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Topical Questions

Volume 557: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2013

In addition to her Syria meetings in Kuwait today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be attending the next meeting of the high-level panel in Liberia.

I thank the Minister for his answer. I had the privilege last night of attending a “Syria Speaks” event at the Southbank centre, where it was apparent how important the cosmopolitan secular nature of Syria is to the future stability of the country. What is the Minister doing not only to address the horrible humanitarian situation there, but to support the rich cultural heritage that is so important to its future?

My hon. Friend is right. Before the civil war erupted thanks to President Assad’s stewardship of his country, Syria was in many respects an example of religious harmony—I saw that for myself on a number of visits. It is a tragedy to see the country disintegrate, and there will need to be many diplomatic efforts to resolve the problems once the conflict has ceased.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his role today as joint acting Secretary of State—he has waited far too long and he is clearly enjoying it. This week the Prime Minister is co-chairing a meeting of the UN high-level panel on the future of global development post-2015. Last week, the Select Committee on International Development said that the Prime Minister needs to be clear about what he means by the “golden thread” of development. Will the Minister explain what is meant by the golden thread and, specifically, does it recognise that tackling inequality and supporting sustainable growth should be at the heart of future development policy?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is absolutely right in his definition. Development is far more than just about handing out money; it is about draining the swamp of grievance and ensuring that in any country there is the rule of law, such as the property rights we were discussing earlier. It is only if we look at the whole picture of a country that we can properly achieve the development we want. The Prime Minister will be arguing that at the high-level panel, which he is co-chairing with two others.

T2. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the huge difficulties in returning and reintegrating victims of human trafficking to their home countries. This is something with which his Department can assist, and I hope that he can tell the House that he is now looking to ensure adequate in-country funding for source country NGOs accordingly. (140148)

My hon. and learned Friend makes a good point, and that is why we are assessing the practicality of giving support to NGOs that work in countries where we have no other Department for International Development presence, even though they may be based elsewhere. Our main focus is on tackling the practice of trafficking in the workers’ countries of origin, and we are currently designing a cross-Asian anti-trafficking programme, the purpose of which will be to equip vulnerable people with knowledge of their rights and the means to enforce them.

T5. Yesterday’s failure to sign a Congo peace accord in Addis Ababa is very serious. [Interruption.] Will the Government carry out an immediate assessment of development projects in eastern Congo in view of the failure to resolve the situation on the ground? (140151)

I apologise; I did not hear much of the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I understand that he is referring to eastern Congo. We will, of course, do all we can, and, if I may, I will write to him in more detail.

Order. If Question Time is to be meaningful, questions and answers must be heard. We are discussing matters of momentous significance to the people concerned and it would show some respect if the House listened. Let us have a bit of order.

T3. What is DFID doing to encourage funding applications from the small organisations and charities we all have in our constituencies which support schools, hospitals and other aid projects in the developing world, and which often provide excellent value for money? (140149)

DFID established the global poverty action fund to support UK-based, not-for-profit organisations across the country to improve people’s lives in the world’s poorest countries. So far, 102 grants have been awarded, and these are helping more than 3 million poor people across 30 countries.

T7. Given the Government’s welcome support for the If campaign against hunger, is the Minister optimistic that the UK presidency of the G8 can tackle the corporate tax avoidance that deprives developing countries of so much badly needed revenue? (140153)

Tax is one of the main themes of the G8, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear, including in his speech at the Davos world economic forum last week, that it is one of his top priorities for our presidency.

T4. What is being done to ensure that the companies of the world smell the coffee, as the Prime Minister wants, when it comes to developing countries receiving their tax income? (140150)

It is the policy both of our presidency of the G8 and of DFID more generally in our work in poor countries to get far greater transparency from global corporations and to ensure that they pay their fair share of tax and that they do so to the most appropriate tax regimes in which they work.

T9. Given recent events, what additional help does the Minister propose to give to the people of Yemen? (140155)

The Friends of Yemen meeting is looming; we are supporting the social fund for development to meet urgent food and welfare needs; we are encouraging the Government of Yemen to set up an executive bureau for national dialogue; and we are ensuring that pledged funds can be properly disbursed so that they go to the projects that are so desperately needed.