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Topical Questions

Volume 612: debated on Wednesday 29 June 2016

Alongside visiting refugee camps in Kenya, at the end of May I headed the UK delegation at the world humanitarian summit where we helped to secure widespread agreement on the need to reform the humanitarian system. I committed £30 million of support to a new joint fund for education in emergencies to help to make sure that no child misses out on an education. Our commitment to international development is, and will continue to be, firmly in our national interest as well as the right thing to do.

I note we have UK advisers in the refugee camps in Europe. I hope they will remain. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that the best people do this essential work? Will the Secretary of State look into a Teach First-style scheme so that we get the best graduates?

Britain is working with Greece, Turkey and others in Europe. The first UK team has arrived in Greece, and it includes experts in supporting vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and those trained to tackle people trafficking. My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, and I will certainly take it up with my colleagues at the Home Office and the Department for Education.

T3. Given what the Overseas Development Institute has called the misrepresentation of its recent report on the state-building grant to Palestine, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to confirm that UK aid to the Palestinian Authority is for wholly legitimate purposes and is essential to peace-building in the region? (905525)

I believe the hon. Gentleman is right in his assertion. Indeed, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has just set out, the work we are doing is helping to provide not only health facilities for people in that area but, critically, education for children who so badly need it. [Interruption.]

Order. There are a lot of very noisy private conversations taking place. It is incredibly discourteous to the Secretary of State and discourteous to Members treating of matters affecting some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet, and I rather doubt it does much good to the reputation of the House at this important time, so if Members who are chattering away privately could stop doing so, that would help.

T5. Tanzania saw some great progress against the millennium development goals, but areas of the country still lack access to basic services such as water. I am glad that the Secretary of State met Councillor Louise Richardson, but will she comment on how her Department is working with Tanzania on those vital areas? (905529)

I very much appreciated the time that my hon. Friend’s local councillor took to meet me and to talk about the work she has been involved in. DFID is helping Tanzania to improve access to clean water in rural areas and rural water sustainability. Alongside that, we have a strong focus on improving electricity access, off-grid energy solutions and, of course, rural road infrastructure, which is so important.

T4. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the appointment of Dr Alasdair Allan as the new Scottish Government Minister for International Development and Europe? As she never managed a one-on-one with his predecessor, will she make it a priority to meet Dr Allan? (905528)

I regularly visit our joint headquarters office in East Kilbride, Glasgow. We work alongside the Scottish development programme, which very much focuses on Malawi. I am very happy to meet the new Minister.

T6. Encouraging business growth in developing countries helps to cut poverty and to create new markets for British exports. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what the Government are doing to help entrepreneurs in developing countries? (905530)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we will end aid dependency through creating jobs. DFID has doubled its bilateral work on economic growth. That includes supporting entrepreneurship through expanding access to finance and easing the cost and risk of doing business.

Given the support that the Government provide to the Government of Sri Lanka for reconciliation and human rights, will the Secretary of State give a commitment that her Department will make the strongest representations to the Government of Sri Lanka that there will be no peace or reconciliation without international involvement in the prosecution of historic war crimes during the Sri Lankan civil war?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, and I will certainly relay it to my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

T7. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what she is doing to bring economic empowerment to women, especially in the world’s poorest countries? (905531)

What a very important question my hon. Friend asks. I am very proud to be a founding member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which will report in September. This is central to DFID’s work. Indeed, since 2011 we have helped 2.5 million women to improve their land rights and 35 million women to access financial services. With financial independence comes much broader independence, so this is absolutely vital.

Even in the United Kingdom, adverse childhood experience is a major cause of dysfunction in families. In conflict zones, it will of course be much worse, particularly where a family have suffered a bereavement. Will the Secretary of State look at a package to include mentoring, parenting, and child development, as well as all the other good work that her Department does?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in our Syria response we very much focused on children, not least in making sure that there is no lost generation of children out of school. The broader point about understanding the impact of conflict on children in the longer term is extremely important. Mentoring, psychosocial support, and counselling need to be in place to help children get through situations that would be hard for most of us adults, let alone small children.