Ivan Lewis – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Ivan Lewis, the Shadow International Development Secretary, to the 2012 Labour Party conference on 1st October 2012.

Conference, I want to begin by thanking my wonderful team:

Sir Tony Cunningham, Rushanara Ali and Ian Mearns, all of whom do an excellent job.

But I know they will forgive me if I single out someone special. Someone who has never wavered in the fight for global equality and human rights.

One of the leaders of a new generation of women who changed the face of our party.

Conference, Glenys Kinnock may be leaving the frontbench but I have no doubt she will continue to be the strongest voice for those who are vulnerable and voiceless everywhere in the world.

Glenys, on their behalf we thank you and salute you.

Conference, it’s been quite a year. During the past twelve months I have had the pleasure of shadowing Jeremy Hunt, Andrew Mitchell and now Justine Greening.

So I can tell you as a pleb with a ringside seat: these Tories may think they were born to rule, but as the British people now know, they aren’t fit to govern.

I want to use my speech today to challenge the relentless attacks on development spending which are now coming from “the right.”

But also to demonstrate if other countries match our commitment to aid and sign up to radical global change we could eradicate poverty by 2030 and reduce aid dependency.

Conference, is it any wonder that the British people, so generous in their giving to good causes are conflicted when they think of the challenges facing the squeezed middle and public service cuts.

We need to have the confidence to make the case and win the argument.

We should absolutely clear in our response to those who argue for cuts to the aid budget.

Why should the poorest in the world pay the price for the irresponsible, greedy behaviour of the top bankers?

And a right-wing ideology which continues to advocate light-touch regulation and celebrate casino capitalism.

First and foremost, our contribution to fighting poverty and tragedy is a moral imperative.

But security, trade and migration also mean it is in Britain’s national interest.

In an interdependent world to be a patriot is to be an internationalist. Not just for one fantastic Olympic Games, but always.

Conference, it turns my stomach when I hear multi-millionaire Lord Ashcroft demanding that support for the world’s poorest should be slashed.

The nasty party is back. It’s the same old Tories.

Does this mean that the aid budget should be immune from the very real challenges we face in these difficult times?

Of course not.

That’s why we won’t be able to reverse the Government’s decision to cut the projected aid budget by 1.7 billion pounds.

Although it should be understood that this is due to a reduction in Gross National Income, which in part is due to the failure of Tory economic policy.

But it’s also why the Government should put right its broken promise to enshrine the link between 0.7 and GNI in law.

This would ensure future changes to the budget, irrespective of whichever party is in power, would be permanently related to the economic state of the nation.

And Conference, the critics would have you believe aid doesn’t work.

It isn’t true.

In one year under Labour, the Department for International Development helped train over 100,000 teachers, delivered almost 7 million bed-nets, provided 12-and-a-half million people with better sanitation and helped build or repair 4,500 km of road.

UK aid saves lives and gives people the chance of a better future.

We will support the Government if they honour our commitment to meet the 0.7 target by next year.

But David Cameron is unable to provide leadership on development because the Tories advocate more of the same when what we need is radical change.

The Tories believe in trickle down economics. We believe in the inextricable link between economic prosperity and social justice.

The Tories view aid as charity. For us, development is the pursuit of social justice and human rights. Public-bad private-good drives their funding decisions.

Delivery capacity, value for money, innovation and accountability will be our criteria.

They are isolated in Europe. We need to have influence over an EU development budget which accounts for 20 per cent of UK spend.

Conference, as Ed Miliband has said, we believe now is the time for big global economic and social change.

Growth which is sustainable, companies that are both profitable and responsible, meaningful agreements on fair trade and climate change, universal access to free healthcare, compulsory education and social protection.

Global human rights with no exemptions for our allies. Women’s rights at the heart of conflict resolution.

Decent work, decent labour standards for workers everywhere.

And Conference, no more hiding places for the tax dodgers who steal from the poorest people and poorest countries in the world.

And yes Conference, if these changes were to be made we believe poverty could be eradicated and aid dependency reduced by 2030.

Replacing paternalism with dynamic partnerships between north and south, developed and middle income countries.

Conference, a different vision, different values.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown didn’t provide leadership on the MDGs, debt and 0.7 to detoxify our brand.

They did so because it is who we are. Social justice and human rights are the very reason for our existence.

They are why we are Labour. For this movement now and through history, social justice has no borders, only new frontiers to be conquered.

That is why today I am delighted to announce the party which created Sure Start in Britain will also be the party which champions the case for prioritising early years development across the world.

I have asked Tessa Jowell, the founder and first Minister for Sure Start and architect of our great Olympic success, to lead a global campaign to ensure an integrated approach to the early childhood years is at the heart of the new post-2015 global development framework.

I am delighted that Sarah Brown, Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance who has achieved such amazing progress on maternal health, has agreed to support Tessa in her new role.

If all the evidence demonstrates investment in the earliest years makes the most difference to our children’s lives, the same evidence must surely apply to the health, education and parenting of the poorest children in the world.

Conference, as staunch defenders of development we must also be reformers.

Like any Government Department DfID is not immune from waste or poor decisions.

Also, the more we focus our resources in conflict-ridden and fragile states the greater the risks we are taking.

We should be honest about that.

My value for money test will be what difference is our spending making to the poorest and whether it is contributing to an end to aid dependency long-term.

And the development community, including our world leading NGOs, should be as passionate about how we spend the hard earned money of donors and taxpayers as they have been in campaigning for 0.7.

Even the most radical development agenda in the world will be seriously undermined by inadequate progress in the fight against corruption.

To coin a phrase, it’s time to get tough on corruption and the causes of corruption.

I am determined that from day one of the next Labour Government we will have an effective new anti-corruption plan for the UK and a strategy for building a new anti-corruption coalition around the world.

I am delighted that Hadeel Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, renowned globally for shining a light on governance issues in Africa, has agreed to undertake a review on our behalf and to identify tangible action which will lead to real change.

I am particularly keen UK diaspora communities have an input.

The next Labour Government will be champions of development but also warriors for value for money and against corruption.

Conference, I want to end by dedicating this speech to the women I met in Chad earlier this year.

I felt a mixture of horror and admiration as I watched them beating anthills to extract the tiniest bits of grain to feed their family.

They pleaded with me to make sure they would have enough food to give their kids one proper meal a day as yet another food crisis hit.

They don’t get left from right, the different editorial positions of the Guardian and Daily Mail.

They just want to be able to feed their kids.

You and I joined this movement to change the world not explain the world as it is.

So conference, for us, social justice will always have no borders, only new frontiers.

Thank you.