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Conservatives are considering giving the world's poorest "aid vouchers" to buy education

MITCHELL ANDREW NW One noteworthy story which was buried in yesterday's Observer suggests that Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is considering a radical policy departure in his area.

A draft document leaked to the paper stated that the party is considering "injecting free-market thinking into development policy" by distributing aid "vouchers" to some of the poorest people in the world, with which they would be able to buy education and other development services:

"The vouchers would be redeemable for development services of any kind with an aid agency or supplier of their choice," it states. The paper also says that a Conservative government would "embrace the potential of the private sector, not treat it with suspicion" when administering the aid budget.

Andrew Mitchell confirmed to the Observer that he was investigating the policy of using aid vouchers:

"Governments have a responsibility to guarantee access to health and education for everyone, particularly the poorest... We stand ready to work with public, private and not-for-profit sectors to help make that happen. I don't have any ideological hang-ups about whether it's private provision or public provision: I'm interested in what works."   

The paper also noted (albeit without acknowledgment) the ConservativeHome survey of candidates last week which revealed that of the four areas of Defence, Health, Schools and International Development, only 4% of the likely intake of Conservative MPs believed the latter should be "most immune" from spending cuts.

Jonathan Isaby


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