Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 619: debated on Wednesday 11 January 2017

Whether by giving to Syrian refugees, providing access to food or clean water, or creating jobs across Africa, UK aid helps us to meet our obligations to the world’s poorest. Such investment is also firmly in Britain’s national interest because it tackles the root causes of global problems while focusing on delivering world-class programmes that deliver value for money for UK taxpayers.

The Secretary of State has previously said that she is looking at allocating DFID funding to peaceful co-existence projects, including Save a Child’s Heart, whose valuable work brings Palestinians and Israelis together. Can she update the House on that very worthy project?

I am pleased to confirm that we are indeed working on a range of co-existence programmes in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to support tangible improvements, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State has said. The programme is now in its final design phase and will be launched at the beginning of the financial year. [Interruption.]

Order. I understand the air of anticipation in the Chamber just before Prime Minister’s questions, but I remind the House that we are discussing matters that affect the poorest people on the face of the planet. They should be treated with respect.

The protection of civilians in Aleppo must remain our absolute priority, but if we are to provide food, water, shelter and humanitarian relief to civilians who, for four years, have faced the horrors of an inhumane war, we need to ensure that the ceasefire, although currently holding, remains more than a brief pause. Can the Secretary of State therefore say what efforts the Government are making to ensure that conflict does not reignite in Aleppo? What contingency plan does DFID have in place to continue providing aid to civilians should the conflict reignite? We must not see humanity in meltdown again.

The hon. Gentleman is right that the UK will do everything it possibly can to support the current ceasefire and, importantly, to safeguard humanitarian support in the region, too. That is down to our diplomatic tools and diplomatic efforts, but, importantly, we are also making sure that all agencies work together to deliver the vital humanitarian support that is required.

T3. No self-respecting Conservative believes that we should be judged simply on how much we spend on something. Spending a guaranteed amount of money each year on overseas aid leads to waste and excess such as the £1 billion spent each year on consultants. When can we get back to some common sense and stop spending more and more on overseas aid every year when the money could be much better spent at home? (908014)

Like all Conservatives, I, too, want to focus on making sure that every penny of taxpayers’ money goes to helping the world’s poorest, which is exactly the mission of our Department. At the same time, my hon. Friend will know that overseas development assistance saves lives and transforms lives. He specifically refers to money spent on consultants, which is something that my Department is currently reviewing. [Interruption.]

Order. The Secretary of State’s replies must be heard with courtesy. It is rather alarming when some of her own Back Benchers are not according her the proper respect. She must be accorded the proper respect.

T2. We receive much lobbying on the Israeli and Palestinian need for delivery on the ground, but what is the Minister of State’s assessment of the effect of terrorism and how difficult it makes it to deliver on the ground to those in real need, whether it is education or humanitarian aid? (908013)

The hon. Gentleman makes a fundamental point. We have talked a great deal about demolitions and settlements, but the only long-term stability in that region requires protecting the security of Israel as an absolutely essential plank, along with guaranteeing an autonomous, independent Palestinian state.

T6. The most sustainable aid is aid through trade. Will the Secretary of State therefore ensure that, when we leave the European Union and the customs union, we give top priority and free access to our markets to exports from the poorest countries? (908017)

My hon. Friend will know that our priority is, of course, economic development and making sure that, through our aid, we are delivering long-term sustainable economic development and prosperity in everything we do. He is also right to note that DFID is working across the Government as we leave the European Union to look at unilateral trade preferences and the work we can do to grow our trade footprint across the world.

T4. Unlike the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), we in the Scottish National party welcome the fact that OECD data show that, last year, the UK was one of only six countries to meet the 0.7% aid target. That, of course, includes the Scottish Government’s international aid fund. What assurances can the Secretary of State give that her Government’s commitment to that target is unwavering and will continue to be fulfilled beyond the next general election? (908015)

We have been unequivocal in our commitment to 0.7% and, in addition, it is a manifesto commitment. Let me restate again, for the benefit of the House, that the focus of my Department is on poverty reduction and on ensuring that that money is spent to drive taxpayer value and deliver programmes for the poorest in the world.

I call Pauline Latham. The hon. Lady wanted to ask a question earlier. Is she no longer inclined to do so?

I am here. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The Select Committee visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year and saw the amazing work done by the CDC, which is creating not only more energy for millions of people, but a lot of jobs. May we encourage the CDC to do even more schemes like that?

I thank my hon. Friend very much for paying tribute to the incredibly important role of the CDC. By bringing the rigour of the private sector with the genuine values of the public sector, we have demonstrated in the DRC the ability to provide hydro power that benefits thousands of people. I also wish to pay testament to the Chair of the International Development Committee for his tribute to that project in particular.

T5. Will the Secretary of State reconsider her Department’s decision to cut every single penny of spending on co-existence projects, which bring the Israelis and Palestinians together and lay the foundations for a peace process and two-state solution? (908016)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He will have heard in the previous responses our commitment to co-existence programmes and how they will not just drive the right values, but help to bring the two communities together in a very constructive way—this is in addition to our focus on targeted spending on public schemes such as health and education programmes within the region.