Gaza

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th March 2015.

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Photo of Lisa Nandy Lisa Nandy Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 11:30 am, 18th March 2015

What assessment she has made of the humanitarian effects of the blockade of Gaza.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the efforts made by the (a) UN and (b) UK to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

Movement restrictions damage the Gazan economy, with the result that 80% of Gazans are dependent on aid, 57% are dependent on food aid and 43% are unemployed. Most of the UK contribution to the relief effort is delivered through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and I judge that to be effective within the limitations of the funding and the movement restrictions.

Photo of Lisa Nandy Lisa Nandy Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

As winter approaches, the Minister will know that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire. It is welcome that the UK has pledged £20 million to help, but what is his Government’s long-term plan, given the re-election this morning of the Prime Minister who believes that the continuation of the blockade of Gaza is a good thing; believes in the building of illegal settlements; has abandoned a two-state solution; and believes that the deaths of more than 2,000 people in Gaza last summer were “proportionate”? Surely now is the time for the Minister to put pressure on his ministerial colleagues, recognise the state of Palestine and end this appalling situation.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The hon. Lady is right in that the state of affairs in Gaza is desperate. However, on the recent events and the election, I am tempted to call in aid the wisdom of the Ents and say that we should not be hasty. It will be some time before the true policies of the new Government emerge, after long negotiations over a coalition. In the meantime, we remain committed to the two-state solution and we make our representations known on all the issues that she has raised, at the highest level.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

What specific assessment has been made of the Gaza reconstruction mechanism? How many people have been accessing the building materials?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

As of this morning, more than 60,000 individuals have had access to building materials, out of the in excess of 100,000 who need such materials. I am confident that the mechanism is working effectively, but clearly there will have to be a step change in movement and access which can result only from a lasting solution.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

Israel will have a Government opposed to a two-state solution and a Prime Minister who turned out his vote by an emergency broadcast that said:

“Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”

What is the international community going to do to get aid to Gaza, which is in occupation and under siege? How is the international community going to provide that aid when the occupation and siege are permanent?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

A great deal of aid for Gaza was pledged at the Cairo conference. We have delivered a quarter of our pledge, and within the first few weeks of the financial year we will have delivered all of the £20 million we pledged. We have been entering into a considerable diplomatic effort to get other countries that have made pledges to step up to deliver, and I am glad to say that Qatar and Kuwait have now done so.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

My right hon. Friend will know that some 600,000 tonnes of concrete have been used for the construction of illegal tunnels for smuggling and to enable the firing of weapons into Israel. How can he ensure that aid gets to the people who need it and not to Hamas?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

One part of the Gaza reconstruction mechanism is the material monitoring unit, which my Department supports. It is designed specifically to do what my hon. Friend requests: to ensure that any materials supplied, stored and dispersed are for the proper purpose and that any infractions are reported.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

The Minister says that we should wait and see what is going to happen in Israel, but now the mask has slipped and Netanyahu has said he will not allow a two-state solution and will not allow a Palestinian state. Is not the only solution that will relieve the suffering of the people in Gaza a concerted international action to lift the blockade?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

We continue to make representations at all levels about movement restrictions, but I repeat what I have said: we will have to wait and see what the new Government’s policy is, after they emerge from the coalition negotiations.

Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

I share the concerns about the election results in Israel and what they mean for people in Gaza and elsewhere in that region. On a number of occasions Israel has had restrictions on parliamentarians being able to cross at the Erez checkpoint to see what is happening in Gaza. Will the Minister seek to get that changed so that people can see what is happening to the aid that we provide and to the people there?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

I am aware that, like me, the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, Gavin Shuker, was recently admitted to Gaza. Such visits do involve bureaucratic obfuscation, and we will continue to make representations in that regard.