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Cardinal challenges British Government to increase overseas aid

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has challenged the British government to make real its commitment to setting 0.7% of GNP for overseas aid, and to do this by 2012.

This figure was agreed by the United Nations in 1970, but has never been achieved by the UK, which currently gives less than half this amount.

While many other European countries are on course to reach the 0.7% goal within the next seven years - the Cardinal pointed out - Britain has not even set a target date.

He said: "At the present rate of increase, our aid budget will not reach 0.7% until 2040. And that is simply not good enough. So I would hope we can set a target date by which Britain's aid will reach 0.7% ... within ten years."

The Cardinal added: "I can think of no more meaningful sign that the poor of the world remain at the very heart of our concerns ... than to transform this development aid goal of 0.7%, at present utterly timeless, and therefore in the end devoid of substance, into a specific cast iron cross-party commitment."