Topical Questions

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 Julian Sturdy Julian Sturdy Conservative, York Outer 11:30 am, 18th March 2015

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

Last Friday, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, causing widespread destruction.  Working closely with the Governments of Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand, the UK has made up to £2 million available to UN organisations and relief agencies working on the ground. In addition, the Royal Air Force’s swift action is providing further valuable support, alongside the rapid response facility that we launched.

My hon. Friend will be aware that since the last DFID questions I have been to Sierra Leone to see our work gradually bearing down on Ebola. I am proud that the private Member’s Bill introduced by Michael Moore has completed its parliamentary stages and now awaits Royal Assent.

Photo of Julian Sturdy Julian Sturdy Conservative, York Outer

Volunteers in my constituency who had hoped to visit Sierra Leone to build a new school have, sadly, been forced to postpone their plans owing to the Ebola outbreak. However, will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the York Circuit Ebola appeal run by those same volunteers, which aims to raise much needed funds for those affected by the epidemic?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

I pay tribute to the work of the York Circuit on its Ebola appeal. I know how valuable that work is in helping to set up emergency education programmes. We have worked with UNICEF to set up care centres across the country. I hope the volunteers in my hon. Friend’s constituency can get on with their wonderful work shortly.

[Interruption.]

Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

What is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the strength of the Commission on the Status of Women’s political declaration and its implications for women’s rights?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

As the hon. Lady will know, this year’s CSW was a vital discussion in order to make sure that we do not slide backwards on women’s rights, but position ourselves to get a stand-alone gender goal and mainstreamed improvements on tackling women’s rights across the new post-2015 framework. As it was hard for me to hear the whole of the hon. Lady’s question, I will check Hansard and write to her with a fuller response.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

Given the need to ensure in these dangerous times that our armed forces are properly funded, does my right hon. Friend agree that peacekeeping operations should be paid for in their entirety from the foreign aid budget, and that no cost should come out of the armed forces budget?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that currently a percentage of peacekeeping operations count as official development assistance. That is currently 7%, although I am sure he would like it to be higher. He will be pleased to hear that a review is under way to understand what element of peacekeeping can be classed as aid and it will report shortly.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

One of my excellent community groups in Saddleworth supports Palestinian women into education. Members of the group inform me that one of the education centres that they know well was recently ransacked by Israeli forces. The education centre is in Palestinian territory. Does the Secretary of State agree that not only are these actions illegal, but they jeopardise future sustainable peace in the region?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

Much of our work in the occupied Palestinian territories focuses on providing basic services, including education. At the Cairo conference one of the main concerns of donors was the need to end the perpetual cycle of violence, reconstruction, then destruction and violence and the need for more reconstruction. I agree with the hon. Lady that this cannot continue ad nauseam.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

Last month my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce and I had the honour of meeting Eileen Lodge, who has committed 60 years of her life to working for the poor and sick in Nepal. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the work of her Department would be impossible without the dedication of hundreds of millions of people, of all nationalities, who serve in difficult and dangerous situations, often for little or no financial reward?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

Eileen is a fantastic example of someone who has worked in a country tirelessly for several decades now. I know that she is particularly focused on Nepal and has worked on leprosy. I really want to pay tribute to the work done by her and by so many millions of others.