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 1060.

    Some sense in this:
    - delivering food and blankets aid by RAF transport instead of using commercial hire for emergency aid (tsunami, quake)
    - offering peace keepers to imploding nations rather than providing money for arms
    But what are we actually getting into (France and Mali spring to mind) and why - after three years - is it suddenly a good idea?
    (And why do I not trust the Government?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    Waste in the aid budget?

    Almost half a £billion of the aid budget goes to consultants, mainly in the UK, with some earning in excess of a £million a year and being ex civil servants are doing very nicely now thankyou very much

    Being a 'poverty baron' is a job for the boys it seems, no matter who's in government.

  • Comment number 1058.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    @975. Here s hoping
    He is correct. Look at the aid agencies spending on comfy central London offices, administration, over paid chief executives etc. Look then at the aid that gets taken from warehouses by officials. The bribes paid to officials. The fact that we give India and China aid and they spend it on French planes, space programs and cyber hacking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    Just popping down to the Bank, got to borrow some money ,and GIVE it to somebody because they need it , HOW DAFT IS THAT, If we were rolling in money and not cutting back on services, Police, Armed Services, Hospitals Etc; fair enough, but no, when will these Politicians inhabit the REAL World.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    So now they are going to factor in some of the cost of delivering AID hopefuly it will mean that the AId gets to were it is needed and not in to some Foreign governments pockets

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    "charity begins at home" is one one the most oxymoronic line in existance. Money spent on oneself is not charity, the line has no meaning, it's orwellian doublespeak used to disguise pure selfishness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    British aid does a tremendous amount of good, but unless you work in the voluntary sector overseas you wont see it, and you wont hear about it either. Because the beneficiaries of such aid have no voice.

    Don't allow the sneering contempt of the Indian middle class, or the attacks and racist vitriol of Muslim extremists or the corruption of African governments stop what saves and changes lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    #1029 In my opinion because we are a very wealthy nation - the vast majority have enough (or more than enough) to eat. Even if just a small percentage of what we give goes to people who need it I think it's worthwhile. Also look at how much we spend on defence -compared to that the development budget is pretty small.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    1045. Sergoba - Seen any armed soldiers on the street lately? What a Doris you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.


    Is that the new PC term for war?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1049.

    I think it's incredibly naive to think that proper aid can be distributed in a war torn environment without the help of the military or a private security force. Who pays for the time the peacekeepers invest in protecting those who distribute the aid either along side or in advance of them. Alternatively, pull the peacekeepers from all protection duties, before and during the distribution of aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    1035.This Is England
    3 Minutes ago Why is action against Islamicists overriding malaria, HIV, health, water, agriculture and education projects?

    Because there are far more profits to be made in the arms industry - and then in 'rebuilding' the structure and infrastructure that we destroy. Dave's mates don't work in the anti-malaria industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.Teach him how to catch horses and you feed him for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    I wonder how much the current tax take actually comes back to you in public services and how much is spent on dodgy bankers, dodgy MPs, dodgy foreign aid and dodgy contract negotiation on behalf of the citizens of this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    At least it would be for a decent cause, and to public benefit if this £10 billion was used to reverse the damaging public service, NHS and police cuts... But no, Tories dont care if you are sick, or in an area with so few police it's anarchical, they only care about having enough soldiers around to crack down once the people realise and resist this rough deal we're getting hammered with each day

  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    @1008 Julie

    Uhmm, no. We seem to be giving foreign aid so that governments can divert their own money from feeding their own populations to building their own nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers......India and China.....?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1043.

    Defence!...... Defence .... what defence ... this so called "defence" budget over the past decades has brought many people across the world pain misery and death because of our illegal wars .... putting this money in defence will directly harm vunerable people this money could have helped to save ..... defence more like British people thinking were more powerful and important than we really are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    Who picks up the tab for flying out emergency food aid? Would the MoD present its fuel/maintenance costs invoices to the DfID?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    Where does the aid really go anyway?

    You give food aid to starving communities in Africa, the food is stolen by militants and sold for cash to buy weapons, with which to kill the very people we're trying to save......

    Or give the money to the military, drop bombs on the crazy militants and let the people get back up onto their own feet.


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