By Tim Montgomerie
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A new paper published by the Civitas think tank recommends a sharp change of direction in UK aid policy.
The paper written by Jonathan Foreman – a freelance journalist – makes the following five key recommendations:
- One-third of Britain's aid budget should be diverted over the next few years from development spending and go to expand Britain's defence capabilities and also the reach of the BBC's World Service.
- By choosing not to hit the 0.7% target Mr Foreman argues £3bn could be added to the MoD's budget and be used to develop dual use road, air and sea equipment that could both serve military and emergency humanitarian purposes.
- Foreman also says that part of the money should be used to fund all of the BBC World Service's foreign language services (at a cost of about £250m). The House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Select Committee has made similar recommendations in the past.
- A Royal Commission on aid that would examine the purpose and effectiveness of Britain's development budget.
- Reverse Tony Blair's 1997 decision to establish the Department for International Development and re-integrate DfID into the Foreign Office.
- Recruitment of forensic investigators from the Serious Fraud Office to investigate abuses of British aid by foreign governments.
- Cut Britain's contributions to wasteful multilateral organisations such as the EU where aid monies do not go to the world's poorest people but often to nations of political importance to France and Germany.
Within his paper Mr Foreman becomes unkindly personal about senior members of the Cabinet as he seeks to understand why the Tory leadership supports the 0.7% target. He writes:
"Such people are perhaps more likely to engage with poor Africans and South Asians on their holidays than they are to encounter needy or vulnerable people in their own country. And it is hard to escape the impression that it is for this reason (rather than pure snobbery) that the PM and his circle apparently find it harder to empathise with a ‘chav’ in a wheelchair – even if he lost his legs in Afghanistan – than they do with disadvantaged people in the third world.”
Even without those personal digs Mr Foreman's recommendations were never likely to be accepted by Mr Cameron. During the Christmas holiday period he gave an interview to Radio 4 in which he reaffirmed his commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas development. The public, however, remains unconvinced about the aid budget. 61% think aid is wasted.
More about the report on the Civitas website.
Mr Foreman has also written for the Daily Mail about his report.