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UK Aid

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 21 November 2018

3. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that UK aid is allocated to where it is most needed. (907727)

7. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that UK aid is allocated to where it is most needed. (907731)

UK aid rightly makes a huge difference in crisis or disaster situations, but what steps are taken to ensure that it is deployed most effectively in those circumstances?

Of course, that is something we have to be constantly vigilant about in all our spending, but I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the fact that we were successful in changing the OECD’s rules, so if a hurricane hits a relatively prosperous country and brings its income down, we can spend aid there as well.

Last week, Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired as many as 460 rockets towards Israeli civilian communities. Does the Minister share my concern that Hamas’s continued misuse of international aid worsens the suffering of the people of Gaza? How can she be sure that UK taxpayers’ money is reaching those who need it most?

Of course the UK Government strongly condemn Hamas’s rocket firing and are deeply concerned about the civilian casualties. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the UK has zero tolerance and needs to be constantly vigilant. We do not fund Hamas, of course, but we need to be extremely careful to ensure that UK aid reaches the intended beneficiaries.

11. Because of DFID’s priority to get money to where it is most needed, this country has committed vast resources to the conflict in Syria. In addition, the Home Office says that about 10,000 Syrians are now in Britain. Is DFID prepared to bring the voices of those 10,000 Syrians in Britain together and hear from them about what they think should now happen in Syria, which is their country after all? (907735)

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s consistent campaigning on the issue. She is right to draw attention to the important role that UK aid has played in the humanitarian response in Syria. I am sure that she and other hon. Members will continue to make sure that the voices of Syrian refugees in the region, and of those Syrians who have found a home here, will continue to be heard in this place.

A Save the Children report, published today, estimates that 85,000 children have died in Yemen in the last three years, which is equivalent to the entire population of under-fives in the City of Birmingham. Nobody doubts the Government’s commitment to give aid to Yemen, but the aid is not getting through. What can be done to make sure that the people of Yemen get that money?

I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman’s work on the issue. We have seen the important report today that drew that conclusion. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make a statement on Yemen later today. The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that the UK Government are doing everything we can, not only to fund the humanitarian response, but to resolve the logistical challenges that face those who want to deliver humanitarian aid.

Yes; I reassure my right hon. Friend that children in conflict zones—there are so many of them—will continue to be a priority. I reassure hon. Members, who may have read reports that the figure was as low as 2.5%, that we do not recognise that figure. Our response to protecting children in conflict zones goes way beyond that and forms a core part of what we do.

Order. I gently point out to colleagues that we have very little time on an occasion such as this.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) is travelling with the International Development Committee. Will the Minister confirm the Government’s policy on the UK’s continued membership of UNESCO? Does she accept that the educational and cultural work of UNESCO, both here and around the world, is of immense value and is a perfectly legitimate use of her Department’s budget? How would withdrawal from UNESCO enhance the Government’s vision of a post-Brexit global Britain?

May I reassure the hon. Gentleman—and perhaps encourage him not to believe everything he reads in the newspapers—that the UK continues to be a member of UNESCO? We continue to look to UNESCO to follow through on the reforms it promised to undertake. We continue to work with it on that.

In May, an International Development Committee report on official development assistance found that increasing amounts spent by other Departments had

“negligible targeting towards helping the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Just last week, the energy watchdog Platform reported UK aid being used to help oil, gas and fracking industries with their overseas market expansion. Does the Minister understand the growing concerns about the creeping, changing nature of the UK aid budget under this Government?

The hon. Gentleman is part of a Front-Bench team that does not seem to believe in the role of the private sector at all. The Government believe that to reach the sustainable development goals—some $2.5 trillion is needed to achieve them—we need to be able to crowd in investors into other sectors. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that we continue to put significant funding—some £5.8 billion—towards ensuring that more people around the world have access to clean energy.