Charities and anti-poverty campaigners today condemned as "disgraceful" the suggestion the government could use money from the foreign aid budget budget to fund military operations abroad.
As Whitehall departments vie to protect their budgets in the upcoming Spending Review for 2015/16, Prime Minister David Cameron said it was right to look for ways in which the Department for International Development (DfID) can "work more closely" with the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.
The PM had vowed to adhere to a pledge to keep overseas aid funding at 0.7 per cent of national income, in line with United Nations targets
But with threatened defence cuts Tory rightwingers are ratcheting up the pressure to cut the aid budget.
Speaking during a visit to India, where Mr Cameron also sought to plug the Eurofighter, he claimed that initiatives which provide the basic level of security needed for development to take place can be an "important" use of aid funds.
Asked whether he felt money in the aid budget could be spent on defence activities, he said: "I think we have to demonstrate that the DfID budget is spent wisely."
International Development Secretary Justine Greening was "rightly keen" to focus on countries which have been affected by conflict and war, none of which have achieved any of the UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015, he said.
"We should be thinking very carefully about how we help states that have been riven with conflict and war."
"We have our moral responsibilities for tackling poverty in the world. We also have national security responsibilities for mending conflict states and helping with development around the world and we should see DfID in that context," he said.
War on Want executive director John Hilary said channelling more aid cash through the military would be "disgraceful."
He added: "We should not be about using the aid budget to pursue Britain's military or paramilitary goals."
While Oxfam's head of policy Max Lawson said government revenues should be boosted by tackling tax avoidance to avoid having to make "insane choices between the safety of a family and their health and education."
He added: "It's a very small proportion of government spending, we think it's great the government is doing it and we think British people expect this to be spent on hospitals and not helicopter gunships."
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