The International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has renewed the Government’s pledge to commit 0.7% of GDP to overseas aid, despite the troubled economic climate and worries about the Eurozone.
The proposal had been a manifesto pledge for the Conservatives. Page 117 of their 2010 election manifesto included a line concerning the pledge.
“We will be fully committed to achieving, by 2013, the UN target of spending 0.7% of national income as aid… We will legislate in the first session of a new Parliament to lock in this level of spending for every year from 2013,” it read.
However, with the financial crisis dominating the political landscape for much of the past two years, the law has not been forthcoming and was not included in this year’s Queen’s Speech which sets the legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary session.
“In the end, declaratory legislation should take secondary preference to the legislation which is being passed which is vital for our future economic prosperity,” said Mr Mitchell.
In a BBC television interview on Sunday he declared the bill drafted and ready to put to Parliament, but repeated that it must wait its turn. Instead, he unveiled a newly designed logo which will be appended to packages of aid in future, to identify it as having come from the UK.
“The key thing is we are standing by our commitments and from 2013 we will reach 0.7% – that’s the absolute commitment,” Mr Mitchell said on the Andrew Marr programme.
Promoting the concept of international aid, Mr Mitchell said that it was vital not only for the welfare of people in some of the world’s poorest regions, but also for the UK’s continued growth and prosperity.
“For under 1% of gross national income this is a tremendous investment, not only in the future stability and prosperity of some of the poorest and most dysfunctional parts of the world, it’s an investment for Britain in Britain’s future prosperity and stability and security,” he said.
Speculation is mounting that Labour may attempt to force a vote on the matter by introducing the aid commitment as a private member’s bill in this session of Parliament. Some suspect that the delay in introducing the policy is intended to appease Conservative backbenchers and that putting it to a vote early may unveil cracks in the party.
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