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Haiti

Volume 523: debated on Wednesday 16 February 2011

Although the number of people in camps in Haiti has fallen by half to 800,000 since last July, Haiti continues to face serious humanitarian challenges.

The President of Haiti famously said that it would take a thousand trucks a thousand days to clear the devastation, but the people do not have a thousand days, because they are suffering disease and crime, and they do not have a thousand trucks. What more can the international community do to tackle the problem?

My hon. Friend is right to identify the scale of the damage and of what is required to put it right. We are working directly on tackling the threat of cholera, and working through the UN and the World Bank on some of the more serious aspects of what needs to happen to bring the relief that is required .

I advise you, Mr Speaker, and the House, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), the shadow Secretary of State, cannot be here today because she is on jury service.

As well as direct assistance to Haiti, which we support, Britain has contributed more than $100 million through multilateral organisations such as the World Bank and the European Union, as the Secretary of State said. Does he agree that it is important for the UK to continue to make substantial contributions to such organisations if the world community is to provide the scale of long-term support for reconstruction that Haiti requires?

The hon. Gentleman is right to put it that way. Britain was a key part of the immediate, emergency relief in the aftermath of those dreadful events in Haiti. There was generous support from across Britain through the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, and we made a number of specific surgical interventions towards the end of last year, including the one to which I referred. Britain is not in the lead on Haiti—this is very much an American, French and Canadian lead—but we are, as he explained, giving strong support through international and multilateral agencies, including the UN and the World Bank.

We certainly welcome the fact that British aid is helping the poor and most vulnerable in Haiti. We support that, but unfortunately, it is a different story just 100 miles north of Haiti in the Turks and Caicos Islands, to which the Department for International Development has just agreed to write an unprecedented loan of £160 million, which is much greater than any previous support for a British overseas territory. Surely the priority for DFID in the Caribbean should be meeting the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable in places such as Haiti, so may I ask the Secretary of State—

The hon. Gentleman refers to problems some miles away from Haiti. However, if I may say so, he has a bit of a brass neck. We inherited a terrible mess in the area not far from Haiti to which he refers, and it is thanks to the brilliant work conducted by the Minister of State that the British taxpayer has now given a guarantee, which hopefully will allow the place not far from Haiti to sort out its problems without further cost to the British taxpayer.