Skip to main content

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2022

The Secretary of State was asked—


The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, after coming into their roles, made their first foreign counterpart calls to President Zelensky and Foreign Minister Kuleba of Ukraine, respectively. Last week, at the G7 in Germany, the Secretary of State, with other leaders, expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemned Russia’s outrageous invasion of Ukraine. Our total economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine has been more than £1.5 billion, with vital humanitarian aid helping more than one in four Ukrainians.

This week, a group of my constituents will journey to Ukraine to deliver urgently needed humanitarian support for what will be a very cold winter. They are not alone, as great swathes of the British public have done extraordinary acts of kindness to help Ukrainians in desperate need. Will my hon. Friend please commend my constituent Rob Scammell from North Walsham for what he has done, and comment on the steps his Department is taking to help Ukrainians in the light of Russian attacks that have damaged civilian heating and water supplies?

I join my hon. Friend in thanking Rob Scammell and others who are providing important aid to Ukraine. Although our strong advice is that individuals do not travel to Ukraine and find other ways to support Ukrainian civilians, I want to put on record my thanks. Such humanitarian aid is very significant, and electricity generators are also being sent to Ukraine to help people keep warm over the winter. This reflects the tremendous spirit of generosity within the British public, which my hon. Friend, who I think was the first Member of Parliament to receive a Ukrainian family into his home, also demonstrates. I thank him for that too.

Almost daily, we see Putin’s army targeting civilians: the young, the elderly and the vulnerable. I am very proud, as I am sure we all are in this House, that the UK is the European country providing the most support—from not only the Government but, as we have heard, teams of volunteers. Will the Minister welcome the work done by Bags of Joy in my Rugby constituency, which is sending bags of treats and goodies to some of those affected by this most appalling war?

I join my hon. Friend in thanking Bags of Joy for sending those products to Ukraine, which is good to see. I think the generosity from his Rugby constituents shows that Ukraine has many friends and Russia in this instance has none.

Part and parcel of our support for Ukraine is how we look after Ukrainian refugees. I know of examples in the north of Scotland of their finding the bureaucracy involved in accessing universal credit very difficult. Although Work and Pensions is not his Department, does the Minister agree that a one-point telephone number and a dedicated team in that Department would help sort out this problem?

The hon. Member is right to point out the amazing scale of the issue, with more than 140,000 Ukrainians having received visas and living in the UK, but I will take away his helpful suggestion and we will see whether that is in place.

Whatever Americans vote for today, I hope they stick with supporting Ukraine over the next few months. May I ask a question I have asked the Minister before—so I hope he knows the answer by now—about the Abramovich money? Chelsea was sold for £3.5 billion many months ago. Has that money yet got to Ukraine, and if not, why not?

I am very pleased to be able to provide an answer. The money is still frozen in a UK bank account. The administrative work is being done and a licence is being applied for, but we hope it is on the start of its journey to Ukraine to help the people where they need help.

The Minister will know the resolute support across the country, and across the House, for Ukraine. The people of Ukraine should know that and, indeed, Vladimir Putin should know that. However, there are unfortunately some siren voices suggesting otherwise, including from the far right of the US Republicans, and this is hugely dangerous. What are the Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister doing to challenge those who would give encouragement and succour to Putin in his barbarous actions?

On all three fronts—diplomatic, economic and military—I think the whole world has come together. That was made very clear by the Foreign Secretary at the G7 last week. Looking at some of the statements about solidarity at COP today, I think Russia has a very long border and very few friends. We are stronger because we are together, and I think that is very clear.

Nigeria: Flood Relief

Nigeria is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, and it is experiencing the worst floods in a decade. The UK is providing support through the multi-donor Start fund, which has allocated £580,000 so far this rainy season. That funding is supporting 26,288 people affected by flooding. We will continue to help Nigeria make progress towards long-term climate change adaptation and resilience.

I welcome the Minister to his place. The floods in Nigeria have already left more than 1 million people displaced, 200,000 homes destroyed and, sadly, 600 people dead. In the wake of those floods, cholera cases are skyrocketing in some areas, due to a lack of access to clean water. Will the Minister assure me that the Government will be focusing aid to help ensure access to water and sanitation, and prevent the death toll from rising further?

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and her question. Over the past five years, Britain has provided £425 million of humanitarian support, which has specifically reached more than 2 million people in north-east Nigeria, including individuals affected by the flooding. I give her a commitment that, working with Nigerian agencies, we will seek to strengthen flood risk management. Prior to COP26 we supported Nigeria’s national adaptation work to help cope with climate change.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his Cabinet role. I know that he believes in the difference that international development can make, and I wish him well in persuading his Cabinet colleagues. Asylum applications are delayed by the thousands, spending on temporary hotels is soaring, and the Home Office is in turmoil. To bail it out, the Minister has seemingly written the Home Secretary a blank cheque out of Britain’s aid budget, spending £3.5 billion that is meant to be tackling the root causes of mass displacement. Since 2008, 41 people have been forced from their homes every minute by the climate crisis, and the floods in Nigeria, where 200,000 homes are under water, surely show that the climate emergency is here, it is now, and UK aid is needed more than ever. Will the Minister agree to carry out an urgent review of all Home Office official development assistance expenditure, and consider whether it is delivering value for taxpayers’ money? Will he please tell the House how long he is happy to let the Home Secretary have free rein over his budget to mop up a domestic crisis of her Department’s own making?

