Hurricane Irma: UK looks at using aid budget

Boris Johnson and Rex Tillerson

Officials are looking at ways the UK £13bn aid budget can be used to help the British overseas territories hit by Hurricane Irma, Boris Johnson has said.

Under international aid rules, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands are considered too wealthy to qualify for assistance.

But the foreign secretary said a way would be found to use UK aid money.

He was speaking at a joint press conference in London with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Describing his visit to recent visit to the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve never seen anything like it – like the destruction… you see in images from the First World War.

“And I think anybody with an ounce of compassion would want to see spending by our government on getting those people back up on their feet and indeed on getting those British – and I stress – British overseas territories helped in the long term.

“And of course we are looking now at ways across Whitehall for ways our aid budget can be used.”

During the trip, Mr Johnson promised £25m more relief money on top of the £32m already being spent in the Caribbean, with the money coming from different departmental budgets.

There are strict international rules about what officially counts as foreign aid.

These are agreed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which Britain is a member.

The rules make clear that only the poorest countries can receive what is known as official development assistance or ODA.

The OECD confirmed that Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands did not qualify for this official aid. Their national incomes are too high.

The Department for International Development insisted the fact the territories were not eligible for official development assistance had not affected the UK’s emergency relief.

And officials denied that claims that five times as much money would have been available if ODA could have been used.

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