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Millions of pounds of the DfID aid budget has been granted to the Trades Union Congress

6.15pm update:

MITCHELL ANDREW NW Responding to the issues raised below, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, has told ConservativeHome:

“We should of course work with free trades unions in developing countries, who represent some of the world’s poorest workers. But funding for this should be specifically targeted and earmarked, not given unrestrictedly to the TUC in Britain. Labour have some very serious questions to answer about how they are spending aid money which is supposed to go to people in some of the poorest countries in the world.”


The International Policy Network has published a report this week about the "political abuse" of Britain's foreign aid budget. The IPN summarises its findings:

In a report in 2009, International Policy Network disclosed that between 2003 and 2006 the Trades Union Congress received over £1.2 million in taxpayers' money ostensibly intended for promoting development in poor countries. A significant amount of this money - which came from the UK Department for International Development (an entity created by the Labour Party in 1997) - was spent in the UK on activities that do not seem to have yielded any practical benefit to the poor either inside or outside of Britain.

Subsequently, IPN discovered that the TUC was recently granted a further £2.4 million by DfID for the period 2009 - 2011. The new support to the TUC comes from funds intended for large international development NGOs with a track record in poor countries. It’s unclear why this trend has been broken to fund a British trades union.

To make matters worse, unions that are members of the TUC represent over half the funding of the Labour Party. Since the DfID grants to the TUC come with few constraints, it is possible that DfID's money could essentially substitute for money that would otherwise come from member unions - freeing them up to give more to the Labour Party.

Julian Harris, Research Fellow at IPN and co-author of "A Closer Union: The Political Abuse of Foreign Aid", said, "This would appear to be a grotesque abuse of taxpayer funds. Not only is the money not going towards promoting economic development in poor countries - it is going to a group whose members have close political and financial ties to the Labour Party."

There is more on the IPN website.

Jonathan Isaby