Andrew Mitchell – 2011 Conservative Party Conference Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by the then International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, to the 2011 Conservative Party Conference on 2nd October 2011.

Conference, it is 50 years since a Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, set up what is now the Department for International Development.

Since then, we have made huge progress. But still today:

Every hour 180 children die needlessly from diarrhoea.

Tonight, millions of families will spend the hours after sunset in the dark, with no electricity, no running water, no healthcare.

And in South Sudan this girl is more likely to die during childbirth than she is to finish primary school. Let me just repeat that. This girl is more likely to die during childbirth than she is to finish primary school.

Even now, in Government, when I go to these places, I still feel overwhelmed by the scale of human suffering. But I am uplifted by the work being done to help and the progress Britain is leading.

So now, please join me in thanking Britain’s development team Alan Duncan, Stephen O’Brien, Lady Verma and Mark Lancaster for the role they are playing.

All of us in this team feel personally accountable for the way that taxpayers’ money is spent.

We know that every pound wasted is a pound not saving lives. So in our first few days in office, we cancelled over £100m of ineffective spending.

Let me say what else we’ve done to get our house in order.

We stopped Labour’s practice of sending DFID’s own glossy magazine around the world by airmail at a cost of nearly half a million pounds a year.

We stopped first-class travel. Just in Labour’s last year in office, they spent a staggering £75,000 on first-class rail tickets.  In our first year, it was just £197 – a reduction of over 99%. Why should British taxpayers pay over the odds to fund complementary cups of tea, when the people we are supposed to be helping don’t have running water?

And we stopped Labour’s quarter-of-a-million-pound funding for a Brazilian dance troupe in North London which specialises in percussion. At least that’s one Labour fandango which was easy to clear up.

Conference, this kind of loose spending is not just incompetent. It is an insult to British taxpayers.

Let us resolve together here today: no more Labour waste.

We’ve also fundamentally changed the way we direct our aid.

Look at the map.  Here’s where Labour thought it fit to spend aid while they were in office.

It doesn’t look like that any more.

No more aid to China, which spent billions hosting the Olympics. We closed it down.

Or Russia, a member of the G8.

As a result of our detailed review we’re closing DFID aid programmes in 16 countries. That, after all, is the whole aim of aid – do it well and then get out when it’s done.

So as you can see: we’re giving aid to the people who really need it, from the Ghurkha villages of Nepal, to the dignified people of Zimbabwe who have suffered so long under the tyrannical rule of Robert Mugabe.

And we were just as tough with the international organisations which get British taxpayers’ money. We’ve assessed them and ranked them.

Now some of these agencies are absolutely brilliant. Let me give you just one example.  We found that GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, was achieving amazing results.  So, along with Bill Gates, the private sector and other countries, we backed them. I can now tell you that for the next five years the British taxpayer will help to vaccinate a child every two seconds. Ladies and Gentleman, something as small and as simple as this will protect a life every two seconds for the next five years. Lives as important as those of our own children. I’m proud that Britain is leading the way in making that happen.

But some international organisations are doing less well.  We’ve put four of them into special measures. They need to make serious improvements. No improvements, no more cash from the British taxpayer.

And we’ve shown some organisations the red card. The International Labour Organisation was not delivering value for the core funding it received. So it’s not getting any more. Conference, I make no apology for saying: we have to be tough when lives are at stake.

This tough approach means that during the next 4 years we will achieve incredible results.

– We will get 11 million children into school in the poorest parts of the world

– 15 million people who don’t have it today will have safe drinking water

– And 10 million women who have never had access to family planning will have it for the first time.

And at this time when money is really tight, and the responsibility to spend it well has never been greater, we never forget: these results are paid for by the British taxpayer. When I visit these countries, people come up to me with a simple message. A message I pass on to you today: thank you, Britain, for standing by us in our hour of need.

Conference, this is Britain at its best.

And this government is focusing on two key areas: tackling conflict and promoting the private sector.

To deliver real value for money, we have to tackle the root causes of poverty. And chief among these is conflict.

And these problems affect us here. Terrorism, the drugs trade, infectious diseases, illegal migration – if we want to tackle these problems at home, we have to understand and address their root causes abroad.

Some say we can’t afford to engage in development. But Conference, we cannot afford not to.

So what does this mean in practice?

In Pakistan, we’re going to get 4 million children into school for the first time over the next 4 years. It is hard to think of a better way to tackle the poverty and illiteracy upon which the terrorist recruiters pray. This is good development and good politics.

In Somaliland we’re helping to build the police force to promote law and order.

In Afghanistan, right across the country our work to improve the business environment is paying off.

Don’t just take my word for it.

In July, General Sir David Richards, the head of Britain’s armed forces, said this:

“Alternative livelihoods and development assistance are as important as the determination and courage of our forces. Together they are a powerful combination that will leave an enduring legacy for the Afghan people, the region and international community.”

I completely agree with him.

And let us pay tribute today to every single one of the brave men and women of our armed forces, who are working night and day to keep our country safe.

Our forces’ action helped stop a bloody massacre in Benghazi, and helped create the conditions for the people of Libya to take control of their own destiny.

And long-term planning was part of the story from the beginning, the lessons of Iraq uppermost in our minds.  Today, working closely with William and Liam, we’re helping Libyans rebuild their country’s police and security forces.

The Arab Spring has inspired us all, as we see yet again that a yearning for freedom is deeply rooted in the human spirit.

So let us celebrate the spirit of the Arab Spring, and the millions of ordinary men and women who have made change happen. They are an inspiration to the world.

Just as conflict causes poverty, so it is the private sector – jobs, property rights, investment – that lifts a country out of poverty.

By the end of the last government, even Labour Ministers started to mouth words about the importance of the private sector in development. But somehow I always felt that, under the bedclothes late at night, they didn’t really believe it.

We do believe it.  It’s hard-wired into our Conservative DNA.

And we now for the first time have a private sector division within DFID, dedicated to promoting that age old Tory principle and truth: that no matter where in our world, private enterprise is the engine of growth and development.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, under your Government:

Britain’s development policies transformed.

Value for money demanded

Every day, lives saved.

All thanks to the determination, support and generosity of the people of Britain.

I want to leave you today with a thought and a photograph.

I met these children in July. They’re smiling here, but just a few days earlier they’d arrived from Somalia at the largest refugee camp in the world.

Many of them had shredded feet from walking through miles of desert for up to 30 days. Some of them had brothers or sisters who had died along the way.

Here on the outskirts of this vast camp they don’t have much, but at least they’re safe and have access to food.

And looking at these kids – I think of all the suffering they have faced, and the contrast with the lives of our own children.

And I also think that ours is a world where borders aren’t what they used to be…

…where threats to our security aren’t defined simply by national armies declaring war on each other…

…where our own prosperity depends upon poor countries becoming prosperous economies and trading partners.

One of these children could be the next Bill Gates or the person who discovers the cure for cancer.

I can’t think of any picture that better sums up the purpose of Britain’s development budget: a better life for millions of the world’s poorest, and a safer, more prosperous world for us all. Thank you.