The Prime Minister’s Tale

Tales from End to End
The Prime Minister’s Tale

by Patrick Wintour

When we reached Lincoln on 29 May, Nancy and I read an extremely interesting article in ‘The Guardian’ referring to the Prime Minister’s robust defence of the Government’s foreign aid policy. At the same time he strongly criticised other members of the G8 industrialised countries for making generous aid promises and then refusing to provide the necessary cash to fulfill those promises. On the next day, the following article by Patrick Wintour, just slightly edited, appeared on the Guardian website.

David Cameron takes on aid critics
by making vaccine pledge

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
© Crown Copyright

David Cameron will use a conference in London to promote plans to raise a further £2.25 billion in global aid to increase immunisation programmes, further antagonising those in Britain who claim he is putting overseas aid before squeezed living standards in the UK.

With his modernising credentials damaged by the row about NHS reforms, Mr Cameron is determined to show that he is committed to a generous UK aid budget and to reassure those on the centre-left that he is a centrist Conservative. He also believes that he can see off the aid sceptics in his own party, mainly from the right. In his most high profile intervention on overseas aid since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Cameron will host the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) conference in London on 13 June.

The conference, discussed by Barack Obama and David Cameron last week, is regarded as vital to efforts to lower child mortality in Africa. In a sign of the scale of the pledges being sought, the Obama administration is being asked to give $450 million to the programme over three years. Britain will also announce a substantial extra contribution to help reach the £2.25 billion required to scale up immunisation programmes between 2011 and 2015 and so save an estimated 4 million children’s lives.

The funding will specifically enable GAVI to distribute two vaccines, pneumococcal and rotavirus, tackling two of the biggest killers of children in the developing world: pneumonia and diarrhoea. It is thought the vaccines will save more than 4 million lives by 2015. Pneumonia accounts for 20% of all deaths of children under five. Britain gave £150 million to GAVI in March last year and since 2005 has been the second most generous contributor after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

GAVI was praised by the Department for International Development (DfID) in a review on multilateral aid published three months ago. Officials at the Department were reassured by steps GAVI is taking to be more transparent about the differing costs of vaccines from different producers. Two pharmaceutical industry representatives sit on the board of GAVI.

Mr Cameron made passionate remarks at his press conference at the close of the G8 summit of industrialised nations in France last week, insisting he would not backtrack on a commitment to increase the amount of overseas aid given by DfID. It is the only UK Government department not facing budget cuts.

The Prime Minister added that he would not solve the UK budget deficit on the backs of the world’s poor and he lambasted some other world leaders for forgetting their promises on aid. Some of this passion was driven by the knowledge of what the GAVI conference could achieve next month. He regards vaccines that are shown to have tangible results in terms of saving lives as one of the best ways of combatting the aid fatigue currently gripping the UK. GAVI claims it has already saved more than 5 million lives in its first decade of existence.

Alan Duncan, the International Development Minister, sprung to the PM’s defence telling Sky News that ‘aid-bashing does not actually get us anywhere. If we were to cancel the aid budget altogether, it wouldn’t solve all the other problems, so this sort of balancing of the aid budget versus all other problems isn’t entirely logical. The fact is, if you had a pound, would you give a halfpenny to someone dying on the street? The answer is that you probably would, and what we are doing is stopping millions of people dying from disease; we are helping to educate them and make them healthy.’

We found this newspaper report extremely encouraging and we trust that the Prime Minister will be able to use his authority to safeguard the foreign aid budget against its critics.

The full Guardian link for Patrick Wintour’s article is http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/may/29/david-cameron-makes-vaccine-pledge and the photo of The Rt Hon David Cameron MP used above is © Crown Copyright from the 10 Downing Street Website under the terms of the Open Government Licence.