Monday, 18 December, 2017

PM frustrated at foreign aid rules after Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma GETTY AFPTheresa May faces demands to change the'ludicrous rules and allow British aid to be spent
Melinda Barton | 17 September, 2017, 17:10

Speaking on the revelation that Britain is banned from using its own foreign aid budget to assist its territories, Conservative MP Philip Davies said: "It is absolutely ridiculous that we can not use any of our bloated overseas aid budget to help British overseas territories devastated by the hurricane".

The Prime Minister has reiterated her vow to change the rules set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) which have prevented the United Kingdom from sending aid money to Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Under the rules, the United Kingdom aid budget can not be used because the GDP of the islands is too high and the budget is created to relieve poverty.

But the Prime Minister's spokesman stressed that International Development Secretary Priti Patel was leading effort to change the restrictions. In a statement to the BBC, it said: "This is an unprecedented disaster".

The Tory election manifesto committed to working to change the rules.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been criticised for not doing enough in the wake of the Category 5 storm that killed at least 47 people as it made its way through the Caribbean and Florida. It is like the destruction you see in images from the first world war. "We are looking at how current overseas aid rules apply to disasters such as this one". It is absolutely right that the United Kingdom responds immediately to the people affected.

Johnson said he would chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency cabinet committee on Thursday night.

The Department for International Aid denied that its response to the crisis had been affected by any budgetary considerations.

Ministers have said they believe there will be a way to use United Kingdom aid for the longer term reconstruction work.

Total UK aid has reached £57 million so far.

But an unnamed minister told the BBC the figure would have been significantly higher without strict global rules governing the allocation of the £13 billion aid budget, a claim disputed by Downing Street. Officials claim many millions more will be needed to help with reconstruction.

"The response would have been just as large and swift regardless of the aid rules", the spokesman said.