International aid

An open letter to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the new International Development Secretary

By Lord Ashcroft

Dear Anne-Marie

Congratulations on your elevation to the Cabinet. I was delighted to see your appointment to the post of international development secretary given your unstinting efforts to stand up for British interests as an energetic Brexiteer. I must confess to slight bias, however, given that you retweeted an article of mine from 2013 calling for an end to ring fencing of the foreign aid budget. This gives me renewed hope that we might finally see reform of this money pit.

It was kind of you to say my article was ‘interesting’ on ‘the value (or otherwise) of the overseas aid budget.’ As I argued, it defies all logic to commit Britain to an arbitrary spending target that means we must dole out 0.7 per cent of national income. ‘In what other areas of government do we start not by asking what we want to achieve, but how much of our national income we want to dispense?’ I asked. That was true then and it is even truer today (more…)

An open letter to International Development Secretary Alok Sharma

By Lord Ashcroft

Dear Alok

Congratulations on your richly deserved elevation to the cabinet. The job of International Development secretary is always a challenge for a Conservative politician, given our desire for fiscal responsibility and understandable scepticism among party members over the sanity of fixing aid spending as a proportion of national income rather than determined by need. The struggle must be especially acute for someone who was trained in accountancy (more…)

Time to end the ringfence for the international aid budget

By Lord Ashcroft

The budget deficit remains the central fact of British politics. The deficit constrains everything the government does, or can plan to do. Restoring the country’s finances remains the coalition’s priority, and rightly so, but this is proving harder than it hoped or expected.

One reason for this is that while Conservatives favour public spending cuts in principle, they often oppose them in practice. Ministers are evidently fighting to protect their own territory. MPs and activists call for spending to fall faster, but to rise in their own favoured areas. Vested interests and lobby groups protest, but that is their job – just as it is the Chancellor’s job to make decisions.

None of those decisions is easy. But one is overdue, and has the unusual advantage of being both popular and helping the Chancellor achieve his fiscal goals.


Much aid spending is counter-productive and only serves to fuel corruption

By Lord Ashcroft

To many people, the House of Lords is an anachronism; few of our proceedings capture public attention. Yet one of the reasons I am so proud of the House is the quality of debate. Discussions in the upper chamber can cast fresh light on a subject, free of the partisan ding-dong that so often characterises the Commons.

Last Monday’s discussion on the effectiveness of development aid was a prime example. Wise and experienced speakers on all sides of the House weighed in on a debate which served to underscore the flaws in the government’s international development policy.