AS the Foreign Secretary who committed the Tories to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas aid, William Hague is, understandably, deeply saddened by the scandal engulfing Oxfam and other charities working in the developing world as new revelations come to light.
The former Richmond MP also knows that the continuing lurid claims about the sexual exploitation of the most vulnerable, the victims that the charities were supposedly helping, will make it harder to justify the £13bn a year that Britain currently spends in this field when domestic policy priorities are denied funds.
“The case for an aid budget that tackles the world’s biggest issues will get stronger, not weaker, in the years ahead. The response to this appalling scandal needs to be tough enough to convince the public that their generosity will not be abused,” says Lord Hague.
However the former Richmond MP, and scandal-hit charities, need to realise that the benevolence of donors – and taxpayers – can no longer be taken for granted unless urgent steps are taken to restore the public’s trust.
First, there must be an urgent inquiry to establish the scale of the cover-up and why the Charity Commission, and Department for International Development, were not fully appraised.
Second, Government grants should be put on hold until Ministers are fully satisfied that recipient charities have adopted the most robust safeguarding practices, and that these are underpinned by total transparency.
Third, Ministers need to demonstrate, far more coherently, that aid money is, indeed, being spent responsibly, and actually assisting the UK’s foreign and defence policy.
As one of the world’s leading economies, Britain has a moral duty to help the world’s poor despite the widely-held belief that charity should, in fact, begin at home. Equally, Ministers are perfectly within their rights to expect charities like Oxfam to honour the spirit in which this money was given – or be stripped of funding – before they cause even more embarrassment to the wider aid sector.