We cannot justify spending ever more on overseas aid
I HAD the privilege of meeting 400 ex-members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who marched on Parliament, culminating with a parade at Old Palace Yard. Following the parade the former Fusiliers entered Parliament to attend and watch the Backbench Business Committee debate. The debate was held to discuss the future of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF), which has been earmarked for disbanding by the Government's 'Army 2020' proposals.
In the debate I criticised the Government's spending on the Foreign Aid budget and the ever increasing cost of the EU in the face of cuts to the Defence budget. I find it incredible that currently each year the British taxpayer hands over £9.3 billion to the EU (which Brussels wants to increase to £13.6 billion!) and furthermore that the Government has ring fenced and raised the Department for International Development's budget by 34.2 per cent, to £11.5bn over the next four years.
It is my strong view that the first duty of any Government is the defence of the realm. Defending our islands and keeping our people safe has to be our first priority. It cannot be right, and flies in the face of all reason, to be spending millions of pounds overseas to support countries like India, which has its own space programme, nuclear weapons and indeed its own aid programme or propping up the tottering edifice that is the EU when we are sending out thousands of redundancy notices to our brave men and women, some of whom receive them on the front line.
Given the amount of money we are spending on foreign aid and our contribution to the EU budget, it is lunacy for the Government to put themselves in the position of having to make these difficult decisions.
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I believe that it is about time the Government reassessed their priorities and put defence of the realm at the top of that list.
I was pleased that my comments in the debate were endorsed by former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth who said:
"I share with my honourable Friend the Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke a belief that there is an alternative.
"When in government I never said that there was no alternative - there is, and it is to prioritise government spending. In my view, we cannot justify spending ever more taxpayers' money on overseas aid and cutting our armed forces"
I am pleased to say that on this issue the Government was defeated and I will be meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence to discuss the Government's response to the will of Parliament.
Jack Lopresti is the Member of Parliament for Filton and Bradley Stoke. He served with 3 Commando Brigade in Helmand Province Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 9.