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Topical Questions

Volume 607: debated on Wednesday 16 March 2016

This morning I arrived back from heading the UK delegation at the United Nations for the Commission on the Status of Women. I also took part as a member in the first meeting of the Secretary-General’s high-level panel on women’s economic empowerment. Women’s economic empowerment is the best poverty-tackling and global economy-boosting strategy out there.

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the devastating Syria conflict. Since day one, the UK has been at the forefront of the response, and that has included hosting last month’s conference. [Interruption.]

Order. I understand the sense of anticipation, but I just gently remind the House that we are discussing policy affecting some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet, and I think we owe them some respect.

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the UK has been at the forefront of ensuring that there is humanitarian support in Sri Lanka, where necessary. He will also be aware of the role that the Prime Minister played in tackling the issues faced by Tamil communities in a part of the country where there had been long-standing conflict. Under the new Government, we hope to see Sri Lanka move forward to a more peaceful, democratic future.

T4. How much UK aid is currently given to Turkey, and are Ministers having any discussions to increase that figure? (904144)

Since February 2012, DFID has allocated £35 million in Turkey. The country hosts about 2 million Syrian refugees, and we are helping it to support them, and indeed other displaced people, with food, education, and skills training. Looking ahead, we shall also contribute our share of the €3 billion EU-Turkey refugee facility.

Efforts that will address education are welcomed by Labour Members. However, to make substantial progress on achieving a good standard of education for all children in developing countries, we must address the barrier of child labour. In June 2015, UNICEF found that 13% of children aged five to 14 in developing countries are involved in child labour. What progress, therefore, is DFID making to help developing countries tackle the use of child labour?

The hon. Gentleman is right to mention the barriers that keep children out of school. DFID is working on many of them, not least female genital mutilation and child marriage. Many of the children he talks about are girls who often do unpaid work at home and on family farms.

T5. Bangladesh is a significant recipient of UK aid, yet last week the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission heard grave concerns about the shrinking civil society space there. What can Ministers do to help address this? (904145)

I can assure my hon. Friend that DFID and Foreign Office officials, together with other donors, raise concerns about the space for civil society with Governments, including the Government of Bangladesh. This is an incredibly important area. Non-governmental organisations funded by UK aid are active in negotiating with Governments to protect the space for civil society to operate.

T2. Over 150 charities have raised concerns about the supposed anti-lobbying clause attached to new Government grants. Does the Minister not recognise that advocacy is an intrinsic duty of charities in raising issues associated with poverty and ill health across the world? (904142)

I do not think these changes prevent charities from doing that, and they are often advocating the very same things as the UK Government in my area of international development. In fact, only yesterday I was at an event at the UN with charities combating child marriage.

T7. Senior Palestinian officials have condemned peace-building initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians, with one condemning football matches between Israeli and Palestinian youths as “normalisation of the Zionist enemy”. What representations has my right hon. Friend made to the Palestinian Authority to condemn these moves, and what moves is she making to build peace between Israel and Palestine? (904147)

As my right hon. Friend the Minister set out earlier, we deplore incitement on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We monitor allegations of incitement very closely and raise instances with both leaderships.

T6. Has the Secretary of State given, or does she envisage giving, any aid to any country in the European Union? (904146)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have played our role in supporting refugees who have fled the Syrian conflict and are now arriving in the European Union, and it is right that we do so. However, he is also perhaps right to say that we should also look to those countries to provide the support that they can, too.

T9. AIDS remains the No. 1 global killer of women of reproductive age. What more can DIFD Ministers do to ensure that tackling this remains a priority for this Government? (904149)

My hon. Friend is right. In fact, in 2013 statistics showed that an adolescent girl gets infected with HIV every two minutes. We very much put the empowerment of girls and women at the heart of our development agenda. We are the second largest funder of HIV prevention, care and treatment, and we have pledged up to £1 billion to the global fund.

T8. At the weekend, we saw pictures of a new-born Syrian baby being washed with just a bottle of water outside a crowded a tent in the Idomeni refugee camp in Greece, where more than 14,000 people are trapped as a result of the latest border closures. Will the Government work with other European states to ensure that there are safe and legal routes for refugees to claim asylum? (904148)

I assure the hon. Lady that, from an international development perspective, we are working to support people caught up in those situations, and we are, of course, playing our role in resettlement through our vulnerable persons relocation scheme.