Should we really cut the foreign aid budget to pay for flood defences, as Nigel Farage says?

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Tuesday 29 December 2015 13:00
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The current estimate of damage from flooding across the north of the country is £1bn, and the Environment Agency is calling for a complete rehaul of the UK's current flood defences.

While David Cameron has rejected claims that the flooding has been exacerbated by a North-South divide in terms of flood defence spending, predictably, political right-wingers (as well as one MP in the Labour party) have whipped out the old "charity begins at home" chestnut, arguing that we should be using money earmarked for development projects on flood recovery instead:

Only 0.7 per cent of the UK's GDP is currently spent on foreign aid.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that raiding the foreign aid budget to help those stricken by flooding in the UK would be a false economy.

The problem had happened because spending on flood defences has not been consistent across the last few governments, he added, calling for long-term cross-party agreement on flooding policy.

The shadow chancellor also said that much of the UK's foreign aid went to tackling climate change around the world, which will help prevent flooding in the UK in future.

If you look at a lot of the money that we’re spending overseas it is to tackle climate change...

We’re tackling the issue at source – we’re reducing dependency on fossil fuels. If we [spend foreign aid money on flood defences] it would be a short-term saving but a long-term cost.

Writing in the Guardian, Mary Dejevksky suggested Tuesday that money for flood defences should come from the military budget, rather than foreign aid - 500 troops are currently helping with relief in the north, and another 1,000 are on standby. They have been welcomed gratefully by locals.

By way of context, parliament has just voted to start air strikes on Isis-held parts of Syria, which works out at a cost of £508,000 for one six-hour mission.

More: Ten ways the British government can help to limit the damage from flooding in future

More: This message of courage perfectly sums up the North's defiance in the face of floods

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