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 460.

    From what I have seen around this world most of our aid goes to Mercedes Benz!
    We must stop giving these nations aid as it does not make them get off their behinds and sort their own affairs out! Aids and starvation don't stop them breeding like rabbits do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    418. Daniel smith “I find it funny how most people are here complain about the rich not giving enough money away, but are against giving away less that one percent of our GDP to the poorest people on the planet”

    If the country HAD the money then I would agree, the problem is we don’t hence all those spending cuts, thanks to all those tax avoiding rich people and companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    I think it's moral to keep the fruits of your own labour, and that it is moral to spend it on nobody but yourself, for your own happiness.

    And don't you even dare call me immoral for not wanting to be a human sacrifice for others. It wasn't moral for the Aztecs to do it, and it isn't moral for you to advocate it either. Take your knives elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Be carefull Dave, this (if spent wisely) could benefit the people in the UK you have helped into poverty! not much chance of that happening then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    I'd much rather this money gets spent on better gear for our boys than lining the pockets of some corrupt official thousands of miles away. Once aid money is given there's no system in place to check what it's actually spent on. I highly doubt the majority of it goes to the poor

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Yes let us spend it on defence - defence against the deliberate attack on our earnings and wages by cash rich companies. Defense against key industries being taken over by foreign adventure capital outfits asset stripping. Defence of our gas supplies by building proper storage. Defence of the sick by halting the dismemberment of the NHS. Defence of manufacturing industry. Defence against imports..

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Aid is for humanity objectives. Now Government is using it for personal agenda such as military interventions overseas for no proper reasons. This is clearly for hidden political agenda. Please stop introducing blood shed overseas and allow aid to help the real human needs, not bullets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    What a sad little disgusting country we live in

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.


    "You don’t help the poor in this country by punishing the poor in another"

    True but do you help the poor of this country by helping the poor of another country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    I agree with aid when we actually have the money to donate. But why continue giving away £10 billion a year when that money could dramatically improve the situation here in the UK?

    The quicker the economy gets back on its feet the quicker we'd be able to help people again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    This is obviously a knee jerk reaction to the failed 4G auction. That £1bn shortfall has to be made up from somewhere. Cutting Aid is an easy option & possible vote winner. So its a no brainer as far as desperate Dave is concerned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Oxfam's head of policy Max Lawson said the aid budget should be spent on "hospitals and not helicopter gunships"

    Fair enough. But as I just spent 9 hours in A&E with my 88 year old mother, I would prefer that to be hospitals in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    At last the government is displaying some sense and putting the UK population first - about time too, after all we elected them, not an overseas country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    Re 427.John from Poole
    Speak for yourself John, there are many people in this country who dont fit into your cozy view uf the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    It would seem this aid budget is a smoke screen for a polititians slush fund to spend on patronige and little military adventures that cannot garner enough parlimentary support to get through the normal channels. Dress the spend up as helping the poor etc and you can convince enough people that its worthwhile. be honest what its for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    We borrow billions each year, we cannot afford to give aid to the rest of the world.

    Imagine going into your bank and asking for a loan and giving the reason you are going to donate to charity.

    Time and time again we have seen missued aid money.

    Time to get our own accounts in order and when (if) we have a surplus, then look at helping less well off countries

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    418 Daniel smith
    Please reflect on your logic/point again,you may find "most people's"opinion is not a contradiction in any manner,I await to see whether you wish me to explain!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.


    £10 billion aid budget is half what is needed (£21.7bn) to top up 7 million low paid workers to a living wage and fix the UK economy.

    Why can't we fix things at home first, then with a stronger economy we could do much more.

    It's a bit like the sinking ship giving away it's life boats to a undamaged ship that hasn't got any.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    The Military Industrial Complex aren't content with fermenting wars and unrest around the world to gain power and resources, now they're just blatantly raiding aid budgets?

    Even by their standards, it's pretty brazen and in your face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    Development "aid" is a windfall for ruthless dictatorships and helps to shield them against the disastrous effects that their totalitarian policies would otherwise bring about. Zimbabwe is a good case on point: Mugabe has engaged in systematic ethnic cleansing of white farmers, which has resulted in a food crisis, and our money just facilitates this continuing human rights travesty.


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