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WEBCHAT GUIDELINES 1. One question per member plus one follow-up. 2. Keep your question brief. 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. More here.

Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell: live webchat, Monday 9 July, 12.30-1.30

(76 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 06-Jul-12 10:49:16

We're pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, will be joining us for a live webchat on Monday 9 July at 12.30.

We're particularly happy that Mr Mitchell will be joining us in the week that the UK hosts the first global summit on family planning, focusing on what can be done to allow as many women as possible across the world to access appropriate contraception. As you may have seen, following Mumsnet poster and blogger MmeLindt's recent trip to Kenya, 222 million women in the developing world who want to access family planning currently can't get it, and every two minutes a woman dies of pregnancy-related complications; 40 per cent of those pregnancies were unintended. The Summit is hoping to give access to contraception to an additional 120 million women by 2020.

Mr Mitchell has been International Development Secretary since May 2010. Before entering Parliament in 1987, he served as a United Nations peacekeeper in Cyprus and worked in investment banking.

Do please join us on Monday; if you can't make it on the day, please post up your questions in advance here.

ElenMumsnetBloggers (MNHQ) Mon 09-Jul-12 17:12:31

If you're interested in birth control and family planning issues and the upcoming DFID/ Gates summit in London this week, you can read more about Mme Lindor's involvement with the family planning summit and her trip to Kenya on our campaigns and special features section.

MmeLindor. Mon 09-Jul-12 13:34:54

Thanks for an interesting webchat (and glad that MNHQ sorted you out with some lunch). Hope to meet you at the Summit on Wednesday.

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:32:40

Thanks everyone for a really good set of questions. You've kept me on my toes but thanks to the very kind Mumsnet team I've managed to have a cup of coffee and a delicious sandwich while we've been chatting!

I really hope you're all going to follow the summit on Wednesday (#fpsummit for those of you on Twitter) and help us to hold everybody to their pledges in the coming years.

Let's do this again,


AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:32:06


It's great that DFID is supporting this, especially after a period, pre-Obama, under Bush, where USAID (the American Govt's aid agency) was prevented from doing much work in this area, for political reasons.

I wanted to ask: what is DFID doing to help communities in the developing world move away from female genital cutting? Will work in this area be part of what you are planning for this initiative with the Gates Foundation?

The UK Government has a clear position that female genital cutting is abhorrent and should end. It is a neglected issue in international development and a criminal offence in the UK. DFID currently supports extensive NGO programmes to end the practice and we believe that more needs to be done.

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:29:52


If a second question is allowed (pretty please MNHQ!) what specific proportion of the UK's contribution to the $16bn of aid pledged in Tokyo for Afghanistan will go towards safeguarding women's human rights, reducing maternal mortality and education for girls?

The British contribution that I announced in Tokyo continues our support at the same level until 2017 - we increased it by 40% in the Coalition's early months in office - and gave strong indications of continuing support up to 2025. The particular emphasis is on getting girls into school - there were no girls in school in Afghanistan nine years ago, today there are 2.5 million. Also we've given strong support to tackling women's grievances and securing justice for women in Afghanistan. As I said earlier, the number of female defence lawyers has rocketed in that time from three to 400. But as ever there's much more to do and Britain is fully on the case.

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:26:20


Not all women get to make the decision about whether they use contraception or even whether they have sex or not. What will DFID be doing at the Summit to make sure that women are able to refuse sex, whether with strangers or their husbands, and that there are laws protecting them from violence? Surely this is vital if all women are to have contraceptive choice?

Thanks Magicmoz - you asked the first question so I wanted to make sure I answered it! This is a really important point. Every woman and girl has the right to live free from violence and abuse. Ending all forms of violence against women and girls is a priority for the UK Government. The Summit fully recognises the wider issues, such as coerced sex and other forms of violence, which affect women's and girl's ability to use contraception - we are encouraging commitments from developing country governments to address these issues.

