- International Development Secretary Priti Patel to outline spending cuts
- Money to be used to promote 'national security and the national interest'
- Comes after The Mail on Sunday and readers protested against wasteful and corrupt aid projects
International Development Secretary Priti Patel is to cut spending on traditional aid projects and use the money to help promote 'national security and the national interest'
The Mail on Sunday's campaign to tackle the UK's bloated foreign aid budget scored a massive victory last night – when the Government decided that tens of millions of pounds can be diverted to fund the war on terror.
In a radical break with the David Cameron era, new International Development Secretary Priti Patel is to cut spending on traditional aid projects and use the money to help promote 'national security and the national interest'.
It could lead to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon handing to Ms Patel his responsibility for funding British troops combating Islamic insurgencies in global hotspots – freeing up more of his resources for frontline troops.
The move is a major U-turn and comes after The Mail on Sunday and its readers protested against wasteful and corrupt aid projects.
During our campaign, supported by more than 235,000 readers who signed a petition to force a Commons debate, we exposed handouts to Palestinian terrorists, how North Korean officials were flown to Britain for English lessons and how music teachers were sent around the world to teach children to sing.
And we demanded an end to the UK's commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid each year, which would see the aid budget spiral to £16 billion by 2020.
confirming the dramatic shift, a source close to Ms Patel told The Mail on Sunday: 'We have been very clear that Britain will keep its promises to help the world's poorest while delivering in the interests of British taxpayers.
'Following the vote to leave the European Union, British aid and the expertise it provides will work to complement our trade relations and our security.'
Senior Conservative MP Graham Brady, the chairman of the party's backbench 1922 Committee, welcomed the change of emphasis.
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He said: 'It is right that foreign aid spending should concentrate on both the most pressing need abroad and on those areas which can bring most benefit to Britain's national interest'.
Ms Patel, who is expected to outline her plans in a keynote speech in the autumn, was a provocative appointment by Prime Minister Theresa May: during the last Parliament, Ms Patel proposed scrapping the international development department completely and replacing it with a trade-focused body to help businesses invest in the developing world.
Although Ms Patel is reluctant to start a war with the foreign aid lobby by ditching the 0.7 per cent figure, she is determined to spend the money in a way which more directly benefits the UK.
An MP familiar with Ms Patel's thinking said: 'She knows people never swallowed Cameron's line that these billions going abroad were in any way helping UK PLC.
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'From now on, the watchwords are national security and the national interest. If those bells don't ring, the projects will be scrapped'.
Ms Patel is also keen to cut down on waste and inefficiencies and wants to make greater use of 'payment by results', under which aid grants would be withheld unless the money 'demonstrably changes lives' – and in a way which clearly advantages the UK.
Foreign Office sources say the example of the Dutch government is being studied. It has channelled its foreign aid money into non- combat, defence-related projects such as peacekeeping and funding ships to monitor migration flows.
The FCO sources point to the 70 British troops sent to Somalia in May as part of a UN mission to counter Islamist militancy, which they suggest in future could be funded and controlled by Ms Patel out of the DFID budget.
A further 300 troops were deployed to South Sudan the following month for similar work. The region is home to the Al Shabaab group, an Islamist militant group allied to Al Qaeda.
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At the time of the deployment, Mr Fallon said it showed the UK's 'determination to tackle terrorism wherever it rears its head'.
Under strict overseas development rules, aid money cannot be channelled to troops engaged in combat. Ms Patel would have to negotiate the new arrangements with the Foreign Office to ensure they were compatible with international obligations.
It is understood that when she announces her plans, she will be at pains to stress that DFID 'will not be an extension to the defence budget but act in conjunction with it'.
Earlier this month it was claimed that British aid had funded a training base built by the Hamas terrorist group near the Gaza strip.
Israel said money from British taxpayers had been funnelled to Hamas to build the base by a senior Palestinian official with World Vision, a major Christian charity that has been handed millions of pounds by DFID.
Ms Patel says the Government will not consider any future funding for World Vision until it can prove the claims to be false.