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Development Assistance

Volume 542: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2012

7. What recent progress he has made in bringing forward legislative proposals to set official development assistance at 0.7% of gross national product. (99634)

The coalition Government have set out how we will stand by the United Kingdom’s promise to invest 0.7% of national income as aid from 2013. The Bill is ready and we will legislate when parliamentary time allows.

May I therefore take from that answer that the Bill will be in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech?

It would be quite wrong of me to anticipate the contents of the Gracious Speech, but as I have explained, the Bill is ready to go and will proceed when parliamentary time permits.

Does the very able Secretary of State—[Laughter]no, genuinely, the very able Secretary of State. Does he understand the concern in the country that the overseas aid budget is to increase from £8 billion to £12 billion because of this commitment while brave men and women in our armed forces are being sacked because of the cuts?

As I have said to my hon. Friend before, I yield to no one in my respect for the armed forces having served in the Army myself. However, Britain’s development budget is spent very much in Britain’s national interests. We do it because it is the right thing to do and because it is hugely in our national interests. There is enormous support across the country, which is not always reflected in all our tabloids, for Britain’s very strong commitment to this important policy area.

The Secretary of State has been unable to give hon. Members a cast-iron guarantee today that the 0.7% legislation promised by the coalition parties will be in the Queen’s Speech. Can he now assure the House that he has made it clear to the Chancellor that any retreat in the Budget on the Government’s commitment to spend 0.7% on aid by 2013 would be a broken promise? It would be another nail in the coffin of the Prime Minister’s claim to have changed the Conservative party.

The hon. Gentleman has set up a straw man that he knows to be untrue. We are the first Government in history who have set out very clearly precisely how we will reach the 0.7% target. As I have made very clear, the Bill inevitably has to take its place in the queue behind essential legislation for rescuing the country from the perilous economic condition inherited from the Government of whom he was a part.