Saturday News Review

Cameron calls on G8 to fulfil aid commitments

David Cameron has made a scathing attack on his fellow leaders overaid to Africa at the end of their G8 summit, saying they were seen by the public as a bunch of men in suits, more interested in a good lunch than keeping their promises to the world’s poorest. He also issued a broadside against readers of the Daily Mail, reminding them that Britain’s aid budget was intended to save the lives of women in childbirth and to spare people in Africa from malaria. In a polemic issued midway through his G8 press conference at Deauville in France, he even argued it would have been better for Afghanistan if a fraction of the money now spent there by the UK military had earlier instead been spent on aid. His emotional defence of his spending priorities was made in response to a Daily Mail article which had claimed that a report showing Britain spends more on aid than its G8 partners, was damning. The prime minister has been under growing pressure from Conservative backbenchers, as well as the defence secretary, Liam Fox, to reduce the growing aid budget in the face of the recession, but clearly believes he will not shift on his promise to raise it to reach the target of 0.7% of British GDP by 2015. – the Guardian

David Cameron took on his right-wing critics yesterday as he mounted a passionate defence of his determination to increase foreign aid despite the extent of the austerity measures facing Britain. The Prime Minister spoke of the inspiration he had drawn from watching Live Aid as a teenager in 1985 – and insisted the country had a “moral imperative” to help save lives and tackle poverty in the developing world. He also argued that it was in Britain’s self-interest to invest in nations such as Afghanistan and Somalia as a way of tackling terrorism, international crime and environmental damage. His comments will put him on a collision course with Tory-supporting newspapers – as well as many Conservative MPs and activists – all of whom have been urging ministers to scale back their commitment to foreign aid because of the financial pressures at home. The Government has ring-fenced the international development budget and promised to increase aid spending from the current 0.56 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to 0.7 per cent in 2013 and to put that commitment into law. – the Independent

Ed ties the not

Labour leader Ed Miliband married long-term partner Justine Thornton today in a low-key civil ceremony. Mr Miliband, who said he was “the luckiest guy in the world”, braved strong winds to pose for pictures with his new bride after the ceremony at a hotel near Nottingham. He wore a slate blue suit while she opted for a traditional floor-length ivory dress, without a train, as they tied the knot. Among around 50 family members and old friends on the guest list was his brother David, whom he beat to the Labour leadership last year. Conducted by a local registrar, the wedding took place at the Langar Hall Hotel near Nottingham, not far from where Cambridge-educated environmental barrister Ms Thornton grew up. The groom took time out from his preparations earlier to send a message on Twitter to followers who had wished him well for the day. “Thanks for all the good wishes,” wrote Mr Miliband. “Really looking forward to the day. Feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be marrying Justine.” – the Independent

£680,000 bill for Cam’s pad

David Cameron has spent more than £680,000 of public money renovating Downing Street in the year that his government inflicted the biggest ever spending cuts across the public sector. Records of all government spending reveal nine bills for the refurbishment of Downing Street including £30,000 for work he and his wife, Samantha, carried out on the No 11 flat last summer. The centrepiece of their revamp was the kitchen. No 10 has confirmed that the full £30,000 grant for upkeep of the living accommodation, which is available to prime ministers annually, was used for the refit of 11 Downing Street, after the Guardian discovered the payment in the official spending records. A spokeswoman said the money was spent on rewiring, plumbing and decorating but insisted the Camerons paid for the extras. “No public money was spent on furniture, fittings or accessories,” she said. – the Guardian

Lords “rowdy” and “inflated”

The House of Lords is “rowdy” and “grossly inflated” because David Cameron cannot stop appointing new peers, according to Lord Harries. The former Bishop of Oxford was made a cross-bench life peer by the Labour government in 2006. However, he told an audience at the Telegraph Hay Festival that the House is now full to bursting. “There is no doubt about it, the House of Lords does need reform. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it works very well indeed but it is now grossly inflated in terms of numbers,” he said. “David Cameron is shovelling them in every week. I’m serious. There is nowhere to sit, the place has got rowdy, people can’t get in to speak. It was not like that when I first went in. We do need a smaller House.” Around 120 peers have been created under the Tory government, including Julian Fellowes, the writer and creator of Downton Abbey, and Nat Wei, the “Big Society” tsar. Lord Wei, 34, a former management consultant, announced this week that he was leaving the role after less than a year but will retain his seat in the Lords for life. – the Telegraph

Fox goes into bat over para cuts

Dr Liam Fox is understood to have told Ministry of Defence officials to rethink plans that would lead to a pay cut of as much as 10 per cent for Parachute Regiment soldiers who have just returned from Afghanistan. More than 4,700 members of the Armed Forces are trained to parachute into action, including soldiers, engineers, artillery experts and medics. All receive an extra £180 a month regardless of rank, in recognition of the risks involved. The Daily Telegraph disclosed this week that, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, defence officials plan to reduce the number of personnel given “para pay” to three companies of 160 men each. Among those who would lose up to £2,000 a year are privates in the Parachute Regiment, whose take-home pay is as little as £1,000 a month. The prospect of cuts to pay has led to warnings that morale in 16 Air Assault Brigade would be badly damaged. Scores of soldiers have threatened to walk out. – the Telegraph

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