Philip Davies is the Member of Parliament for Shipley and Parliamentary Spokesman for Blue Collar Conservatism. For more information about Blue Collar Conservatism you can visit the website. Follow Philip on Twitter.
How much money we should be spending on our overseas aid budget has become a highly contentious issue. On one side of the argument we have the Prime Minister who promised before the election that we would spend 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid as many countries had pledged to do – and now, at a time of such little public trust in politicians, understandable wants to keep the promise he made.
On the other side of the argument lies virtually every other country in the world and, if the opinion polls are to be believed, the vast majority of the British public who believe that in such tough financial times we need to reduce spending on overseas aid as we have had to do in virtually every other Government department. I am very firmly in the latter camp. Whatever the merits of the overseas aid – and I will come on to that later – the fact is that we have not got any money to hand out so liberally around the world. You would not advise people to borrow money to give to charity and yet that is precisely what we are doing – borrowing money from some countries to hand straight across to other countries.
In the UK we already spend the highest proportion of GNI on the overseas development aid among G7 countries. Department for International Development (DFID) spent £7.7 billion in bilateral overseas aid in 2011/12, ‘supporting’ 62 countries. That does not include our contribution on multilateral level to the International Monetary Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or UN agencies. Whilst we are continuing to increase our spending, other countries are now reducing the proportion they spend on overseas aid – including those who had previously pledged to spend 0.7% of their GNI – as they recognise the tough financial times they face.
It is commendable that the Prime Minister wants to keep the promise he made on this issue. The problem is that it was a foolish promise to make given the financial situation of the country, and now that the nation’s finances are in a worse state than the Prime Minister envisaged when he made this promise, most members of the public expect him to adapt to those changing circumstances and act accordingly.
Making a pledge on the amount of money you will spend on anything is foolish. That is a Socialist approach to issue – a blind belief that simply the spending of money is the solution to a problem. Surely it is better to focus on outputs rather than inputs and I would much prefer we concentrated on ensuring that the money we spent on overseas aid (which should be reduced) is spent wisely.