Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 576: debated on Wednesday 5 March 2014

In the week of international women’s day, I offer warm congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash), whose International Development (Gender Equality) Bill completed its progress through Parliament yesterday. The Government have been proud to support that Bill. Since the last session of International Development questions I set out a new approach to economic development in a keynote speech at the London stock exchange. Yesterday, in a speech hosted by Plan UK I set out the UK’s determination to play our role in tackling early and forced marriage, alongside female genital mutilation. [Interruption.]

Order. It must be quite difficult for right hon. and hon. Members to hear the Secretary of State, and it is discourteous. Let us have some hush for the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley).

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what she is doing to ensure that economic partnership agreements prioritise development, and that if developing countries do not meet the EU deadline of October this year, they will not lose preferential access to the EU market?

I assure my right hon. Friend that we are working extremely hard to make sure that we achieve as much progress as possible on the EPAs before the deadline he mentions. We have been influencing stakeholders on both sides of the negotiation. He will be aware that some progress has been made in parts of Africa, but there is a long way to go. He is right that it is critical to get this work successfully concluded.

T4. Ahead of international women’s day, could the Secretary of State explain the cuts to maternity services and primary education for girls, detailed in DFID’s mid-year report? (902852)

I can assure the hon. Lady that work on the maternal health millennium development goal means that it is at the centre of what we do, and we put a huge amount of resources into it. In fact, as I set out yesterday in my speech at the south bank centre about early and forced marriage, having a holistic approach to tackling women’s rights, health and education is key.

T2. Nothing has undermined popular support for international aid more than the perception that aid has been given to countries too wealthy to need it. What assurance can my right hon. Friend give us that that will not happen in the future? (902850)

When we came into government, we had a bilateral programme with 43 countries. We have now targeted that on 28. My hon. Friend will also be aware that I have announced the ending of our financial aid programmes to both South Africa and India.

T8. Notwithstanding the Secretary of State’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), will the Government support the inclusion of a specific target to increase women’s participation and influence in public life in the post-2015 international development framework? (902856)

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Prime Minister co-chaired the high level panel that did a huge amount of work in that area and produced what could be a draft framework. It had much more focus on women and girls, and significantly develops the original MDG on gender equality. We will fight to make sure that we get as many specific targets on women’s rights and participation as we can.

T3. HIV and tuberculosis co-infection is a priority for action for the Government. Ministers will be aware of the 12 World Health Organisation recommended collaborative TB-HIV activities, but will they ensure that these are systematically integrated into all DFID HIV programmes in countries with high burdens of both HIV and TB? (902851)

Yes, we can make sure that over time we integrate all those guidelines into our programme, and it is a key priority for us to make sure systematically that we do so.

The Burmese Government are preventing Médecins sans Frontières from providing health services in Rakhine. What is the Secretary of State doing, especially as the Rohingya Muslims are now left with practically no access to health services?

We are urgently discussing the situation with Médecins sans Frontières, the UN and other donors, and we have made our concerns very clear at senior levels of the Burmese Government. The health situation in Rakhine state is already on the brink of crisis and there must be no deterioration in the provision of health services of which MSF was a crucial part.

T5. For Britain to succeed in international upstream engagement, humanitarian missions and stabilisation missions, does my right hon. Friend agree that DFID must co-operate strategically and tactically with the MOD, and this must include allowing the MOD to claim back all funds spent that meet official development assistance criteria? (902853)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that DFID and the MOD work closely together on upstream conflict prevention, humanitarian relief and stabilisation, as seen in our response in the Philippines. Only last year we completed a joint analysis with the MOD to make sure that there was full recognition of the MOD’s contribution within the internationally agreed official development assistance definition.

While the Government are rightly focused on supporting development in Somalia, can the Secretary of State assure me that DFID will continue to support effective and impactful development in Somaliland?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right, and of course the UK has historical links with that part of Somalia. We have put in place the Somaliland development fund, and I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman more details of that. I had the chance to discuss the fund with the Somali community in the UK when I went to an event in Ealing recently.

T6. Can the Secretary of State tell us how much of her Department’s annual expenditure she estimates is wasted, poorly targeted, goes on corruption or is siphoned off by Governments and dictators? (902854)

As I said earlier, when I see waste, I am determined to cut it. We have targeted our bilateral programme on fewer countries and we are taking aid out of countries that we think can afford the development themselves. On corruption, only 5% of our bilateral aid goes as budget support direct to Governments, but if I have concerns about corruption I stop that budget support, as I have done in Uganda and Malawi.

A news report today states that only 12% of women in India use sanitary pads because they are not available, and that a school drop-out has invented a sanitary pad that can be made in communities. What support is the Department giving to women’s health across the world?

The MDG relating to maternal health, in particular, is critically important. We know that investing in women’s health, whether family planning, antenatal or post-natal, gives an extremely good return on investment. It can help women to have a more productive life, perhaps enabling them to go out to work and reinvest their income in their homes and communities. That is absolutely key and the hon. Lady is right to raise the issue.