Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, has warned that she will stop funding organisations that do not live up to expected standards in the wake of the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal.
Speaking this morning in Westminster at the annual conference of Bond, the umbrella body for development organisations, Mordaunt said the scandal was an opportunity for the aid sector to reset its relationship with the public.
She said the Department for International Development would soon be launching a new development offer in order to help Britain and its aid sector contribute to achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals, which include eradicating global hunger and ensuring all children have access to education by 2030.
The offer would require organisations in the development sector to change how they worked and work with each other, and other sectors, Mordaunt said.
"It will make UK aid work harder, delivering for the world’s poor, but also for the UK’s security and prosperity, upon which UK aid depends," she said.
But she added: "It will require me to stop funding organisations that do not deliver our objectives, contribute to the goals or live up to our standards."
The aid sector had found itself in its current position, Mordaunt said, because it had forgotten the needs of those it served, the expectation of the British people who enable its work and the values that make it what it is.
"Without us bringing our values to work, we will fail in that work," she said. "So let this moment not be just a wake-up call to improve safeguarding. Let it also be a wake-up call to all that we must be, if we are to deliver on our promise to the world’s poor."
She reiterated her own belief in the principle of aid and in the 0.7 per cent of the UK government budget dedicated to overseas aid.
She said very few people were using the scandal as an excuse to remove the 0.7 per cent, even those who would like to see it eliminated.
"I think we have to be very robust in saying what a serious issue the Oxfam scandal and the issues around safeguarding are, and they should be treated in that respect," Mordaunt said.
She said she had given anyone attempting to connect the aid budget with the scandal, from either side of the debate, "pretty short shrift".
But she warned that it was not parliament that protected the aid budget but the attitude of the British public.
"We have an opportunity now, in the wake of the Oxfam scandal, to reset that relationship," Mordaunt said. "Yes, it’s got to be about safeguarding, but we have to address public concerns as well."
She urged aid charities to ensure they not only attempted to prevent and deal with poor behaviour among staff, but also to ensure that it was reported to the relevant authorities.