Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley, was granted a question to Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Question time in the House of Commons Chamber on Wednesday 21st February. Evans, who sits on the International Development Committee, used the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister to continue to support the poorest countries on earth despite recent revelations about charities such as Oxfam.
Mr Evans has long been a supporter of the UN’s 0.7% target of Gross National Income (GNI) to be spent on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), but has been a vocal critic of several controversial projects and has supported DfID’s stringent review of spending policy.
Speaking from the chamber, Mr Evans asked the Prime Minister:
“Will the Prime Minister tell the international aid sector that, despite the abuses that have come to light recently, this Government are committed to helping the most vulnerable and poorest people around the world, but the sector really does need to get its act in order?”
The Prime Minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to overseas development assistance:
“This Government maintain their commitment to helping the most vulnerable people around the world, and we maintain our commitment to our international development budget, but we want to work with organisations that meet the high standards that we expect. The behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti was quite frankly horrific and far below those standards.”
This response comes the day after Oxfam’s current Chief Executive, Mark Goldring, was quizzed by the International Development Committee for over two hours in an oral evidence session. Goldring, who has been head of the charity since 2013, apologised for the damage done to people in Haiti and the wider efforts of aid workers – he also said 26 claims of sexual misconduct have been recorded in the days since the scandal broke.
Speaking of the scandal, Mr Evans said:
“There is a clear fault in Oxfam’s safeguarding protocol for the revelations of Haiti to slip through the cracks, there are too many people relying on Oxfam and other DfID partners to deliver crucial aid in the most desperate parts of the world. It is tragic that the very people who these aid workers were there to protect became the victims of their abuse by a small number.”
Penny Mordaunt, the recently appointed International Development Secretary, has taken immediate action by demanding assurances from all DfID’s charitable partners about their safeguarding and protection policies by the end of the month. Next month, DfID and the Charity Commission will hold an urgent safeguarding summit, where they will bring together UK international development charities with regulators and experts, to look at the possibility of an accreditation scheme that can be used for aid workers and taken into the international arena later in the year.
Continuing, Mr Evans said:
“I am fully supportive of the Secretary of State’s commitment to guaranteeing safeguarding policies are fully up-to-date. Oxfam’s negligence towards safeguarding has undermined public confidence in foreign aid, so much so that over 7,000 people have stopped donating to the charity. I hope this incident is the catalyst to creating new transparency in the sector which will ensure true efficiency in the UK’s aid spending.”
Oxfam had agreed to withdraw from applying for any new funding from the government until DfID is satisfied they can meet the department’s high standards.