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£6.85m foreign aid scheme accused of funnelling aid to firms

  • Published at 03:27 pm August 16th, 2020
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The Department for International Development said that M&S and Care will work together to provide health services for 80,000 textile workers in Bangladesh

A new £6.85 million foreign aid scheme to help workers supplying UK chains like M&S and Primark has been accused of funnelling aid into the pockets of wealthy firms.

Announced by the British government on August 13, it promises to benefit British consumers by supplying “affordable, high quality goods from around the world.”

However, critics say the scheme helps suppliers to UK high streets by using taxpayer money to “pick up the bill,” reports Daily Mail.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This new fund will strengthen vital supply chains for UK consumers, while supporting some of the most vulnerable workers in developing countries. It will make a real difference to people in the UK and abroad.”

The government will contribute £4.85million to the scheme which has been devised to “support workers in developing countries during the coronavirus pandemic and help keep some of the UK's favourite products on high street shelves.”

Operating with charities including Care UK, the Fairtrade Foundation, and Ethical Trade Initiative, it will focus on workers living in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ghana.

Retailers who will benefit include M&S, Primark, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op, and Waitrose. 

However, the government's plan was described as a “disgrace” by Labour MP Kate Osamor who sits on the Commons International Development Committee.

Ms Osamor told The Guardian: “It is a disgrace that the government is funnelling the aid budget into the pockets of wealthy businesses like Morrisons and Primark at the same time as it cuts poverty reduction programs in some of the poorest countries on Earth.”

She added that it is incumbent on British corporations to ensure that suppliers maintain adequate working conditions for employees.

“[These companies] make hundreds of millions in profit each year; the UK taxpayer should not be picking up the bill when they finally decide it's time to improve conditions for their workforce,” said Ms Osamor.

Benefiting people in poorest communities

The Department for International Development(DfID) said that M&S and Care will work together to provide health services for 80,000 textile workers in Bangladesh.

“This is expected to have knock-on benefits for a further 300,000 people in Bangladesh's poorest communities,” DfID said in its press release. 

A DfID spokesman said UK aid is not going to British businesses. DfID's grant funding is providing support to workers and farmers through civil society partners that are working with businesses and their supply chain.

Fiona Sadler, head of ethical trading for M&S, said: “At M&S we have a robust approach to ethical fashion - we know we are only as strong as the communities where we operate and we are committed to helping improve the lives of workers in our supply chain through collaborative initiatives.”

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