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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 661: debated on Thursday 6 June 2019

International Trade

The Secretary of State was asked—

Climate Change

The UK has long supported the promotion of our values globally, including ambitious global action to tackle climate change, and this will continue. We are exploring all options in the design of future trade policy, including how to tackle climate change. We are working to realise the potential for low-carbon exports from the UK and supporting UK jobs.

While the Department for International Development has a clear strategy for promoting low-carbon development in low-income countries, fossil fuels made up a shocking 99.4% of UK Export Finance’s energy support to low and middle-income countries in the last financial year. Does the Secretary of State agree with the International Development Committee’s finding that his Department’s spending is

“damaging the coherence of the Government’s approach to combating climate change”,

and what steps has he taken to ensure a more joined-up approach among his Cabinet colleagues?

The UK has an enviable record of success in decarbonisation. A target will be agreed of an 80% reduction by 2050; renewable capacity is up four times since 2010; and there will be £10 billion in annual support by 2021. Expertise is being built in offshore, smart energy, sustainable construction, precision agriculture, green finance, electric vehicles and so on. As I travel around the world, I meet many representatives from developing countries who are interested in all these technologies. Our trade policy is focused absolutely on ensuring that our exporters are set up to spread this green technology around the world. UKEF will play its part in funding this global revolution. In the short term, I have no doubt that some fossil fuel investments will be made, but as we progress that will transform into low-carbon development.

The Secretary of State has previously stated that

“poverty reduction objectives are deemed to outweigh the impact on climate change.”

However, his colleague the Secretary of State for International Development has previously stated that unless we tackle climate change with the urgency it requires “100 million more people” will be thrown “into poverty”. Can the Minister confirm who is correct and what the Government position actually is?

Certainly from the Department for International Trade point of view, our job is to promote international trade. We are out there making sure that the deals we do internationally suit those countries with which we do them. We are bringing in the unilateral preferences that are transitioning across from a European perspective. We are confident that the backing we can give developing countries is suitable for their circumstances, and allows them to participate in world trade and so bring their people out of poverty.

I think we are spending £1.5 billion in the current period on climate change for less-developed nations, and the same amount—£1.5 billion—on promoting economic development and trade, so there is some synergy for us to work with, is there not?

There absolutely is. As we grow our capacity in this country, we have more capability of exporting and, indeed, advising others on climate change. Yes, we can work in countries on poverty reduction at the same time as promoting energy sustainability.

Will the Minister say a bit more in relation to climate change and trade policy, particularly vis-à-vis the US, because the President of the United States has said:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”?

The recent chapters in CETA— the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement—and the EU agreements with Japan, Singapore and Vietnam include quite clear climate change commitments. We are of course signatories to the Paris agreement. I recognise that the President of the United States has said it is going to withdraw from that; it has currently not done so. Where it is possible to have chapters in our free trade agreements on climate change and on our climate change policies, we will do so; where not, we have to understand that we can open doors to dialogue through those trade deals. Indeed, we can then create flows of exports on untariffed sales at more favourable rates into those economies and help the transition, even in more developed countries where it is difficult to negotiate such chapters in our FTAs.

May I congratulate the Government on their policies and on what they are doing on the way forward? We should set an example to the rest of the world when it comes to global policies on how we trade. The recent election results have proven that there is a wish among all parties for that to happen, so we need to set an example. What has been done with the regional Administrations to ensure that Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England work together to set that example?

As the hon. Gentleman knows well, the UK has extensive funding for climate change mitigation and for sustainability. I would simply say to him that, as and when we manage to reinstitute the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland, we can have discussions between the DIT and other parts of the UK Government to ensure that those issues are taken forward.

The Secretary of State’s damascene conversion to addressing the climate emergency is welcome, but, as we have heard, some of those with whom he wishes to conclude trade agreements are less enlightened. Given what he has just said, will the Minister commit to introducing climate clauses to all future trade agreements? Will he publish specific details of the support his Department offers the fossil fuel sector through export finance, and say how that support conforms with the Equator Principles?

As I have said, we will consider each and every FTA on its own merits, and in certain circumstances we may find partners who are not prepared to put those sorts of clauses in an FTA. On balance, however, we will look at the advantage to exporters of low-carbon products, and ensure that as and when we proceed with those agreements—if we decide to do so—we facilitate the export of low-carbon products so that economies represented by Governments who do not wish to include an FTA clause on the environment can benefit from the transition that lower input costs produce. I have already made clear the Government’s position on publishing the output of UKEF. There will be an element of carbon-based energy generation in UKEF’s mix in the short term. The UK has huge and growing expertise that will no doubt come to the forefront of UKEF financing in due course, as that transition happens.

UK-Israel Medical Research and Development

4. What steps he is taking to strengthen UK trading relations with Israel in medical research and development; and if he will make a statement. (911190)

Before I answer that question, on the 75th anniversary of D-day it is worth our reflecting that we in this House are able to ask and answer questions in a free and democratic Parliament because of the sacrifices made by those who went before us.

Our dedicated team at the UK embassy in Tel Aviv actively promotes UK-Israel trade, and there is extensive collaboration on medical research between the UK and Israel. The UK-Israel Tech Hub, which is based at the embassy, helps to create tech and innovation partnerships across several sectors, including healthcare.

That is very good to hear. My right hon. Friend knows the state of Israeli technology—for example, all our chips, including the Intel fifth, sixth and seventh core chips, are developed in Israel for Intel in America. Magen David Adom, the equivalent of the Israeli Red Cross, has an app that provides live streaming, medical history and the location of people who use it, and that sort of innovation could be of great benefit to the UK. When we leave the European Union, what will be the advantages of doing business with Israel for both our nations?