Please, it is questions. Other people have to get in as well. It is not just a Front-Bench show; this is for Back Benchers.

The hon. Lady, whom I thank for her generous remarks, did not really refer to Nigeria. In so far as the budget is being spent in Nigeria, I assure her that we are very focused on the effects of those floods. There are people now in category 5 starvation in north-east Nigeria, and I assure her that we will do everything we can to help them.

I, too, welcome the Ministers to their place, and I look forward to working constructively with them. I am glad that aid is going to the dreadful situation in Nigeria, but surely that illustrates the wider point that we cannot do more with less. Surely now is time to reinstate the 0.7% aid allocation, because these events will increase going forward.

The hon. Gentleman makes a lot of sense, and he knows where I stand on these matters. Fortunately, collective responsibility is not retrospective, and I assure him that we are focused on the issues he has raised. I hope very much that when we have the autumn statement next week, there will be encouraging news.

Somalia: Hunger

The humanitarian situation throughout Somalia is grave and has worsened significantly over the past 12 months. The number of people affected by drought has more than doubled since January, with more than 7.8 million people—almost 50% of the country—now in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 300,000 people are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Mortality and malnutrition are at alarming levels, with 300,000 people expected to face famine in Burhakaba and Baidoa. Sadly, children in Somalia are bearing the brunt, with half a million needing treatment for severe acute malnutrition, and they are much more likely to die of diarrhoea and measles. As families make desperate survival decisions, women and children will face gender-based violence and child marriage. Rather than continuously, callously cutting aid budgets, what will the Government do to honour their commitment to protect women and girls before it is too late?

Under the category 5 definition—those people who are on the brink of starving to death—there are nearly 1 million people in the world today, and 300,000 of them are in Somalia. There is, therefore, no question at all about the need. I hope to go to Somalia before too long to see for myself what more we can do, but I should emphasise that UK-funded programmes are ensuring that emergency cash transfers, which are very important, are reaching 310,000 people. On the hon. Member’s specific point, in terms of water and sanitation, we are helping 483,000—

Order. This also goes for the Government side of the House: we have to get Back Benchers in; it is not just a show for Ministers and their shadows.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s much overdue return to the Front Bench. His return is to the Government’s advantage but also to the advantage of millions of men, women and children who rely on Britain’s leadership in aid, which he has been singularly forthright in pursuing.

May I bring my hon. Friend back to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) about the resources available for aid? Yesterday, the front page of The Times told us that millions if not billions of British money is being diverted from aid, saving the lives of children in north-east Africa, to the Home Office—

Order. It is not just about shadow Ministers and Ministers; it is also about ex-Ministers. [Laughter.]

I thank my right hon. Friend very much for his kind remarks. He knows a great deal about this area, and the House benefits from his judgment and experience on it. In respect of The Times yesterday, all I can tell him is that these matters are very much the subject of discussions between the Foreign Office and the Treasury.

I also welcome the Minister to his post. Across east Africa, somebody is dying of hunger every 36 seconds. One hundred people will die in the time that Ministers are at the Dispatch Box. At COP, countries such as ours are urged to cover the cost of adapting to global heating in extremely vulnerable nations, but, despite soundbites from No. 10 about helping countries with the existential threats that they face, our Government are cutting support for countries such as Somalia. Will he demonstrate that he understands the real human cost of climate change by promising immediate assistance for food and climate support in Somalia?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks. The international community is scaling up in Somalia and in Ethiopia. The World Bank and the African Development Bank have announced more than $35 billion of funding for food security across the region.

Relations with China: BNO Visa Scheme

5. What assessment he has made of the impact of the British national overseas visa scheme on diplomatic relations with China. (902107)

We warmly welcome all those who have taken up the BNO visa route. This route is about our relationship with Hong Kong and its people. The BNO visa scheme was introduced in response to China’s breaches of the Sino-British joint declaration, including its imposition of the national security law, which has been used to undermine rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

I deeply commend the Government on implementing the impressive, tailor-made British national overseas visa and standing up for the Hongkongers in the face of growing repression from Beijing. British nationals overseas are Britons, and it is important that we defend them at home and abroad. In the light of the recent assault on a Hongkonger inside the Chinese consulate in Manchester and the increasing harassment of Hongkongers by the Chinese state all over the world, will my right hon. Friend commit to protecting the British Hongkongers?

We are steadfast in our support of the Hong Kong BNO community. Those who choose to live their lives in the UK should enjoy the same freedoms that are afforded to any nationality. As British nationals, BNO passport holders are entitled to consulate assistance from our diplomatic posts overseas.

