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Official Development Assistance

Volume 564: debated on Wednesday 12 June 2013

5. When the Government plan to bring forward legislative proposals to enshrine in law their commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance. (159149)

The Minister wants us to believe the Government’s 0.7% aid promise, but first we find no Bill in the Queen’s Speech, and secondly we see a massive underspend in the Department in the last few months of last year. Who made the decisions to omit the Bill and to underspend? Was it the Secretary of State, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, or the Prime Minister?

Very nice try, but there is not a massive underspend. Previous mentions in the Queen’s Speech were about the objective of meeting the target, and if the hon. Gentleman wants the proof to be in the pudding, that is exactly what we are doing.

Would the excellent Minister agree with me that we should not set targets for overseas aid? We should give what is required.

We are doing both, because as the United Nations’ objective of 0.7% established, the continuity that comes from countries meeting it ensures that aid is delivered in the best possible way, and that is why the objective is so important for the poorest people in the world, whom we are all trying to help.

Now that we are the first of the G8 nations to reach 0.7%, perhaps the Prime Minister will make that declaration in the magnificent surroundings of County Fermanagh next week. When he has done that, will he ensure that we target that aid, that it is free from corruption, that people can see that there is a point behind the aid, and that it goes to those most in need?

I am confident that not only would the Prime Minister enjoy making such a commitment, but that he could do so truthfully and accurately, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and indeed all of us in the Department for International Development, ensures that the money that we spend on behalf of taxpayers goes to people in need, and not into the pockets of anyone who might be corrupt.

May I invite the Minister and the Secretary of State to look at the Ministry of Defence’s stabilisation activities, such as mine clearance, police training in Afghanistan, and the replacement of the Kajaki dam turbine? Those activities are not claimed as going towards the ODA target of 0.7%; if they were, I believe that we would be exceeding it.

One of the great achievements of this Government is the great co-ordination between the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and DFID, under the auspices of the National Security Council. When it comes to spending, we work very closely with those two Departments, but we must stick within the OECD rules that govern the definition of official development assistance.

How much of that percentage will be made available to the people of Yemen? Only yesterday, Jamal Benomar, the UN special representative, said that 1 million children were dying from malnutrition there. How can we save those children?

Our focus on Yemen is acute, and I take charge of that personally. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Indeed, one of the comments at the nutrition event at the weekend, attended by Ministers from Yemen, was that more than half of their children under five are stunted. We have to focus on that need, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that through our programmes in Yemen, that is exactly what we are doing.