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Disability and Development

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 11 December 2014

[Relevant documents: Eleventh Report of the International Development Committee, Session 2013-14, HC 947, and the Government response, HC 336.]

I will try to be brief and simply highlight the main points. We decided a couple of years ago to do a report on disability. Although it took us a while to get round to doing it, for various reasons, the fact that we were going to do it had a galvanising effect on the Department for International Development, which found itself in a better position to explain what it was doing than might otherwise have been the case. Our announcing the inquiry well in advance was therefore quite a good thing to do.

The first thing we wanted to identify was just how big an issue disability is. There are reckoned to be about 1 million people suffering disabilities in developing countries, and they are mostly very poor—they are the poorest of the poor. They are not often visible, and they are subject to a lot of prejudice and stigma. They are often hidden away, disadvantaged and kept poor.

The correct figure is 1 billion, and if I mis-said it, I am glad that my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity to put the record straight.

The challenge is huge, so we felt it was critical that the Department addressed it specifically and explicitly in a way that had not been done before. We issued a challenge, to which the Department has responded, which I think is a classic example of the galvanising and dynamic effect of the Committee’s relationship with the Department. We were disappointed when the Government rejected our recommendation for a disability strategy; however, we have been extremely pleased with the framework document that has emerged, so frankly I think we can park that disagreement. The framework document has been widely welcomed by organisations and others representing disabled people.

I would like to pay a personal tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), a former Minister in the Department, for taking up the challenge. When she came into the Department, she basically said to me, “I’m a junior Minister. I can only do a limited amount, and the best way I can do it is to pick up two or three issues and make them my own,” and this issue was one of them—the others were women and girls and female genital mutilation. She is a great campaigner. My understanding—the Minister may correct me—is that direct responsibility has been transferred to my right hon. Friend’s successor, Baroness Northover, who has also given me an undertaking that she is determined to ensure that the commitments made by her predecessor are taken forward.

That is all very welcome. Hon. Members will know that I have an interest in disability, having a grown-up deaf daughter and being chair of the all-party group on deafness. I have always recognised the fact that if nobody rises up and challenges the problems that disabled people face, and if nobody works with disabled people, their problems will not be addressed.

Having welcomed the framework, I want to ask a few questions. We think that the process has been enormously positive and that the framework is ambitious. The Department is doubling the size of the disability team, making new commitments in humanitarian response—water, sanitation and hygiene—and advocating for a disability-inclusive post-2015 agenda. Put simply, if the aim is to eliminate absolute poverty by 2030 and leave no one behind, it is not possible to do that without specific policies to address disability and the needs of disabled people. What is being done for the first year of the framework to try to achieve measurable impacts? There are more staff and there is more awareness, but will the Department set some objectives that it hopes will be met by the end of the year?

Will the Minister consider committing the Department to an annual stocktake or progress report? The current Secretary of State for Health used to be a member of our Committee—many of the best people in the House of Commons, including the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar), have been members of the Committee—he recognised that the international community had set a commitment to halve the number of people with HIV/AIDS who were not receiving treatment. That was a five-year programme, but he insisted, and secured agreement, that the target would be hit only if we had annual reviews and targets. I commend his initiative. The Committee and the Government accepted the proposal, which ensured that the target was hit. The logic is that annual targets require us to keep our eye on the ball, whereas a five-year target can be left until there is a push upwards at the end, like a hockey stick. I ask the Minister to consider that.

There have been criticisms from some organisations that represent disabled people. Some of those criticisms are a bit sharp, and I will not report them here, but they boil down to the Minister and the Department needing to understand that organisations representing disabled people are not the same as disabled people’s organisations. Disabled people should be a visible part of the process of addressing disability in development. Indeed, people within the Department who have a disability should be encouraged to take part in the process and be a role model—I am not talking about tokenism, nor should the Department specifically recruit such people. Again, I hope the Minister might consider that. What specific measures will the Department take to engage disabled people’s organisations? At the moment, such organisations still feel that they have not been properly engaged. Some of them have been sharply critical, but that is the nature of such organisations. I get a lot of that in my work with the deaf community. Let us just take it is a practical thing to be addressed.

