Press conference at Conservative Campaign Headquarters
"Good afternoon. The purpose of this press conference is to explain our spending plans for international development. As you know, the Conservative Party commissioned the James Committee to investigate the spending efficiency of all departments.
Over the past few months, that Committee has conducted a rigorous assessment of the activities of the Department for International Development. The Committee reported to us in November, and we studied its findings. We subsequently made a decision in December about our proposals for the overall future funding of the department, and this was all agreed internally before we rose for the Christmas recess. Today I am making public that funding decision, and next Tuesday we will set out the conclusions of the James Committee value for money review of the Department for International Development.
Over the last 10 days, the British people have demonstrated once again their incredible generosity and compassion in responding to the tragedy in South East Asia. But we must never forget the ongoing disaster of mass poverty, especially in Africa. Around the world, a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This year, 4 million people will be newly infected with HIV.
Today, 30,000 children will die from easily-preventable diseases. We have a profound moral responsibility to help these people. Moreover, it is in the British national interest to come to their aid. Poverty is a breeding ground for violence and war, and is the spur for the mass movement and displacement of populations. A world without poverty will also, therefore, be safer, more stable, and more secure.
So the elimination of global poverty is one of our priorities. That is why I can today announce that a commitment to more and better aid will form a central part of our election manifesto.
Over the next 3 years we will increase the budget of the Department for International Development from £4.5bn in 2005/06 to £5.3bn in 2007/08. I can confirm that ours are the same figures as those currently included in Labour's spending plans for the equivalent 3 years. Since our plans will be set within the context of a much tougher control of overall spending than Labour's, this commitment forcefully underlines the high priority Conservatives attach to the elimination of global poverty.
I can also confirm that we intend to continue this substantial growth in spending on international aid beyond 2007/08.
In 1970, the UN called for richer countries to devote 0.7% of their Gross National Income to what is properly called Official Development Assistance. I am pleased to announce that it is our policy to work towards achieving the UN's 0.7% spending target by the year 2013.
So we will increase spending on aid. And by also applying Conservative principles to the way this money is spent, we will make it more effective. Next Tuesday we will make available our value for money action plan for the Department for International Development. The product of many months of research and deliberation, this will explain precisely how we could make every pound spent on aid more effective.
Crucially, unlike our value for money reviews in other departments, our purpose in finding savings and efficiencies in the Department for International Development was not to cut the budget, but to make the budget go further. We are dealing with the poorest people in the world. More effective and well-focussed aid will allow us to save more lives and to lift more people out of poverty.
Over the next month, we will set out a radical, constructive and distinctive Conservative agenda for international development:
- On Tuesday 11th January, in parallel with the announcement of the results of our value for money review of DfID, Oliver Letwin will discuss in more depth the contribution that well-directed aid can make to poverty reduction, and the crucial role of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.
- A few days later he will outline how today's announcement, and the spending of other departments, fits into the detail of our overall spending intentions.
- In a few weeks time, James Arbuthnot will talk about international trade, and the crucial role it can play in helping to make poverty history.
These speeches - together with the recommendations of our Value for Money review - will offer a comprehensive exposition of the principles that will guide the Conservative approach to international development. And they will set out some of the concrete policy proposals that embody these principles.
2005 will be a crucial year for international development. The efforts of campaigns such as Make Poverty History and the Trade Justice Movement are putting the issue of global poverty indelibly on the political agenda. We sometimes emphasise different things, and we do not agree on everything. But we endorse their campaigns, and share their objective of a world free from the scandal of avoidable poverty.
2004 ended with great sadness, but Britain's presidency of the G8 and the European Union offers a real opportunity in 2005. Today's spending announcement demonstrates our commitment to the aim of achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals, and to the British values of compassion, dignity and helping others.
So we confirm today that our future spending and our goals will equal those of the government, and with the efficiency savings we have identified, even exceed them. We believe in constructive policies of freer and fairer trade, support for poor countries' trade negotiations, faster and deeper debt relief and practical co-operation with NGOs.
We will prove that the Conservative Party's performance on international development will be something that this party and Britain will be pleased to see in action."