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GDP/GNI Targets

Volume 600: debated on Monday 19 October 2015

13. Which elements of his Department’s expenditure will contribute both to the target of 2% of GDP for defence and to the target of 0.7% of GNI for overseas development assistance. (901604)

The Ministry of Defence directly funds overseas development assistance eligible activity up to £5 million a year, including disaster relief training and international capacity building. This counts towards the NATO 2% guideline. The costs of conflict, stability and security fund programme activities led by the Ministry of Defence, and security and humanitarian operations, which are partly refunded from the Department for International Development budget, will also contribute to the ODA target.

The ministerial team will notice that that is not a question about defence of the north coast. When Back Benchers cheered the two commitments on aid and military spending, I wonder if they were fully aware that that is, in effect, double counting of expenditure. Does the Minister accept that although this may be technically permitted, morally it is a contradiction in terms? Will he do all he can to minimise such double counting in the future?

Rules for what is counted and what is not counted are set for NATO expenditure by NATO and for overseas development expenditure by the OECD, so these are international rules. However, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is expenditure—defence and overseas aid—that counts towards security. Stabilising countries, preventing conflicts, peacekeeping—all that contributes to the security of our country, as well as that of some of the more fragile regions of the world.

My right hon. Friend knows that I am so enthusiastic about the Government’s commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence that I have my private Member’s Bill to enable the Government to join me in enshrining support for that commitment in law. In advance of that, can my right hon. Friend confirm the figures given to me by the Library that in reporting to NATO to meet our 2% commitment in 2015-16, we have added items of expenditure not previously included under defence? They were provision for war pensions, £820 million; assessed contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, £400 million; pensions for retired civilian MOD personnel, around £200 million; and much of MOD’s £1.4 billion of income, which makes more than £2.5 billion.

I look forward to my hon. Friend making his case on Friday. Let me be clear that expenditure from the defence budget is, of course, defence spending. It is not spent by any other Department. But it is in any case up to NATO to rule on what is eligible and what is not eligible.