UK must end overseas aid spending target, say peers

David Cameron chats to a mother of twins at a clinic in Lagos David Cameron's government insists the 0.7% target will mean large-scale improvements

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The government should do away with its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid by next year, a parliamentary committee has said.

Ministers want to make the pledge, given to the UN, legally binding.

But the Lords Economic Affairs Committee called this "inappropriate", arguing the focus should be on the effectiveness of projects rather than an "arbitrary spending target".

The government said cutting the aid budget would cost lives.

Critics of overseas aid say too much of it is being siphoned off by corrupt regimes.

They also say money is being misdirected, with some countries in the most need of help not getting enough, while others, including India, receive too much.

'Corrosive effect'

Last year, the government promised to end direct help for 16 countries - including Russia, China and Serbia - and focus more on "fragile states" such as Pakistan.

The overall target of spending 0.7% of gross national income was adopted by donor nations - including the UK - at the United Nations, in 1970, but few have reached it.

Start Quote

The British government makes no apologies for sticking to its commitments to the world's poorest people”

End Quote Andrew Mitchell Development Secretary

The government spent 0.56% on aid in 2010 and is planning legislation to make the target legally binding.

The committee warned this represented a "37% real-terms increase".

It argued that this would "wrongly prioritise the amount spent rather than results achieved" and risk "quality, value for money, and accountability".

It also complained that a lack of accountability would "increase the risk of a corrosive effect on political systems in recipient countries".

The committee's chairman, Conservative Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, said the peers "wholeheartedly" backed humanitarian aid.

But he added: "We were unanimous in our view that legislation for a 0.7% target for overall aid spending is inappropriate, and that the government should reconsider the target itself.

"We believe that development aid should be judged by the criteria of effectiveness and value for money, not by whether a specific arbitrary spending target is reached."


However, the committee welcomed the government's decision to run down aid programmes to some countries and urged an "early exit strategy" from projects in India.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "We welcome the committee's ringing endorsement of the tough reforms the coalition government has made to get maximum value for money from British aid.

"The British government makes no apologies for sticking to its commitments to the world's poorest people.

"Spending less than 1% of our national income on aid - an internationally agreed target - will create a safer and more prosperous world for the UK.

"And it will get 11 million children into school, vaccinate 55 million children against preventable diseases and stop 250,000 newborn babies dying needlessly.

"Going back on this promise would cost lives."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    There seems to be very little debate on this subject. I 100% agree with the majority of posters. Foreign aid should be put on hold until the UK is in a position to re-instate it, and within a figure that does not detrimentally affect the UK's economy.

    Charity work in the UK is amazing, we do care about our international 'cousins' but not while our young, old and disabled are suffering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Considering so many governments aorund the world are corrupt, we shouldn't give a penny.
    What should happen is that projects are funded direct to those who are carrying them out and objects/machinery should be supplied instead of money.
    We are indirectly and directly giving aid to countries who neither deserve nor are eligible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I see it like this - If you sprain your ankle whilst running you have two options

    1. Continue running and most likely cause more damage to yourself

    2. Rest, get yourself back to health then once ready continue running.

    Instead our goverment will continue to give large amounts of aid when people at home are being told to tighten their belts.

    Seems odd to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Charity begins at home. Stop giving aid. Period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I thought the country was broke? No money, thats why we have to take it off the likes of public sector workers, pensioners and the poor. Seems that that isn't quite the truth, as we have a pot of cash to dish out to any countries the Tories fancy sweetening up for business with their rich mates. More public money destined for private hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    How can it be justified to give millions to Pakistan and the like whilst they persue space and neuclear arms programmes, millions to Africa who repeatedly have the same famine areas, it is not short term food relief they need, it is long term birth control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    One of the worlds biggest military technology R&D centres is based in - Bengaluru (Bangalore) India. Aid is continually being intercepted by corrupt politicians and officials. The newspaper, Times of India, repeatedly has stories of massive corruption. India holds stocks of nuclear weapons. It does not need aid so stop it right now - today - period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Our ID secretary speaks about vaccinations, education and saving new born babies. But then he talks about "getting value for money". These are laudible aims but that's the point... it's charity.

    To imply we're getting something in return means it's basically a business deal under the table masquerading as aid. I would not be surprised - but tell us honestly, what are we getting in return?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Government is totally out of touch with public opinion on this, as every survey has shown. The policy makes no logical sense when spending cuts are damaging domestic services. Charity begins at home. This nonsense must stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    We can't continue to give aid as it is a bottomless pit and no matter how much or how little we give, things will never improve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Ask your government to stop aid to India. India does not need your money. Rather this money can be used for your own population who does not want to work or can not work. Or better keep it for your own future or pay off your own debt. Only purpose of this aid seems to satisfy your own superiority ego, which still exist despite loosing empire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    An arbitrary figure is meaningless as there will always be a rush at the end of the year to allocate money to projects which have been ill devised or not checked properly.

    We should be giving UK services, sending UK products or having UK workers build infrastructure systems. That way there is (slightly) less chance of funding going astray and our own citizens also benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    A legally binding target is inappropriate and utter nonsense.

    I'm not against giving aid but it must be appropriate and in places, and for projects that will help the receipients become self-supporting. Simply providing funds for corrupt regimes to divert for their personal gain is a criminal misuse of public funds.

    Properly targeted and controlled aid is what should be provided.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Aid to India seems ridiculous. As for Aid being robbed by corrupt officials this is not the problem it was in the 70s & 80s when we gave money to monsters in exchange for political support.

    The best work is done small scale working with reputable people in these countries - like the charity Avega in Rwanda. Tremendous stuff is going on there.

    Comparing 3rd world poverty with UK is invalid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I see many people claiming ".7% is not much money!". This is an comment of complete and utter rubbish. That .7% can be used for elderly, the sick, the unemployed and those homeless within our OWN borders. As the old saying says, sort yourself out before helping others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Just think we cannot afford both aircraft carriers, so we are told their combined cost £12 Billion coincidentally the same as the aid budget.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    We are not the rich and powerful country we once were. Increasing overseas spending when our economy is in such a mess is plain daft. Any aid given should be carefully targetted to help the poorest people and given with the condition that any equipment, consultancy, services etc are bought from UK companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    '19. Think Tank

    Now does it look small? Nearly 12 BILLION pounds.'


    Thats almost as much as we spend on Child Benefit, every year

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    So, we give £280m a year to India that spands £20bn a year on defence. They have nuclear power, they have the nuclear bomb, they have an aircraft carrier, they buy the new Rafale jet fighter, they allow poverty in their own country. Yet, we are asked not only to contribute as tax payers but even global companies such as those in telecomms and banking pursuade us to sponsor Indian charities.Mugs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    By their own admission,over £1.2 billion was syphoned off by corrupt
    people in other countries running the overseas help aid which we give.
    This was in ONE YEAR.
    Why is OUR money being wasted so disgracefully to benefit corrupt
    people overseas?
    I am at a loss to understand politicians in this country trying to save
    the world when so much needs to be done in our own land.
    Cut this aid now.


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