David Cameron was under intense pressure last night to divert the bloated foreign aid budget to help British flood victims.
New estimates suggest that the cost of this month’s disaster in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire could be up to £5.8billion.
That is the exact amount Britain recently committed to spend helping poorer countries tackle climate change over the next five years.
David Cameron was under intense pressure last night to divert the bloated foreign aid budget to help British flood victims
Flood victims have demanded that some of Britain’s £12billion foreign aid budget is used to help them after a catastrophic few weeks
Flood victims have demanded that some of Britain’s £12billion foreign aid budget is used to help them after a catastrophic few weeks.
Former environment secretary Owen Paterson also called for the needs of British flood victims to be put first.
‘Where there is money set aside to help flood victims around the world it should now be diverted to help people suffering in the UK,’ he said.
MPs last night demanded to know why the Government has not applied for disaster relief from an EU fund.
The European Union Solidarity Fund helps member states cope with natural disasters. The UK paid in £35.6million to the scheme this year.
Under EU rules, a country has ten weeks from the first damage caused by a natural disaster to make an application for aid. Last summer it paid out £60million to help the recovery effort following floods in Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria in which 60 people died.
Britain has only ever made one claim – after the summer floods of 2007 – and we were awarded £130million.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘We pay all this money into the Solidarity Fund, as the second largest net contributor, and everyone else applies for it. If there is funding available to alleviate the impact of the flood we should use it.’
Actor Michael Sheen provoked backlash yesterday after criticising those calling for foreign aid cash to be used to help flood victims.
But Mr Paterson, who served as environment secretary until last year, said the Government’s focus on foreign aid showed the wrong sense of priorities. ‘It must be a priority to spend British taxpayers’ money on British citizens who are suffering,’ he said.
‘I know some people say it is not a binary choice – that we can spend money on both. But it is a binary choice – you can either spend £1 building flood defences to help people abroad or you spend it to protect citizens in this country.’
Labour MP Simon Danczuk, whose Rochdale constituency has been badly affected by flooding, also questioned the Government’s refusal to touch the aid budget.
‘Why do we spend money in Bangladesh when it needs spending in Great Britain?’ he said.
‘What we need to do is to sort out the problems which are occurring here and not focus so much on developing countries.
‘That has to be our priority. We need to put that right as soon as possible.’
Ukip leader Nigel Farage also said it was time to consider ‘diverting some of the huge foreign aid budget to help those in need here in the UK’.