There are huge advantages to our collaboration in or outside the European Union. To enable us to shine a light on the excellence that my hon. Friend mentions, on my recent trip to Israel I agreed with Prime Minister Netanyahu that we will jointly sponsor a Government high-level trade and investment conference that will enable us to show the world the best of what both countries have to offer in the sector mentioned by my hon. Friend.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on mentioning D-day. My father served in the Royal Engineers throughout the war, and my thoughts are of him and our brave troops today.

The Secretary of State is right to say that global trade can take place only in conditions of peace. Will he back the small group of MPs from across the House who are trying to create close relationships between university research in the UK and university research in Israel?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. He is right—where we are able to take advantage of the innovation coming out of universities, we should make every attempt to do so. One reason that international investors give for putting money into the United Kingdom is the access to high-quality innovation that comes from the collaboration between industry and academia. Where we can take full advantage of that, including with bilateral relations elsewhere, we should do so.

The Secretary of State has already mentioned the UK-Israel Tech Hub, which is the first of its kind and has already generated business of £85 million. How does he see that developing over the coming years?

I see it going from strength to strength, and as greater investment goes into both economies we will be able to scale up the innovation and creativity that is clearly shown in the tech sector. That will be of benefit not only to our two countries, but to the wider global economy.

I wish to associate myself fully with the Secretary of State’s remarks and pay tribute to the sacrifices of the fallen.

What assessment has the Secretary of State made of Israel’s participation in the agreement on pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation on the trade in medical products between the UK and the EU? What progress have the Government made in replicating other agreements between the EU and Israel, including the 2013 EU-Israel agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products?

As the hon. Lady is aware, we reached a continuity agreement with Israel on 19 February, which will come into effect as we leave the European Union. The conformity assessment element of that is very important because of the number of generic prescriptions that the NHS takes advantage of that are produced by Israeli pharmaceutical companies. We will want to see as much continuity in all those arrangements as possible.

Global Free Trade

5. What recent assessment his Department has made of the value of global free trade to developing countries. [R] (911192)

Free trade is a driver of economic growth that can trigger positive changes in a country’s economy, helping to raise incomes, create jobs and lift people out of poverty. The poorest countries have enjoyed some of the benefits of global free trade through receiving preferential access to the UK, the world’s fifth-biggest market.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. However, the risk of protectionism is growing and that threatens both free trade and the millions of jobs in developing countries that come with it. May I therefore urge the Secretary of State and his colleagues actively to oppose protectionism, particularly at the WTO and indeed when expressed in this Chamber, so that we can ensure that more of the world’s poorer citizens benefit by trading themselves out of poverty?

Those countries that have benefited from free and open trade, and enjoy the prosperity that we do today, have not only a duty economically to ensure the best outcomes but a moral duty to ensure that those in developing countries are able to benefit from the same trading systems that we have. Simply to say that we are more advanced and are pulling up the ladder behind us would be a betrayal of all those who have believed in free trade and practised it in recent years.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if it is going to end poverty, free trade also has to be fair trade? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that trade deals, whether through the WTO, the European Union or bilaterally, are checked against the sustainable development goals to make sure that they are poverty and development-proofed?

The Government take those elements extremely seriously, which is why we actually seek a closer alignment between our trade and development policies. For example, we are able to invest in countries to give them greater capability to add value to their primary produce, while at the same time potentially being able to take advantage of tariff reduction to increase market access. By bringing the two together, that can be synergistic for this country and for developing countries.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does the Secretary of State agree that the European Union is an inward-looking protectionist trading bloc that acts to the detriment of developing countries?

I certainly believe that the European Union’s common external tariff provides barriers to trade for many developing countries, so they are unable to take advantage of adding value to their primary produce. One of the advantages of leaving the European Union will be that Britain will have the ability to reduce tariffs to enable greater access for some of the poorest countries.

G20 Trade Ministers Meeting

At the upcoming G20 trade and digital economy ministerial meeting I will voice the UK’s continued support for the multilateral trading system. I will work with other G20 members to reduce trade tensions, support WTO reform, and advocate new rules on e-commerce and services trade liberalisation.

Relations with Japan matter enormously. Our termination of the Anglo-Japanese treaty 1923 was probably one of the worst geo-strategic mistakes we ever made, propelling that country into autarchy and nationalism. Will the Secretary of State confirm that post Brexit his priority will be to ensure a global free trade world, with us and Japan leading the way?

It is absolutely essential, particularly given the rise of protectionism globally, that we commit ourselves to a rules-based system based on the WTO. Of course, we have abilities to augment that by other regional relationships, which is why we have had the public consultation and the debate in Parliament about the potential accession to the CPTPP—the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Japanese Government have been key in encouraging the United Kingdom to seek such a membership.

Seventy per cent. of the world’s poorest people live not in the poorest countries but in the middle-income countries, and the G20 has a vital role to encourage these people to work their way out of poverty by free trade. Does the Secretary of State agree?

I do agree, but if the G20 countries are intent on doing so, they need to reverse the recent trend of increasing non-tariff barriers to trade. The largest number of new barriers to trade introduced since the financial crisis have been in G20 countries, so they do not simply have to do the preaching; they have to do the practising, too.

International Education Strategy

8. What progress the Government has made on the implementation of its international education strategy. (911195)

Few do more than my hon. Friend to promote UK education. Since the strategy launch in March, we have established a cross-Government implementation group to turn the strategy’s ambitions into reality, including raising exports to £35 billion by 2030 and lifting student numbers coming here to 600,000. We will appoint an international education champion, and I will chair the education sector advisory group later this month as we build on our plans to deliver the strategy in partnership with the sector.

I am very glad that my hon. Friend will be very busy on that project in the coming weeks. What steps are being taken by his Department to ensure that UK institutions, such as the excellent universities in Manchester, can promote their strong educational brands as world-class centres of teaching and research?

My hon. Friend is right: the UK education sector is world leading. It has four of the top 10 universities in the world and 18 of the top 100. Institutions such as the universities in Manchester stand out for their multicultural campuses and international collaborations, driving global research into important areas such as childhood leukaemia. We plan to work with them and others in the sector to promote it across the world.

