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Gaza

Volume 592: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2015

1. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the tripartite mechanism for the reconstruction of Gaza. (907427)

We are supporting the temporary Gaza reconstruction mechanism to facilitate the import of construction materials into Gaza. Almost 40,000 people have now been able to buy materials to repair their homes. There is still a lot more to do, but the mechanism is a step in the right direction.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the UN needs to take action to ensure that all the building materials going into Gaza are used to alleviate the dire conditions of the Gazan people, rather than diverted by Hamas for military purposes?

The right hon. Lady is quite right to raise that as an issue to be considered. There is no evidence at the moment to suggest that what she is worried about is happening. In addition, part of our support for the reconstruction mechanism has been to fund a monitoring process so that the right checks can be made to avoid such things happening.

I listened carefully to what the Secretary of State has said. How on earth does she know that Hamas is not using such material to build tunnels for terrorist purposes? How do we know?

There is a mechanism to check and control the materials as they come into Gaza. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise the very difficult issues involved in reconstruction. Even with the mechanism in place, we expect reconstruction to take two to three years. Ultimately, the alternative to not using this sensible mechanism is for Gazans who have been forced out of their homes and have lost their homes simply to have nowhere to live. That situation is clearly not sustainable—it would certainly not be good for the many children who live in Gaza—and we are therefore right to be taking action to address it.

Has the right hon. Lady seen early-day motion 746, standing in my name and those of other right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House? It salutes the Big Ride from Edinburgh to London by 1,000 cyclists, which will take place later this year to provide funds for the Middle East Children’s Alliance, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping deprived children who are war victims in Gaza. The right hon. Lady has an admirable record on this issue. Is she willing to give her support to the Big Ride?

I was not aware of the early-day motion that the right hon. Gentleman mentions. I will certainly take a look at it. It sounds as if it is a very valuable fundraising effort. As I have set out, we are absolutely determined to play our part in supporting the Palestinian Authority to enable it steadily to rebuild after the conflict in Gaza.

Many of my constituents, including a group called Knighton Action for Peace and Justice, have grave concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. How are the Government using their influence to encourage Israel and Palestine to reach a more satisfactory agreement about water resources in the occupied territories?

A significant amount of infrastructure was damaged during the crisis over the summer. Part of the £20 million we committed at the reconstruction conference attended by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is to help to replace the infrastructure that has been lost. All the discussion and debate we can have today is simply palliative while a long-term political settlement is being reached, which is the only thing that can in the end improve the long-term prospects of people living in that part of the world.

Some 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the most recent crisis in Gaza, and flooding, heavy snow and plummeting temperatures have now intensified the terrible conditions faced by Palestinian men, women and children. While I was in the Occupied Palestinian Territories last month people were literally freezing to death because they struggled to get hold of the materials they need to rebuild. Will the Secretary of State explain why her Government pledged £20 million to help such efforts, but have so far disbursed only a quarter of that figure?

It is important that the hon. Gentleman reflects on the broader assistance that we provide. As he will be aware, over the summer we provided £17 million of emergency assistance. I have talked about the £20 million that we have pledged to the Gaza reconstruction mechanism, which we are in the process of delivering. He will be aware that from 2011 to 2014, we pledged significant resources of about £350 million. We are one of the leading supporters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides key day-to-day services. He is right to draw attention to the conditions in which people are living. That is why we provide so much support, of which I am sure he is supportive.