Saturday, 3 April 2010

Labour punishes small nations for public's generosity to Haiti

Did the ethical dimension to the UK government's foreign policy die with Robin Cook? For years, Private Eye has been inveighing against CDC. What was once, as the Commonwealth Development Corporation, a means of funding development in some of the poorest countries in the world, is now virtually no more than an equity investor, albeit one wholly owned by the UK state (The latest story concerns a scheme to allow a Nigerian oil company, Oando plc, to avoid paying tax in its home country. Private Eye estimates that the company will gain by more than $7m annually, tax which would buy a lot of schools and hospitals.)

Now comes the news that the much-trumpeted VAT concession on the Haiti relief single "Everybody Hurts" and the linked CD is being recouped from the part of the Department for International Development's funds which has not been privatised. The Independent quotes Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman: "This sleight of hand is a step too far. People who bought this CD in good faith will be disgusted to find out that what the Prime Minister presented as an act of generosity was little more than the daylight robbery of funds intended to help some of the poorest people in the world. Gordon Brown must come clean on what aid programmes have suffered in order to fund this hollow gesture." Liberal Democrat Malcolm Bruce is chairman of the International Development Committee. He said that Mr Brown had been "disingenuous" and "deceitful" in claiming the VAT would not be claimed by the Treasury.

"Anyone going out to buy this single would have thought it was adding value to the campaign and the very fact of cancelling VAT was designed to increase the numbers buying it,"

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