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Andrew Mitchell: Value for money and a rigorous focus on results for British aid

The response of the British people to the awful tragedy in Pakistan has underlined, once again, a simple truth: that generosity and compassion are at the heart of what it means to be British. 

The public have donated over £60m to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.  

And British aid is providing thousands of tents, shelter kits, water containers and blankets, and millions of gallons of clean water. Delivered by British charities, international aid workers and pilots from the RAF. 

To all of them, this Party and this Conference say thank you.
 
In August, Sayeeda and I travelled to Pakistan. In the town of Pir Sabaq, amidst all the destruction and despair, we met two 11-year-old girls who reminded me of my own two daughters at the same age.
 
To the families of those two girls, and to people all over the world who are engulfed in natural disasters, we say this: Britain will always be there in your hour of need.
 
Conference, after 5 years of preparation, learning, discussing, thinking and planning, it is a huge privilege to stand in front of you today as the Secretary of State for International Development.
 
I am determined to use all my energy to deliver the progress we've all been waiting so long to make.
 
And I'm delighted to lead such a knowledgeable and able team of Ministers. Alan Duncan, Stephen O'Brien and Baroness Verma. And I pay a very special tribute today too, to the team who did so much work on this brief in Opposition - to Mark Lancaster, now my PPS, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Baroness Rawlings. Please give them all a huge round of applause.
 
Being generous is always easy in times of plenty. I can well understand those who feel less generous today given the state of our economy.
 
Belts are being tightened across Whitehall - Labour's failures have left us no choice.
 
We don't tighten our belts because we want to, but because we have to.
 
But this Coalition Government believes strongly that we must stand by the world's poor.
 
So do the British people. Comic Relief raised more money last year than ever before, despite Labour's recession.
 
And just as this Coalition Government will not balance the books on the backs of the least well-off in Britain, so we will not balance the books on the backs of the poorest people on the planet.
 
Charity does begin at home, but it doesn't end there.
 
If anyone ever doubts the importance of international development, I suggest just pausing for two minutes.
 
In those two minutes six children will have died from drinking dirty water.
 
That's one every 20 seconds. 4,000 every day. The cause of these deaths is not some incredibly complex, incurable disease. It's diarrhoea.
 
You know, just as we look back on the slave trade as abhorrent and incomprehensible, so in 100 years time our great-grandchildren will look back with astonishment on our world today - where millions of children die every year from diseases like diarrhoea, which we absolutely have the power to prevent.
 
Our generations, for the first time ever, have the power to make a huge difference - and this Coalition Government is determined to make sure that we do just that.
 
Consider this fact: this year British aid will pay for five million children in developing countries to go to primary school. That's roughly the same number as go to primary school in Britain, yet at only 2.5 per cent of the cost.
 
Giving those children a good start in life is an investment in their future, and in ours: it will bring benefits throughout their lifetimes, and for our children as well. 
 
That is why we are all so proud of the leadership that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have shown pushing international development issues on the world stage at the G8, G20 and UN summits: pushing hard for ambitious outcomes on issues like maternal health, malaria, and economic growth. Putting girls and women at the heart of our approach to development.
 
Our Labour predecessors sometimes seemed to forget that aid is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
 
It's the start of the path out of poverty towards prosperity.
 
Economic development and human development go hand in hand - that knowledge is hardwired into our Conservative DNA.
 
That's why I am setting up within the Department for International Development a new private-sector division. It will help to unleash the creative, wealth-generating energies of people everywhere and make enterprise and commerce a crucial part of British development policy.
 
And as nations manage to lift themselves from the lowest income bracket; as Britain engages with the world's emerging economies; and as the international community works to tackle the causes and devastating consequences of climate change - this Government understands that what we must all strive towards is a world of free and fair trade in which all individuals have the opportunity to benefit from the proceeds of prosperity. 
 
And it's also true that promoting development around the world is more than just a moral imperative. It is clearly and directly in our national interest.
 
Fragile states are often too weak to prevent organised crime from flourishing. They struggle to stop terrorists from recruiting and planning attacks on the UK. In today's interconnected and globalised world, none of us is immune to the consequences of disease, war, migration, the drugs trade, climate change.  These things do not stop at the water's edge: tackling them is fundamental to our security here in Britain. 
 
And nowhere more so than in Afghanistan.
 
We are lucky to have the bravest and best armed forces in the world whose work overseas helps us to build a safer future here at home. They are the best of British, and we salute them.
 
Alongside the work of our brave armed forces, development and diplomacy are crucial to securing progress. That's why I have ordered an urgent scaling-up of British aid to Afghanistan. This will help to build up the structures of a state. Improving policing, building infrastructure, getting children into school and cracking down on corruption in key Afghan ministries.
 
This isn't about militarising aid: it's about realising that stopping the need for military intervention by tackling the root causes of conflict and poverty is one of the best possible investments we can make. And that's exactly what the Coalition Government, acting together in the national interest, is going to do. But making that progress on tackling poverty requires an end to Labour's eye-watering profligacy.
 
To those who say that we should continue in Labour's vein, simply patting ourselves on the back for getting money out of the door, I say this: our commitment to reaching 0.7% of national income on aid by 2013, and enshrining this in law, imposes an even greater duty on us, more than any other Department in Whitehall, to get value for money, to bear down on waste, and to ensure that aid secures 100 pence of value for every hard-earned British taxpayer's pound we spend.
 
I'm afraid this wasn't always the case under Labour - far from it. Let me tell you what Labour spent aid money on - and it's lucky you're sitting down.
 
They spent or planned to spend precious aid money on the following: 
Nearly a quarter of a million pounds for a Brazilian-style dance troupe in Hackney, North London, specialising in percussion,
£115,000 to run stalls at summer music festivals around Britain,
£240,000 of your money for a 'Global Gardens Schools Network',
and £190,000 to train children between the ages of 2 and 4 about global issues...ladies and gentlemen, this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'potty training'.
One of my first acts at DFID was to cancel more than seven million pounds of this nonsense. And we have taken concrete steps to secure value for money, both for the taxpayer and for those we are determined to help.
 
Redirecting over £100m of spending to more effective programmes.
 
A thoroughgoing review of where and how aid is spent.
 
A new British Aid Transparency Guarantee.
 
An independent aid watchdog.
 
Ending the absurdity of aid payments to China and Russia.
 
And let no-one be in any doubt whatsoever: a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.
 
Together we have fought to remove a tired and cynical Labour government.
 
Now we have the chance to demonstrate a new, effective, Coalition approach to tackling poverty.
 
We have been waiting a long time for our Party to return from the frustration of Opposition to the duties of Government.
 
The duty to bring an end to the injustice of millions of children dying every year from drinking dirty water.
 
The duty to help build a world where opportunity, growth and education empower girls and boys to be masters of their own futures.
 
The duty to create a world where women needn't fear death through giving birth, and needn't lose their children to hunger.
 
These are enormous goals, but they are now achievable.
 
Now we are in power, we have a chance to do something about them.
 
We must. We can. And, together, we will.

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