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 1100.

    The UK's extreme right wing govt's top priority has been to give tax cuts for the richest people at the top - ie looking after its own self serving elite, whilst plunging those that can afford the least into penury. It is now applying the same rotten principles to Aid. Wonder how much of the diverted budget on Defence (should be called Attack) will go to the perks of the Tory supporting elite?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1099.

    @1085.Andy The Thinker

    Anyone who has made even a layperson's study of the developing world know that the high birth rates in these countries is a effect of poverty, not a cause. Families have to have children because they can't afford help, they can't look after any cattle their lucky enough to own, cook/clean and walk up to 10 hours a day to collect water, and grow crops and sell produce,etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    This is a fantastic idea, after all with stability and security the following will not happen:

    Aid convoys and ware house’s being raided

    Aid workers being forced to pay bribes

    Aid workers being kidnapped and held to random

    The list goes on.

    What will happen?

    Aid will get to the needy

    Aid charities money will go further

    Terrorist groups will have less place to hide...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    Who is paying for this AID any one on benefits who from April will find that there benefits have been cut by 20%+ when all the changes of welfare bill come in to force as people find that they do not qualify for the in work benefits they did before and with the green light given to the energy companies for price rises

    God Save Us All From This Government

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    ged @1056
    "popping to bank"
    (to borrow for charity)
    "how daft?"

    Think of Aid as basic spend, met every year come what may

    If minute-by-minute, 'trade balance' caution would crush

    Year's end, always deficits & surpluses, 'natural discipline' tending to even out over years

    'Unnatural' circumstances, borrowing for war of survival, investing to catch-up, Fukishima, major debts & major credits

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    Then tighten immigration laws. Stop all unskilled economic migrants, ensure asylum seekers are genuine, and ensure that other countries take their fair share.
    You don't give a thief a car to stop him stealing one, do you?
    Why does being wealthy give us an obligation to subsidise others?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    The difference between money raised from comic relief going to Aftica and taxpayers money going to Africa is that donations to comic relief are voluntary and the donators know where the money is going. The Taxpayer doesnt get to choose where their money is spent!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    or maybe use that money to help starving families in the UK instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    If we just give money they will spend it on expensive Mercs, designer clothes and anything other than food. Perhaps now is the time to provide only medicine and education enabling people to look after themselves. The charities themselves could do more by leaving their expensive London offices not paying 6 figures salaries to CEO the list is endless. The UK cannot continue paying endless aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    We could reduce our aid budget and support defence
    we could just do less military operations overseas
    recipient countries with Space programs could reallocate some of that money to looking after their own poor
    we could learn the lessons of the past 30 years that aid just breeds dependancy

    Of course none of the above will keep our charities in Mansions and 4x4's

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    "...Where does everyone think the aid money currently goes?"

    Slush funds. As if Africa didn't have enough issues, let's get them started on CDOs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    "Aid money could go to defence"

    As opposed to where a lot of it currently goes to ie "militia".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    It's a total and utter disgrace. The UK has no right to be involved in any of these fully illegal wars around the world, has no right to help Americans destabilising the whole African region and the Muslim world and certainly it has no right to benefit from all these sinful wars! What world are we living in?! How can we let all these things to take place in our time, in the XXI. Century?! Wake Up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    The provision of any aid is often diverted to the personal wealth of the few. At least,$380bn stolen by successive Nigerian leaders over the past 50 years and this is in one of the richest African states. Zimbabwe in chaos for the same period with food production only 10% of 1980 size where, agriculture is capable of feeding a quarter of Africa's population. We need to reassess all of our aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    Countries less well off than us do need help and am happy we do that but I am in agreement with the sentiment of sorting out our own affairs out first. That said when we waste money on supporting a woman with 11 kids from 3 different relationships plus a horse and build her a 6 bedroomed mansion to boot then that just about sums up the times we live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    We should not only stop sending tax-payers money overseas we should ensure that we only provide the means to change, Never money. We would be better sending birth control pills abroad than money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    Aid is completely useless as the countries recieving it never gets to those who need it. It goes straight into the pockets of the corrupt politicians. Now that we are seeing SOME sense we should invest this money where it belongs. Back into hospitals, schools and other services such as work placements and industry to create work for the British people. Fix England back to the way it SHOULD be

  • Comment number 1083.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    Overseas aid - isn't that what poorer people in first world countries pay to richer people in third world countries?

    We have a public national debt approaching £1 trillion and we will add another £100 billion or so this year. The UK public finances have been declining since 2001 and collapsed after 2007-08.

    People get real.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    1064 fallingTP

    "Of course, there's a lot to be said in favour of sunning oneself on the beach at Mombasa."

    Cheers, challenging that kind of pig ignorance is exactly why I wrote my original post.


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