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Topical Questions

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2011

We are delivering the results agenda through our 27 bilateral programmes and we are working to tackle the emergency unfolding in the horn of Africa. We are acting quickly and decisively, as I have said, to prevent this crisis from becoming a catastrophe. We are also continuing to co-ordinate Britain’s contribution to post-conflict stabilisation in Libya for the time when the fighting is over. Since our last Question Time, Britain has chaired and led the drive to fund the next stage of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation for the poor world.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. With a record number of countries applying for vaccine funding from GAVI, what results does he expect to be achieved following last month’s success at London’s pledging conference of Ministers, business leaders and charities?

My hon. Friend is right that the conference was an extraordinary success—exceeding the pledge target of $3.7 billion by some $600 million. As a result, the world will be able to vaccinate a quarter of a billion children over the next five years. Britain will vaccinate a child every two seconds and save a child’s life every two minutes as a result of this initiative.

I am sure that all Members will join me in congratulating South Sudan on achieving independence at the weekend. The Government of South Sudan are now planning to review all their international oil contracts. Does the Minister agree that although our aid is important for desperately poor people in South Sudan, it is vital that global oil companies pay their fair share of their profits in tax in that country? Will he ensure that DFID uses its expertise to help South Sudan to get fair tax returns from the oil companies?

The hon. Gentleman is right that that country has just been born and has $1.7 billion of revenues, and it is essential that the money is used transparently. Britain is a very strong leader on the extractive industries transparency initiative and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it clear that he expects the European Union to look at how it can develop its own version of the Dodd-Frank legislation that has been laid in the United States.

T6. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the progress being made on developing resistance to malaria? (65556)

My hon. Friend will have had a chance to read the detailed plan that has been set out. Britain is committed, over the next five years, to ensuring that the prevalence of malaria in the most affected countries is reduced by 50%. We believe that tackling malaria, which kills so many children needlessly every day, should be towards the top of our list of initiatives.

T2. I was privileged to be part of a delegation that visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo and monitored the last election there and I was really moved when I talked to women there about their experiences of rape and sexual violence. I would be very grateful if the Secretary of State would tell me what support he is managing to offer to Margot Wallstrom, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on sexual violence in conflict. (65552)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The tackling of sexual violence and violence against women is now embedded in all our bilateral programmes. In the DRC, the International Rescue Committee is doing outstanding work on this specific agenda, as I hope she will have seen during her visit. She has our commitment that the coalition Government have always said that putting girls and women at the forefront of our international development efforts is essential.

T7. Following President Obama’s decision to cut $800 million of aid to Pakistan, can the Secretary of State allay the concerns of some of my constituents that the UK’s aid budget there is necessary and is being well spent? (65557)

My hon. Friend is right. The $800 million is part of the US military budget. All of Britain’s aid that is spent in Pakistan, which is particularly focused on trying to get 4 million children, especially girls, into school, is not spent through the Government. We are very anxious to ensure that there is always accountability to the British public and that aid is transparently used. Those policies will continue.

T4. It is just 12 months since the devastating floods in Pakistan. Will the Secretary of State outline what support his Department has given to help rebuild that country? (65554)

The hon. Lady is right that the floods had a devastating effect in Pakistan as I have seen for myself on my frequent visits there. Britain was at the forefront of the countries coming to support Pakistan when the floods struck and we have been very strongly engaged, not least in helping people to continue their livelihoods and in getting children back into school in the aftermath of, and recovery from, those floods.

T8. In Afghanistan the depreciation of the afghani has sent the price of basic staples soaring by 7% in just one week. Has my right hon. Friend had conversations with the Afghanistan Government about how to improve food security, with the winter approaching? (65558)

My hon. Friend is right that across the world, not just in Afghanistan, the price of food, particularly staples, has rocketed in recent months and years. Britain is specifically engaged in Afghanistan in trying to help secure the wheat harvest and ensuring that farmers have wheat seeds to plant. We focus on this area keenly for precisely the reasons that she has set out.