Yesterday and today Britain’s development budget and programmes came under heavy attack from the Daily Mail and the Spectator. No surprise there.
The breathless diatribes espoused by journalist Jonathan Foreman include the wild accusation that the only beneficiaries of British aid are the coffers of ‘African dictators’ and the consciences of the Western middle class.
What Foreman fails to point out are the undeniable, verifiable life-changing results of Britain’s development programmes.
British aid vaccinates a baby against killer diseases every two seconds and saves a mother’s life every two hours. It is providing food, medicine and blankets for families in Syria and fed 3.5m starving people during the Horn of Africa food crisis. Over the last two years British aid has supported more than five million children to go to primary school.
It’s hard to make statistics resonate as they should. So please read the last paragraph again and think of yourself and your own family.
How many women do you know who had absolutely no medical care during and after their pregnancy? How many young children do you know who simply do not go to school either because there isn’t one to attend or because their families can’t afford to send them? Could you live on less than £1 a day?
Yes, we have serious troubles here at home. Working families are under strain. Today’s graduates face an incredibly hard time getting jobs. The Coalition has had to cut budgets.
But one of my proudest moments in government was to hear the Prime Minister say we will not balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest.
The Coalition is sticking to its promises to the world’s poorest people because we believe development is both the right thing and the smart thing to do, creating a safer, more prosperous world for everyone. Because aid is no longer ‘giving to the poor’ but about supporting the capacity of the recipient country to stand on its own two feet – a win-win outcome for them and for us.
Far from shovelling money out the door, we scrutinise every pound we spend on aid to make sure it is effective. The Coalition set up an independent watchdog to monitor and review our programmes, and my colleague the DFID Secretary has further tightened rules on departmental spending, announced the end of financial aid to India and acted swiftly on misuse of British money in Uganda. She and I have made clear to the EU and other agencies that they must focus support on the poorest countries.
It is right to help the poorest and most vulnerable when we can and I am proud that our party, with our strong tradition of internationalism, gets this. We will never apologise for striving to improve the lives of those less fortunate – at home and abroad.