Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 545: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2012

My Department is very focused on delivering the results of the family planning summit that will take place in London on 11 July, chaired by our Prime Minister and Melinda Gates. We have been very focused on the food agenda at the G8 Development Ministers meeting last week, and I will shortly be visiting Malawi.

Two weeks ago, I visited a charitably funded Bedouin school in the west bank that was threatened with demolition by the Israeli Government. This is not the way to make progress, so will the Secretary of State make urgent representations to the Israeli Government to prevent the demolition of places of learning?

The hon. Gentleman rightly says that almost all these demolitions are illegal, and that is a point that the Foreign Secretary has made regularly in his meetings with the Israeli Government.

T6. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on ensuring that the taxpayer benefits from the sale of our remaining stake in Actis. Is that not in sharp contrast with the shameful way in which the previous Government allowed Actis to be spun out of CDC in such a way that the British taxpayer did not receive a single penny? (108792)

I am afraid that my hon. Friend is entirely correct; the shameful way in which the previous Government sought to privatise Actis has meant that the taxpayer has received nothing at all from this management company. Thanks to the changes that the coalition Government have made, it is estimated that the taxpayer will receive between $100 million and $200 million.

The forthcoming Rio+20 conference is an important opportunity for this Government to show international leadership on climate change, green jobs and sustainable development. Will the Secretary of State tell the House how many meetings have taken place between his Department and other relevant Departments to ensure a joined-up British approach to the Rio conference? Will he write to me with more details?

I can tell the hon. Lady that meetings are taking place every week and every day, most recently yesterday. The delegation will be led by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, and I have discussed this with him within the past 24 hours.

T7. I warmly welcome the dramatic increase in aid to our Commonwealth partners, including the funding for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. Will my right hon. Friend inform the House of the type of projects we are funding that are much-needed by our Commonwealth allies? (108793)

The whole House will be grateful to Sir John Major for chairing the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. The British Government have put in £50 million to the match fund for these projects. Under the previous Government, support for the Commonwealth declined from some 45% of our development budget to 35%, whereas under this Government, over five years, it will increase to 55%.

T2. The situation in Syria continues to take lives, as well as to produce instability in the region. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what action the British Government are taking to help with the humanitarian crisis in that country? (108788)

The hon. Gentleman will have heard what the Foreign Secretary has been doing at the United Nations. On humanitarian support, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are supporting the United Nations, its Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and a number of international non-governmental organisations on dealing with the consequences both outside Syria—on the borders and in the surrounding countries—and internally, within that country.

T8. In the context of the NATO summit and the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, what assessment has the Secretary of State made of the provision for women’s rights after our departure? (108794)

My hon. Friend is entirely right to focus on the role of women in Afghanistan. On my recent visit to Afghanistan, I launched a new civil society fund that will directly address her point. Additionally, the fact that the international community has helped to secure places for 6 million children in school in Afghanistan in recent years will have a transformational effect on the role of women in Afghanistan.

T3. South Sudan is slipping towards war. Recently leaked documents from the World Bank have highlighted the fact that the south could be completely bankrupt by July as a result of the oil dispute. With countries such as China moving to fill the democratic gap, there should be concern that good democratic governance could slip off the agenda in South Sudan. What is his Department doing to ensure that that does not happen? (108789)

Ministers in my Department have had robust meetings with the Government of South Sudan and that of Sudan. The message we give is that it is important that oil should be brought back into commission and exported from Sudan and it is very important that the African Union road map should be adhered to by both sides.