I don’t see aid as a choice – we deliver health AND education, we don’t say one or the other.
A government commitment to give 0.7 per cent of GDP in aid “will happen” a government spokesperson has said.
Lib Dem peer, Baroness Northover, a spokesperson for the Department for International Development (DFID) in the Lords said the Liberal democrats were the first party to commit to giving 0.7 per cent of GDP in aid and they, are “going to deliver it”.
“It is in the coalition agreement, and never mind what Ashcroft and the Daily Mail and The Sun newspapers say, DIFID is increasing the budget to that point,” she said.
Northover, a former trustee of Unicef UK was speaking at a fringe event, organised by the charity at the Lib Dem party conference, “A fair future for the world’s children -Time to grow up?”.
Challenged on the conflict of delivering aid abroad when child and pensioner poverty is increasing in the UK Northover said:
“I don’t see aid as a choice – we deliver health AND education, we don’t say one or the other.”
Although Parliament is yet to pass a bill enshrining the aid commitment into law Northover said:
“We are already on course to delivering 0.7 per cent by 2015.
“When Parliamentary time allows we will deliver the bill – but I think the most important thing is the money.”
Anita Tiesson, deputy director of Unicef UK, agreed with Northover, saying aid is not a matter of “either or”.
“As a country the United Kingdom has a long standing commitment of looking after people, both within the country and abroad and I don’t think that has changed.
“It is not surprising when times are tough that people want to see money spent closer to home.
However Tiesson maintained that the amount of money spent on aid, compared to spending budgets in other government departments is “actually very small”.
Due to the majority of poor people in the world now living in middle income countries, Tiesson said the issue of inequality has “complicated the debate”, as people raise the question as to why wealth is not being redistributed within a country.
On Justine Greening's recent appointment as secretary of state for international development, Northover said she was clearly very happy in her previous position at the Department of Transport and “didn’t want to be moved”.
Yet she went onto state that Andrew Mitchell when first appointed to secretary of state at DFID “probably didn’t want the position either”, but he took it on board and became “astonishing at it”, which Northover thought will probably be the same of Greening.