UK development secretary vows to support Commonwealth veterans

28 Jun 18

Penny Mordaunt has pledged to help Commonwealth veterans living in poverty through the British aid budget, in a speech at a think-tank today.

The UK’s Department for International Development will help 8,500 Commonwealth veterans who “struggle to meet the basic needs” from next year, the secretary of state pledged at a talk at Policy Exchange in London.

“DfID is designing a bespoke programme for pre-independent commonwealth veterans who served under the Commonwealth banner as UK allies prior to their countries becoming independent and are now living below the poverty line,” she told the audience. 

Many people from across the Commonwealth “offered their duty” to serve for the UK’s armed forces during the Second World War before their countries became independent, she noted.  

Approximately 8,500 of these veterans or their widows are today living below the poverty line around the world, such as in India, Pakistan and a number of African countries.

“Those who have served alongside our nation deserve our support in their twilight years,” Mordaunt said.

The programme is expected to commence next year. It will be co-funded and designed with a number of veterans charities.

“It’s a win for the developing world and it is a win for the UK, on a topic that the public cares so passionately about – the welfare of our veterans.”

Officials have said it is still too early to say how much the government is going to contribute to help veterans.

Mordaunt added that this shows “how UK aid is changing”, as set out in her speech last week at the Chatham House London conference, where she said that DfID would be “reshaped” to win back the trust of “sceptical” British taxpayers.

She also said DfID would work closely with other government departments, especially the Ministry of Defence, to get the best use out of the taxpayer’s money.

She emphasised the “deep and strong” link between UK aid and the military, as she set out a “new approach that involved more explicit co-designed and co-funded projects”.

Part of the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid has always been spent on defence, Mordaunt said.

“We can support and inform each other to better meet the challenges we both face,” she said.

The secretary of state added that she had the intention to make best use of the budgets of both departments to support humanitarian aid.

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