Byline: Gerri Peev Political Correspondent
LIAM Fox has launched an astonishing attack on David Cameron's flagship policy committing taxpayers to lavishing billions of pounds more on overseas aid.
The Defence Secretary hit out at the higher spending given to the foreign aid budget, at a time when other departments are facing massive budget cuts.
He has rejected Government plans to enshrine in law a commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of national income to spending on overseas development aid, according to a letter obtained by The Times newspaper.
In his letter, he told the Prime Minister: 'I have considered the issue carefully and discussed it with Andrew [Mitchell, the International Development Secretary] and William Hague, [the Foreign Secretary] but I cannot support the proposal in its current form.'
Dr Fox said enshrining the aid pledge in law could lead to legal challenges from developing countries. 'My primary concern is one akin to the internal debate we had over the Armed Forces covenant,' he writes.
'Creating a statutory requirement to spend 0.7 per cent ODA (overseas development aid) carries more risk in terms of potential future legal challenges than, as we have had for the covenant, putting into statute recognition of the target and a commitment to an annual report against it.'
British taxpayers will have to fork out nearly [pounds sterling]4billion more a year on foreign aid by the time of the next election - a massive 34 per cent rise when most ministries are seeing their spending slashed by a fifth.
The Government will raise Britain's contribution from 0.59 per cent of gross national income to [pounds sterling]0.7 per cent by 2013.
Payments into foreign aid coffers will soar from [pounds sterling]7.5billion last year to [pounds sterling]11.4billion.
Dr Fox warned it would limit the Government's ability to change the pace at which the target was met to spend money on more pressing priorities. He said that rethinking the commitment might allow money to be spent on 'other activities or programmes rather than aid'.
And he was also concerned about …