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.

Analysis

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
    0

    Comment number 480.

    Slavery still exists in our country, cos the police etc are incapable of sorting it.... sex slavery for starters....

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 479.

    Is there any chance of having some peace keeping money spent on patrolling our streets, especially late at night?

    Or maybe some could be spent on fixing a few of the hundreds of pot holes around here.

    Or perhaps keep open a few Accident & Emergency wards or Maternity Units instead?

    If we were flush with cash then by all means spend a bit overseas on good causes. I don't want tax rises for this.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 478.

    After returning from India where his talks did not meet his expectations he threatens to cut the aid budget to one of the recipients, knee jerk reaction or trying to force a deal through bullying?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 477.

    this is ridiculous we can,t spend 10 million on helping countries but we can spend 10 million on making war arms to destroy them.?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 476.

    so Aid money will now end up with BAE Systems and the like_
    instead of helping to feed or inoculate children in the Third World _
    how utterly predictable
    how absolutely Conservative! >: (

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 475.

    Someone found a Post It note in the MOD Coffers then ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 474.

    To all the tree huggin hippy, world peace types. Sorry like but I am better than a banker. I work for my money. I don't spend other peoples money. Evolution = Survival of the fittest. Trouble is eg. India has massive wealth and can afford to feed its population. We have way less wealth and yet we still send £400,000,000 of our borrowed money to them every year. Get your heads out your behinds.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 473.

    Daniel 418, some of that money goes to Somalia a country who's chief industry is piracy not destitution, we also send money to Pakistan a country developing its own nuclear weapons, why give them money when they can't look after their own with that funding? How about money to China the fastest growing economy in the world? It's not about dying babies it's a trade deal con

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 472.

    Turning life into death is what the tories do best!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 471.

    stop foreign aid now

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 470.

    457.muff
    people in the UK only live in poverty if they have too many kids or spend all their money on booze and fags. We don't even know the meaning of the word poverty. get over the victim complex the very fact that you are on the internet shows you are not in poverty.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 469.

    The weekly coffee and buns Cabinet wheeze is late this week. Oh I forgot DC was trying to be chums with India who put him in his place over shady dealing on helicopters.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 468.

    @458 - In the tax-free world that you imagine, where no-one gives a damn about their fellow human beings, it would be a very lonely existence.

    Bless.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 467.

    No Dave, spend it on the disabled that you, for some strange reason, hate so much.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 466.

    440. sunshinesuzy
    For goodness SAKE! How about spening it on the sick, disabled and old here!!
    ==
    So you think its a battle for funds between starving/sick/desperately poor kids abroad and the sick/diabled/old here?

    Why?

    They're just about to dish out a stack of tax cuts to the top raters, tax dodging company's are fleecing us dry and the bankers are still stripping us via Libor fiddles.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 465.

    @366. Demerara
    Oh go away, pathetic. First find out what wrongs you are talking about. Slavery is a common one... only we didn't start that, Africans sold other Africans as slaves while Britain were fighting off the Normans.
    As for 'taking' resources we were the ones that created most of the nations by putting in place government, infrastructure etc.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 464.

    Wonderif – I can never trust a politician to do what they proclaim or indeed the right thing anymore - ever?
    What will happen to this money?
    They gave a lot of our money to the poor and destitute bankers for absolutely no return whatsoever. So I Wonderif I would trust them to spend this £10b wisely to the benefit of the electorate or would it fund the bankers et al?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 463.

    It's funny everyone moans that benefit recipients get too much money, yet a common argument against the International Development budget is that we should eradicate poverty in this country first. One wonders if what they actually mean is; leave the poor to suffer.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 462.

    264.hampshireview

    "I wish people would stop criticising Cameron, at least he has the balls to confront these (and many other) issues."

    You honestly think our elected officials should be above criticism? Seriously?

    Good grief man, it's not only your right to criticize those in power, it's your chuffing duty!

  • Comment number 461.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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