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Fallon ponders aid spending


Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

There is a "very strong case" for counting humanitarian work by British armed forces towards total defence spending, Michael Fallon has said.

Asked at Commons defence questions whether "post-conflict reconstruction" should be included, Mr Fallon said it was a "fair and interesting" point about wider security spending.

The Defence Secretary had earlier rebuffed questions about whether Britain would continue to meet the 2% target, committing only to doing so this year and pointing to the Strategic Defence and Security Review later this year for future decisions.

The Ministry of Defence can already reclaim money from the Department for International Development if it commits troops and resources to aid work.

Answering Sleaford MP Stephen Phillips, Mr Fallon said: "We need to look at where expenditure from the defence and development budgets is security expenditure in the round.

"Where it is preventing conflict, helping to stabilise countries and avoiding the future commitment of British troops, there is a very strong case for looking at all these things together.

"The House will know that a sizeable part of our operation in Sierra Leone and indeed the humanitarian work in Nepal, to which the minister for the armed forces referred, is classified as humanitarian assistance to those two countries and will be recouped from the overseas aid budget."

Mr Phillips had asked: "You will know that post-conflict reconstruction and renewal costs borne by his department do not currently count towards the 2% of GDP spending.

"Do you have any plans to lobby the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and/or Nato on this, and what is the Government's position?"

Growing spending on international aid has been unpopular on the Conservative back benches.

Julian Lewis, a Tory MP running for chairmanship of the defence select committee, said including aid spending within the 2% target would be a "slight of hand".

He told the Daily Telegraph: "It would be a financial sleight of hand which would on the surface make it look as if we were spending more in real terms on defence than was the case.

"We are in a strange situation where defence is regarded as the first duty of government and it is unprotected, whereas other areas of policy including overseas aid are protected.

"This is what happens when you artificially protect an area of policy such as overseas aid which, though important, is not as important as defence."

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