Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given a statement in the House of Commons confirming that the merging of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development (Dfid) will begin immediately and is scheduled to be formally completed by September.
The PM said during Wednesday’s PMQs that DfID was seen round the world as a “great cashpoint in the sky” that handed out money without regard to British interests or values. He announced it would be merged with the Foreign Office to create a new “Whitehall super department” designed to “help improve the way this country projects itself abroad”. Mr Johnson told MPs: “This will unite our aid with our diplomacy and bring them together in our international effort.”
For many years CUFI and other pro-Israel groups have called for reform of the UK’s foreign aid policy relating to Palestinian funding, because of concerns that Britain – and tax-payers’ money – is fuelling terrorism in Israel due to a failure for proper scrutiny and corruption by the Palestinian Authority. Whilst funding to the Palestinian Authority wasn’t addressed directly in the government’s announcement, it signals the biggest shake up of foreign aid management since Prime Minister Tony Blair set up DfID in the 1990s.
The UK gives around £70 million a year in tax-payer money to the Palestinian Authority for humanitarian needs, despite evidence that it is funding payments to Palestinian terrorists and their families.
Since 2003, it has been Palestinian law to reward Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails with a monthly paycheck. Palestinian leadership also pays the families of Palestinian prisoners and suicide bombers. These policies incentivises terrorism.
Former prime minister David Cameron, whose coalition government hit the international target of spending 0.7 percent of national income on aid, described the move as a “mistake”.
He said: “The end of DfID will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.”
But Mr Johnson insisted the move would ensure Britain spoke with one diplomatic voice around the world and help get better value for money for UK taxpayers.
“For too long, frankly, UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests or to the values that the UK wishes to express,” he told MPs.
Confronting UK government over Palestinian funding
Kay Wilson, who survived a Palestinian terror attack several years ago, previously wrote to the UK Government’s Chair of the International Development Committee in 2018 calling out misuse of Britain’s foreign aid by the Palestinian Authority.
In the letter co-sponsored by CUFI-UK, Kay, whose Christian friend was brutally murdered in the attack, highlights how funds intended for genuine development needs are funding and glorifying Palestinian terrorism and claims that DFID have misled Parliament. It has long been known that prisoners, or family members of ‘martyrs’, who commit terror against Israelis are rewarded by financial stipends for their crimes. Kay writes that tax-payer money to the PA either directly supports terrorism, subsidises terrorism or releases other PA funds to support terrorism.
Writing at the time to Stephen Twigg MP, the 208 letter read as follows:
My name is Kay Wilson and I am a British citizen.
My co-signatories and I are writing to you about the glorification of violence, the incitement of violence and misuse of British Aid funds by the Palestinian Authority.
We also draw to your attention evidence that strongly suggests that DFID civil servants and Minsters have misled Parliament.
In 2010 I was hiking in the Judean Hills with my friend, Kristine Luken, when two Palestinian terrorists attacked us.
We were held for 30 minutes at knifepoint then gagged and bound before being butchered with machetes.
Kristine was murdered. I watched my friend being killed before my eyes.
I only survived because I played dead.
I was stabbed 13 times and had over 30 bones broken by the sheer force of the blows.
Each time my attackers plunged their machetes into me I could hear my bones crunch, and my flesh ripping from the serrated blade.
They left, only to return moments later and roll me over.
I watched my attacker plunge the knife into my chest, just missing my heart.
I attach pictures of my injuries.
The two men who attacked us were jailed.
They were part of a terrorist cell aligned to the Fatah group, the group that runs the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The PA, via the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), is now paying these criminals salaries.
My story was highlighted in some detail by the Mail on Sunday.
The MoS also started a parliamentary petition that collected over 130,000 signatures and on 13 June 2016 it triggered a debate in Westminster Hall about Foreign Aid Expenditure.
You spoke in that debate and said that it was important that MPs engage seriously with the concerns constituents were raising.
Over 130,000 people (or constituents) in the UK were so concerned by the issues highlighted by the MoS, including the murder of my friend and the injuries I suffered, that they signed the petition.
Yet you choose not to engage with those issues seriously, in fact you ignored them.
In the past DFID has suspended aid packages when evidence has emerged of taxpayer’s money being misspent or on the discovery of unacceptable behaviour and the IDC has also been swift to investigate when a misuse of funds or malpractice has been highlighted.
However, despite the fact that your committee possesses wide-ranging powers to examine DFID’s work you have chosen to ignore the PA’s funding and incitement of terrorism.
Moreover, the inconsistency of DFID’s position on this matter is blatant but again the IDC appears not to be concerned.
For example, DFID stated that no British Aid money was being misused because funds were paid into a multi-donor World Bank Trust Fund before being passed to the PA and paid to 85,000 PA civil servants using the EU PEGASE list.
Successive DFID Minsters including Alan Duncan and Desmond Swayne repeated these claims in the House of Commons.
Yet when pressed in a cross party meeting of MPs, that included Sir Eric Pickles and Ian Austin, on 15 June 2016, with Desmond Swayne MP as DFID Minister present, department officials were unable to produce a list, or even confirm that a list existed.
Further to this DFID quietly suspended payments to the World Bank Trust Fund that financed the ‘payments to PA civil servants’.
Presumably DFID stopped these payments because they could not verify the recipients, but the programme was restarted with the department claiming that the money was now supporting schools and health projects, and reasserting that a EU list was being used as part of the verification process.
In answer to a written question submitted by Ian Austin MP on 8 December 2017, Alastair Burt, Minister of State for DFID and the FCO, replied: ‘Only named public servants from a pre-approved EU list are eligible and a robust verification system validates that funds are being used for intended purposes.’
That’s exactly the same defence that previous DFID Minsters used to support the discredited payments to PA civil servants.
Neither my co-signatories nor I believe that the diversion of aid from PA civil servants to PA health and education workers is legitimate.
What is more disconcerting is the IDC’s reluctance to investigate these matters.
The PA continues to pay terrorists by simply re-channelling the money through different entities and the evidence that it glorifies violence is incontrovertible.
British Aid funds are not hypothecated. Our money to the PA either directly supports terrorism, subsidises terrorism or releases other PA funds to support terrorism.
Moreover, the behaviour of the PA is in direct conflict with the principles of your committee’s report on ‘Tackling Corruption Overseas’.
In the USA the Taylor Force Act is making legislative progress.
The bill, if passed, will prohibit certain assistance under the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 from being made available for the West Bank and Gaza unless the Department of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority:
- Is taking steps to end acts of violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control, such as the March 2016 attack that killed former Army officer Taylor Force;
- Is publicly condemning such acts of violence and is investigating, or cooperating in investigations of, such acts; and
- Has terminated payments for acts of terrorism against U.S. and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been convicted and imprisoned for such acts, to any individual who died committing such acts, and to family members of such an individual.
Why are British politicians (and in particular the IDC) not seeking to adopt the same principles to support victims like me?
There is now strong evidence that DFID civil servants and Ministers have misled Parliament about how taxpayer’s money is distributed and there is incontestable evidence that the PA misuses aid funds, glorifies terror and prevents much needed development funds reaching those most in need.
As the chair of the International Development Select Committee my co-signatories and I demand that you institute an enquiry into these matters as a matter of urgency.
This letter has been copied to all IDC members.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Kay Wilson – Survivor of a Palestinian terror attack