Despite Senior Official's Concerns, UK Affirms Pledge to Enshrine Aid Spending Targets Into Law

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron with Defense Secretary Liam Fox. Photo by: The Prime Minister's Office / CC BY-NC-ND

The U.K. government says it will push through with plans to enshrine into law its commitment to meet the U.N.-set target of spending 0.7 percent of  gross national income for foreign aid, despite concerns raised by U.K. Defense Secretary Liam Fox.

“It is coalition policy, it is government policy, it will be made law,” the Guardian quotes the official spokesman of Prime Minister David Cameron. “There is no question that it is the government’s policy to have the 0.7 [percent] of GNI target for international aid. We will introduce a bill in due course to make that law.”

In a private letter to Cameron, which was obtained by London-based newspaper The Times, Fox warned that the current proposal to create a specific legal requirement committing the government to meet the U.N.-set target by 2013 could create future legal problems for the United Kingdom

“I cannot support the proposal in its current form,” Fox wrote, saying the it would limit the government’s “ability to change its mind about the pace at which it reaches the target in order to direct more resources toward other activities or programs rather than aid.”

Fox said that the government should instead recognize the target in law and commit to publish an annual report on whether or not the target is being met. He said he had discussed the issue with U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The Guardian says a source close to the defense secretary noted that Fox supports plans to increase foreign aid spending and the 0.7 percent target but is concerned on “how best to reflect this in law.”

Cameron’s official spokesman stressed that the government’s plans will not be affected by the concerns raised by Fox.

Meantime, Harriet Harman, the U.K. shadow international development secretary, pressed the government to  fulfill its aid spending promise, which she noted is part of the manifesto commitment and coalition agreement of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

“The way to show they are not going to break this manifesto commitment is to bring in the promised legislation now. The government must keep the promise,” Harman said.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.