An open letter to David Cameron on the importance of the 0.7% target

David Taylor, chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development, on why David Cameron should stand firm on the 0.7 per cent international development target.

David Taylor is the chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development (@LabourCID)

Dear Prime Minister Cameron,

The commitment for the UK to enshrine in law our promise to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas development assistance was in both the Conservative general election manifesto and the coalition agreement.

The attempt by your defence secretary to dump this pledge by stealth (Leaked letter [£] in The Times, 17 May) undermines government policy on international development and threatens to undo Britain’s proud position as global leaders on this issue. Playing politics with people’s lives is simply unacceptable.

Dr Fox’s letter complains that improvements in transparency and accountability at the Department for International Development will prevent him from reporting defence spending as ODA. This runs completely counter to attempts to maximise value for money at DFID (and across HMG) and the chancellor’s Google speech yesterday on access to information.

It is shocking that Fox would prefer a situation where the aid budget is cut up in back room deals owing more to Conservative party machinations than to the most effective ways to allocate British taxpayers’ money.

Fox also creates a false choice between development spending and defence. It is not a decision between aircraft carriers and schools and hospitals, as he insinuates. By making smart investments in poor countries the UK can help prevent future conflicts and extremism. You will know that DFID has explicitly chosen to target fragile and conflict states for his reason.

This is one of the most fundamental elements of a smart power strategy in the 21st century – and it is extraordinary that your defence secretary has chosen to play cheap politics rather than recognise this. We ask you to urgently clarify the government’s timetable for introducing the 0.7 bill – a piece of legislation that today’s events have proven is now needed more than ever.

Yours sincerely,

The Labour Campaign for International Development

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.