By Ray Fleming
THE G8 and G20 meetings of the last days in Toronto, Canada, will have given David Cameron his first major experience of international, as opposed to European, diplomacy. In one respect he will have been able to speak confidently about Britain's role, past and present.

At the Gleneagles G8 meeting in 2005, Tony Blair pushed for a substantial commitment to a new overseas aid programme for Africa and got pledges from all the G8 members for what became known as the Make Poverty History campaign. Figures released this week show that of the three big contributors, only Britain has kept its promise by paying 93 per cent of its pledge while France and Germany have paid only 25 per cent. Canada, Japan and the United States pledged smaller amounts and have each increased their actual payments. Silvio Berlusconi also made a big promise but Italy has actually reduced its aid programme since 2005; Italy's membership of the G8 is questionable on several grounds - Spain is more deserving of membership.

Both Blair and Gordon Brown were totally committed to the importance of overseas aid, especially to Africa, and it is encouraging that Mr Cameron has followed their lead by ring-fencing the International Development budget from his Chancellor's economies - with the National Health Service it is the only government expenditure protected in this way. Not everyone agrees that this should be so but even in difficult circumstances rich countries should be able to help poorer ones.


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