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NO CUTS HERE - AID ESCAPES THE AXE

25-05-2010

Andrew Mitchell MP

At a time of savage cuts across Whitehall – with much, much more to come – Sutton Coldfield MP and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is entitled to a moment of smug satisfaction. His department is one of the few to escape the spending axe.

Mitchell - at his desk this morning before 8 a.m. - speaks passionately about his brief, which was his shadow ministerial role before the coalition government came to power.

Now, he’s in the rare position of running a department whose expenditure of £7.8bn is ring fenced, despite the substantial savings announced yesterday George Osborne.

While Mitchell can’t avoid a swipe at the previous administration, mostly there’s delight at getting his hands on a job he wants to do.

“Even at a time of acute economic difficulty which we have inherited from the last Labour government, this is no time to go back on promises to the poorest people in the world – but to underline our commitment to them.”

Mitchell cites last night’s Newsnight programme, which featured the plight of street children in Afghanistan.

This, he points out, put the struggles of the UK into perspective. And he insists there are two good reasons to maintain a strong investment in international aid.

“The first is that we are morally right to do so. There is a huge and and colossal discrepancy of wealth and opportunity in our world.

“30,000 children die every year from diseases we have the power to prevent and our generation can make progress in that.”

Warming to his theme he continues: “The second reason is that it’s also in our national self interest to try and address some of the these difficulties around the world. This can help make Britain a less dangerous place.”

Mitchell’s comments make it clear that the UK’s commitment to aid – which was also a major personal crusade by Gordon Brown – hasn’t been diminished by the recession.

Indeed a major international report today heaps praise on this country.

“It’s something we should be very proud of” Mitchell says.

“It’s not a policy which belongs to the Conservatives, or Labour, or the Liberal Democrat party. It’s a British policy – and something of which we should all be proud”.

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