£1.85m aid cash spent on Pope visit

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MPs want to know why 1.85 million pounds of foreign aid funding was spent on the Pope's recent visit to the UK

MPs have demanded to know why £1.85 million of foreign aid funding was spent on the Pope’s recent visit to the UK.

An influential Commons committee called on ministers to explain how diverting development cash to subsidise the trip met global aid rules.

The “somewhat surprising” transfer to the Foreign Office (FCO) was queried following a detailed investigation of the annual accounts of the Department for International Development.

Initial figures published in November put the cost to Whitehall departments of the four-day state visit in November at £10 million.

Malcolm Bruce, who chairs the international development select committee, said voters would struggle to understand why DfID money was involved.

“Many people will be as surprised as we were to discover that UK aid money was used to fund the Pope’s visit last year,” he said. “Ministers need to explain exactly what this was spent on and how it tallies with our commitments on overseas aid.”

The committee also warned that the higher priority being given in aid spending to war zones and other fragile states would make it harder to be sure taxpayers’ cash was being well spent.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: “DFID was one of a number of Government departments part-funding the Pope’s visit to the UK.

“Our contribution recognised the Catholic Church’s role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries.

“This money does not constitute official development assistance and is therefore additional to the coalition Government’s historic commitment to meet the 0.7% UN aid target from 2013.”

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