For years, the Conservative Government have failed to act strategically on China. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary ducked responsibility by letting officials meet the Chinese embassy over the Hongkonger beaten in Manchester and gave no answers about the troubling reports alleging that Chinese police stations are operating in the UK. Our allies and partners around the world are taking major strategic steps on China. Last month, the US announced the CHIPS and Science Act 2022. Last week, the German Chancellor got Xi Jinping to publicly oppose the use of nuclear weapons. The UK has not even published a long-promised strategy. Do the Government still plan to publish a China strategy and, if so, by what date?

The UK is clear that China remains in an ongoing state of non-compliance with the Sino-British joint declaration. We have also been clear that the imposition of the national security law and the overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system have undermined the rights and freedoms promised to Hongkongers. We continue to work with our international partners to hold China to its obligations. We will continue to work across Government on the question of a China strategy.


The UK is committed to working in partnership to deliver on the global AIDS strategy and ending the epidemic of AIDS by 2030. We provide substantial funding to the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, the Robert Carr Fund and the Global Fund. Together, we are working towards ensuring that all can access the prevention and treatment services needed to ensure progress on HIV/AIDS.

I welcome the Minister back to his place. Globally, the number of new infections dropped by only 3.6% between 2020 and 2021, which is the smallest decline since 2016. The data shows that it disproportionately impacts adolescent young women and girls. We must do and can do more to help those girls if we are truly to end new HIV transmissions. What plans does the Minister have to ensure that the Global Fund receives a pledge, so it can carry out vital programmes if we are to end new transmissions of HIV by 2030?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right about the critical importance of the Global Fund’s work. The Global Fund has saved more than 50 million lives. It was very heavily reformed in 2010. Two thirds of the money goes towards the Commonwealth and it is brilliantly effective. She can rest assured that we are looking very carefully at the pledge we are going to make.

I welcome the Minister for Development to his place. As a Back Bencher, he spoke passionately and frankly in holding his party to its manifesto commitments on international development, and I applaud that. Indeed, in July he said:

“I urge the Government to ensure that we are as generous as possible on the replenishment of the fund”.—[Official Report, 6 July 2022; Vol. 717, c. 922.]

Yet today, under his ministerial role, not a single penny has been pledged to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. I just heard him say on the record that it will continue to be supported substantially, so he may wish to correct that. Words are deeds, so will the Minister put money where his mouth is and join the other G7 countries by making a late donation to the Global Fund and delivering what his party promised?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our support throughout the whole House for the Global Fund is absolute and intense. Discussions are ongoing on the subject of money. I hope very much it will not be too long before I can come before the House and answer his very specific questions on both the money and the results that that money will achieve.

Human Rights

The UK puts human rights at the heart of what we do. That includes: leading efforts to hold Russia to account over its actions in Ukraine and at home; leading on United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions, including on Syria, Sri Lanka and Somalia, and a joint statement on Xinjiang; and sanctioning officials involved in human rights violations in Iran.

Thousands of my constituents are concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir. What steps are the British Government taking to raise those concerns with the Indian Government and ensure that human rights are protected and respected for all throughout the region?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Any allegations are deeply concerning and must be thoroughly investigated. We raise concerns with both Governments, and we can do so because relations are so close and mutually beneficial.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour, to his place. Our ability to act as human rights defenders around the world would be much stronger if we collectively hit the G20 target of lending $100 billion of the special drawing rights issued last year. To date, the UK has committed to sharing only 20% of its special drawing rights. That fraction is much lower than France and China. What is he doing to get a grip of the Government achieving the aim of sharing a much higher proportion?

The right hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour, has raised with me privately the issue of SDRs. I agree that there is much more that the international community can do to use those SDRs for the benefit of the poorest people in the world, whom we wish to help. All I can say today is that those discussions with the Treasury are ongoing.

I welcome the Minister back to his place. Today will be the third day that Alaa Abdel Fattah—a pro-democracy activist and British citizen—has not consumed any water. The Minister will know that he has been in prison in Egypt for nine years and that he has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days. With the eyes of the world on COP27, will the Minister confirm that the Government will not allow Egypt to get away with using the summit to paper over human rights atrocities and that every UK channel is being used to secure Alaa’s release? And will he make really clear the consequences if Egypt were to allow Alaa to die in prison?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks, her question and her concern. That matter was raised specifically by the Prime Minister at Cabinet this morning. He spoke to the Egyptian authorities and I have no doubt that the arguments that she put were strenuously emphasised by the Prime Minister in those discussions.

Iran has one of the worst human rights records in the world, and I am sure that is one reason for the extensive protests. Will the Government ensure that if the joint comprehensive plan of action is revived or replaced, it will place strong obligations on Iran to repair its appalling and shocking human rights record?

My right hon. Friend raises a most important subject. What is going on in Iran is of immense concern to the Government. I will ensure that her comments are carefully recorded for the Foreign Secretary.

The Minister will be aware of the tremendous work done by the charity Open Doors over a number of years. Will he ensure that when cases are brought to him about human rights abuses against Christians and other religious believers across the globe, they will receive his attention and that appropriate action will be taken in respect of the nations that carry out those abuses?

