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Aid Target

Volume 557: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Government are committed to spending 0.7% of gross national income on development aid from 2013 and thereafter. The Department’s budget after the 2012 autumn statement adjustment, along with planned overseas development spending from other Government Departments, is set to meet this commitment.

I thank the Minister for his answer. The Enough Food For Everyone If campaign has highlighted the value of investing in smallholder farmers: the men, or more often women, who already feed a third of humanity but are vastly under-resourced. Will the Minister confirm that as his Department’s budget increases he will increase funding for smallholder agriculture and support countries’ agriculture investment plans?

We give our full support to the recently launched If campaign; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State went to the launch herself. I do agree with the hon. Lady that this should be a focus of our activity, as 90% of food comes from smallholders in their own countries. Supporting them and the markets in which they work is a crucial part of the activity we wish to undertake over the next few years.

The Minister may be aware that the International Development Committee is publishing its report on the Department’s annual report tomorrow. Is he prepared to consider different ways of ridding the world of absolute poverty, such as setting up a development bank or offering loans so that we can reach more people, particularly poor people in middle-income countries where we do not currently have programmes?

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that ingenious plug for his report and on the idea of a development bank. We remain open-minded and non- dogmatic about what we should do with our budget. What matters is what works. As always, we will study his report in detail and reply formally to any ideas in it.

The Minister has indicated that we will meet the 0.7% commitment. Will he also assure us that when that money is deployed, we will ensure value for money and, most vitally, that corruption is addressed, particularly in parts of Africa?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on all counts. Value for money and its proper evaluation are the principles by which we work every day. We focus a great deal on corruption, by which we mean the risk of fraud in the use of our funds and endemic corruption in the countries in which we work. To that end, we are publishing anti-corruption strategies for each of our bilateral countries, as recommended by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.

Now that we have reached the target of 0.7% of GDP, should non-governmental organisations and others not be focusing part of their attention on encouraging other G8 countries to meet that target? There is no point in our doing it if other G8 countries are not pulling their weight.

My hon. Friend may well have pre-empted a question that is further down the Order Paper. In principle, the answer is yes. Where we lead, we want others to follow. If we are prepared to spend 0.7%, so should other economically wealthy countries.

I visited the west bank and Israel with colleagues last December, where I saw evidence of the daily indignity and injustice that Palestinians face. A number of EU and UK-funded schools in the west bank are under the threat of demolition orders. What are the Government doing to ensure that our investment is not wasted?

I think that we need to relate the matter to the question of 0.7%, which the Minister will be dextrous at doing.

Of course, some of the 0.7% of GNI, which we spend so well, goes to the Palestinian Authority, whose finances are in some peril. We wish to support them and we urge other countries to do so. A two-state solution, which we all want to see, is not served by a weak and fractured Palestinian Authority.

The If campaign emphases that if other countries followed our example on the 0.7% target, enormous investment in small-scale agriculture and child and maternal nutrition could be delivered. Will the Government use this year’s hunger summit to state not only that other countries should meet the 0.7% target, but that they should spend the money on those priorities to address hunger and poverty?

There are many claims on the development budget, but as my hon. Friend says, such matters are a good and sensible call on it. They would be best served by other countries meeting the same sort of percentage commitment as us. The demand for assistance is almost insatiable, but so much good could be done if other comparatively wealthy countries followed our lead.