Darfur

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 28th March 2007.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

The UK has committed £67 million to the African Union mission in Sudan since it was set up, including £35 million in this financial year. Our funds have covered vehicles, ground fuel and troop airlift, as well as personnel costs. We are ready further to support the political process, which is being led by the AU and the United Nations, both financially and politically. We are also pressing other donors to do more.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Chair, Parliamentary Labour Party

The pre-condition for humanitarian assistance in Darfur must be a proper resolution of the military conflict. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Sudanese Government are both moving arms into Darfur and allowing their military planes to be disguised as being part of the UN humanitarian mission? In that context, is it not time for the international community to carry out proper military enforcement of the no-fly zone?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

I share the concerns that my hon. Friend expresses about what is going on in Darfur. It is precisely for that reason that we are drafting a tough new UN Security Council resolution that will cover sanctions against individuals, improved monitoring of the violence and the extension of the arms embargo. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, we are looking at the capacity to ensure that planes cannot be used to bomb the innocent civilians of Darfur.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Given that the new United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator, John Holmes, has warned that morale among aid workers is so fragile that one security incident could prompt a humanitarian collapse, endangering the lives of tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what particular steps he and his Department are taking to avert that grisly prospect?

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

We are continuing to provide significant humanitarian assistance. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are the second largest donor in the crisis in Darfur. The second thing that we are doing is giving support to John Holmes in his task to get the Government of Sudan to stop putting obstacles in the way of the humanitarian effort. That is the goal that he was pursuing during his visit this week. The third thing that we are doing is putting pressure on the Government and the rebels to come around the negotiating table, because it is the banditry and general lawlessness that is the principal cause of the low morale and the difficulties that the humanitarian community is facing.