'Generous' Britons back foreign aid rise

Poll vindicates Cameron's stance despite the cuts at home and rumbles from within Tory ranks

Nigel Morris,Andrew Grice
Thursday 03 November 2011 01:00

The public backs David Cameron's decision to increase spending on international aid despite the squeeze in Britain, a private Downing Street poll has found.

Support for his controversial stance is even higher among women and younger voters, show the survey results seen by The Independent. Tory ministers have come under fire from their own party and in sections of the press for sticking to their promise to boost spending on international aid to 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2013 at a time when austerity measures are biting domestically.

The poll of 2,000 people was commissioned by Andrew Cooper, the director of political strategy in Downing Street. Voters were asked whether they agreed that "even as we deal with our deficit, Britain is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we should be proud we are continuing our commitment to international development". In total, 50 per cent agreed with the statement, including 55 per cent of women and 53 per cent of under-35s, while 37 per cent disagreed. The remaining 13 per cent said they did not know.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said: "It shows the innate generosity all across Britain even in these very difficult times to those people much less fortunate. Britain's development policies are not only the right thing to do, they are also plainly in our national interest and contribute to our long-term prosperity."

The survey also found that on average voters believed the Government should devote 7.9 per cent of its spending to overseas aid, compared with the present figure of about 1 per cent.

Yesterday Mr Cameron accused some countries, including Italy, of supporting a tax on financial transactions, dubbed a "Robin Hood tax", so they could delay meeting the global target for rich nations on aid spending. He told the Commons: "We must be careful that we don't allow other countries, including some European countries, to use a campaign for this tax, which they know is unlikely to be adopted in the short-term, as an excuse for getting off their aid commitments."

At the G20 summit in Cannes today, Mr Cameron will support a financial transaction tax (FTT) in principle, but only if it is agreed globally. That is unlikely. The United States, Canada and Australia oppose the idea.

Mr Cameron will appeal to eurozone leaders to end the long-running crisis over the single currency as soon as possible but will rebuff calls for Britain to contribute to the bailout for Greece.

Cameron allies deny that he will be sidelined at the G20. He will present proposals on how global institutions could work better. He will suggest the G20 assumes more of the work of the G8, which does not include growing economic powers such as China and India.

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