DFID has acknowledged that we are a long way from being in the lead on disability. I understand that a member of DFID staff has been seconded to Australia to look at their examples, and I hope that in a relatively short period of time, as in so many areas, DFID will be a leading world role model. I am glad that the Department is looking to learn from international partners that may be ahead of the game. What more might the Department do to build on the experience of international organisations?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green recently held a seminar on collecting data, and part of the problem is that, precisely because they are hidden, we do not know the exact nature of the challenges. I was invited to the reception at the end of the day, and I got the impression that people were pleased that that was taking place. A progress report on how data collection will be taken forward would be helpful.

As with the problems faced by women and girls, in the humanitarian disaster agenda we have been shocked by the lack of awareness of the needs of disabled people. If there has been a disaster, by definition there will be newly disabled people who have suffered injury, been shot or wounded, or been affected by that catastrophe. The needs of disabled people, as well as the needs of women and girls, must be prioritised in the immediate aftermath of disasters because they tend to be forgotten at a critical and vulnerable time. The World Bank has an ongoing review. It would be good to know how DFID, as a very influential player in the World Bank, is trying to ensure that the bank also takes a strategic view of the needs of disabled people.

Finally, people need support when they are disabled, but quite often those disabilities are preventable, whether they be caused by illness or accident—road traffic accidents are devastating. What will DFID do to reduce the incidence of disability? Yes, we must provide for those who are disabled, but we must also help to reduce the incidence of disability. The consequences of female genital mutilation can be catastrophic, as can the consequences of disease. We have had that debate, but it is relevant in this context. I draw out mental illness and incapacity, on which we took specific evidence. Mental illness is a major problem. Frankly, poor people have a higher chance of suffering mental illness, yet that is almost unrecognised—it is stigmatised. I ask that mental illness and mental disability be included in the strategy.

I have some practical suggestions. I say that I speak on behalf of the deaf community, but there are others with specific disabilities. Surely we can provide cost-effective access to wheelchairs, hearing aids and hearing tests, simple interventions on sight, and so on. How will that be built into the strategy, so that we can create partnerships? I suggest cross-Government and cross-society partnerships, because it should not all be down to DFID, although DFID can provide the leadership.

In order to ensure that other colleagues have an opportunity to speak, I will finish by saying two things. I am glad that the Committee undertook this report. More evidence was submitted to this inquiry than to any other we have done. The engagement and participation of disabled people throughout the process has been very strong. They were passionate about the need for the strategy. Having had a slight stand-off with the Department, we can honestly say that the disability framework is more than we might have expected, provided it is delivered. I therefore commend the report, and the Government’s response, to the House. I hope the Minister will be able to answer some of my questions, because a wonderful declaration is meaningless without a series of measures and reports that enable us to make progress. I hope that in five years’ time disability will be mainstreamed and that the UK, once again, will have a leading role across the world in encouraging others to do the same.

This is not a minority issue. As the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) has said, around 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, are disabled. The vast majority of those people, 80%, live in developing countries, where one household in every four has a disabled member. The marginalisation of those families holds back entire communities. Disabled people, for example, are three times as likely to be denied health care and more than six times as likely to be out of school.

As we have heard, if we meet the poorest person in a community or village in a developing country, they will almost certainly be disabled, but it can be even worse than that, as I discovered when I was invited to meet a leper colony in Tanzania. Those people were not within their community; they were outside their community. They were living on the charity of some of the poorest people on Earth, and they were in the terrible situation of being ostracised, which is the opposite of the inclusivity we have almost come to take for granted in our own culture in this country. There is an awfully long way to go on this issue in many developing countries.

That is why the Committee is so welcoming of DFID’s new disability framework. The Government have accepted and endorsed many of the report’s key recommendations. I repeat the Chairman’s question to the Minister: what is DFID going to do to reduce the incidence of disability caused by, for example, disease? Leprosy is just one example. We hardly ever hear talk of leprosy. I am sure many people in our country think it is a disease that occurred only in biblical times, but it is very real for the people I met. They were crawling, walking on stumps and managing on crutches. Leprosy is a terrible disease that can be treated and, indeed, prevented. Will the Minister look at this issue and consider what can be done to reduce the incidence of disability resulting from leprosy?

We are talking about helping the poorest of the poor when we commit to helping the disabled in developing countries. I commend the new disability framework, and I commend DFID for setting far-reaching plans to make its programmes more accessible to disabled people, strengthening its disability teams, providing extra disability training and taking a strong stand with external partners. All of that is welcome.

