Government 'committed to aid bill'

Downing Street insisted today the Government was committed to enshrining its overseas aid spending targets in law, despite objections by Defence Secretary Liam Fox.







No 10 condemned the leak of a private letter from Dr Fox to David Cameron warning that he could not support the plans in their current form.



"Clearly we condemn leaks in all forms," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said, adding that it would be for senior officials to decide whether to mount a leak inquiry.



The spokesman stressed that Dr Fox's concerns would not affect the Government's plan to create a statutory requirement for 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to be spent on overseas aid.



"It is coalition policy, it is Government policy, it will be made law," the spokesman said.



"There is no question that it is the Government's policy to have the 0.7% of GNI target for international aid. We will introduce a Bill in due course to make that law."



In his letter, obtained by The Times, Dr Fox - who made clear he had discussed the issue with International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Foreign Secretary William Hague - argued that establishing a specific statutory target would open up the Government to future legal challenges.



Instead, he suggested that the target should simply be recognised in legislation, along with a commitment to produce an annual report on whether it was being met.



"I have considered the issue carefully, and discussed it with Andrew and William Hague, but I cannot support the proposal in its current form," he wrote.



A source close to Dr Fox insisted that he was not opposed to the Government's plan to increase spending on aid, saying: "The Defence Secretary fully supports the principle of a 0.7% target on international aid.



"The issue is simply how best to reflect this in law."



However the leak once again highlighted the uneasy relationship between Mr Cameron and Dr Fox who were rivals for the Tory leadership in 2005.



Last year another private letter from Dr Fox to the Prime Minister - this time warning of the impact of planned defence cuts - was leaked to the press.



Dr Fox strongly denied any responsibility and ordered an inquiry by the Ministry of Defence Police.



The latest leak, however, again chimes with the concerns of many Tory backbenchers who believe that the Government is spending too much on overseas aid at a time of economic austerity.



In contrast, Mr Cameron is strongly committed to the statutory target which he regards as emblematic of the way the Conservative Party has changed under his leadership.









Shadow international development secretary Harriet Harman said: "The commitment to increase overseas aid spending to 0.7% of GNI by 2013 was a manifesto commitment by the Tories and the Lib Dems and was repeated in the coalition agreement. It must not be the next broken promise.



"Britain's overseas aid saves lives in the developing world, but it is also in our national interest to tackle the underdevelopment which can cause conflict.



"This Tory manifesto promise has been reiterated by the Prime Minister at international forums. He must show that Britain keeps its word.



"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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test