.7% is spent not just with good intentions but with good outcomes. It is the objective effect of what we do, not just the morality of our intention, that will affect the lives of billions of people throughout the world. Each programme must be inspected to make sure that, however good the intent, it is not just making up numbers in a less effective way than might otherwise be the case.

Secondly, I have always believed that although each department has a degree of independence and autonomy, they should be part of an overall government strategy. Therefore, we must ensure not only that the individual programmes are beneficial but that the whole thrust of the aggregate of the programmes is complementary to our foreign policy, our defence policy and, indeed, our domestic policy. If not—if there is no scrutiny of a department and it is automatically given the right to spend money, unlike every other department—we could find an incompatibility between the two.

Therefore, I see no contradiction between a commitment to 0.7% being the aim and being enshrined in our policy for the future, and an insistence that that be spent to the best effect, not just for the good governance that has already been mentioned but for the benefit of the beneficiaries of that money—to ensure that it genuinely improves their lives in the best way possible.