London: Britain’s foreign aid spending will be overhauled in the wake of the migrant crisis, David Cameron will pledge today (Monday) as he unveils plans for Britain to accept thousands of Syrian refugees.
The Prime Minister will outline a change in the way Britain spends billions of aid money in the developing world as part of the country’s response to the escalating refugee crisis.
New aid money generated by a growing economy will only be spent on projects that specifically help British national interests, such as preventing the emergence of failed states in the Middle East.
In addition, the UK’s existing pounds 12?billion overseas aid budget will be used to pay local councils to find new homes for as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees expected to be relocated here.
Mr Cameron is due to give further details today when he addresses MPs.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, yesterday revealed the intention to divert foreign aid money to the crisis as part of a “fundamental review” of how Britain spends money overseas.
He also suggested that the Government could launch air strikes against Syria even if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Labour leader, something previously thought problematic due to Mr Corbyn’s opposition to military action.
The Prime Minister will be under pressure to commit to a vote on British military action in Syria when he addresses the Commons today.
Unveiling the plans on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, the Chancellor said: “In the short-term we’re going to take more refugees, but not in a way that encourages them on to these dangerous boats.
“In the longer term, I think we need a fundamental rethink of our aid policy, so yes we support reducing poverty but we will also direct our additional aid spending to these failed states, to this refugee crisis, to the big threats facing Britain.
“So the question is not just how does our aid budget help the rest of the world, but how does it help Britain’s national interest.”
His statement came amid further developments in the refugee crisis:
The French President, Francois Hollande, is today expected to extend French military air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) targets in Iraq and Syria.
A YouGov poll found that a third of Britons wanted the UK to admit more refugees from Syria.
More than 2,000 Britons have offered their spare rooms to help house desperate refugees. They include Labour leader candidate Yvette Cooper and Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU president, will this week offer pounds 4,400 bounties for each refugee that member countries agreed to resettle from eastern Europe.
Conservative MPs have been critical of the Government for allowing the aid budget to fund what some perceive as frivolous projects in the developing world while domestic budgets have been cut.
But following the escalation of the migrant crisis, the Government appears ready to tackle the issue and devote future spending to issues and nations that directly affect the UK’s ‘national interest’.
The decision marks a clear bid by Mr Cameron and his Chancellor to take back the initiative on prioritising aid spending, which has been repeatedly criticised by Right-wing members of the Conservative Party.
Andrew Bridgen, a Tory MP and long-time critic of the Government’s aid spending, said: “This is a step in the right direction. It will make the size of the foreign aid budget far more palatable to back bench Conservative MPs and to our constituents who pay for it.”
Sir William Cash MP, a back bench Conservative MP, praised the decision to link aid spending to the country’s national interest.
He said Mr Osborne was “completely right” to use the aid budget either to help developing countries to trade with the UK, or to contribute to the world food programme.
The Chancellor said the photograph of the body of a three year old Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Turkey last week had “brought home to the British public and politicians the sheer horror of what was going on”.
Mr Cameron’s announcement will focus on helping orphaned children in the refugee crisis, he said. “We have to look at what we can do for those children in need.”
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