Watch: Diane Abbott speaks to LCID

Every day this week, we’re showing you the answers that the Labour Leadership candidates gave to your questions.

Today hear from Diane Abbott MP.

We apologise for the error in the sound quality – a full transcript is below.

What do you think about her answers? What else would you ask her? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

What is your vision for Britain’s role in tackling extreme poverty?

DfID does a fantastic job, but I would fund it better, I would ensure that less of its money goes on consultants advising people how to privatise their public sectors, and I think water and sanitation should be much higher up the agenda.

Do you think the UK financial sector should pay more in taxation to prevent cuts in public services at home and pay for development and climate change projects abroad?

I’m a big supporter of the financial transactions tax, and its gaining support amongst European governments and in American politics, although the administration has yet to sign of for it. I think that a Robin Hood Tax would serve a number of useful functions. First of all, it might take some of the heat out of the financial bubble, Secondly it would raise money for worth while causes like development. And thirdly, some of the money could go to fill the gap in the budget deficit.

Did we do enough in government to make trade fair?

I think trade, not aid, is the key to giving justice and decent living standards to people in the third world. I think we have to understand what went wrong with Doha, that people just felt it was just opening the door for western multinationals to their countries and it wasn’t an equal negotiation. But I think we have to remember that if Africa, much of Asia and Latin America were to increase their trade by just 1% that would take 128 million people out of poverty.

How would you help ensure that world leaders take ambitious action on climate change?

I think we have to broaden the movement for climate change in this country, and that involves bringing in Diaspora communities, whether from Africa or people who come from small island states, who know what the reality is for climate change for their countries. And we need lead internationally in offering third world countries support and compensation to fight climate change and deal with the effects of climate change.

Should the International Development budget be protected?

It’s important to ring fence it, and to ring fence it not in a bogus Tory way, where by the redirect DfID money into what is really defence aims – but it is important to ring fence it because it is the most elemental form of justice, putting money towards giving international equality in some of the poorest countries in the world

Watch: Andy Burnham interviewed by LCID

Every day this week, we’re showing you the answers that the Labour Leadership candidates gave to your questions.

Today hear from Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

Watch: Ed Balls answers your questions

Every day this week, we’re showing you the answers that the Labour Leadership candidates gave to your questions.

Next up is Ed Balls, Shadow Education Secretary.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

Watch: David Miliband talks to LCID about his vision for international development

A couple of weeks ago, you told us what you would like to ask the Labour Leadership candidates. We have been to them and asked them those questions and now you can see their answers.

First up is Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband, answering questions on, among others, financial transaction taxes, climate change and ring-fencing budgets.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

The coalition in development: a bluer shade of green

First posted on Progress Online as part of Steve’s regular column.

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The Lib Dems have not fought the corner of international development – they are absent from DfID and big ideas such as the Robin Hood Tax have been dropped

When analysing the influence of the coalition partners on their joint programme for international development, we don’t need The Guardian’s brilliant analysis of the coalition colour schemes. Whereas the overall pea-green agreement was deemed in this analysis to be more Liberal than Conservative (based on hue, not policy), the realm of global poverty seems to be true blue territory.

Blue doesn’t mean all bad, but nervousness abounds. Whilst the coalition agreement did promise to bind into law the commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of GNI in aid, and included positive commitments like support for an Arms Trade Treaty, such legislation was conspicious by its absence in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech. This is despite an explicit manifesto commitment from the Conservatives that they would do so in the first session.

DfID do claim they still plan to do this in future legislative sessions, but by falling short at the first hurdle questions are bound to be raised, not just at the Conservatives, but at the coalition’s self-styled ‘good cops’ too.

Lib Dems have long evangelised about development, but by failing to demand a ministerial post – an honour shared with only DEFRA, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Wales Office – it does mean that there is no coalition partner keeping an eye on how aid money is counted and how it is spent.

Worries exist that departments are looking for expenditure to be redefined so that it counts towards the aid budget. Items such as looking after (and even repatriation of) refugees or providing university scholarships to UK institutions are all permissible under loose OECD regulations defining what can count as aid, even if they bear little resemblance to what most people would understand by the term. Creative accounting would help the coalition keep its promise on paper, but it wouldn’t be of much use to poor communities on the ground.

The Lib Dems not only lack any ministerial post, they have also failed to include any of their distinctive policies that could have added a more progressive edge to the coalition agreement. No Robin Hood Tax to stabilise the banks and fund poverty reduction, no clear commitment to crack down on tax havens to tackle corruption and prevent capital flight, and no promise that the funds needed to help countries adapt to climate change will not be taken from the aid budget.

