Hurricane Irma: UK seeks foreign aid overhaul to help British victims

Boris Johnson in Anguilla one of the British overseas territories that is considered too wealthy to qualify for foreign aid

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said the 40-year-old rules needed to be brought "up to date" to "take into account the vulnerabilities of small island states".

Number 10 insisted the UK's aid effort had not been hampered by the rules set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development based in Paris (OECD).

He said the Government was in conversation with the OECD about making the rules on sending aid to incidents such as natural disasters more flexible.

"The response would have been just as large and swift regardless of the aid rules", the spokesman said.

But an unnamed minister told the BBC the figure would have been significantly higher without strict worldwide rules governing the allocation of the £13 billion aid budget, a claim disputed by Downing Street.

For, while Britain - as one of the world's leading economies - should be leading by example when it comes to aid commitments and the plight of the world's poor, Ministers, and organisations like the OECD, should not lose sight of the timeless adage that charity does, in fact, begin at home and, in this instance, with Hurricane Irma's helpless victims. Countries are ranked according to need, which is meant to ensure the poorest countries take priority.

"Instead of trying to score cheap points by attacking aid rules, the Prime Minister should be asking the European Union for support with the relief effort, and taking advantage of the benefits of our membership while we still have them". "If that does not work, we will change the law to allow us to use a better definition of development spending, while continuing to meet our 0.7 per cent target".

But he denied the United Kingdom had been slow to react.

During Business questions in the Commons, Conservative MP Philip Davies (Shipley) labelled the OECD "out-of-touch morons".

Binding ourselves to the OECD, meanwhile, has filled the papers with pictures of devastated British dependencies, accompanied by stories explaining that an global body in which the United Kingdom is one of "a panel of 30 countries" deems them too wealthy to help.

"We are looking now.at ways in which we can make sure that our aid budget can be used in that way".

They "will now face a particularly acute need to access significant reconstruction funds following the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Irma", the committee said.

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