Defenders of foreign aid fight back against Fox

By Tony Hudson

Liam Fox's calls for dramatic cuts to the UK's development spending are prompting a spirited fightback from defenders of the aid budget.

Fox used a speech at the Institute of Economic Affairs this morning to argue for cuts across the board in order to reduce the deficit, but his calls for cuts to international aid have not been well received.

Business secretary Vince Cable joined Fox in his criticism of government ring-fencing areas of the budget but called himself a "strong supporter of the aid budget" in an interview with the Today programme.

Fox's proposal reflects a significant undercurrent of opinion within the Conservative party, but its leaders remain resolutely committed to maintaining the UK's aid budget.

This morning Conservative international development secretary Justine Greening called for British business to invest in developing countries, stating aid can be replaced by creating jobs.

"We can't just see business as a risk to developing countries. We must also see it as an opportunity," she said.

"Every time Britain has been at its most successful, it's been when we’ve been out in the world, trading, doing business. We've never stood on the sidelines. And we can't afford to start now."

Several FTSE executives have also stated their support for international aid from Britain, and commended prime minister David Cameron's decision to protect it as "not only the right thing to do, but a smart investment", in a letter to the Financial Times.

"Developing countries become emerging economies and emerging economies became the engines of future global growth and prosperity," the signatories wrote.