Cameron to drop 0.7% aid commitment?

The Observer reports that Prime Minister David Cameron will not include his long-touted 0.7% foreign aid target in the Queen's Speech this week

by The Commentator on 5 May 2013 12:01

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In what will no doubt be hailed as a major victory for the more traditionally conservative minded wing of Britain's Tory party, the Observer today reports that Prime Minister David Cameron may drop his long-touted legal commitment to aid spending, and may not even introduce it over this entire parliamentary session.

The commitment, which has long epitomised the battle between the fiscally conservative wing of the Conservative Party, and the more Left-wing elements, is thought not to be included in the Queen's Speech which opens Parliament this week and sets the agenda for the upcoming session.

The Observer newspaper reports that the 'flagship policy' – hailed as part of Cameron's 'modernisation' plan after the 2010 coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – will not be in Wednesday's Queen's speech and will not now come to pass under this government.

It is thought that pressure from rebellious backbenchers led to the prime minister privately ruling out the legislation to guarantee that 0.7 percent of the country's gross national product (GNP) be spent on helping the world's poorest countries.

Critics have argued that at a time of economic crisis, handing out vast swathes of borrowed cash at the British taxpayers' expense is hardly the best use of cash.

But the compromise may come in the form of a 'status quo' agreement between the Conservative leadership and backbenchers. While the law may not be passed, spending commitments may indeed remain at the 0.7 percent level, pleasing both sides of the divide. Much of the anger over the commitment is not over cash amounts, but rather over the notion of enshrining the policy in law.

Recently, a public argument ensued when Tory donor Lord Ashcroft hit out at Tory MP and trade union-campaigner Robert Halfon for his article on the Conservative Home website claiming that aid is an "essential strand of Social Justice."

Ashcroft hit back claiming, "There is an increasingly desperate tone to these defences of the coalition’s aid policies. Perhaps this is not surprising, since they look more threadbare, more profligate and more anachronistic for an austerity-gripped nation in a fast-changing world as each day passes."

Senior Conservative cabinet ministers have long lauded the 0.7 percent proposal, with George Osborne recently stating, "We deliver in this coming year on this nation's longstanding commitment to the world's poorest to spend 0.7% of our national income on international development."

The move is not currently believed to be in response to UKIP's large-scale wins at the local elections this past week, but rather to intensifying backbench pressure from within the Conservative Party.

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