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Topical Questions

Volume 529: debated on Wednesday 8 June 2011

Last weekend I visited Benghazi with the Foreign Secretary to meet the national transitional council and discuss its plans for the future of Libya. I also announced new British support for the clearance of mines in Misrata, Benghazi and other affected areas, to help ensure the safety of 200,000 people.

On Monday, Britain will host the replenishment of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, to secure global pledges to vaccinate a quarter of a billion children and prevent the deaths of millions of children in some of the poorest countries in the world over the next five years.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. On behalf of the whole House, may I express a great welcome to those coming to London for the GAVI pledge drive next week? What is the Secretary of State doing to encourage people who are coming to make generous pledges for the vaccination of children in the developing world?

My hon. Friend is quite right that we are bending every sinew to ensure that we have the biggest possible replenishment. Our ambition is to be able to vaccinate 250 million children and save 4 million lives, and replenishment progress is going well. We are not there yet, but I am reasonably confident that we will get there by Monday. [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. I want to hear Ministers’ answers, and I want now to hear Catherine McKinnell.

T4. I have been contacted by several constituents who believe that the World Bank should be leading the way towards a green economy and a greener future for the world’s poor. Will the Minister outline what discussions he and his colleagues in government have had with the World Bank to ensure that there is investment in clean energy projects in developing countries? (57754)

The crux of this issue is whether the building of coal-fired power stations should be supported. We believe that such power stations should be a last resort, and that every possible action should be taken to explore the scientific and commercial availability of carbon capture and storage.

T2. During the Secretary of State’s visit to Benghazi this weekend, what discussions did he have with the national transitional council regarding its plans for the immediate and longer-term future? (57752)

The stabilisation response team is working flat out, together with our international allies in Benghazi, to work out what action should be taken when the conflict is over and early recovery is taking place. That work is going well, and I hope that we will have a plan within the next 10 days. It will of course be owned by the Libyan people under the umbrella of the United Nations, and it will involve all the relevant organisations in helping the Libyans to implement it.

T8. More than 1,000 supporters of international development charities, including some of my constituents, are coming to Westminster tomorrow to show their support for protection of the aid budget and for further action to tackle global poverty. Given that poor countries lose more money to tax-dodging each year than they receive in aid, what action is the Secretary of State taking to address that issue? (57760)

I am very glad that the hon. Lady’s constituents are coming tomorrow, and Members of all parties will want to support that important lobby. The issue that she raises, which was discussed in earlier questions, is very important, and I expect that we will make progress on it in the coming years, not least because of the emphasis that has been put on it in the G8 and the European Council.

T3. Can the Minister assure us that the UK Government will maintain their global leadership role in the response to HIV and AIDS, in both policy and funding? (57753)

I am pleased to confirm that the commitment of the UK Government, who are the second largest contributor globally to the effort against HIV and AIDS, is set to continue. The matter will be central to the discussions that I have in New York tomorrow at the United Nations meeting.

As the Minister has just alluded to, the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS is taking place this week. Can he assure the House that the UK will raise the issue of homosexuals being prevented from accessing information and health care in relation to HIV/AIDS in countries where homophobia is still prevalent?

The hon. Lady is quite right that if we are to make prevention equal to treatment, it is vital that we tackle what leads to the problem, whether it is men having sex with men or injecting drug users. Both those matters often lead to some difficult discussions and policy take-up in countries that do not wish either to discuss or to accept them—

T5. Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tell the House what progress is being made on encouraging other Arab nations to provide much-needed humanitarian aid in Libya? (57755)

In the last two weeks, the humanitarian position in Libya has eased, particularly on the border, which some 950,000 migrant workers have left. Today, under 6,000 people are stuck on the border, so a humanitarian crisis has been avoided.

In general, we encourage all countries to play their roles in providing humanitarian support and to put their taxpayers’ money into those funds. Progress on that is good.

Given the sensitive time line for change in Sudan, what commitments can the Secretary of State give to people there, and particularly to those in Abyei?

I visited South Sudan and north Sudan recently with troika Ministers from Norway and the US. The position in Abyei is extremely tense at the moment, and we call on all parties to desist from taking aggressive action and to approach the negotiations in a spirit of good will and compromise. That is the way to reach the birth of the new state on 9 July and the full completion of the comprehensive peace agreement.