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Topical Questions

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2020

This Government are committed to standing up for the right of every girl to 12 years of quality education, building on a strong basis of global leadership, including DFID’s education support for at least 5.8 million girls between 2015 and 2019. The new FCDO will deploy our world-class development expertise alongside the UK’s diplomatic skills, respected around the world, to get every girl into school.

As this is the last oral questions for the Department for International Development, I would like to place on record my thanks, and I know that of the whole House, to all those who serve now and who have served in the Department over the past 23 years. I know that their talent, passion and commitment to help to deliver world-class development programming, policy thinking and humanitarian support to the most vulnerable will be at the heart of the new FCDO and will be critical to its future.

May I place on record my gratitude to the Secretary of State and her team for what she has done in this important Department? I hope that the spirit of what DFID does will continue. She is aware that in Afghanistan and Iraq it is so easy to win the war but lose the peace. Will she agree to meet me, before she loses her job title, to see whether the military can be given funds to create a stabilisation force that can operate in those difficult environments where it is too dangerous for NGOs to function?

I would be very happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss that. The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund exists to do just that and we need to think about how we maximise the use of all our UK efforts to help the most vulnerable, so I look forward to debating with him.

Going into this pandemic, many of the world’s poorest countries were spending more on debt payments than their own healthcare. The current suspension of payments is welcome, but will the Government go further and support the cross-party multi-faith call, co-ordinated by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, to cancel those debts and enable those poorest countries to focus on tackling the virus and climate change? (904816)

As the hon. Lady is aware, we put £150 million into the IMF emergency fund, and the Treasury continues to lead in the Paris Club discussions and with the G20 to ensure that the right solutions are found for the long-term sustainability that those most vulnerable countries will need.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her fantastic work as Secretary of State. What steps are her Department and the new FCDO taking to ensure that UK taxpayers receive value for money for our international aid contributions? (904815)

Ensuring taxpayers’ money is well spent is central to DFID’s work and it is embedded in all our activity and will be at the heart of the new FCDO. Programmes are regularly appraised and monitored to ensure that they are value for money, performing effectively and delivering on manifesto commitments.

Nestlé has withdrawn Fairtrade cocoa from its Kit-Kat products, costing some of the poorest farmers £20 million a year during the global crisis due to the pandemic. Will the Minister join me and the Co-operative party in urging Nestlé to restore cocoa from Fairtrade farmers in their Kit-Kats to give the poorest farmers a break and to create a Fairtrade chocolate Kit-Kat? (904819)

I draw the House’s attention to my former role as chair of the Trade Out of Poverty all-party parliamentary group. The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the importance of fair trade as well as free trade. Now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union and we are able to define our own trade policy, we will ensure that fairness is at the heart of all the trade that we do around the world.

Last week, China and Russia vetoed the United Nations Security Council’s approving aid to Syria from Turkey. How will the United Kingdom continue to help those in need in Syria? (904817)

The United Kingdom is disappointed about the reduction in aid corridors in Syria. We are pleased that the cross-border humanitarian access will continue through Bab al-Hawa, but we are appalled that Russia exercised its veto and restricted aid through Bab al-Salam. The UK remains committed to supporting Syrians, who are the victims of the egregious politicisation of humanitarian aid, and we recently announced £300 million to the Syrian pledging conference.

Five hundred and sixteen—that is the number of known breaches of international law in Yemen by Saudi forces, an increase of at least 200 in recent years. Yet last week, the Government claimed they were only isolated events and no pattern existed, as they resumed selling weapons that are killing Yemeni civilians. Given the DFID-FCO merger, can the Minister please explain how they reconcile that with UK stated aims to provide water, food, sanitation and peace to Yemen—and exactly how many breaches of international law are required to establish a pattern? (904822)

The UK Government welcome Saudi Arabia’s unilateral ceasefire in Yemen, and we are disappointed that the Houthis have not engaged with that ceasefire. The United Kingdom’s arms control regime is one of the most robust in the world, and we will ensure that we continue to support the people of Yemen and NGOs working in Yemen, as we have done with our recent funding announcements.

Children have a basic human right to education, yet there is huge concern that Palestinian children use textbooks that promote and encourage violence. I welcome the Government’s work pushing for an international review of the curriculum ahead of the new academic year. Will my right hon. Friend provide an update on the progress of the interim report into the content of these textbooks, and will he confirm that the findings will be made public and acted on swiftly? (904818)

The first call that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made when she entered post was to the Education Minister in the Palestinian Authority to register our disquiet over the points that my hon. Friend has raised. We will continue to ensure that Palestinian children are educated with our support through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency—half of them are girls—but we will also ensure that that education does not encourage violence or prejudice against Jewish peoples.