FMQ is over at Subrosa's place this week
It seems that one of the countries that is in need of foreign aid is none other than the fabulously wealthy Vatican City.
I know this because it has come to the notice of the Committee for International Development, chaired by Malcolm Bruce, who has asked how diverting money from the international aid budget to pay for the state visit of His Holiness the Pope would meet the requirements of global aid rules.
Detailed examination of the accounts of the Department for International Development (DfID) show that £1.85 million of their fund money, was transferred from foreign aid to help pay for the expensive visit in June 2010.
Mr Bruce quite rightly noted that many people would be as surprised as the committee to discover that UK aid money was used to fund the Pope's visit. He also asked that ministers should explain exactly what this was spent on and how it tallies with Britain’s commitments on overseas aid.
Apparently DfID reckon that they were one of a number of government departments which part-funded the Pope's visit to the UK. The contribution, according to a spokesman, recognized the Catholic Church’s role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries.
Good heavens. I’ve heard some crummy excuses in my time, but this one is worthy of a satire show all on its own. The Catholic Church does a great deal of work in under-developed countries, including continuing to deny the inhabitants the luxury of contraception to control the every larger population. Good work.
The spokesman said that the money did not constitute official development assistance and was therefore additional to the coalition government's historic commitment to meet the 0.7% UN aid target from 2013 (which is required to be met in order for the prime minister to retain his seat at the G8 table), although, I suspect that this has been hastily added now that the cat is out of the bag.
How embarrassing for the government to be found to be pilfering from an aid budget, to subsidize celebrations for the great and the good. But how typical.
But be aware that when you pay your higher taxes and get reduced services for them, that while this country blows hard about how much money it contributes to international aid, to helping the poorest people in the world, people hit by typhoons, earthquakes, disease and pestilence, that the government is just as likely to transfer the money to wining and dining heads of state, and laugh at you behind your back.
Pics: (1) The Pope has a new hat Sophia! (2) Examples of aid that the Vatican has spread around the third world, thus rendering it deserving of our aid money to fund their state visit. (3) How the ordinary people of the Vatican City live. (4) The poor wee Pope's summer residence at Gandolfo, which, along with Vatican City remains a part of the Papal States.