Back in 2005 I visited Uganda with a cross party group of MPs.
We looked at aid projects orphanages and visited a refugee camp near the Sudanese border. But perhaps the most interesting meeting was with DFid - the British Ministry charged with spending
billions of pounds taxpayers money on aid.
The offices were not located in the main British Embassy at Kampala because DFid see themselves as being "separate" from the government. Instead, at great expense, they had leased a suite of modern
offices elsewhere. When we arrived their whole attitude suggested that a group of MPs turning up to ask questions about aid spending was an inconvenience they could do without.
Apparently since the coalition took over things have changed.
Either way the coalition was elected with one specific promise.
To balance Britain's finances.
Coalition MPs have at times found it difficult to defend policies such as the fuel tax rises, air passenger duty, cuts in child benefit, changes to pensions and much else. Most have gritted their
teeth done so because of the importance balancing the books.
But the dogged insistence of the government in increasing foreign aid makes it much harder to justify cuts.
"if we are so short of money" people say, "how is it you can send even more abroad?" Its a good question.
We are giving away money which we don't have. Everything we spend beyond the tax take is simply being added to the national debt and left for future generations to deal with.
Giving away money with one hand whilst borrowing is seen by many as an absurdity. By the time the UK is in a position to start paying back the national debt some of the countries we are giving aid
to will probably have a bigger GDP than us.
If the government wish to continue increasing aid then I have a suggestion. We currently spend millions every year providing housing, health care, translators, lawyers and a range of other benefits
to foreign nationals who should not be in this country. If we must spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid we count all spending on those who shouldn't be in the UK as part of the total amount and deduct
it from the bill.
My last thought is of Africa. Not poverty or the refugee camps which I have seen, but of a meal I had with a group of MPs from one of the more benighted countries there. It took place in a luxury
hotel and wondering outside I saw a line of sleek looking luxury Mercedes Benzes, replete with chauffeurs, waiting to ferry the politicians of this third world, aid receiving country back to their
The image comes back every time I hear calls for greater aid spending.