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£1.85m aid cash spent on Pope visit
London, Feb 3 (Agencies):
Published on 3 Feb. 2011 11:13 PM IST
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MPs have demanded to know why £1.85 million of foreign aid funding was spent on the Pope’s visit to the UK last year.
An influential Commons committee called on ministers to explain how diverting development cash to subsidise the trip met global aid rules.
The “somewhat surprising” transfer to the Foreign Office (FCO) was queried following a detailed investigation of the annual accounts of the Department for International Development. Initial figures published in November put the cost to Whitehall departments of the four-day state visit in September at £10 million.
Malcolm Bruce, who chairs the international development select committee, said voters would struggle to understand why DfID money was involved.
“Many people will be as surprised as we were to discover that UK aid money was used to fund the Pope’s visit last year,” he said. “Ministers need to explain exactly what this was spent on and how it tallies with our commitments on overseas aid.”
A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: “DFID was one of a number of Government departments part-funding the Pope’s visit to the UK. Our contribution recognised the Catholic Church’s role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries. This money does not constitute official development assistance and is therefore additional to the coalition Government’s historic commitment to meet the 0.7% UN aid target from 2013.”
The spending was criticised by low-tax pressure group The TaxPayers’ Alliance, which has argued against the rise in aid spending at a time of cuts elsewhere. Campaign director Emma Boon said: “Taxpayers were told this money was going to help some of the world’s poorest people when in fact it was conveniently transferred to another department.
“The enormous increase in our aid budget should never have been sanctioned and was justified to taxpayers on the basis that we had a commitment to sick and dying children and victims of war and genocide - but now we find out it paid for a visit from the Pope.
“We were told DFID needed every penny it had but actually this shoddy behaviour shows that the department in fact had enough money to pick up the chit for other departments for anything it liked with no link to international aid whatsoever.”

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