International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:45 pm on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Stirrup Lord Stirrup Crossbench 12:45 pm, 27th February 2015

My Lords, I suspect that it will not surprise the House to learn that I agree with everything that has been said so far on this amendment. Let me be clear: I support the 0.7% target, although I accept and acknowledge the importance of the much wider suite of tools that can and should be brought to bear on international development, as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, has rightly pointed out.

I have been in the position to see personally some of the outstanding work that is done abroad by the Department for International Development. I have also been in a position personally to witness how much of this work has contributed not just to the betterment of humankind in general but to our own national security; it is important to us in a much wider sense. Equally, I have been in a position to see the importance of what the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, who is not in his place at the moment, referred to earlier as the comprehensive approach. In so many difficult areas of the world, development and military effort have gone hand in hand, as they need to do. Indeed, one of the great improvements we have made in this country over recent years is the breaking down of the barriers that used to exist between the different departments. Here I include the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence. Their joint working has improved immeasurably over the years, and as a consequence, the output, the effect that we have in the world, has improved immeasurably as well.

I have listened very carefully to the arguments that have been made in support of this legislation and for why the 0.7% target needs to be enshrined in legislation. I listened very carefully to the arguments the noble Baroness the Minister made in resisting a number of the amendments that have been put forward. Any one of her colleagues from any of the other spending departments could stand at the Dispatch Box and make the same case with the same force for their own department. Most of the arguments that have been advanced today have no particular significance in international development over any other task that the Government undertake in general public expenditure, except, perhaps, for one, and that one is that we have agreed to an international target for international development, but so we have for defence, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has pointed out. We have said that it is crucial that nations do not fall below spending 2% of their GDP on defence within NATO. Those nations that do not meet that target should work towards achieving it. We have taken the lead, at least in terms of words, in this regard. What we have not yet done is taken the lead in terms of action.

Surely two departments that have worked and will continue to work so closely together in future as defence and international development, two departments that rely upon each other so much for a synergistic approach in the world, two departments, perhaps the only two departments, which have an international commitment to a specific target, two departments that are linked so closely, should be treated the same in our legislation. I support the amendment.