Aid money could go to defence - David Cameron

RAF C-17 transporter plane The RAF's C-17 transporter plane can be used for combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions

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The government is to consider spending money from the UK's £10bn aid budget on peacekeeping and other defence-related projects, David Cameron has said.

Such a move could see funds diverted from the Department for International Development to the Ministry of Defence.

The PM, who has been urged to cut aid spending by some Tories, said security and stability were often needed before development could take place.

Critics argue that aid money should not be used to compensate for defence cuts.


David Cameron's suggestion that more aid money could be spent on peacekeeping missions overseas may please as many folk as it angers.

It's Conservative backbenchers he's seeking to pacify. They are furious that, while defence commitments abroad are increasing, MoD spending is being cut.

Many of them welcome the idea that more of the UK's aid budget, which some believe is too high anyway and shouldn't be ring-fenced, could be better spent.

Charities are extremely unhappy at the prospect of DfID's aid being "contaminated".

But the international development budget is tiny compared with the MoD's and, while any increase in DfID's contribution to the so-called Conflict Pool may comfort Tory MPs, it may not have much impact on future defence spending.

Mr Cameron has said he intends to protect all £10bn of Britain's aid budget, promising to spend 0.7% of national income on development.

But, speaking to reporters on his return journey from a trade visit to India, the prime minister said he was very open to the idea of the Department for International Development (DfID) sharing more of its money with the Ministry of Defence (MoD)

"DfID and the Foreign Office and the defence ministry work increasingly closely together," he said. "If you are asking me can they work even more closely together, can we make sure that the funds we have at our disposal are used to provide basic levels of stability and security in deeply broken and fragile states, then I think we should.

"That is an important part of development."

"We have our moral responsibilities for tackling poverty in the world. We also have national security responsibilities for mending conflict states and helping with development around the world and we should see DfID in that context," he added.

Officials said hundreds of millions of pounds could be diverted from aid to peacekeeping and stabilisation operations, particularly in fragile states.

A Downing Street source said one option under consideration was a significant increase in the size of the Conflict Pool - a fund jointly managed by the MoD, Foreign Office and DfID that supports conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping.

The money would not be used for combat missions or equipment and Downing Street insisted the plan would comply with international aid spending rules.

Conservative MP Colonel Bob Stewart said critics of the idea were "barking"

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said it "made sense" to look at areas where defence supports international development "at a time when the defence budget is under pressure".

He said it was about using budgets "most effectively" and said proposals would be brought before the National Security Council before a decision was made.

BBC deputy political editor James Landale said this shift in priorities would go down well with Conservative MPs and voters who think it was wrong to increase aid while cutting defence.

The question now was what aid projects would be cut to pay for more security operations, he added.

Liberal Democrat chairman of the International Development Committee Sir Malcolm Bruce said switching funds from overseas aid to the defence budget would be "outrageous", adding: "You can't use the aid budget to make up for defence cuts."

2011-12 departmental budgets

  • MoD - £37.2bn (-4.5%)
  • DFiD - £7.9bn (+1.8%)
  • FCO - £2.2bn (-4.9%)

Source: Treasury

For Labour, shadow international development secretary Ivan Lewis said he supported a "coordinated approach to tackling conflict" but said the "major proportion" of UK aid money should continue to be used to "alleviate poverty, improve basic services and support job creation".

"Cameron's attempt to suggest aid money can be used to offset deep defence cuts is misleading and will not stand up to scrutiny," he added.

Oxfam's head of policy Max Lawson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme "millions" supported the protection of the aid budget and the money should be spent on "hospitals and not helicopter gunships".

Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce said a major shift in the budget was "simply not possible"

"We cannot see any penny diverted into the military," he argued.

Charity Christian Aid said it was "deeply concerned" that the "blurring of the lines between military action and aid delivery" could put aid workers at risk.

But Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer, said security and overseas aid were "inextricably linked".

"So much of the aid we have attempted to spend in the past in places like Iraq and Afghanistan has not been delivered as effectively as it might because of the lack of a benign security environment.

"If that means more money has to be spent on defence in order to increase the efficacy of overseas aid spending, I'm all for it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1400.