Inward Foreign Direct Investment

On almost every measure, the UK has strengthened its position as the most attractive investment destination in Europe since the EU referendum. According to “The fDi Report 2019”, published last month on 3 May, last year saw in-year greenfield investment in the UK grow by 19% to 1,278 projects—more, notably, than France and Germany combined. Despite the slowdown in the world economy, the latest figures show that the total stock of FDI in the UK reached a new high of £1.5 trillion, more than Germany, Poland and Spain combined.

I thank the Minister for that extremely positive and encouraging reply. Is he aware that much of King’s Lynn and west Norfolk’s economy is based on foreign direct investment from a number of firms from America and Europe and that we have some subsidiaries of truly world-class companies? What is his Department doing to liaise with those firms and learn the lessons about why they made that successful decision to come to the UK and Norfolk, in particular?

We have a supplier relationship management programme, where we have built relationships at ministerial and senior official level with the largest investors into the UK. It is notable that in 2017-18, the 2,072 FDI projects that landed in the UK created 75,968 new jobs. Investors are not put off by Brexit, but they are deterred by the threat of nationalisation by the Labour party. It is the fear that job creators most often express to me, which goes to show that Labour does not even need to be in power to damage British jobs and living standards. The threat of Labour is enough.

My father, David Thomas Morgan Davies, was head of economic development at the Welsh Office and got Ford to move to Bridgend in the ’70s, yet this week we find that it is announcing its closure at a time when Donald Trump is saying that we are going to have a great trade deal. Does the Minister agree that the people working in Ford who voted in good faith to leave the EU did not vote to leave their jobs and deserve a say on the final deal, so that they can think again and stay in the EU instead of losing their jobs and being decimated by the Americans?

The hon. Gentleman again wants to frustrate the will of his constituents. The automotive industry is in massive global flux, and trying to link every decision to Brexit leads people astray, just as he and so many of his colleagues do as they come up with these false arguments for a second referendum. The people want the thing they decided to be done and they do not want to hear weasel words from the Labour party, trying to say the opposite.

Export Strategy

The export strategy sets out how the Government will encourage, inform, connect and finance UK businesses so that they can take advantage of the international demand for British goods and services. In February we launched the new export champion community, a network of the UK’s leading exporters which will encourage their fellow firms to start exporting and will offer practical advice.

I am thinking very much of the workers at Ford this morning, because my first job was as a foreman at Ford in Bridgend. I hope that a way through can be found.

When it comes to informing and connecting, the Department needs people on the ground, but its budget in Africa, where I am one of the trade envoys, is very small. It has excellent people, but not nearly enough of them. What is the Minister doing to persuade the Treasury to invest more in “feet on the ground” for our trade missions in Africa and across the world?

One of this Administration’s successes is the establishment of the Department for International Trade. For the first time, we have a dedicated, focused international economic Department that seeks to build our global prosperity. Africa, which is expected to double its GDP between 2015 and 2030 and whose population will nearly double in the not too distant future, is an area in which we need to up our engagement. That is why we are organising an African uplift this year, and we will continue to do more.

Implementing the export strategy also requires us to implement the cyber-security export strategy, which relies heavily on UK Export Finance for direct lending, export refinancing and so on. If cyber-security exports are a genuine strategic priority, what proportion of UK export financing will be committed to its support?

UK Export Finance responds to the market. It is there to ensure that no viable British export fails for lack of finance. Therefore, predicting, let alone fixing, the percentage that will be put into any particular sector—even if it is a strategic priority for the Government —would, I think, be a mistake.

Topical Questions

My Department is responsible for foreign and outward direct investment, establishing an independent trade policy, and export promotion.

Let me take a moment to thank Baroness Fairhead for all her hard work during her time as the Minister for export promotion. She has been an invaluable member of my team: diligent, intelligent and 100% committed, and she will be sorely missed.

I chair the all-party parliamentary group on women and enterprise. We are about to publish our first report, which draws attention to the huge potential for encouraging more female-owned businesses to export. What support can the Government give in that regard, particularly by identifying market-ready opportunities abroad for our female entrepreneurs?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he does in this area. The Government’s export strategy is about breaking down barriers so that everyone can benefit from trade opportunities, but that includes understanding the distinct barriers faced by women. We will ensure that our independent policy is gender-responsive, and will actively seek to increase the role of women in trade and support female exporters in particular.

Today we remember with profound respect the importance of the multilateral alliance, and the sacrifices made 75 years ago today. Did the Secretary of State take the opportunity of the recent state visit involving those commemorations to express his dismay that UK companies might now fall foul of the Helms-Burton Act, which would subject British businesses and investors to unfair legal challenge in the United States simply because that country has a dispute with the people with whom our companies are doing business?

The extraterritorial jurisdiction that the US claims under the Act was declared unenforceable by the EU under a Council regulation which we have recently replicated in the UK, but does it not send a chill through the Secretary of State that by deciding to activate Title III, the US President is threatening companies based outside the US which are simply going about their legitimate business? Does that not make the Secretary of State question whether the great deal that President Trump says he is already discussing with the UK would be great for the UK, or just for the US?

I agree that there are issues around the whole concept of extra-territorial rules on trade, which is why of course it is fundamental that we get a strengthening of the rules-based system at the WTO in Geneva. That will help us deal with some of those issues, but where the United Kingdom believes we have a unique role to play—for example in upholding the joint comprehensive plan of action—we will continue to do so, and we will resist any attempts to force UK trading entities to behave in a way that we do not believe is legal.