Let me return to Alaa Abdel Fattah, a British citizen and democracy campaigner who was imprisoned in Egypt for sharing a Facebook post. His mother waited outside Wadi el-Natrun prison on Monday for the weekly letter from her son, but no letter came out. He has stopped drinking water and his life is now in grave danger. For too long, the Government’s diplomacy has been weak. The Prime Minister raised the case yesterday but failed to secure consular access before he did so. What diplomatic price has Egypt paid for denying the right of consular access to a British citizen? Will the Minister make it clear that there will be serious diplomatic consequences if access is not granted immediately and Alaa is not released and reunited with his family?

The shadow Foreign Secretary is absolutely right to raise that case. For that reason, the Prime Minister made a particular point of making representations to his opposite number in Egypt, and I very much hope that those representations will be heard.

British Embassy Relocation: Jerusalem

8. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of relocating the British embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. (902110)

There are no plans to move the UK embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv. Israel is a close friend and a key strategic partner, built on decades of co-operation. We will continue to strengthen our relationship with Israel through our embassy in Tel Aviv.

I am very pleased to hear that, as I know my constituents will be. However, why was that move ever under consideration, given that last month at the United Nations, 143 countries, including Israel and the UK, voted to reaffirm that any unilateral annexation of territory by another state is a violation of international law? Navi Pillay, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has observed that unless that principle is applied equally to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, it would become meaningless. Is this not just another example of the Conservative party’s chaotic approach to international relations that has so badly undermined the UK’s reputation on the global stage?

The Government have looked at this issue. There are no plans to move the British embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv. We will continue to work to ensure that we are in the best position possible to continue promoting peace and stability in the region and supporting a two-state solution.

I welcome the Minister’s update. Will he reaffirm that that is the long- standing position of our country; that it is the right position internationally; that the work done by our consulate-general in Jerusalem is extremely valued and complements what is happening in our embassy in Tel Aviv; and that that will continue to be the case?

Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis

9. What discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the provision of aid to help tackle the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. (902111)

The UK remains a committed donor to Sudan. This year, the UK has provided £10.8 million in humanitarian assistance, helping more than 300,000 Sudanese people with life-saving support including food, nutrition and safe drinking water. Furthermore, the UK and other donors have agreed with the World Bank to unlock $100 million of committed but unspent donor funds to address urgent food needs.

According to the UN, the number of people facing severe acute food insecurity in South Sudan has reached its highest level ever. Mass displacement and destruction of property and livelihoods has increased the risk of disease and famine, particularly for women and children. What assessment has the Minister made of the risk to children from malnutrition? What discussions has he had with international partners to scale up the response to this impending disaster?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Because of the tremendous food insecurity in that part of the world, discussions are very much ongoing. Some 16 million people—nearly a third of the entire population—will require assistance next year. This is the highest level of insecurity since 2011, when I was last there as part of the troika on Sudan: the US, Norway and the UK.


13. What representations he has made to his Iranian counterpart on the (a) excessive use of force against and (b) deaths of people protesting the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini caused by security forces in Iran. (902115)

The death of Mahsa Amini and of all those who have lost their lives standing up to the authorities is a tragedy that shows the regime’s shocking disregard for the rights of the Iranian people. We have made our views clear to Iran in the strongest possible terms. We have robustly condemned Iran’s actions, including at the UN Human Rights Council, and we have sanctioned the morality police and seven other officials responsible for human rights violations.

Thousands of Iranians have been arrested for just demonstrating their support for people who have been murdered. I have been supplied with a long list of people who have been sentenced to death just for protesting. Even worse, British-Iranian reporters who are now sited in the UK have been issued with credible information by the police that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatens their lives. What more does the IRGC have to do before we proscribe it in its entirety?

I know that my hon. Friend feels very strongly about these issues and has raised them at the highest level with FCDO Ministers. We have been clear about our concerns about the IRGC’s continued destabilising activity throughout the region. The UK maintains a range of sanctions that work to constrain that destabilising activity. The list of proscribed organisations is kept under constant review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription—I know that my hon. Friend understands the reasons.

Iran Human Rights estimates that more than 300 people, including 24 children, have been killed in Iran in the protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini. In the words of the song “Baraye”, which has become the anthem of these protests, the protests are

“for my sister, your sister, our sisters”.

In Farsi, the protesters shout “zan, zendegi, azadi”—women, life, freedom. I am sure that the whole House shares our solidarity with all those who are protesting for freedom against this brutal regime. In the light of these brutal attacks, will the UK Government support measures to expel Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women to show that the UK stands firmly with the women and children of Iran and the protesters who have joined them?

The hon. Member has made some important points about the grassroots nature of the protests. As I have said, we are taking strong action against the Iranians, but I will raise her points specifically with Lord Ahmad, the Minister for the Middle East.

I recently met a group of Iranian refugees and asylum seekers at Global Link in Lancaster. They shared with me testimony and videos of the protests and the women across Iran who are daily putting their lives at risk for their fundamental rights. Does the Minister accept that the UK has a responsibility to support these remarkable women, and can he explain how the UK intends to do so?

