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Topical Questions

Volume 566: debated on Wednesday 17 July 2013

Last week, I visited Lebanon, where I announced that the UK will allocate a further £50 million to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Lebanese people in host communities. I also visited Tanzania and Pakistan, and hosted donors and United Nations agencies in London to map out steps on aid co-ordination. Following my visit to Rwanda last month, I would like to inform the House that although the latest assessment of the partnership principles has shown some welcome progress, our overall assessment remains that it is not right to release general budget support, and we will re-programme the payment of £16 million to support specific education and poverty alleviation programmes.

In 2010, the UK provided much-needed help to the people of Haiti following the outbreak of cholera. However, an NGO has recently raised concerns that five of the seven recommendations of a UN report on the epidemic have been either only partially implemented or not implemented at all. Will the Secretary of State urgently investigate those concerns?

I had the chance to visit Haiti earlier this year, and I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. The report he is talking about has not yet been formally endorsed by the UN or peer-reviewed, but I can assure him that the UK’s contribution to tackling cholera in Haiti has been substantial since 2010. We have provided support for more than 1.3 million people.

Members on both sides of the House will be extremely concerned at the latest outbreak of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC needs better political leadership, and an army and police force worthy of the name. It also requires the Secretary of State to provide effective leadership, so will she confirm to the House that UK budget support will be reinstated to the Government of Rwanda only if they cease all support for the M23 and militia activities in eastern DRC?

The hon. Gentleman obviously was not listening to my opening statement in topical questions, so I refer him back to that.

T3. What indications has my right hon. Friend received from fellow G8 development Ministers that they will also meet their commitments on providing 0.7% of gross national income, given that the money is also needed to maintain the impressive gains made in tackling the scourges of maternal and child mortality? (165601)

I pay tribute to some Scandinavian countries that have also reached the 0.7%—indeed, they have exceeded it. I regularly raise this issue with other EU development Ministers and with other donor countries.

T2. HIV/AIDS is a devastating illness affecting 34 million people worldwide, 69% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. This week, the White House published its HIV/AIDS strategy, so when will the Government commit to publishing one for the UK? (165600)

We are in the middle of reviewing our HIV position paper. I have just returned from a round table meeting in South Africa that examined this issue. It is an important issue and we are on it.

T6. The Secretary of State will be aware that there is a new Government in Pakistan. Will she update the House on how she plans to co-operate with and support Pakistan to bring stability to the region? (165604)

I was in Pakistan last week, when I had the chance to meet senior members of the Government and at the provincial level. We will be—[Interruption.]

Order. The Secretary of State is answering questions on extremely important matters, which have an impact on some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet. We ought to do her and the House a service by preserving some calm.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We will continue to work with the new Government on stability in border areas. I am sure the House will be delighted to hear that I agreed a tax package with Pakistan’s Government that will see Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs going in to help them broaden their tax base and improve their tax collection.

T4. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what assurances the Burmese President has given the UK about respect for human rights in Burma, and, specifically, the treatment of Rohingya community, during his recent visit to Britain? (165602)

I had a chance to meet the Burmese President earlier this week, when I did raise those issues, particularly the importance of access for humanitarian support. I hope I managed to get his assurances that the Burmese Government will work with us as we try to improve the lot of those people and will play a leadership role in reducing ethnic tensions.

I might tell the hon. Gentleman that I met the President here yesterday and I conveyed some of those messages on behalf of colleagues.

T7. The UK contributes £30 million a year to the Palestinian Authority’s general budget. Does the Secretary of State agree that the pooled and general nature of that budget means that it is impossible to track how all donor money is actually spent? (165605)

UK funding to the Palestinian Authority is used specifically to pay civil servants’ salaries, and that is subject to audit. It is absolutely right, and essential for peace, that we continue to support the Palestinian Authority.

T5. In a Westminster Hall debate on 4 July, the Minister of State, who has just left the Front Bench, said that he would take on board my concerns about workers in debt bondage in Pakistan. Will he undertake to get the DFID office in Pakistan to write a plan of action over the summer and then to make a written statement when the House comes back in September? (165603)

I am sure that I can speak on my right hon. Friend’s behalf by assuring the hon. Gentleman that we will follow up his comments in that Westminster Hall debate. We have a close working relationship with the new Pakistan Government and it will involve improving the lot of workers.