T4. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to showcase the exports of the Greater Manchester area—and may I take this opportunity to invite him and the Department to host an exporting showcase or roadshow in my constituency? (911205)

I am delighted to answer that question again. Our team in the north-west works with international trade advisers and partners across Greater Manchester to enable local exporters to showcase their products and services overseas, including through bespoke trade missions, events and the DIT digital platform. I welcome my hon. Friend’s invitation. We have an established export hub that travels the length and breadth of the UK to give face-to-face support and guidance to first-time exporters. I will ask our team to contact my hon. Friend’s office to explore areas of collaboration and I encourage colleagues from across the House to invite the export hub to their area.

T3 The Minister will be aware of the potential threat to the NHS from any transatlantic trade deal done by the EU. Will he give a cast-iron guarantee that any post-Brexit deal done with the US will maintain the principles of the NHS, free at the point of use? (911204)

Of course post-EU it will be the Government and this Parliament that will determine what trade arrangements we have, not the European Union. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s passionate defence of the NHS: I trained and worked in the NHS as a doctor. Under this Government the NHS will not be for sale, and I would hope that is something we can agree across the House.

The whole issue of the WTO will be at the centre of what we discuss at the G20. The alternative to a rules-based system is a deals-based system, which would suit only the very biggest and most powerful economies, and we would lose the potential to use trade as a means of getting countries out of poverty. The rules-based system is necessary because it applies to everyone—the richest and the poorest, the strongest and the weakest—and we must give every defence to it that we can.

T5. Will Ministers say a word of praise for the work of the Yorkshire and Humber international trade team based in Barnsley? Would it not be even more effective if it was accountable not to Whitehall but to a directly elected Yorkshire mayor? (911206)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend from Yorkshire who is right to highlight the outstanding contribution from the team in Barnsley. I will leave it to other Departments and Ministers to reply on whether or not a Yorkshire mayor would be the right thing to have, but what I can say is that we will continue to work together cross-party to promote business and employment across the Humber and Yorkshire region.

For the benefit of my constituents in Corby and east Northamptonshire will the Secretary of State take the opportunity to knock on the head this nonsense that the NHS will be up for sale in any future free trade agreement?

I am tempted to say “I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.” Let me be very clear for the benefit exclusively of his constituents that the NHS is not, and will not be, for sale.

T6. I heard the Secretary of State’s passion as a medic. Will he clarify that he can commit now to excluding the NHS from any future trade deals if the UK leaves the EU, and that no foreign power, no matter how big, will get their hands, no matter how small, on our NHS, no matter who wins the Conservative party’s leadership race? (911207)

Trade with Iceland is of particular importance to my constituency and the ports of Immingham and neighbouring Grimsby. What progress is being made to develop our trading links and investment with Iceland?

I visited Iceland just a couple of weeks ago and had constructive discussions with my counterpart there and with a range of businesses. We have already signed the continuity agreement, which I know will be of enormous benefit to my hon. Friend’s constituency and provide a great deal of comfort to those involved in those industries.

In Blaenau Gwent, we have been working with Fujitsu to encourage our young people to go into cyber-security, but I have learned that there is a real shortage of cyber-security specialists here in the UK. What support can the Government give to training in this key sector so that we can boost our exports for the future?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The value of UK cyber-security exports is set to rise from about £1.8 billion at the moment to £3.2 billion by 2022, and 800 companies are currently involved in the sector. He is right to say that one of the elements we will need to provide is the appropriate education, coming from the sector, to give people the appropriate skills as well as in-house training. The Government, through their wider agenda—the skills agenda, the apprenticeship scheme and what we are doing in the Department—are well aware of the point that he has raised. Without the skills, we will be unable to take advantage of the tech and knowledge that we have.

International Development

The Secretary of State was asked—

Climate Emergency

1. What assessment he has made of the effect of the climate emergency on his Department’s priorities. (911154)

There should be no distinction at all between the work that we do on international development and the work that we do on climate and the emergency. We face a climate cataclysm, and if we get this wrong, 100 million more people will be in poverty. I would therefore like, as Secretary of State for International Development, to double the amount that our Department spends within our budget on climate and the environment, and to double the effort that the Department puts into that issue.

I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box in his new Cabinet role, and I warmly welcome his clear and genuine commitment to tackling the climate emergency. Does he accept, however, that there is a contradiction between the excellent work that his Department does in helping to mitigate and adapt to the climate emergency in developing countries and the way in which, through UK Export Finance, we continue to subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of billions of pounds? Will he use his leadership in Government, in whatever form, to ensure that he pushes to stop those fossil fuel subsidies?

This is of course a very serious challenge. That is fundamentally an issue for the Department for International Trade, but the hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that it is extremely important, when we think about an environment and climate strategy for the Government, to be fully joined up, particularly in relation not only to what the DIT does but to what we do through the Commonwealth and through CDC’s investments to ensure that they tie in with our climate and environment priorities.

The $100 billion climate finance commitment made by developed countries including the UK is separate from the international aid commitment, as climate finance is an additional challenge to development, yet the UK’s climate finance currently comes entirely from the aid budget, displacing spending on health, education and life-saving measures. The Minister has just explained that this will come from existing funds, so how are the Government exploring alternative sources of climate finance to take the pressure off the aid budget?

There is a range of climate finance initiatives that we could pursue, including green bonds here in the United Kingdom, but fundamentally, all the investments we make in health, education and economic development need to be proofed for the environment and climate. The distinction between these two things is often deeply misleading because, as the World Bank has just pointed out, if we do not get the climate and environment right, we will have 100 million more people living in poverty.

The United Nations framework for combating climate change has three pillars: mitigation; adaptation; and loss and damage. Does the Secretary of State agree with the United Nations framework convention on climate change that loss and damage to property is a huge consequence of climate change? If so, why do the UK Government allocate official development assistance spending only to mitigation and adaptation?