Like the previous speaker, I will be brief, but I will touch on recommendation 13 in our report, which flows into recommendation 14. Recommendation 13 states:

“DFID has taken an important symbolic step with its new commitment”

in 2013

“to make all directly-funded school buildings accessible to disabled children.”

However, we said that we wanted DFID to show more ambition and recommended that it

“choose one or two substantial sectors (e.g. health or education), and a small number of countries, to focus on. Within these chosen areas, it should then pledge to give disabled people full access to all its programmes.”

In response, the Government said that they

“will make further specific sectoral commitments in 2014 as we did in 2013 when we committed to making all directly-funded school buildings accessible to disabled children.”

As we are just a few days away from the end of 2014, can the Minister update the House on DFID’s progress on those “specific sectoral commitments”?

I will not speak for long, partly because, unlike every other hon. Member here in the Chamber, I am a complete international development novice, and partly because I am somewhat lacking in voice. However, I am not a novice with respect to disability policy, given that I am shadow Minister with responsibility for domestic disability policy. I particularly wanted to ensure that links between domestic and international policy are firmly on the table, as they are much alike in terms of the issues and challenges we face.

I am a bit less of a novice than I would have been if this debate had taken place six weeks ago, because I have just had the great privilege of visiting Rwanda as a parliamentary intern, under the auspices of Voluntary Service Overseas. I acknowledge the tremendous experience that VSO gave me—I am sure other hon. Members in this Chamber have had similar opportunities—and I place on record my interest, which is recorded in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I, too, thought that the disability framework produced by DFID in response to the excellent Select Committee report was an impressive piece of work, and I know it has been widely welcomed among disability organisations. It identifies all the right challenges that both international and domestic social policy must get to grips with. Other hon. Members have discussed the link between disability and poverty, which is often driven by worklessness, children missing education as a result of their condition, and thereby being prevented from achieving their full economic potential. Disabled people also experience poorer health outcomes and health service. As other hon. Members have mentioned, disabled people also face stigma, exclusion and isolation.

In addressing these issues, I want to highlight a few of the similarities—the read-across—between domestic and international policy, which I hope the Minister will find of interest. The UK, like many of our international development partner countries, is signed up to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. That rights-based framework—that lens—for how we develop our policy is important, and I hope he will say a little about how DFID perceives it and what he and his Department mean by giving reality to disabled people’s rights.

For me, an important example of that rights-based approach is people’s right to live independently and to live the life they choose. I am interested to hear how DFID is applying in different cultural contexts what might be perceived as a western cultural norm of independence and living one’s own life. I have come back from that visit understanding the clear importance of the family and family life in all international and domestic settings. It is also pretty clear to me that institutional life is rarely good for people in any international or domestic setting. I would be particularly interested to hear what the Minister has to say about DFID’s attitude to that.

I echo what the Chair of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), said about the importance of disaggregated data. He said that there are 1 billion disabled people in the world, which highlights how important it is to improve data collection. When I was in Rwanda, I was told that people with disabilities accounted for some 6% of the population. I am surprised that that number is so low. In this country, where one would expect the incidence to be lower, it is actually higher, some 10% to 12%. Frankly, I suspect that there is massive under-recording, even in respect of the worrying figure given by the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot highlight enough the importance of DFID’s role in supporting effective data gathering, monitoring and validating mechanisms. Without those, we are developing policy and programmes somewhat in the dark.

I am pleased to see in the framework a reference to co-production, an ugly word for an important concept. Can the Minister confirm that co-production will not relate just to programmes specifically dealing with impairment and for persons with disabilities? Bringing disabled people into the development and preparation of every programme funded by DFID would ensure that they have their say in how all DFID programmes develop, so that in every case, every bit of DFID spending reaches everybody, including those with disabilities, even if the programmes are not designed specifically for them.

The other issue in which I take great interest, particularly informed by my history before coming to this House and my few days in Rwanda, is the relationship and engagement with non-governmental organisations and civil society. While I was in Rwanda, I had the privilege of spending most of my time working with civil society organisations through their umbrella organisation, the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda. My experience was that there is quite a lot of work to do to support local civil society organisations.

The Chair of the Select Committee is absolutely right to distinguish between disability organisations, which are often big national and international names, and genuinely grassroots, disabled people-led organisations, which are less random in their approach than simply consulting a few disabled people. They involve an element of representation and organisation, but they offer a much more lived and real experience. That is not to decry the importance of the analytical approach taken by some of the bigger organisations, which is also valid; but we must hear the voices of those with lived experience.