    We borrow billions, so we can give away billions. So next time someone rattles a collection box in front of you, ask if you can borrow a tenner from the guy holding the box so you can donate to the cause. You'll pay it back next Tuesday, or maybe Thursday, or.... Mad isn't it? Yet it is what this government (or any other government) does in the country. Bonkers Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    1388.'Good idea to spend more ondefence!'
    Most of our problem with 'terrorists' is that we go in and start messing around with the local politics so we can get the resorces we beliefve are rightfully ours. 10Bn is a drop in the ocean when you compare it to the the cash being hemoriged with the new aircraft carriers and other MOD failiures. Maybe we should stop starting wars, would be cheaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1398.

    why do some of these people suddenly care about the needs of the poor in this country? Usually they dont care at all. i suppose if you are protecting your obscene wealth while cutting the life chances of others in YOUR country & you are worried these others might get upset - best turn it into a simplistic nationalist/racist issue to divert any anger away from the real causes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1397.

    Skywatchman @1375
    "to moderators
    free speech"

    @1283 you endorse James' @1263, for "new party" to scrap "entire party system" & find "better alternative"

    @1351 you give as "first big problem", money, "the existing stranglehold" of - one might take it - 'the rich'

    Yet repeatedly you claim not to 'understand' the alternative to misrule from unequal means, by simplest of logic, equal partnership

  • rate this

    Comment number 1396.

    I've never heard of arming the authorities as being aid to the people.

    The British Government loves war, the more the better for that lot.

    For the first time ever, I now entirely disagree with foreign aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1395.

    The sold the gold bars.
    They opened the borders not realising the NHS and DSS will weaken.
    The Power Companies were sold to France and Germany.
    The infrastructure railways was sold to Germany.
    Every cake factory and heavy industry was sold off.
    Now they want to keep running an army?
    I hope Argentina gives this lot a bloody nose and any man that fights for them is a fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1394.

    Defence from what ? Peace keeping ? I'd laugh if this was a joke .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1393.

    Cam has been to India and seen they neither need our aid nor appreciate it. So yeh lets take whatever we give to them and spend it on something worthwhile... preferably not defence though

  • rate this

    Comment number 1392.

    We have no idea how lucky we are? Well, some of us do, and some of us try to do just a little bit to make a difference. But it never seems to be enough and whatever we do ain't going to be enough to help those, our people, living rough and living in poverty in our own inner cities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1391.

    Come on guys, buy gold & silver now. The price is low this week, a great time to buy.

    The UK has a ridiculously huge debt. Interest rates are virtually 0 and we can only just afford it now! Imagine if they go up to just 3%. KABOOM! We have huge socialism, we give money to foreigners, and now we're in Mali!?

    I repeat: buy gold & silver now. Protect yourself & your family :D

  • rate this

    Comment number 1390.

    I give to charity - a lot (in relation to what I have) but I've cut down since I realised how much my government gives on my behalf.
    You can't compare the depth of poverty in some places around the world with the levels in the UK however trickle-down charity works as well as trickle-down economics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1389.

    @ 1372 Steve. No, not their dog. But I might share my last food with my neighbour. Do you really equate foreign people to 'dogs' in your mind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1388.

    Good idea to spend more ondefence!Aid bottomless pit.
    GB allocated 2 transport aircraft to help the French in Mali.
    They have to be refuelled in the air by the USAF,as the RAF was reported by BBCas having no air refuelling available.
    If that is the case,scrap AID money and ensure we have sufficient defence capability with relevant modern systems!Our Forces deserve the best, not to be run down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1387.

    Why not, just about every other penny does.

    What nation is a threat to us now, i forget in this busy hate filled world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1386.

    By all means give Aid and defend our country.
    Save money by not wading into unnecessary wars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1385.

    There is a lot of innocence over foreign aid displayed in these comments.

    * Defence is hard power.
    * Foreign aid / BBC World Service are examples of soft power.

    These things are used to serve the UK's "best interests", including locking in trade deals, winning useful friends etc.

    I'm not implying this is a good or bad thing. It is basic stuff - you can find it in numerous text books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1384.

    1377 Miss T Fied

    I think you mean 'By whom?'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1383.

    Parents cutting back on food (61%), skipping meals (26%), not replacing children's outgrown shoes (19%) and winter coats (14%), missing school trips (19%) and having to borrow to make ends meet (80%)
    Abroad no U.K. 2013
    Now tell me we should be sending money we have not got.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1382.

    Are those individuals who think us tax payers are selfish for wanting foreign aid to be stopped, as concerned for knowing our country is in debt and our government takes out loans to pay our debts whilst handing £10bn of our money to foreign aid each year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1381.

    Bumble 1206 makes a good point but we have very poor people here in the UK - I run a foodbank and homeless project we see people living locally in bad situations. No state aid available to us we are reliant on the public to support us - and they do. The problem with overseas aid is that it does not just go to children needing water but on vanity projects and into the back pockets of despots.


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