Britain is willing to provide aid for a humanitarian crisis in Gaza but will ensure taxpayers’ money does not go to terrorists, the International Development Minister told the Mail.
Andrew Mitchell said it would be “reckless” not to plan his involvement in helping with the unfolding disaster.
But he said the UK would not have any direct contact with Hamas.
Mitchell said: ‘When these terrible humanitarian difficulties occur, Britain is always one of the first and most effective in bringing relief to those suffering.
“We want to make sure that whatever happens after this terrible tragedy in Israel, we can do our part to help.”
Tough times: UK Foreign Aid Secretary Andrew Mitchell pledged in Marrakesh (pictured) that the UK will help deliver aid to Gaza.
He spoke during a visit to Marrakech, Morocco, for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which were overshadowed by the murderous attacks on Israel.
The violence has sparked a new conflict in which many Palestinians have also died, and more military action seems certain.
Britain is considering moving humanitarian supplies to the region so it can make “the contribution that the British people hope we can make,” Mitchell said.
It will mean that “whatever happens and if the humanitarian situation deteriorates, we will be able to play our part in mitigating it,” he said.
The generosity contrasts with criticism from the World Bank’s second-in-command in a BBC interview last week about the UK’s reduced contribution to its aid programme.
But helping innocent people in Gaza will be complicated by the fact that the territory is controlled by Hamas terrorists – and Mitchell was quick to insist that they would not benefit.
“What your readers will want to know is the same thing we want to know: first, that money is not being taken corruptly or by terrorists,” he said.
Britain’s work in the region is already severely limited. Whitehall stopped giving money two years ago to the Palestinian Authority – which controls the West Bank, separate from Hamas-controlled Gaza – and does not even talk to Hamas.
“We watch like a hawk everything, everywhere, every penny that’s spent,” Mitchell said.
“That was the case before this tragedy and we continue to be that way.”
Mitchell insists, however, that Britain must be willing to help. The Sutton Coldfield MP said: “It would be reckless not to be planning for any eventuality because it is possible that a humanitarian crisis is going to escalate.”
‘We have identified funding – money for all eventualities, what Britain can do to help.
‘We have supplies pre-positioned in Dubai. Maybe we need to increase them, maybe we need to put them somewhere else. “These are things we are actively looking at right now.”
Terrorist state: Helping innocent people in Gaza will be complicated by the fact that the territory is controlled by Hamas terrorists.
The aid would be provided through UNOCHA, the arm of the United Nations that coordinates relief efforts during humanitarian emergencies and is headed by Britain’s Martin Griffiths.
Britain’s status as a donor to poor countries has come into focus since it reduced its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on aid to 0.5 percent.
Last week, Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s number two, said the reduction in British funding had caused “real pain”.
He was referring to Britain halving its contribution to the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank that provides low-interest loans and grants to the world’s poorest countries, to £500 million.
Mitchell said van Trotsenburg’s comments did not take into account all the support given by Britain and insisted that the view was not shared by his boss, World Bank president Ajay Banga, who Mitchell said would agree that Britain “punches above its weight.”
He added: “It’s important to recognize that while in Britain after Covid we reduced some of our spending on the IDA programme, we were previously spending more than the Americans – that doesn’t seem right to me.”
“We are the third largest supporter of the AIF and we are behind the Americans and the Japanese.”
As an MP, Mitchell led the rebellion against cutting the aid budget, but returned to government last year.
He said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had asked him to “ensure we get the best possible value for money” from the spending.
And Mitchell said Britain’s other efforts – from guaranteeing loans to using London’s financial expertise – effectively “overshadow the 0.7 percent cut.” And he added: “We are doing the best we can.
Needs must. So, in the face of this, we have been ingenious in financial engineering, finding new and clever ways to increase spending and what we do with spending.’
Mitchell’s comments came ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s warning last week that “difficult decisions” on spending would be necessary in the autumn statement.
However, the minister will no doubt continue to defend the value of Britain’s aid commitments and their practical impact on the country.
“The argument for a strong aid and development budget is that it is designed to create safer, more prosperous and less conflict-ridden societies there, so that people do not feel the need to migrate and come to Europe and the prosperous world” said the 67-year-old minister.
‘Every penny of the British international development budget is spent in Britain’s national interest.
“Because if it’s safer and more prosperous there, that tends to make us safer and more prosperous too.”
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