On September 12th, MPs will debate whether to enshrine into law a UK Government commitment to spend 0.7% of the UK’s income on overseas aid. We look at what this Bill could achieve and how you can take action to ensure it moves forward.
Politics is not always business as usual. Our UK Parliament usually debates and votes on policies and laws put forward by the Government. But every year, a few lucky MPs get drawn out of a hat and have the chance to put forward ‘Private Members Bills’ (PMBs) on a cause close to their heart (although the Party leaderships get their say, one imagines).
This year, second out of the hat was Lib Dem MP and former Scotland Secretary Michael Moore, who has put forward the ‘International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill’. Moore’s Bill would enshrine in law a UK Government spend of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) every year on aid for developing countries.
What Could an Aid Bill Achieve?
Engaged citizens are right to want to ask - is our generosity really having an impact? The answer is an emphatic yes. UK development aid has a huge impact globally, including saving a child’s life through immunisation every two minutes – for the cost of a cup of coffee. Over 10 million children every year have the chance to go to school because of UK citizens. Since 1990, along with other donors, we’ve helped to halve the global child mortality rate, saving over 6 million lives.
The UK public, despite the protestations of a section of the media, do seem to be aware of the impact of their generosity. Recent research by ComRes has revealed that a level of 0.7% is supported by the majority of the UK public, who recognise the importance of working to ensure developing countries can reach their potential and achieve self-reliance in the long term.
Legislating for 0.7% would move the debate forward, away from ‘how much?’ to simply ‘how?’ – a focus on the best way to use this development aid. It would make funding amounts more predictable for our partners, allowing better planning and value for money. As a percentage figure, it would also allow flexibility when times are hard. It’s not an increase in spending – we’ve already met the 0.7% target in spending. For more on why this Bill is such a great chance for development, visit www.turnupsavelives.org.uk.
The State of Play
We first committed to this target in a 1970 UN General Assembly resolution. In the following 40 years only Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands reached the target. Praise is due to the current Government for their 2013 Budget, which marked the first time the UK had met the 0.7% target, and made us the first G8 nation to get there too. But the introduction of a Bill on 0.7% has been conspicuously absent from the Government’s Queen’s Speech announcements and we’ve had to wait for a Private Members Bill.
After so many years, 2014 is a great chance for all three main UK Parties to meet their Manifesto pledges – and our 40 year commitment – and enshrine levels of development aid in law. David Cameron has now signalled the Government will support Moore’s Bill, and it has been welcomed by Labour’s Shadow Development Secretary Jim Murphy.
‘Turn Up Save Lives’
The next step for the Bill – its ‘second reading’ – falls on the morning of 12th September. If 100 MPs turn up, it will pass to the next stage. However, the 12th falls on a Friday morning when many MPs would normally be in their constituencies. So it’s essential that those of us who are committed to development get in touch with our MPs and tell them why it’s so important they head into Parliament on the morning of September 12th.
The next steps aren’t going to be easy – beyond the ‘second reading’, there’s a debate to win. But first, we need to get the Bill over its next hurdle, and make sure enough MPs turn up on September 12th.
How You Can Make a Difference
Over the next few weeks, we’re encouraging constituents all over the country to contact their MPs and ask them to attend and support the Bill on September 12th. For a full list of the different ways you can do this, check of our September Action on the RESULTS website.