Justine Greening's speech to the Conservative conference

Posted On: 
4th October 2015

Justine Greening's speech to the Conservative party conference. 

Thanks to both Bill Gates and President Jim Kim of the World Bank for their video messages…

…their words show us how our country is seen from the outside:

…a world leader, a compassionate country, one that keeps its promises on aid and defence spending.

…a country that can be counted on. A country that’s always stood up for doing the right thing, confronting problems…

…even when the odds have been against us.

Democracy, freedom of speech, justice and the rule of law, equality….British values that have shaped the world.

Britain’s development is the smartest there is.

That’s why I'm proud to be British... and why I'm proud to be Secretary of State for International Development.

I didn't go into this job with rose tinted glasses on. As an accountant that would have been impossible!

But I’ve seen for myself that our country's reputation, it carries serious weight.

As Conservatives, we want a strong United Kingdom, a Britain that stands tall in the world. A Britain with a proud past, yes, but we want to build a Britain that can have a proud, prosperous and secure future.

And it was our Conservative Prime Minister – David Cameron – who had the foresight to put international development at the heart of our national security and foreign policy.

It wasn't an easy commitment to make, just as British taxpayers were making personal sacrifices to help put things right after Labour's latest economic mess.

And believe me, doing this job, I've heard and thought about the arguments against aid as much as anyone else.

But our Prime Minister was right on 0.7%; just as he was right that Britain needed to sort out the deficit, make work pay, and invest in our people, our roads and our rail.

Because when we turn on the TV, and watch the 6 o'clock news, those problems overseas - Syrian refugees, people dying from Ebola, war in South Sudan…

…whether we like it or not, if we don’t help sort out other countries’ problems, today they become ours too….threatening our national security.

And the smart thing to do is to tackle the root causes of those problems.

Root causes like:

- conflict and instability;

- no opportunity because there are no jobs;

- and extreme poverty.

So on the Syrian crisis, yes, we will help resettle up to 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees…

…but we’ve been there from the start supporting millions of refugees in the region… and not just with food, water, shelter, medical supplies, but education and livelihoods too. No country has done more than the UK in Syria, other than the US.

This kind of support has meant that just 4% of almost 12 million Syrians forced from their homes have sought asylum in Europe.

We are working in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, not just because it’s life-saving work and right, but supporting people where they are, means they are less likely to head north to Libya and then to Europe…

…dealing with root causes means combating Ebola in Sierra Leone, and the brave work of our military, the Department for International Development's humanitarian workers, and NHS doctors and nurses - stopping it in its tracks. We saved countless lives there…and kept ourselves safe here too.

There was no play book.  I was there, and I saw it for myself, the bravery.  It was the Best of British. I saw Ebola sufferers for whom our help was their only chance. I met a Red Cross volunteer carrying out safe burials of Ebola victims, in spite of the fact that, as he told me, his first mistake would be his last.

…dealing with root causes means helping to rescue back failed states like Somalia for its own people, taking on Al Shabaab, investing in Somalia's counter terrorism and security capacity, so this proud but fragile country is never again a safe haven for terrorists.

And more of our aid budget is now focused on those fragile states.

So Britain's development programme recognises that to protect our country's national security, our stability and prosperity at home…

…we need to promote security, stability and prosperity overseas.

Last week, I was at the United Nations in New York, where the international community agreed a new set of Global Goals to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

Our position from the start was that we had to have the right plan…

… that those new goals had to address the root causes of poverty that rob countries of their future.

Britain and our Prime Minister, played a huge role in doing just that…

…new Goals supporting stability and security by rooting out corruption, instilling the rule of law, and justice…this Golden Thread of development.

...new Goals to give girls and women more choices and control over their lives…education, ending FGM, ending child marriage, having the right to open a bank account, land title.

…new Goals on jobs, on entrepreneurship, investment, so businesses can create the jobs for a new generation of young people growing up in developing countries.

Wherever you are in the world, young people tell me they want the same thing, a job and the dignity of work. I know that the toughest year of my childhood in Rotherham was the year my dad was unemployed.

And in the last three years my department has doubled its work on jobs, and pushing economic growth. At the same time, we are fighting corruption, creating property rights and better justice systems that mean people can reliably invest.

On health, Britain’s investment tackling malaria has seen deaths plummet by two thirds. Healthy people are a prerequisite for a healthy economy. Education is vital for strong economies too, which is why we’ll continue all that work.

We’re boosting our investment in combating climate change – if we don't, and countries become unliveable, farmland turns to desert, people can’t stay in their homes….it’s a tragedy for them, but again, more displaced people will mean more migration.

That’s what I mean by a UK development approach that’s smart.

And being smart also includes getting the best results out of every single pound.

Having been in business for 15 years before entering Parliament, I’m determined to make sure my department delivers value for money.

Our spend now needs a business case to back it up, approved by Ministers. It needs clear results.

We’ve won awards from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply for three years running now.

Value for money is at the heart of everything we do. Under my watch it always will be.

What we spend on development - 0.7 per cent of our gross national income - is absolutely 100% in our national interest.

Because national security threats, migration and disease don't stop at the English Channel. That's clearer now than it's ever been.

When we’re supporting refugees in their home region or creating jobs, this government is tackling the root causes of migration;

When we’re fighting Ebola, the UK is stopping the spread of the disease to our shores;

When we’re fighting for womens’ rights, education for girls, this government is doubling the number of people who can build their own country’s future.

So the next time you’re on the doorstep being challenged about our aid budget…

…you can say that in a dangerous world, this Conservative Government is maintaining Britain’s national security by:

   •    meeting NATO’s 2 per cent defence target;

   •    and meeting the UN’s 0.7 per cent aid target

…fighting for what is morally right, and also for what is firmly in Britain’s interests.

I grew up proud that ours is a country that has put its stamp on the world…

…an overwhelmingly good one.

We should keep doing that in the 21st century. We should never exit the world stage. It needs us. It needs Britain. So let’s rise to that challenge.

Thank you