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article imageRow over aid cash used to fund Pope's visit to UK

By Andrew John     Feb 4, 2011 in World
Money meant to help the world's poorest people was siphoned off to help fund the Pope's visit to the UK, it's been claimed.
A report from the House of Commons International Development Select Committee has "questioned why £1.85m was taken out of international aid to fund the visit despite a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron that the budget would be protected," according to the Scotsman.
"The move has been described as 'shocking' by MPs, while the Church of Scotland said it was 'utterly unacceptable'," the paper says.
The visit by Joseph Ratzinger to the UK was never without controversy, much of it to do with the cost of the visit. Figures of £12 million to £20 million were often quoted, but that didn't take into account the cost from the budgets of individual police forces for his protection.
He also courted controversy when he appeared to liken atheists to Nazis during a speech during his visit.
Fifty notables from the worlds of science and the arts – including Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman – signed an open letter condemning the state visit, which has put a burden on the British taxpayer.
Poor people in poor countries
The STV website quotes Malcolm Bruce MP, chair of the International Development Committee, who said the cost “doesn’t seem to fit within the remit of the department, which is to deliver programmes to reduce poverty to poor people in poor countries.”
Members of Parliament have now asked ministers at the Department for International Development (DFID) "to explain how spending this money on the Pope's trip met aid rules. DFID is one of the few departments to escape cuts and is actually having its budget increased in the coming years," says the BBC.
It quotes Bruce as saying that the DFID's justification for spending the money on Ratzinger's visit is "a completely lame excuse."
More about Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph ratzinger, Papal visit, aid cash
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