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Topical Questions

Volume 652: debated on Wednesday 9 January 2019

The current Ebola virus outbreak has claimed 377 lives in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to date, and more than 600 people have tested positive for the disease. The response effort has been good, but it has been hampered by terrible insecurity in the region, with many humanitarian workers under fire while trying to initiate vaccinations. More than 200 people have survived the virus and the rate of infection is slow. Yesterday, I spoke to Dr Tedros of the World Health Organisation, who has just returned from the country, about what more we can do to contain the outbreak over the next several months. The UK has stepped up its support in response to the situation in the DRC and its preparedness throughout the region. It is a critical time for other nations to do the same.

T3. The good news is that once we leave the European Union we can get rid of tariffs on products from our friends in the African world. What discussion have the Government had with African countries about increasing trade and development after Brexit? (908465)

The all-party group on vaccinations for all, of which I am a member, will release a report next week that highlights the fact that globally one in 10 children do not receive any of the 11 essential World Health Organisation-recommended vaccines. Does the Secretary of State agree that ensuring that all children are fully immunised should be a priority of this Government and vital organisations such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance?

I am extremely glad that the hon. Gentleman got to ask that question, because Gavi is our highest performing multilateral partner. It is absolutely right that we keep the programme strong. I shall visit Gavi’s Bognor Regis facility next week. Between 2016 and 2020, UK Aid will have vaccinated 76 million children, saving 1.4 million lives.

Mr Speaker, I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa is ready to answer Topical Question 3 without its having to be repeated.

May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) that there will indeed be scope not only to copy across the existing favourable trade arrangements but to increase the favourability in terms of access to the UK market for many of the poorest countries in the world post Brexit.

T2. Pregnancy and childbirth are incredibly dangerous times for women throughout the developing world, where the vast majority of maternal deaths take place. What more will the Secretary of State be doing this year to ensure that pregnant women and those in childbirth receive the same basic level of healthcare support that many of us here are able to take for granted? (908464)

Our commitment to global health is designed to ensure that focus is placed on the most vulnerable, and our support for sustainable health systems ensures that the work that is going on to improve maternity and pregnancy services in so many parts of the world is supported and bolstered by the work that we do both in country and multilaterally.

T5. Sadly, Ethiopia has one of the worst neonatal mortality records in the world. Will the Minister join me in thanking all those in Colchester, including the CHUFT Blanketeers, who have been busy knitting in support of my campaign to send thousands of knitted hats for newborn babies in Ethiopia? (908467)

Ethiopia is one of the countries in which the Department for International Development has extensive programmes. I am very pleased to hear that the good folk of Colchester are supplementing that work with this wonderful project to knit hats for babies.

T4. Without realising it, many Members of this House will own an item of clothing made by a slave from an overseas country. What more will the Secretary of State do to make sure that her Department, along with the Department for International Trade and its independent trade policy, tackles modern slavery not only at home but abroad? (908466)

Under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, we have led the charge on tackling modern slavery globally, including at the United Nations General Assembly this year where we increased our financial contribution to £200 million to combat the issue. Critically, we have also held events with the private sector, because it is only with the private sector and by ensuring transparency, knowledge and security across all of its supply chains that we can eradicate this terrible practice from the world.

T7. Will the Minister explain to the House what steps she is taking to improve primary education in Pakistan? (908469)

As the House will know, we work worldwide, including extensively in Pakistan, to fund education. Literally millions of children are accessing 12 years of quality education thanks to the work of the Department for International Development.

T6. Will the Secretary of State tell the House how much of the international development budget has been diverted to the Ministry of Defence? (908468)

I have good news for the hon. Gentleman because, even with our immense skills, it is impossible to spend any of the 0.7% on anything that is not official development assistance-eligible. I encourage all Opposition Members, as they hopefully join us to deliver the global goals, to start working for a change with the private sector and the armed forces, without which we will not be able to deliver the humanitarian relief that we wish to deliver or achieve those goals.

The US decision to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency support to Palestine risks vital education and healthcare services there. I welcome DFID’s decision to increase funding in the short term, but is that sustainable in the longer term?

We and other donors have moved very rapidly this year to seek to cover a shortfall in UNRWA funding. Work is going on to ensure that, in the long term, UNRWA is sustainable. Ultimately, though, the issue is not UNRWA, but the unresolved situation of refugees.

T8. Does the Secretary of State see the huge contradiction between the vital work that DFID does helping countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change and UK Export Finance continuing to subsidise billions of fossil fuel projects? (908470)

I assure the hon. Lady that, on climate change, we continue to improve access to clean energy for millions of people worldwide. That is an important part of the work that we do within our UK aid budget.

Order. Just before we begin Prime Minister’s questions, I hope that colleagues across the House will want to join me in welcoming to the House of Commons today the former Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central and now the Governor of the Punjab, our friend Mohammad Sarwar. Welcome Mohammad.