These are difficult choices that we have to make. We are currently leading in the United Nations on the resilience pillar. It is very important, and I think everybody in this House—indeed, in the country—would want to ensure that the next COP summit is hosted in London next year, so that we can take on the baton from Paris, but in order to do that we need to show a distinctive contribution. It is in resilience that we shall be leading the UN discussions, both in Abu Dhabi and then in the UN in September. I think that is where the UK should position itself.

Foreign National Offenders

2. If he will allocate funding from the international aid budget to build prisons in recipient countries to facilitate the return of foreign national offenders to prisons in their home countries. (911155)

The UK aid budget is already building the capacity of security and justice institutions in developing countries. That includes support for improved prison conditions, which can facilitate the return of foreign national offenders. Since 2010, we have removed more than 48,000 FNOs from the UK, with over 5,000 removed in 2018-19.

We spend almost £1 billion a year on incarcerating more than 9,000 foreign national offenders in our prisons, many from developing countries to which we already give international assistance. Given that it is far cheaper to build a prison to requisite standards in those countries than here, does it not make sense to use our international aid budget to send these people home, using the funds from the Department for International Development?

I am advised that the Minister of State has just been elevated to the Privy Council. I congratulate him on that and wish him well, and I am sure the House will want to join me in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) knows very well that official development assistance is disbursable only in accordance with the rules set out by the OECD. There is a good argument for building prisons, in order to remove prisoners from the UK. However, ODA funds could not be used for such a purpose, since the primary intention of ODA funds is to render assistance. I would suggest very strongly that my hon. Friend speaks to our right hon. and hon. colleagues in the Home Office and the Department of Justice.

That is quite a helpful answer. Supporting the justice systems in developing countries is hugely important, but we should not make any move towards the notion of tied aid or a quid pro quo, such as was suggested in the substantive question; that would be worrying. Will the Minister make it clear that that is not a policy of the Department for International Development?

It is not a question of that not being a DFID policy; such a thing would be proscribed by the OECD and its development advisory committee. The proposal by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering has merit, but it would not be proper for international development funds to be used for such a thing, and if we did so, it would not count towards the 0.7% to which we are committed.

When I was in the Minister’s position, I refused Foreign Office requests—indeed, instructions—to build a prison on Pitcairn to accommodate one prisoner. Will he assure me that he will not cave in?

Women's Equality

Our strategic vision for gender equality focuses on ending violence against women and girls, on girls’ education, on promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, and on women’s empowerment.

It is vital that girls in developing countries have access to high-quality education, so what progress is the Department making to help ensure that happens?

I am so pleased that my hon. Friend can support the “12 years of quality education” campaign that we are leading around the world, together with France and Canada. It is an incredibly important part of development, because evidence suggests that for every year that a girl spends in school, her lifetime earnings increase by 10%. Hon. Members can see how powerful that is in terms of prosperity for our world.

The Women Deliver conference heard this week from Sawsan Al Refai, a Yemeni development researcher and activist, who said:

“It is important for Yemeni women to be at the table, but we need to make sure Yemeni women’s issues are at the table too.”

What is the Minister doing to achieve that?

I am pleased to say that my ministerial colleague Baroness Sugg has been at that conference in Vancouver this week. The hon. Lady highlights a very important issue, because the evidence and the research that we have done suggests that involving women in peace processes very significantly increases the chances of their being successful and sustainable.

Does the Minister agree that if we want to make women more equal worldwide, we have to free them from poverty? And does she agree that a road death or serious injury can plunge a family into long-term poverty? Does she agree that we must act now to stop this greatest epidemic of our times, which kills more women and children worldwide?

May I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s tireless work on road safety around the world? He and I have met to discuss this issue, which is one of the biggest killers around the world. Of course, it is a killer of women and girls as well, and often of girls on their way to school. We are thinking about how we can best make sure that, where there is a need to develop growth—where the World Bank is providing finance, for example—the road safety elements are taken into account from the beginning.

In its latest annual review, the CDC claims that, of the jobs it supports, only 32% are for women and 68% are for men. Does the Minister agree it is not acceptable that over twice as many men are being supported with jobs via these investments. Given her Department’s commitment to gender equality, will she take this up directly with the CDC?

We should rightly recognise the important work that the CDC does in creating these jobs in the first place. This is a vital way in which the UK can be one of the significant investors in some of the poorest and most difficult to reach economies in the world. The equality that we are almost beginning to enjoy here in our workplace has not yet reached many of these developing countries. The hon. Lady raises a sensible and valid point that I will be happy to take up.

Trade Promotion

As China and other developing countries have proved so much over the last decades, the real key to unlocking people’s potential and eliminating poverty is, of course, through economic development, and trade is central to that. The great benefit of trade, and of free trade in particular, is that it unlocks the potential not just for consumers and businesses in developing countries but for countries such as our own, too. That is why our programmes in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and, more recently, Jordan are heavily focused on trade.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of local companies in Southend are very keen to be involved in trade and development, including Borough plating and Jota Aviation? Does he see any further business opportunities once we have left the European Union?

First, I pay tribute to those businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency. It is incredibly important that, through every bit of Government policy, we support small and medium-sized enterprises in Britain. There is huge potential around the world. I would just warn, however, when people start talking about a no-deal Brexit, that we need to be very careful in specifying what kind of tariff levels people are talking about and with whom they are negotiating, because certainly farmers in my constituency, the automotive sector and the aviation sector will suffer terribly if we end up with the wrong arrangements.

On that point, we know that Donald Trump favours a no-deal Brexit so that we turn our back on the EU market and sit at his feet—the American economy is seven times the size of ours. We know that Donald Trump does not agree with climate change, but will the Secretary of State ensure that we focus on investing in renewable technologies via overseas development, rather than continuing to subsidise fossil fuels through export credit guarantees, so that we can build a sustainable world together?

This is a very big challenge. There is huge potential for the British economy and, of course, for the world and the climate emergency in getting involved in new technologies. To take one example, I would very much like to put considerably more money from DFID into research and development in renewable technologies at British universities. If we can develop the next generation of solar film—light spectrum technology —it can convince China not to build the next generation of coal-fired stations. That will make a huge difference to the climate and the world, but also to British research.

Will the Secretary of State set out for the House why the customs union is the wrong policy choice when it comes to lifting people out of poverty in the developing world through free trade?

I strongly disagree; I think it is incredibly important that we have zero-tariff, zero-quota access to European markets, to defend the future of the British economy. We are talking about the climate, which is central to this Department. If Europe needs 300 million electric cars over the next few decades, I would like them to be manufactured in the United Kingdom. We have huge potential in battery technology; we can make the planet a better place; and we can create great jobs for British businesses, and the way to do that is to have the access to those markets.

Lesotho: Civil Society

There are strong links between the UK and civil society in Lesotho. Our support for civil society includes the volunteering for development programme, through which we are working in Lesotho to support young people’s rights, and access to sexual and reproductive health services.

First, may I thank the Minister for the recent meeting we had on the subject of Lesotho and thank the Government for restoring the high commissioner in Lesotho? Will she work with the high commissioner to build links with civil society in Lesotho, because of the difficulties that exist in terms of the Lesotho Government and corruption? Massive links between Wales and Lesotho have been built up over many years, and we want to help the good people of Lesotho to improve their lives and not be impeded by payments to Ministers in Lesotho, which are causing massive problems.

Let me put on record our appreciation of the strong links that exist not only, as the hon. Gentleman says, between Wales and Lesotho, but between Wrexham and Lesotho, and of his commitment to them. He is right to welcome the fact that our new high commissioner, Anne Macro, whom I know he has had the opportunity to meet, has now presented her credentials to the Lesotho Government. This will provide an opportunity for those strengthened links with not only the Government but civil society in Lesotho.

At the same time as we were to reopen the new high commission in Maseru, an announcement was made about Eswatini. Will the Minister update the House on the progress being made on the high commission in Eswatini?

I am pleased to tell the House that the progress is on track. Although we are not quite ready to announce the name of the high commissioner in Eswatini, I believe someone has been identified for the post. So good progress is being made, and I am encouraging our Foreign Secretary to go to southern Africa to open these two new high commissions later this year.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is a major global health threat and tackling it is a UK priority. DFID works alongside the Department of Health and Social Care and other Departments to support research on and development of new antimicrobials and diagnostic tools and to reduce the need for antimicrobials by preventing infection and enabling prompt diagnosis and treatment.

The O’Neill review makes the case that high-income countries should help low-income countries do important mitigation works in this area, with one example being reducing pollution from pharmaceutical production facilities that give rise to superbugs, which can travel round the world, including to the UK. Will my right hon. Friend outline the work we are carrying out in this area?

Yes, but before doing so, I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work and interest in this area. He may be familiar with this, but I would like to draw his attention to the Access to Medicine Foundation, which is jointly funded by DFID, the Dutch Government and the Gates Foundation. It focuses on low-income and middle-income countries, and I particularly draw his attention to its antimicrobial resistance benchmark of 30 pharmaceutical companies, which prompts the pharmaceutical industry to do much more to bring AMR under control, including by reducing pharmaceutical pollution from the undertakings it operates.

In some countries, 80% of the total consumption of antibiotics is in the animals sector. What are we doing to support the World Health Organisation’s recommendations on stopping really important antibiotics being used for growth promotion and disease prevention in animals, rather than for their proper use, which is to treat disease?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right on that. The use of antimicrobials for food animals in this country is falling, and of course the use of antimicrobials for veterinary purposes features in the Government’s strategy “Tackling antimicrobial resistance”, which was published in January. She will also be aware that it is important to address this particular aspect of AMR, not least to address our commitments under sustainable development goal 3, which is to do with health and wellbeing.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis kills around a quarter of a million people a year, and there are half a million new cases a year and rising. Do the Government accept that full replenishment of the Global Fund will be essential if this global health threat is to be beaten?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight TB. He will be aware of the various funds to which the UK contributes to address this global scourge, and that includes contributions to the Global Fund’s efforts to discover 150 million undiscovered cases of TB worldwide, on which it has made some inroads. My right hon. Friend will not expect me to commit here and now to the sixth replenishment, but he will be aware that we have been at the forefront of encouraging countries to do so. I expect us to be positive—as we were for the fifth replenishment—in Lyon in October.

Cyclone Idai

The UK was one of the first countries to respond to the crisis, providing up to £36 million. The Disasters Emergency Committee appeal raised another £39 million. That has delivered rapid, life-saving relief, supporting food, emergency shelter, clean water and health equipment for more than 500,000 people across the region affected by the cyclone. We are now focusing on longer-term recovery, and the UK made a further £12.5 million available from existing resources as part of the recent Beira pledging conference.

I declare my interests in southern Africa.

Does the Minister agree that one lesson we need to take away from this appalling cyclone is the need to concentrate on longer-term flood and sea defences? Will she elaborate a bit on what her Department is doing in that respect?

Yes. Last time we had exchanges on this subject, I said that I felt it would be impractical to build a sea wall along what is a long and vulnerable coastline, but we are learning that a lot of things do work well. For example, we are making sure that we work on soil erosion and in terms of mangroves, which can provide resistance. There is a lot to do, and I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment to increase our research and commitment in this policy area.

Order. We are running late. I will accommodate the remaining questioners on the condition that they confine themselves to a single-sentence question, without preamble. No dilation is required.

Small Charities: Funding

9. What steps he is taking to enable small charities in the UK to access funding from his Department. (911165)

In the end, the Department for International Development is of course spending taxpayers’ money. To work out how to spend it in a way that resonates with the British people, we must get much better at focusing on the small charities that British citizens back. The way to do that is to learn, from examples such as the lottery fund, how to provide more support for small charities. We will push ahead with that work to make sure that small charities flourish.

The Secretary of State is an extraordinarily brilliant and cerebral fellow. He has not quite yet got the hang of the rather more prosaic matter of the announcement of the desire to group, but I shall do it for him. The Secretary of State wishes to group this question with Question 12. I know that these are comparatively footling matters, but in procedural terms, they are not footling. Footling is a very good word, I think.

Would it form part of a preamble, Mr Speaker?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the support he already gives through his Department, but many Members will have charities in their constituencies, such as Signal in Shropshire, or will individually promote charities, such as the Hotcourses Foundation. What more can my right hon. Friend do to support British charities that do excellent work in Africa?

Two quick points: first, we must understand that Signal in Shropshire, which does work on hearing loss, is a really important symbol of the kind of work that small charities can do, and it is an inspiration to all of us in this country to invest more in technology to deal with hearing loss. We are terribly bad with our technology investments on this issue; we could transform it. Secondly, I return to the idea that we need officials from DFID to work much more closely with these charities to make it easier for them to get our support.

12. Archbishop Warda of Erbil, Iraq, recently highlighted the fact that very little international aid reaches the persecuted Christians locally because of the way that it is distributed. What can my right hon. Friend do to correct that problem? (911168)

First, it is shocking to hear this from the Archbishop of Erbil. We should pay tribute to what the Kurdistan Regional Government have been doing to look after an incredible number of displaced people in Iraq, but it is certainly true that Christians and Yazidis have suffered terribly through the fighting in Syria and Iraq and through persecution led by Daesh in particular. This Department must do more to protect Christians around the world if they are vulnerable, marginalised and abused.

Prosperity Fund

10. What steps he is taking to ensure that aid spent through the prosperity fund is focused on poverty reduction. (911166)

The primary purpose of the prosperity fund is reducing poverty through inclusive economic growth. Departments that execute prosperity fund programmes are responsible for ensuring that they meet the requirements of the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015.

Between 2016 and 2018, the prosperity fund financed 16 fossil fuel projects across the world, including two in fracking. Is not this obsession with fossil fuels, despite the fine words of the Secretary of State, just confirmation that this Government could not care less about addressing the climate emergency, which is, after all, one of the biggest threats to alleviating world poverty?

These funds are obviously administered by other Government Departments in compliance with the wording of the Act, so I am not seized of the specifics of what the hon. Gentleman refers to. He will know that we do need to work together as a world to reduce emissions. One of the ways in which we are doing that is to encourage people to power past coal. Often we can do that by substituting less polluting fossil fuels. It may be in that context that these disbursements were made.

Global Fund: AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

11. What assessment he has made of the extent to which the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is improving access to healthcare for the most vulnerable and marginalised communities. (911167)

The Global Fund directs its resources to countries with the highest disease burden and the least ability to pay and within countries to key vulnerable and marginalised populations. The UK was the second largest donor to the fund’s fifth replenishment, which is currently tackling the three big killers that the hon. Gentleman cites in his question.

Will the Minister tell me what assessment he has made of the work of the Global Fund in co-ordination with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and how his Department is working to foster this collaboration so that the most vulnerable communities receive all the healthcare that they need?

Given the nature of the conditions that the Global Fund principally deals with, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise Gavi. The UK is the biggest contributor to Gavi for a very good reason—vaccination works. In dealing with those three key killers, it is clearly vital that we focus on prevention. That means not just vaccination, and Gavi does not simply vaccinate people, but dealing with a range of public health issues that are necessary in order to prevent infection happening from the beginning. This Government fully support both Gavi and the Global Fund.

Topical Questions

There is one big issue at the centre of everything that we do in development, which is climate and the environment. This is a global problem—it is not just a domestic problem—and it needs a global response, which is why the Department for International Development is central to that response. That is why I would like to double the amount that this Department spends on climate and the environment, and why I would make sure that every policy in our Department is properly assessed for its impact on climate and the environment, and it is on that that we will be judged over the next generation as a Department and as a nation.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his role and wholeheartedly agree with what he just said on climate change. Indeed, climate change has affected Somaliland. As he will know, I am secretary to the all-party Parliamentary group on Somaliland and we recently welcomed the Finance Minister. Can he say what steps his Department is taking to support the upcoming parliamentary elections in Somaliland and also the talks between Somaliland and Somalia? Will he meet the all-party parliamentary group to discuss what we can do to support that fantastic country?

First, I pay huge tribute to the work of the APPG on Somaliland. As all Members of the House will know, Somaliland is a remarkable success story. Somalia itself has been through a very difficult situation, and Somaliland is a small miracle in a sea of difficulty. We worked very closely with Somaliland on the last presidential elections and we will be supporting the new parliamentary elections. On my last visit to Somaliland, I was lucky enough to meet the gentleman who is now President. There is much more we can do and I would be delighted to sit down with the hon. Gentleman to discuss all those issues.

T5. Helping Uganda Schools—known as HUGS—is a small international development charity based in my constituency. Would the Minister meet me and representatives of this wonderful educational and health charity to discuss how DFID can improve access to funding programmes for small charities? (911183)

It sounds like a wonderful opportunity to meet representatives of HUGS in my hon. Friend’s constituency. As the Secretary of State said, we do have a small charities challenge fund, and we need to make it easier for small charities such as HUGS to be able to access some of that funding. I would be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend’s constituents.

May I start by saying how much I am enjoying following the Secretary of State’s novel approach to his party’s leadership contest? He certainly stands out in a field of populists, potty mouths and parliamentary proroguers. I also know that if I do not get satisfactory answers today, I can find him on the high street, at a botanical garden or at #rorywalks. Some of his fellow leadership contenders have called for his Department to be scrapped and the aid budget to be slashed, and his predecessor said that spending 0.7% of national income was unsustainable. Will he take this opportunity to defend an independent DFID and 0.7%, and perhaps call on his fellow contenders to make their positions clear?

