A senior Tory MP has suggested the UK government should rein in foreign aid spending, saying: “We aren’t a branch of Oxfam.”
Tom Tugendhat, who is the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said foreign aid spending decisions should be made with the “prosperity and happiness” of Brits in mind.
The UK spends 0.7% of its GDP - about £14bn a year - on foreign aid. This is the most of any G7 country.
Speaking at a conference at the Royal United Services Institute in Westminster on Monday, Tugendhat said the money is “taken by force” from British taxpayers.
The Tonbridge and Malling MP said: “The purpose of foreign aid, like diplomacy and defence, is the prosperity and happiness of the British people by defending the values and encouraging the prosperity of others.
“It isn’t to be another branch of Oxfam or Save the Children or any other organisation, because they are charities. You choose to give them money or not.
“Foreign aid is not the same, it is tax money, money taken by force from the British people. Therefore, responsibility on public spending is different.”
He went on: “That does not mean it should be used as backchannels into defence contacts. The ODA (official development assistance) rules are good and should be followed.
“But they should also be applied in the strategic context that retains prosperity and happiness on these islands.”
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Tugendhat’s remarks come ahead of this week’s launch of the new Integrated Strategic Defence and Security Review, which will include proposals on the UK’s overseas aid spending.
The Evening Standard reported this could mean aid “will be far more targeted on specific UK strategic interests”.
There had previously been speculation Boris Johnson would axe the foreign aid arm of the government - the Department for International Development - and merge it with the Foreign Office. However, the Daily Mail reported last month that the PM had abandoned the plans.