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Harriet Harman’s statement on the Aid Review

1 March 2011

Here is the statement Harriet delivered in the House of Commons today in response to the publication of the bilateral and multilateral aid reviews.

Harriet also wrote an article for the Guardian’s development site which can be read here.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for giving me advance copies of it.

Can I welcome the Secretary of State’s declaration that our aid programme is both morally right and in our national interest.  As he argues against those who decry our aid programme – he will have our strong support.

This is not just about charity – it’s about justice, tackling global inequality and fulfilling our responsibilities to the world.

We put development at the heart of our agenda because we believe we must struggle for a fairer and more equal world.

As things change in the world – as we are seeing in North Africa and the Middle East –  its right to review our aid programme.

But what should not and must not change is the commitment to spend .7% of our national income on aid by 2013.  There must be no slipping back on that.

So, will he tell the House when he will bring forward the Bill to put that promise into law?

Will he campaign vigorously to show that our aid matters and it saves lives?

The girls and boys sitting in classrooms in Nepal, the Nigerian women who no longer have to walk miles to fetch water and the millions of children who no longer die from preventable diseases are the proof of that.

Isn’t that the way to build support for our aid programme – rather than by announcing as “new” decisions that we had already made?

Will he admit that there is nothing new about ending significant bilateral aid to Russia.  We ended it in 2007. Grand gestures of shutting down already closed programmes create a misleading picture of our aid programme and undermines rather than supports it.   He should know better.

As tackling poverty depends greatly on trade as well as aid will he implement the Bribery Act now?

Does he acknowledge that after 13 years in which the Labour government tripled the aid budget, reversing the cuts of the previous Tory government, this country led the world in tackling global poverty.  Is he not concerned that that leadership – which is so important during a global economic downturn – is undermined by his decision to freeze the % of aid as a share of national income for the next 2 years.

Can he tell the House how many lives will be lost and how many fewer children will go to school because of that lost £2.2 billion in aid?

Will he assure the House that he will protect his department from raids by other government departments?

DIFD’s budget is for the world’s poorest. He must not let other government departments use his budget as a source of cash.

Will he reclaim the £1.8 million that he gave to fund the Pope’s visit?  That wasn’t tackling global poverty – nor was his department’s loan of £161 million to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  He’s got to be strong on this and stop his ministerial colleagues using DFID as a hole in the wall.

And will he re-think his decision on the ILO?

Mr Speaker, in our 2009 White Paper we recognised the need to help people who suffer the twin problems of grinding poverty and living in an area ravaged by violence.

It is right we co-ordinate our development, diplomatic and security efforts.  But our aid programme must not become subsumed in our military and security objectives.

Of course in places like Yemen, it is right our aid efforts complement – where they can – our foreign and security policy objectives.  We are absolutely committed to upholding our security and countering terrorism.  But that must be the responsibility of the MOD and the FCO.  Can he confirm that the focus of DFID money will remain poverty reduction?

Mr Speaker can I welcome the government’s continuation of Labour’s commitment to international co-ordination of aid through multilateral organisations and in particular the importance of the EU’s work?

Mr Speaker, his men-only ministerial team talks a lot about how they are going to empower women in the developing world?  Why, then has he still not decided how much he will contribute to the new UN women’s agency?

Why should the women of the world have to wait for the men in this government to put their money where their mouth is?

Mr Speaker, on bilateral aid, we welcome the focus on setting out aid objectives for each country.  But did the recipient countries play a part in setting those objectives?  Will he continue with the spirit of the 2005 Paris Declaration which put the developing country in the driving seat and did so much to end the problematic post-colonial relationship between donor and recipient countries?

And can he confirm that decisions to cut aid – to very poor countries like Niger and Lesotho– involved co-ordination with other donor countries to make sure that our decision doesn’t leave them, literally, high and dry.

Can I also ask him to explain his decision to end aid to Burundi where there is deep poverty and which is in the Great Lakes Region where there is still instability?

Mr Speaker, can I welcome his continuation of our focus on results and value for money

We made progress towards the Millennium Development Goals – like cutting maternal mortality and increasing child survival.  To say that this was wasting money is an insult to all those who worked on those programmes and is to deny the value of those lives saved. I hope we’ll hear no more of that.

Mr Speaker, with more than a billion people still living in poverty it’s right that he recognises that there is a long way to go.

As Secretary of State for International Development, he will have our support.  We will back him in his work if he keeps faith with British generosity and with our moral duty to the world’s poor.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Brian Walter permalink
    2 March 2011 09:05

    Disappointed both at decision to withdraw grant support for ILO and by Harriet’s one-line comment in response. Labour standards are vital to prevent exploitation of workers around the world.

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