I thank the shadow Secretary of State for his remarks; his endorsement is probably the nail in the coffin of my campaign. I know that I am meant to be campaigning on being the person who can convince people who do not normally vote Conservative to vote Conservative, but this may be going a little far. The commitment to 0.7% is a Conservative commitment that we put into statute, and we are deeply proud of it. At a time when we are facing a climate emergency, to spend not 7% or 1%, but 0.7% of our GNI, makes entire sense. We are facing an emergency to the climate and to people that could cost trillions of pounds if we get it wrong so this spending is exactly the right thing to do, and I am delighted that both sides of the House are following the Conservative lead on the commitment to 0.7%.

I am grateful for that answer. The growing debt crisis in developing countries, with debt repayment increasing by 85% between 2010 and 2018, is of growing concern, and it is a crisis that diverts money from vital public services. Yesterday Labour announced plans for an overseas loans transparency Act. Will the Secretary of State join us and call on the Chancellor to commit to full transparency on loans to foreign Governments?

Having gone party political, I will now say that I am very happy to reach out and talk about this matter. Clearly, finance is key for development and the City of London is one of the major players. If we can get the right kind of capital into Africa, for example—where there is a huge amount of labour, with 18 million people a year coming into the labour force—and get that capital connected, we can transform those economies, but we can do so only if these are good loans. The problem at the moment is that too much money has gone in that has not been invested in infrastructure or productivity, but has instead found its way into some rather dubious bank accounts. It is in the interests of Britain, the City, the Government and the whole nation to ensure that the financing we put into development really drives development. I would be delighted to sit down and discuss this with the hon. Gentleman.

Since the Secretary of State’s statement on Ebola just before the recess, has there been any positive progress in tackling this terrible outbreak?

I feel a little bit cheeky standing up to answer this question because the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), made a trip to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo last week to see the response on the ground. Essentially, there are three issues in relation to Ebola. The first is co-ordination issues for the World Health Organisation. The second is vaccination resources. The third is political issues between communities and the Government of the DRC. We have now put a considerable amount of resources in and we are getting the vaccines in on the ground. We have put more British staff on the ground to ensure that we can work with the UN, and in Kinshasa we are really focusing on ensuring that we can overcome the political problems that are driving communities away from the vaccination programme. It is a huge crisis, but Britain is stepping up and so, I am glad to say, is the United States.

T2. I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State’s global approach to climate change, but we know that vulnerable communities in the global south are hit hardest by extreme weather events caused by climate change. How will he use his global influence to work with other funding countries to make sure that vital financial support goes to those countries that have suffered such loss and damage? (911178)

First, we have to leverage our position. We are almost the major donor—proportionally, certainly—to the World Bank, and we need to leverage that kind of support. There is, though, a bigger point: it is not just about money. For example, British scientists are doing something really interesting at Kew Gardens looking at drought-resistant crops, particularly coffee and cocoa. In somewhere such as Ghana, climate change could wipe out a large sector of the economy. We need to get shade trees in. We need new crops and irrigation techniques. This is of course about resources, but it is also a great deal about using British and international research and development and science to solve these problems in, as the hon. Lady said, the global south.

Most victims of human trafficking come from developing countries. What is the Secretary of State’s Department doing to end the scourge of human trafficking?

First, I pay huge tribute to my hon. Friend for the passion and commitment that he and many others have put into this issue. We do work on this. We have been particularly focused on the Nepali-Indian border, across which there is terrible trafficking taking place. These are very difficult things to deal with. We are talking about global crime. It involves working with communities in Nepal to educate women and identify instances of trafficking and working with the police and customs and ultimately finding an approach that stops both the misery there and our role in the UK in propagating that misery. I really am delighted that he has taken such a lead on this.

T3. For the past 25 years, the UK has rightly been committed to ensuring that aid spending is untied from commercial interests. How does the Secretary of State explain the ONE Campaign’s research that found that almost £475 million of UK aid was still effectively tied? (911180)

We are very clear that we do not tie aid spending. There may be situations in which it is beneficial. For example, we have just put £70 million into British universities to find a universal cure for snake bites. That is a very good example of how we can solve a global public health problem through investment in British universities, but that is not tied aid; it is because British research and development, particularly the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, is the leader in this area.[Official Report, 10 June 2019, Vol. 661, c. 4MC.] We can do this in many areas without feeling ashamed of ourselves, benefiting Britain and the world, and without tying our aid.

T4. Will the Secretary of State instruct DFID officials to carry out an audit through Members of Parliament to identify organisations in constituencies that are developing links with developing countries? (911182)

Yes. The absolutely greatest example of this is Scotland and Malawi. It has mapped thousands of amazing Scottish voluntary organisations working in Malawi and uncovered work that we had not begun to understand. It is a fantastic idea. I would love to see different regions of the UK taking the lead in partnerships with different countries and my Department understanding much better what British charities are doing. If we can get that right, we can get the enthusiasm and soul of the British people behind international development, which will ultimately be the best guarantee of the 0.7%.

T6. I thank the Secretary of State for that very encouraging answer. I hope he will join me in welcoming the peaceful conclusion of the elections in Malawi, particularly the increased number of women MPs, even if that was slightly counterbalanced by the loss of some very good incumbents, including a friend of mine, Jacqueline Kouwenhoven, who you may remember meeting some years ago, Mr Speaker. The turnover of incumbents seems to be an increasing issue in democracies across Africa. What is his Department doing through the Westminster Foundation and other such organisations to strengthen democratic institutions and empower women in democracies? (911184)

Yes. As my right hon. Friend said, the Scotland-Malawi partnership is a very strong one, as the hon. Gentleman has shown with his question. In the recent elections, the results of which we have welcomed, some two thirds of the parliamentary seats in Malawi changed hands. I am not sure if they learned that level of turnover from recent experience in Scotland not so long ago.