BRITAIN is spending £1.5 billion extra a year on overseas development that doesn’t count towards the hated 0.7 per cent foreign aid target, a bombshell report has found.

It means the true scale of taxpayers’ overseas development spending is a staggering £15.5 billion a year.

Strict international rules govern what the Government can count towards on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

David Cameron enshrined in law that 0.7 per cent of the national income must be spent on ODA.

But to comply with the ODA rules the £270 million from the Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund that was spent on peacekeeping missions did not count towards the 0.7 per cent target last year.

Some £40 million of spending by the foreign aid department itself did not even count.

Neither did the £575 million spent on overseas projects by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The figures were compiled by a report titled Global Britain that laid out proposals to radically overhaul Britain’s £14 billion a year aid budget.

The document said an additional £306 million spent by the BBC World Service’s budget across the world should also count towards Britain’s overall international development spending.

The report, authored by Tory MP Bob Seely and the Henry Jackson Society Director of the Global Britain Programme James Rogers, calculated the combined extra spending came to £1.54 billion in 2017-2018. This is equivalent to 0.8 per cent of UK Gross National Income.

Money saved by counting peacekeeping spending towards ODA should be used to increase the size of Britain’s Armed Forces, the report recommended.

The report - backed by Boris Johnson - said the figures expose the need to redefine what can be counted towards foreign aid.

Mr Seely told the BBC: “What we are saying is, let’s keep the 0.7 per cent but let’s either redefine it as we would want, or have 0.5 per cent for the international official development aid rules, and then 0.2 per cent for us to define how we wish. Or get those rules changed.”

He said the 0.7 per cent target should be ditched if the Government failed to change the definition.

Backing the report yesterday, Mr Johnson said the rules on what we can spend on foreign aid must change so Britain can spend more of it on promoting Britain’s interests across the world.

“To enable more aid to go where it’s needed, and to redefine what we think aid counts as to include peace keeping and a significantly reinforced and upgraded BBC World Service.”

The Department for International Development said Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt was already in the process of demanding changes to the definition of ODA.

And Theresa May’s official spokesman told reporters: “The Prime Minister has said the UK is a global champion for aid spending, humanitarian relief and international development.

“She has been repeatedly clear that we will honour our commitment to meet the 0.7% target.”