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Topical Questions

Volume 587: debated on Wednesday 5 November 2014

A fortnight ago, I visited Sierra Leone to see how Britain is helping that country battle Ebola and the part we are playing. Today, the first of six new UK Ebola treatment facilities opens to patients in Kerry Town. Last month, I attended the World Bank annual meetings in Washington, where the UK hosted several successful economic development events. I met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim to discuss the post-2015 development goals and the global response to the Ebola crisis. On Monday, I made a speech to the Family Planning 2020 event, where I set out how commitments we made at the London summit on family planning two years ago are delivering real progress.

Recent rains and a huge effort have temporarily assisted millions of people threatened by famine in South Sudan. Will my right hon. Friend update the House as to how she sees the situation now and whether she thinks food stocks in South Sudan are going to last beyond December or January?

My right hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. We have committed £42.5 million now to support refugees in the region; there are estimates that their number might rise to more than 700,000 by the end of the year, and 1.5 million are at risk of food insecurity. It is crucial that we make sure we have the humanitarian assistance in place to support these people.

The first problem with DFID’s inaction on corruption highlighted by last week’s report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact is that the watchdog tells us that DFID’s objectives are

“not focused on the poor”.

The commission’s recommendations demand that DFID establish a new unit specifically to drive out this curse. Will the Secretary of State do so—yes or no?

DFID does a huge amount of work tackling corruption. The One campaign said:

“The UK has a strong reputation for getting its own house in order on anti-corruption”,

so we do not need to take lectures from the Labour party. I can assure the hon. Lady that our strategy is also about tackling corruption upstream. Work that we have done in Nigeria, for example, with anti-corruption agencies has helped recover £1.5 billion and supported more than 2,500 corruption cases being brought.

T5. Given the recent withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, can my right hon. Friend reflect on the key achievements of her Department in development in Afghanistan over the past decade? (905867)

We have provided health care access to millions of people, particularly women, who have never had it before. We have seen girls getting into school and having opportunities to pursue their lives in a way that they never had before. We have brought livelihood support to people, provided humanitarian support and worked to strengthen the Government in Afghanistan to enable them to deliver for their people in the long term. We should be hugely proud of the work that DFID has done, as well as being proud of the work that our brave servicemen and women have done.

T2. Millions of children face violence every day, with both boys and girls suffering from abuse and exploitation. UNICEF’s children in danger campaign makes a powerful case for this to be a priority, so will the Secretary of State agree to push for a target to end all forms of violence against children to be included in the global development goals currently being negotiated? (905864)

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. The UK is one of the leading donors to UNICEF; we recognise how important its work with children is. We are looking particularly at the vulnerability of children in Sierra Leone as many of them are orphaned as a result of the Ebola crisis.

T6. The Secretary of State will be as alarmed as I am that President Kirchner of Argentina is purchasing 24 new fighter bombers at a time that Argentina is going cap in hand to the World Bank, expecting UK taxpayer money to prop up its failing economy. Will Her Majesty’s Government veto any attempt by Argentina to obtain more funds from the World Bank and urge our European allies and the United States to follow us in that veto? (905868)

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that I toughened up our policy in precisely that way several months ago. We do, therefore, take that stance and have been lobbying others. Unlike the Opposition, we do not want to see aid going to countries that do not need it or will misspend it. For example, under Labour Britain gave £83 million to China in 2007-08, the very year that China spent £20 billion hosting the Olympics.

T3. While £600 million of UK aid is being channelled through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition—[Interruption.] What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that the new alliance does not bully countries such as Ghana into passing legislation that is designed to restrict local farmers’ ability to save and exchange locally produced seed, making them dependent on a few big suppliers and decreasing biodiversity? (905865)

Order. It is quite difficult for people to hear the question. It is very important that the Secretary of State should hear it. These are extremely serious matters that we are discussing. Let us show some courtesy towards each other.

The hon. Lady is right that as part of the new alliance, it is vital that we see support for smallholder farmers alongside the broader work that is taking place to strengthen agriculture in many of those countries that she has spoken about. It is part of an economic strategy as well as a food security strategy and it is immensely important.

T7. Given the recent success of the Somali peace process, does my right hon. Friend agree that her aid programme for that country now needs to concentrate on building up the private sector and wealth creation? (905869)

My hon. Friend will be aware that one of the things that DFID is doing more than ever before is work on economic development. It is vital that we help people and countries end aid dependency through jobs.

T4. I am delighted that the Secretary of State has been to Sierra Leone, but does she realise that even though I have begged the Leader of the House, we still have not had a major debate on Ebola? We owe that to Africa. When are we going to move? When are we going to debate it in this House and when are we going to do more? (905866)

The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear that there is an Adjournment debate on Ebola tonight, and oral questions provide a great opportunity to discuss and debate the work we are doing.

China has been very willing to exploit commercial opportunities and raw materials in Africa, but it has committed fewer funds to fighting Ebola than the UK has, despite having a GDP that is four times larger. Will the Government encourage China to live up to its responsibilities in Africa as well as exploiting the opportunities?

It is important that countries such as China work alongside other members of the international community that are leading the fight, such as the UK, to ensure that we bear down on Ebola. We are working directly with the Chinese, but it is important that all countries step up and do more.