International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has written to UK charities who work overseas demanding assurances that they are taking steps to prevent abuse of vulnerable people.
In the letter Mordaunt says revelations about Oxfam aid workers' use of prostitutes that emerged last week had "shone a spotlight on the scandal of sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector", saying more work must be done to tackle the issue.
"UK charities working overseas must step up and do more, so that we have absolute assurance that the moral leadership, the systems, the culture and the transparency that are needed to fully protect vulnerable people are in place, all of the time and wherever these charities work," she added.
Noting that she holds the purse strings, Mordaunt has demanded that charities write back with confirmation that four key areas are being tackled, "which are essential to effective safeguarding": to provide a safe environment that protects beneficiaries, staff and volunteers; that an organisational culture is engendered that protects and takes seriously whistleblowers; that charities have adequate safeguarding policies, procedures and measures to protect people; and that there is "absolute clarity" over how to handle any issues that do arise.
"You must also specifically confirm that you have referred any and all concerns your organisation may have on specific cases and individuals to the relevant authorities," the letter adds.
Mordaunt went on to praise the work the vast majority of the sector undertakes.
"It is precisely because of the value of those staff and of your organisations that we cannot allow the behaviour of a minority to undermine confidence in that excellent work," she wrote. "In order to re-build this confidence we need to ensure that a zero-tolerance approach means just that and that every incident is investigated and followed through."