Cameron Says Aid Funding May Be Diverted Toward Defense

Prime Minister David Cameron said he favors channeling money from Britain’s aid budget toward defense to help with peacekeeping, demobilization and security in countries ravaged by war.

The National Security Council has suggested looking at ways of diverting more than 100 million pounds ($150 million) from Britain’s 11 billion-pound aid budget as ministers examine how to cut spending after 2015. The Department of International Development, headed by Justine Greening, backs the plan, Cameron suggested yesterday.

“I am very open to ideas like that,” Cameron told reporters in Amritsar, northern India, at the end of a three-day visit to the country, when asked about diverting the money. “It’s obviously true that if you can help deliver security and help revive stability, that is the base from which all development can proceed.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is seeking a new round of savings of 10 billion pounds in the fiscal year starting in April 2015 as he pursues the biggest budget squeeze since World War II. Britain will reach its United Nations commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national product on aid this year.

“We have to demonstrate the DFID budget is used wisely” Cameron said. “One of the things Justine Greening is rightly keen on is that countries that are affected by conflict, we think about them particularly.”

Cameron’s office said the money would not be used to buy weapons or fund wars and would be earmarked for dealing with conflict and its aftermath.

‘Very Careful’

“We should be very careful in how we think about how we help the states that have been riven with conflict and war,” Cameron said. Britain will spend 34 billion pounds on defense in the fiscal year that ends next month.

The move to divert funding from international development is a lone example of a minister in Cameron’s government open to having his or her budget trimmed.

Home Secretary Theresa May is resisting demands by Osborne to cut her department’s spending, a person familiar with the negotiations said on Feb. 13.

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling are also opposing cuts. The Liberal Democrats, Cameron’s junior coalition partners, have repeatedly called for a focus on higher taxes for the wealthy even as spending has to be constrained.

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