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Topical Questions

Volume 609: debated on Wednesday 4 May 2016

Three weeks ago at the World Bank spring meetings in Washington, we discussed the central role that development plays in tackling the root causes of migration, terrorism and conflict. I should inform the House that no representative I met thought it would be a good idea for the UK to leave Europe. Last week in Kenya, I saw at first hand how our support for refugees and for creating livelihoods for young people is not only the right thing to do for them, but firmly in our national interest, allowing people to stay in their home region.

On my recent visit to India, I saw the fantastic work being done by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and others to vaccinate children against polio, which has now been eradicated in India. What is the Government’s assessment of the shortfalls of the global vaccine action plan as set out in the 2015 assessment of the strategic advisory group?

We have seen the group’s report, and we think it addresses some key issues and is realistic. It is also worth pointing out that the number of cases of polio in the world this year is down to a handful. We are within touching distance of seeing this terrible disease eradicated from our planet for the first time in history.

Last month, I visited Somaliland in the horn of Africa to see for myself some of the effects of the drought that has swept southern and eastern Africa and some of the 36 million people facing hunger. I met desperate people who need food, water and shelter. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that this drought does not become a famine?

The hon. Lady raises an important issue, which underlines the fragility of many countries in Africa which, while on the path to development, face challenges such as El Niño. Specifically in Somalia, we have made additional funding available to tackle this humanitarian crisis to try to do precisely what the hon. Lady suggests, which is so important.

T2. Does my right hon. Friend agree with VSO that the generous amount of money that the British people give in overseas aid has transformed the lives of children throughout the world as well as, in particular, in developing countries? (904838)

Yes, I do. We have supported 11 million children into school over the last five years and distributed 47 million bed nets, which has seen malaria deaths fall by two thirds over the last 15 years. We are helping 60 million people to get access to better water and sanitation. VSO, of course, is delivering a fantastic project for the International Citizen Service, too.

T3. People are fleeing war zones in developing countries across the globe. Will the Government now heed Lord Dubs and Sir Erich Reich, two prominent Kindertransport children, and think again about providing sanctuary for unaccompanied child refugees from Syria? (904839)

The hon. Lady will be aware of all the work that DFID has done in Syria and in the region, and it has been particularly focused on supporting children affected by that crisis. We should be proud of the fact that no member state has done more financially to support refugees arriving in Europe. As she will be aware, we are looking at how to continue to work harder on ensuring that we support children who are in Europe and unaccompanied.

T5. Does my right hon. Friend agree that her commendable efforts to improve sexual equality across the world would be made easier if organisations such as the Blackburn Muslim Association were not putting out information to people that women should not be allowed to travel more than 48 miles without a male chaperone? (904841)

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. I had a look at its website last night and, frankly, the view expressed on it is disgraceful and unacceptable. It has no place in Britain, and it is contrary to our British values. I think the Blackburn Muslim Association should very clearly and publicly withdraw those comments.

T4. The Secretary of State may be aware of the brutal murder of LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannanw in Bangladesh last month. He was hacked to death by Islamist activists. Is she aware that Amnesty International says that his was just one of four such murders last month? Will she tell me what we are doing to help the Government of Bangladesh to offer more protection to the LGBT community there? (904840)

The right hon. Gentleman has been as concerned as I have been about some of the terrible murders that have taken place in Bangladesh. It is important that we continue to work with the Bangladeshi Government to ensure that there is freedom of speech combined with the rule of law, and that the perpetrators of the murders are brought to justice.

T6. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our GDP would fall by more than 0.7% if we withdrew our investment from various stability projects around the world? (904842)

Absolutely. We know that conflict costs tens of billions of pounds of global GDP every year. We also know that simply enabling women to be more economically empowered would add tens of billions to global GDP every year, so what we are doing is not just good for the poorest people on our planet; it is in our national interest as well.