They are indeed remarkable women, and we want to underline the fact that these are grassroots protests in Iran. We have taken strong action: we have sanctioned the morality police in its entirety, as well as both its chief and the head of the Tehran division. However, it is not our practice to speculate on future sanctions designations, as doing so would reduce the impact of those designations.

Chemical Weapons Investigation: Northern Iraq

11. If his Department will request that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons conduct an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by Turkey in northern Iraq. (902113)

17. If his Department will refer allegations of the use of chemical weapons by Turkey in northern Iraq to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for investigation. (902119)

The Government are aware of reports that Turkish forces have used white phosphorus in northern Iraq. However, we have no direct evidence to support those claims. Of course, we take all allegations of this nature seriously, and we are committed to upholding the chemical weapons convention.

A Turkish CHP opposition Member of Parliament who asked the question about the alleged use of chemical weapons has received a summary of proceedings to prosecute him for terrorism. Does the Minister agree that it is time for us to follow in the footsteps of the Belgian Supreme Court by revisiting our designation of the PKK as a terrorist organisation? Does he also agree that not doing so gives cover to Turkey’s human rights abuses against Kurds living both within and beyond its borders?

The hon. Lady mentions the PKK. We should be very clear that we regard the PKK to be a terrorist organisation—that is why we have proscribed it—and that we believe Turkey has a legitimate right to defend itself against this form of terrorism.

Sezgin Tarikulu—the Turkish MP to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) has referred—said: “I watched the footage of the alleged chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are crimes against humanity. Tomorrow I will submit a PQ on the accuracy of these allegations.” For saying that, and that alone, he has been indicted for terrorism and supporting PKK rhetoric, despite the fact that a Turkish Minister has confirmed that Turkey does use gas. Sezgin is a member of the CHP, the founding party of Turkey; he is not of the Kurdish party. Does the Minister not recognise that the overreach of the PKK terrorist definition is shutting down democracy in Turkey and hurting our allies in Syria, Turkey and Iraq?

As I have said, we have no direct evidence to support the allegations to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but we are of course committed to upholding the chemical weapons convention. I myself met the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last month, and we will keep these issues under review.

Pakistan Flooding: Climate Change

12. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the impact on Pakistan of flooding caused by climate change. [R] (902114)

The UK is of course supporting Pakistan following the disastrous floods, and has committed £26.5 million towards the immediate response. The effects of that on the ground were seen by our Minister in the other place, my noble Friend Lord Ahmad. This catastrophe shows how climate change is making extreme weather events more intense, which is why we have doubled our global climate finance commitment to £11.6 billion and, in Pakistan itself, have pledged £55 million to support climate resilience and adaptation.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Pakistan.

Experts have called the flooding in Pakistan a “climate catastrophe”. Millions have been displaced, more than 1,700 people are dead, and there has been $40 billion-worth of damage to livelihoods and infrastructure. Over the summer, Pakistan experienced the hottest temperature on the planet. Pakistan and other countries are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and will continue to do so, although they contribute the least to global warming. Can the Minister assure us that his Government, rather than cutting aid, will make a serious commitment to the long-term support of communities in Pakistan to enable them to weather the coming storms?

We are indeed overwhelmingly committed to Pakistan. In 2020, our aid was £200 million and we have committed £55 million specifically for climate resilience. Lord Ahmad saw on his visit the life-saving impact that all this money achieves, including the £26.5 million towards the immediate response. The broad point is that tackling climate issues is now woven through the fabric of our policy making.

Sri Lanka: Human Rights

In October, the UK and our partners within the UN Human Rights Council led a new resolution—resolution 51.1—on Sri Lanka. It renewed the international framework to report on Sri Lanka and preserve evidence of past human rights abuses to use in future accountability processes. We call on Sri Lanka to make progress on human rights, justice and accountability.

As chair of all-party parliamentary group on Tamils, and also through hearing from Tamils in Carshalton and Wallington, I am clear that the economic situation in Sri Lanka is allowing human rights abuses against Tamils to continue. I welcome the UK’s efforts in the UN to bring about the peace, accountability and justice that the Tamils are fighting for, but what assurances can my right hon. Friend give me that any economic support given to Sri Lanka will be dependent on—and will be expected to come with—progress on implementing the UN resolutions?

The UK is working with international partners, including at the Paris Club, to facilitate economic support for Sri Lanka through an International Monetary Fund programme. The IMF does not have the ability to impose political or human rights-linked conditionality; it can only impose conditionality linked to economic policy or tackling balance of payments challenges. An IMF programme is contingent on progress on reforms, including a comprehensive anti-corruption agenda.

Very often, the suppression of human rights walks hand in hand with the persecution of Christians and those of other faiths; when human rights are suppressed, so too are Christians’ rights to their beliefs. Within any deals that the Minister has with Sri Lanka, will she ensure that the issues of human rights and the persecution of those with Christian beliefs and other beliefs are taken into consideration?

