New minister taking a tougher line

Published by The Mail on Sunday (August 28th, 2016)

She does not deserve three cheers yet, probably not even two. But let us give one cheer at least… for at long last the Minister charged with spraying taxpayers’ cash around the world seems to appreciate the fears of those funding the spending spree.

The concerns were highlighted by the devastating Mail on Sunday campaign that exposed the scale of waste and wanton abuse involved in Britain’s £12 billion aid giveaway.

Our reports revealed scandal after scandal: from the deadly serious – millions channelled to terrorist suicide bombers and to teachers in Pakistan who did not exist – to the frankly ludicrous – how British aid benefited makers of designer handbags and Africa’s space race.

The outcry led to a petition signed by 235,522 people and a parliamentary debate. MPs responded by simply brushing aside the anger of constituents with a series of self-aggrandising speeches.

Sadly, signals from No 10 suggest our new Prime Minister intends to stick with one of her predecessor’s most disastrous policies: to meet an arbitrary UN target of giving away 0.7 per cent of national income.

This outmoded commitment undermines Theresa May’s lofty talk of social justice and evidence-based policy, with the sums doled out predicted to rise to £16 billion by the next election.

And it boosts a booming global poverty industry now worth £100 billion a year. All too often this tide of money fuels corruption, fosters conflict and corrodes democracy, while aiding fat-cat charity chiefs and firms enjoying vast profits.

So it is interesting to observe Priti Patel taking over the department for international development, which has behaved for so long with such high-handed disregard for dismayed taxpayers and brave whistleblowers.

She is, after all, an uncompromising Right-winger known to harbour grave doubts about the wisdom of blowing so much money on aid.

Ms Patel seems determined to shake up her sanctimonious department, though her room for manoeuvre will be limited.

There is no doubt it makes sense to spend less on vainglorious aid projects and more on our own defence, given Middle East instability, jihadist atrocities and Russian provocations.

We must hope Ms Patel does not become seduced by flawed concepts of saving the world.

She should not flinch from forcing her Whitehall officials to finally start serving the interests of British taxpayers and the world’s poorest people by curbing some of the worst excesses caused by the great aid giveaway.

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