“Look after our own” say West MPs who want raid on foreign aid
by Lyn Barton
8 February 2014
Charity should begin at home, say West country MPs who have called for foreign aid budgets to be diverted to UK flood victims.
As the region braces itself for another storm this weekend and more next week, politicians from across the spectrum have urged the PM to raid Britain’s £11billion overseas development budget – a small £4.5 million of which would have seen the Somerset Levels dredged.
Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for flood-hit Bridgwater in Somerset who yesterday called Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith a “git”, said Britain should be spending money in its own back yard.
“We send money all over the world, now we need to give people down here the hope that they will get what they need,” he said.
“We should divert some of it down here. We don’t have to divert it for ever, but we need it now.”
He added that if the British Government didn’t help out, locals would have to ask foreign countries for assistance from their aid budgets.
He said: ‘We need to go and ask Abyssinia [Ethiopia] for some cash. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help us because this money is not made available to our own people.
“It’s really bad down here. We’ve got people doing amazing things to clean up. But we need pumps and sluice gates and we’ve got to rebuild railway lines.”
The calls came as the Somerset Levels remained on the highest ‘threat to life’ flood alert – a state which was imposed in Wednesday.
Winds of up to 80mph, hurricane force according to the Beaufort scale, are expected to lash the West country today bringing flooding to many areas.
MPs say money given away to other countries would be better spent here. [Exactly what Patria has been saying for more than a year].
The Department for the Environment, for example, gifts £140million to an international climate fund destined for developing countries, which also aims in part to prevent flooding.
Neil Parish, Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, was another of the MPs voicing similar sentiments to the Daily Mail.
“We’ve got to make sure we look after our own at this stage. Foreign aid is good, but it is wasted.
“We need to make sure that money comes straight to the West Country. We’ve got to rebuild coastal defences and railways,” he said.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Tory MP for North East Somerset, said: “Overseas aid should be a matter for private charity, rather than taxpayers’ money.
“The failure of the Environment Agency to dredge the Somerset levels means there is a lot of work to do.”
Labour and Lib Dem MPs also suggested the aid budget should be reconsidered in the light of the crisis.
Former Labour minister Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, said the Government should examine what flood prevention schemes it funded abroad, look at “which ones worked, and divert some of that money to flood prevention and relief at home.”
He added: “We could then ensure our money is better spent abroad and at home, creating two virtuous circles.”
Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming said: “If we are not capable of properly dealing with domestic natural disasters, we should rethink our financial strategy – including questioning increasing the aid budget.”
Western Morning News