WEARSIDE MPs have vowed to keep a close eye on Government plans to shake up international aid.
Coalition Ministers have announced plans to “better focus” development aid, proposing to stop money for 16 countries all together and freezing the level of support to India.
China, Russia, Iraq and Cambodia have been named among those to lose out, while some nations such as Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan will get more money.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, a former Tory election candidate for Sunderland, told the Echo: “People in Sunderland and across the UK have shown that, even when times are hard, they care about global poverty.
“From Live Aid to Comic Relief, and the response to disasters in Haiti and Pakistan last year, the generosity of British people is extraordinary.
“Over the past few months we have reviewed our aid programmes, where we spend money and how aid is delivered. We are now bringing a new approach.
“At its core are two key features: ensuring the maximum results for the world’s poorest people; and the overriding need to show UK taxpayers what every pound they spend is achieving.”
Mr Mitchell, who ran unsuccessfully against Labour’s Sunderland South MP Gordon Bagier in the 1983 General Election, said British aid will make a “real difference to milions more lives” over the next four years.
He said the Coalition would vaccinate more children against diseases than there are in the whole of England, save the lives of 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth and stop 250,000 newborn babies “dying needlessly”.
The Sutton Coalfield MP said Tory-Lib Dem changes would also provide schooling for more than 11million children – more than in the UK but at 2.5 per cent of the cost.
Wearside’s Labour MPs, however, remain sceptical about the changes and say they will be monitoring the situation closely.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said: “We have to be very sceptical about whatever claims this Tory-led Coalition make regarding public spending since their brief time in government has already led to several U-turns, from school sports partnerships to the great forest sell-off.
“Whatever plans they have for International Aid and Development needs to be monitored closely once their public trumpeting has died down.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said: “I agree with the Secretary of State that aid should be focused where it is needed the most, and am heartened that the Government have ringfenced the aid budget.
“It is right that commitments should be kept under constant review to ensure that our money is having the maximum impact in the areas where it is needed the most, and I welcome the publication of aid spending and the results that brings, as people often don’t get to see the countless lives saved and bettered on their behalf.
“However, we need to ensure that decisions are based on a moral judgement as much as a financial one, and that there is the flexibility to react to sudden events like conflicts or natural disasters in a timely way, without Ministers having to compile and review a business case for helping people in critically urgent need.”
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson said: “Development is about justice, fairness and tackling global inequality and we shall do all that we can to make sure the Government keeps its promise to spend 0.7 per cent on aid by 2013 and maintains its globally recognised leadership on international development.
“Aid matters, it works and it saves lives. This is an issue on which many constituents write to me in order to stress how important they feel it is to maintain our international aid commitments.”