These are potentially big concessions. Climate change funding could dwarf the aid budget if not ringfenced, capital flight can be more debilitating than aid shortfalls, and the Robin Hood Tax could have added a genuinely radical and innovative solution to heal financial fissures at home and abroad.

And nor will the Lib Dems be in a position to ensure the UK’s position in trade deals are fair and progressive, nor demand the new National Security Council does not lead to development policy serving foreign policy aims rather than poverty reduction, nor press for the global leadership role played by successive prime ministers and secretaries of state over the last 13 years.

Which begs the question, why did they not fight a bit harder for the cause of global poverty, and what’s the point of a good cop if you’re not in the interrogation room when the important questions are being asked?

 Steve Cockburn is an anti-poverty campaigner and member of Labour Campaign for International Development

Vote 2010: International development – A big choice election

First published on Left Foot Forward.

International development has not grabbed the headlines in this election – and that’s a great shame, because not only has it meant a worrying lack of scrutiny of the Conservative Party’s aid policies, but it has hidden from view one of Labour’s most progressive and positive achievements of the last 13 years. The Sky Leaders’ Debate on foreign policy contained no question on international development, despite the department for international development (£5.2bn) having a greater budget than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (£1.9bn).

The Tories’ unanswered questions

International-developmentThe questions surrounding the Conservatives’ policies on development, which we scrutinised back in January, remain unanswered. Cameron has made ring-fencing the aid budget exhibit A of his attempts to prove the Conservatives have shed their ‘nasty party’ image, but the devil is in the detail – not only in how much they will spend, but what on.

Despite their claims to match Labour and the Liberal Democrats on spending 0.7 per cent on aid by 2013, they have continually refused to guarantee that any aid for climate change adaptation would be additional, and not raided from the existing budget. This is a key demand of the NGOs who make up BOND (the main grouping of British international NGOs), and was raised with Conservative shadow minister Andrew Mitchell at their AGM in February.

Mitchell was on a panel with international development secretary Douglas Alexander and Michael Moore of the Lib Dems; download the transcript (well worth reading in full). Whilst Labour have committed to make 90 per cent of aid for climate change additional, and the Lib Dems 100 per cent, Mitchell would only say (p10):

“Until you see what progress is made of Copenhagen I think it’s very difficult to give a judgement of that.”

In response, the NGO director asking the question replied (p11):

I couldn’t vote for a Tory government because there is no commitment there. That 0.7 could be used for climate finance bills, the 150 billion warps the aid budget. Military spending in somewhere like Afghanistan, you know I think the Tories are talking about including some of the peacekeeping in the ODA budgets. I think that’s entirely wrong and untransparent…

In addition, eyebrows were raised when the Conservatives announced plans to create a ‘National Security Council’ with aid experts concerned this would divert aid money into the MoD whilst muddying the boundaries between military and humanitarian work. Save the Children told Left Foot Forward they are:

“Very concerned that the Conservatives’ security spokesperson…left open the possibility of significant aid funds being diverted into stabilisation units.”

Cameron has said the Conservatives would abide by OECD rules when matching the 0.7 per cent aid commitment, but this would not prevent ODA from being used in some military operations, and could go against the 2002 International Development Act which requires DfID it prove that its spending is likely to contribute to poverty reduction.

Then there are the unanswered questions about what the Conservatives would spend their money on. Since we reported on these concerns in January, leaders of the Make Poverty History campaign have been among the aid experts to criticise the Tories on their plans. In a letter to The Observer recently, they wrote:

“Access to basic services like health and education are basic rights. Conservative proposals to distribute vouchers for private schools in slums, to create an X-Factor-style competition to decide who gets aid, and a shift to private provision of healthcare, look like crude attempts to export failed ideological or populist policies, against the advice of leading practioners and aid charities.”

At the BOND AGM, Andrew Mitchell attempted to defend their ‘My Aid’ X-Factor style competition by claiming it was “a tiny amount of the budget” (p23). In fact, his green paper specifies that this fund would be £40m, almost as much as our entire annual aid to Zambia. How can he claim it is a “very small amount of money” while at the same time creating so much noise about cutting a £50m grant to China that is already being phased out?

Labour’s record

Labour’s trebling of overseas aid provides a stark contrast with the Conservatives, who halved the aid budget when they were last in power. OECD figures released in the midst of this election campaign on April 13 showed a 14.6 per cent real terms increase in UK aid, putting aid at an estimated 0.6 per cent of gross national income and on course to meet the 0.7 per cent target by 2013, despite the recession.