I am sure that my noble Friend Lord Ahmad will take note of the hon. Gentleman’s comments. Lord Ahmad spoke with the Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister in August, and he continues to highlight the importance of that inclusive approach in trying to provide the political stability needed for the country to make progress across all these issues.

BBC World Service

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is providing the BBC World Service with a flat cash three-year settlement of £94.4 million annually. Since 2016, the FCDO has provided over £468 million to the World Service via the World2020 programme, funding 12 language services and enhancements to BBC Arabic, Russian and English.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the BBC World Service plays an ever more important role in countering disinformation, particularly from Russia and elsewhere? Will he therefore look to increase the amount of support that his Department gives to the World Service, and does he share my concern that the BBC is proposing to reduce funding by £28 million with the loss of 10 radio services?

I recognise my right hon. Friend’s long-standing interest in this issue. The FCDO greatly values the World Service’s role in countering disinformation, particularly President Putin’s harmful narratives, and it has provided an additional £1.44 million this year to support this work on top of our annual £94 million funding. The changes reflect the BBC’s ambition to become a digital-first organisation and, as a result, audiences will still retain access to all 42 language services.

Qatar World Cup: LGBTQ+ Fans

19. What assessment his Department has made of the safety of LGBTQ+ football fans attending the World cup in Qatar. (902121)

Ministers and senior officials have raised the concerns of LGBT+ visitors with Qatari authorities at all levels, and will continue to engage on this issue ahead of, and during, the World cup. Qatar has repeatedly committed that everybody is welcome to the tournament, and we will continue to encourage equal treatment and the respect of individual rights, and to identify what action the Qatari authorities are taking to match their commitment.

I declare an interest as a massive gay. As an England-supporting homosexual, it is not safe for someone like me to watch the World cup in Qatar. Because of the human rights abuses of migrant workers and of Qatar’s LGBT population, I personally do not think Qatar should ever have been awarded a major sporting competition. Will the Minister back the home nations captains in wearing a rainbow armband when they play at the World cup? Will he also apologise for the Foreign Secretary’s remark that LGBT fans should somehow show compromise, because it is never acceptable for a Government Minister to force LGBT people back into the closet?

I respect the hon. Gentleman’s comments. He and I have worked together on many issues in the past, and I understand his campaign on this issue. Our priority is, of course, the safety of all British nationals who travel to the World cup. The UK prioritises the issue of LGBT+ rights internationally, and we continue to engage with the Qatari authorities on this issue. Many sportsmen and women use their platforms to do important work across a range of issues, which is their personal choice. The UK Government stand by our values, and our team stands by the values of our home nations.

Chinese Consulate: Violence against Demonstrators

20. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the violence against demonstrators at the consulate of the People’s Republic of China in Manchester on 16 October 2022. (902122)

The apparent behaviour of Chinese officials in Manchester is unacceptable. We have made it clear to China that freedom of protest must be respected. If the police determine that there are grounds to charge any Chinese diplomats, we would expect China to waive immunity. There will be diplomatic consequences should China not agree to co-operate in this way.

I do not think that is good enough. The violence by consular officials on the streets of Manchester is unacceptable, as the Minister says, but this is just the visible tip of the iceberg of secret police stations—consular activities by the Chinese to police and intimidate people in this country. To stop this unacceptable activity, will she consider reducing the number of Chinese diplomats who are allowed into this country?

This issue is with the Greater Manchester police and, because we are a country that believes in following the rule of law, we are waiting for it to complete its investigations. At that point, the Foreign Secretary will determine how to proceed.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that we are not making the same mistake in respect of China that we made in respect of Russia, which is to believe that increasing our economic ties and interdependence will enable an authoritarian country to mend its ways? It did not work in the case of Russia, and it will not work in the case of China either.

My right hon. Friend is extremely knowledgeable and thoughtful on these issues. I offer him this thought as we await the completion of the police investigation: our approach to China is co-ordinated across Government, and the FCDO is at the heart of the cross-Whitehall strategic approach to China in line with the integrated review, which is presently being refreshed. I know he will understand that, in due course, our position will be set out clearly.

Topical Questions

The Foreign Secretary is at COP27 in Egypt to continue to provide UK leadership on the global transition to net zero and to help vulnerable countries adapt and build resilience to climate shocks. Since our last oral questions, the UK has continued to work with international partners and allies to address all threats to international peace and security. The Foreign Secretary held discussions in Germany with his G7 counterparts last week, including on Russia, Iran, China and North Korea. All G7 partners reaffirmed their strong sense of unity and their unshakeable commitment to upholding the rules-based international order.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has built up a fantastic relationship with the Ukrainian President, and I thank him for his lead. Has his advice and expertise been sought as we work to continue this excellent relationship into the future?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip has led the world in our collective determination to ensure that Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine will fail. The work led by the Ministry of Defence to provide defensive weapons to the Ukrainian army and the sanctions work led by my team at the FCDO are both part of the legacy he leaves in Government as we continue to stand alongside our Ukrainian friends. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) is absolutely right that his commitment to the Ukrainians and his friendship and support to President Zelensky have been unwavering. I have every confidence that he will continue.

