ASTONISHING new research shows that, at current rates, spending on overseas aid is set to outstrip defence expenditure within 15 years.

By 2030, the former will receive £28.3 billion, the latter £27.1 billion.

So predicts the House of Commons’ Library.

This is the consequence of enshrining in law a commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid.

In addition, there is consensus from the three main Parties on this, which is never a good sign.

There is plenty of hard evidence that all too often the money does not reach the intended recipient.

The reasons are wastefulness and corruption.

Worse, it’s well documented that, if the aid pot is not spent by the end of the financial year, it’s given out anyway.

Meanwhile, the commitment to the defence of the realm, the first duty of any government towards its citizens, appears to have slipped down the priority list.

For while we spent £35.5 billion on defence this year, that figure represents a reduction of 1.8 per cent annually over the past five years.

Experienced voices are warning that this is seriously affecting our capabilities, a point we will be debating in the Commons next week.

While the military struggles, aid expenditure has risen to £8.4 billion, and will continue to rise as the economy improves.

The use of so-called soft power has its place, but the velvet glove must contain an iron fist.

The meltdown in Eastern Europe and the Middle East is a direct threat to the UK and we and NATO need to be fully equipped to meet it.

Of course we must not forget those less fortunate than ourselves, but arbitrary targets are not the solution.

As the saying goes, charity starts at home.