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Topical Questions

Volume 569: debated on Wednesday 23 October 2013

During the past month I have attended the UN General Assembly, meetings at the World Bank and I have put in place a new £30 million “Lost Generation” initiative to provide protection, counselling and basic educational supplies to children affected by the Syrian crisis. I have announced a £1 billion commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Department is committed to transparency, results and value for money. I am proud that in procurement in DFID, despite competition from the public and private sectors, my departmental procurement team recently won the annual award for best international procurement from the Chartered Institute for Procurement and Supply.

The Batwa, who were evicted from the forests to allow tourists to trek gorillas, are the most socially excluded group in east Africa. Will the Secretary of State look at her programmes to ensure that they too do not exclude the Batwa?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will look into the specific point he raises. Human rights run through all DFID programmes, and when dealing with Governments we have partnership principles that also include human rights.

T3. What is my right hon. Friend’s Department doing to promote the business skills of developing countries so that they can promote their own economies? (900635)

I know that my hon. Friend was involved in excellent work on business mentoring in Burundi over the summer, and last week I met the Institute of Chartered Accountants—of which I am a fellow—to discuss accounting and auditing standards in the developing world. I hope the UK’s excellent professional services will play a role in driving standards and skills in the developing world over the coming months and years.

T2. What progress has been made since the G8 in curbing illicit financial flows from developing countries by revealing more information about the beneficial ownership of companies? (900634)

I am pleased the hon. Lady raises that issue. This country played a leading role in using the G8 to raise the issue of illicit flows, and ensure transparency alongside our efforts on tax and trade. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is now consulting on beneficial ownership, which the hon. Lady referred to, and that is a key route through which we can help developing countries ensure they get the tax takes they are due.

T5. When I visited India two weeks ago with my local gurdwara from Hounslow, I had a useful discussion in the Punjab with ActionAid and other organisations about female feticide, which I am sure my right hon. Friend agrees is a disgrace to humanity. What can she do through her Department to improve the way that women are valued, so that they are protected worldwide? (900637)

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. Female feticide is shocking, and I pay tribute to organisations such as ActionAid, and others that work and campaign on that issue. In too many parts of the world, women are treated as chattels or assets and are bought and sold, often through early forced marriage or trafficking. The lack of basic human rights for women underpins much of what my Department works on.

T4. Many billions of pounds of taxpayers money have rightly been spent investing in schools and community centres in Afghanistan. What proportion does the right hon. Lady believe will remain open after the departure of our troops next year? (900636)

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that a huge amount of work through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund has gone into education and building schools, including in Helmand. Given the work that is taking place in the run-up to the troop draw-down and beyond, I hope not only that those schools will continue, but that more schools will join them and extend education to more Afghan children.

T6. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what progress has been made since the G8 on cutting illicit financial flows from developing countries, and on setting up a public register of the beneficial ownership of those companies? (900638)

I reiterate that a consultation on beneficial ownership is under way. Since taking up this role I have increased the amount of funding that my Department gives to the Met police to track down and prosecute those involved in illicit illegal flows, and they are doing an excellent job.

T8. Will the Secretary of State say what discussions she has had with the Israeli Government about the price of petrol for the Palestinians? (900640)

The Department is in regular discussions with the Israeli Government, and as mentioned earlier, we are particularly concerned about the limitation that exists on fuel in Gaza. We fully understand that those pressures exist, and we make representations whenever we can.

T7. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that ethnic conflict in Burma is brought to an end? Otherwise, it threatens both the stability and the development prospects of that country. (900639)

The Department is working hand in hand with the Foreign Office to play its role in improving governance and accountability, not only at regional and governmental level, but at community level, where, clearly, so many of the root causes of that situation lie.