Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 621: debated on Wednesday 22 February 2017

This year the world faces numerous humanitarian crises, to which I have already referred. Parts of South Sudan are now in famine and there is a credible risk of famine in Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia. That is why today I have announced new packages of support. The UK’s message to the world is clear: we need to act now to help innocent people who are starving to death.

Can my right hon. Friend be more specific about measures her Department is taking to help to address the potential crisis that is developing in Somalia, South Sudan and other countries in the region?

Specifically, our focus right now is on emergency food and water. That is where the need is. We are talking about more than 1 million people in both countries who need urgent support. They are the focus of our attention right now. Obviously, working with our partners, we will make assessments to see what additional support we will need to continue to put in.

The Rohingya are among the most persecuted people in the world today. In recent weeks and months, they have faced new waves of violence perpetrated by the Burmese Government. How much of the £95 million budget for the Burma project will go towards much-needed assistance for the Rohingya, and what steps are the Government taking to ensure that that happens?

We absolutely agree that the situation for the Rohingya is deeply troubling. We are dealing with it in different ways. I raised it personally on my last visit to Burma with the Minister of Home Affairs and Aung San Suu Kyi. DFID staff are accessing the Rohingya areas and we continue to work with Kofi Annan and the UN system, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that it is vital that we get humanitarian access and support to the Rohingya population.

T2. Action on Poverty, a charity based in my constituency, is doing great work in Sierra Leone, empowering women by providing loans for businesses. In the run-up to International Women’s Day, what work is the Department doing on gender inequality in the developing world? (908781)

The UK has much to celebrate when it comes to global leadership on gender equality. Of course, International Women’s Day will be another strong example of that. We not only continue to champion the rights of women and girls but, importantly, support them in their own economic development and empowerment prospects.

T3. The UK and Italy have the largest number of very restrictive tax treaties with poor Asian and African countries, harming their economic development. Will the Secretary of State press her Treasury colleagues to review these treaties? (908784)

I did not fully hear the question, but I did hear the most important point, which was that of Africa and economic development. The British Government, through UK aid, are at the forefront of leading the way when it comes to prosperity and economic development. We will continue to do exactly more of that. [Interruption]

Order. We are discussing matters affecting some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet. Let us have a bit of order for Mary Robinson.

T6. Like many Members, I have visited the UNICEF-run Zaatari camp in Jordan, where almost 80,000 refugees have settled since being forced from Syria. Overwhelmingly, the children I spoke to had wonderful aspirations to become doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches these camps and helps refugee children to get the education they need? (908787)

My hon. Friend is right to raise this important issue. Education is crucial in the camps but also in the region. In both Jordan and Lebanon we have helped to support more than 200,000 children to have access to education. The UK, once again, is leading the way to enable more and more children to go to school in the region.

T4. On Sunday, the Israeli military authorities issued 40 demolition notices on the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied Area C of the west bank. If this happens tomorrow, it will mark a dramatic escalation of the demolitions and will compromise DFID’s actions in the region. Can I ask the Government to call on the Israeli authorities to cease— (908785)

This is an issue that the hon. Gentleman and I have discussed on a number of occasions. We remain absolutely clear, as the British Government, that it is necessary both to protect the security of the Government of Israel and to ensure that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people are protected. We will continue to work carefully to monitor illegal demolitions.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is a unique body created to scrutinise DFID. What assurances can Ministers give that the forthcoming review of ICAI’s own performance will be conducted independently of the Department that it scrutinises?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the tailored review of ICAI will be carried out in accordance with the guidance that has been set very clearly for the reviews of non-departmental public bodies, including all the relevant and appropriate levels of independence.

T5. As we approach Fairtrade fortnight, what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that fair trade is at the heart of our new trade deals? (908786)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the importance and significance of fair trade. This is at the heart of everything that we in DFID stand up for, in terms of principles and values. In our economic development work, that is exactly what we are championing throughout DFID.

Daesh continues to commit genocide against the Yazidi people. May I ask the Secretary of State what aid is being targeted to support Yazidi men and women?

My hon. Friend will have heard my earlier response about the persecution of minorities in conflict areas, particularly with regard to the middle east crisis. We are working with all our partners to ensure that the Yazidi people are receiving aid and protection through our partnership-working on the ground.