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Topical Questions

Volume 656: debated on Wednesday 20 March 2019

I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in expressing our concern at the loss and devastation following the deadly cyclone in southern Africa. In Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, hundreds of people have lost their lives and many more their homes. We pre-deployed aid, and the first UK relief flight arrived in Mozambique yesterday, delivering family tents and shelter kits for those forced to flee their homes. In Malawi, we are working with the World Food Programme to enable 140,000 people to access food, and in Zimbabwe, we are working with our partners to provide hygiene kits and essential medicines.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the aid that is being sent to Venezuela, whose people are facing horrendous shortages of food, electricity and medical supplies. Does she agree that, as well as sending aid, we need to send a message from both sides of this House that the failed hard-left socialist policies being pursued by that Government will always lead to economic ruin, wherever they are applied?

This is a tragic situation. It is a man-made crisis, and we are doing everything we can to support the response through the Lima Group. My hon. Friend is right. This is why it is important to remember that keeping economies strong is absolutely vital for human capital and the basics in life, and we must never ever let systems that do not support that take hold—

T3. On her recent visit to Bangladesh, did the Secretary of State discuss concerns about relocating refugees to Bhasan Char with the authorities? (909931)

Yes, I did. We looked at what the authorities were doing with the island and we expressed concerns about that and about the fact that many more people—the island will take only 100,000—need to be taken care of in this protracted crisis.

T2. Ellington Primary School is on a mission to make the world clear of minefields left behind after wars, and I have committed to helping it. I thank Ministers for the written answers they have given me so far. What are the Government doing to persuade the five countries in receipt of UK aid that are not yet signed up to the Ottawa convention to do so? (909930)

First, I congratulate Ellington Primary School on its work in joining the Department’s mission to help save the world from landmines, and in joining leading UK non-governmental organisations such as the Mines Advisory Group and the HALO Trust, which do fantastic work in this space. We constantly go to those who are not yet signed up to the Ottawa convention to ask them to do so. I hope my hon. Friend will take even further interest in this, and perhaps do some visiting, as I have done in the past.

T4. The Save the Children Fund has identified five things that this Government can do to help end the conflict in Yemen. Will the Government do them? (909932)

Last week, I held a telephone conference call with Lise Grande, the UN co-ordinator on Yemen, and a number of UN agencies. We are looking at everything we can do. This morning, I met humanitarian workers—women workers—from Yemen themselves. We will of course work even more closely with all our partners there and support UNICEF in all its work.

T8. What is the Department doing to support the people of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi after the recent cyclone? (909936)

My hon. Friend will be aware that yesterday we were able to announce a further £6 million of emergency funding, working with our partners, such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme and others on the ground, and we were also able to pre-position aid. I know that you, Mr Speaker, have kindly allowed an urgent question on this subject following Prime Minister’s questions.

T5. At the International Labour Organisation convention in June on ending violence and harassment in the world of work, will the Secretary of State commit, on behalf of the UK, to negotiating for protection for all workers, including those working in domestic and informal settings, and will she undertake to resist any attempts to water down or reduce the scope of the agreement? (909933)

In both the work we do through the ILO and some new work we are doing to support trade unions in developing countries, that absolutely needs to be at the heart of the agenda. Of course, the work that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has led internationally on modern slavery absolutely requires this issue to be at the heart of what we do.

The UK has been one of the biggest donors to the Education Cannot Wait fund since it was set up in 2016. What plans does the Minister have to replenish the ECW, and to maintain UK leadership for children in crises?

I thank my hon. Friend for his steadfast championing of this cause, to which we have been one of the leading contributors. I can announce today that we will be scaling up our support, but I cannot yet announce by exactly how much.

T6.   I support the idea of a UK hospital ship, but it must not be used as a raid on the aid budget. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that it will not be used as a raid, and that we will keep our 0.7% on aid, not military spending? (909934)

We cannot spend any of the 0.7% on military spending. That is the whole point of being in the DAC—Development Assistance Committee—club and committing to 0.7%. We are looking at Her Majesty’s Government maritime capability, which might help other Departments as well as us, but aid money will only be spent on aid.

The Dalitso project in my constituency has been collecting pads to make sanitary products for young women in Malawi. It has had a fantastic response from the community and is doing fantastic work. Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating that work to make environmentally friendly sanitary products for those who need them?

I congratulate my hon. Friend and that fantastic organisation on their work. In addition to congratulating them, both my Departments will provide support to make period poverty history in the UK and internationally.

T7. Given that the Commission on the Status of Women is taking place at the United Nations this week, what steps are the Government taking to explicitly recognise, promote and support the contribution of older women as part of their women’s economic environment agenda? (909935)

I thank the hon. Lady for that incredibly important question. We have a particular strategy in DFID that is looking at placing the empowerment, especially the economic empowerment, of women at its heart. I pay particular tribute to Lord Bates, who has been considering what more we can do for widows worldwide.

The UN Human Rights Council will vote this week on a one-sided motion that minimises Hamas’s role in the violent Gaza border protest last year. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the UK will continue to oppose one-sided resolutions, particularly given the horrifying scenes this week in Gaza, with brutal beatings of journalists and academics by Hamas?

The UK made clear some time ago that we would oppose matters under item 7 of the Human Rights Council’s determination, and we expect to do that. On Gaza, the international commission was unable to investigate non-state actors, but there is no doubt that the situation was serious, as Israeli authorities have also determined. The UK will maintain its position in relation to that.

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, the Secretary of State has given some limited assurances to NGOs accessing funds from the EU’s humanitarian fund that the Government will underwrite them in future. Are they prepared to do the same for NGOs that access funds for broader humanitarian work?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point. Yes, we are looking at widening that support. Our NGOs, whether they are humanitarian or work in other areas, are world class and we want them to continue to work in those settings, so we have issued those guarantees. However, I say to the hon. Gentleman that if he ever gets the opportunity, he knows what he can do to avoid a no-deal scenario.