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:25:59


I've always been idly in favour of the 0.7% but now hear there's so much money in UK aid agencies they're desperately trying to spend it - just to get rid - without as much emphasis on effectiveness. Is this true?

Crumblemum, that's an issue that's close to my heart. The idea of anyone having to tip money out of the door because there's too much of it doesn't actually match reality. I've worked hard to reform the way money is allocated, so that every pound of British taxpayers' support is spent effectively and with maximum value for money - including money spent through NGOs, because although we have some of the best charities in the world it's essential that they get aid money competitively and on the basis of the results they'll actually deliver. We've set up an independent watchdog so you don't have to take the word of politicians!

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:22:02


Mr Mitchel,

It is obviously of great importance that women in developing countries have access to family planning. However, there are many religious communities here in Britain where women are forbidden from using ocntraception. What do you think of more outreach to, say, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic women in the UK who may be being prevented by their families from accessing contraceptive care?

Thanks MrsMicawber - you might be interested to see this link to the Nairobi Inter-Faith Declaration which supports the rights of women consistent with their faith to decide for themselves on the timing and spacing of their pregnancies - we fully support this approach.

FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-Jul-12 13:21:41

Hi Andrew question on Twitter from Zohramoosa
Can some1 ask violence against women? MT @ClareBCoffey have a question for #AndrewMitchell re #FPsummit?

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:21:36


Andrew, hello, thanks for coming onto MN.

How do we combat human trafficking not only into this country, but between countries with which the UK does business?

Human trafficking is the modern day equivalent of the slave trade. There are many Members of Parliament on both sides of the House of Commons who have championed this cause and the British Government launched a strategy on tackling trafficking a year ago. Theresa May, William Hague and I have our three departments working together to increase awareness of human trafficking among key countries and work with diplomatic posts in-country to identify local NGOs to work with on the ground.

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:16:28


To paraphrase Churchill if you're not a liberal when you're young you have no heart- but it seems you've been a lifelong tory! Even being the Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association. Do you have a heart? Do the Conservatives even care about International Development? Especially in light of all the horrendous cuts your lot are making here!

You missed a bit of Churchill's phrase out - he ended with saying "and if you're not a conservative when you're older you haven't got a head" :-) I care about this stuff because I'm a conservative, not in spite of it. Many people in the Party from grassroots up to the Prime Minister, with all levels in between, really care about international development and want to use the opportunity of being in government to make a real difference.

Himalaya Mon 09-Jul-12 13:13:55

Andrew -

Thanks for your answer ....Am I allowed a follow up?

What do you see as the biggest challenges in translating the UK government's commitment and money into contraceptive access, lives saved and women empowered around the world?

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:13:28


Or course we have to ask the biscuit question. What's your favourite?

Caramel chocolate digestives, I'm afraid!

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:12:26


It seems that (quite rightly) the British Government contributes much in terms of aid and commitment to developing countries. I know it's less than 1% of the overeall budget but how much support do you have from leaders of developing countries themselves - specifically on this issue and would there be greater support if there was greater buy-in from other global powers?

Thank you smells! We're really excited that the Summit will see leaders from countries across the developing world setting out their own ambitious plans and commitments for improving the lives of girls and women in their countries. We also know that many donor governments, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society, will be joining us in providing support to these efforts.

Successful development depends on real partnership and an absolute identity in what we are trying to achieve. Without this we won't achieve as much.

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:12:08


Hi Andrew,

Can I ask, what would you consider has been your biggest achievement thus far in your role as Secretary of State for International Development? And is there a country in particular which has got your special attention, either for personal reasons or humanitarian ones?

It's difficult to narrow it down but one thing I'm incredibly proud of was the summit we held last year for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations - where the world came together to provide resources to vaccinate a quarter of a billion children. David Cameron announced that the UK's contribution would be to vaccinate a child every 2 seconds during this Parliament, which will save a life every 2 minutes. The one-year-on analysis of the summit shows that donors have lived up to their pledges so far, and we're going faster than we anticipated. That will mean millions of children living and growing up healthy thanks to the efforts of the British taxpayer.

