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Summary

  1. International development committee questions charity bosses and officials
  2. MPs conducting inquiry into sexual exploitation in the aid sector
  3. It comes after it emerged some of Oxfam's staff used prostitutes in Haiti
  4. Oxfam boss Mark Goldring says 26 sexual misconduct claims made since scandal broke
  5. He tells MPs about 7,000 people have since stopped making regular donations
  6. Save the Children chief executive: charity had investigated 53 allegations in 2016

Live Reporting

By Aiden James, Esther Webber, Alex Partridge and Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Three hour session ends

Sexual misconduct inquiry

After three hours of questioning, the evidence session on sexual exploitation in the aid sector finishes.

The International Development Committee spent two hours questioning senior Oxfam officials, including chief executive Mark Goldring who apologised for the charity's handling of sexual misconduct in Haiti.

The committee also heard from Save the Children which has produced some proposals on safeguarding.

It then heard from Matthew Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development, who said: "This is a huge crisis for the aid sector."

We'll be back at 2.30pm for question-time in the Commons and the Lords.

After that there'll be an urgent question and three statements, one of which is International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt on the aid sector.

DfID boss: 'huge crisis for the aid sector'

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Matthew Rycroft
HoC

Stephen Twigg asks if DfID officials "recognise the damage this has done to the reputation of aid sector".

DfID Permanent Secretary, Matthew Rycroft replies: "Yes this is a huge crisis for the aid sector,"

He says the reputation of aid and the UK's commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income each year on foreign aid have "all been pulled into the mix".

So it's important, he concludes, to "do a better job" at explaining to the British people why that aid commitment is "a good thing".

Why did it take the Times to reveal abuse in aid sector?

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Committee chair Stephen Twigg asks why it took The Times report on sexual misconduct in Haiti to give the government and the aid sector a "wake up call" on issues of safeguarding.

DfID Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft says that "safeguarding has long been a priority for DFID...now we are homing in on it, giving it laser focus".

Stephen Twigg goes on to call the issue a "huge collective failure on all our parts, and I include Parliament in that".

But his fellow committee member, Pauline Latham tells him that she's raised the issue with every single Secretary of State for International Development.

DfID 'determined' to use crisis to root out 'evil'

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

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Pauline Latham asks "what is wrong with this minority of men that they cannot keep their trousers up" in disaster zones?

DfID Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft says: "I'm not going to seek to justify their behaviour, I agree with you...we are determined to use this crisis to get the whole of the sector into a better shape, to root out this evil wherever it occurs."

'Nothing too difficult' in addressing misconduct by aid workers

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Pauline Latham asks for a global registry of aid workers, suggesting it's "a no-brainer".

Permanent Secretary from the Department for International Development Matthew Rycroft says this is "an issue we should lead on" and the department's going to be working with the UN and other government departments.

"Nothing is in the 'too difficult' box anymore," he assures MPs.

Officials from DfID face committee

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

DFID officials
HoC

The committee is now hearing from leading civil servants from the Department for International Development:

  • Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Secretary
  • Gerard Howe, Head of Inclusive Societies
  • Beverley Warmington, Director of CHASE (Conflict and Humanitarian Security Department)

'Opportunistic' to link Oxfam scandal to aid target

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Save the Children's Kevin Watkins says there are "very serious" implications for the aid sector following the revelations about Oxfam. A "spotlight turned on very horrible stuff...which we have to take responsibility for fixing".

He says "this is not the occasional bad apple...this is structural and systemic".

But he says it's "opportunistic and profoundly misplaced" to link the issue to the debate over the UK's 0.7% of GDP aid target. He says UK aid is well targeted and we "can't afford to allow this issue to pollute the wider issue of the UK in aid leadership".

Tory MP questions gender of victims

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Pauline Latham
HoC

Conservative MP Pauline Latham asks Steve Reeves whether there is any evidence whether young boys are being abused, and if so whether this is by men or women.

In reply Mr Reeves says that globally, it's "pretty clear that girls and young women are most frequently the victims of sexual violence" but there evidence of abuse against boys as well.

Statistics show that this abuse is "largely perpetrated by men", he adds.

Working out scale of child abuse 'challenging'

Sexual misconduct inquiry

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Steve Reeves, director of child safeguarding at Save the Children tells the committee there is "no doubt" that there are people with a sexual interest in children who seek out work where they will have access to children, and try to work in "places where protections are weaker".

He says some studies have put the proportion of men who have "paedophilic tendencies" at one in 35.

He adds that the level of abuse reported is very low, with charities working in the UK putting the proportion of child abuse that's actually reported somewhere between 5 and 7% of cases. He says it's "even more challenging" in the context of a less-developed country.

He says we should "behave as if this abuse is happening, even if we see no evidence of it".

'Single reporting line' for sexual misconduct allegations

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Steve Reeves
HoC

Labour MP and committee chair Stephen Twigg asks Save the Children's director of child safeguarding, Steve Reeves about the charity's procedure for dealing with accusations of sexual misconduct.

Mr Reeves replies that the charity has a "single reporting line" for dealing with complaints that goes through to specially trained staff.