Labour was legislating on international development policy right up until the election was called, first with the tabling of the draft legislation to enshrine the UK’s commitment to 0.7 per cent in law, then with the announcement on International Women’s Day of a new role in Government leading on combating violence against women around the world, and then with the passing of two bills through ‘wash up’ – the first a bill on debt relief targeting Vulture Funds (despite Tory attempts to ruin it), and the second the passing of anti-bribery legislation which creates a new offence of bribing a foreign public official and a corporate offence for companies that fail to prevent bribery.

And the centrality of international development in Labour and Brown’s foreign policy were plain for all who were present at his recent ‘GB on the road’ event on ‘Britain’s place in the world’ – his entire speech addressed development. Watch it here:

In what is widely regarded as his most rousing speech of the election campaign, Brown said on Monday:

“Do you know what taught me more than any book ever taught me, it was a video. It was a video created for the Make Poverty History campaign.”

In addition to enshrining our 0.7 per cent aid spending in law and providing additional aid for climate change adaptation, Labour pledges in its manifesto to continue to lead global initiatives on access to health, education, food, water and sanitation and women’s rights. It is disappointing that there is no concrete commitment to a Financial Transaction Tax, as proposed by the Robin Hood Tax campaign and supported by Left Foot Forward, but in their submission to BOND’s joint demands (p9), Labour claim to have “already called on the IMF to investigate the feasibility of a range of mechanisms including a Financial Transaction Tax and global levies”, and that they “will remain committed to taking forward this agenda and working with international partners to find consensus”.

As many anti-poverty campaigners have long argued, trade can lift millions out of poverty. It is therefore encouraging to see Labour committed in its manifesto to “quadruple funding for fair and ethical trade”, and to “press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access”.

However, whilst Labour’s support for Fairtrade is commendable, little progress has been made on pushing the EU and WTO to make trade fair in the five years that have passed since Labour last committed to trade justice in its 2005 manifesto. If Labour is re-elected, more political capital must be spent on trade if there is to be any movement in the Doha ‘development round’.

Who is Africa’s preferred UK premier?

Closer inspection shows that consensus between the Conservatives and Labour on international development is a myth. This is a big choice election. As one African newspaper, Kenya’s Daily Nation, said:

“Britain is now set to choose who between the two should be their prime minister…It doesn’t speak well of the frivolity of today’s media-hyped politics that the guy with the dash may actually get voted in.

“But if Kenya and Africa were to join the voting, there would be no doubt whatsoever as to their preference.”

Mr Brown’s upbringing in a family of devout Scottish Presbyterians forms the basis of his moral compass. It is this compass that explains his consistent political identification with the underdog and the poor.



Labour’s Manifesto on International Development

Extract from Labour’s manifesto

The global poverty emergency: our moral duty, our common interest

Labour’s international leadership on development has helped transform the lives of millions across the world. Yet too many people still live in extreme poverty, die from treatable diseases, or are denied the chance to go to school.

We will lead an international campaign to get the Millennium Development Goals back on track. We remain committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid from 2013, and we will enshrine this commitment in law early in the next Parliament. Our aid will target the poorest and most excluded – spent transparently and evaluated independently. We will fight corruption, investing more to track, freeze, and recover assets stolen from developing countries. Further action will be taken to strengthen developing countries’ tax systems, reduce tax evasion, improve reporting, and crack down on tax havens. To increase accountability, we will allocate at least five per cent of all funding developing country budgets for the purpose of strengthening the role of Parliaments and civil society.

Our leadership on debt cancellation has freed 28 countries from the shackles of debt. We will continue to drive this agenda, building on legislation to clampdown on vulture funds.

Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights. We will spend £8.5 billion over eight years to help more children go to school; maintain our pledge to spend £6 billion on health between 2008 and 2015 and £1 billion through the Global Fund to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; fight for universal access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS by 2010; and deliver at least 30 million additional anti-malarial bed-nets over the next three years.

We will provide £1 billion for water and sanitation by 2013, driving this issue up the international agenda, and over £1 billion on food security and agriculture. We will push for the establishment of a Global Council on Child Hunger. We will help save the lives of six million mothers and babies by 2015 and, because international focus on the needs of women and girls is vital, we will double core funding to the new UN Women’s agency. While the Tories would favour private schemes, we will work closely with NGOs and developing countries to eliminate user fees and promote healthcare and education free at the point of access. We will encourage other countries to ratify the ILO conventions on labour standards, as we have done.

Trade can lift millions out of poverty. We will work with the private sector, trade unions and co-operatives to promote sustainable development, quadruple our funding for fair and ethical trade, and press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access.