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 1220.

    ...and the argument cuts both ways: if Defence is Aid, then Aid is Defence. In fact fighting poverty in many of these countries makes it less likely that young men are driven to war and terrorism, so can be seen as Preventative Defence.

    Conversely arms sales which make the poor poorer by diverting welfare spending make war and terrorism more likely.

    So how about less military, more aid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1219.

    Why do we need such a large military? Are the government expecting a French invasion?

    It's in the interest of all advanced nations to stay at peace with each other. The only real threat come from crazy theocracies and the world would come together to stop them if the need arose.

    World leaders just encourage military spending to line their own pockets and those of their friends in the industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1218.

    1176 tonep
    Not wanting to get in to a discussion about child benefit but not everyone who lost it is well off. Taking different tax rates in to account, someone 'earning' £60000 gross will take home roughly the same as a couple 'earning' around the national average £25k each. But that aside I think using aid money to provide security for vulnerable people abroad is a legitimate use of aid money

  • rate this

    Comment number 1217.

    OAP's struggling to pay fuel bills, people out of work living on soup and bread (this is actually happening, its not an exaggeration),. No I'm not talking about living conditions in India, I'm talking about conditions in the UK

    He says we have a moral responsibility to do something about poverty in the world. You're not even getting poverty right at home mate.

    Cant wait for elections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1216.

    Vastly wealthy pop-singers pampered Actors with stella incomes and Muti-Millionaire bladder kickers. Champagne & fois-gras Socialists, Rich beyond midas Politicians wealthy can rattler's, Religious demigods ruling over organisations of unimaginable wealth. Bleeding heart-Libs with money to burn. From Wogan's Pile to Kinnock & Blair's trust funds. But the Slack_Jawed demand it the workers who pay

  • rate this

    Comment number 1215.

    how come we give millions in aid to India when they evidently don't need it if they can send rockets to mars
    India will send a satellite in October via an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the red planet, blasting off from the southeastern coast in a mission expected to cost about $83 million, I think this is an insult to the British taxpayer when we are facing cuts left, right and centre

  • rate this

    Comment number 1214.

    1208. Tanglewood
    #1184: "Lets see if we can stop thousands of kids dying from filthy water."

    Why? More specifically, why should the government be spending my money on this rather than on defending my security and property?

    Because its assumed they are representing decent, civilized human beings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1213.

    Just out of interest... Who are we 'defending' ourselves against?

    The enemies our Politicians have created with their overseas policies (and of course oil/natural resources etc).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1212.

    Any of our problems in the UK are insignificant to the problems people have in third world countries. We should always make giving aid a priority even if we have our own issues at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1211.

    I can see the sense in holding back some food aid of hard earned taxpayers cash and buy some Burgers (Horse meat) with it and give it to the RAF so they can use one of their C-17 transporter planes and drop it over the North of England to help out the red cross (food stations) to feed our poor. Just a thought!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1210.

    "Anyone remember LIve Aid? Or Live 8? remember the issues they were about?"

    Yep the west feeling good about itself as the money was then used to prop up a corrupt Marxist govt, to forceably resettle people and to fight internecine war. In theremarkable words of a U2 concert attendee. Bono "Everytime I clap a child dies in Africa" Atttendee; "Well stop clapping then"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1209.

    Divert the overseas aid money into the the UK. It seems we are all struggling whilst those in the position are swimming in it and throwing it around.
    Mr Cameron use this money on helping those in the UK who have 'paid in' all their lives and are now suffering through a myriad of reasons - None of which are down to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1208.

    #1184: "Lets see if we can stop thousands of kids dying from filthy water."

    Why? More specifically, why should the government be spending my money on this rather than on defending my security and property?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1207.

    Is it just me or does this government seem to continually make the most non-sensical statements and manage to pee off the vast majority of the general public?

    In 24 hours we have had '60 year olds should go to University' and now 'pinch foreign aid money and give to the Ministry of Defence'

    There are many more examples which 400 characters do allow to be mentioned in this post.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1206.

    Just looking through alot of the comments on here ppl have no idea how good we have it here, but no they want more for their own benifits. Well maybe we should stop benifits and privatise the NHS. Then hopefully ppl will realise how lucky we are. To all those who say charity should stay at home, say that to a kid who doesn't have clean drinking water. Am sickened by the selfishness in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1205.

    Jaw drop @1160

    If you prefix every folly, every crime, with the thought "Socialists have", you will please those who as Quislings think they rule, you will confuse those with little idea of the range of meanings (past, present, possible) attaching to our devalued political labels, and you will exclude yourself from building the better future you want for at least some "sons & daughters"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1204.

    if you dont believe my previous comments then go to the following link on todays Africa page:- This is what its really like, corruption by the minority, nothing done by the majority, they are too lazy to fight for what is theirs in their own country, so why should we continue to support these counties, support our own people first, its only right

  • rate this

    Comment number 1203.

    Completely agree, though Id rather the Aid budget be used to focus Schools, Hospitals and social housing in this country, rather than other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1202.

    What seems to be lacking from most posts and certainly the ED's Choice is that they are continuing to spend this money abroad. But instead of helping other countries they'll be using it to help them attack another country - and this is better?

    Weird and sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1201.

    It's a lot like the Arsenal defence too; the situation won't improve by simply throwing money at it.


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