Tories attacked over plan to divert aid funds to military

Charities say creation of 'stabilisation force' may put relief workers at risk

A future Conservative government would set up a new military stablisation force funded from money diverted from the international aid budget, it emerged yesterday.

The move came under immediate criticism from aid agencies who said it would undermine development projects and put relief workers at risk in volatile areas by identifying them too closely with the military.

The new policy also appeared to have caused serious friction within the shadow Cabinet with the Tory shadow international development secretary failing to appear at its central London launch. Mr Cameron claimed this was because Andrew Mitchell was in the Midlands, but, after Mr Mitchell was spotted at Westminster, the Conservative leader's office was forced to issue a second version of events involving trips being cancelled at the last minute.

A Conservative strategy paper also states that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development should work on a "shared agenda", a pledge which has been interpreted as the FCO taking a more dominant role over Dfid. Mr Cameron said yesterday that the Dfid would continue as an independent ministry but it is widely believed that its influence, which had grown under Labour, would be cut under the Tories.

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones raised the option, later confirmed by Mr Cameron, of moving Dfid money to military projects. The Tory leader said his party would abide by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rules when matching 0.7 per cent in aid commitments, but insisted there was no reason why some of the money should not go on defence operations.

David Mepham, Save the Children's Director of Policy said: "There is an urgent need for the Conservatives to clarify that the purpose of development aid is poverty reduction, not subsidising military operations.

"Save the Children is very concerned that the Conservatives' security spokesperson on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning left open the possibility of significant aid funds being diverted into stabilisation units. This dangerously muddles up security and development goals, increasing the risks facing development and humanitarian workers in conflict situations."

Kirsty Hughes, Oxfam Head of Policy, said: "Removing aid and using it for military goals would be a big step backwards and undermine the UK's leadership on international development."

The Conservatives also announced plans yesterday to set up a permanent military command centre to deal instantly with natural disasters such as major floods. It could also act in the event of a major terrorist attack.

Soldiers would be deployed more rapidly on to the streets. The command centre would also co-ordinate rescue efforts by the emergency services, ensure power and phone links are restored as quickly as possible and oversee moves to get food and water to a stricken area. In addition, a Cameron government would also establish a Cyber Threat and Assessment Centre to protect computer systems against massive attack from foreign hackers.

Last night Mr Mitchell said there was no significance in his absence from the policy launch. He said: "Nothing should be read into this; we're a thin blue line and spread ourselves around."

The Independent revealed last year that after the Mumbai terror attacks, MPs were considering recommending the setting up of a homeland security force. Patrick Mercer, chair of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub- committee, said: "Events in Mumbai demonstrate the urgency of such a review."

At present, one squadron of the SAS, about 80 men, known as the Special Projects Team, is on standby in Hereford. This squadron, however, is believed to be below full strength. Police armed response units also carry out continuous patrols to deploy during an emergency. Additional forces would be called in during a prolonged operation or a siege situation.

Mr Cameron pledged that should he form a government, it would not take recourse to a "dodgy dossier" of WMD threats, as used by Tony Blair to justify the Iraq invasion, in sending troops for military operations abroad. "It's made people suspicious of something they should be able to rely on," he said.

"Political advisers will not be permitted to change intelligence assessments, and any publication of an assessment should only be done by the Joint Intelligence Committee, with the express clearance and approval of the JIC."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain