May I start by paying tribute to my right hon. Friend Lynne Featherstone, who now moves over to the Home Office but did some fantastic work alongside me on the women and girls agenda, and also wish Mr Murphy good luck in his mission impossible as he seeks to take over Labour in Scotland?
The UK will continue to work closely with international partners to address humanitarian needs in Gaza. We have already provided over £17 million in humanitarian assistance and recently committed a further £20 million at the international donor conference in Cairo to assist those affected, including hundreds of thousands left homeless as winter approaches.
There are 1.8 million people in Gaza and it is physically smaller than the Isle of Wight. Does the Secretary of State accept that 485,000 people in Gaza need emergency food assistance and 273,000 people need school buildings for shelter and, most important of all, around 1 million people are desperate for work? What is the right hon. Lady doing about that?
My hon. Friend raises some very good points. Gaza is one of the most densely populated parts of the world. As he says, we are, of course, providing shelter and basic services to many people, but we also increasingly work on private sector support, supporting livelihoods, and the key to that in the long term is a political settlement that means the economy in Gaza can thrive normally.
Will the right hon. Lady condemn in the strongest terms the recent total closure of the Gaza border by Israel, in utter violation of the ceasefire, making it very difficult—even more difficult—for the aid she provides and the other aid for reconstruction after the terrible destruction imposed by the Israelis? This cannot go on.
We are extremely concerned about the continued restrictions, which have a tremendous effect on the Gazan economy. Of course we understand the security concerns of Israel, but ultimately we need leadership from both parties to move forward to some political settlement. We will never get to provide the long-term support to people unless we can get in and out of Gaza easily and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that has been a very great problem for us.
Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking my constituents from Lockwood, Crosland Moor and Thornton Lodge for their fundraising efforts to help address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and will she confirm what steps the UK is taking to aid reconstruction in Gaza following the Cairo conference?
I pay warm tribute to my hon. Friend’s constituents. They are among the millions of groups and communities around our country that do fantastic work supporting people in very difficult parts of our world. We are playing our role. Part of our announcement at the international donor conference was to make sure we can help fund some of the reconstruction that is now required in Gaza.
While I agree with the Secretary of State that a political settlement is vital, does she agree with me that there is still no excuse for Israeli forces firing on fishermen when all they are doing is trying to fish, or firing on farmers when all they are trying to do is farm their land, and what can she do to ensure that the Israeli forces stop doing this?
We are always concerned about these sorts of incidents of violence. In the end, people will have to get back around the negotiating table, and we will have to have talks that go further than the ceasefire that is currently in place. They need to get back under way in Egypt, and ultimately people need to agree that the current status quo is simply untenable, and communities on both sides need to work towards having a better future for their children than they are currently experiencing.
The Secretary of State is absolutely right that we need a political settlement, but is she concerned that, of all the money that is being given, some will be siphoned away for Hamas to build new tunnels—terror tunnels—back into
Israel? What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that British taxpayers’ money does not contribute to that?
I can categorically assure my hon. Friend that no aid money goes to Hamas. We have safeguards in place to ensure compliance with both UK and EU legislation on terror funding.
We do broad capacity-building with the Palestinian Authority. As the hon. Lady points out, there is a political element to the way forward that is the base for seeing any real progress in the long term. First, though, our focus has been on providing humanitarian support to people affected by the recent crisis, and then more broadly starting to be part of the reconstruction efforts so that we can get people back into their homes and, critically, get children back into their schools.