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Mon, 21 September 2020

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Reports: Foreign Aid Budget To Be Diverted To Cyber Weapons Amid Ongoing Whitehall Shakeup

Reports: Foreign Aid Budget To Be Diverted To Cyber Weapons Amid Ongoing Whitehall Shakeup

The Chancellor is reportedly considering diverting aid spending towards intelligence technology (PA)

2 min read

The Chancellor is reportedly pushing for international aid spending to be diverted towards upgrades to the UK’s intelligence capabilities amid an overhaul of foreign and defence policy.

Britain currently pledges 0.7% of its national income to go towards international development projects—accounting for approximately £15.8bn in spending.

But reports appeared over the weekend that this commitment could be scrapped and the cash spent in other areas of Government.

On Wednesday, The Times reported that Rishi Sunak told the cabinet funding for improved intelligence tech such as cyber weapons and AI-enabled drones should come from the aid budget.

The Chancellor is said to view spending on the defence industry a better return on investment as it will likely create jobs.

A source told The Times: “If we are going to say that 0.1 per cent of the 0.7 per cent can be spent on a wider definition of helping the world, why not use it more visibly and directly help some of those ‘red wall’ seats?”

The news comes ahead of the formal launch of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) by Dominic Raab, marking the latest stage in the Government’s shakeup of foreign and defence policy.

The Foreign Secretary will announce the £119 million of fresh aid spending later on Wednesday but is not set to reaffirm the 0.7% aid commitment.

“Global Britain, as a force for good in the world, is leading by example and bringing the international community together to tackle these deadly threats, because it’s the right thing to do and it protects British interests,” Mr Raab will say.

“We can only tackle these global challenges by combining our diplomatic strength with our world-leading aid expertise.”

But responding to the controversial merger, Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary Preet Kaur Gill said: “The British people are rightly proud of the impact UK aid and development has had in supporting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. 

She continued: “However, under this Government, the future of the UK's commitment to lead on international development is uncertain.

“With the launch of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office today, the Government must show that it is committed to the principles DfID was founded on to consolidate the hard-won soft power and reputation built up since its inception.

"Now is the time to step up and show genuine global leadership to make the world safer, fairer and better.”

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