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Topical Questions

Volume 579: debated on Wednesday 9 April 2014

On international women’s day, I announced that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will host a summit in July to step up our global efforts to end both female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage for all girls within a generation. In March, I attended in New York the Commission on the Status of Women, which supported our call for a stand-alone goal on gender and integrating gender throughout the post-2015 development framework. Last week, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that the UK is the first G8 country to reach a figure of 0.7% of gross national income on international development, and I am proud that it is this Government who have achieved that promise.

Given the horrific events in Rwanda 20 years ago this week, will the Department redouble its efforts to support conflict prevention in countries such as Sudan, the Central African Republic and, indeed, Syria, so that their people can enjoy the peace and humanity that hitherto has escaped them?

We have had a chance this week to remember the terrible tragedy of the events that took place in Rwanda back in 1994. When we look at progress against the millennium development goals, we know that hardly any has been made in the sort of countries to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, because conflict holds back development. That is why we will continue to focus our efforts on those states to help their people.

T2. What progress is the Government’s International Citizens Service entrepreneur programme making in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses in developing economies? (903630)

At the end of March, I launched the International Citizens Service entrepreneur scheme. This builds on the successful ICS programme that this Government have introduced. It is about matching young people with businesses and entrepreneurs in developing countries, and it focuses on economic development. The programme has had a fantastic response, and the first volunteers will be on their placements this summer. [Interruption.]

DFID has a work in freedom programme, aimed at preventing the trafficking of women and girls from south Asia to countries popular with migrants. Last week, I was in Qatar to see the conditions endured by migrant male workers. As Qatar starts to build the World cup stadiums, the abuses I saw cannot continue. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important to extend the work in freedom programme to these workers in Qatar, and that it is important that FIFA and Qatar act to ensure that the beautiful game is not built on the misery of migrant workers?

The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise these issues. We have certainly raised our concerns with the Qatari authorities, including at ministerial and ambassadorial level. Of course, the work in freedom programme, which we are bringing in—this new programme is about to start—is all about helping particularly girls and women who are being trafficked, and we hope to see that programme succeed over the coming years. [Interruption.]

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with other UK Departments about how Her Majesty’s Government can bring an end to female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage worldwide?

I am delighted to say that the UK will host an international summit on these topics in the summer, hosted by the Prime Minister. We have been working hand in hand with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has done some excellent work domestically on this agenda, too. [Interruption.]

Order. May I politely say to the House that although I understand the air of expectation, we have just had a question about female genital mutilation? We are discussing matters of intense importance in this country and to billions of people around the world. Simple courtesy would dictate that we do actually pay attention.

T3. Tragically, 3,000 children a day die from malaria worldwide. What contribution are the Government making to eliminate child deaths from this dreadful disease, particularly in the Central African Republic, where UN funding is grossly underfunded? (903631)

We have announced up to £1 billion over the next three years for the global fund, which is one of the key mechanisms by which malaria is tackled—it was malaria day yesterday—and, particularly in places such as the Central African Republic, we complement that with humanitarian support as well.

Will the Secretary of State update the House on DFID’s contribution to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide?

It is 20 years since the Rwandan genocide—my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was in Rwanda over recent days to commemorate that terrible event—but since then, Rwanda has taken huge steps forward in development. It is one of the beacons showing how countries can develop rapidly when there are the resources and the political will. We will continue our work with Rwanda.

T4. I have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Qatar with the construction workers union, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, to look at the terrible plight of migrant workers in Qatar. I was reassured by some of the Secretary of State’s comments in reply to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy). Will she, however, give the House an assurance that she will make representations to the Qatari authorities to end the kafala system, which is effectively bonded labour, and to stop the appalling circumstances of migrant workers living in abject squalor? Some 1,200 have been killed on construction sites already, and if some action is not taken, 4,000 will be dead before the World cup starts. (903632)

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise those issues, and I assure him that we are raising them with the Qatari authorities. I will also do that.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Green Fuels Ltd on its successful entry into the Indonesian market, boosting British exports and reducing Indonesian carbon emissions through a strong partnership between DFID and UK Trade & Investment on the ground?

I congratulate the company in my hon. Friend’s constituency. He has been a tireless advocate for the role that such businesses, including this one, can play in combating climate change. It is fantastic to see that work get off the ground in Indonesia.