Michael Moore MP writes…Securing the UK’s commitment to international development

Lynne Featherstone in UgandaI am pretty sure I have taken every chance available to enter the ballot for a Private Member’s Bill since being elected to the House of Commons in 1997.

What is certain is that I have never succeeded in securing one of the highly coveted slots that give backbench MPs a chance to pilot legislation through Parliament – until now, that is.

In the old days I am sure that those lucky enough to emerge in the “top 20” of the ballot would have learned of their good fortune by letter or maybe even messenger. By contrast, I became aware of securing the second slot by text messages and a sudden spate of social media ‘notifications’. The letter duly followed.

In the weeks since, I have had many enquiries asking which issue I would choose and have had just as many (mostly) helpful suggestions – my thanks to all who took the trouble.

Having given serious consideration to a couple of possibilities, I have now decided to introduce a Bill to make good on a long-standing Liberal Democrat commitment about international development: to create a legal requirement for the UK government to meet the UN’s target of contributing 0.7% of our Gross National Income each year as Official Development Assistance to developing countries.

I am proud of the fact that we as a party have had a long term commitment to this goal and more recently to legislate to commit current and future governments to maintain spending at this level. And I am very proud to have been a member of the first UK government to reach the target. Now I want to see Liberal Democrats legislate for the commitment to keep achieving it.

We won’t do this by ourselves and nor should we. I recognise and welcome the fact that for some years now there has been cross party consensus, and widespread support from NGOs, on the need to make a legal commitment to this level of UK support for developing countries.

When I was the party’s shadow international development spokesperson before the 2010 election, the Labour government introduced a draft Bill to this effect, which we supported. At the general election the three main UK parties each included a commitment to legislation in their manifestos and, of course, in the Coalition Agreement we signed up to making good on that promise.

The Coalition’s priorities over the past four years may have worked against having the Government time necessary for the Bill, but I am delighted that my good fortune in the Private Member’s Bill ballot allows us the opportunity to provide the time. Since I intend to build on the work of people in our party and in the Conservatives and Labour, I hope the consensus will be maintained and the Bill will pass. For my part, I will work across the parties inside Parliament and with interested people outside to make that happen.

UK aid is making a huge contribution to people across the world, but at a time when the global economy remains weak and the gap between rich and poor remains appallingly wide, the need for a strong British commitment to development aid is more important than ever.

We are the first G7 country to reach the UN 0.7% target, but rather than rest on our laurels we should continue to show leadership to other wealthy countries by making it a lasting commitment.

I hope the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill will help us to do that.

 

* Michael Moore is the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.

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8 Comments

  • A worthy cause – good luck in piloting this through parliament.

  • David Evershed 1st Jul '14 - 5:19pm

    To help developing countries it may be better to work to change international trading arrangements or improve the governance of the country than throw cash at them.

    Unfortunately many regimes will not allow the UK to spend the aid money directly on education or health and it has to go via the government and then it is hard to track what happens to it.

    It seems that in order to reach the 0.7% of GDP target, the UK has to give money directly to regimes in developing countries who can use the cash for their own purposes and much of it can end up in private Swiss bank accounts or private planes.

    Even if the cash does get spent on education and health it may only be substituting for local spend on the basics allowing the government to use the money saved to spend on arms for a private army (or the space programme in India).

    So whilst I am in favour of giving aid directly to worthwhile projects in developing countries, I am not in favour of giving it via governments. If we stop giving the aid directly to governments we may well not be able to achieve the 0.7% of GDP target, so it should not be built into a law but left flexible.

    Instead, we could do more to use our own resources to try to improve the governance in developing countries and to improve the trading arrangements for such countries (often at the expense of protectionist EU countries).

    As always it is not the inputs we should be focusing on (the cash spent) but the outputs (what can be achieved).

  • >”As always it is not the inputs we should be focusing on (the cash spent) but the outputs (what can be achieved).”
    Agree, it could be argued that by having say 250,000~300,000 volunteers working in developing countries we would be giving circa .5% of gross GDP through the equivalent of ‘salary sacrifice’. I use these figures because these are the same figures that are used to justify having net migration of circa 250,000~300,000 per annum.

  • One of the key policies that set the Liberal party apart from the tories and socialist labour was the Liberal support of Indian Independence. It’s a great shame the “liberal” thing to do is to support neo-colonialism, protectionism and destruction of third world economies by charity, which has the exact opposite effect to its good intentions!

  • Fixing the expenditure by law does not do anyone any good apart from the NGOs, consultants and the assortment of money grabbing advisors, not to mention the larger charities that have all the hallmarks and ethics of the commercial multinationals.

    The government ends up wasting huge sums of taxpayers’ money because they cannot cope with the difficult problem of ensuring that the money is used properly. They end up throwing it at “middle men” in order to satisfy their legal obligation to spend it.

    This is not a good idea at all. I have no problem with spending more money if it is used properly. Currently, the government has no idea where most of it ends up.

  • So much of the critique of the UK’s international aid spending is based on what aid used to be, intergovernmental and open to blatant corruption.

    Of course, this isn’t how its done anymore. Projects are funded, not foreign governments, and the impacts of these projects on the local economies and communities concerned are considered to avoid opposite outcomes like the classic example of food aid leading to famine having collapsed the agricultural economy of the recipient country.

    Well done to Michael Moore for having the courage to put forward this sort of bill at a time when increasingly the fashionable opinion says that we should withhold even 0.7% of our wealth from these programmes that both help those most desperately in need of it and save us blood and treasure in the long run by preventing the conflicts that spill over onto our interests.

  • Rabi Martins 3rd Jul '14 - 10:37am

    I am all in favour of providiing aid where it is needed and to that extenrt welcome Michael’s proposals
    However I want to see International Aid also being used as a lever to tackle attocities that go in in some of the countries that we provide International Aid to
    For example some of the countries we provide aid to continue to practice FGM or turn a blind eye to Sexual Abuse / Vilence particularly in conflict
    International Aid should be used as lever to address Human Rights violations and generally improve the conditions quality of life for the ordinay citizens in the those countrie, not as has been said elsewhere to line the pockets of corrupt governments or NGO managers

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