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Developing Countries (Extreme Poverty)

Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 29 March 2017

1. What steps her Department is taking to use research, innovation and technology to tackle extreme poverty in developing countries. (909541)

The UK’s investment in cutting-edge research on new technology to tackle extreme poverty is more important than ever before. DFID spends 3% of its budget on supporting research and development, and we are demonstrating leadership on this issue.

I have just been advised of an important matter: I wish to offer a happy birthday to the Secretary of State.

Evenproducts is a small and innovative company based in my constituency that makes water tanks and sanitation equipment used throughout the developing world. It is also part of DFID’s rapid response group. What is the Department doing to encourage even more small businesses and charities to engage with this work?

Thank you for your very kind birthday wishes, Mr Speaker.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about small businesses in his constituency and, indeed, in all our constituencies. I congratulate the company he mentioned on the outstanding work that it does in development. I am leading a review of our suppliers in DFID right now. We are changing the way in which we procure. We will ensure that more UK firms, in particular, have the opportunity to support UK aid around the world and deliver on our development objectives.

I pay tribute to the work that the Secretary of State is doing in this area. Does she agree that in much of sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, many charities are doing a lot of work on clean water to try to tackle drought, as well as work on economic development? We can do much more to support these much-needed charities in those countries.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The challenge that we have across sub-Saharan Africa is drought and the provision of water, and all the essentials that many of us take for granted. He is right that small charities play a crucial role in delivering that. That was why last week I announced the new small charities challenge fund, which will give small charities across the United Kingdom more of an opportunity to access DFID funds and support to go out there and deliver life-saving aid around the world.

As we leave the European Union, does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a unique opportunity to help to eradicate extreme poverty through free trade opportunities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Today being a very significant day, he is right to raise this issue. We know through all our work that to move countries from aid dependency we have to give them economic empowerment and prosperity. Free trade is one aspect of that, along with the other work that we do on bringing commerce and new trading opportunities, but education as well, to countries around the world.

What role will the Ross Fund, co-managed by DFID and the Department of Health, play in the priorities around new investment and co-ordination of projects across Government?

The hon. Lady is right to raise the £357 million that is associated with the Ross Fund, and I thank her for doing so. We spend that on top of the 3% commitment of DFID’s money and budget that we already give through the research review that I launched last year. This speaks to our leadership in the world in tackling health epidemics through the work that we led on Ebola and on Zika, and also on TB. Last Friday was World TB Day. Our investment in universities across the United Kingdom in terms of scientific research and development has shown UK leadership in how we can tackle some of these awful diseases and epidemics and get better prevention of them.