Andrew Mitchell, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, was our guest at a Power Lunch in Westminster this week.
Adam Smith wrote that nothing was necessary to lift a state from the deepest 'barbarism' to an advanced society, other than peace, 'easy taxes' and 'a tolerable administration of justice'. Mitchell too recognizes the importance of conflict resolution in providing the right soil on which economic achievement can grow. States in political and military turmoil don't create or export economic goods – rather, they export terrorism and desperate migrants. That is why Conservatives are going to integrate foreign, development and security strategies with the creation of the National Security Council. Under this joined-up policy, DfID would be more than just an aid agency: it would be a partner in development, trade and security.
Quite right. Development isn't just about giving people money. The Conservatives also intend to set up an evaluation agency to make sure that UK taxpayers' money is spent effectively and transparently, rather than ending up in the pockets of politicians and officials.
And, thank goodness, they recognize that the engine of growth is trade and enterprise. I feel that they rather like what Peter Mandelson has been saying – that EU farm subsidies and trade restrictions keep people in poor countries impoverished – which is hardly good for traders in the richer countries either. But I think that even with the formidable Mandelson on side, getting the EU to sort out its spaghetti of trade barriers is a pretty tall order.