Britain is ready to help with a humanitarian crisis in Gaza but will ensure taxpayers’ money does not go to terrorists, the international development secretary told the Mail.
Andrew Mitchell said it would be “imprudent” not to get involved in disaster relief.
However, he said Britain would not have direct contact with Hamas.
Mitchell said: “When these terrible humanitarian difficulties arise, the UK is always one of the first and most effective countries to bring help to those suffering.”
“We want to make sure that no matter what happens after this terrible tragedy in Israel, we can play a part in helping.”
Stressful times: British Foreign Aid Secretary Andrew Mitchell promised in Marrakesh (pictured) that the UK would 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 renewed conflict that has also left many Palestinians dead, and further military action appears certain.
Britain is considering moving humanitarian aid to the region so it can “make the contribution that the British would expect from us,” Mitchell said.
This means that “whatever happens and if the humanitarian situation worsens, we are able to do our part to alleviate the situation,” he said.
This generosity contrasts with the World Bank deputy’s gripes in a BBC interview last week about the UK’s reduced contribution to its aid programme.
But supporting innocent people in Gaza is complicated by the fact that the territory is controlled by Hamas terrorists – and Mitchell was quick to emphasize that they would not benefit from this.
“What your readers want to know is the same thing we want to know – which is, number one, that no money is corrupted or stolen by terrorists,” he said.
Britain’s work in the region is already severely restricted. Whitehall stopped giving money to the Palestinian Authority – which controls the West Bank, separate from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – two years ago and doesn’t even speak to Hamas.
“We’re watching like a hawk everything, everywhere, every penny that’s spent,” Mitchell said.
“That was the case before this tragedy – and we continue to do so.”
However, Mitchell insists Britain must be prepared to help. The Sutton Coldfield MP said: “It would be unwise not to plan for all eventualities because it is possible that a humanitarian crisis could escalate.”
“We have identified the funding – money for all eventualities and what the UK can do to help.”
“We have positioned supplies in Dubai. We may need to increase them, we may need to place them somewhere else. “These are things that we are actively working on at the moment.”
Terrorist state: Helping innocent people in Gaza is made more difficult by the fact that the area is controlled by Hamas terrorists
The aid would be delivered through UNOCHA, the arm of the United Nations that coordinates relief efforts during humanitarian emergencies and is led by Britain’s Martin Griffiths.
Britain’s status as a donor to poor countries has come into focus since the country reduced its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on development aid to 0.5 percent.
Last week Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s number two, said the UK’s funding cuts 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 of Britain’s support and insisted that view was not shared by his boss, World Bank President Ajay Banga, who Mitchell said would agree that Britain was “punching above its weight.”
He added: “It’s important to recognize that while we in the UK have cut some of our spending on the IDA program post-Covid, we previously spent more than the Americans – that doesn’t feel right.”
“We are the third largest supporter of the IDA, behind the Americans and Japanese.”
As a backbencher, Mitchell led the rebellion against aid budget cuts 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 in spending”.
And Mitchell said other UK efforts – from guaranteeing loans to leveraging London’s financial expertise – “effectively dwarf the 0.7 percent cut.” He added: “We are doing our best.”
Needs must. Given this situation, we have been brilliant at financial engineering and found new and clever ways to increase spending and the way we handle spending.”
Mitchell’s comments came ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s warning last week that “difficult spending decisions” would be required in the autumn statement.
Nevertheless, the minister will no doubt continue to make the case for the value of Britain’s aid pledges – and their practical impact on people at home.
“The argument for a robust aid and development budget is that it aims to create safer, more prosperous and less conflict-ridden societies so that people do not feel the need to emigrate and come to Europe and the prosperous world. said the 67-year-old minister.
“Every penny of the UK’s international development budget is spent in the UK’s national interest.”
“Because if it’s safer and wealthier over there, that tends to come back to us and make us safer and wealthier too.”
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