Civil society bodies certainly exist in Rwanda that could provide help, but disabled people’s understanding of the mechanisms by which they could participate in and influence policy and the political process was underdeveloped. I invite DFID to consider how, in supporting building the capacity of NGOs and civil society, it could build effective advocacy capacity that is plugged into the political decision-making process in each of the countries and settings in which DFID delivers programmes.

Like other hon. Members present, I think the 2015 sustainable development goals offer a tremendous opportunity that we missed when preparing the millennium development goals. That opportunity is observably on offer now, as a number of the draft goals being discussed refer to disability. It is important that we ask Ministers to be utterly vigilant in protecting all the references to disability within whatever SDG framework eventually emerges.

We know how effective internationally agreed ambitions can be from the progress made following the millennium development goals on gender issues, and from the progress made on women and girls. I say to the Minister that this is an important line of argument that needs to be sustained on the SDGs, and I hope the Government will take a strong line on ensuring that the emerging framework reflects that.

I welcome the fact that the issue of disability and development has come into the spotlight, and I want to convey, through the Minister, to his Department and its staff that in Rwanda the work of DFID is very well regarded, and we as a country ought to be proud of that. I therefore hope that we will want to build on that strong reputation, and that the UK will continue to be a staunch and vocal champion of the rights of disabled people in developing economies.

I also ask the Minister to tell his ministerial colleagues in other Departments that what we are doing in developing countries is not just something we offer, but something from which we ourselves can learn and develop back here at home. Development is not a one-way trade, and nor is aid. We can learn much from our partner countries as they develop their own domestic strategies, sometimes with the aid of DFID’s support. But believe me, I saw in Rwanda a scale of ambition, commitment and willingness to vocalise and mainstream policy, in order to address the disadvantage and exclusion that disabled people face, that it would be really nice to see in our own country. I hope the Minister will consider how he can learn from other countries to inform our own domestic policies.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, and it is also a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green). I reiterate what she has just said, because we can learn from what we see of practice in developing countries.

I say that because one of the most memorable visits that I have ever made while I have been on the International Development Committee was to a hospital in Kabul that was run by the International Committee of the Red Cross. It was an outstanding place that cared for people with disabilities, substantially those who suffered from injuries caused by the conflict in Afghanistan. However, what was so remarkable about that hospital was that an extremely high percentage—the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), the Chairman of the Committee, will correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was more than 90%—of the several hundred hospital staff, including the chief executive, themselves had disabilities. They were an outstanding group of people doing absolutely great work. Sometimes we in this country could learn from the way in which the ICRC had organised that hospital, so that people with disabilities were not just on the sidelines but were absolutely at the heart of providing services to other disabled people.

Disability is also a fairly personal issue for me, because my father was disabled. It was only after his death that I discovered that our family nearly emigrated to Australia because, as a disabled man, he could not find work in this country. Fortunately, at the last minute he became a clerk in holy orders; a church in London offered him the role and he served there for 25 years. However, it took him a long time to find that role, because in the 1960s disabled people were, to some extent, marginalised in this country. It is tremendous that we have moved on so far in this country, although we still have considerably more to do.

I will focus on two aspects of this debate. The first is jobs and livelihoods. I have already mentioned the hospital in Kabul. However, 1 billion jobs are required in the world in the next 10 years, so sometimes the temptation can be to think, “Well, it’s difficult enough to create jobs and livelihoods for people who are able-bodied. How on earth are we going to be able to do so for people who are disabled?” But that is absolutely not the point. The point is, as the DFID framework recognises, that the issue of disability must be integral to every programme; it must not be an add-on. If we just leave things as an add-on, they will be parked in the “too difficult” place; we will be so engaged with the sheer process of trying to create jobs and livelihoods that anything on top of that will be too difficult to deal with. That must absolutely not happen.

The second aspect I will focus on is prevention. I chair the all-party group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases. We referred to NTDs in the first debate today. They affect the poorest people on this planet—something like 1.4 billion people in the course of a year. By NTDs, I mean worms, the so-called soil-transmitted helminths, Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis—sometimes known as elephantiasis—onchocerciasis and trachoma, leishmaniasis and indeed leprosy, which my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) referred to. In fact, NTDs not only affect the poorest people and cause morbidity and sometimes mortality, but they often cause disability. And they are eminently curable, or at least eminently preventable, often by very cheap interventions.

