'International Aid Is Our Moral Duty' as He Launches a Radical Review of Britain's Aid Policy, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell Tells Political Editor Jonathan Walker Why Too Much Development Spending Has Gone to Waste in the Past
Much of Britain's aid over the past 60 years was spent on propping up dictators, the International Development Secretary has admitted.
Civil servants had blocked attempts to monitor whether money was well spent, said Andrew Mitchell. The Sutton Coldfield MP delivered the blunt verdict on Britain's aid effort as he launched a radical shake-up of Britain's overseas aid policy.
Funding will be scrapped for countries such as Iraq, Kosovo, Niger and Vietnam, which it is believed do not need the money. And Britain will end grants for a range of international bodies which have been judged wasteful, including the International Labour Organisation. An independent watchdog has also been appointed to monitor spending.
But there will be no turning back over the Government's decision to protect the pounds 7 billion international aid budget, even though cuts are being made in other departments. The Government remains committed to providing 0.7 per cent of Britain's Gross National Income as aid from 2013, and total spending is due to rise to pounds 11 billion by 2015 Aid to India will also continue, even though the country is seen as an emerging economic powerhouse with its own nuclear weapons and space programmes.
Millions of Indians still live in extreme poverty, Mr Mitchell said.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, Mr Mitchell said: "This is a topic which animates our constituents more than almost any other. When they think that aid money is spent well, they are really supportive. Look at the generosity from people across Birmingham following the dreadful humanitarian catastrophe in Pakistan following the floods.
"When they think it's being stolen or corruptly used, people go ballistic about that. And quite right too, because it is their hard-earned money not being spent properly."
Britain had never before examined whether the aid it provided was actually achieving results, Mr Mitchell said, and senior civil servants had blocked previous attempts to introduce an independent watchdog to monitor aid.
"My predecessor, Hilary Benn, was interested in this but he was sort of nobbled by 'Sir Humphreys'.
"We have said it has to be independent of us, ministers and the department."
A new independent evaluator would be based in the Scottish Office where Mr Mitchell could not interfere, he said. "It's a big change. It's the type of promise you make in opposition and rather regret if you are doing by job in government."
Aid has been used as an extension of the Cold War until this ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he said.
"I think that before the Berlin Wall came down - people say that development over the past 60 years has failed. …