Support for Lord Ashcroft's bid to 'turn off the aid tap'
Support for senior Tory who urged coalition to stop 'spraying around taxpayers' money' in Third World
LORD ASHCROFT, appointed a government adviser in David Cameron's recent reshuffle, has told the coalition that it is time to "turn off the golden taps and stop flooding the developing world with our money".
In an open letter to the new International Development Secretary Justine Greening, the former Tory party fundraiser said Britain's approach to aid is "flawed and self-defeating" and urged Greening to avoid "spraying around taxpayers' money" in the Third World.
Ashcroft pointed out that, despite the economic downturn, international development was the only government department with a budget still soaring. It is set to grow by 50 per cent during the coalition's term, from £7.8bn in 2010 to £11.5bn by 2015 - akin to giving away more than £300 per household each year.
Although the Lib Dems' Sir Menzies Campbell told the Evening Standard that aid was “a moral obligation", his is a lonely voice opposing the veteran Tory's comments.
Indeed, Lord Ashcroft's attitude appears to tally with the public mood on foreign aid. A survey of British social attitudes yesterday found that overseas spending was at the bottom of taxpayers' priorities for public spending.
Anxiety over the ever-increasing amounts of foreign aid is likely to be compounded by an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph. The newspaper revealed that £500m of the foreign aid budget was being paid to consultants, some of which were earning seven-figure incomes. This has prompted Greening to go through the aid budget, line by line, to ensure value for money is forthcoming.
"Turning off the tap is the only answer," says the Daily Mail. Greening's challenge now is to persuade the Prime Minister to "ditch this most posturing of coalition policies", it says, as the Department for International Development has "proved time and again that it cannot stop itself hosing taxpayer's money down the drain".
Writing for the Daily Express, Tory backbencher Peter Bone called for Britain's overseas aid budget to be slashed by a third. He described overseas aid as "only ever a sticking plaster" and "never a solution". Bone argued: "Opening up markets and trading with developing countries is the solution to Third World poverty."
Thomas Pascoe in The Daily Telegraph says Greening would do more for the Third World if she were to abolish Britain's international aid budget altogether.
"Britain does not have the money to pay for its aid programme," says Pascoe. "Each year it must borrow the entire cost. That cost adds to our deficit, adds to our debt and increases the weight each family in this country must bear on behalf of a bloated state. It is an irresponsible exercise in giving our children's money to people who have nothing to do with Britain."
But a Telegraph editorial says the government is unlikely to "turn off the golden taps" – although it says it is gratifying to learn that Greening will be reviewing the budget. This is the least the country can expect," says the paper. "We are entitled to know precisely where our money is going and to whom.