Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 9th February 2012.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 5:46 pm, 9th February 2012

I am grateful to Ian Lucas for his remarks. I may be a dogged opening batsman, but when we played together for the Lords and Commons at Lord’s about four years ago, I was out for four and he made, I think, 38 not out—at the headquarters of cricket.

We have had a really excellent bipartisan debate, with a lot of experience being brought to the table and to the House. As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out, this is a debate of huge significance and importance, because it is probably the first time that Members have debated Somalia on the Floor of the House for a very long time, indeed.

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary explained, the time is now right for action to be taken. Mogadishu has fallen, other areas of stability in Somalia have now developed, al-Shabaab is undoubtedly on the back foot and the pirates are under pressure, so we have an opportunity to make the most of the transition by putting in place a new political process. We as a Government were absolutely right to seize the opportunity, and my right hon. Friend explained why he felt that that was the case.

My right hon. Friend explained also that we are realistic about the conference. We are not setting up a new, parallel process. We want to enrich the existing process and to act as a catalyst to drive international action: on security, with more sustainable funding for AMISOM; on the political process, by building on the local stability that I have just mentioned; by breaking the business model for piracy; and by making a renewed commitment to tackle the humanitarian crisis and to bring about better international co-ordination.

Over the next few weeks, it will become apparent how we plan to deliver on all that, but one of the most important areas that has been discussed today is the political process because it is incredibly important that we build on local stability. There are areas, such as Puntland, Galmudug, those controlled by the ASWJ and those being opened up in the west and the south, where people deserve to have their voices heard, and that is why we need a more inclusive and representative political process. We need a constituent assembly that really does represent those people, and to prepare us for transition we need a more credible authority and Government.

Several right hon. and hon. Members asked about the political process. Indeed, the shadow Foreign Secretary asked about civil society and NGOs, and it is important to involve them. A number of hon. Members were very critical of the transitional federal government, particularly Alun Michael, and my hon. Friend Mr Leigh, who noted that 96% of all the aid that has been given to the TFG has gone missing. That is why we are setting up a new financial management board, which is incredibly important.