Geldof launches into Britain's 'pathetic' overseas aid budget

Sir Bob Geldof has attacked Tony Blair's commitment to the Third World as "guff and grandiose" and condemned Britain's "pathetic" contributions to stem global poverty.

Sir Bob Geldof has attacked Tony Blair's commitment to the Third World as "guff and grandiose" and condemned Britain's "pathetic" contributions to stem global poverty.

The Live Aid founder criticised Britain's position of 11th in the international league of aid donors and called for Britain to set a clear timetable to moving to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas development. He said: "What Gordon Brown proposes is totally inadequate. Gordon wrestles Jesuitically with this imponderable conundrum of who should get a little bit more. Well, I don't think we have to argue any more. I am sick of sitting with Tony and Gordon and hearing guff about scars on the face of the world. I am sick of the grandiose schemes.

"If you really want to get rid of the scars and you want the Commission for Africa to have credibility, if you want to get
to next year without me and
the activists and the churches screaming at you about this lot, then the minimum you do is you take the fourth richest country in the world and you measure it against its pathetic ranking as the 11th most generous. All this appears incredibly simple and it is as simple as that."

Sir Bob was speaking at Westminster yesterday at the launch of a campaign to persuade Mr Brown to increase spending on overseas aid to 0.5 per cent of GDP in his three-year spending review next month. The campaigners want ministers to commit themselves to increasing spending on aid to the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2011.

Mr Brown has drawn
up an action plan for the United Kingdom presidency of the G8 group of rich nations next year, calling on countries who have yet to commit 0.7 per cent to aid to "move further and faster to higher aid levels and on towards that target". But the Government has yet to reach that level or set a date. The Government spends 0.34 per cent of GDP on aid and aims to raise that to 0.4 per cent by 2006.

Sir Bob, who was joined by MPs, trade unionists and religious leaders in his appeal yesterday, questioned the Prime Minister's commitment to tackling hunger and disease and demanded he immediately "puts our money where his mouth is".

The Labour MP Julia Drown will hold talks with Mr Blair to press the case. She said the proposed increase in aid would "save millions of lives".

Dr Kenneth Stevenson, the Bishop of Portsmouth, said he was embarrassed by the UK's poor ranking. "We should move to being nearer where we should be because we can afford it," he said.

Frances O'Grady, of the TUC, said the trade union movement was behind the campaign. "We hope Labour will put its money where its mouth is," she said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "By 2006 we will have committed £1bn to aid, an increase in aid since 1997 of 97 per cent in real terms."

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