Steve Brine held his much-anticipated public meeting about the UK Aid programme with Stephen O'Brien MP and around 100 constituents at St Paul's Church in Fulflood on Thursday 8th November.
The local MP, who has been a questioning friend of Ministers in the Department for International Development (DfID) since his election said he was delighted at the turnout and the range and depth of issues covered over the meeting. Stephen O'Brien is a former Minister at DfID (May 2010 – Sept 2012) and is currently the Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Sahel region of northern Africa.
Before Mr O'Brien arrived, the meeting heard from a number of local people who have an interest in the area or work in the field. Steve Brine chatted with Jennifer Hanson, a 24 year-old primary school teacher from Micheldever, who told the meeting about her work in Africa through the charity she founded in Nakuru, Kenya called Tumaini Kenya. It has been registered as a charitable project with the UK based charity Hope for Children.
She was followed by the well-known local resident Rosemary Dunhill, who works with the Winchester Fairtrade Network, and Dr Nicholas Grey who founded much-loved local charity Wells for India.
The meeting then heard from Stephen O'Brien who spoke about his time growing up in Tanzania and gave the context of the UK Aid commitment which is on course to meet the UN Millenium Development Goal of Britain spending 0.7% of her gross national income on overseas aid by 2015. He then took questions for around ninety minutes from the floor.
Steve said: "I was delighted that Stephen O'Brien took time out of his busy schedule to come to Winchester and answer our questions on this high-profile and controversial coalition policy area. It was apparent to everyone present that he is absolutely on top of his brief and it was so interesting to hear him speak from such personal experience about some desperately poor
communities across the globe. It is little wonder the Prime Minister has just made him a Special Envoy in such a key region
"The participation from the floor was superb, and it was great to see so many new faces as well as many of those who are well known in the city for their passionate charitable work. We managed to cover a huge amount of ground, including the moral and political reasons for aid, the future of UK Aid in India, micro-financing, al-Qaeda tactics in exploiting the poor and vulnerable, the 0.7% of GDP budget commitment as well as the challenges Ministers continue to face in selling the UK Aid policy to many voters worriedabout financial constraints at home.
"I hope constituents enjoyed the event and whether they came away believing UK Aid money is well spent or not, they felt it was a unique chance to hear from the horse's mouth some of the ways it is being used around the world."
Among those attending were a group of girls from St Swithun's School and Rev Peter Seal who is Rector of St Matthew's with St Paul's.
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