Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Britons wary of overseas aid costs

David Cameron said he would protect the budget for the Department for International Development

Seven in 10 people think Britain spends too much on international aid, polling evidence has revealed, amid rows over the future spending priorities of the Government.

Prime Minister David Cameron committed on entering office to protecting the Department for International Development (DFID) budget and bringing Britain's aid budget up to 0.7% of GDP. This year, about £6.7 billion was allocated to the department.

But only 7% of respondents to an ITV ComRes poll believe the Government should stick to its plan to increase aid spending and shield it from cuts hitting much of Whitehall.

The publication of the numbers follows Defence Secretary Philip Hammond calling for the defence budget to be shielded from further austerity by cutting the welfare budget.

Backbench Tories have repeatedly called for the DFID budget to be frozen or cut, with the savings ploughed into the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Cameron suggested last month some of the DFID budget could be used to supplement defence spending in parts of the world where Britain is working to support peace.

A ComRes spokesman said: "The public are divided over the Government's recent plans to spend money from the UK's aid budget on peacekeeping and other defence related projects. Thirty-eight per cent agree the Government is right to consider doing this while 35% disagree and 27% say they don't know.

"Although the principle behind the policy is understood, with 68% agreeing that international aid is delivered more effectively in developing countries if there is peace and stability, more than half, 57%, of the public would prefer aid money to be spent on projects related to education, poverty and fighting disease rather than being spent on peacekeeping and other defence-related projects."

In a further finding of the poll, almost two thirds of people - 64% - said Britain should stop sending international aid to India. Some 13% backed continuing aid while 23% said they did not know.

ComRes interviewed 2,011 adults online between February 22 and February 24.

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