That is why I was thrilled that the last Government decided to make NTDs a priority, and this Government, through the London declaration on NTDs in January 2012, has continued that work, providing, I think, £240 million in total, including the money committed by the last Government, over a four-year period. I ask the Minister to ensure that that commitment to the prevention and treatment of NTDs is continued, because it has a huge impact on disability and the prevention of disability.

HIV/AIDS is another area where a lot of progress has been made, particularly in negotiations over the use of drugs, so that they are made available at a cheap price and so that countries’ health systems can afford to provide the antiretrovirals that were not available in the past. That must continue; there must be no let-up in the fight against HIV/AIDS or in providing support for sufferers in developing countries. There can be no two-tier world where we in the west have access to drugs that people in developing countries cannot access.

The Chairman of the Committee has talked about road safety. I am glad that in 2010-11 the Government had what I think was a change of heart on the provision of funding for road safety and decided to continue that funding. We were delighted about that, because the number of deaths on the roads in developing countries is enormous; it is in the millions. There are also tens of millions of disabilities caused by road accidents. I would like to hear from the Minister what progress is being made to ensure that all road programmes, whether we are talking about main trunk roads or rural roads, have a strong road safety component built into them.

When the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) and I were in Dodoma a couple of weeks ago, we met the Tanzanian Minister responsible for rural roads and DFID staff who were implementing an excellent rural roads programme in Tanzania. The point we made was that when roads, even rural roads, are in a poor state, people can travel on them at perhaps 10, 15 or 20 kph. If someone causes an accident on those roads, they might cause some form of injury. However, if roads are upgraded so that people can travel at 60, 70 or 80 kph along them, and if children—indeed, everyone—along the route are not educated about what is happening and the danger that the road now poses to them if they treat it as they did when it was full of potholes and only traversable by vehicles at 10 kph, we will see a tragic rise in injury and death from something that at the same time is bringing development. I ask the Minister to comment on that.

Finally, there is the question of armed violence. I have already referred to the violence in Afghanistan, which has caused so much disability there and, of course, among members of our brave armed forces who have been injured there. However, there are many conflict states in which DFID is rightly engaged and spending up to 30% of its budget. I stress the importance of this issue, and ask what work is being done, or continuing to be done, to ensure that the kind of things that cause disability, such as improvised explosive devices, are dealt with, because conflict is probably one of the single biggest causes of disability. With that, I conclude my remarks.

I congratulate the International Development Committee on its tremendous report. I thank the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), and the hon. Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) for their excellent contributions. As time is short, I will not go over territory that they have already covered. I am sure the Minister will address the points that they made in his reply. As I said in the previous debate, it is important that DFID shows global leadership on this issue to ensure that a key part of our development objectives, both as a country and through our partnerships in multilateral organisations, relates to people with disabilities.

I want to share a couple of stats with the Minister. An Australian Agency for International Development study found that only around 3% to 4% of people with disabilities actually benefit from current international aid programmes, despite the fact that one in four households has a disabled member. For far too many disabled people, having a disability means they will never get an education, never go into employment and never live independently.

In developing countries, 90% of disabled children never attend school. Sadly, the education goal in the millennium development goals will not be met, because as Handicap International notes, 19 million disabled children globally still do not go to school. It was only in late 2013 that DFID announced that schools built with its funding would have wheelchair access. Will the Minister say how many experts on disability currently work in DFID? The recently published framework, which we welcome, says that the central disability team has more than doubled. How many people who define themselves as disabled work in this team? The same goes for the disability expert group.

Real expertise and resources will be needed to ensure that the framework becomes a reality, as the Committee Chairman said, so although I welcome the framework, I would like to see disaggregated costs on a programme-by-programme basis, showing how this will be funded. This is a 12-month framework, so its success will need to be measured within a year. How will DFID act on its commitment to develop indicators and other mechanisms that allow it to track its investments, particularly as regards the promises set out in the disability framework? This will include being able to see exactly how disability is being included in DFID programmes; how many DFID programmes are collecting data on disability; the extent to which DFID staff have the capability to include disability in their work; the extent to which DFID is able to engage with multilateral partners in this area; and what UK development non-governmental organisations funded by DFID are doing on disability.

