I blogged a few days ago about Mark Hendricks MP’s private members’ bill which would enshrine the promise to spend 0.7% of Britain’s Gross National Income on overseas aid. His bill would implement a commitment in both the Conservative Party’s 2010 manifesto and the Coalition Agreement – but which the Coalition seems strangely reluctant to pursue, and has yet again undermined this week.
The bill was before the Commons again yesterday (1 March) but was not taken forward because a single, solitary Conservative back-bencher indicated dissent. That’s how fragile the Coalition’s commitment to this issue is: it can be derailed by a single awkward Tory MP. And yet it appears that he may not have been being as disloyal as all that – the MP concerned is a serial opposer of private members bills that the Conservatives don’t like but are too afraid to say so publicly. They hide behind ‘one rebel Tory’.
That’s why I’m not naming him – it would validate the argument that it wasn’t the Government that wants this legislation kicked into the long grass. But that’s the case – it is Government policy not to implement their own policy, and such hypocrisy should be called out, not hidden.
Labour Shadow International Development Minister Ivan Lewis said:
“It is extraordinary that once again a backbench Tory MP has opposed legislation which was in the manifesto he stood on at the last general election and was reaffirmed in the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition Agreement. Enshrining 0.7 in law will not only secure the UK’s commitment to the poorest but will guarantee this is permanently linked to the state of our economy.”
Mark’s bill will be rescheduled for debate in April, but it looks less and less likely to get the Government support or time needed to reach the statute books.