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Palestinian Authority: ODA

Volume 702: debated on Tuesday 26 October 2021

2. What steps she is taking to ensure that official development assistance to the Palestinian Authority supports the peace process. (903830)

Development programmes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories work to preserve the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution and simultaneously to improve the lives of Palestinians, in line with the UK’s long-standing approach to the middle east peace process. Although the UK will no longer provide direct funding to the Palestinian Authority, we understand the importance of capacity building of Palestinian institutions.

Earlier this year, the long-awaited EU review into the Palestinian Authority’s school curriculum was published, and it confirmed numerous examples of antisemitism. I note the Minister’s recent announcement that the UK is no longer funding Palestinian teachers to draft and deliver this curriculum, but will he ensure that any further UK support to Palestinian education is conditional on a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism, and that that is shown at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East?

I assure my hon. Friend that the UK Government take a zero-tolerance approach to anti- semitism, wherever it is. The reduction in funding to the Palestinian Authority was in direct response to the official development assistance prioritisation review, which was itself in response to the economic constraints driven by covid. We do, however, continue to support the Palestinians through the UNRWA. We will ensure that, as we have done, we continue to press for that education curriculum to be devoid of any examples of antisemitism.

I obviously totally agree with bringing pressure to bear on issues such as antisemitism. Nevertheless, the humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza in particular ought to shock the world, with a lack of access to clean water and of proper education, particularly for young girls and women in Gaza. As a country, we still ought to support the provision of those things. Can the Minister give us a clear understanding of when that assistance will return, because it matters?

As I said, the UK continues to support UNRWA, which does fantastic work in both the west bank and Gaza. On my recent trip to Egypt, I spoke with Egyptian officials about the work that they had done to help to support Gaza after the conflict. The best thing that we can all do for the people of Gaza, the OPTs and the wider region is to push for a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. That will remain the foundation stone of the UK’s policy in the region.

I welcome the new Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and I hope that she has a long and welcome time in that place.

How can this Government be serious about supporting the peace process and striving for reconciliation when they are cutting aid spending by 71%? With further deeply damaging cuts expected in tomorrow’s Budget and spending review, does the Minister not see that slashing the aid budget fundamentally undermines our national security as well as being against our national interest?

I remind the House that because of covid this country experienced the worst economic contraction in three centuries, and it was absolutely right that we responded to that. We remain, in both absolute and percentage terms, one of the most generous aid donors in the world. We are proud of that record, as I and my right hon. Friends in Government have said. We aim to return to 0.7% as soon as the fiscal situation allows.