By Tim Montgomerie
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In my other blog this morning I give the Coalition low marks for its record on deficit reduction. Progress has been dismally slow. Let me celebrate two other things that the Budget delivered, however, and point to three big achievements overall.
First, Britain will become the first major economy to spend 0.7% of national income on international development. I realise that most readers of this website and most voters object to spending more on aid when domestic budgets are so tight but the plight of this nation is nothing compared to the plight of many hundreds of millions of people in parts of the developing world. It's true that some aid is wasted and some goes into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians. Most, however, puts food in hungry bellies, innoculations in vulnerable bloodstreams and resilience in subsistence farmers' crops. We should be very proud that a Conservative Prime Minister and Chancellor have delivered this commitment and have done so in the teeth of very significant opposition from people who give the impression that our aid budget is much bigger than it is and that incidences of corruption are the norm rather than the exception. Even readers of this website become much more positive about aid when the very specific benefits of it are spelt out. What is vital is that the reforms begun by Andrew Mitchell and maintained by Justine Greening are accelerated. They include greater transparency of the aid budget, redirection of aid to poorer countries, more market-driven aid and streamlining of the DFID bureaucracy.
A second huge achievement – again from yesterday's Budget – was the decision to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000. This has cut income tax for 24 million people and lifted 2.7 million people out of the income tax system altogether. Alongside Iain Duncan Smith's universal credit and the 1% cap on welfare benefits it represents a huge attempt to ensure work always pays more than welfare.
Finally, in terms of moral achievements (and I know I'm in danger of enraging readers now) David Cameron will also go down in history as the PM who introduced gay marriage. Controversial now I predict it will be something that Conservatives will talk of with increasing pride with every passing year.