Britain should resist copying the EU’s corporate responsibility law

Big corporations have a lot not to be proud of, and we certainly could do with laws to rein in some of their excesses. But that doesn’t mean that we should necessarily nod those laws through without a careful look.  A case in point is the demand made in recent days for the government to follow an EU initiative and introduce a ‘corporate responsibility’ law. This would require British companies to vet their entire supply chains for, among other things, human rights violations. The EU scheme in question, based on a European parliament vote in March, is what you have to look at to see just what is being asked for. Its demands

Oxfam’s strange obsession with ‘whiteness’

Remember when it was considered wrong for workplaces to harangue their employees about their racial origins? Ah, those were the days. Sadly, they’re long gone. Now it’s all the rage for employers to sit their staff down and berate them about their skin colour and all the problems it apparently causes. The latest workplace to go down this weird road is Oxfam. There’s disquiet in Oxfam’s ranks after its UK employees were asked to take a ‘whiteness’ survey. The 1,800 workers were told to state their ethnicity, define themselves as ‘non-racist, anti-racist or neither’, and open their eyes to how terrible whiteness is. ‘All echelons of power, to some degree,

Aid is no substitute for defence, and Michael Fallon knows it

It’s been obvious for a while that the Prime Minister is exasperated by the way American and other allied officials – including President Obama himself – keep expressing concern about Britain’s rapidly shrinking defence capabilities and the prospect of yet more defence cuts. David Cameron also dislikes being reminded that he lectured other Nato leaders about meeting the alliance’s minimum of spending 2 per cent GDP on defence, when by any honest calculation the UK is not going to meet that target. He hasn’t responded directly to the multiple warnings from Washington. This is presumably because overtly contradicting the President, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence of the United States could

Did Oxfam donors know they were funding a lefty think tank?

Some time ago I labelled Oxfam ‘the anti-capitalist lobby group which is also a part-time aid charity’: my column has repeatedly highlighted the fact that donors have unknowingly funded a hard-left think-tank (recent publisher of a list of ‘the eight people who own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’) as well as a Third World relief operation that has now been tainted by allegations of sex abuse. I also objected to the plague of its 650 charity shops, cannibalising the trade of established small businesses in struggling high streets. So I have scant sympathy for Oxfam’s embattled boss Mark Goldring. But I would not want the

Charities love to lobby so why should they be exempt from the Lobbying Act?

In the next few weeks, you’ll hear endless grumbles from charities about the Lobbying Act. They will argue it restricts their spending on political campaigning during the run-up to general elections. Of course, charities aren’t supposed to be party-political, and until now the highly-partisan campaigns they’ve run at election time have somehow never fallen foul of charity law. The bosses of these organisations claim they’re on a higher moral plane than other political campaigners. This allows them to dodge questions about whether they have a partisan objective. The moral high ground is built, they say, on their aims, motivation and modus operandi. But are these charities really acting in the public interest? Many

Oxfam is – still – struggling to learn its lesson

Oxfam’s boss has learned his lesson – or has he? In the wake of the revelations over the Haiti sex scandal, the charity’s chief executive Mark Goldring adopted the rather unwise decision to come out fighting: ‘The intensity and the ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do? We murdered babies in their cots? Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feels out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it.’ Three days on since that disastrous interview in the Guardian, Goldring’s struggle to understand is over. I’m sorry, he told a Commons select committee this morning, not once but repeatedly.

Portrait of the week | 15 February 2018

Home The Charity Commission said it would hold a statutory inquiry into a scandal in which Oxfam staff paid for prostitutes in Haiti in 2011. Penny Lawrence resigned as deputy chief executive of the charity, saying that allegations had been raised about Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s country director in Chad, before he moved to Haiti. He resigned in 2011, when Oxfam referred to unspecified ‘serious misconduct’. Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, said that no organisation could be a government partner if it did not ‘have the moral leadership to do the right thing’. Last year, Oxfam received £32 million from the government. Priti Patel, the previous development secretary, said

Nick Hilton

The Spectator Podcast: Bad charity

On this week’s episode, we look at the Oxfam aid scandal and whether charities do more harm than good. We also tackle the controversial practice of stop-and-search before sampling some of the alcohol-free delights than might keep you off the booze this Lent. The news cycle for the past week has been dominated by revelations about the charity Oxfam, with senior figures implicated in ‘sex for aid’ bartering in crisis zones. Figures from Minnie Driver to Desmond Tutu have quit roles at the beleaguered charity, but bigger questions are being raised about how foreign aid is spent. In the magazine this week, Harriet Sergeant looks at the behaviour of international charities, whilst

The Oxfam scandal will unearth some difficult facts for ministers

When the media talk about government outsourcing, they normally concentrate on Capita, G4s or, recently, Carillion. But when it comes to aid, the government outsources too. The majority of the UK’s aid budget is sent directly to the country concerned. Just over a third of it is spent through partner organisations. The bulk of this money goes through organisations such as the World Bank. But some of it is spent with charities such as Oxfam. The UK government gave Oxfam £31.7 million in 2016 which isn’t a huge amount in government terms but is considerable in charity terms. This means that the scandal engulfing the aid world, which started with the

Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: It’s time to bin the foreign aid target

The Oxfam sex abuse scandal rumbles on, with the Times reporting that the charity knew about the questionable conduct of two men before they were posted to work in Haiti. The paper says it is time for a serious shake-up in the way in which international aid is meted out to avoid a repeat of this story. It is clear that there ‘is now a serious disconnect between the priorities set by the foreign secretary and the policies which flow from the wealthier international development department’s ability to effect change’, says the paper. This is because of DFID’s ‘much bigger budget’ – a result of the government’s ring-fenced commitment to

