Millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ cash will be spent on developing wind turbines and solar panels in Africa and Asia, it was revealed yesterday.
At a time when the rest of the UK is being told to tighten its belt, the Government will pour money into the schemes abroad as part of a drive to help poor countries to develop green businesses.
Critics angrily attacked the move, which was announced by the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, branding it a waste of money and inappropriate at a time of austerity at home.
Mr Mitchell said the aid money was vital to help tackle climate change, as well as funding health and education in poor countries. Announcing two public-private partnership projects in Africa and Asia, he said they would help to stimulate investment in renewable energy schemes. And he defended the use of taxpayers’ cash.
“When it comes to tackling climate change across the world, we have to get on with the job,” he said. “We are at the threshold of nothing less than a new industrial, agricultural and technological revolution. That’s why we are acting now to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to and mitigate against climate change.”
The Government has put aside a total of £2.9billion from its overseas aid budget over the next four years to fight climate change worldwide. But the move sparked an angry backlash last night.
Britain is already dishing out more foreign aid than any other European country despite having to make the biggest spending cuts since the Second World War. Our donations outweigh those of Germany and France and come as Britain’s economy shows worrying signs of slowing down.
A Tory source said: “People will be rightly dismayed that they are forced to fork out more than people in countries whose economies have more financial clout. They are struggling as much as their European neighbours, yet they have to prop up the foreign aid budget for everyone else.”
The aid gap is set to grow after Chancellor George Osborne’s controversial decision to lavish extra billions on foreign handouts. The UK’s overseas aid bill stood at £8.4billion last year and is forecast to hit £12.6billion in 2014. In contrast, Germany gives only £7.8billion.
Britain also contributes nearly twice as much as Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, which gives £5.4billion.
Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are paying enough for investment in extremely expensive and inefficient wind turbines here in the UK without having to finance expensive energy abroad as well.”
Sam Bowman, head of research at the free-market think-tank the Adam Smith Institute, also questioned the wisdom of overseas aid.
“Many countries that receive British aid are growing far more quickly than we are,” he said.
“Other governments use our money to terrorise their people. Aid is not simply ineffective, it strengthens tyrannical regimes.”
Tory MP Philip Hollobone said: “There needs to be a lot more explanation to the public because the natural reaction is to say, ‘Why are we spending money abroad when we have such problems at home?’”
Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that Foreign Office staff were given nearly £7.5million in performance-related bonuses last year.
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