Strong words of advice from Lord Ashcroft ahead of the Budget. Citing the UKIP threat, he tells the Chancellor:
“It is time to remove the ringfence around the International Development budget and end the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on aid.
It is sometimes said that the commitment to the aid spending target shows Britain’s compassion as a nation. But whatever its merits or otherwise, spending taxpayers’ money on aid has nothing to do with compassion. People show compassion by giving of what they have, of their own accord. If people want to support charities that provide real help to those in need, I admire them. But governments cannot be “compassionate” with money they have confiscated from their citizens on pain of prison.
The Department for International Development budget is increasing by an amazing 50 per cent over this parliament. It is one of only two Whitehall ministries whose staff numbers are growing. Even for those who defend overseas aid in principle, it is hard to argue that spending on it should rise at this rate at a time when spending at home is being cut. Yet this policy remains the orthodoxy among the three main parties, even though most people disagree with it. I do not claim that many people are turning to UKIP, or saying they will not vote, simply because of the aid policy itself – but Westminster consensus in the face of public opposition is the kind of thing that many voters find exasperating and drives them to look for alternatives or give up on politics altogether.”