Oxfam isn’t alone: UN peacekeepers also exploit women in their care

A Times investigation has uncovered the terrible fact that women and possibly young girls in Haiti have been exploited by the very people paid to keep them safe: the staff of Oxfam, which sucks up £300 million a year from us in public and private money.  It’s a shock — and it’s not. Under the cover of moral superiority, out of sight and out of the media, all manner of NGOs, charities, and the saintly UN have committed some of the most disgusting crimes against the world’s most vulnerable women and children, and got away scot free. Not even the hyper-sensitive  #MeToo movement seems to give the shadow of a

Letters | 26 January 2017

What is a university? Sir: As a former Russell Group vice chancellor, I think that Toby Young’s appeal for more universities (Status anxiety, 14 January) needs several caveats. First, what is a university? Recently some have been created by stapling together several institutions without any substantial element of research and renaming them as a university. There is even some suggestion that research is inimical to good teaching, because some university researchers with a duty to teach shirk it. But the presence of a weighty research community lends a university an invaluable ambience. In America, many colleges that teach only to the bachelor degree are well regarded without possessing the title of university.

What Oxfam won’t tell you about capitalism and poverty | 16 January 2017

Your average milkman has more wealth than the world’s poorest 100 million people. Doesn’t that show how unfair the world is? Or given that the poorest 100 million will have negative assets, doesn’t it just show how easily statistics can be manipulated for Oxfam press releases? They’re at it again today: the same story, every January. “Almost half of the world’s wealth is owned by just 1% of the world’s population” it said in 2014. It has done variants on that theme ever year, each time selling it as a new “big” story. All the time peddling the impression that inequality is getting worse, that the rich are engorging themselves at the

Oxfam reaches a new, sneakier low

Here’s a new low for Oxfam, or rather a different, sneakier low. Three times in recent months I’ve been telephoned by well-spoken young men claiming to be from Oxfam who all begin by saying: ‘I’m just calling to thank you for your past donations, and tell you exactly how much money all the books and clothes you’ve donated to Oxfam have raised for us. Would you like to know?’ Here I hang up. What utter cobblers. I can’t remember donating clothes to Oxfam shops and anyway how would they know about, let alone value and add up any one specific person’s donations? William Shawcross, head of the charity commission has,

What Oxfam won’t tell you about capitalism and poverty

Your average milkman has more wealth than the world’s poorest 100 million people. Doesn’t that show how unfair the world is? Or given that the poorest 100 million will have negative assets, doesn’t it just show how easily statistics can be manipulated for Oxfam press releases? They’re at it again today: the same story, every January. “Almost half of the world’s wealth is owned by just 1% of the world’s population” it said in 2014. It has done variants on that theme ever year, each time selling it as a new “big” story. All peddling the impression that inequality is getting worse, that the rich are engorging themselves at the expense of

Why do our leaders continue to squander money on overseas aid?

One of the more bizarre mysteries of contemporary British politics is the ironclad, almost fanatical intensity of the government’s commitment to foreign aid spending and the activities of DFID, the Department for International Development. The Times reveals today that Britain is paying professional aid staff up to £1,000 a day to work in Africa and Asia as part of a spending ‘frenzy’ to meet a government target. It is bizarre because the Prime Minister talks about foreign aid as if it’s all about famine relief and saving children’s lives. But he and his Cabinet are intelligent, worldly people and they know that the real world of aid rarely resembles the one

Spectator letters: Oxfam’s Ebola appeal; what Cumberbatch should have said; and why Prince Charles is right and wrong

In defence of Oxfam Sir: Mary Wakefield rightly praises Médecins sans Frontières but makes many misinformed claims about Oxfam and aid in general (31 January). Contrary to her suggestion, money donated to Oxfam and other charities’ emergency appeals must be spent solely on that crisis. This is stipulated by the Charity Commission and confirmed by our publicly available audited accounts. It is regrettably not possible for our website to provide a running commentary of developments in Liberia, but the British public can rest assured that their generous support is helping to save lives and to put lives back together. Indeed some of our funds in Liberia were spent on the

Do I really care about Ebola? Do you? Does Oxfam?

It’s strange how quickly we all forgot about Ebola. Speak for yourself, you might say — and I will. Until a friend sent me a report this week on the progress of the epidemic, Ebola had, I’m sorry to say, almost faded from my mind. The report contains good news: where the outbreak was worst, in Liberia, there are now just five cases left. Ebola treatment centres are shutting down, unneeded — and I was delighted but also ashamed. I have been to Liberia and written about it and I had thought last year that I cared tremendously about its fate, more than others, perhaps. My heart bled even as

Under Oxfam’s dodgy maths, someone with 50p to his name is “richer” than bottom 2bn

Global capitalism has eradicated poverty and generated prosperity in the developing world at an unprecedented rate. You might imagine that a global anti-poverty charity, such as ‘Oxfam’, would celebrate this fact. But no – today Oxfam is making the headlines instead because it is worried about global wealth inequality. In particular, that ‘the wealthiest 1 per cent will soon own more than the rest of the world population combined’. Oxfam has been pushing this sort of meme for a while. Last year, it made the startling claim that ‘the world’s 85 richest people own the same wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion combined’. It was shown at the time, not least by

Fraser Nelson

What Oxfam doesn’t want you to know: global capitalism means less poverty than ever

The hijacking of Oxfam by the politicised left is nothing short of a tragedy. It’s heartbreaking to see a charity that has built up so much goodwill from so many people being used by activists as a vehicle for global class war. As a result, Oxfam is switching its focus away from global poverty towards something very different: wealth inequality. It has today come up with some questionable figures suggesting that the richest 1 per cent will soon own over 50 per cent of the wealth. Here is Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, with a message she intends to give before she heads off to Davos: ‘We see a