Government promises to match donations from British public

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Indy Politics

Jack Straw insisted yesterday the Government was "almost certain" to match the £60m donated towards tsunami disaster relief by the British public.

Jack Straw insisted yesterday the Government was "almost certain" to match the £60m donated towards tsunami disaster relief by the British public.

The Foreign Secretary said there was "no cap" on the government funds available to the victims of the crisis as he gave the clearest indication yet that the £50m already pledged for relief would not be the last.

Mr Straw said: "I am in no doubt that the amount we are spending will in the end match what the British public are donating. We agreed there is no cap on the amount of money that can be made available by the Government. The crucial issue is to ensure that it is spent as quickly as possible."

Mr Straw, who said he would be making a personal donation, insisted that all money pledged by the Government would be spent helping victims.

Two British warships have been dispatched to the disaster area and a third is being sent. An Army reconnaissance team has also been sent to Indonesia.

Yesterday Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused the Government of "scrambling" to deal with the crisis and playing "catch up" with public opinion as public donations poured in. "The Government has been playing catch up with public opinion," he said.

"There is legitimate criticism there. Although it should be said ... particularly in Indonesia, they themselves have admitted panic set in in the early stages and, given the sheer collapse in infrastructure and the communications that were coming out, I don't think the governments internationally can be blamed that much in the first 36 hours or so for not realising the sheer, absolutely appalling scale of the catastrophe that had occurred."

But speaking after meeting with John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, Mr Straw defended the Government's response and insisted the Foreign Office was doing all it could to help British victims.

He also defended Tony Blair's decision to remain out of Britain on holiday. "The question is: Is there a single thing the British Government could and should have done that it has not done, notwithstanding the fact the Prime Minister is abroad? The answer is 'no'," he said.

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