Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 601: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2015

Last month, I was at the UN for its historic adoption of the 17 global goals. The UK played a key role in creating goals that are universal, inclusive and have a commitment to leave no one behind. At the World Bank annual meetings and with EU Ministers, the UK pressed for more support for Syrian refugees. Finally, at a Rotary event in Parliament last week, alongside my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), we recognised that for the first time there have been no polio cases in Africa for over a year, and just 51 cases of polio globally this year to date. That is incredible progress and we will finish off that job.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her Department recently winning a procurement award, beating several leading British private sector companies for the third year running. What more can she do to provide value for money in her Department?

I have been very keen to deliver value for money for the taxpayer. In fact, smarter procurement has saved DFID more than £400 million over the past four years alone. We are now looking at how we can make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to work with DFID and at how we can get better value for money from our work with non-governmental organisations and UN agencies.

T2. As a result of the ongoing conflict in Yemen, 21 million people now are in desperate need of aid. What is the Secretary of State doing to secure action by the UN Security Council to ensure the constructive engagement in peace talks by all parties to the conflict, to end the de facto blockade and to provide humanitarian access? (901853)

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this forgotten crisis. At the UN in September, I held a discussion with a range of stakeholders, including UN agencies, about how we can do a better job of reaching people in need, but that fundamentally requires a dialogue on how to achieve peace.

T5. Given that the Government of Somalia have now taken control of several towns and areas previously occupied by al-Shabaab, does the Secretary of State agree that it is crucial that effective local government services be put in place to win the support of local communities? What further support will DFID provide to support communities in this troubled area? (901856)

My hon. Friend is right that, as we hopefully achieve growing political stability in Somalia, we back that up by allowing a more federal approach to government. Indeed, DFID is pulling together programmes that will enable us to support local government to provide the basic services people depend on.

T3. Speaking about the situation in Palestine at the World Zionist Congress last week, the Israeli Prime Minister declared that Israel would have “to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future.” If Israel has no intention of allowing the creation of two states and prevents Palestinians from having equal rights in one state, what is left but apartheid, and what implications does that have for UK development policy? (901854)

It is vital that we get the peace process back on track, and I hope that the agreement at the weekend over Temple Mount and al-Aqsa will at least be the start of that process. However, the only way to address the issue the hon. Gentleman raises is to pursue a two-state solution.

T6. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what work her Department is doing to help failing and fragile states? (901857)

We have chosen to focus more work on helping fragile and failing states, tackling instability and helping people affected by conflict. It is not just the right thing to do for those people and their countries; it is also a way of keeping our own country safe, secure and prosperous.

T4. On 15 October, Human Rights Watch published a report on the deteriorating situation in Nepal. It documents more than 45 deaths in recent months and in particular criticises the Nepali police. Given that the Department is funding the Nepali police, will Ministers read the report and give a considered response to its findings? (901855)

The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. Our work alongside the Nepali police has been important in providing the conditions for us to ensure that humanitarian support can get to people affected by the earthquake, but he is right to raise concerns, and we will of course respond to them.

T10. Hampshire fire and rescue played a critical role in the immediate recovery efforts after the earthquake in Nepal. What steps have now been taken to ensure economic recovery in that country? (901861)

My hon. Friend is right that beyond providing initial emergency humanitarian aid, we now need to consider how we can help Nepal recover, and that includes investment in infrastructure, in particular, but also broader investment in energy and access to it and improving the business environment so that we can get investment into the country.

T7. Following the recent outbreak of violence in India-controlled Kashmir, can the Secretary of State reassure the House on what steps her Department is taking to protect freedom of religion and belief? (901858)

Much of our work is aimed at engendering stability in countries, but in the end, many of the issues that hon. Members raise need to be dealt with at a political level and require long-term political leadership to ensure that communities can live side by side. When that is in place, we have the best prospect for development.

The global humanitarian system is struggling to cope under the pressure of many crises in the world. What is Britain doing to reform the system so that it is fit for purpose for the years to come?

First, we are encouraging UN agencies to improve on value for money. Secondly, we are looking ahead to the world humanitarian summit in Istanbul next May, making sure that the international community and UN agencies have a better response to protracted crises, such as the one in Syria, where children are left with no education and people are left with no jobs. Those are the root causes of why migration is now taking place from that region.

T8. It has been more than a month since the sustainable development goals were agreed at the UN. When will the UK Government publish their plans for the implementation of the goals? What role will DFID play in co-ordination across Whitehall and the devolved Administrations? (901859)

First, we can be proud of the work the UK did in shaping those goals—it was very much led by the Prime Minister and his participation in the high level panel, which was set up by the UN Secretary-General. The UK meets many of the goals, but we, too, wanted those goals to be universal. We will now work on them domestically.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on her fantastic work on tackling female genital mutilation. Will she update the House on what further steps she will take to tackle the equally abhorrent practice of breast ironing?

I put improving the prospects for women and girls at the heart of everything that DFID does. It is vital that women have voice, choice and control in their lives. That is at the centre of DFID’s development programmes and what we do in our humanitarian support, and it will continue to be so.

I welcome DFID’s recent announcement of increased support to the urgently needed humanitarian relief operations in Yemen. Will the Secretary of State comment on the effectiveness of this aid, given that the UK Government are simultaneously supporting the coalition that is currently carrying out indiscriminate bombings in civilian areas, including on a Médecins sans Frontières-run facility on Monday night?

The long-term solution to helping people in Yemen will be a political process that delivers peace. The hon. Lady is right to highlight the dire humanitarian situation, which leaves 80% of people in Yemen in need. I assure her that we are working on not only improving access for aid getting into the country, but on ensuring that when it does get there it can get around the country to communities in need—that is particularly the case for fuel, which is desperately needed.