Aid minister Justine Greening to Tory critics: our budget serves British interests

Minister says tackling poverty will eventually benefit the UK through increased trade

Providing aid to Africa is in Britain’s economic and security interests and funding should be kept at current levels, the International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, has warned.

Implicitly criticising those within the Conservative party who have attacked the Government for protecting the aid budget, Ms Greening said the funding was a national as well as a moral imperative.

Speaking to The Independent ahead of a G8 summit today on alleviating hunger in the Third World, Ms Greening also hinted that the Government would push to end EU targets on biofuel production.

Britain has signed up to produce 10 per cent of its transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020. But critics have warned that biofuel production has taken millions of acres of land away from food production in Africa,  making it harder to combat the malnutrition that kills one in five children in some part of the continent.

“We want to see those tracts of land that can produce food producing food,” she said. “We will play our role in trying to make sure we get a responsible policy from the EU. A lot of the targets – including on biofuels – were set before the understanding of the broader impacts of those targets were known. I don’t think anybody intended for biofuels to take away land that otherwise would be used to feed some of the poorest people in the world.”

She added: “Tackling extreme poverty is the right thing to do. But it is also a smart thing to do for our country. If we are to ever have the prospect of seeing a world that is less unstable, where there are more markets for us to trade with, it means working with those developing countries to get down that development route faster.

“We can see the impact of Chinese demand on the UK economy. The increase of our exports is significant – but 15 years ago we would have been talking about China in terms of providing aid. So development can work – but we need to take a pragmatic look at what works.”

Ms Greening also pointed out that Britain’s total international aid budget was still a tiny proportion of total development spending. “People can make an argument about how much money we are investing in aid. But for every 1p we spend on aid we spend 6p on defence, 15p on education, 17p on health, 30p on welfare. They key is making sure that we get the most impact from this money we are spending on international development. But it is also having a clear eye on the UK’s national interest as well – whether its stability or making sure we are in the growth markets of the future.”

The G8 conference on hunger today is likely to unveil new strategies for boosting agricultural production in Africa – including harnessing new scientific techniques to produce crops that are less vulnerable to drought.

Paul Polman of Unilever, which will host the summit, said: “It doesn’t take much to help these people get a better life compared to the billions that we are spending somewhere else. We have spent more – and I’m not saying if that is wrong or not – bailing out Greece or Portugal. It is not a trade-off, not an either-or, but just put it in  perspective.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried