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Andrew Mitchell: Achieving value for money in aid

Enterprise, accountability, transparency.

These are the principles that govern our Conservative approach to international development.

An approach set out in our policy papers, but which has been shaped by practical experience on the ground where this summer, for the third year, 100 Conservative doctors, lawyers, business people and teachers of English went to work in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

For all their brilliant work, please thank my hardworking team: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Mark Lancaster in the Commons, and Baroness Rawlings in the Lords.

Here in Britain we are living in the age of austerity.

Times are tough.

We are having to tighten our belts.

But out there in the developing world times are infinitely tougher.

Children go to bed hungry every night, and are menaced by the floods, droughts and crop failures caused by climate change.

And our hearts have gone out in recent days to the people caught up in natural disasters around the world.

We strongly support the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal for the people of Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

They say that charity begins at home. Indeed it does. But it doesn't end there.

Our responsibility to help poor families does not stop on our doorstep. It extends to the poorest of the poor across the globe.

And their misery and suffering makes the world a more dangerous place for all of us in Britain.

The terrorists who tried to blow up airliners over the Atlantic were part of a global network of terror which thrives on conflict, poverty and instability from Pakistan to Somalia.

So while global poverty is an affront to our morality, it is also a clear and present danger to British lives and British interests.

It is a danger we must confront head-on.

Unfortunately, Labour have created a culture of carelessness with public money.

For example, what possible justification can there be for Labour’s International Development Minister signing off a 240,000 pounds grant to set up a Brazilian dance troupe in Hackney?

Under a Conservative government, this abuse of taxpayers’ money simply won’t happen.

At Conference last year I revealed that Labour are giving 38 million pounds of aid to China, a country which spent 20 billion pounds on hosting the Olympics.

Today I can reveal that Labour are giving millions of pounds in aid to a country which has a GDP of over a trillion dollars and is a member of the G8…


Giving aid to Russia is simply ridiculous.

This misuse of our aid budget is an insult to our taxpayers and it must come to an end.

This is not what the hard-pressed British taxpayer signed up for.

Today, Labour are giving aid to more than 100 different countries. That is more than half the countries in the world.

Too many of these are the wrong countries.

Under a Conservative Government, that will change.

We will only give aid to the countries that really need it.

Our Party is committed to reaching, by 2013, the internationally-agreed goal of spending 0.7% of national income as aid.

This period of economic hardship is not a time to turn our backs on the poorest in the world, but to reaffirm our commitments to them.

But let me say quite clearly: just because the aid budget is growing, it will not be exempt from the line-by-line scrutiny and value for money tests that a Conservative government will impose everywhere and on everything.

Our bargain with the taxpayer is this: in return for your contribution of hard-earned money, it is our duty to spend every penny well.

That is why we will replace Labour’s complacent system of self-evaluation with proper unflinching scrutiny through an Independent Aid Watchdog.

That is why we’ll expect more bang for our buck, only handing over cash when we see real evidence of development results.

That is why we’ll reduce or even abolish funding for multilateral agencies like the UN Development Programme if they fail to deliver.

But we know that development is about much more than just aid.

The single most important exit from grinding poverty is economic growth and trade.

So we will reemphasise the importance of private sector led growth and wealth creation as the only path to prosperity.

Some people have attacked these proposals for being too tough, too hard-headed, too right-wing. Labour Ministers said that our plans are Thatcherite madness.

Well let me tell them something.

We knew Margaret Thatcher.

She rescued Britain from the ruins of the last Labour government.

She got things done.

She sorted out the unions, balanced the books and restored our reputation on the world stage.

Just as David Cameron will have to do all over again if we are elected.

We know Margaret Thatcher.

And we know that her kind of courage and honesty have never been more badly needed.

In Afghanistan the effectiveness of our aid is a matter of life and death for ordinary Afghans and for our brave soldiers.

Recently I flew into Lashkar Gah in an RAF helicopter.

Ladies and gentlemen, when you see what our service men and women are doing…

…when you spend time with them in Helmand…

…you are humbled by their commitment and their bravery.

There is no more urgent task than ensuring that British aid in Afghanistan and Pakistan is more effective in delivering results for ordinary people and supporting the wider British mission there.

That’s why William Hague, Liam Fox, Pauline Neville-Jones and I spend so much time working together to ensure that the Conservative approach to helping build peace and security in that region will involve the closest possible co-operation between development, defence and diplomacy.

Helping to put failed states back on their feet will be our biggest challenge.

Last month I visited Zimbabwe, a country laid low by the brutality and corruption of an ageing tyrant.

But I also saw the determination and spirit of opposition MDC Ministers who, in impossible circumstances, have reduced inflation, re-opened the schools, and paid the nurses and doctors.

Today I can announce that if we are in government, and once Zimbabwe is on a clear path to democracy and the rule of law, then a Conservative Government will lead the Commonwealth and the international community in a development programme to galvanise Zimbabwe’s private sector to rebuild and rehabilitate that beleaguered country.

And with some of the money we’ll save by not spending aid in countries like China and Russia, we will help refurbish and rebuild Zimbabwe’s 7,000 schools and employ the plumbers, builders and electricians who will help put that longsuffering country back on its feet again.

So it is through Conservative means that we will achieve the progressive ends of international development.

Creating wealth – not simply redistributing it.

Trusting and empowering people – not patronising them.

Focusing on impact and results – not just putting money on the table.

We are the progressive party our country and our world needs today.

But we’re the party of hard heads as well as open hearts.

Labour are worn out, tired, discredited, listless, drifting.

It is time for the baton of leadership to be passed to a new generation.

We’re the team with the energy, the ideas and the passion to make a difference.

A modern, united, outward-looking Conservative Party.

With firm and decisive leadership.

We’re ready.

Ready for change.

Ready to help transform the lives of millions of people…

…and to build a safer world for the country we love.

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