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Overseas Voluntary Sector

Volume 520: debated on Wednesday 8 December 2010

Q2. What assessment he has made of the likely effects of proposed reductions in expenditure on the programme partnership agreement on the effectiveness of organisations assisted by the Government in the overseas voluntary sector. (29132)

Expenditure through the programme partnership agreement is not being reduced. We expect to allocate £120 million every year to this programme from 2011 to 2014. At the same time, we are increasing overall levels of support for the most effective organisations working overseas, and we are keeping the promise to reach 0.7% of gross national income for aid by 2013.

Many colleagues on both sides of the House, including myself, have seen at first hand the great work that Voluntary Service Overseas volunteers do worldwide. Can the Prime Minister assure the House that he will continue to provide the necessary and expected support for VSO to continue to improve the lives of 26 million people around the world?

I can do that. Voluntary Service Overseas is an excellent organisation and I know it has widespread support across the House. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is in discussions about how to ensure that its programme goes on succeeding and expanding. Fundamentally, with a growth in the Department for International Development’s budget, there is every chance that that could happen; that is what I expect to see.

Voluntary Service Overseas provides valuable experience opportunities as well as giving people a connection with development. I welcome what the Prime Minister has said, but can he give an assurance that VSO’s current concern that its budget might be cut will be overcome by giving it access to other budgets within the Department for International Development?

I believe that the discussions are going extremely well and that it will be possible to guarantee that. One reason why people are asking this question about programme partnership arrangements is because the Government want to ensure that organisations are not wholly dependent on Government money, but seek sources of funding elsewhere. As my right hon. Friend says, there are opportunities through other budgets within DFID, and VSO could also make applications to the global fund to combat poverty.