This year will be critical in setting the foundations so that DFID can set ambitious targets on what can be achieved in the following years, post the one-year framework. DFID should guarantee that all services and infrastructure that it helps support is fully accessible for people with disabilities, including schools, hospitals and water and sanitation facilities. That needs to go far beyond physical accessibility to ensure that all forms of communication and information are also accessible, including to those with motor, sensory and mental health issues.

The Committee recommended that the Government include more disabled people and groups in the design, development and delivery of programmes. What steps are being taken to include a representative portion of disabled people, so that they are involved in programme development? How many people have been employed under the guaranteed interview scheme so far? On that point, I welcome the Government’s setting that scheme up and congratulate them on doing so. That scheme means that any disabled individual who meets the minimum requirements will be guaranteed an interview. I also welcome the promise to develop guidance for training staff. Which DFID staff will undergo training? Will they be staff at all levels? Who will perform the training? Will disabled people be involved in giving that training?

On the important matter of engaging with disabled people’s organisations, obviously many of those will already have a working relationship with other arms of Government, including the Department for Work and Pensions, so what work is being done by DFID and the DWP to try to help build those relationships?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston would testify, many disabled people’s organisations have a difficult relationship with Government because of some of the changes coming through on welfare reform. How do we make sure that the difficult elements of the relationship do not impact on the positive work that the Government and DFID can do with those organisations?

The Committee Chairman mentioned stigma and discrimination, which are key issues for disabled people and their families, especially in relation to their going into employment or education. What work will be done to develop our education programmes, to try to tackle some of the cultural barriers and the stigma? That will not happen overnight. It will require work over many years. It is worth considering supporting not just people with disabilities, but their carers, as we do in this country. What work will be done in developing countries to ensure that we support carers?

We should not fall into the trap of thinking that only elderly people have disabilities. Many young people have disabilities as well. Indeed, there will be many young carers, so how do we support them? A child with a disability is three to four times more likely to be a victim of physical or sexual violence. Violence against women and girls with a disability is of particular concern. What will DFID do to ensure that programme staff include gender-sensitive disability staff?

On private sector development, of course we welcome the desire to have more people going into work, but according to Sightsavers, 80% of disabled people are unemployed in developing countries. As we look to develop the private sector, what specific work is being done to encourage people with disabilities into employment? What support are we giving the private sector to encourage people with disabilities to come into employment? Do we have any figures on how many disabled people have been supported into employment by the work that the Department has done regarding private sector development?

Finally, disaster management, including the Ebola crisis, was mentioned in the previous debate; what specific action is being taken to make sure that rather than looking at vulnerable people as a whole, we consider protecting disabled people in particular during disasters? Disabled people are often left behind in a disaster. What specific measures on that are put in place in our framework? What specific training is given to people providing disaster relief to ensure that disabled people do not feel the biggest impact of a disaster?

As always, we would welcome a response from the Minister on all these points. I apologise for the number of questions I asked; it was due to the short time I had to speak. I would quickly like to thank the Committee for its report.

I begin by dealing with the points raised about prevention. I agree entirely that it is highly appropriate. One principal area not touched on in the debate is the fact that for every birth that results in the death of either the mother or the child, 20 result in disability, so our emphasis on maternal health, and the health of women and girls, is fundamental to this. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) about the importance of dealing with disease. We continue our commitment to eradication of disease, including polio, and our work with Sightsavers. On roads, in Nepal we are putting barriers on to roads to reduce the number of accidents; that is an issue that we are alive to. With regard to conflict—my hon. Friend mentioned Afghanistan—we are putting significant funds into the International Rescue Committee to deal with rehabilitation and prostheses. This is an important part of the agenda.

I join the Committee Chairman, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce), in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone). This was a brief that she felt passionately about, and she made a singular contribution to it. She drove forward the issue of data and the ability to disaggregate. Just in October, she chaired a conference jointly with the United Nations on how we drive forward that agenda. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) asked about the progress we are making on data; I largely put down the progress we have made to the impetus that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green gave to that.

We are prioritising national data systems. We have just managed to get the Washington Group questions on disability incorporated into our programmes in Burma and Yemen. We are developing new guidance on disaggregating data at programme level, and we have an important new commitment to disaggregating data on humanitarian support and disability. It is true that if disabled people cannot be counted, the temptation is to think that they do not count. We have to be able to count them and disaggregate.

