Spending cuts? Let's start by stopping aid to Egypt

The government could make itself popular, and contribute to reducing the rate of increase in state borrowing, by announcing no more aid for Egypt

by Sir John Redwood MP on 19 August 2013 07:17

Too many UK politicians think spending other peoples’ money is popular. It’s how they define their job. In opposition the Conservative leadership did tell the party we needed to prepare to cut spending. We were advised that we would not find it comfortable or easy, but it would have to be done.

Instead, in government, there are still a whole series of areas where Conservative MPs and many voters are keen to see cuts, where the government resists. Tomorrow, the government could make itself popular, and contribute to reducing the rate of increase in state borrowing, by announcing no more aid for Egypt. What’s not to like about that policy?

Daily, we see pictures on our TVs of an army in control with the latest in armoured vehicles, small arms, and plenty of troops. That may well be their spending priority, but it shows a state with plenty of money to spend on defence and internal repression. They could spend more of that alleviating sickness and poverty if they wished. Giving them more money seems perverse in these conditions.

The government could make itself even more popular, and possibly save some money, by saying it intends to persuade the EU to stop giving aid to Egypt as well. Even better would be to secure agreement to that cut, along with agreement to sending the money the EU plans to spend on Egypt back to the impecunious member states.

They could decide whether to cut their deficits a bit more or spend at home as they see fit. Again, what’s not to like with that policy?

Over the weekend, more news came out about the possible future escalation of the costs of HS2. The government has recently announced an enormous spending increase of £10 billion on delivering HS2. Critics think they will want to add more tunnels, more noise abatement, and more station  stops to win people over to the Midlands and northern routes, which in turn will mean more cost.

If the government is not careful Labour will decide to offer to cancel HS2 as part of its future spending plans, and suggest much more attractive ways of spending all that money.

There has also been recent news about increases in spending on consultants by government. There is plenty of evidence of that at local level in many of the higher spending Councils as well. As a necessary process of slimming bureaucracy is undertaken, it is most important to avoid simply hiring back the same or similar  people through contracted franchises or consultancies, sometimes at higher cost.

The approach should be to slim and raise productivity by natural wastage, and avoid extra consultancy and contracting out costs in compensation.

The Rt Hon John Redwood MP is the Member of UK Parliament for Wokingham and the Chairman of the Conservative Economic Affairs Committee. His articles are cross-posted on his blog by agreement

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