One country that kept me awake at night a lot last summer was Somalia, where hundreds of thousands of children were at risk of starvation. British intervention has literally saved thousands of lives, but we were also focused on ensuring that other countries did their bit too. The peak of the crisis passed but the people of Somalia are still very food insecure and of course are living in a fragile country that hasn't had a functioning government for 20 years.

strangerwithmyface Mon 09-Jul-12 13:11:15

Or course we have to ask the biscuit question. What's your favourite?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-Jul-12 13:09:34


Can you not get Andrew a couple of biscuits? A man cannot live on chocolate alone (even if it is Swiss choc)

He's okay, he's got sarnies and crisps <hopes John Briffa not following>

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:05:56


Don't underestimate the impact of something as simple as a bed net. They have had a massive impact in fighting malaria in Kenya.

Sometimes you have to start with the easy fixes then move on to the more complicated issues.

If you can save the lives of the women who might otherwise have died during an unsafe abortion, then you can move on to the issues of domestic violence, other illnesses, improving healthcare etc.

Your quite right MmeLindor, contraception is something we can make a difference on now. We've estimated that enabling 120 million additional women to have access by 2020 will avert over 100 million unintended pregnancies and over 200,000 maternal deaths over the next 8 years. There is of course a lot more that we need to do and we're continuing to work across a range of areas.

On bednets - in the last year Britain has delivered over 12 million which will save the lives and improve the health of countless children who would otherwise have got malaria.

MmeLindor. Mon 09-Jul-12 13:05:25

Can you not get Andrew a couple of biscuits? A man cannot live on chocolate alone (even if it is Swiss choc)

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 13:02:03


Hey I said no party lines!

Do you think Cameron will be leading the Tories in the next election? Do you have any aspirations yourself - you're known to be rather charming?

That's kind but no! I think David Cameron is doing a sterling job leading the country in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I hope he'll continue to lead my Party for many years to come.

cm22v077 Mon 09-Jul-12 13:01:04

You must be starving now!

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 12:59:23


There's a link between access to family planning and access to education for girls - in many circumstances, the former enables the later.

Will the summit discuss this issue? What is the UK doing to encourage and support the education of women and girls in developing countries?

Thanks for raising this important point. Education is critical to the empowerment of girls and women and is central to our efforts. The UK will support over 5 million girls in school during this parliament. In addition we've set up the Girls Education Challenge Fund to get up to 1 million girls into school in some of the most difficult parts of the world. We're strong supporters of the Global Partnership for Education which is also getting more children into school across the developing world.

TheBlackShiksa Mon 09-Jul-12 12:58:39

To paraphrase Churchill if you're not a liberal when you're young you have no heart- but it seems you've been a lifelong tory! Even being the Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association. Do you have a heart? Do the Conservatives even care about International Development? Especially in light of all the horrendous cuts your lot are making here!

AndrewMitchell Mon 09-Jul-12 12:58:31


Hi Andrew - welcome to Mumsnet.
The government has made a big song and dance about it's commitment to maintaining the aid budget as proportion of GDP and has received lots of plaudits for that commitment, which in the current climate is indeed a noble aim to be applauded, in my view.

But isn't it the case that this government is trying to use the aid budget to pay for all sorts of things traddionally not seen as aid? For example there was talk of using it for maintaining a humanitarian force in Afghanistan?

Octavvia, there is some scaremongering out there! The fact is we're sticking to the UK's historic promises on aid and sticking to the definition that's laid down by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee on what does and doesn't count as aid. I'm proud to be part of a government that, even while we take very tough decisions to pay off the deficit, is still ensuring that we don't do that by balancing the books on the backs of the poorest people in the world.

painterlyswoosh Mon 09-Jul-12 12:55:54

Hey I said no party lines!

Do you think Cameron will be leading the Tories in the next election? Do you have any aspirations yourself - you're known to be rather charming?

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