The charity's "default position" is that all allegations are reported to UK statutory agencies, which could be either law enforcement, children's social care or the NSPCC if a location is hard to identify, he says.

Following advice, the charity has a process for suspending individuals "as soon as we are cleared to do so by statutory agencies".

Accusations relating to a potential crime against a child would be taken "very seriously", he tells MPs.

'Predatory' men seek 'great power' of aid agency work

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Kevin Watkins
HoC

Save the Children chief executive Kevin Watkins says he's "utterly appalled" by the Oxfam revelations that the issue has been "on our agenda for a very long time".

The charity first published a report into sexual abuse in the aid sector in 2002. Kevin Watkins says their reports always find problems with "powerful men...as gatekeepers to food, to shelter, to safety".

He says he wants legislation that would make humanitarian aid work a "regulated sector", with mandatory background checks. Although he admits the international nature of aid work makes that difficult to fully enforce.

Committee Chair Stephen Twigg asks him about comments made earlier in the week, Mr Twigg says Mr Watkins said that "predatory paedophiles are particularly attracted to seek out this type of work".

Kevin Watkins says he doesn't think he "specifically mentioned predatory paedophiles...but predatory men" who seek the "great power" that the aid sector confers on those working within it.

He says they need to protect people from this kind of "arbitrary power".

Save the Children representatives face committee

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

The session with Oxfam is now over.

Next to give evidence is Save the Children.

  • Steve Reeves, Director of Child Safeguarding, Save the Children UK
  • Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive Officer

Following the revelations by the Times about Oxfam staff behaviour in Haiti, Kevin Watkins of Save the Children wrote a piece outlining the charity's internal procedures for preventing misconduct and proposals for further changes.

The proposals include a rapid response child safeguarding team, "humanitarian passports" and ensuring humanitarian agencies have a legal obligation to report dismissals.

Session with Oxfam closes

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

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The committee chair Stephen Twigg closes the session with Oxfam, saying it has been very striking how often the chief executive Mark Goldring has apologised over the last two hours.

He concludes that it "reflects the scale of the scandal".

He says there are clearly "a set of issues" about what happened in 2011 in Haiti, adding that Oxfam put its reputation first.

But he says it is a much wider issue across the aid sector.

He tells Oxfam it has to get its house in order and demonstrate that to the public.

'Help us to get this right'

Sexual misconduct inquiry

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Winnie Byanyima
HoC

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, reminds MPs that Oxfam reaches 90 million people every year, many of whom are women.

She has a plea for the committee: "Help us to get this right, to clean up."

Oxfam pressed on recruitment and reference process

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Pauline Latham confronts the Oxfam representatives: "So you can be completely honest in your references but you're not."

She says they allowed alleged perpetrators of abuse to move on to new jobs.

Mark Goldring says it gave a note of service for one of the men who was found to have used sex workers in Haiti but should have gone further.

Oxfam will 'work very hard' to win back trust

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Virendra Sharma
HoC

Labour's Virendra Sharma asks why, when Oxfam reported the allegations to the Charity Commission in 2011 they "failed to mention that crimes had been committed, and that minors had been involved".

Mark Goldring says he "can't defend that decision".

He says the charity's report said there had been "sexual misconduct and bullying and intimidation...my colleagues at the time thought that was sufficiently transparent".

But he says it was "not transparent enough" and Oxfam will now give the details of any misconduct to local authorities.

He goes on to say that he can "fully see" why the public may have lost faith in Oxfam, and says that they will "work very hard to win back that trust...we won't earn it by words but by deeds".

He says that "telling half a story is not enough".

When the story of Roland Van Hauwermeiren's dismissal broke in 2011, media were told about an investigation into non-specific "misconduct", with Oxfam only denying that allegations were linked to fraud. Reports also said that Mr Van Hauwermeiren had resigned because he had taken responsibility for his staff's behaviour, not that allegations had been made against him.

Oxfam employees did not buy sex with aid - CEO

Sexual misconduct inquiry

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Mark Goldring tells the committee there was no selling of sex for Oxfam aid.

Conservative James Duddridge asks whether sex for aid is going on.

Winnie Byanyima says that "categorisation" is not something "we should give attention to" because "this is about the abuse of women and girls".

She pledges that Oxfam will "root it out" of the organisation".

Secretary of state 'not fully aware' of Haiti claims

Sexual misconduct inquiry

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Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring tells MPs that former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was not aware of the full extent of Haiti allegations.

He notes that "we haven't spoke to permanent secretaries regarding sexual misconduct" at Oxfam until after the revelations about Haiti.

Oxfam: We must clean up

Sexual misconduct inquiry

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Pauline Latham presses the witnesses, saying: "You're not the victims, it's the women and girls - they're going to lose out as a result of your behaviour."

Winnie Byanyima admits there were individuals who "abused trust and we're deeply deeply sorry for that".

"That lifeline will keep going," she says, "but we must clean up."

Oxfam: Seven thousand donors lost since scandal broke

Sexual misconduct inquiry

Select Committee

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Mark Goldring says that 7,000 individuals have cancelled their regular donations to Oxfam since the Times story broke on February 9th. He says the charity's corporate sponsors are "deferring judgement" until Oxfam has outlined what it's doing to prevent misconduct in the future.