David Cameron defends UK's foreign aid programme

David Cameron chats to a mother of twins at a clinic in Lagos The PM wants to see investment focused on more measurable things such as vaccines

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David Cameron has defended the UK's commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid by 2013.

But Britain will "use aid differently" to ensure it is well spent, the prime minister told an audience in Nigeria.

He was speaking as a survey of public opinion in the UK suggested many people felt the country's foreign policy had changed for the worse in the last year.

The top priorities ought to be protecting borders and countering terrorism, its results suggested.

Mr Cameron has cut short a planned four-day trip to Africa so he can prepare for his statement to Parliament on Wednesday on the phone-hacking scandal.

But before leaving he used a speech to the Pan-African University in Lagos to reinforce Britain's aid commitment and spell out the potential for UK countries trading in Africa.

UK aid spending should be targeted at projects to deliver infrastructure like customs services, roads and the internet and to train business leaders, mathematicians and scientists, he said.

Trade opportunity

This could kick-start growth and development and help Africa move off aid altogether, the prime minister added.

"We see Africa in a new way, a different way. Yes, a place to invest our aid. But above all a place to trade," he said.

Britain must increase its 4% share in exports to Africa, he said, promising to use loan guarantees and trade finance to help UK companies win contracts.

Earlier, he had visited a clinic in the capital Lagos, where babies were being vaccinated against yellow fever.

The Department for International Development operates a scheme in Nigeria to monitor vaccination rates, train nurses and reach out to women who might otherwise miss out on health care for their children.

Policy 'worse'

Meanwhile, the survey conducted by think tank Chatham House and polling company YouGov, also found that many people believed Britain spent too little equipping its armed forces and too much on contributions to the EU and on overseas aid to developing countries.

The poll questioned two groups, members of the general public and "opinion formers" drawn from a YouGov panel of figures from the business, media, politics, academia, science and arts spheres.

Of the members of the public surveyed, 65% thought Britain's foreign policy had changed for the worse over the past year.

Nearly 60% thought much overseas aid was wasted and did not promote Britain's interests. And only 20% thought the UK had a moral right to support pro-democracy uprisings in places such as Egypt and Libya.

Nearly half of those questioned thought the UK should not be involved at all.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said the government rejected any notion that Britain's role in the world was shrinking.

He said the repositioning of UK foreign policy was to secure its prosperity and security in the long term.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Development spending can be good, bad and ugly. No doubt some of Some of DFID's spending does some good, but a huge proportion of it is wasted on badly designed or badly managed projects. And why is UK giving more and more money to a country as oil-rich as Nigeria? Nigerians are poor because of the greed, corruption or incompetence of the Nigerian elite. I'm not surprised people are confused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I always thought that I was instinctively a Tory, but with this shower in power, I'm not so sure anymore. It's hard enough to survive (for some of us Dave) at the moment, without great sums of OUR money being dished out to fund India's space programme and Pakistan's nuclear programme (whilst cutting our armed forces to the bone). It'll get votes in Islington, but not round here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    On the subject of foreign aid: I think people forget that, generally, the poor in this country are much better off than those in certain places round the globe (in some cases in a better situation than their working countrymen and women). Surely we have a moral duty to help those less fortunate than ourselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Every single time anyone questions the additional costs or reduced services or how NICE can not allow drugs to prolong lives in England, or why libraries are closing and hospital waiting lists are going up, we are met with the same response; "Because of the mistakes of the last government there is no money left". Looks to me like Cameron is as legacy obsessed as Blair was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Whilst it is open to Cameron to present his arguments in favour of how he'd like to see aid from Britain being used in an attempt to persuade us, his employers, of their merits, it is high time he started listening to what he is being told about how we wish this country to be administered on our behalf and stop running off to do his own thing regardless.


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