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 Tugendhat Lord Tugendhat Chair, EU Sub Committee C - External Affairs 12:45 pm, 27th February 2015

My Lords, the Minister will recall that at Second Reading and in Committee I stressed my support for the aid programme and that I have also supported the 0.7% target. The points made by my noble friend Lord Forsyth and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, are central to the debate we are having. Although I and other colleagues doubt the wisdom of guaranteeing a particular share of the national budget to one particular spending programme for exactly the reasons that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, emphasised, the Government are arguing that that is the right thing to do in the case of this programme, as distinct from any other, partly because of its international nature, partly because of the commitments we have entered into, partly because of their belief that we would be setting an example to other people and partly because of their belief that others will follow that example.

Given that that is the Government’s position, the Minister owes it to the House to explain why what is sauce for the development goose is not sauce for the defence gander. I recognise that she is not a member of the Conservative Party, but she is speaking on behalf of the Government in this House and the Prime Minister, who leads the Government of which she is a member, has been emphasising very strongly in recent days the importance of other nations following our example in relation to the 2% target set for NATO. We have recently received evidence that the British Government may not be able to meet that target next year. If this idea of setting targets and guaranteeing a share of national expenditure is so important in one field, the Minister must be able to argue, for the reasons set out so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Forsyth and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, why they should not apply in the case of defence.

I hope she will also be able to accept that while the problems of the developing world are of a continuing nature, problems in the case of defence wax and wane, and at the moment, when we look at what is happening in Ukraine and the Middle East, problems in the defence sphere are certainly waxing. Therefore, if the Government are going to be able to defend on a rational basis the reasons why they are privileging the development budget in his way, it is essential that they are able to explain why they do not wish to do so for defence. I know defence is not the Minister’s department, but she is proposing this Bill and doing so on a particular set of grounds which apply to the defence area, where we are also committed to a particular target.