With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 4—Progress towards United Nations 0.7% expenditure target—
‘The Secretary of State shall include in each annual report his assessment of the year in which he expects that the target for expenditure on official development assistance to amount to 0.7% of gross national income will be met by the United Kingdom.’.
The new clause deals with one of the most important issues in the Bill: progress towards the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. For the purposes of simplicity, provision for the historical financial reporting on official development assistance as a proportion of GNI has been moved to the schedule. Again that takes into account representations made on Second Reading concerning repetition and streamlining of the Bill. Other than that, the new clause is substantively the same as the one that it seeks to replace. In other words, it contains the clear commitment.
I am privileged and delighted to put the new clause before the Committee. If it is endorsed by the Committee and by Parliament, it will be the first time that the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNI has been embraced in statute. The Committee will know that for 36 years, all Governments have been committed to obtaining that figure. The late Judith Hart, the Minister’s predecessor, played a formidable role in seeking to achieve it, and we acknowledge that today. However, over those years, there have been ups and downs, and the plain and simple fact is that we have never made it. The House will want to know what has been achieved, and how we are reaching the target and staying there. What better way could there be of doing so than by recording progress in the annual report that we propose and which is at the heart of our discussions today? I commend the new clause to the Committee.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. This provision is probably the most significant aspect of the Bill. He is right to state that the ambition has not hitherto been put in statute, even though it has been an aspiration—I use the word loosely—of most of the developed world since the late 1960s and early 1970s. As he and, I hope, the whole Committee will be aware, the Opposition support the achieving of the 0.7 per cent. target by 2013, and we will do all we can to ensure that it is reached.
I have some general questions for the Minister. Have he and his officials given any thought to reporting this element? Will they break down how the 0.7 per cent. is being achieved as the years go by towards 2013? Will the split between multilateral aid, bilateral aid, debt relief, humanitarian aid and technical assistance—all elements that make up the total DFID budget—be documented in the report? If so, will it include the methodology of the split between multilateral assistance and bilateral assistance? Where and how the resources are allocated between those two largest areas of British aid seems relatively arbitrary at the moment.
I support my right hon. Friend’s new clause and I urge the Committee to oppose clause 6. His new clause helpfully clarifies the requirement to report on the UN 0.7 per cent. target. The other elements of financial reporting set out in clause 6 are best addressed with all the other requirements for financial reporting in the new schedule that I propose.
I assure the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness that we will seek to break down how we spend the UK’s development budget, so that hon. Members from all parts of the House will be clear about the methods by which we are making progress towards the 0.7 per cent. target With that, I support my right hon. Friend’s new clause.