HC Deb 15 July 2004 vol 423 cc1539-40
9. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab)

What proposals he has to enhance the resources available for aid and development. [184078]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey)

As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on Monday, by 2007–08 UK development aid will rise to nearly £6.5 billion, equal to 0.47 per cent. of gross national income.

Helen Jackson

We have talked a great deal about the aid budget today. The important thing about the 0.7 per cent. target, which is not particularly magical in itself, is that it has been internationally agreed. Moreover, we know that every £1 million of overseas aid saves lives. I particularly welcome the extra £1.5 billion for HIV/AIDS aid and development, which is symbolic of that saving of lives. In what ways—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think the Minister has got the drift.

John Healey

I certainly have, and my hon. Friend is right. We want to go further. If we are to meet the millennium development goals, not least for health, we must double the current aid flows. That is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has proposed an international finance facility.

This view has been rightly expressed: If we are to be taken seriously as a party of government which cares about the most vulnerable people on the planet, there has to be a public spending commitment. Those are the words of the shadow Secretary of State for International Development. We on the Government Front Bench agree with them, but the shadow Chancellor does not. The shadow Chancellor will cut, not increase, the aid going to the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. That is the shadow Cabinet; those are spending plans rooted in chaos and confusion.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

It is obviously important that our aid budget is increasing, and Members across the House applaud the Government for what they announced earlier this week. Is it not also important, however, to ensure that more money goes to the poorest countries in the world? How are the Government doing in persuading our EU colleagues not just to increase their aid, but to ensure that it goes to the poorest countries?

John Healey

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he knows, the spending review settlement was in part designed to ensure that at least 90 per cent. of Britain's aid over the next three years does indeed go to the poorest countries. He will also know that the task of the Department for International Development is in part to put pressure on the European Union and on other multilateral aid programmes to ensure that such aid is delivered more effectively. The spending review announcements have been widely backed—by charities, the churches, campaigners and Opposition Back Benchers—but they have not been backed by the shadow Chancellor. I do hope that he will reconsider his plan to cut the aid budget by £800 million if the Conservatives regain power.