Tory bluff on overseas aid called
I’ve expressed scepticism several times about whether the Coalition Government genuinely plans to fulfill its pledge to legislate to bind future governments to spend at least 0.7% of Gross National Income on overseas aid, most recently after the Queen’s Speech last month yet again omitted any mention of such legislation.
Last week, aid agencies found out by accident that the Government had ‘moved the goalposts’ (H/T VSO’s Martin McCluskey) and pushed back the deadline for fulfilling the pledge from April 2012 to the end of this Parliament in 2015. Omitting to tell anyone about this directly, by posting it in a DFID management performance document on the No 10 website hours before the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, makes it look like they were trying to keep it hidden. DFID eventually issued a response to concerns that said, as they have before, that Parliamentary time has not yet been found, but that a Bill has been drafted.
So, the offer by Labour MP Mark Hendrick to use his private members’ bill slot to present the Government Bill will call the Government’s bluff. It will also worry Conservative Party managers who made the pledge in the first place to detoxify the Tory brand and remove some ‘clear red water’ with Labour over the overseas aid which is electorally popular with middle class swing voters. A private members’ bill could be torpedoed by a Tory backbench rebellion, even if the majority of MPs want the Bill enacted.