A BILL that would commit the Government to spending 0.7 per cent
of national income on international aid has been passed by the
House of Commons.
MPs voted 146 to five in favour of the International Development
(Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, but only after they
had to defeat wrecking amendments by opponents of the Bill during
the earlier report stage, on Friday.
A number of Conservative MPs who opposed the Bill, including
Philip Davies, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and David Nuttall, had tabled
several amendments in an attempt to prolong the debate and kill off
the Bill by using up the available time.
More than 100 of the MPs present were in favour of the
0.7-per-cent target; so the Bill's supporters were able to force
through a motion of closure on the debate after two-and-a-half
hours, and keep the Bill alive. It was later passed on the Third
Reading, and had its First Reading in the House of Lords on
The 0.7-per-cent target was first laid out by the UN in the
1970s, and was in both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat
manifestos at the 2010 election. Mr Rees-Mogg described the target
as "tokenism", however, and a "grandiloquent expression of intent
rather than proper legislation".
Mr Davies had previously referred to the aid target as "a
hand-out to make a few middle-class, Guardian-reading,
sandal-wearing, lentil-eating do-gooders with a misguided guilt
complex feel better about themselves".
One of Mr Nuttall's amendments would cut the figure to 0.35 per
cent. He said that it was bizarre that the Government had actually
increased its spending on overseas development in recent years, "at
a time when the country can arguably least afford it".
Speaking in favour of the Bill, the Labour MP and former leader
of a Free Church congregation Gavin Shuker said that the UK had
agreed to the UN aspiration of 0.7 per cent, and now had to live up
He said that, together with Mr Davies and Mr Nuttall, he shared
a desire to repeal the Bill: "not because I aspire to living in a
UK that is less generous, but because I aspire to living in a world
which is more equal, and where each country has the resources,
institutions, and industry that it needs to be independent of
His calls for MPs to quickly reject the amendments were echoed
by Desmond Swayne, a Conservative junior minister in the Department
for International Aid. A spokesman for the Prime Minister also said
that David Cameron, who was not present in the House of Commons,
backed the intention of the Bill.
Christian Aid said that it was delighted that the aid target
continued its progress towards entering the statute book. Its head
of advocacy, Laura Taylor, said in a statement: "British aid saves
millions of lives every year. Enshrining the UK's commitment to 0.7
per cent in law will increase the predictability of aid, allowing
recipient countries to plan better, and helping the UK Government
to make smart long-term investments."
She went on: "Christian Aid calls on the Government to ensure
that the Bill is now discussed at the earliest opportunity in the
House of Lords, to give it the best chance of becoming law before
the General Election."