Order. Come on, it is topicals—let us try to help each other. Let us have a perfect example from Fabian Hamilton.

I hope the whole House will join me in congratulating Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his recent victory in the Brazilian presidential election. As we know, Brazil is home to the lungs of the planet, the Amazon rainforest, but because the previous Administration in Brazil turned a blind eye to deforestation, it has been systematically destroyed. Does the Minister agree that now is the time to support Labour’s call for an international law of ecocide, to criminalise the widespread destruction of the environment?

Order. This is not acceptable—I am saying it now, and I mean it. Other Back Benchers have waited and waited, and this is selfish and unfair. I expect better treatment. I have to represent the Back Benchers, and I expect the Front Benchers to show the same respect.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I look forward to working with the hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), who raises an important point. We also welcome and congratulate President-elect Lula, and we will be working strongly with him on formal partnerships on not only trade, but climate change. I look forward to meeting the hon. Gentleman to discuss this more fully.

T5. Not content with being the world’s largest state sponsor of international terrorism, Iran is using its same terror enforcer, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to brutally repress its own people. It is also now arming and training the Russian army in its barbaric invasion of Ukraine. So in the same vein as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), may I ask whether the Minister thinks it is now time to proscribe the IRGC? (902133)

The Government share my hon. Friend’s concerns about the regime’s shocking disregard for the rights of the Iranian people. I have to give him a similar answer to the one I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East, and I will follow up with him later on.

T2. Does the Minister agree that given everything we put into Afghanistan over the past 20 years or so, we have a particular responsibility not to look away, not least given that 6 million Afghans are living on the brink of famine? (902129)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, which is why this year alone we are committing £286 million of humanitarian aid that is being disbursed through international organisations. That is all the more needed because of the deprivations of the Taliban regime.

T6. Images of thousands of peaceful protestors in Iran, young and old, male and female, of all religions and beliefs, are heartwarming for those who choose democracy and civil liberties and despise authoritarianism. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the Iranian regime will bow to the demands of liberty and freedom of the great Persian people? (902134)

The death of Mahsa Amini was a shocking reminder of the repression faced by women in Iran. The continuing protests send a clear message that the Iranian people are not satisfied with the path their Government have taken. We have given a robust response; we have summoned the Iranian head of mission to the UK to express our concerns and we have designated new sanctions. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

T3. Afghans are starving, women’s rights are in reverse and the economy is in freefall. The United Nations has warned that if insufficient action is taken now to treat the causes of the crisis, not just the symptoms, next year’s humanitarian funding needs could double to $10 billion. So what is the Minister doing to convene international action to unlock Afghanistan’s economy and secure a long-term solution for millions of Afghans on the brink of crisis? (902130)

We bring a huge amount of diplomatic pressure to bear. Clearly, it is difficult countering the deprivations of the Taliban regime, but we have a huge stake in the game because we disbursed £286 million-worth of aid this year alone. That is the right thing to do, because we know that women and children are disproportionately affected by this kind of conflict.

When Kabul fell, the Government rightly undertook to assist in the relocation of courageous Afghan judges who had taken a key role in the fight against the Taliban. Since then, however, a High Court decision has ruled against the operation of the latest resettlement schemes and there is concern that the level of support initially given is drying up. Will the Minister meet me to discuss, with members of British judiciary, schemes and ways by which we might improve and revise the system?

Of course, I am happy to meet. We have had some success extracting judges, but if my hon. Friend would like to meet me to furnish me with those specific details, I will try to try to expedite a response.

T4. In the last two Foreign Office questions sessions, I have raised the issue of the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Today, again, Members on both sides of the House have raised it, asking us to follow our allies in the United States and ban the IGRC. The IGRC are the protectors of the Iranian clerical fascist regime. Will the Minister go back to his Department and tell the officials to get on with banning the IRGC? (902132)

The right hon. Member raised his strong concerns about the Iranian regime’s disruptive activities in Yemen at last week’s important debate, for which I am grateful. The list of proscribed organisations is kept under constant review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription.

Crown dependencies and overseas territories are an important part of the Commonwealth. The UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, on behalf of the Government, provides essential services, including audits, scrutiny and election observation, but there are gaps. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss how we can tackle that, because those territories and countries deserve the best?

I would be delighted to meet my right hon. Friend. We are committed to deepening our ties with all our Commonwealth partners. For the past five years, the FCDO has provided funding to CPA UK to strengthen the ability of legislators in the overseas territories to hold their Governments to account. I look forward to discussing the matter with her more fully.

T7. For the 30th consecutive year, the United Nations voted over-whelmingly to condemn the US embargo and sanctions on Cuba. Given the importance of tourism to the Cuban economy, can the Minister or the Foreign Secretary indicate what steps are being taken to restore direct flights between the UK and Cuba? (902135)

The hon. Member raises an important point. I will pick that up with our ambassador over there and follow up with him directly.

