Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 10 June 2020

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. Happy birthday from Blyth Valley, Mr Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend agree that to tackle the virus, so that we can all be safe from future waves of infection— (903066)

I want to put on the record that black lives matter. We must listen to those communities that face discrimination, and solve the unconscious biases that still create injustice and lost potential. My Department will redouble its efforts to drive out discrimination and support the poorest countries to achieve genuine mutual prosperity free of prejudice. That struggle for equality is exactly why it was so important last week that the UK brought together, via video link, the London 2020 global vaccine summit as part of a 60-country effort. A historic $8.8 billion was raised to vaccinate the world’s poorest people. Gavi will immunise 300 million more children as a result.

Sorry about that, Mr Speaker, and happy birthday again.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in order to tackle this virus so that we can all be safe from future waves of infection the international community must work together, co-ordinating and increasing support for vulnerable countries, and delivering the appropriate international financial and health system assistance?

Strong, resilient health systems are vital to national and global health security, and to helping to protect the world from infectious diseases, including covid. The UK has so far pledged £764 million of UK aid to help end the covid-19 pandemic, in support of the co-ordinated international response through the international financing institutions, multilaterals and global health initiatives, alongside DFID programmes. Through our multilateral partnerships and our regional and national programmes, we support developing countries to make their domestic healthcare systems stronger and more resilient and to better prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to health crises, including covid.

Penblwydd hapus, Mr Speaker.

The UK’s Commonwealth Development Corporation does important work, but deeply concerning evidence has come to light, thanks to the work of Finance Uncovered, regarding CDC investments in Myanmar, including $30 million in an internet service provider called Frontiir, which, on the orders of the Myanmar Government, has blocked independent news sites reporting on atrocities taking place against the Rohingya. Will the Secretary of State now urge CDC to immediately divest from this company? Is she sure that none of the other microfinance programmes being supported is indirectly helping the Myanmar regime?

The UK Government condemn any action to restrict the freedom of expression of journalists, and have repeatedly raised the issue of internet restrictions and shutdowns at the highest level with the Myanmar Government, but, after going through due diligence, CDC invested in Frontiir to extend internet access to more people in Myanmar and to combat poverty. The company has followed the international Global Network Initiative standards by posting transparency statements so that users know whether the site has limitations upon it.

Wishing you a bostin’ birthday from the Black Country, Mr Speaker. I was recently lobbied by a year 12 student from Wednesbury called Queenie, who wanted to ensure that no one in the world cannot access a vaccine. So I wish to ask my right hon. Friend: in addition now to being the largest funder of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, what work is the UK doing and what message does she have for Queenie to ensure that she can carry on in her fight to make sure that everyone can access vaccines globally? (903068)

Queenie is clearly a wise young person, and it is a really important question. The UK is at the forefront of efforts to drive global collaboration and resourcing, including our engagement through the access to covid tools accelerator and through industry for the development of new vaccines at the speed and scale required to ensure access for all those who will need them. As well as contributing £1.65 billion to fund Gavi’s core programme we have committed £48 million to its newly launched covax advanced market commitment, aimed at incentivising manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of a potential vaccine to ensure future access for low-income and middle-income countries.

Happy birthday to you from Tewkesbury, Mr Speaker. Many people in east Africa have suffered from food insecurity for very many years, and of course the challenge has been multiplied recently. Will the Secretary of State give us a quick assessment of the position in east Africa and what the Government are doing to help people there? (903069)

The UK is proud to support the World Food Programme, with £500 million last year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, with £40 million, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, with more than £50 million, in their efforts to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition across Africa. We are also assisting countries to respond to the desert locust upsurge in east Africa, which threatens 25 million people with severe food shortages. UK aid has funded a supercomputer to track that and help develop early warning systems and has provided £5 million to the UNFAO’s regional emergency appeal.

In addition to dealing with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), will the Secretary of State urge the Commonwealth Development Corporation to avoid investments that involve making, selling or utilising single-use plastic packaging? (903071)

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that all Departments are closely integrated in the work of humanitarian aid, economic development and improving our planet. The work of my right hon. Friend Lord Goldsmith means that we are fully integrated in ensuring that economic development is not done at the cost of the environment and the planet.