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According to the application to the Backbench Business Committee, the debate is intended to look at the targeting of the aid budget in order to reach the world’s poorest people and to support the UK’s overall aid and trade policies.

The UK spends 0.7% of its gross national income on aid (Official Development Assistance, or ODA). In the 2017 General Election, the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party all committed themselves to maintaining spending at this target in their manifestos. All continue to back it today, although in its 2017 manifesto the Conservative Party also included a pledge to change the way that aid is defined, either by working with “like-minded countries” to ensure that the OECD’s rules “better reflect the breadth of our assistance around the world” or, if that does not work, by changing UK law.

The Department for International Development spends the majority of the aid budget, which is provisionally estimated at £14.5 billion for 2018. Some Parliamentary committees and other organisations have raised concerns about how effectively departments other than DFID can deliver aid.

Aid spending can be broken down into a number of functional sectors. In 2017, the two largest sectors by spending were social services and infrastructure (42%) and humanitarian aid (17%).

UK aid spending is regularly evaluated, both by spending watchdogs (such as the Independent Commission for Aid Impact and the National Audit Office) and by Parliamentary committees. Recent reports have recognised the impact that aid spending has had, and have also suggested improvements in specific areas and for specific funds.

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