On the issue raised by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) about the post-2015 millennium development goals, she is absolutely right: we should not lose the gains in the language from the output of the open working group and the debates that surrounded that. I am not convinced that we need a specific goal on disability, although I understand that I may have implied that in an answer to a recent parliamentary question. The reason why we do not necessarily need that specific goal relates to the difference between what constitutes a strategy and what constitutes a framework. The strategy is that no one should be left behind. It is about inclusivity, an end to stigma and all moving forward to the same place. The framework is about how we deliver that. Of course we will have to paddle under the water a lot faster for our disabled people to get them moving forward at the same rate.

The Chair of the Select Committee is absolutely right: it is fundamental that we cannot tackle poverty, including extreme poverty, unless we tackle poverty among disabled people. “No one left behind” is the key strategy behind what we are attempting to do. We have made considerable progress on inclusivity. We have a number of separate programmes that deal specifically with the disabled, but equally we have programmes where we are having to incorporate the needs of disabled people. In 2013, we announced that any schools that we fund have to be accessible. This year, we have new sectoral commitments on water supply and humanitarian programming, but there is no doubt that the International Development Committee set us some challenging goals. We have doubled the number of people working on the team and appointed a new champion, but in my estimation, overwhelmingly the most important thing we have done is produce the framework document.

I am surprised by the criticism levelled at the discussion with and involvement of disabled groups. We work very closely with disabled groups. The Department works with some 400 disability groups. In drawing up the disability framework, discussing it and getting it to the state it is in, we worked with disabled people’s organisations, including organisations of disabled people—not people representing the disabled—in Rwanda and Mozambique. In this country, we worked with disabled people’s organisations, but also—this, I suspect, is where the tension comes in—with the Bond Disability and Development Group. We included both.

I want to clarify exactly what I was suggesting. Based on what I was told in Rwanda, I absolutely recognise what the Minister said. Rwanda was one of the consultee countries in preparing the framework, and civil society organisations were able to have input. My point was that that needs to be replicated in how those organisations are facilitated and enabled to work with their national Government. From my observation, that is not happening in Rwanda. DFID has a role in thinking about how it uses the framework to replicate what he says was done in its preparation here.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The framework is not only to inform us, but to inform how we work with our partners, be they Governments or multilateral organisations. It is our key response. It was published on 3 December and will be published every year. The Chair of the Committee asked for an annual stocktake. The framework is a living document, and we will change and update it all the time to ensure that it works, but clearly we need an annual review as well. I would have thought that the ideal way to deal with that would be to have an annual session with the Select Committee, in which it interrogates the performance and the progress made.

There are not any targets in the document, as the Chair said, but that is because it is the first one and we are feeling our way, to an extent. It would be wrong to put targets in until we have bedded the thing down and seen the progress that we have made. We will use the document to build understanding of disability into every single member of staff, so that every single member of staff can take responsibility for ensuring that the principle of “No one left behind” is built into every one of our programmes. We will work with our multilateral partners to ensure that, and to make sure that they are taking account of disability. As part of that, we will develop the disaggregation of data.

There will be special provision for the agenda for women and girls who are in double jeopardy as a result of disability and being female, and the stigma that attaches to that. We will continue to prioritise research and evidence on what works in low-resource economies. The Chair of the Select Committee drew specific attention to mental health, and that is an area where we have to raise our game with the agenda. To that end, we have launched a study called the Programme for Improving Mental Health Care, in which we work specifically to see what we can do on mental health issues in low-resource economies.

I believe fundamentally that the framework is one of the most important things on our agenda, and it is vital to drive it forward. I recall having a conversation with a constituent who was disabled. She was giving advice on what was needed for a particular project. She said to me bluntly that people did not want our pity; they wanted our help, not only so that they could be self-sufficient and do what other people do, but so that they could be contributors to their community. The ambition of “No one left behind” has to be that disabled people become an asset to their communities and not a burden on them.

I thank all colleagues from all parts of the House who have taken part in this debate. I said at the beginning that the shortness of the debate does not in any way qualify the importance of this big initiative. I am grateful to the Government for their response, and to the Minister for his response and his tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone). I feel encouraged that we will get real progress. Our Committee’s legacy will be to ensure that our successor Committee comes back next year to monitor that. I believe that we have made a good partnership with the Department and we look forward to seeing real progress.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting adjourned.