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Topical Questions

Volume 574: debated on Wednesday 22 January 2014

Since the last session of DFID questions, I have announced a further £100 million in new funding at the Syria pledging conference in Kuwait, bringing our total funding to £600 million. That included announcing funding with Islamic Relief for education programmes helping children into education in Jordan. Last Friday, the private Member’s Bill on gender equality promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) successfully passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons. My Department is also focused on our humanitarian responses in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

There is clear evidence that organisations operating in Palestine with UK taxpayers’ money are responsible for inciting hatred and violence against the Israeli people. What action has my right hon. Friend taken either to persuade those organisations to desist from that iniquitous practice or to withdraw UK taxpayers’ money?

We take all those issues incredibly seriously. The UK deplores all incitement to violence, which we raise with both sides and with our partner organisations whenever allegations are made. We believe that President Abbas is committed to non-violence and peace, and DFID funding to the Palestinian Authority funds the salaries of an approved list of civil servants.

On Monday, Catherine Samba-Panza was elected as interim President of the Central African Republic, and she has spoken encouragingly of reconciling the different groups in the country, but the threat of serious conflict remains. The new Government will need significant support, so will the Secretary of State say more about what help the UK is planning to help avert conflict and serious humanitarian disaster?

Obviously, the situation remains fragile. We welcome the fact that there is now a leader who wants to take things forward. The UK pledged a total of £15 million—we are one of the largest donors to the Central African Republic—and we stand ready, should more requests be made, to listen to them and provide all possible help that we can give.

T4. South Sudan won independence with great hopes of democracy and freedom, but it has collapsed into near civil war. Will the Minister tell us what steps she has taken to help deal with the humanitarian crisis in that country? [Interruption]. (902092)

Order. Ministers can scarcely hear the questions. I appeal to the House to lower the decibel level. The Leader of the House is nodding in assent to my proposition, which is encouraging.

The situation in South Sudan is extremely worrying, and we support the mediation led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. We have given £12.5 million, and £60 million in DFID programmes has been switched to humanitarian assistance. We were hopeful earlier in the week that there might be a cessation of hostilities, but that faint hope has now faded.

T2. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what assessment her Department has made of the health benefits to the poorest people in low and middle-income countries from UK aid to pro-profit health care providers? (902089)

I am happy to tell the hon. Lady that the UK has a variety of health-related programmes. We always focus on value for money, and I am happy to write to her with further details of the portfolio and of how we look at value for money across the piece.

T6. On Monday, many of us will attend Holocaust memorial day events. The theme is journeys, including journeys of return. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that our thoughts should include, among many others, the millions of displaced Palestinians still denied their right to return to their homes? (902094)

The right of return is of course part of the negotiations that continue as part of the middle east peace process. We fully support the efforts of Secretary Kerry and of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in everything that they are doing, and we want to do all we can to underpin the best prospects for a successful conclusion, which are predicted to occur by the end of April.

Order. I must appeal to the House—it really is the height of discourtesy. The hon. Lady wishes to be heard, I wish to hear her, and the Minister needs to hear her.

How certain is the Minister that the TradeMark East Africa project is having a positive impact on poverty reduction?

This is an important project that is working in east Africa to remove many of the barriers to trade that hold back that region. We continue to assess the project, and our assessment is that it is working well. We will continue to look at it as it moves forward. If any project is bad value for money, we stop it.

T9. Will my right hon. Friend give the House an update on the international humanitarian pledging conference held in Kuwait last week? Will she share with the House her assessment of the impact of the humanitarian need in Syria? (902097)

It is always a pleasure to have a question from my right hon. Friend. We had a very successful pledging conference in Kuwait. The UK pledged £100 million and it raised £2.4 billion in total, which will provide vital humanitarian support to the Syrian crisis.

T7. Several people have been killed and hundreds of civilians displaced in Burma recently in Rakhine state. What representation has the Secretary of State made about greater humanitarian access to internally displaced persons, especially the Rohingya persecuted minority? (902095)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this incredibly important question, which we pursue through our Foreign Office with the Burmese regime. She will be aware that we have put in significant humanitarian support, particularly focused on internally displaced people in the region.

Having just returned from the Nizip-2 Syrian refugee camp, where the conditions were quite good, I pay tribute to the Secretary of State’s Department for what it is doing there, but what is my right hon. Friend doing to make sure that some of the other camps in front-line countries are as good as that one?

I thank my hon. Friend for the amazing trip that I know he had during the last couple of weeks to Turkey and the social action projects in the camp there. He is right to raise the issue of conditions in the camps. The UK works with UN agencies to ensure that they are as good as they possibly can be.

T5. Will the Secretary of State assure the House that none of the aid given to Belarus from the European Commission is used for state-sponsored oppression? (902093)

The hon. Lady will know that the aid to Belarus was transferred under the multi-annual financial framework, which was agreed under the last Government. This Government have tightened that up to make sure that fewer middle-income countries such as Belarus will receive aid in the future.