£200m of aid budget to be spent on St Helena airport – after lobbying from Lord Ashcroft

The government has approved £200 million of the aid budget to be spent building an airport for St Helena - after lobbying from £127m tax dodger Lord Ashcroft.

Today’s Mirror reports international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has approved £200 million to be spent building an airport for the South Atlantic island of St Helena.

When news first broke of the proposals last July, MP Denis MacShane slammed it as:

“A scandal of Pergau Dam proportions.”

Why? Because the decision comes after lobbying from Tory donor and £127m tax avoider Lord Ashcroft.

In July 2010, just months after the Tories came to power following an election campaign he bankrolled, Ashcroft demanded to know:

“What the current plans are for an airport in St Helena?”

The Guardian reported at the time:

Ashcroft showed his commitment to the airport in December last year when he diverted his private jet, during a flight from Nairobi to Brazil, to fly low over the island.

As his jet swept over the island, Ashcroft was interviewed from the plane by a St Helena radio station. “I’m about 25,000 feet in the air descending, slowly descending at the moment so I should be over there in about 15 minutes time,” he said in the broadcast.

“I believe that you should have an airport, you should be able to open St Helena up to the world and I hope that an incoming Conservative government in due course will strongly support an airport there.”

Mitchell says the project will help boost tourism and help reduce the island’s dependency on aid, but given that £200 million earmarked for this airport is equivalent to the entire amount spent by the Department for International Development on water and sanitation in 2010, is this really the most effective use of British aid?

See also:

Osborne, Mitchell and Hammond accused of tax avoidanceShamik Das, October 18th 2010

Sign the petition to demand Cameron’s pal Aschroft pays back the £127 million he avoidedShamik Das, March 2nd 2010

Facebook group on Lord Ashcroft’s tax status piles on the pressureJohn Slinger, February 16th 2010

Cameron forced to amend “Ashcroft amendment” after dancing to piper’s tuneShamik Das, December 16th 2009

Cameron cannot brush aside the tax-status scandalVarun Chandra, December 15th 2009

19 Responses to “£200m of aid budget to be spent on St Helena airport – after lobbying from Lord Ashcroft”

  1. Rob the crip

    Perhaps the Labour Non Dom’s and the Tory Non Dom’s could meet decide to spent some unpaid tax and open up another tax retreat.

  2. John

    Not sure what your issue is here.

    The case for an airport on St Helena has been actively pursued for over 10yrs – the island is presently heavily subsidised by the aid budget and the island’s only lifeline the RMS St Helena will soon be life expired and need replacing at a considerable cost. Building an airport is the best economic way forward.

    As, as far as I’m aware, Lord Ashcroft has no commercial interest in either the contractor or the island why does it matter that he along with many others from all political parties have put forward the case for an airport.

  3. Vince Thompson

    Far from the best bit of analysis on a DfID scheme I have read. It is clear David Taylor does not think the UK should take proper responsibility for its Overseas Territories and also ignores the economic case for the first bit of real investment in St Helena for many decades.

  4. Jiesheng

    Exactly. Under LABOUR, especially Clare Short, St. Helena was of importance to the DFID focus. So who is blame who? Buck up will to Taylor? Stop playing politics with development.

  5. Tamworth Talks

    #2 £200m of aid budget spent on airport in St Helena because Lord Ashcroft asks for it: http://t.co/ByyBkcgd

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