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Departmental Expenditure

Volume 510: debated on Wednesday 2 June 2010

We will fundamentally change the way in which we look at the value for money of aid, moving from a focus on inputs to what our money achieves—the outputs and outcomes we secure. We will gain maximum value for money for every pound through greater transparency, rigorous independent evaluation and an unremitting focus on results.

May I take this opportunity to welcome my right hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box and to congratulate him on his new and important role? I am sure that Members on both sides of the House recognise the important work he has done and will wish him well in these very difficult economic times. Will he reassure the House and my constituents that value for money will be at the heart of his Department’s vital work in tackling poverty in the poorest countries in the world?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. As I look around the House, I see Members on both sides who are passionate and knowledgeable about international development. I look forward to building on the progress made by the previous Government on this important agenda and I pay tribute to my predecessor, the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander), for his work in particular on international aid effectiveness and co-ordination.

In respect of my hon. Friend’s question, value for money will be at the heart of everything we do. We are examining all expenditure in every single country, starting with our country review shortly.

With your permission, Mr Speaker, let me return the compliment offered to me by the Secretary of State by extending my congratulations to him and his team of Ministers. The Department for International Development is one of Labour’s proudest achievements and I wish him well in his stewardship of that important Ministry. I welcome the answer that he just gave emphasising value for money. May I ask whether he regards educating young girls in Afghanistan as a valuable part of that comprehensive approach or whether he agrees with the Defence Secretary that it is simply

“education policy in a broken 13th-century country”?

I thank the shadow Secretary of State for his kind remarks. It is a tremendous advantage in the House and outside it that international development is regarded as a British policy and not a policy of any one of the three main political parties. On his point about education in Afghanistan, education is vital to the future of Afghanistan and to building the capacity of that state. He will know that we now have more than 2 million girls in education in Afghanistan.

I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State may have achieved the forced re-education of the Defence Secretary on the issue of value for money in DFID expenditure. Has he also secured the re-education of the new Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore), who, according to correspondence that has now come into my possession, described as recently as 20 April “the very real danger” of Conservative proposals to divert aid to military control? Who has got it wrong—the Secretary of State for International Development or the Scottish Secretary?

I am afraid that I cannot comment on leaked documents that the shadow Secretary of State has got. On his first point about the Secretary of State for Defence, perhaps I could draw his attention to the press conference that was given in Kabul by me and my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Foreign Secretary. If the right hon. Gentleman looks carefully at the text of that press conference, he will see that one could not get a cigarette paper between my views and those of the Secretary of State for Defence.

May I just say how delighted we all are to see my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Treasury Bench? They are a fantastic team: he did brilliant work in opposition, and I am sure that he will do brilliant work in government.

However much value for money my right hon. Friend manages to get out of his Department, our colleagues in the G8 must also do their bit. The UK has met the targets that we set ourselves at Gleneagles, but does he not find it a matter of concern that France, Germany and Italy are so substantially lagging behind what they promised at Gleneagles that they would do to meet those targets?

My hon. Friend is right that everyone who signed up to those commitments at Gleneagles in 2005, in front of the international cameras of the world, must honour them. We will be at pains to make it clear that the vital development budget, which is so important, should be supported by all the G8 countries. It is difficult to probe and indeed question countries in the developing world that do not live up to their commitments to their people if countries of the G8 do not live up to the solemn commitments that they too have made in front of the world.