Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 659: debated on Wednesday 1 May 2019

This is World Immunisation Week, and polio is on the brink of becoming the second human disease in history to be eradicated. The United Kingdom remains committed to that effort, helping countries such as Pakistan to reach every child with life-saving vaccinations. I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing deep sadness at the recent attacks on polio workers in Pakistan, which resulted in the deaths of two police officers and one polio vaccinator. Those tragic deaths highlight the immense personal bravery displayed by the people who deliver immunisations, and their commitment to ensuring that every child can be protected.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating my constituent Unathi Ndlwana on setting up the Funda Trust to improve educational opportunities for young people in South Africa, in memory of the loss of her child? Following the excellent meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa, any help that the Department could give us would be excellent.

I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in commending the work of the trust. My hon. Friend the Minister for Africa has told me about that meeting, and the Department will be in touch shortly to talk to him and the trust about how we can support its ongoing work.

T2. There is real concern that not enough is being done to help the people of Mozambique, particularly now that Cyclone Kenneth has struck. What is the Minister doing to ensure that global communities step up their response to the first cyclone relief fund, and do all that they can to remedy this humanitarian disaster? (910656)

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue, but I think we can be very proud of the work that the UK team in Mozambique is doing to deal not only with Cyclone Idai but, now, with Cyclone Kenneth. The team has been at the forefront in providing practical and financial assistance. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State held a meeting at the World Bank the week before last to look into attracting other donors to make longer-term reconstruction investments in Mozambique.

T3. It was World Malaria Day last week. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the UK’s contribution to the global fight against this preventable disease, which kills hundreds of thousands of children every year? (910658)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his leadership in this area. He has personally visited victims of malaria, and I know that he champions the UK’s leadership role and the £500 million a year that we are spending on preventing this terrible disease, which leads to the death of a child every two minutes in our world.

T4. Is the Secretary of State proud of the fact that the Home Office has denied a visa to the father of the chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, which means that he cannot travel from Afghanistan to see his son receive an honorary doctorate at the University of Glasgow? What message is sent to developing countries and developing democracies when the UK routinely denies visas to people who want to contribute to our society and tackle poverty around the world? (910659)

If the hon. Gentleman would like to give me the details of the case I should be happy to look into it—I think it is often possible to resolve such cases by talking to the relevant Minister.

T5. On a recent trip to Jordan, I was lucky enough to see a fantastic British-funded project at the UNESCO world heritage site of Jerash, where a stonemason from Barnsley was training Jordanians and Syrian refugees to restore ancient monuments. Does the Secretary of State agree that cultural aid, including continued support for UNSCO, is an important part of her Department’s budget? (910660)

I absolutely agree that supporting culture and heritage matters is incredibly important, not least because it helps generate and support a tourism economy and provides nations with further ways to alleviate poverty and grow their economies. The Department has a new initiative called Great Partnerships, which is pairing British expertise, as my hon. Friend outlined, with those who can benefit from that, and he has given a great example.

T6. With the continuing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, it is vital that the pledges of aid from Gulf countries and others that have been made are delivered. Will the Secretary of State do all she can to ensure that these notoriously bad payers actually cough up? (910661)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right, and I regularly have discussions with counterparts in those nations to encourage them to disburse funds, most recently with my Emirati opposite number; I had discussions with her about precisely that point this week.

A large number of Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organisations pursue partisan and divisive agendas in the west bank, many of which exacerbate tensions for their own ends. Does my right hon. Friend agree that NGOs that advocate boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, which the Government have taken firm action on, should be opposed?

We want to ensure that any partner we work with is exhibiting all behaviours needed to get good things to happen, so, absolutely, that is our policy and it is the policy of the organisations we work with.

T7. I am sure you are aware Mr Speaker, that the newly elected President of the Gambia is an avid Arsenal fan, but can the Secretary of State tell us what country-specific direct support she is giving to help the Gambia rebuild its economy and democracy? (910662)

Many Presidents across many African countries support a range of different teams, and this is a huge part of the work we do because it touches on so many young people as well. In the light of Soccer Aid last year, I pay tribute to the President of Gambia. Of course DFID has a range of programmes in Gambia, but through Soccer Aid we were able to raise lots of money from football fans, and I think everyone should welcome that.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to draw attention to the dangers of the anti-vaccination campaigns. In addition to thanking health workers across the world for their bravery in countering them, will she ensure the UK leads a vigorous response internationally to turn back a tide that is threatening not only those who would be vaccinated themselves but the communities around them, as we all depend on vaccination for our common safety?

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend and would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to him for leading the humanitarian work in my Department and for his tenure as Minister for the Middle East. I recently commissioned new programming to look at how we can help communities have trust in immunisation programmes. We are so close to eradicating polio from the earth and it would be appalling if we pulled back and rolled back from that now.

The medieval guardianship system, whereby a woman is owned by her closest male relative, means women in Saudi Arabia cannot travel, play sports or do a whole range of things we take for granted without permission from their male “owners”. Given that women who seek any level of gender equality and human rights face unprecedented danger and abuse in Saudi Arabia, will the Secretary of State condemn Saudi Arabia for treating women as mere chattels?

It is absolutely right that we call out behaviour that does not support or empower women or enable them to make the choices they want to in their lives. I am proud of the work that not only my Department but other Departments have done on that, and we will continue it. I call on all nations to make sure that at every opportunity we ensure women’s rights are in summit communiqués and absolutely everything else, and are a core part of every activity we do.

Order. The students and staff of Fitzwaryn School in Wantage, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently, are attending Prime Minister’s questions today and I feel sure that Members across the House will want to welcome them. In particular, I extend a very warm welcome to Charlie Butler and his twin brother Tom, who celebrate their 13th birthday this Sunday.