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Topical Questions

Volume 670: debated on Wednesday 29 January 2020

In August, I announced an International Development Infrastructure Commission to advise me on mobilising additional private sector funds alongside public money to deliver on the sustainable development goals. The United Nations estimates that an additional $2.5 trillion is required annually to meet those goals, and the commission has now made recommendations on how to turbocharge infrastructure investment in developing countries. At the recent UK-Africa investment summit, I announced that the UK will work together with the Governments of Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana— initially—to do just that.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I was pleased to see that COP26 will be held in Glasgow. Will he update the House on preparations for that conference?

A successful delivery of COP26 in November is a key priority for the Government, and cross-departmental work is being co-ordinated through the Cabinet Office. It is vital for current and future generations that all of us around the world step up to the challenge.

Will the Secretary of State clarify what his Department’s policy is on spending UK aid money on expanding fossil fuels overseas?

I think the answer was given earlier by the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), in respect of the statement the Prime Minister made at the Africa investment summit.

I am afraid that that is just not good enough. Last week’s UK-Africa investment summit cost the Department more than £15 million of aid money, on a one-day event. I wonder whether the Secretary of State can say now whether any of that money was spent on business-class flights or five-star hotels, because the Department will not disclose the figures until autumn 2021. At the summit, almost £2 billion-worth of new energy deals were struck for fossil fuels. How on earth can he justify using taxpayers’ funds to help fossil fuel companies when we are in the midst of a climate catastrophe?

If the hon. Gentleman had read the communiqué that came out of the summit, he would have seen not only the billions of pounds of investment, but the UK support going to developing countries. He always castigates private investment, but perhaps he ought to read what the UN Secretary-General wrote in November in the Financial Times, where he pointed out that the private sector is vital to advance development goals. Sometimes the hon. Gentleman needs to read and listen to the experts, rather than to people on his own Benches.

T2. . Will my right hon. Friend reassure companies in my constituency that specialise in renewables, such as Kensa Heat Pumps, how the African summit held last week will boost African countries’ efforts to adopt cleaner forms of fuel? (900479)

My hon. Friend raises a good question. The summit highlighted the UK’s distinct offer to support clean growth, and our expertise in low-carbon sectors and green finance. For example, along with the President of Kenya, I attended the London stock exchange for the launch of the first green Simba bond, which the UK Government helped to develop.

Will the Minister confirm that educating and employing women and girls will remain a key strategy for his Department?

T3. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what measures he is taking to empower the women’s economy in many developing countries? (900480)

Women and girls are very much at the heart of our approach to economic development, and I am sure that all colleagues would agree that no society can truly flourish if half the population is held back. At the UK-Africa investment summit, I announced further support for our work and opportunities for women programme, which will help at least 100,000 additional women to achieve better paid and more secure work.

The UK has a major responsibility for the plastic pollution we see, particularly in developing countries, so what work are the UK Government doing to stop the trade in and export of plastic pollution from the UK?

I set out earlier what we are doing in this particular area. There is a legitimate export market for plastic waste and secondary raw material, but we take firm action against those engaged in the illegal export of contaminated, low-quality and unrecyclable plastic waste.

T4. I understand that, given the recent significant influx of Syrian refugees into the Kurdistan region of Iraq, there are issues with the allocation of British funding to the Kurdistan region. So will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the region, which has accommodated more than 1 million refugees and displaced people since 2014, and will he sort out the funding? (900481)

I most certainly do join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the Kurdistan Regional Government and other Governments in the area, including those of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, who are helping. I am not aware of any delays to the allocation to which my hon. Friend refers, but I am happy to look into the matter.