The Europe Minister will be familiar with the case of my constituent Mr Thomas Toolan and the ongoing retention of his daughter in Poland. This is a heartbreaking case that has been going on since 2018. Will the Minister meet me and other Members of this House who have similar child abduction cases in Poland, and will he please raise this case with his Polish counterpart?

I am aware of this case, and I thank my right hon. Friend for her advocacy on it. I know that she met our ambassador to Warsaw and, of course, I would be very pleased to meet her to see whether we can make some progress.

T8.   The United Nations Population Fund estimates that among the millions of people severely affected by floods in Pakistan, at least 650,000 are pregnant women. Last month, the then South Asia Minister announced an additional £10 million for flood relief efforts. Can the Minister tell us how much of that funding is being used to ensure that women who have lost everything can at least have access to maternal health services? (902136)

I am happy to write to the hon. Member with a specific breakdown, but I think that it is the majority, because women and children are disproportionately affected. We are proud and pleased that we have committed £26.5 million in our immediate response to the tragic flooding.

What consideration have the Government given to opening two new high commissions in the two newest Commonwealth countries, Gabon and Togo?

Mr Speaker, if I may, I will ask the noble Lord Goldsmith to write to my hon. Friend with the details.

T9. UK Foreign Secretaries of every political hue thrive on declaring themselves defenders of democracy the world over. I am sure the Minister would agree with Aristotle that the absence of democracy leads only to oligarchy or tyranny. Given that democracy is a continuous process and not a single event, does the Minister accept that Westminster’s continued denial of Scottish democracy makes a laughing stock of UK foreign policy, and is it oligarchy or tyranny, when an argument for both could easily be mounted? (902137)

May I attend the meeting that the Minister is going to have about judges, so that the plight of Afghan interpreters and others who helped our forces can also be considered?

It has been well reported that a very sizeable proportion of the UK’s international aid budget is being spent within the UK on the costs attributed to Ukrainian and small boat refugees. The OECD Development Assistance Committee rules on spending are clear, but the Government’s spending is less clear. Will the Minister commit to publishing a breakdown for this financial year of how the UK’s in-country refugee costs are being spent based on the DAC eligible costs guidelines?

Yes, I will, Mr Speaker. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for the work that she does through her brilliant International Development Committee. I should make it clear that this expenditure is allowed under the OECD DAC rules. We cannot pick and choose; it is either allowed or it is not, and this expenditure is allowed.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Benjamin Netanyahu on his recent election victory in Israel and in wishing for Bibi to form a broad-based coalition across Israel, so that there is a proper stable Government for our key ally?

We congratulate Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory. As one of Israel’s closest partners, the UK looks forward to working with Israel to ensure that our relationship continues to flourish.

Pakistan and Somalia are at the extreme ends of the climate crisis and face dire humanitarian consequences. Can those on the Government Benches tell me how cutting international aid will help them to help those countries—and do they have no shame?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that those are two terrible crises, and money is important. It is not everything, but it is important. We will have to wait until the outturn from the autumn statement to see where we stand on that.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) has just pointed out, the IRGC has led and organised the brutal crackdown on protesters in Iran. What do those fascist thugs have to do to get themselves designated a terrorist organisation?

I understand the point the hon. Gentleman makes, and it has been made with real passion, but we are not able to add anything to the points we have already made to hon. Members on this issue.

Last week I had the immense pleasure of visiting Japan with the British Council. I put on record my sincere thanks to the ambassador Julia Longbottom, Matthew Knowles and the entire British Council team in Japan. I got to see first-hand the brilliant work that the British Council does in Japan, educating people in our English language and using our arts and culture for the greatest good. What more can the Government do to support the British Council, not just in Japan, but across the world?

It is lovely to hear that and I know the team in Japan will be very pleased to have welcomed the hon. Lady there. Our bilateral relationship with Japan continues from strength to strength in every possible area, and we will continue to work closely with them.

I was contacted by a constituent from Devon whose sister died in east Africa while working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Joanna Toole was serving humanity and our environment when Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed near Addis Ababa. Will the Minister commit to lobbying the Ethiopian Government to release the air accident report so that an inquest in the UK can proceed?

I am extremely sorry to hear that terrible news from the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. I suggest we have a meeting outside of the House to discuss the best way forward; I will be very happy to meet him to do that.

What assessment have the Government made of the role of far-right parties in Israel’s new Government, as they are Netanyahu’s principal coalition partner? Will UK Ministers be meeting representatives of those far-right parties?

As I have already highlighted, Israel is one of our closest partners and we will continue to have a close working relationship with the new Government. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, ahead of the Government’s formation.

What does the Minister for Development think are the biggest challenges to the effective use of the aid budget: the fact that it is facing further cuts, the fact that so much of it is being double counted against Defence expenditure or the fact that, as the Chair of the Select Committee said, it is being increasingly spent in the UK?

The aim of the international development budget, every penny of which is spent in Britain’s national interest, is to prevent conflict and to build prosperous societies. That is the aim, and that is what we seek to do with every penny we spend. All that expenditure is completely in the interests of the British taxpayer.